travel: blurred lines…

~ At the end of each of the last two years, I’ve looked back in awe at a calendar filled with adventures.  At the same time, I’ve stared nervously into the new year, wondering how it might fill up, if at all. We are at the bottom of December, once again.  And, once again, I […]



At the end of each of the last two years, I’ve looked back in awe at a calendar filled with adventures.  At the same time, I’ve stared nervously into the new year, wondering how it might fill up, if at all.

We are at the bottom of December, once again.  And, once again, I marvel at a year that brimmed with excitement and opportunities that, just twelve months ago, I never dreamed would be possible.  With every corner I’ve turned, God has met me with more than I could have ever expected.  And for that, I am immensely grateful.

2013 flew by.  Literally.

I think I spent just as much time on planes as I did in restaurants and hotels.  I hopped around the globe, logging more than 120,000 miles across a dozen U.S. states, five countries, and three continents.  I was home (in Kansas City) fewer than 100 days this year, and not more than two weeks in the last three months.  The good news is that my busyness was evidence that my new-found career as a photographer and writer gained important ground this year.  I worked with and for some amazing people in some amazing places (more on that later).  And, of course, I managed to eat some pretty great food along the way too.

The unfortunate result, as some of you know, was that I had little time to write about it all.  This blog was a bit of a sleeper in 2013. And that makes me sad.  I started writing this blog (now nearing its tenth anniversary), primarily, as a personal journal about my relationship with food.  It also provided a convenient medium in which to adjoin my interests in writing and photography.  This year, my record lagged – in certain months, it came to a halt – leaving silent, gaping holes that should have otherwise been filled with colorful and delicious tales from the road.

But, also, over the years, I’ve derived much joy from sharing my experiences with those who care to read about them.  Although I appreciated the privacy I maintained as a blogger during the seven years that I spent in self-imposed anonymity, in the years since I went public with my identity, it has been incredibly gratifying to meet many of you who have been reading my blog over the past decade.  You – cooks, bloggers, writers, chefs, photographers, waitstaff, artists, and eaters-at-large – whom I’ve met at events, who have cooked for me, who have introduced yourselves to me on the streets, who have reached out to me through email – thank you for giving me the encouragement and incentive to continue writing and photographing.

Although I can’t make up for a spotty year of blogging, I will take this opportunity to give you a tour of my year – what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been, and, of course, where I’ve eaten.


Richard Carter Studio


First, I think it’s important for me to tell you, briefly, about the work that I’ve done this year.  Despite what some might believe – that I’m perpetually on vacation – I actually do work.

Truth be told, part of the reason why I’ve remained so silent, recently, is because I’ve realized that I’ve crossed the line from being “just a blogger” to being something else.  The problem is, I’m not quite sure what that something else is – yet.  But, I do know that that something else means that the borders and course of my blog have been irreversibly altered. The lines have been blurred.  And I must be careful.

Those of you who know me, know that I have strong opinions, and I am not easily swayed by charm, or glamor, or hype, or money.   I have always taken pride in my honesty, my ability to separate opinion from judgement, and my willingness to wade against the popular tide.  As I’ve written on this blog (more and more, recently), the single-most important thing to me, when it comes to food (and most other things in life, actually), is integrity – integrity of ingredients and cooking.  For the past nine years, I’ve approached food writing on this blog as a consumer advocate – eager to celebrate the good, but unafraid to point out the bad.  I’ve never claimed to be an expert, or a formal critic – because I am neither (and you should be wary of anyone who claims to be either).  The only credentials I have as a food writer are pretty much contained within the four corners of this blog.  I’m just one guy on a cyberspace soapbox voicing my opinion.  I’ve never pretended to be or do anything more.  And, I insist that none of that will change here.

However, as impartial as I believe I am, I am human.  And with that, come all the tangled spaghetti strings of emotions that often escape reason and logic.

