12 days: on the twelfth day of christmas: kostow… (2015)

•December 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

With the Harlans

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What can I say this year that I didn’t say last year?

Before you read the rest of this post, I urge you to read what I wrote on the twelfth night of last year’s Twelve Days of Christmas.  Even if you’ve read it before, please read it again. Every word and every sentiment in that post I apply to this one.  So there’s no need to repeat or reword it here.

Instead, I will simply say that returning to the Twelve Days of Christmas for a fourth year has been an immense pleasure and privilege.  For four years now, I’ve rushed through the first eleven months with an eye towards the twelfth, when I get whisked away to a magical place called Meadowood Napa Valley to take part in an event that is truly without equal.

For twelve nights in December, the world’s culinary spotlight moves to sleepy St. Helena, California, as a parade of chefs streams in from faraway destinations to cook at The Restaurant at Meadowood. Over the past four years of photographing this dinner series, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to pull back the curtain a little, in hopes of sharing the magic of it all with those who can’t be there.  In my travels, I’m constantly surprised by the number of people, from all corners of the world, who join in the excitement and anticipation of this annual event, which, for so many of us, has become a highlight, an escape, an inspiration and aspiration, and, perhaps, most meaningfully, tradition.

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12 days: on the eleventh day of christmas: yu… (2015)

•December 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

6th Course: Beef Short Rib

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A dinner series called the Twelve Days of Christmas hosted by a Jewish chef wouldn’t be complete without Chinese food, right?

Enter: Justin Yu.

He’s the chef and co-owner of Oxheart, a restaurant in Houston where he has earned national acclaim for his vegetable-focused menu.

The last time I was in Houston was in 1988.  So, unfortunately, I haven’t eaten at Oxheart yet.  But, by coincidence, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to taste Yu’s food this year.

In late September, Yu came to Kansas City to cook at a charity dinner that I help organize every year.  Then, in November, I saw him in Carmel, where he cooked at this year’s Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine dinner.  And, if the third time is supposed to be a charm, then Christopher Kostow had impeccable timing in inviting Yu to the eleventh night of the Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood to fulfill all of our holiday hopes and stereotypes by cooking what Yu and I irreverently refer to as “our people’s food.”  (Yu, his co-owner and pastry chef Karen Man, his cook Sam Chang, and I are all children of Chinese immigrants, causing me to joke that BravoTV has the “Shahs of Sunset,” and The Twelve Days of Christmas have the Mandarins of Meadowood.)

I jest. Sort of.

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12 days: on the tenth day of christmas: tanaka…. (2015)

•December 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

2nd Course: "Camouflage"

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He speaks Japanese, of course.  But he also speaks Spanish, French, and more English than I speak in any of those languages.  His name is Atsushi Tanaka, and I ate at his Restaurant A.T. in Paris last year (here are the photos from that dinner in September of 2014).  At the time, I had not heard of him – I was urged to eat there by my friend Laurent Vanparys (ironically, a Belgian whose Flemish name means “from Paris”).  And, judging by the clientele in his restaurant that night, neither had the rest of Paris.  I think I was the only non-Japanese person in that small dining room.

But in the year since, I have seen Tanaka’s name billed at culinary events around the world, including this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, where he was the tenth chef to cook with Christopher Kostow at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

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12 days: on the ninth day of christmas: connaughton… (2015)

•December 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Sea Urchins
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Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn was conceived long before I first met Kyle Connaughton in March of 2014 at the Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine event in Carmel, California.  I know this because I had heard murmurings of it before I heard about it from Connaughton himself.  Now, nearly two years later, the multi-faceted enterprise – which, as suggested by its name, includes a farm, a restaurant, and a five-room inn – is about to open in Healdsburg in Sonoma County.

Having worked for Michel Bras (in Japan), Heston Blumenthal (at The Fat Duck), and having contributed to Nathan Myhrvold’s multi-tomed “Modernist Cuisine,” it’s understandable why Connaughton has attracted so much attention for this upcoming project. So, his timely appearance on the ninth night of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the invitation of hosting chef Christopher Kostow offered a glimpse into what we might expect from him at Single Thread.

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12 days: on the eighth day of christmas: mchale… (2015)

•December 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Canapé: Oat Chip
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One of the three guest chefs at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas whose restaurants I have not visited is Isaac McHale and his Clove Club in London, England.*  I know of him, of course, from his short stint with his merry band of Young Turks, which included James Lowe (now chef of Lyle’s in London) and Ben Greeno, who left the group to become head chef of momofuku Seiobo in Sydney, Australia (Greeno has since left Seiobo to become head chef of The Paddington in Woollahra, a neighborhood in Sydney).  But neither did I eat at their pop up at the Ten Bells, nor had I met any of them, nor had any of their food.

So, I very much looked forward to this eighth night, when McHale cooked with Christopher Kostow at The Twelve Days of Christmas.

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12 days: on the seventh day of christmas: floresca and ryan… (2015)

•December 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

2nd Course: Rutabaga
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Two more impressive culinary resumés you will hardly find in a pair than Kim Floresca‘s and Daniel Ryan‘s.  (It’d also be a challenge to find two more lovely and generous people.) Between the two of them, they’ve worked at The French Laundry, Alinea, per se, Alain Ducasse NY, and Eleven Madison Park; and together, they worked at el Bulli, Mugaritz, and, most recently, The Restaurant at Meadowood, where she was executive sous chef and he was the pastry chef.  That last stop is where I met the couple four years ago, at the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Since then, the two have left Napa to head their own kitchen and restaurant on the other side of the country.  Floresca and Ryan are now cooking at [one] in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I had the opportunity to eat in 2013.  Sadly, I had not seen them since then.

So, I was particularly happy when I learned that Christopher Kostow was calling them home to Meadowood Napa Valley for a reunion on the seventh night of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

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12 days: on the sixth day of christmas: wilkinson… (2015)

•December 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

1st Course: Fermented Kohlrabi
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At the start of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood, there was only one chef with whom I was not familiar at all.

I had neither heard of Matt Wilkinson, nor his restaurant Pope Joan in Melbourne, Australia.  And for this reason, when I was asked, as I always am, which dinner I most anticipated this year, I replied that it was his.  Halfway through this dinner series, on the sixth day, I finally got to discover Wilkinson’s cooking when he presented a seven-course dinner with hosting chef Christopher Kostow.
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