© Jordan Salcito
Daniel Boulud and Michel Troisgros Make Truffled Eggs at Altitude.
If you ever wonder how famous chefs deal with the limitations of airplane food, especially when they're recovering from an epic wine event, here's a firsthand account from my awesome wine-genius friend Jordan Salcito
(whom you’ll read more about in F&W's April feature on Burgundy). Here’s Jordan:
Say you're a chef who has just cooked for the 10th anniversary of La Paulée de New York
which honors the best domaines in Burgundy with both new and very old vintages (like 1940 La Tâche). And say you’re in a private plane on your way to La Paulée des Neiges in Aspen
to (ski and) drink more wines. How do you re-energize? If you're Daniel Boulud
, the featured chef for La Paulée de New York, and you're France's inimitable Michel Troisgros
, you make 30-second scrambled eggs in the plane's microwave: custardy, truffled scrambled eggs with crème fraîche, plus toast with European butter and more black truffle. And then open another bottle of La Tâche.
I'm always helping my food-loving friends create travel itineraries. Lately, I've been turning to Virtual GDBK, an insidery travel website that writer Valerie Stivers recently launched. The site aggregates best-of-the-web resources for a short list of cool destinations. Stivers curates a list of food blogs for every city and the site's "Eat" section recommends everything from cooking classes to restaurants and food-related events. My favorite aspect is the site's global reach. It not only hits classic spots like Paris and London, but also more exotic places like Douala, Cameroon.
© Tim Love
Tailgate extraordinaire, Tim Love.
Yesterday chef Tim Love
gave me a call from an unusually frigid Arlington, Texas, where he was scrambling to prepare to feed the hordes of football fans descending on the city for Super Bowl XLV
. “I feel like I’m on American Race
, racing against time to get my prep done,” he said. “I’m scraping and scrounging to find heaters.” On Wednesday, he cooked ESPN’s Mike & Mike
an “all out meatfest” of elk saddle, rabbit-rattlesnake sausage and quail. Tonight, Love is teaming up with rockstar chef Mario Batali for a Spaghetti Western fundraiser dinner
before hosting a pre-game tailgate for nearly 350 people on game-day. “I’ve wrangled two giant 30-foot smokers to do grilled potatoes with bad-ass toppings, grilled artichokes, and Tomahawk chops
.” Love will be watching the big game from the stands and putting his money on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rumor has it that Love and Batali may even make an appearance on field to introduce the Black Eyed Peas at half time.
My go-to-guy for all things happening in Dallas, Christopher Wynn, a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News and dining editor for its style monthly, FD Luxe, gave me an update on the city’s pre-Super Bowl festivities. Here’s the scoop:
The roads may be glazed and cooking is cautious after a day of rolling blackouts, but Dallas chefs are determined to feed the fans.
Last night I hit our Uptown neighborhood for a preview of chef Abraham Salum’s coming-soon contemporary Mexican cuisine spot, Komali. (Just wrap me in steaming handmade tortillas on the way out.) At the same time near downtown, former Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek chef John Tesar cooked at the new Cedars Social cocktail den and restaurant for his weeklong “Supper Bowl.” The chef-driven series of charity dinners culminated with former Top Chef contestant Tiffany Derry in the kitchen.
Tonight, celeb-u-chefs Mario Batali and Tim Love are hosting their Italian-meets-Texan Spaghetti Western dinner. Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri are among the co-chairs. Tickets to this fundraising event at Love’s Fort Worth Love Shack So7 are $500 each, more details here.
Finally, Texas is expected to thaw out just in time for Saturday’s sold-out Taste of the NFL extravaganza in Fort Worth. Dallas’ Kent Rathbun of Abacus restaurant fame is the host chef. The event is celebrating its 20th anniversary and many of the inaugural chefs from the first Taste in Minneapolis will be on hand, including Tom Colicchio, Todd English, Susan Spicer and Dallas’s Stephan Pyles.
Here’s a Super Bowl idea for next year: Open a hot toddy stand.
© Jen Murphy
The bar at Cervo.
Zermatt’s fabulousness comes at a cost. It’s one of the most pricey ski towns I’ve been to. Since I have yet to win the lottery, I didn’t stay in any of Zermatt’s fabulously glitzy new hotels. My friends and I instead rented a great apartment
owned by one of Zermatt’s top mountain guides, Gianni Mazzone
. We scoped the hotel scene by après-ski eating and drinking at the bars. For those who want to splurge, here are some swank spots to stay.
Swiss-German film director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace
) is a co-proprietor of this chic new 23-room chalet just up the hill from the main town at the foot of the Matterhorn. His mark on the property: a permanent photo exhibition of his movie productions and a master suite named after him. Interior designer and co-owner Betty Summermatter is responsible for the rest of the cool design touches, like deer-head decorations made of silver, and oversized tubs.Cervo
Five stylish wood-and-stone chalets make up this swank new hotel on the Sunnegga side of the mountain. Seraina Müller runs the excellent restaurant and cooks Provençal-inspired dishes like côte de boeuf. There’s a great après scene: The outdoor, downstairs bar overlooking the slopes is rowdier, while the upstairs deck with its fireplace and blankets is quiet and cozy. Indoors the bar has deer antlers dangling from the ceiling and a huge wall showing off an impressive collection of magnums. Hotel Firefly
A short walk from the Klein Matterhorn ski lift, Firefly’s 15 suites are each themed after one of the elements (water, fire, earth and wind) and decked out with PlayStation 3 and chairs made by the Swiss wood artist Spoon
. Many a night we found ourselves hanging at the hotel’s Bar 55, which has billiards, foosball and a great cocktail list.
