I’ve recently become semi-obsessed with the idea of getting a motorcycle. My friend Matt (a Harley guy) suggested I get my feet wet with some Vespa riding (an excellent suggestion). So last week, looking very Roman Holiday in my heels and little black dress (much to the horror of my riding instructor), I spent the morning learning how to drive a Vespa in the parking lot of Manhattan's Tavern on the Green. I started on the most basic model, the LX50 (max speed 39mph). After knocking over a few cones I was riding like a pro.
Further incentive to get my license: Wine Country Vespa just launched a series of two-day Napa and Sonoma-based Vespa tours with stops at top wineries like Caymus Vineyards and Paul Hobbs, luxe lodging at places like Hotel Healdsburg and fabulous winemaker dinners at local restaurants.
© Piaggio Group Americas, Inc.
Vespa 101 at Tavern on the Green.
© Kristin Donnelly
Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo.
For years, my friend beckoned me to Buffalo with the promise of interesting people and great food. Last weekend, she got married, so I finally made the trip. And I was completely charmed. A few places I found:
Just Vino The one-year-old bar offers about 80 wines by the glass, including choices from the nearby Finger Lakes region, plus some geek wines, like Movia Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia.
City Wine Merchant Does Buffalo have the audience for quirkier bottles, like, say, the Nigl sparkling Grüner Veltliner from Austria or the Daniel Bouland Morgon, an aromatic cru Beaujolais? I sure hope so, because I certainly enjoyed them from this brand-new wine shop.
Trattoria Aroma Tucked on a corner in the cozy Elmwood Village neighborhood, Trattoria Aroma does beautiful rustic Italian-style food, like house-made sausages with stewed onions, tomatoes and bitter dandelion greens.
Lake Effect Diner Here’s a triumph story for the locavore and DIY movement: Last year, this seven-year-old diner in a vintage diner car closed for six weeks to source local eggs, meats and produce. I had fabulous fluffy blueberry pancakes (now made from scratch, not a mix) and delicious though slightly misshapen house-made sausage patties.
Yesterday my colleague Emily McKenna gave an enticing preview of the first ever Vermont Cheesemakers Festival on August 23. Murray’s Cheese has organized a 24-hour field trip to get transportation-challenged, cheese-loving New Yorkers to Vermont. A red-eye bus departs Manhattan at midnight, stops for breakfast at Vermont's excellent Farmers Diner and drops passengers at the festival when the doors open at 10 a.m. The field trip tickets include round-trip transportation, breakfast, festival entry, and special access to some of Vermont’s top producers.
© Murray's Cheese
Murray's will be leading a field trip from NYC to the festival.
Ben Harper, the Decemberists, Band of Horses and the Killers are just a few of the stellar bands gathering in Chicago this August 7–9 for the annual Lollapalooza music festival. Another highlight: amazing food cooked by F&W Best New Chef 2004 Graham Elliot Bowles. Snacks—all $9 or less—will mimic the whimsical dishes Bowles serves at his eponymous Chicago restaurant but with a state-fair bent: lobster corn dogs, buffalo chicken with blue-cheese foam, black-pepper-parmesan-truffle popcorn.
Bowles, something of a music junkie himself (he recorded some of the songs that play at his restaurant) will also be cooking a VIP dinner for Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell and his band, Jane’s Addiction, who will be taking the stage Sunday night.
Now that Johnny Depp
has finished filming The Rum Diary
and left Puerto Rico, you might think the obsession with the island would be over. Not so fast. Superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
is just announcing details of his restaurant in the upcoming St. Regis Resort Bahia Beach
, slated to open in the fall of 2010. No, it’s not a J&G Steakhouse
(that just opened in Washington, DC), nor is it a J&G Grill (that’s coming in October to the St. Regis Deer Crest in Park City, Utah
). His Bahia Beach restaurant has a unique name, Fern
, and a menu that will be tailored to the island with some greatest hits from his places around the world. The outstanding black bass he serves at his Manhattan flagship, Jean Georges—crusted with nuts and seeds and served in a buttery sweet-sour mushroom broth—will surely be replaced with a local fish (whether it's grouper or wahoo or dorado is anyone's guess).
I’ve been vacationing in Kauai since before I could walk, so when I visited the Hawaiian island last week, I knew where I would be eating before I even collected my luggage:
Hamura Saimin This James Beard "America’s Classics" winner is always my first meal off of the plane. Saimin is a dish that's unique to Hawaii and is a hodgepodge of Japanese, Chinese and other Asian influences; the soup of egg noodles, dashi, scallion and fish cakes is done amazingly well here. I also love their marinated beef skewers, towering lillikoi (passion fruit) pie and malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). 2956 Kress St., Lihue; 808-245-3271.
Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza On the north shore, this bakery turns out piping-hot thin-crust pizzas with a variety of toppings, from Maui onions to smoked ono, a local fish similar to mackerel. I adore their island-style pie with pineapple, ham and chipotle peppers, which I like to follow with one of their chocolate-drizzled coconut macaroons. Kilauea Lighthouse Rd., Kilauea; 808-828-2020.