This year, much more than previous years, my life as a blogger commingled with my life as a paid photographer and writer.  This wouldn’t be a problem if so many of my clients weren’t in the hospitality industry, which, as you know, happens to be the primary subject of my blog – chefs, restaurants, and food and wine-related events.   But I want to be clear: I was never paid to write about them, or for them on my blog.  Neither was there the expectation that I would write about them (and, as you can see from my infrequent posts this year, I barely wrote at all).  I was hired strictly to photograph for them.

I could tell you that all of this has, and will have no affect on my opinions, or my writing.  But, I won’t.  It’s a simple fact, for example, that where I ate this year had a lot to do with where my clients were located.  I spent a good deal of time in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York because that’s where my job took me.

Do I stop writing altogether?  No, I won’t do that either.  I maintain my right to tell the stories that I think should be told; to continue celebrating the good, and pointing out the bad.

So, to bring as much transparency to this situation as possible, I will simply disclose my conflicts so that you can decide whether, or how much, to trust what I have to say.


A tie.


As the official  photographer for the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, I traveled to Lyon, France with Team USA in January to record Richard Rosendale’s bid for the podium.  Although I was not paid for my work or my photographs, my expenses were covered.

In February, All-Clad Metalcrafters hired me to photograph eight chefs for an advertising campaign.

Chef Justin Cogley invited me to attend and asked me to photograph the first-annual Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine dinner at Aubergine in Carmel-By-The-Sea in March.  My expenses were covered for this trip, including two dinners at the restaurant, and I was provided a small stipend.  On a return visit earlier this month, Chef Cogley took care of a third meal at Aubergine.

In April, Rodolfo Guzman, chef at Boragó, worked with the government of the Chile to bring me to tour his country.  He worked to get me invited back to Chile in October. Between those two trips, he invited me to his restaurant three times, never accepting any money from me (he did let me tip for service).

All-Clad Metalcrafters hired me to photograph at the James Beard Foundation Awards in May, an event that is partially sponsored by that company.  While I was in New York, I also did a quick ad shoot for Boulud Sud and Epicerie Boulud.

In June, chef Chris Hastings hired me to photograph a fundraising dinner for the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation at his restaurant, Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama.  As a part of my visit, Chef Hastings invited me as his guest to dinner at Hot & Hot Fish Club.

In July, I was paid to photograph the opening of Qui for Paul Qui in Austin, Texas.  All of my expenses were covered for that trip, including dinner at Qui.  Later that month, I flew to West Virginia to photograph for Richard Rosendale’s recently launched website.


Moreland Landing


In November, I was invited to speak at a food film festival (aptly named Devour!) in Nova Scotia (I was paid an honorarium). And, I was hired to photograph the Music To Your Mouth Festival in South Carolina, a food, music, and wine event at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff that I had attended twice before as a guest of the resort.

In December, I was hired by The Restaurant at Meadowood to photograph the Twelve Days of Christmas. As a part of that, I was given a seat at all twelve dinners.  In addition, Chef Christopher Kostow treated a couple of the guest chefs and me to dinner at the restaurant the night before the dinner series started.

And throughout the year, I photographed a number of times for my friends Colby and Megan Garrelts’s new restaurant Rye in Leawood, Kansas, and their flagship bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri.

In between, I had a wide range of photography jobs that did not involve restaurants or the hospitality industry (For example, I spent a very unglamorous week in the jungles of Mexico photographing for a fish company.).  But the one, ongoing project that I must disclose is my working relationship with Joshua Skenes, chef of Saison.  Earlier this year, Skenes and I signed a collaboration agreement to work on a cookbook together.  While we initially agreed to remain silent about the project until we felt confident about our progress, I am now taking the first opportunity available to go public with this information.

I will also disclose that I have, this year, had four, full dinners at saison, three of which were paid out of the cost of our collaboration (that is, I did not pay for those three meals out of my pocket).  I did, however, pay for the fourth meal.  In addition, Skenes hired me to photograph a series of guest chef dinners in October (the proceeds benefitted the S.F. Food Bank) at saison.  I was paid for my work, and was also given a seat at all five dinners.

