suitcase party…

Eleven months ago, I took a tremendous leap of faith. I quit my job. Life will catch you, my friends reassured. I wasn’t so convinced. I went to Europe soon thereafter, to think, to eat, to explore, and to spectate. Certain that it was my last hurrah for a while, I was thankful for the […]


Eleven months ago, I took a tremendous leap of faith.

I quit my job.

Life will catch you, my friends reassured. I wasn’t so convinced.

I went to Europe soon thereafter, to think, to eat, to explore, and to spectate. Certain that it was my last hurrah for a while, I was thankful for the opportunity to squeeze life by its cheeks one last time, thrilled to have had the world smile back with a journey of a lifetime.

Little did I know that if I kept squeezing, the world would keep smiling.

It has been an amazing year. And I’m a little sad to see it end, as I’m sure I’ll never have another one like it again.

* * *

Tour Eiffel

* * *

Today is December 1. And for the remaining thirty days of 2011, I will stay homebound, recovering from the most incredible suitcase party ever.

This year, I’ve criss-crossed the globe, having touched down in well over a dozen states, and nearly just as many countries, many of them multiple times. I’ve had no agenda, no plans – nothing but the open spirit of being a free agent to carry me through. Expecting the gravy train to end at every turn, I was dumbfounded, repeatedly, to find amazing invitations awaiting anew to carry me around each bend.

Lest you dismiss me as a privileged brat, clueless to the realities of life, know that none of this has been taken for granted. I’ve been entitled to none of it, and deserved even less. So I know not why God has continually blessed me with such overabundance. Surely, I maxed out my fair share long ago. But then it wouldn’t be called grace, would it? I refuse to let this fact go unaccounted or unacknowledged.

And I can’t overlook the many, many friends, old and new, who have encouraged and supported me this year. For your reassurances, confidences, and generosity, I thank you. I couldn’t have made it through 2011 without you.

* * *

St. Moritz

* * *

There were too many breathtaking moments this year for me to count, many of which were inspired by food.

My year was littered with Michelin stars (I stopped counting at eighty) and filled with roadside stands.

I feasted atop mountains, on marbled terraces, under Magnolia trees, and by the sea. I traveled with friends to faraway places, some magical, some less so, to experience food that few will get to taste. And here in Kansas City, I welcomed America’s finest to cook for good causes.

I had the privilege of eating alongside some of the world’s greatest chefs at some of the world’s greatest restaurants, and had the even greater privilege of cooking with them.

I co-authored and photographed a cookbook, to share the talent and tell the story of two Midwestern chefs.

I’ve never done so much living, learning, or eating in the span of one year. January seems like decades ago.

* * *

The colors of dusk.

* * *

Each December, I compile a list of the best dishes and restaurant meals I’ve had in the preceding months. This year, the task will be tougher than ever before.

To begin the process, I recently sat down to survey my year’s log. So that you know the pool from which I must pick, I share it with you.

While this list is comprehensive, it does not include the nameless street stands, countless patisseries, and markets, where I’ve snacked this year. Nor does it account for the many, many meals I’ve had at bluestem; to include them would be senseless.

I have written about some of the meals you see below. If so, the names of the restaurants are hyperlinked to their respective posts. Click through to read about them.

I’d be a fool to believe that I could ever catch up completely. To write about every meal listed here is an impossibility; the hole I’ve dug is simply too deep. But, as my year quickly devolves into a pajama party hereafter, I hope to gain back some ground. Stay tuned.


l’Arnsbourg (Baerenthal, France)
l’Arpege (Paris, France)
l’Astrance (Paris, France)
Berthillon Glacerie (Paris, France)
la Bigarrade (Paris, France)
Brasserie l’Est (Lyon, France)
Brasserie l’Ouest (Lyon, France)
Carette Patisserie (Paris, France)
Chez l’Ami Jean (once, twice; Paris, France)
les Fines Gueules (Paris, France)
Jacques Genin Patisserie (Paris, France)
Koffman’s at the Berkeley (London, U.K.)
el paradiso (St. Moritz, Switzerland)
Paul Bocuse (Lyon, France)
Philippe Rochat, Hotel de Ville (Crissier, Switzerland)
au Pont du Corbeau (Strasbourg, France)
Saturne (Paris, France)
Sportsman, The (once, twice; Seasalter, U.K.)
la Stalla (St. Moritz, Switzerland)
St. John Bread & Wine (London, U.K.)
Thomas (Lyon, France)
Viajante (London, U.K.)


