Archive for the ‘Culinary’ Category


Kicking back and sipping a frosty beer is the perfect way to kick off a well-deserved vacation, if you ask me. From lagers to ambers to pale ales, the possibilities are endless and delicious. Next time you’re in a new city and want to imbibe, take a tour of a local brewery to really have a reason to raise your glass. Here are TravelMuse’s top five picks for best brewery tours.

The Anheiser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo: pknitty86

The Anheiser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo: pknitty86

Anchor Brewing Company

Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Hours: Two tours a day Mon. through Fri., by reservation only. Call at least a month in advance.
Admission: Free.

Anchor, founded in San Francisco in 1896, has seen its fortunes rise and fall through the years, but it is firmly established today as a treasured local institution. Touring the gorgeous handcrafted copper brewhouse, where all the beers are handmade, is quite an experience. The walking tour of the brewery lasts about 45 minutes. The guide teaches a brief history of the brewery and walks you through three floors of the building. Afterwards, on to the tasting. Tel. 415-863-8350,


Location: St. Louis, Mo.
Hours: Open daily. Call for hours, which vary with the season.
Admission: Free.
Of note: Tours also are available at the Fairfield, Calif., Fort Collins, Colo., Jacksonville, Fla. and Merrimack, N.H. facilities.

A trip to the world headquarters of “King of Beers” involves visiting the historic Budweiser Clydesdale Stable, Beechwood Lager Cellars, historic brewhouse and Bevo Packaging Facility. You’ll finish up in the Hospitality Room for a tasting. Even if you don’t like beer, it’s a treat to see the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in their stables. An optional tour offered is the “Beermaster Tour” ($25 for adults; $10 for those under 21). More in-depth than the regular tour, you’ll go behind the scenes, plus sample beer directly from a finishing tank and get a variety of gifts. Tel. 314-577-2626,

Boulder Beer

Location: Boulder, Colo.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 2 p.m. or by appointment.
Admission: Free.

Colorado’s first microbrewery, started in 1979 by two home brewing college professors, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Start your tour of the brewery with a beer in hand, then go to the brew pub to learn more about the beers, and of course, sample them. Of note is that the company was granted the 43rd brewery license in U.S. history. By 2005, there were more than 1,500. Tel. 303-444-8448,

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Hours: Fri., 4 to 8 p.m.; Sat., 1 to 8 p.m.
Admission: Free.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio, was founded by two brothers inspired by travels (and beer) in Europe. The large brewery has six buildings, three of which originally served as horse stables and kegging facilities for the Schlather Brewing Company, which was built in 1878. Fun fact: Bullet holes in the beautiful Taproom are said to have come from “The Untouchable” Eliot Ness. Check out brewing tanks in the brewhouse, dine in the beer cellar, or sample beers in the indoor/outdoor beer garden. Private tours ($50 for a maximum of 30 people) are also available. Tel. 216-771-4404,

Samuel Adams Brewery
Location: Boston, Mass.
Hours: Mon. to Thurs., Sat., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission: Though the tour is free, a suggested $2 donation is encouraged. The money goes to local charities. Kids allowed with an adult.

You’ll get the spiel, almost legend now, of founder Jim Koch’s vision for a better beer in America while you learn about the brewing process. Pick up any number of Sam Adams merchandise at the brewery’s gift shop, open during tour hours. For those going to a Fenway game in the summer on select Friday nights, a special tour treat combines beer, baseball and a free ride; take a tour and get a lift to the game on an Old Town Trolley between 2 and 5:30 p.m. Tel. 617-368-5080,

Based on “Top 5 Brewery Tours” by Kim Foley MacKinnon.

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Whisky Tasting: The Macallan 1824 Collection (Exclusively for World Travelers)

Over the weekend we hosted our annual whisky-tasting party, where we let our friends loose on more than 40 bottles of single malt whisky. This year we included a couple of bottles from The Macallan 1824 Collection, launched this summer, named for the year in which the distillery was founded and developed exclusively for the Global Travel Retail market.

My husband, Euan, and I are longstanding fans of this Speyside single malt and visited the distillery at Craigellachie on a recent trip back home to Scotland. What’s distinctive about The Macallan is that it’s traditionally aged in first-fill sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain. This gives the whisky its natural and distinctive color and flavor.