Did I have other “free” meals this year?  Yes. But probably not as many as you might imagine.  (And, by the way, I always insist on paying.  Sometimes, they just don’t let me, in which case, I try to leave a generous tip.)  Instead of listing those meals here, I promise to disclose the situation if I write about them.


An old barn.


So, what, in all of this – this work, this association with chefs and restaurants – is the chicken, and what is the egg?  I’d like to think that all of this – this indescribable, intangible circumstance that now finds me in the “something else” territory – came about organically, growing out of mutual respect and shared values.

I liked what I tasted and saw when I visited The Restaurant at Meadowood, for example.  So, I invited Christopher Kostow to come cook in Kansas City.  Then he invited me to participate in the Twelve Days of Christmas last year, where I had the opportunity to get to know him, to observe him working and interacting in his environment.  I came to admire his style of management and the culture that he has cultivated for his corner of the world.  So we started a dialogue that, now, has resulted in a wonderful, professional partnership. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a spectacular, high-quality event that not only raises money for a charitable cause, but focuses on celebrating the best that Kostow’s community – vintners, chefs, gardeners, and more – have to offer.  I would be thrilled to tell the world about this kind of event regardless of my personal or professional relationship with Kostow.

Joshua Skenes isn’t vying for any Mr. Congeniality awards. He knows that.  I know that.  And the food media certainly knows that.  But Skenes understands quality.  He demands it and fights for it, even when the rest of the world raises an eyebrow at the way he goes about it.  I’ve eaten at saison nearly a dozen times this year, and I’ve spent hours talking with him, observing him, and tasting with him.  And I can tell you that the most important thing to Joshua Skenes is the quality of the food that lands in front of his guests.  He scours for the best, and scrutinizes everything that enters his kitchen, from his cooks to the produce that his purveyors bring.

Whether you view him as a martyr or a crazy, Skenes is undeniably dedicated to his craft and his clients.  In an age when many high-end chefs have become circus acts, jetting across the world in a understandably tempting bid for fame and fortune, Joshua Skenes stays in his kitchen.  He knows that he’ll never achieve perfection.  But he also knows that every minute he spends behind the pass is a minute closer to his target.  I appreciate that about him.  And so, when he asked me to help him tell his story, I said yes.

This is just a glimpse into the reality of the choices I have made and am making. The skeptics and cynics among you will question and distrust.  You have every right to do that.  And, if you feel that I cannot write intelligently, objectively, or – most importantly – thoughtfully about my subjects, then I invite you to stop reading here.

But, for the rest of you, my blogging apologetics end.  Let’s move on with the rest of my year, one that was full of great views, great smells, and great flavors.


Places like this actually exist.


I went to amazing places this year and saw amazing things.

In California, I saw a waterfall on a beach (yes, that is actually a photograph that I took, and not a computer-generated graphic).  In Chiapas, Mexico, I saw a waterfall on a lake.

In Nova Scotia, I walked along four hundred year-old dykes at sunset, watching the clay marshes turn from orange to purple.  It was a mysterious and wonderful sight.

I saw prehistory in the windswept coast of Carmel and gazed at starfish and sea urchins in the crisp, clear tidal pools.  And under a pier in nearby Monterey, I teetered along planks, suspended just a few feet above the water, from which hung dozens of crates of live abalone feeding away on miles of kelp.

I went foraging in the hills above Napa Valley with Cameron Rahtz, forager to The Restaurant at Meadowood.  It was much drier this year than last year, so we didn’t find the treasure trove of matsutakes that we did last year.  But, I smelled red bay and spice bush along the way, and we found a hidden orchard of apple trees among the big, trunky redwoods.

In Paris, my friends gave me a paper coronation out of a stunning galette de rois by pastry master Jacques Genin.

I spent an afternoon eating cheese and drinking wine on a hilltop overlooking an old turkey farm in Sonoma County.  Then to far-flung Suisun Valley my friend Marty and I drove, to climb the barrels at Scholium Project for a taste of the raw and funky.