American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
la Baraca (St. Moritz)
(Cala Montjoi, Spain)
El Cellar de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)
Dolder Grand (Zurich, Switzerland)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
Hakkasan at the Fountainbleu (Miami Beach, Florida)
Johri’s Talvo (Champfer, St. Moritz, Switzerland)
El Moli (Pont de Molins, Spain)
naoe (Miami, Florida)
Pubbelly (Miami Beach, Florida)
El Quim de la Boqueria (Barcelona, Spain)
Rieger Grill & Exchange, The (Once, Twice; Kansas City, Missouri)
Sugarcane Raw Bar (Miami, Florida)


The American Restaurant (Once, Twice; Kansas City, Missouri)
Genessee Royale (Once, Twice, Thrice; Kansas City, Missouri)
Pizza Bella (Kansas City, Missouri)
R Bar (Kansas City, Missouri)
Rieger Grill & Exchange, The (Once, Twice; Kansas City, Missouri)


Cúrate (Asheville, North Carolina)
elements (Princeton, New Jersey)
Glass Onion, The (Charleston, South Carolina)
Husk (Dinner and Brunch; Charleston, South Carolina)
McCrady’s (Charleston, South Carolina)
Ninety Acres (Peapack, New Jersey)
Scott’s Variety (Hemingway, South Carolina)
Town House (Chilhowie, Virginia)

– MAY –

ABC Kitchen (New York, New York)
aburiya kinnosuke (New York, New York)
Adour (New York, New York)
aldea (New York, New York)
Ayada (Queens, New York)
avenues (Chicago, Illinois)
Barbuto (New York, New York)
Bar Masa (New York, New York)
Birrieria Zaragoza (Chicago, Illinois)
blackbird (Chicago, Illinois)
Bon Chon (New York, New York)
Breslin, The (New York, New York)
BRGR (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
buvette (New York, New York)
Cafe Boulud (New York, New York)
Calumet Fisheries (Chicago, Illinois)
Corton (New York, New York)
Davanti Enoteca (Chicago, Illinois)
Del Posto (New York, New York)
Doughnut Plant (New York, New York)
Dutch, The (Once, Twice, Thrice; New York, New York)
Eleven Madison Park (Once, Twice; New York, New York)
Empellon (New York, New York)
graham elliot (Chicago, Illinois)
grahamwich (Chicago, Illinois)
Hotel Griffou (New York, New York)
Jean Georges (New York, New York)
kajitsu (New York, New York)
Katz’s Delicatessen (New York, New York)
Kaya (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
keste pizzeria (New York, New York)
Lao You Ju (Chicago, Illinois)
Lincoln (New York, New York)
marea (New York, New York)
Meatball Shop, The (New York, New York)
Modern, The (New York, New York)
momofuku “duck bar” (New York, New York)
Motorino (Brooklyn, New York)
M. Wells (Queens, New York)
next “Paris 1906” (Chicago, Illinois)
notion (Oakmont, Pennsylvania)
otto (New York, New York)
per se (New York, New York)
Peter Luger (Brooklyn, New York)
Primanti Bros. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
recette (New York, New York)
Roberta’s (Brooklyn, New York)
Russ & Daughter’s (New York, New York)
Salt of the Earth (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
schwa (Chicago, Illinois)
SHO Shaun Hergatt (New York, New York)
Spotted Pig (Once, Twice; New York, New York)
Sushi Yasuda (New York, New York)
wd~50 (New York, New York)
Yakitori Totto (New York, New York)

– JUNE –

Bazaar (Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel; Beverly Hills, California)
Crotto Belvedere (Piuro, Italy)
George’s at the Cove (La Jolla, California)
Il Grano (Los Angeles, California)
Market (Del Mar, California)
Nine-Ten (La Jolla, California)
osteria mozza (Los Angeles, California)
Picca (Friends & Family; Los Angeles, California)
pizzeria mozza (Los Angeles, California)
Providence (“Four on Fish”; Los Angeles, California)
Red Medicine (once, twice; Los Angeles, California)
Schloss Schauenstein (Fürstenau, Switzerland)
Tavern (Los Angeles, California)
Torafuku (Los Angeles, California)
wolvesden (Los Angeles, California)

– JULY –

American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
elBulli (Cala Montjoi, Spain)
extra virgin (Kansas City, Missouri)
Hisop (Barcelona, Spain)
Irati Taverna Basca (Barcelona, Spain)
Julian (Kansas City, Missouri)
Pinotxo Bar (Barcelona, Spain)
Port Fonda (Once, Twice, Thrice; Kansas City, Missouri)
El Quim de la Boqueria (Barcelona, Spain)
Quique Dacosta (Once, Twice, Thrice; Denia, Spain)
Rafa’s (Roses, Spain)
Sant Pau (Sant Pol de Mar, Spain)
Story (Kansas City, Missouri)


