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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Travel

How Hotels Get Personal

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It takes more than grand gestures to impress hotel dweller Paul Carr.

Hotels Get Personal

© Klas Fahlén

A knock on one’s hotel-room door at 10 p.m. rarely bodes well. Unless, that is, one is staying at a particular five-star hotel in Las Vegas, in which case it heralds a man struggling under the weight of a gigantic chocolate garden, with flowers, trees and shrubs—an over-the-top take on the pillow mint. As a person who lives in hotels, I’ve watched the arms race of room service with interest. The latest trend is über-personalization, in which hotels provide extras tailored to each guest. As an example: I recently spent a night at The Lanesborough in London, failing to stump my butler with a spiraling list of requests. Could the chef prepare a deep-fried quail? Of course. How about a partridge wrap with a diamond cocktail stick? For a price. I opted for a chicken sandwich. It arrived alongside a small chocolate cake, the words Happy 30th Birthday iced on the top with a single lit candle. I hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday. Creating a chocolate garden is no doubt impressive, but far harder is delivering a personal touch without fanfare. No diamond cocktail stick required.

Paul Carr chronicles his hotel adventures in his book The Upgrade.

Read more travel stories from our May issue.

Travel

Curated Picnic Baskets

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For National Picnic Day on Monday: a chef-curated basket for a cause.

Curated Picnic Baskets

© Antonis Achilleos

Central Park picnics just got fancier: Alice Waters is now customizing baskets for Mandarin Oriental NY guests. She selected the assortment at left; a portion of the proceeds supports her Edible Schoolyard program. mandarinoriental.com.

In Alice Waters’s Picnic Basket:
- Local Artisan Salumi
- Eco-Chic Bamboo Cutlery
- French Radishes
- Rustic Pizza Bianca
- Thyme-Grilled Quail

Travel

L.A.'s Best Sushi

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N Naka Sushi

© Zen Sekizawa

Tony Maws of Craigie on Main, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was last in L.A. as a kid. Now he wants to go back and eat sushi and sashimi around the city. See his picks >

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Wine

Virtual Vine Tours

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The April issue spotlights tech toys for foodies. Here's a fantastic site for wine lovers.

Virtual Vine Tours

© Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd

 

Using Google Earth technology, wine importer Frederick Wildman and Sons offers 3-D interactive tours on its website, tour.frederickwildman.com, stopping at iconic regions around the world (like Puligny-Montrachet, above). Some include commentary from winemakers like Rioja’s Baron de Ley.

 

Related: High-Tech Hotels

Restaurants

A Magnus Nilsson Dinner Without Travelling to Sweden

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© Vila Joya
Magnus Nilsson (center) and his Faviken team at Portugal's International Gourmet Festival.

I tried to map the distance from my house in NYC to Fäviken, Magnus Nilsson’s remarkable super-naturalist restaurant in Fäviken, Sweden. I’m not very good with Mapquest; I’ll estimate that it's more than 4,000 miles away (but only about 200 miles to the Arctic Circle). Nilsson saved me the trouble of going all the way up north to see him by cooking at a festival I went to last week, the super-fun International Gourmet Festival in Portugal.

What did Nilsson and his team haul from Sweden for the meal? Not much: some cheese, reindeer lichen (it’s delicious!) and a few lingonberries. Instead, Nilsson shopped locally, scoring some Atlantic bonito at the local fish market and some awesome pork from Mahladinha, a winery that also raises black-foot pigs. And then he foraged a bunch of ingredients from the beach right below Vila Joya, where his dinner took place. He said I could help him find wood sorrel to garnish his pine bark cookies. How thrilling that I’d get to help one of the world’s most brilliant chefs make dinner. But I bailed (clothes shopping emergency). And then happily ate those cookies and the rest of Nilsson’s dishes.

Here are some highlights from that meal. Special thanks to the Russian billionaire who flew his plane to Paris to pick up some caviar and vodka for the cocktail hour.
 
Blood, Roe and Lichens: This dish featured pig blood tartlets topped with trout roe, two things I don't generally eat together (and one thing I don't generally eat, period). Please believe me—it was delicious.
 
Tuna: Atlantic bonito marinated in mushroom juice and served with a brown-butter-toasted-oatmeal sauce.
 
Porridge: Oat, rye, wheat, flax seeds and sunflower seeds made into a creamy, cheesy porridge and served with kale sauce.
 
Heart and Marrow: A sublime meat salad with pieces of beef heart tossed with chunks of bone marrow and an herb that included herbs foraged from the Algarve.

Restaurants

Adrian Grenier Stars at the International Gourmet Festival

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© Vila Joya
Adrian Grenier, Peter Glatzer and I are psyched about SHFT house wines.

