© Photo Courtesy of Kat Spellman
Tavern Law's Brian McCracken and Dana Tough
© Photo Courtesy of Kat Spellman
Beer geeks will love discerning hotelier Sir Rocco Forte’s newest addition to his distinctive hotel collection. The Augustine, which opened last week in Prague, is built on land leased from the 13th-century Augustinian St. Thomas’s Monastery, where the monks brewed beer from 1352 until 1952. Several monks still live in a separate part of the monastery, adjacent to the hotel grounds. Sir Rocco, playing to the recent obsession with artisanal beer, bought the ancient beer recipe from the monks and is having them brew it again so that he can serve it on tap at the hotel's Brewery Bar (which is very fittingly located in the cellar of the former St. Thomas’s brewery). The dark, almost ebony-colored brew is made from five kinds of barley and Czech Saaz hops and has a nice roasted, caramel malt flavor. There’s already talk of trying to bottle the beer so guests can take it home as a souvenir.
© Rocco Forte Hotels
The Brewery Bar at the Augustine in Prague.
It’s debatable who among the F&W staff is the ultimate foodie. F&W’s supertalented senior designer, Mike Patti, is definitely in contention for the title. His recent trip to San Francisco revolved entirely around food. Here, he shares highlights from his aggressive eating itinerary:
Perfect picnic: Sentinel's smoked salmon and fennel sandwich and spicy pork sandwich stuffed with sweet peppers and celery root made for a great, affordable lunch in Golden Gate Park.
Artisanal snacks: Tartine's oversize black pepper-cheddar gougère was the standout of my morning. I finished the day with two scoops of brown sugar ice cream with ginger caramel swirl from Bi-Rite Creamery.
Ferry Plaza food marathon: A basket of perfect strawberries from a vendor at the Ferry Plaza market and a cup of Blue Bottle coffee (each cup is individually dripped) was the ultimate breakfast. Dinner at the Slanted Door included a superlight, unexpectedly crispy Vietnamese pancake with shrimp and extraordinarily flavorful wood-roasted clams with pork belly, chiles and Thai basil.
Incredible pizza: At A16, Nate Appleman, one of our 2009 Best New Chefs, prepared fantastic grilled fava beans with chiles and an awesome pizza topped with lemon, asparagus, ricotta and prosciutto. We loved the little honey pot filled with chile oil that came with our meal.
Cocktail revelation. I decided to try Alembic, a cocktail lounge in Haight-Ashbury featured in our new F&W Cocktails 2009 book. My friend is still thinking about the surprising shot of celery juice in her gin-based Southern Exposure.
© Mike Patti
Pastries at Tartine.
There is fierce debate in Los Angeles over whether Cole’s invented the French dip sandwich, but there is no doubt that an unmarked door in the back of the restaurant is ground zero for the city’s cocktail revival.
Behind that door you will find the Varnish, a dimly lit, slightly underground bar run by Sasha Petraske and Eric Alperin, of New York’s famed Milk & Honey. Two months ago, they brought their brand of civilized, artisanal cocktails to the city of the Rat Pack.
“We’re here to fight the vodka–Red Bulls of the world,” says Alperin, with handcrafted drinks like the Palma Fizz, with vodka, lime, ginger juice and a spray of rosewater. True to their credo, Good Drinks Take Time, all cocktails are made to order, often with a specific patron's preferences in mind, so the bar can only accommodate 50 people at a time. But if you get hungry while waiting for your drink, you don’t have to skip the restaurant’s famed sandwich.
“You can bring in your French dip,” Alperin says. “But you have to get it in a bag to go.”
When I learned that Jet Blue recently added service from New York to Bogotá, I decided to extend my Colombian adventure and spend 36 hours in the capital. I was amazed by how much I could pack in thanks to insider advice from super-friendly locals, chefs and mixologists.