And in Copenhagen, I traced the canals at night, mesmerized by the glistening cobblestones, and heard Horatio whisper in my ear at the palace gates.




I need to learn Spanish.  I’ve been to Latin America nearly two dozen times in the past three years, and all I can do is order “agua minerale” and hack my way out of a conversation with over-solicitous street vendors. It’s embarrassing, really.

This year, I was in Mexico twice. Once in way-down Chiapas, and once in Mexico City to attend the second-annual Mesamérica conference.

I spent a month in Chile: two weeks there in April, and two more weeks in October.

I’ve already written about my first trip.  Here are a few highlights from second one:

I was invited to speak at FEGAM, a fledgling seafood conference focused on bringing awareness and protection to sustainable fishing in Chile.  One of the most memorable parts of that conference was visiting the fishing co-op in the remote, seaside village of Bonifacio.  As our van descended the steep, seaside trail, I saw two boats launch into the rough surf.  By the time we got down to the village and warmed up near the hot embers (in which dough had been buried and was baking; locals call this ashen bread “rescoldo”) the old fishermen – the oldest is Delfino, who is in his seventies – had returned from their dive, hauling back nets full of spiny urchins and clods of dirt containing piure (One of the oddest animals I’ve ever encountered, these ruby red creatures live in colonies buried in the mud. Piure have the texture of clams, and a strong, briny flavor. Chileans will either eat them raw, or smoke and cure them.).  One of the old fisherman pried open a sea urchin, revealing the creamy sacks of roe within, and a tiny parasitic crab that is known to live in symbiosis with the urchin (they call this crab “pancora”).  The fisherman plucked the crab out – no larger than a thimble – and told me to pop it in my mouth, alive.  It gushed a briny juice that tasted of sea water and blue cheese.




In Patagonia, I ascended nearly 6,000 feet in one day and arrived at a glacial lake at the foot of the three, iconic towers of the Parque Nacional Torres del Pine.  If you like a challenging, but not a terribly technical hike, consider trekking up to this “Mirador.”  It’s a breathtaking journey, one that will lead you through beautiful forests and have you clinging to rock faces on dizzyingly narrow cliff-side passes.

Actually, all of Patagonia was breathtaking.  I went horseback riding through the brush and found wild hare the size of raccoons scurrying about. And by the roadside, we stopped to watch wild llamas (“guanaco”), unexpectedly elegant and majestic creatures, scaling the steep hillsides.  For dinner, at the stunning The Singular resort, where I was put up, I ate both.

In northern Patagonia, on the quiet island of Chiloé, I spent two, peaceful days at Refugia, a lovely, twelve-room boutique hotel overlooking a lawn of rainbows and ponies, and beyond that, the sea.  It was magical.




I visited Seattle twice this year.  I loved it.  The weather’s great. The people are great. The produce is great. The restaurant scene there is strong.  I want to move there.

I visited Chicago and New York thrice each (to get my latest thoughts about dining in New York, read this).  Both cities seemed content with the status quo, unlike San Francisco, to which I traveled six times this year.  Some of it was for work.  A lot of it was for pleasure.  It’s an exciting time to be eating in and around the Bay Area.

I went to Austin, Texas for the first time.  Given all of the great things people have said about the food scene there, I went in with high expectations.  Perhaps, they were unrealistic expectations.  I left disappointed.  There was certainly a lot of enthusiasm for food there. And, for a city of its size, Austin’s dining culture is unbelievably active.  Unfortunately, I found the quality of ingredients and attention to detail lacking.  But, for having only been open a week, Qui was off to a strong start.  I had some tasty dishes at Barley Swine, and some truly great barbecue in nearby Lockhart (I’m looking at you, Black’s, and not at you, Smitty’s).  But most of what I found there had more style than substance, with a side of grunge.  There were quite a few places on my list that I didn’t get to visit on this trip to Austin.  I hope that my next visit is more uplifting.