There are four expressions in The Macallan 1824 Collection: Select Oak, Whisky Maker’s Edition, Estate Reserve and 1824 Limited Release.

Macallan 1824 Line Up w - shadow

Photo: The Macallan, The Edrington Group.

We tasted The Macallan Select Oak and The Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition and compared it to our current bottles of The Macallan.

The Macallan Select Oak: Select Oak uses three cask types – American Oak seasoned with either sherry or bourbon and first-fill European oak casks seasoned with sherry. Bottled at 40 percent ABV.

Our verdict: Very pale, more than just a sherry aroma with hints of bourbon and toffee. The flavor is complex and less sweet than the more typical sherry flavor that Macallan is known for. Certainly a new twist, very complex aroma and one Bourbon drinkers may prefer.

The Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition: Contains rare whisky distilled from the famous “golden promise” barley grown on The Macallan Estate and bottled at 42.8 percent ABV.

Our verdict: More of a honey color, sweeter smell with hints of fruit. The flavor is less multi-dimensional and more typical of the Macallan we love—definitely sweeter, smoother, fatter and longer. Very drinkable.

If you’re traveling this holiday season, be sure to stop off at the duty-free store and treat yourself or someone special to a nice bottle of The Macallan 1824 Collection—you won’t be disappointed!

If after you’ve sampled this fine single malt you’re left wanting more, I highly recommend planning a trip to The Macallan distillery itself; visit the Speyside Cooperage (the only working cooperage in the UK, where whisky barrels are made) and stay at the Craigellachie House Hotel—with more than 550 single malts in the Quaich Bar!

The Macallan 1884 Collection RRP Price/ litre: Select Oak $53, Whisky Maker’s Edition $99, Estate Reserve $165 and 1824 Limited Release $2,000.

Slàinte Mhath
(pron. “Slanj vaa”, Scottish Gaelic for “Your Good Health” or as we’d say “cheers.”)


Move Over Paris, Tokyo is the New Gourmet Capital of the World

For me, eating is one of the most important parts of traveling—so much that I’d rather stay in an inexpensive hotel, forgo the souvenirs and eat ramen noodles weeks before my vacation just to save the extra cash for gastronomic heaven. And, adherents to the gospel according to Michelin will certainly agree

The famed Michelin Guide, which evaluates the best restaurants and hotels throughout the world, has awarded Tokyo more three-star restaurant ratings in its 2009 Tokyo edition than (gasp!) Paris. Eleven restaurants in Tokyo have been awarded three stars, while Paris followed in a close second with 10 stars. Tokyo also beat out Paris in the total number of stars awarded—Tokyo received 261 and Paris received 197.


Delicious cuisine is plentiful in Tokyo. Photo: Mahiro1322

The Michelin Guide rates restaurants regardless of cuisine style and according to five criteria:

  1. Quality
  2. Mastery of flavor and cooking
  3. The personality of the fare
  4. Value for the money
  5. Consistency between visits

Stars are awarded based on the food alone (not ambiance, service or any other factors):

  • One star indicates “a very god restaurant in its category.”
  • Two stars indicate “excellent cooking and worth a detour.”
  • Three stars indicate “exceptional cuisine and worth the journey.”

According to the Associated Press, the “contest” wasn’t exactly fair because Tokyo is home to 160,000 restaurants, while Paris has 60,000. Don’t worry Paris, there’s always next year.

Learn more about Tokyo culinary vacations.

Learn more about Paris culinary vacations.

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In addition to Singapore, which I wrote about on Friday, Chicago is another great dining destination—I’m not saying that merely because it’s my hometown. You can get not only fantastic casual (pizza, sausages), ethnic (Mexican, Thai), and traditional (steakhouse, diner) meals there, but also some of the best fine-dining in the country, from the legendary Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s) to the innovative Grant Achatz (Alinea).

On my recent return visit, there were three new places both friends and strangers consistently mentioned: Xoco, Terzo Piano and Nightwood.

