travel: reunions on the road… (2021)

If 2020 imparted any wisdom, it was a searing reminder not to sleep on opportunities when they present. Left behind, they can fester into regret, especially during dark times, when the opportunities that were seized can glitter, by comparison, in dazzling relief. So, as the scales started tipping towards a reopening in 2021, I leapt […]


If 2020 imparted any wisdom, it was a searing reminder not to sleep on opportunities when they present. Left behind, they can fester into regret, especially during dark times, when the opportunities that were seized can glitter, by comparison, in dazzling relief.

So, as the scales started tipping towards a reopening in 2021, I leapt at the stack of destinations deferred and delayed. Work blessedly filled the calendar again in the new year, alongside a few detours and adventures. And in every corner, I was gifted wonderful reunions on the road.

I failed miserably at recording any of these things promptly, which is a shame, given the handsome facelift this blog received in 2020, thanks to the generosity of WordPress and Automattic. Scores of posts would have been inadequate to memorialize 2021, let alone this single, year-end summary. But hopefully, together with my annual catalogue of favorite desserts, dishes, and restaurant meals, I can at least provide a sketch of the highlights, especially the places I loved visiting and eating the most.

Harbor House Inn
Elk, California

Work took me westward in 2021. I was in Salt Lake City a few times, photographing for my friend Viet Pham’s growing restaurant group, Pretty Bird (the hot chicken sandwiches are really quite good).

I was up and down the west coast, from Harbor House Inn, perched on the seaside cliffs of Mendocino County in northern California, all the way down to the sunny beaches of Punta Mita in Mexico.

In Napa Valley, I got to work with Phil Tessier at PRESS in St. Helena, where he’s breathing new life into an old favorite. In Calistoga, I had the pleasure of working with Erik Anderson and his team at TRUSS at the new Four Seasons in Calistoga, which opened in late fall (Anderson left the property in 2022).

I was in the San Francisco Bay Area quite a lot, where I returned to photograph multiple food and beverage outlets at the Claremont in Berkeley, as well as with Angler and Saison in the city.

On the Central Coast, I spent a long weekend working with the team at Companion Hospitality, which includes Bell’s in Los Alamos and newcomer Bar la Côte in Los Olivos, where Brad Mathews is chef. As a bonus, I got to hang with Nick Priedite of Priedite BBQ, who smokes and serves out of Bell’s backyard on weekends. His brisket tacos have people lining up for hours in an otherwise sleepy town.

I had the pleasure of staying at Ojai Valley Inn twice, which generously hosted me in April during the The Restaurant at Meadowood’s winter residency at the resort’s gorgeous venue at The Farmhouse. The Twelve Days of Christmas having been canceled the year before, it was the first time I had seen Christopher Kostow and his crew since the end of 2019. I returned to Ojai in July to photograph for Olivella, and stayed for The Farmhouse Chef Series dinner with Daisy Ryan of Bell’s.

Piggy backing on all this California work were road trips and side trips. I was with family on vacation in Sonoma, where we ate at Hazel Hill, overlooking the sprawling vineyards at the beautiful new Montage in Healdsburg. One day, we drove out to Bodega Bay for baked oysters at The Marshall Store – I miss the days when you could sit out and shuck your own at Hog Island Oyster Co. up the road. Apparently, it has moved to a full-service restaurant model, with a menu of shucked oysters. Another day, I took them over the mountains into Napa and showed them some of my favorite places in the valley: lunch at Gott’s, dinner at The Charter Oak.

Cashing in on expiring credit from pandemic cancelations, I went to Europe twice.

Although I rebooked London, when – within a month of my trip in late summer – the U.K. remained closed to Americans, I swapped it out for Copenhagen.*

Aside from a little rain, weather was in my favor, and I took advantage of it. I biked all over the city meeting up with friends: coffee at Prolog in the Kødbyen, afternoon tea and cakes at La Glace, and lunch at chef Anika Madsen’s new Fasangården in the Frederiksberg Have. Unexpectedly, I bumped into friends from Miami, and we had an impromptu lunch together in the sunny courtyard at Apollo.

Claus Christensen moved out of Gammel Mønt a few years ago and into the former le Sommelier space on Bredgade. Although he left a pile of charm in that older space, his cooking certainly didn’t shed any calories in the move to Salon. Known for hearty portions of a bygone, agrarian era, Christensen – who embraces the sobriquet “den Røde” (“The Red” – for his ruddy complexion, which, together with his immense stature, renders a rather accurate portrait of the man affectionately known as “Red Claus”) – serves thick slices of pâté en croute, steaming plates of meat and fish swimming in rich sauces (I had sole pané in buttery Champagne fumet with caviar), and full-fat desserts, like a custardy curl of vanilla ice cream with plump prunes soaked in armagnac.

Andreas Bagh left Marchal at the Hôtel d’Angleterre and opened Esmée last summer. It’s right across Kongens Nytorv in the space that used to be Bo Bech’s Geist. Aside from being a gorgeous restaurant, with colorful dishware supplied exclusively by Ginori, the food is terrific. Order whatever comes off the rotisserie (we had a whole sole, but there Bagh also roasts fowl and meats).

