19 Comments January 01, 2012

Favorite Espresso of 2011

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A Collective Post of Multiple Locations 

In 2011, the growth of third wave coffee shops exploded. Tokyo was particularly interesting, where a newly developed taste for great coffee started to compete with its thousand-year-old tea culture. New York, likely the city with the most third wave shops in the country, saw a large delivery of sophisticated La Marzocco machinery enabling baristi to control espresso extraction in ways not before possible. This was not only a great year for food, but for coffee as well.

As most baristi will agree, coffee is temperamental. The hardest part of the extraction process is consistency. A great espresso comes with no guarantee of one just as good the next. It is imposible to name a single shop with the most consistently good espresso, because there is no such thing as consistently good espresso. It is only possible to share where and when all the variables, ranging from the barista to the weather, aligned to create an incredible extraction.

5 Comments December 31, 2011

Favorite Meals of 2011

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A Collective Post of Multiple Locations 

It’s been an incredible year filled with culinary experiences in locations ranging from Toluca to Tokyo. Choosing my favorite meals from 2011 was very different from choosing favorite dishes. To create this list, I examined the dining experience as a whole, factoring in the progression of dishes and overall story they told. I can only hope 2012 will bring as much culinary excitement as this year has.

A few events in particular made 2011 one of the most exciting eating years in recent memory. The closing of El Bullí, perhaps the most hyped restaurant of the decade, passed the spotlight to other deserving restaurants like Quique Dacosta and Sant Pau for the first time. Hopefully 2012 will bring these restaurants the international attention they deserve. Sean Brock continued to promote the incredibly varied and delicious cuisine of the American South, inspiring other American chefs to look into the rustic cuisines of their childhoods and bring them to the dining room. Mexican cuisine started to gain more international attention, led by the refined cooking of chefs like Enrique Olvera. And chefs like Joshua Skenes reminded us that the simple cooking techniques are often the most diffiult, requiring unwavering attention and patience.

11 Comments December 30, 2011

Favorite Dishes of 2011

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A Collective Post of Multiple Locations 

In selecting a list of best dishes from 2011 I faced the difficult task of choosing those which stood out on their own, outside the context of the meals in which they appeared. My favorite dishes from this year are very different from my favorite meals, which will be shared in a shortly upcoming post.

For me, 2011 was a year of many discoveries. It was the year I had the realization that Mexico is on par with some of the greatest culinary destinations of the world, including Japan, China, France, and Italy. It was a year where the food scene in Sweden skyrocketed forward and is now on track to catch up with neighboring Denmark. It was also a year where I realized one does not have to travel very far for exceptional eating. Some of the best restaurants are right here in the United States, and San Francisco, Charleston, and Chicago are leading the pack.

5 Comments October 16, 2011

The French Laundry Revisited

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6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, Official Website

If there’s one thing Thomas Keller taught us during his 10-day pop up in at Harrod’s London, it’s that The French Laundry brand is fundamentally not connected to time and place. Whether the restaurant be in Napa, New York, or the basement of a department store in London, the dishes are the same. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it means that Chef Keller is a good teacher, one who is able to teach his staff how to reproduce his dishes with enough accuracy that they can be prepared anywhere. But it also means that the dishes will never feel spontaneous and whimsical, and it’s difficult for them to convey chef Keller’s inspiration.

It was four years since my last visit to the French Laundry. Since then, Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee left and opened San Francisco’s Benu, with Timothy Hollingsworth taking his place. It’s an interesting situation being the chef de cuisine at a restaurant of this caliber where the executive chef no longer cooks. On the one hand it’s an incredible opportunity for a chef to propel his career, but unfortunately, the dishes still have to further the concepts and passions set forth by someone else: Thomas Keller.

14 Comments October 14, 2011

The French Laundry

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6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, Official Website

My journey at The French Laundry began with a trip through the garden. With an hour to spare before our reservation, we explored the autumn-colored late-season tomatoes practically falling off their vines in ripeness. I turned to my left and noticed, in shock, a farmer pruning the vines and discarding these perfect tomatoes. “We’re clearing the vines out today, want some tomatoes?” he asked. That may have been the fasted I’d ever ran looking for a bag; as I knew, The French Laundry grows and has access to some of the finest ingredients in the world.

During the first decade of the restaurant’s operation, Chef Thomas Keller melded California’s impeccable ingredient quality with innovative fine dining. The restaurant has won numerous awards and accolades, arguably making it the most famous restaurant in the country. We hoped to find the same inspiration that made the restaurant famous now that chef Keller is no longer in the kitchen. Our meal overall tasted very good, but it felt uninspired.