Xoco, 449 N. Clark St. (enter on Illinois), 312-334-3688,

Xoco is the latest establishment from one of Chicago’s most famous chefs, Rick Bayless. It opened on Sept. 8, and the lines have been out the door ever since. Bayless made a name for himself with Mexican cuisine (at restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo) and continues to do so with Xoco. This time around the focus is on Mexican street food.


The Almendrado chocolate and churros at Xoco. (Credit: Donna M. Airoldi)

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Frontera—I’ve enjoyed better food (and prices) in other Chicago Mexican restaurants that were more authentic and didn’t come with a room full of North Side and suburban yuppies—so I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the experience. However, I was pleasantly surprise this time. My two dining companions and I were all impressed, especially with the “Bean-to-Cup Chocolate,” quite possible the best hot chocolate outside of Spain or Mexico. Be sure to get the 3-for-$3 churros—crunchy and cinnamon-coated on the outside, soft on the inside—for dipping. I also was quite taken with the homemade tortilla chips.

The tortas (served after 11 a.m.) come on traditional Mexican breads: bolillo, similar to a baguette, for those from the wood-burning oven; telera, slightly rounder and softer, for the pressed sandwiches. My conchinita pibil—wood-roasted suckling pig with achiete, black beans, pickled onion and habanero—was tender, tasty and, when dipped in the fiery accompanying sauce, tingly. The caldos (soups) sounded divine—shortrib red chile soup with braised tallgrass shortribs, red chile broth, roasted vegetables, epazote, wild arugula and lime, anyone?—but are served after 3 p.m., so we were too early to taste those. The breakfast menu, served until 10:30 a.m., tempted as well.

Xoco is the smallest and most casual of Bayless’ restaurants: no reservations accepted, and you stand in line (plan on at least an hour or longer), then place your order at the register—but not before you’re handed a card, indicating that there is a seat available for you. It’s daunting/annoying at first, but works surprisingly well, provided you don’t mind the long wait.

Average prices: Breakfast, $2 to $7.50; Tortas, $8 to $12; Caldos, $10.50 to $12.50; Salads and Sides, $3 to $8.50; Hot Chocolate, $2.50 to $3.25. Hours: Tue. to Thu., 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri., 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sun. and Mon.

Terzo Piano, 150 E. Monroe St. (third floor of the Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago), 312-443-8650,

The new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago was tops on my list for new attractions to see during this visit. Lunch at its new restaurant was an added bonus.

We called for a Monday reservation, but the restaurant was booked full. No surprise since the place is overseen by chef Tony Mantuano, of Spiaggia fame, and open for dinner just one night per week (Thursdays). We tried our luck with a cancellation, showed up at noon, and were seated in the slick, modern (natch), all-white-décor dining room within 15 minutes. Not bad.



Dietzler Farm stead salad; interior at Terzo Piano. (Credit: Donna M. Airoldi)

The food wasn’t bad either. My friend and I were each in the mood for healthy greens. She tried the Mizuna salad with Miller’s organic chicken breast, avocado, cilantro, lime and ginger cashew dressing. My Dietzler Farm steak salad with arugula, orange, kalamata olives and almonds with a caper-mustard dressing was quite good—and I was thrilled with the hefty amount of meat included, which was cooked perfectly rare. I preferred the steak over the chicken (which was a tad bland), and while chock full of fresh ingredients, we both agreed that each salad suffered from a heavy-handed pour of dressing, and mine was a tad too salty. Lesson learned: ask for the dressing on the side.

The dessert selections were spot on, however—light, with just enough sugar to satisfy a sweet tooth. It was difficult to decide between the local wildflower honey panna cotta with autumn fruit compote and rosemary, and the almond financier with blueberry thyme compote and crème fraîche sorbet. We chose the latter, which came instead with cranberry compote since the kitchen was out of blueberries.

Lunch prices: Appetizers, $7 to 16; Sandwiches/Salads, $15 to $19; Pasta/Entrees, $18 to $25; Desserts, $9. Hours: Lunch, Mon. to Sun., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Antipasti and Aperitivo, Thu., 3 to 5 p.m.; Dinner (ala carte or $45 3-course prix fixe), Thu. only, 5 to 9 p.m.