Koloa Fish Market Off of Koloa's tourist strip is this small market which has excellent poke, the Hawaiian dish of raw fish, traditionally marinated with sesame oil and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and served with sweet onions and seaweed. This market has many variations, and my favorite is the Korean poke, which has a bit of kimchi and sesame seeds mixed in with the ultrafresh ahi. 5482 Koloa Rd, Koloa; 808-742-6199.
Koloa Farmer’s Market Island life moves slowly, except during Koloa’s Monday farmers' market off of Maluhia Road. Shoppers are kept behind bright orange cones until exactly noon, when they trample in to buy lychees, pineapples and papayas. I always get a fresh coconut for sipping, and purveyors are great about explaining what each exotic fruit is and what it tastes like. Adorable orchid bouquets can be had for just a dollar.
Michael Steinberger's Au Revoir to All That
For anyone who cares about food, wine, or France, Slate wine columnist Michael Steinberger's new book, Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France
is required reading. Steinberger has done remarkably thorough research to detail just what has gone wrong in French gastronomy. Drawing on astonishing tidbits like the identity of France's largest private sector employer (McDonald's), Steinberger convincingly explains why so many of its greatest chefs have grown complacent, its greatest gastronomic guide so off-track, and its winemakers just plain broke. In spite of all the bad news, the book is a ripping fun read and is even a little optimistic, as Steinberger points out a few key men and women bucking the trends. I'm posting his list of innovative winemakers over on the Tasting Room
blog; after the jump, in honor of Bastille Day, Steinberger lists five chefs he thinks could lead France out of its current rut.
Hotel Omm's grooy bar and restaurant
kicked off their insane 360° Tour
in Barcelona a week or two ago every single person in the city was focused on the band. Here's what the scene was like at some of the city's top hotels.Hotel Arts Barcelona
The 44-story (the tallest building in Spain!) beachside hotel was headquarters for U2 and their vast, laid-back entourage. For some 48 hours almost everyone in the lobby had an Irish accent (except for LL Cool J
) and VIP badges around their necks. The band themselves set up shop on the upper club floors and anyone who spent any time in the 33rd floor private lounge saw key people in meetings and lots of Champagne on ice. Poolside, there was a party after opening night
with mojitos and a cake shaped like their four-legged spaceship
The supercool boutique hotel has one of the best restaurants in the city, Moo
. So it wasn't surprising that Bono and a bandmate or two ate there late night with their families. The hotel was calm about the res; celebrities like Barcelona soccer stars Thierry Henry
and Samuel Eto’o
are all over the restaurant and bar.
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona
Since MOBCN doesn’t actually open until the end of the year, U2 didn't spend any time there. Still the property will be amazing–not just because it’s on the Passeig de Garcia
, prime shopping territory, but because they're looking to snag the amazing Carme Ruscalleda
as their chef (if you don't know her, Ruscalleda has five Michelin stars–more than any other female cook in the world).
Yesterday, I wrote about the excellent dining options in Zurich
. But perhaps what I love most about the city is its floral scent—created by the 200 decades-old linden trees lining its main street, the Bahnhofstrasse. The new Gartencity Zürich
project, running through mid-September all over the city, features exotic plants and trees in 306 large pots by 200 designers (including German artist Hans Langner, a.k.a. Birdman). My favorite: no. 238, a black-cherry plum tree in a pot designed by Markus Wyss and André Gutknecht that resembles the largest reproduction of challah bread ever created (pictured).
© Ratha Tep
Confiserie Sprüngli on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse
I just came back from a too-short trip to Zurich, Switzerland. For my culinary tour guide (in spirit, anyway), I enlisted the help of the astoundingly talented Zurich-born chef Daniel Humm
, who earned a Michelin star at the very young age of 24 at Gasthaus zum Gupf, about an hour from the city. Humm has since won another rare accolade—an F&W Best New Chef award in 2005
—and now heads the elegant Eleven Madison Park
in New York City. He still finds time to return to his native Switzerland, as we wrote about in our July issue
—and fortunately, for me, he also had time to share his favorite spots in his native city:
Vorderer Sternen Grill Humm says this small outdoor stand has the best bratwurst in the city. It's also refreshingly unpretentious: My delectably moist St. Galler bratwurst came wrapped in paper along with a large, crusty roll and plastic container of spicy mustard (22 Theaterstrasse; 011-41-44-251-49-49).
Confiserie Sprüngli The city has several outposts of this famous confectionary, but its grand flagship is on the Paradeplatz (across the street from the much, much grander Credit Suisse headquarters). I couldn't find the truffes-brioche Humm recommended but I loved the truffes du jour, filled with oozy salted caramel (Bahnhofstrasse 21; 011-41-44-224-46-46).
Restaurant Obere Fluehgasse According to Humm, locals love this tiny out-of-the-way spot for Swiss specialties like Zurich geschnetzeltes (veal cutlets served with rösti). Unfortunately, the restaurant was more out-of-way than I expected—south along the pristine Limmatquai, then up a very steep hill—and the kitchen was closed by the time I got there. Duly noted for my next trip there (Flühgasse 69; 011-41-44-381-111-10).