And, in my never-ending quest to explore the Southerner in me, I took a road trip through the Carolinas.  Starting in Raleigh-Durham, I ate my way through the “Triangle,” making sure to stop by Daniel Ryan’s and Kim Floresca’s One in Chapel Hill (they wouldn’t let me pay, even though they let me eat), swung through Ayden for vinegary barbecue at the Skylight Inn, and down to Charleston for my annual haaj to Husk (“Drop by for a little fried chicken snack,” Sean Brock said.  Of course he overfed me, and then, wouldn’t let me pay either. Southerners.).  A lot of pie, a lot of fried chicken, and a lot of bourbon happened on that week-long trip, which ended at an oyster roast and a surprise concert by Kristian Bush of Sugarland under a canopy of Spanish moss.  Every trip through the South should be so charmed.


Razor clammers.

I wish I had more time to tell you about all of the amazing experiences I had this year.  Perhaps, if I find time in 2014, I will.  But, first, I must turn my attention to finishing my annual year-end lists of my favorite twenty-five dishes, favorite twenty-five desserts, and ten best restaurant meals, all of which I plan to publish this coming week.

So that you have a better idea of the volume of dishes and restaurant meals that I must consider, below is a list of all the meals I’ve had in 2013.  It includes over a hundred different restaurants, representing well over fifty Michelin stars, spread across a dozen U.S. States, five countries, and three continents.  (Restaurants that have been struck-through have already closed.)



akrame (Paris, France)
Auberge due Fond Rose (Lyon, France)
Bar Tartine (San Francisco, California)
Brasserie le Nord (Lyon, France)
Brasserie l’Ouest (Lyon, France)
Daniel & Denise (Lyon, France)
duende (Oakland, California)
F & B at the Institut Paul Bocuse (Ecully, France)
Le Bouchon des Filles (Lyon, France)
Le Caro de Lyon (Lyon, France)
Le Centre (Lyon, France)
kadeau (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Têtedoie (Lyon, France)
relae (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Saigon Sandwich (San Francisco, California)
Salumeri (San Francisco, California)
septime (Paris, France)


aaman’s of Copenhagen (New York, New York)
aldea (New York, New York)
Bacaro (New York, New York)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
Café Boulud (New York, New York) (once, twice)
Di Fara’s Pizza (New York, New York)
dovetail (New York, New York)
Fatty Crab (New York, New York)
Geranium (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Lincoln Ristorante (New York, New York)
maialino (New York, New York)
noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)
per se (New York, New York)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Sarabeth’s East (New York, New York)
Soto (New York, New York)
wallsé (New York, New York)


1833 (Monterey, California)
alinea (Chicago, Illinois)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Aubergine (Carmel-By-The-Sea, California) (once, twice)
Big Star (Chicago, Illinois)
Eleven City Diner (Chicago, Illinois)
Flying Saucer (Chicago, Illinois)
graham elliot (Chicago, Illinois)
GT Fish & Oyster (Chicago, Illinois)
Justus Drugstore (Smithville, Missouri)
Lou Mitchell’s (Chicago, Illinois)
next: The Hunt (Chicago, Illinois)
Publican Quality Meats (Chicago, Illinois)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Spiaggia (Chicago, Illinois)
Trencherman (Chicago, Illinois)
yusho (Chicago, Illinois)