Nightwood, 2119 S. Halsted St. (Pilsen neighborhood), 312-526-3385,

No fewer than five individuals recommended this place, open since May. And how could they not, when the owners are the husband-and-wife team (Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds) behind Lula Café, a fantastic restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. It has been getting raves since it opened 10 years ago (and is where, I’m told, local chefs go to eat when they’re not working in their own kitchens).


Nightwood interior. (Credit: Jason Little Photography)

The menu changes daily as all ingredients are sourced from local farms and markets, for a locavore’s dream meal. One consistency: many dishes are wood-grilled. Those that have impressed local critics in recent months: “anything with chicken liver … potato gnocchi with tomato and corn … spit-roasted pork loin accompanied by roasted apricots and topped with a delicious blend of chopped olives and crème fraîche,” suggested Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. “A brioche bread pudding appetizer was homey and inspired … the woodsy scent of the cheeseburger (worth ordering for the crisp french fries alone) hints at the meat’s earthy flavor,” wrote Time Out Chicago’s Julia Kramer.

Alas, I was unable to make it to this South Side newcomer before my visit ended as I staying on the North Side and was carless. However I have no doubt the trip would have been worth the effort via public transportation, had I had the time, given how much I adore Lula (where I did manage to get in an amazing dinner last week). Readers, next time you’re in Chicago, you’ll just have to try it and let me know how it goes.

Prices: Appetizers, $7 to $10; Entrees, $13 to $26; Desserts, $2.50 to $8; Brunch entrees, $6 to $14. Hours: Dinner, Tue. to Sat., 5:30 to 11 p.m.; Sun. Brunch, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closed Mon.



Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore Lines Up 6 World-Class Chefs

Singapore has long been known as a great dining destination, and it just keeps getting better. During my third visit to the island city-state two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying some of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in a long time at Michael Han’s FiftyThree and the Tippling Club, which takes gastro-chemistry to a new level.

Today I’m excited to share the news that the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore has signed on six of the world’s best (and most famous) chefs to open restaurants in the new mega-resort, which is slated to open next year. Daniel Boulud, whose New York restaurant Daniel recently earned three Michelin stars, announced his participation yesterday. The remaining five chefs announced today include two more Americans, Mario Batali (New York) and Wolfgang Puck (Los Angeles), along with Santi Santamaria (Barcelona), Guy Savoy (Paris) and Tetsuya Wakuda (Sydney).

It’s a real coup to have three of the six chefs from the United States. As Boulud—who, yes, is from France, but has more than half of his 10 restaurants in the United States—noted during a press luncheon yesterday, “Before, only French chefs had the chance to travel to work outside their country. Today, we’re seeing more U.S. chefs have that opportunity, which means we just keep getting better.” Great news for food lovers the world over.

There were no immediate details on the specs for the six eateries, but Boulud said that his restaurant will be a DB Bistro Modern serving French food, with about 120 seats, including a decent-sized bar, where guests also can order food.


Photo: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands project is a massive $5.5 billion development along the Singapore waterfront that will bring the first casino to Singapore. It is being developed by Las Vegas Sands Corp., owner and operator of the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas and other casino resorts around the world. In addition to the six destination restaurants and a casino, the project will include:

  • approximately 15 to 20 more dining establishments
  • a 2,500-room luxury hotel
  • more than 1.3 million square feet of meeting and event space, including what will be Asia’s largest ballroom
  • two theatres—The Lion King will be the resort’s first production, opening in September 2010
  • an ArtScience Museum
  • an indoor ice skating rink
  • more than 300 shops, including a Louis Vuitton island store that will “float” on the water, Hermès, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., and other noted luxury brands
  • and the crowing feature, the Sands SkyPark, a 1,200-foot-long green space situated 650 feet above the ground on top of the project’s three high-rise towers. That’s four football fields in length folks. The park also will offer sweeping view of the Singapore skyline, three swimming pools (including an affinity pool), a restaurant and what will be the longest public observation cantilever in the world—cool and scary all at the same time. In the demo I viewed at the Sands offices in Singapore, from a distance it looks like a cruise ship landed on top of the towers.