I met Patrick Enste, founder of Luxury Travel Services, an agency offering Colombia’s most fabulous rental and hotel options, while in Cartagena. He suggested I book a room at Bogotá's 104 Arts Suites, a funky boutique hotel in the northern part of the city. Each of the 20 rooms was designed by a local Colombian artist. (I was in #201, Camilo Monsalve’s masterpiece). In addition to the fab design, the service was exceptional, and though I felt completely safe my entire trip, the staff always insisted I take their car service rather than hop in a taxi alone (“Just for precaution Mrs. Jennifer,” they assured me).
Saturday afternoon: I fueled up with a perfect pisco sour and a small plate of baby grilled octopus with a chimichurri of braised peppers and olives at star Peruvian chef Rafael Osterling’s eponymous Bogotá outpost in Zona G (Bogotá’s hot food ’hood), then wandered around Zona Rosa, a two-mile plaza of bars, restaurants and dangerously enticing shops ranging from tiny boutiques to enormous malls like Andino Center, Atlantis and El Retira. I splurged on hip Latin American–inspired bangles from jewelry designer Mercedes Salazar and restrained myself from buying colorful, beachy-chic dresses from Colombia’s hottest fashion designer, Silvia Tcherassi (who is also designing a boutique hotel in Cartagena).
Early evening: People eat late here so I grabbed a pre-dinner snack at Clos, a just-opened wine bar in Zona G, that has a diverse wine list spanning France, Spain, Italy and Australia as well as the usual Argentinean and Chilean offerings on every other list in the city. Regulars can by a kind of prepaid debit card so they can pour themselves a taste or a glass from one six enomatic machines. And the food is terrific too, with a nice selection of meats and cheese.
Late night: Everyone I met told me I must go to Andrés Carne de Res, located 40 minutes outside of Bogotá in the tiny town of Chia, and that I had to go with locals. Luckily, a friend of a friend lives in Bogotá and offered to take me. The only way to describe this enormous restaurant-bar is to think of a Latin American–version of Alice’s rabbit hole or Hunter Thompson’s dream restaurant. Originally a roadside steak stand opened by the hippie-artist owner Andrés, the place has evolved into a maze of bars and dining rooms spilling over with locals dancing on tables and drinking handles of aguardente, a potent firewater that I preferred mixed with fresh fruit juices. Colombians start lining up (and pay for parking as well as a cover charge to eat and party) around 10 p.m. and stay until the sun comes up. Despite the many distractions—the DJ booth, the wacky decorations falling from the ceiling, the masks they hand out—the food is actually quite good. I had a pork revelation eating addictive chicharrones (David Chang would have been smitten). Even after we paid (the check is delivered with a magnifying glass, flashlight and goodie bags of sweets) freebies like bowls of uchuvas (a sweet and tangy yellow fruit) and slices of green mango keep coming. The highlight of my night: learning that my new Venezuelan friends who were dancing next to me were all huge Top Chef and Ray Isle devotees!
When I was in Los Angeles recently, I had the good fortune to stumble upon what should be my favorite new winebar (it was sort of directed stumbling, in truth; Minneapolis Star-Tribune food critic Rick Nelson's uncle is the chef, and he sent me toward it). In fact, the only thing keeping it from being my favorite place for a quick glass of vino is that it's about 2,400 miles from my apartment. But that aside, Lou is a nifty little place located in an unlikely corner of a strip shopping center on Vine just north of Melrose, adjacent to a laundromat and about seventy feet from a Thai massage joint. It's relatively unmarked—even though there's a sign saying Lou, I kept thinking I wasn't in the right place—but once you step inside you're in an appealingly low-lit nook full of appealingly low-key-yet-hip Angelenos, most of them holding glasses of wine and noshing on cheese, charcuterie and larger dishes (Chorizo with black lentils, garlic confit and fried egg, for instance) off the menu, under a chalk drawing on the wall of a pig holding a glass of wine.