Alegre at the Palacio Astoreca (Valparaiso, Chile)
Ana Maria (Santiago, Chile) (once, twice)
Antulican (Santiago, Chile)
Aqui Esta Coco (Santiago, Chile)
Arola at the Ritz Carlton (Santiago, Chile)
Bar Tartine (San Francisco, California)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
Bocanariz (Santiago, Chile)
Boragó (Santiago, Chile) (once, twice)
Boulette’s Larder (San Francisco, California)
Canela Patisserie (Santiago, Chile)
Casa Mar (Santiago, Chile)
Casa Mirador (Casablanca Valley, Chile)
Empire State South (Atlanta, Georgia)
flour + water (San Francisco, California)
haus (Kansas City, Missouri)
La Folie (San Francisco, California)
La Fuente Vitacura (Santiago, Chile)
Liguria (Santiago, Chile)
Marisqueria Bahamondez (Santiago, Chile)
Mercado Vega (Santiago, Chile)
Mesón de la Patagonia (Santiago, Chile)
Mill, The (San Francisco, California)
Noi at the Hotel Noi (Santiago, Chile)
Osaka (Santiago, Chile)
Pigwich (Kansas City, Missouri)
Pilar Rodriguez Food + Wine Studio (Colchagua Valley, Chile)
Rancho Doña Maria (Santiago, Chile)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Saison (San Francisco, California)
Slanted Door, The (San Francisco, California)
State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, California)
Sukalde (Santiago, Chile)
Viña Lapostolle (Colchagua Valley, Chile)
Viñedos de Alcohuaz (Elqui Valley, Chile)
Viñedos Montgras (Casablanca Valley, Chile)


aaman’s of Copenhagen (New York, New York)
abc kitchen (New York, New York)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, New York)
Boulud Sud (New York, New York)
Butcher’s Daughter (New York, New York)
Carbone (New York, New York)
De Gustibus (Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson; New York, New York)
Eleven Madison Park (New York, New York)
eno (Mexico City, Mexico) (once, twice)
Gramercy Tavern (New York, New York)
Green Dirt Farm (Brandon Winn; Weston, Missouri)
Gotham Bar & Grill (New York, New York)
il buco alimentari (New York, New York)
ippudo (New York, New York)
Keen’s Chophouse (New York, New York)
kokage (New York, New York)
Lady M. Confections (New York, New York)
Lafayette (New York, New York)
maialino (New York, New York)
mero toro (Mexico City, Mexico)
Nicos (Mexico City, Mexico)
Paxia (Mexico City, Mexico)
per se (New York, New York)
pok pok (New York, New York)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico)
Rosetta (Mexico City, Mexico)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas) (once, twice, thrice)
Wong (New York, New York)


American Restaurant, The (Harvesters Chefs Classic; Kansas City, Missouri)
Bettola (Birmingham, Alabama)
Black’s BBQ (Lockhart, Texas)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Café Europa (Kansas City, Missouri)
commonwealth (San Francisco, California)
Fifth Floor, The (San Francisco, California) (To close in January, 2014)
Genessee Royale (Harvesters Chefs Classic; Kansas City, Missouri)
Green Dirt Farm (Alex Pope; Weston, Missouri)
Highlands Bar & Grill (Birmingham, Alabama)
Hot & Hot Fish Club (Birmingham, Alabama) (once, twice)
Knead Patisserie (San Francisco, California)
Lidia’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Little Donkey (Birmingham, Alabama)
niche (St. Louis, Missouri)
Niki’s West (Birmingham, Alabama)
Outerlands (San Francisco, California)
pastaria (St. Louis, Missouri)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Red Door Grill (Leawood, Kansas)
Rieger Grill & Exchange (Kansas City, Missouri)
saison (San Francisco, California) (once, twice)
Smitty’s BBQ (Lockhart, Texas)
Sno Beach (Austin, Texas)
spqr (San Francisco, California)
State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, California)
Thien Long (San Jose, California)
una pizza napoletana (San Francisco, California)
Vittoria Macellaria (Birmingham, Alabama)
Winslow’s Home (St. Louis, Missouri)