It’s a busy time for food-festival groupies. South Beach Wine & Food Festival is coming soon (February 23–26!), then you've got to get to California for Pebble Beach Food & Wine (April 12–15) and before you know it, it’s the 30th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (June 15–17).
 
Now I’m obsessed with the just-wrapped International Gourmet Festival. The 10-day festival, at Vila Joya in Portugal’s beachy Algarve region, featured dinners with a million Michelin starred chefs. Well, 33 of them, and they came from all over Europe and the US (The Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield, SHO’s Shaun Hergatt and Laurent Gras all represented for USA). Also running around were awesome food-loving celebs like Adrian Grenier, who, with filmmaker Peter Glatzer brought his new eco-friendly SHFT house wine (you’ll hear more about it the April issue of F&W), Sheryl Crow and Michael Imperioli. Plus a Russian billionaire who flew his plane to Paris to pick up some vodka and caviar for a party. Here are a few highlights from this year’s International Gourmet Festival.
 
Epic Dinner: In my idea of the ultimate potluck, a dozen elite chefs worth 20 Michelin stars combined to cook a 10-course dinner. That meal ran the gamut from a gorgeous foie gras starter topped with shredded crab and fermented cabbage sauce, from the three-starred Dutch chef Jonnie Boer, to a hearty main-course goulash from the Frankfurt chef Mario Lohninger (whom I still miss from his time at NYC’s Danube).
 
Epic After-Party: Adrian Grenier’s late-night DJ gig at Le Club, one of those awesome, cheesy Euro discos that becomes a lot better when someone’s playing decent music. Extra credit to Grenier—he’d spent the afternoon pouring his SHFT wine, and then woke up early the next day (well, at 1 p.m., which is early in the Algarve) to race go-karts.
 
Epic Day Trip: An expedition to Lisbon (it’s two hours away, when a German guy is driving a BMW). There we got to have the insane, custardy de Belem pastries for breakfast, a killer lunch at chef Jose Avillez’s 10-day-old Belcanto and a ride around the city in one of those adorable 1920s cable cars.

Beer

Rock-Star Road Food

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Eating their way across America: Bluesy rockers The Stone Foxes.

© Rochelle Mort Photography
Eating their way across America: Bluesy rockers The Stone Foxes.

San Francisco indie rockers The Stone Foxes were in New York recently for the annual CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival. Haven’t heard them yet? You probably mistook them for the Black Keys in a recent Jack Daniels commercial in which they covered Slim Harpo’s bluesy “I’m a King Bee.” I sat down with the band between shows for a rundown of their favorite eats from their last few months of touring (they’re also documenting the tastiest bites on their Facebook page).


Where's your favorite preshow meal these days?

Aaron Mort, bass: Being a vegan on the road is definitely pretty challenging. Going through the South for a week, iceberg lettuce with barbecue sauce was pretty much all I ate, but The Grit is an amazing vegetarian place in Athens, Georgia. Spence got the Mediterranean platter, and the hummus was insane.

Spence Koehler, lead guitar: The Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is just a shack on the edge of a swamp with a barbecue pit and picnic tables, but its baby back ribs are some of the best I’ve ever had.

Shannon Koehler, drums: I tried blood sausage for the first time at the Sweet Afton pub in Astoria, New York. It freaked me out, but I had to trust my bartender’s recommendation. It was glorious. Amen.

Elliott Peltzman, keyboards: I tried the vegan “Chik’n Parmigiana” at Foodswings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I swear it tasted exactly like a real chicken parm. It even flaked like real chicken when you pulled it apart.

 

What are you washing it all down with?

Spence: I was blown away by the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter Scottish style ale we tried in Phoenix. It’s superstrong but extremely flavorful.

Elliott: We took the locals’ advice and tried Terrapin Brewery in Athens, Georgia. Its IPA is excellent.

Aaron: And of course, the Bay Area has great beer. I love Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder.

 

What are you excited to eat when you get back to San Francisco in a few weeks?

Spence: I’m baking pumpkin pies as soon as I get home. That’s number one.

Joe Barham, band manager: I’m stoked for organic Mexican food at Gracias Madre. It’s a block from my house, so I go there I lot.

Aaron: I’m going to break my vegan streak for the boozy Secret Breakfast ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. It tastes like the bourbon pound cake my mom always makes for Christmas.

Cocktails

Adult Slushies (aka Shaketails)

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It’s a tough time for anyone with at least one eye on the wildly fluctuating stock market. So here’s something to make everyone feel better – or at least those adults who want to drink like children, and have valid id in case the bartender asks. Adult slushies (aka shaketails) have become wildly popular around the country. Here are a few great places to find them.