Photo: Courtesy Marina Bay Sands Singapore

According to Las Vegas Sands Corp. president Michael Leven, the target opening date of Phase I of the project is late Q1 2010, but that depends on the delicate engineering process of raising the sections of the SkyPark, which began on Oct. 1, and hopefully will be completed by the end of November.

To learn more about the Marina Bay Sands Singapore project, visit

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Am I the only one who gets confused by the name Oktoberfest? Every year I seem to forget that Munich’s 16-day festival kicks off at the end of September—not the beginning of October. Needless to say, I’ve never made it to Germany to clink beer mugs with the six million or so patrons of Oktoberfest, or “die Wiesn” as the locals call it. Luckily, there are plenty of Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the United States that are worthy of wearing your lederhosen.


Photo: Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

Addison Oktoberfest
More than 60,000 people are expected to join the party on Sept. 17 through 20 for Oktoberfest in Addison, Texas. Experience a German car show, go on a pretzel hunt, indulge in German wine and beer, shop at the vendor booths and ride carnival rides.

For more information, visit

Oktoberfest in Irondequoit, N.Y.
Irondequoit, N.Y., is hosting its 22nd annual Oktoberfest on the weekends of Sept. 18 through 20 and Sept. 25 through 27. Stroll past master yodelers, listen to German music and munch on tasty bratwurst.

For more information, visit

Oktoberfest Denver
Oktoberfest on Larimer Street in Denver, Colo., is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Forty years in the making, Oktoberfest Denver honors German heritage with authentic cuisine, an accordion concert, attractions, the Long Dog Derby (a dachshund race), music and much more. Check it out on Sept. 18 through 20 and Sept. 25 through 27.

For more information, visit


Photo: Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio, is home to the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States. More than 500,000 hops-loving attendees are present each year. The festival starts Sept. 19 with a keg tapping at each tent and continues on through Sept. 20.

For more information, visit

L.A. Oktoberfest
Sample traditional German food, sip on (or chug) beer and enjoy Bavarian bands playing old-time tunes at Los Angeles’ first-ever Oktoberfest on Oct. 10. Downtown L.A. will be filled with entertainment that includes the Aerial Showgirls, a polka band and Bavarian dancers, music by The Alemannia Music Foundation, a stein-holding contest and a beer pong tournament.

For more information, visit

These are just five of the many Oktoberfest celebrations occuring throughout the United States. Tell us about some of the Oktoberfest festivities in your area.

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Hot on the heels of my Israel trip in March, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) outpost in Napa Valley offered a one-day class on how to make Middle Eastern street foods. I signed up immediately, and the $75 half-day class was one of the best cooking lessons I’ve ever taken.

What made it great was its intense hands-on experience—no pre-prepared dishes, no watching the chef demonstrate steps, no slacking off while your partner does most of the work. After he taught us where to find the needed ingredients and equipment, along with some basic rules—how to handle knifes (from cutting to cleaning), operate the ovens, and properly maintain and clean your work space—our chef instructor Andy Wild treated us as if we were regular full-time students and knew our way around a professional kitchen.

Burns and cuts were entirely likely.

Eleven of us showed up that April morning and were paired into groups of two, with less than 90 minutes to prepare, cook and display our dishes, after which we would get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I drew the proverbial short straw and worked alone, which meant if my dish was inedible, there was no one to blame but moi.



I was charged with making Lamb Kofta With Raita (skewered ground lamb with yogurt-cucumber sauce), which also meant I had to prepare two items, alone, so I needed to haul ass. The sauce needed to chill for at least 30 minutes before it could be served, so I began with grating English cucumbers then mixing them with yogurt, fresh squeezed lemon juice, minced mint leaves, kosher salt and freshly minced garlic made into a paste.

Sounds easy enough, yes? It was, save for the garlic. It takes more strength and repeated mincing to get garlic cloves into a paste than I had anticipated, but I’ve since become a pro at it and regularly include the tasty treat in other dishes.