À La Mode (Seattle, Washington)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Au Cheval (Chicago, Illinois)
Bakery Nouveau (Seattle, Washington)
Barley Swine (Austin, Texas)
Bar Sajor (Seattle, Washington)
Beach Store Café (Lummi Island, Washington)
Belly Q (Chicago, Illinois)
Canlis (Seattle, Washington) (once, twice)
Canon (Seattle, Washington)
Carlitos (Lewisburg, West Virginia)
Carriage House (Chicago, Illinois)
Cascina Spinasse (Seattle, Washington)
East Side Kings at Hole in the Wall (Austin, Texas)
Easy Tiger (Austin, Texas)
Fuji Bakery (Seattle, Washington)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
grace (Chicago, Illinois)
Hoosier Mama Pie Co. (Chicago, Illinois)
Irish Pub (Lewisburg, West Virginia)
Josephine House (Austin, Texas)
La Condesa (Austin, Texas)
Little Goat (Chicago, Illinois)
next: Vegan (Chicago, Illinois)
Nightwood (Chicago, Illinois)
Pleasant House Bakery (Chicago, Illinois)
qui (Austin, Texas)
Red Door Grill (Leawood, Kansas)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Salt & Time (Austin, Texas)
Sitka & Spruce (Seattle, Washington)
Spin Modern Thai
(Austin, Texas)
Staple & Fancy (Seattle, Washington)
uchi (Austin, Texas)
Walrus and the Carpenter (Seattle, Washington)
Wiener Circle (Chicago, Illinois)
Willow’s Inn (Lummi Island, Washington)


American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
aziza (San Francisco, California)
bouli bar (San Francisco, California) (once, twice)
blue ribbon (New York, New York)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
bluestem (BBQ Block Party; Kansas City, Missouri)
Café Boulud (New York, New York)
Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches (New York, New York)
Diane’s Bakery (Roslyn, New York)
elm, the (New York, New York)
extra virgin (Kansas City, Missouri)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
Greenvale Bagels (Roslyn, New York)
Hummus World (Roslyn, New York)
Lidia’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Louro (New York, New York)
Minetta Tavern (New York, New York)
novel (Kansas City, Missouri)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
rice & miso everyday (New York, New York)
Runner & Stone (New York, New York)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
saison (San Francisco, California)
zero zero (San Francisco, California)


abc cocina (New York, New York)
Ada’s Latin Flavor (Long Branch, New Jersey)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
Café Shirin (Manalapan Township, New Jersey)
casa mono (New York, New York) (once, twice, thrice)
Danji (New York, New York)
Del Posto (New York, New York)
Drew’s Bayshore Bistro (Keyport, New Jersey)
elements (Princeton, New Jersey)
Epicerie Boulud (New York, New York)
Flying Saucer (Josh Eans; Kansas City, Missouri)
Green Dirt Farm (Rye; Weston, Missouri)
Jean-Georges (New York, New York)
Lincoln Ristorante (New York, New York)
Mistral (Princeton, New Jersey)
Modern, The (New York, New York)
Peacock Inn, The (Princeton, New Jersey)
perry street (New York, New York)
Pines, The (New York, New York)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas) (once, twice)
sushi azabu (New York, New York)


Acadia (Chicago, Illinois)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
American Royal, The (World Championship of Barbecue; Kansas City, Missouri)
Aqui Esta Coco (Santiago, Chile)
Bar Tartine (San Francisco, California)
Boragó (Santiago, Chile)
bouli bar (San Francisco, California)
Café Haussmann (Valdivia, Chile)
Cuidad Vieja (Santiago, Chile)
Doña Tina (Santiago, Chile)
Handle Bar (Chicago, Illinois)
izakaya yuzuki (San Francisco, California)
Little Goat (Chicago, Illinois)
Mar, La (Santiago, Chile)
Mestizo (Santiago, Chile)
next: Bocuse d’Or (Chicago, Illinois)
Pizzeria Delfina (San Francisco, California)
refugia (Chiloe, Chile)
Room 39 (Leawood, Kansas)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
saison (San Francisco, California) (Gras, Lightner, Kreuther, Seeger, Shields)
Singular, The (Puerto Natales, Chile)
Tilapia (Niebla, Chile)
Turtle Tower (San Francisco, California)
Ultima Frontera, La (Valdivia, Chile)