Bullwinkle’s (West Yellowstone, Montana)
Julian (Kansas City, Missouri)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Vagabond Pop-Up (Kansas City, Missouri)


Alte Kelter (Stuttgart-Unterturheim, Germany)
Aqua (Wolfsburg, Germany)
Chateau Eza (Eze, France)
Crotto Belvedere (Piuro, Italy)
Enoteca Tognoni (Bolgheri, Italy)
Il Canto (Siena, Italy)
Joel Robuchon-Monte Carlo (Once, Twice; Monte-Carlo, Monaco)
Krönenhalle (Zurich, Switzerland)
Landhaus (Fläesch, Switzerland)
Louis XV (Monte-Carlo, Monaco)
Mirazur (Once, Twice; Menton, Frnace)
Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy)
Osteria Magona (Bolgheri, Italy)
Pizzeria O’Vesuvio (Florence, Italy)
Le Safari (Nice, France)
Sankt Meinrad (Zurich, Switzerland)
Schloss Berg (Perl-Nennig, Germany)
Schloss Lerbach (Bergisch Gladbach, Germany)
La Vie (Osnabruck, Germany)
Zirbelstube (Stuttgart, Germany)


Biko (Mexico City, Mexico)
El Califa (Mexico City, Mexico)
El Cardinal (Mexico City, Mexico)
Cemitas Lily (San Andres Cholula, Mexico)
Cemitas Lupita (San Pedro Cholula, Mexico)
Cemitas Mary (San Pedro Cholula, Mexico)
Cotogna (San Francisco, California)
Howie’s Artisan Pizza (Palo Alto, California)
La Ciccia (San Francisco, California)
Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California)
Mero Toro (Mexico City, Mexico)
Méson Sacristía de la Companía (Puebla, Mexico)
El Mural de los Poblanos (Puebla, Mexico)
Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
One Market (San Francisco, California)
Quince (San Francisco, California)
saison (San Francisco, California)
Slanted Door, The (San Francisco, California)
Sons & Daughters (San Francisco, California)
Taqueria el Super Salsa (Puebla, Mexico)
Tostadas Coyoacan (Mexico City, Mexico)
ubuntu (Napa, California)
Yardbird (Once, Twice; Miami Beach, Florida)


American Restaurant, The; James Beard Foundation Dinner (Kansas City, Missouri)
BB’s Lawnside BBQ (Kansas City, Missouri)
Cypress (Charleston, South Carolina)
Gram & Dun (Kansas City, Missouri)
Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
LC’s BBQ (Kansas City, Missouri)
McCrady’s (Charleston, South Carolina)
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ (Once, Twice; Kansas City, Missouri)
Palmetto Bluff Resort (Once, Twice, Thrice; Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina)
El Pollo Rey (Kansas City, Kansas)
Smokestack, The (Kansas City, Missouri)

“Ulysses” by Anna Chromy, the Monaco Yacht Club at Port Hercule, Monte-Carlo, Monaco; the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France; winter sunbathers, St. Moritz, Switzerland; a row of cypress trees, Bolgheri, Italy.

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8 replies on “suitcase party…”

Very impressive – your May probably trumps my year. Privileged brat – probably not, but fortunate for sure; just like anyone who has the opportunity to visit such places.

Thanks for sharring the ride and being a great resource.

Great list… look forward to more reviews of them… just curious.. how the hell do you pay for all those meals?? I don’t think I saw one that would have been less than $150… like you say.. lucky you…

OK I may have dozen of questions : How can so much luck and delights can be concentrated on one single person, did you sell your house to afford so many incredible places etc… etc… etc… But the one and only question whose answer will probably end up convincing me that life is totally one-sided is : How the hell don’t you weigh 380 lbs ???
I gained 20, only by reading you… Please… stop…

You are blessed because despite any reservations you might have had, you followed your heart and your passion. If we all did that, we too would have such abundance. I know this for sure. Cheers AND Bon Appetit.

Just wanted to thank you for sharing. I am very glad to see that you give thanks to God for all of your blessings. He is allowing me access to the world’s most amazing restaurants through your work. Can’t wait to Read the cookbook that you photographed. It’s on my wish list as I set in icu with my wife as we prepare for Christmas while she recovers from cancer complications. Again thank you for you work. Your photos are priceless.