The raita chilling in the fridge, I moved onto the lamb, which also wasn’t too difficult to prepare since I was able to use packaged ground lamb as opposed to grinding it myself. The time sink is in mincing all the ingredients—Italian parsley, green onions, mint leaves—while the clock keeps ticking. If you’re the type of cook who makes sure all your slices are even, this can take a while—and end up frustrating non-perfectionist (read: less anal) cooks in the kitchen. Chef Wild kept glancing at my slow slicing and at one point offered to speed up my process by cutting the onions for me, but I politely declined. I could do this!

Once kneaded with the salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper, I shaped the lamb paste into little sausages, slid them onto skewers and placed them over a medium-hot fire, turning regularly until all sides were brown, about eight to 10 minutes. I started cooking the koftas with about 12 minutes to go.

Tip: If using wood skewers, make sure to soak them in water first so they don’t catch on fire while over the flames.

As Chef Wild called out how much time remained, we scurried around trying to avoid crashing into each other as we finished our dishes and scrambled to find just the right serving plates to garnish and perfect our presentations. We finished with seconds to spare. Burn-free, fingers intact.

Our feast also included Watercress and Tabbouleh Salad, Falafel, Muhammara (a red pepper dip), Green Harissa (a green pepper dip), Kibbeh Samak (stuffed fish fritters), House Made Pita Chips and Luz Biskwe (almond and cardamom biscuits). CIA provided a red Gamla 2005 wine from the Golan Heights Winery. All was excellent.



Each of us agreed that the class was well worth the investment and significantly helped improve our cooking skills. It took place at CIA’s beautiful Greystone campus in St. Helena, Calif., located 18 miles north of Napa and 8 miles south of Calistoga on Highway 29 (about two hours from San Francisco). CIA began to offer its culinary continuing education classes this year, as local laws changed recently to allow nonprofessionals to participate.

Greystone was built in 1889 as a cooperative winery, and from 1950 to 1990 it was home to the Christian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order, which produced its own brand of wines. Be sure to walk around the grounds and take in the vineyards and flower and herb gardens. Students also get a 10 percent discount in the CIA store.

CIA offers weekend culinary enthusiast classes at its Hyde Park, N.Y., and San Antonio, Texas locations, too. Upcoming courses: North African Spice Kitchen, Baking at Home—The Desserts, and Sharpening Your Knife Skills. I think that last one has a space reserved just for me.

For schedules and additional information, visit

(Photos: Donna M. Airoldi)

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After a recent trip to the Vail Valley in Colorado, I was able to experience firsthand a delicious trend among the culinary world: sustainable dining. Many fine-dining restaurants have begun to adopt the mantra that “fresh is best,” and use locally sourced products as main ingredients in the dishes.

Vail Famers’ Market

The Vail Farmers’ Market is the place to get the latest and greatest in locally grown produce and goods. Whether you’re looking for bell peppers, freshly baked bread or homemade salsas, the market has a huge assortment of locally made products that will tantalize your taste buds. I picked up some avocado vinaigrette from a local vendor, as well as peach salsa and chipotle-stuffed olives from another.The market is held every Sunday from the end of June until the beginning of September. Several restaurants make a “harvest menu” on Sundays, when you can be sure that nearly every ingredient in your dinner came from the farmers’ market that morning.

8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill

The 8100 Mountainside Bar and Grill located at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and Resort opened in December 2008 after the resort completed a $30 million renovation. Meat eaters will appreciate the regional menu, featuring buffalo steak (which I had), elk loin and trout. My favorite sides included the creamed corn and mashed potatoes, but the quinoa looked delicious as well.

Splendido at the Chateau

Situated on the ground floor by what appears to be a French chateau in the middle of Beaver Creek, Splendido could be perhaps one of the most amazing culinary experiences of my life. My group visited Splendido on a night when Chef Walford was offering his popular off-the-menu special lobster stuffed with Yukon gold mashed potatoes. Since few words can properly convey how delicious the meal was, I will leave you with a picture.


The lobster special at Splendido.

La Tour

French-inspired La Tour is a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” winner, featuring more than 300 wines to perfectly compliment your dinner. Each month, Chef Paul Ferzacca adjusts the menu to reflect what is new and fresh in the region. On Sunday, he features a harvest menu that comes straight from the Vail Farmers’ Market that morning.