In October, I was in France.

I finally made it to the Troisgros family’s multifaceted wonderland in the Loire. If you, like me, find the website beautiful but unhelpful (a running joke among my friends and me about the websites of privately owned hotels, resorts, and restaurants in Europe: beautiful, but unhelpful), I’ll be issuing a post that will help demystify the experience. In short, it was magnificent.

There were brief pitstops in Lyon and Paris. The house of Pacaud (l’Ambroisie) was, predictably, a highlight – an extravagant lunch squeezed in between checking out of my hotel and catching a train down to Aix-en-Provence. And one night, my friend Michael Molesky arranged for us to have dinner with David Lebovitz (if you don’t subscribe to his newsletter about food, drink, and life in France, you should), who took us to a routier in the middle of Paris. Routiers are designated restaurants on trucking routes, where truckers can find reliably good food (the red and blue “Les Routiers” badge was proudly displayed on the restaurant’s windows). During dinner, there was a loud crash in the kitchen, followed by loud shouting. The dining room went silent. Looking around, we realized there was no staff in the front of the house – everyone was in the kitchen. And then “BUT!” (“GOAL!”). The staff slowly trickled back into the dining room, adjusting their aprons. They had been watching a soccer game in the back.

The food, as Lebovitz promised, was homey and dependably good. After paying way too much for a rather forgettable meal at the celebrated la Poule au Pot, I found aux Bons Crus – checkered tablecloths, butter-yellow walls, and familiar, French comfort dishes – a refreshing delight.

La Maison des Chapitres
Forcalquier, France

About an hour from Aix-en-Provence is a medieval town called Forcalquier. Since its ancient days as a seat of a bishopric, it has become an enclave of hippies and artists. Its annual art festival in the summer draws tens of thousands from around the world. As a result, the town has become a breathtakingly multicultural oasis for creatives (I was told that over 50 nationalities are represented among its year-round denizens).

My friend Michael was helping his friend convert the bishop’s palace into a hôtel particulier, and they invited me down to stay a while. (If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a 15th century bishop’s palace, complete with an ancient dinner gong, you’ll find la Maison des Chapitres online here).

Forcalquier is sleepy in October. Many businesses shutter for the winter months. And those that are open, have limited hours, which are often unreliable. Thankfully, Forcalquier is tiny – you could walk the entire town within an hour.

Using Forcalquier as home base, we explored the region.

In nearby Pierrerue, we had dinner at Cocotte, a local favorite run by a couple. Convivial and cozy, it’s a gathering place for friends and family. The night we ate there, a random diner, no doubt emboldened by a bit too much wine, pulled out a guitar after dinner and serenade the rest of us. We all applauded his courage, but I know a few us wished he was a better singer.

We spent a day in Marseille. There was very good coffee at Deep, a torréfaction and cafe just off of the Quai des Belges at the city’s old port.

I fell through the looking glass at la Maison Empereur. To describe it as a hardware and home goods store is not inaccurate, but it does woefully undersell this rambling space filled with things you never thought you’d want or need. If you’re in Marseille, you must go.

And, we had lunch at AM by Alexandre Mazzia. It was the only restaurant in France promoted from two to three Michelin stars in 2021. The multi-course meal, which was served to us by chef Mazzia at his counter, had a lot of moving parts, each meticulously constructed. While I appreciate his attention detail, the magic eluded me.

Perhaps the highlight of our day trip, was watching the sun set from the Calanques – the rocky, cliffy coastline, with hidden inlets and quiet vistas, south of Marseille. It’s a French national park. I wish we had more time to explore the area.

The Valley
Blackberry Mountain
Walland, Tennessee

There were other adventures in 2021 – like trips to New York and Los Angeles to see faces I hadn’t seen in two years. I was also honored to return to those beautiful Appalachian mountains of Eastern Tennessee to work with the fine folks at Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain. And Gavin Kaysen had me out to Minneapolis to document his fourth season of the Synergy Series at Spoon & Stable. But to tell you about all of them -photographing a Saison event at the sprawling Lodge at Blue Sky high in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, or a long overdue dinner at William Bradley’s Addison at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego – would take way too long. Instead, I’ll selectively drill down on some of my favorite places and meals in subsequent posts.

Here are all of the restaurants where I ate in 2021.



The Barn at Blackberry Farm (2x) (Walland, Tennessee)
The Firetower at Blackberry Mountain (3x) (Walland, Tennessee)
Three Sisters at Blackberry Mountain (3x) (Walland, Tennessee)


Arlo (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Cotton Bottom Inn (Holloway, Utah)
Nomad Eatery East (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Pretty Bird (3x) (Salt Lake City, Utah)
The Firetower at Blackberry Mountain (3x) (Walland, Tennessee)
Three Sisters at Blackberry Mountain (3x) (Walland, Tennessee)


Anchovy Bar (San Francisco, California)
Angler (San Francisco, California)
Aubergine (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)
Bell’s (2x) (Los Alamos, California)
Billie’s Grocery (Kansas City, Missouri)
Cotogna (San Francisco, California)
Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn x Meadowood Residency (Ojai, California)
Honor Bar (Beverly Hills, California)
Lazy Bear (San Francisco, California)
PRESS (St. Helena, California)
Rintaro (San Francisco, California)
Saison (San Francisco, California)
Sightglass Sycamore (Los Angeles, California)
Sqirl (Los Angeles, California)
St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, California)


