The team from Langham Hotels was recently in NYC to share news about their superglam new Shanghai property, The Langham, Yangtze Boutique, and the dramatic, head-to-toe renovation of their historic The Langham, London. Arguably their most exciting project: the upcoming Langham Place, Beijing Capital Airport, attached to the new Norman Foster–designed Terminal 3. When the hotel opens next year, it will have a fancy Cantonese/Sichuan restaurant called Fine China, a hip lounge called Fuel with live music and Wii competitions, and a brewery. There is already talk of rolling the concept out to other airports around the world. I never thought I would willingly want to check into an airport hotel, but I can't wait to check this one out.
Chefs all over the world are creating empires comprised of both white-tablecloth flagships and casual restaurants. On my recent trip to Belfast, I discovered Northern Ireland's chef-emperor, Michael Deane. I had an exceptional lunch at his Michelin-starred Deanes, featuring pan-fried wild halibut filets held together with edible glue (a trick Deane's executive chef, Derek Creagh, picked up during a stint at England's pioneering Fat Duck). Later, I stopped by the casual wine bar for the first of its new Friday night happy hours. The space—half wine shop, half restaurant—has live music from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday, as well as a fantastic (and free!) spread of tapas—Irish cheeses, cured meats, olives, homemade breads and spreads. It's a Northern Irish take on Italy's aperitivo, and the best dining value in Belfast.
Murphy-Goode Winery’s search for the ultimate social networker has received a ton of attention. So far, more than 250 videos have been submitted by prospective wine country social media whizzes hoping to become Murphy-Goode's “lifestyle correspondent.” The job description in a nutshell: Move to Sonoma for six months to promote Murphy-Goode’s wines via blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and get paid $10,000 a month plus free vineyard digs. I’m shamelessly promoting my favorite video, from former Food & Wine intern extraordinaire Nick Pandolfi. Check it out here and place your votes. The winner will be announced July 21.
When I told F&W spirits correspondent Jim Meehan that I was going to Belfast, he told me the city is home to one of the world’s best cocktail bars, at the Merchant Hotel. Sean Muldoon is the bar manager and brains behind “The Bar,” and his ambitious cocktail list reads like a guide to the art of mixology, with definitions, a glassware chart, historic illustrations and even some recipes. But the item on the list that immediately drew my attention was the Platinum Level Mai Tai, surely one of the world's most expensive drinks at 750 pounds (about $1,200). Muldoon makes it with 17-year-old Wray and Nephew rum—one of the key ingredients in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. The bottle is one of just 12 and dates back to the 1940s; only one measure of rum is left in it. I decided to leave it for a true cocktail connoisseur (and someone with deeper pockets), and settled for the 10 pound ($16) Silver Level Mai Tai, mixed with Inner Circle Green Dot rum. It was great—and a welcome break from all the Guinness I’d been drinking.
Hotel Missoni Edinburgh opens next week, the latest venture from the amazing Missoni family (check out their Wikipedia page — don't you wish you were a fashion-designing descendent of an Italian sea captain and a Friulian magistrate from then-Austrian-ruled Dalmatia? I do). The Italian designers have partnered with Rezidor Hotels to open properties across the globe (next stop: Kuwait) featuring the bold designs of the Missoni Home line, as well as rustic Italian cooking inspired by the family recipes of founder Rosita Missoni. Just to gild that lily, in Edinburgh Rosita has partnered with Giorgio Locatelli of the ridiculously good Locando Locatelli in London (the two are from the same region in Italy).
I want to go. Not just to try the scamorza, pomodoro e rucola (pan-fried scamorza cheese with tomato and arugula) at the hotel restaurant (pictured above) but for the pleasure of ordering the hamburger di manzo scozzese al formaggio—the Scottish beef hamburger with cheese—off the room service menu.
I've spent the last few days in and around Belfast, and I am excited to report that Northern Ireland is experiencing a farm-to-table food revolution. One of its leaders is Noel McMeel, the charismatic chef at Lough Erne Golf Resort in Enniskillen. The Chez Panisse–trained McMeel is working closely with Good Food Ireland, an organization that supports local farmers and artisans, to source outstanding ingredients. His latest obsession is Dexter, a breed of rare, indigenous, miniature cows. When the resort's golf course opens this July, McMeel will debut a clubhouse restaurant with a Dexter-focused menu utilizing all cuts of the super-beefy meat. I got a taste when McMeel made me a brilliant Dexter-beef stew served in a shot glass and topped with liquefied mashed potatoes (the combination of brown on the bottom and tan on the top cheekily resembled a pint of Guinness). The man standing next to me tasted it and warned, "That dish will change your life." It certainly changed the way I think about Irish food.
As a native Angeleno, I've long suspected (hoped!) that the reason so many people hate my hometown is because of their terrible entrance into it, via the impenetrable LAX. This mammoth airport has long had the least concession space of any major US hub, making delays a foodie nightmare. But no more! LAX is following a nationwide trend and revamping its terminals, seeking out new food outlets it hopes will be edgier and more representative of LA’s local food scene. Bidders aren’t even confirmed yet, but if LA wants to put its best foot forward and gain some fans, I suggest In-N-Out Burger, Ruen Pair and King Taco. Who’d want to hate on that?
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.
A cheese lover's heaven.
A few years ago, I had a brief love affair with the notion of running away and becoming a cheesemaker somewhere green and beautiful. Now, Murray’s is offering its first cheesemaker tour to give wannabe cheesemakers like me an insider's look into the art of cheesemaking, right at the source.
Murray’s Director of Education, Taylor Cocalis, is leading a group of no more than 20 around the Swiss region of Bad Ragaz June 8 to 13 with stops at traditional farmstead cheesemakers, Swiss farms and tours of 400-year-old aging caves. And of course, fabulous cheese tastings, wine-paired dinners and overnights at a luxe hotel and spa are included. Check out the full itinerary here. If this first trip is a success, Murray’s plans to lead more trips in the future.
Bad Ragaz Switzerland.
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.