Lou focuses on small-production, organic/biodynamic/post-organic (whatever post-organic means) wines, thirty of which are available by the glass at any given time, and is "unabashedly Eurocentric," as the website says. If you're into that sort of thing, you'll recognize or at least be intrigued by offerings like the 2006 Guy Breton Morgon for $14 a glass, 2007 Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Blanc for $8 a glass, or Huber & Bleger Crémant d'Alsace Rosé NV for $10 a glass...though it may well be that those choices have changed since I was there. Regardless, I still think they're providing plates of "pig candy," which is essentially candied artisanal bacon, for five bucks. Candied pork? Uh-huh. I'm in.
© Chris Quinlan
Moscow Mule and Champagne Cobbler at Apothecary Bar & Lounge
Friday, 5:30 p.m.: Apothecary Bar & Lounge
Had early cocktails at this laid-back lounge with serious mixologists. The Moscow Mule—with vodka, ginger beer and lime juice, perfectly garnished with a lime wheel and a slice of fresh ginger—was refreshing, while their take on the Champagne Cobbler—a blend of Champagne, Creole curaçao, Fee’s lemon bitters and crushed ice—was fruity and delicate.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.: Chifa Restaurant
Headed to chef Jose Garces’s latest restaurant for a blend of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisine. The name comes from the phonetic pronunciation of the Chinese character that represents the shared cuisine. If fusion feels a bit early ’90s, Chifa is a modern take on it. I could have made an entire meal of the chewy yucca-flour-and-manchego-cheese buns served with house-made Sriracha butter. I also loved their take on breakfast, Desayuno, an arepa topped with braised oxtail, egg and panca (a Peruvian chile pepper) emulsion; the Hot Pot, glazed cod in a smoky broth with beech mushrooms and tofu; and the Pulpo, grilled Spanish octopus with a spicy chile-pepper puree and sweet and tangy purple olive escabeche.
Friday, 9:30 p.m.: Race Street Café
With Philly Beer Week in full swing, I headed to the Race Street Café to sample some fantastic Lagunitas beer—like Hairy Eyeball, Maximus and IPA—and to meet the brewer, Jeremy Marshall.
Saturday, 3ish a.m.: Ritz Carlton
Crawled into bed at the Ritz and was thrilled to be instantly swallowed up in the cocoon-like feather-top mattress and supersoft sheets for some much-needed sleep.
My instructions to get to dinner last Saturday night in Berlin were a bit sketchy. F&W's always-in-the-know Berlin-based correspondent Gisela Williams had told me to turn down an alley next to the Westin Grand hotel, then look for the garbage dumpsters and an enormous, baroque chandelier illuminating what looked like a warehouse space. Then, I was to look for a cluster of lightbulbs hanging above a nondescript door, climb three stairs, ring the buzzer and announce myself. I felt slightly ridiculous in my hunt for the alley (I must have walked by five times, and in my head, I could hear my mom chastising me for walking down a dark lane alone at night in an unfamiliar city), but there was no missing the chandelier, and once buzzed in I entered a grimy-looking nightclub that I was told would be packed come 3 a.m. I wandered around, following the music upstairs to what is one of Berlin’s coolest new restaurants, Cookies Cream. The rough, cement-walled space felt like a Manhattan loft with its high ceilings, bold red chairs and funky lighting. Morcheeba and Bob Marley set the mellow tone, and by 9 p.m., the room was packed with artsy-looking groups who’d all come to eat deliciously satisfying vegetarian food—pumpkin-lime soup with chutney, roasted cashews and curry; parmesan dumplings with Amalfi-lemon sauce; polenta with a liquid garlic–rocket filling and roasted ceps. Michael Kempf, the Michelin-starred chef from Facil, collaborated on the menu. Guests can walk around the enormous open kitchen and ask the boyish-looking executive chef, Stephan Hentsch, questions. At just 28 euros for three courses, this was another great deal.