Tristan, Charleston. Cocktail popsicles are available in weekly changing flavors like Watermelon, White Balsamic Mojito and Firefly Southern Peach. Whether you want to down them as an aperitif or an extra chilled Happy Hour snack is your call.

Holsteins Shakes & Buns, Las Vegas. Located in the super-fun Cosmopolitan, Holsteins has a whole section of "bam-boozled" milkshakes on their dessert menu like the Cereal Bowl with vanilla vodka, Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles. The brand new "sorbet" shake is made with watermelon, bubblegum vodka and, surprise, liquid nitrogen. 

The Ritz-Carlton Downtown, Atlanta. Atlanta summers are so hot, it’s no surprise that the local Ritz came up with a super fun adult slushie. That would be their boozy, vibrantly colored snow cones,like Passionfruit with Lemon and Bourbon and the locally minded Moonshine-spiked one with Blackberry and Honey.

Village Whiskey, Philadephia. In July, chef Jose Garces premiered milkshakes at his two-year-old spot, which guests can order spiked or not. The long list of ingredients in the Irish Car Bomb includes rum-soaked devil’s food cake, whiskey-infused chocolate pastry cream and vanilla and chocolate ice creams; to make it even more appealing (to me anyway), it’s topped with a piece of cake.

Burger, Tap & Shake, Washington DC. Jeff Tunks, chef at this soon-to-open tavern, coined the term ‘shaketails’ and he’s taking it seriously enough to make almost everything in the drink in-house. The Dr.’s Cure mixes vanilla bean vodka with coffee liquor and vanilla ice cream. I’m not sure how the Teacher’s Pet got its name, but it combines apple brandy, ouzo, root beer with more vanilla ice cream.

La Esquina, Brooklyn. At the new outpost of the groovy Mexican restaurant in New York City, pastry chef Pichet Ong is creating a list of alcohol-soaked ices to serve to the Williamsburg locals. He’ll start with shaved ice and flavor it with tropical fruits like a pineapple margarita, flavored with fresh fruit puree, cilantro, tequila and, as is necessary for all good margaritas, salt.

Related: 20 Refreshing Drinks
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

Restaurants

Party Time at Mandarin Oriental Paris

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Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx made the Mandarin Oriental Paris's party food.

I hate to miss a good party. And it sounds like I missed a pretty spectacular one last week, as the Mandarin Oriental Paris celebrated its official launch. Among the people I would have liked to hang out with: Liam Neeson and Maggie Cheung, and Pierre Gagnaire, one of the world’s all-time great chefs). Michelin-two-starred chef Thierry Marx did the party food—of course he did, he does all the food for the hotel, most especially the impossible to get into Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx.

© kate krader
Thierry Marx's outrageous brioche.

But don’t feel too sorry for me missing the party, because I did get to see the Mandarin Oriental Paris earlier this summer and was just fine. I loved the Swarovski-crystal-lined walls in the lobby, the Diptyque shampoos in the bath and the outrageous brioche in the breakfast bread basket and at the Cake Shop. And I found my new hero, hotel concierge Adrian Moore, who knows every single thing about the Paris food scene and has an excellent blog to prove it.

For more on the Mandarin Oriental Paris, and the fantastic hotel scene in Paris right now, check out the awesome Paris Travel Guide in the October issue of Food & Wine.

Wine

Where to Vacation During Wine Harvest

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Les Crayères hotel in Champagne.

© Courtesy of Les Crayères.
Les Crayères hotel in Champagne.

Harvest season started in August for much of the wine world, but Reuters reports that vintners in Burgundy and other French regions are currently divided over when to haul in the grapes. While waiting increases ripeness (which could result in better wine), it also raises the risk that storms could damage the bounty. Something easier to agree on: Harvest time, which can run into October in some climates, is a great chance to tour wine country. In addition to temperate weather, regions bustle with celebratory events like Bordeaux's annual festival in Saint-Emilion, taking place this weekend. Napa offers a string of wine-release parties (like those at Duckhorn and Beaulieu Vineyards this Friday and Saturday), grape-stomping competitions (like Castello di Amorosa's on September 24) and harvest dinners (Pine Ridge Vineyards will hold one on October 8). To help you plan, F&W presents guides on where to eat, sleep and, of course, drink in top wine regions.

WINE REGION GUIDES

FRANCE
Champagne
With picks from Master Sommelier and Champagne fanatic Laura Maniec

SPAIN
Rioja
With picks from El Bulli alumnus Lucas Paya

UNITED STATES
Santa Barbara
With picks from Addison sommelier Lucas Paya

Napa
With picks from chef Michael Chiarello and winemaker Jamey Whetstone
 
Sonoma
 
Oregon
 
Washington State

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