American Restaurant, The (Friend of James Beard Foundation Dinner; Kansas City, Missouri)
Arthur Bryant’s BBQ (Kansas City, Missouri)
Beasley’s Fried Chicken + Honey (Raleigh, North Carolina)
bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
commis (Oakland, California)
Corson Building, The (Seattle, Washington)
Crush (Seattle, Washington)
Front & Central (Wolfville, Nova Scotia)
Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
Lantern, The (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
La Farandula Taquería y Antojería (Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Mexico)
Las Picahanchas (Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Mexico)
Nana Tacos (Durham, North Carolina)
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
One (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Parallel 37 (San Francisco, California)
Poole’s Diner (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Privet House (Wolfville, Nova Scotia)
Quince (San Francisco, California)
Sitka & Spruce (Seattle, Washington)
Skylight Inn BBQ (Ayden, North Carolina)
Willow’s Inn (Lummi Island, Washington)


ad hoc (Yountville, California)
akiko’s (San Francisco, California)
Alta (San Francisco, California)
Aubergine (Carmel-By-The-Sea, California)
Bouchon (Yountville, California) (once, twice)
bouli bar (San Francisco, California)
Gott’s Roadside (St. Helena, California)
Fremont Diner (Sonoma, California)
French Laundry, The (Yountville, California)
Hog Island Oyster Co. (Marshall, California)
La Luna Market & Taqueria (Rutherford, California)
Manresa (Los Gatos, California)
Quince (Sean Brock & Frank Stitt; San Francisco, California)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (Twelve Days of Christmas; St. Helena, California) (Ricker, Guzman, Mirarchi, Cushman, Christensen, Chang, Accarrino, Ladner & Headley, Kofoed, Balla & Burns, Kinch, and Kostow)
saison (San Francisco, California)
Tadich Grill (San Francisco, California)
Torc (Napa, California)
redd wood (Yountville, California) (once, twice)


Photos: Alone, a single sail boat moored off the coast of Lummi Island, Washington; a trophy deer head at Richard Carter’s beautiful ceramic studio in Pope Valley, California; chefs Paul Kahan and David Chang, winners at this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards in New York, New York; an oyster roast under a canopy of Spanish moss at The Music to Your Mouth Festival, Moreland Landing at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina; and old barn in the fields of Weston, Missouri; the stunning McWay falls at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along Highway 1 in Big Sur, California; the sleepy fishing co-op in Bonifacio, Chile; a rainbow and some horses, the view from my room at the Refugia hotel in Chiloe, Chile; the timeless Golden Gate Bridge at dusk, seen from the Marin Headlands in Marin County, California; the clammers have come in for the night, sunset in Niebla, Chile.

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7 replies on “travel: blurred lines…”

Oh my… where to begin.. there’s no point anyway.. I like reading your blog.. but I don’t read it for any objective food criticism… you’re getting comped left, right and center.. and I got no problem with that either.. more power to you.. what raises my hackles when you keep insisting that it doesn’t affect your so-called criticism… what criticism?? The only time I’ve seen you slam a place in 3 or 4 years of reading your blog was Paula Dean’s crapola place… oh big step out there.. and you didn’t get comped there.. didn’t you let them know you were coming?? Read your so-called reviews and you’ll see what I mean.. all right if Austin was so bad, tell us what was the crap????

I don’t have an illusions that your reviews can be unbiased especially with the relationships you do have with chefs and the industry now but I do appreciate that you are being honest about your connections. Plenty of food bloggers are not honest about getting comped meals or having personal relationships. I had a horrible meal at saison and don’t have the money to give it another try but what I like seeing on your blog is what it’s like to get the best of the best at restaurants that folks like you get treated to.

@Van: I’m sorry to hear that. Obviously, every restaurant has its bad nights. But, that doesn’t excuse them from their mistakes and shortcomings, especially when you’re paying what you’re paying. Did you share your disappointment with saison? If not, I encourage you to do so. The restaurant industry improves only when there’s honest feedback. I’m sure Joshua and his staff would love to know how they fell short of your expectations. There’s no reason why every diner shouldn’t get the best of the best of what a restaurant has to offer. (And, thanks for reading, and for your comment. I appreciate your open-mindedness.)