The restaurant within a nightclub scene is a growing trend here, according to Gisela. Bar Tausend is also rumored to be opening a restaurant behind its bar this week. The über-hot bar is another hidden gem, located under a railway along a river with no sign, not even a light, at its door. The Foodists will be offering a menu (to those savvy enough to get a reservation) of modern German food to go with the excellent cocktails.
Last night, I met Food & Wine’s super-plugged-in Berlin-based correspondent Gisela Williams for dinner at Weinschenke Weinstein in Berlin. Gisela, among others, had told me that this rustic-looking wine bar in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood was a must-try. The smallish, super-casual room, low-lit and lined with shelves of empty wine bottles, was a bit of a local secret. Gisela thought it would be a good first introduction to traditional German food. It also turned out to be my first lesson in why Berlin is such a cool food city: It is unbelievably affordable!
In addition to an intriguing wine-bar menu, with dishes like goulash made from necks of organic Mangalitza pigs with Bohemian dumplings, there were two seasonal tasting menus. Gisela and I opted for a fourth option: the “Less Is More” tasting menu, an eight-course feast of market specials that included marinated lamb on a bed of fennel couscous and fried vendaceon (a small white fish) over potato and mustard-gherkin salad, all for just 38 euros per person. Most wine by the glass on the stellar, Germany-focused list was around 5 to 7 euros. Weinstein, I learned, operates on the Chez Panisse philosophy of highlighting excellent local produce in straightforward, delicious (and super-traditional) preparations.
By the time course number four—an incredible roasted fish called Zander (kind of like perch or pike) that was caught by fisherman Wilhelm Gehrt in the pristine waters of Lake Zechlin in Brandenberg—was served, we were joined by Telse Bus, the creative director of an innovative catering company/art group known as the Foodists. Telse was there to fill us in on her latest food/art project, a collaboration with Mario Grünfelder, the star mixologist at Berlin’s coolest bar, Tausend. The idea was to open a secret restaurant behind the bar at Tausend that will serve modern riffs on traditional German food (“Cool German food,” according to Telse) in an interactive, thought-provoking, artistic manner. She wouldn’t spill more details except to say that it opens next Wednesday. I’m heading to Bar Tausend tomorrow night, so I’ll have to see if I can get Mario to illuminate me more on the new project.
Lately, chefs, writers and friends keep raving about Berlin and the word they’re using to describe the restaurant scene isn’t delicious or amazing or innovative but cool. What makes a city’s food scene cool? I’m in Berlin this week for ITB, the world’s largest travel conference, and I’m on a mission to find out. I’ll be blogging daily and you can also follow me on twitter (jenfoodandwine) as I eat my way around Berlin with some of the city’s hippest food insiders.
A preview of my itinerary:
*Check out a handful of new organic, eco-chic hot spots, including Foodorama, a newly opened carbon-neutral restaurant (the first in Europe), and Gorilla, a new organic fast-food chain with a juice-making station and vegetarian sandwiches.
*Delve into the underground dining scene with a stop at Cookie’s Cream, a modern vegetarian restaurant hidden behind the traditional Westin Grand hotel and run by the city’s nightlife impresario Cookie.
*Meet the Foodists, the übercool Berlin-based catering company that combines food and art. It will be opening a new “hidden” restaurant next Wednesday behind the bar at Tausend, one of Berlin’s most stylish nightclubs.
*Eat at some of the trendy new places that have put an upscale spin on food stand–type foods. Bandol sur Mer, once a kebab stand, is now a tiny Provençal hot spot.
*Taste traditional German dishes (like bratwurst, curry wurst and Wiener schnitzel); eat at some much-buzzed about Michelin-starred restaurants (including Ma Time Rae and Fischers Fritz); and drink a few steins of German beer.
Tonight, I head to Weinschenke Weinstein, on a tip from my friend Braden Perkins of Paris’s Hidden Kitchen.