Alimento (Los Angeles, California)
Angler (Los Angeles, California)
Atla (New York, New York)
Bell’s (Los Alamos, California)
Bettina (Santa Barbara, California)
Billie’s Grocery (Kansas City, Missouri)
Birdie G’s (Santa Monica, California)
Carbone (New York, New York)
Crown Shy (New York, New York)
ilili (New York, New York)
Lafayette (New York, New York)
Local Tap House (Oceanside, California)
Kato (Los Angeles, California)
la Mercerie (New York, New York)
Pasjoli (Santa Monica, California)
per se (New York, New York)
Russell, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Sant Ambroeus at Sotheby’s (New York, New York)
Tartine Sycamore (Los Angeles, California)


Billie’s Grocery (2x) (Kansas City, Missouri)
French Market (Prairie Village, Kansas)
Restaurant at 1900, The (2x) (Mission Woods, Kansas)
Russel, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Verbena at Meadowbrook (Prairie Village, Kansas)


Beer Kitchen (Kansas City, Missouri)
Café Provence (Prairie Village, Kansas)
Caffetteria (Prairie Village, Kansas)
The Charter Oak (St. Helena, California)
Dee’s Family Restaurant (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Flower House Café (Langley, Washington)
Gott’s (St. Helena, California)
Joe’s KC (Kansas City, Kansas)
Langley Kitchen (Langley, Washington)
Nohm (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Pizza Nono (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Pretty Bird (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Salumeria (Seattle, Washington)
Sam’s General (3x) (Calistoga, California)
Sol Bar at Solage (2x) (Calistoga, California)


Angler (Los Angeles, California)
Apollo Bar (2x) (Copenhagen, Denmark)
l’Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford, California)
Bell’s (2x) (Los Alamos, California)
Bistro Boheme (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Bo Ling’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
The Charter Oak (St. Helena, California)
Conditori La Glace (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Costeaux French Bakery (Healdsburg, California)
Eiko’s (Napa, California)
Esmée (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn x Daisy Ryan (Ojai, California)
Fasangården (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Gigi’s (Los Angeles, California)
Glen Ellen Star (Glen Ellen, California)
Hazel Hill at Montage (Healdsburg, California)
Hitching Post 2, The (Buellton, California)
Hotel Sanders (2x) (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Kong Hans Kælder (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Libbey’s (Ojai, California) (3x)
Marshall Store, The (Marshall, California)
el Molino Central (Boyes Hot Springs, California)
Oak, The (Ojai, California) (2x)
Olivella at Ojai Valley Inn (Ojai, California)
Priedite BBQ at Bell’s (Los Alamos, California)
Quail & Condor (Healdsburg)
Salon (Copenhagen, Denmark)


Addison at the Grand Del Mar (San Diego, California)
Din Tai Fung (La Jolla, California)
High West Distillery (Wanship, Utah)
LC’s Bar-B-Q (Kansas City, Missouri)
Restaurant at 1900 (4x) (Mission Woods, Kansas)
Rye Leawood (Leawood, Kansas)
Rye Plaza (Kansas City, Missouri)
Yuta at the Lodge at Blue Sky (8x) (Wanship, Utah)


l’Ambroisie (Paris, France)
le Bois sans Feuilles (2x) (Ouches, France)
aux Bons Crus (Paris, France)
Café Breizh (Paris, France)
le Central Troisgros (Roanne, France)
Cocotte (Pierrerue, France)
le Comptoir des Marronniers (Lyon, France)
Demi (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Dreamin’ Man (2x) (Paris, France)
East Side Provisions (2x) (Berkeley, California)
l’Esperluette (Forcalquier, France)
Limewood (3x) (Berkeley, California)
la Mère Brazier (Lyon, France)
lo Pichotome (3x) (Forcalquier, France)
Poule au Pot (Paris, France)
Restaurant AM (Marseilles, France)
Soba Ichi (Berkeley, California)
Toulouzon (5x) (Forcalquier, France)
Urfa Durum (Paris, France)


Billie’s Grocery (Kansas City, Missouri)
Cotogna (San Francisco, California)
Dry Creek General Store (Healdsburg, California)
Harbor House Inn (Elk, California)
Russell, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Spoon & Stable (2x) (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Tartine Inner Sunset (San Francisco, California)


All Saints (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Baba’s Pantry (Kansas City, Missouri)

* I was appalled that the hotel, Dukes, which had held the credit for 18 months, refused to extend it further, despite the travel restriction, the fact that I had added three more nights to my original stay, and my reassurances that I fully intended to reschedule as soon as the U.K reopened to American travelers. Faced with losing my deposit on the three additional nights, and, quite frankly, disappointed by the hotel’s inflexibility, I canceled my booking and abandoned the credit. Four days later, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the U.K. would reopen to American travelers. I lost that gamble, and Duke’s lost me as a customer forever.

Categories dining michelin travel

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