Kelly Liken Restaurant

Lauded by Bon Appétit and Wine Spectator, Kelly Liken Restaurant is the brainchild of up-and-coming chef Kelly Liken. Thankfully, I visited the night of the restaurant’s harvest menu. From my onion and nettle soup to an entrée of Alaskan halibut and fresh, local vegetables, Kelly Liken Restaurant delivered a dinner that was divine enough to blog about.


The halibut from Kelly Liken’s harvest menu.

If you would like an unparalleled dining experience outside of the normal foodie destinations, consider heading to the Vail Valley during the summertime. Its proximity to both the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains means that you will be eating fresh ingredients assembled by skillful and talented regional chefs.

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I’ve been on tequila-, beer- and wine-tasting trips, so naturally the opportunity to add Cognac to my libation travel list caught my eye.

On your next trip to France, swing by the House of Rémy Martin and indulge in Les Rendez-Vous Rémy Martin: A selection of gastronomic experiences that allow you to participate in a Cognac-tasting session, meal and tour of the celebrated estate. Dip your toe in by choosing a half-day or evening tour, or jump straight in to a complete day tour. A variety of options for each choice allows you to pick exactly what you’re interested in.


Photo: Louis XIII de Rémy Martin

Check out these choices:

The four-hour Discover Rémy Martin package includes a tour of the House of Rémy Martin in Cognac and the Merphins Estate for a cognac-tasting session. Appetizers and lunch follow at Club Rémy Martin. €160 (about $216).

The nine-hour Rémy Martin for the Epicurean package starts with a tour of vineyards or the Rémy Martin cooperage, and then moves on to a distillery tour where you can taste recently distilled eaux-de-vie. Lunch in the distillery before a tour of the Merpins Estate and House of Rémy Martin in Cognac. The day ends with dinner in a private dining room. €380 (about $513).

The 10-hour Louis XIII Experience is a customizable package, which highlights the luxury of Louis XIII and the Cognac region. Take a private tour through the family estate and private cellar, taste prized cognac, and enjoy a private lunch and dinner. €850 (about $1,147).

Prices on Les Rendez-Vous Rémy Martin packages include taxes and are guaranteed through Dec. 31, 2009. For more information, visit

If you go, consider taking me!



Favorite Small New Orleans Eateries

While I’m a major fan of some of the swanky New Orleans restaurants, like Lüke, Bayona and Commander’s Palace, most often I eat at the small neighborhood joints. Some of my favorites include:

Port of Call. This is the place to go if you have a hankering for hamburgers. Award-winning, half-pound burgers are served along with fat, baked potatoes. Steak and pizza are also available. Wash it all down with a tropical cocktail, like the Neptune’s monsoon or the windjammer. 838 Esplanade Ave., tel. 504-523-0120.

Coop’s Place. One quick glance into this spot on Decatur Street, and you might just pass it by, thinking it’s merely a small watering hole. Venture in, however, and take a gander at the menu on the wall. Coop’s serves up delicious jambalaya, gumbo, pasta dishes and more. To top it off, the chef uses house-smoked tasso (a seasoned, smoked pork) in a few dishes (like the crawfish and tasso pasta), so start with those for sure. 1109 Decatur St., tel. 504-525-9053.

Domilise’s Po’boys. Hit this Uptown bar before the lunch rush to get a seat at the counter. And if you find yourself in line—wait. It’s worth it. Some folks prefer the shrimp po’boy, others dream of the fried oyster, hot smoked sausage or roast beef po’boy—they’re all great. Add a bag of Zapp’s chips to your order, and wash it down with an Abita beer. 5240 Annunciation St., tel. 504-899-9126.

Verti Marte. You’re seated in the perfect bar in the French Quarter or Faubourg Marigny. The only problem: It doesn’t serve food, and you’re hungry. Do you get up to find a meal, or wait a while and savor your great New Orleans moment? Here’s where Verti Marte comes in. With a full menu ranging from breakfast to sandwiches to entrées, they’ll deliver to your perfect bar. You can also walk in and order directly from the counter. My favorite dish? The grilled shrimp po’boy with “wow” sauce (a spicy, creamy sauce). No, it’s not on the menu. Order it anyway. 1201 Royal St., tel. 504-525-4767.

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