© Jen Murphy
Stunning views from Chalet Etoile.
On my recent ski trip to Zermatt, our days were largely planned around where we’d be eating lunch on the slopes. A separate ski pass allowed us to cross the border into Italy, where we could ski around the resort of Cervinia. Everyone in town told us to call ahead and make reservations for Chalet Etoile, located on a blue run above Plan Maison. The bombshell Swedish chef, Ulla di Frassy, and her Italian husband ride up the mountains on snowmobiles at 5 a.m. each morning to start prepping for the lunch crowds. The always-changing, rustic Italian menu featured outstanding specials like grilled lobster and spaghetti, a dish of three grilled meats (mountain goat included), Flintstones-size spareribs and a lovely artichoke pappardelle. If the sun is out, the large deck has spectacular mountain views, and speakers blare Abba songs. The warm Bombardino drink doubles as dessert and is deceptively potent: a mix of advocaat—a creamy yellow liqueur made from egg yolks, sugar, brandy and vanilla—and whiskey. I probably would have gone for the towering tiramisù instead, had I known our waitress was going to give us extra-large shots of Etoile’s homemade grappa as a parting gift to keep us warm on our trip back to Switzerland.
© Jen Murphy
The mille-feuille at Zum See.
There are two things I love about skiing in Europe: One, the sheer size of the mountains and endless possibilities for going off-piste. Two, the Europeans’ leisurely on-mountain afternoons which include a two-hour lunch and, if the sun’s out, sunbathing in lounge chairs on the deck. I recently got back from an outrageously delicious week in Zermatt, Switzerland, where I ate at some of the world’s top slope-side restaurants. Here, some of our best meals from the slopes:
Zum See Midway down the slope from Furi to Zermatt is a blue sign for this 70-seat restaurant that’s been run for more than 20 years by Max and Greti Mennig. Their son Markus and his girlfriend Marion are often there, bringing out food from the tiny kitchen. A cord has been strung above the tables so skiers can hang their helmets while they eat Swiss beef carpaccio, calf’s liver rösti or homemade pastas. Greti is responsible for the Italian- and French-focused wine list, and Markus makes the restaurant’s popular mille-feuille, a decadent puff pastry layered with cream (It's so good that many skiers stop in just for a slice).
Bergrestaurant Blatten Located just a bit farther down the slope from Zum See, this tiny restaurant in a charming wooden chalet is a favorite amongst the local mountain guides. The husband-and-wife owners met while summiting the Matterhorn, and their kids help run the place. The wild mushroom soup in a puff pastry shell is a must-order.
Chez Vrony This farmhouse-turned-restaurant is run by the parents of the quirky artist Heinz Julen, and is located on the Sunnegga side of the mountain. Not only does the family make its own sausages and cheeses, but they also raise, slaughter and butcher their own grass-fed cattle. All of the risotto dishes are ridiculously good, particularly one studded with cèpes and white truffle shavings.
Adler Hitta Also on the Sunnegga side of the mountain, this restaurant may have the most spectacular views of the Matterhorn from its deck. We ended up here twice for lunch. A large oven had a spit roasting chickens for a special one day, and my friends got a kick out of the “pasta for men” dish which was a simple spaghetti with pepperoni, salt and pepper and olive oil.
My favorite slope-side lunch required us to ski over to Italy, which we did twice because the food was so good. More on that tomorrow.
© Jen Murphy
Baho, a local Nicaraguan dish, from Aqua.
On my recent trip to Nicaragua, I spent two days at a brand new beachfront, eco-treehouse villa retreat called Aqua. A little more than 30 miles north of the Costa Rican border or an adventurous 90-minute drive south from Granada (partly along a bumpy dirt road with feral pigs and cows dashing out into the road), Aqua is tucked away in the small village of Tola and is a yoga-foodie-surfer paradise. My treehouse villa had a super-luxe kitchen with a Bosch fridge and a wine fridge, plus a mini plunge pool on the deck looking down to the ocean. Top yoga instructors teach class on the huge yoga deck overlooking the beach and world-class waves are just one beach away for surfing. Aqua’s mission is sustainability. Juan, one of the local staff, took me on a spectacular three-hour nature hike up overlooking the nearby surfing beaches.
Much of the hotel's produce is sourced from a farm nearby Ometepe Island and there is talk of organizing sustainable cooking classes led by guest chefs from the States. There was a yoga retreat at the resort during my visit and I felt a blt guilty to be indulging in the organic Nica coffee, local brews and the incredible food like a local dish called Baho (orange-and-lime marinated carne, yucca and plantain steamed in banana leaf) while the yogis were spending the week eating vegan and even fasting some days.
A new spa and more treehouse villas are in the works for later this year. There’s also a huge golf resort, a paved road and an airport in Tola’s future. I’m guessing the secret about Aqua and this idyllic beach town in Nicaragua will soon be high on people’s travel radar.
© Jen Murphy
Hawkers sell bags of mustard and fermented veggies at Granada's Sunday market.
En route from my eco-island adventure
to a beachy tree-house paradise
(more on that Monday), I had a chance to spend a Sunday afternoon wandering Nicaragua’s colorful, historic town Granada. I was told I had to stop in at The Garden Café for breakfast and to order the chompipe—egg, cheese, turkey, tomato and avocado on a flaky, buttery croissant—but it was sadly closed on Sundays. Instead I was directed to El Zaguán, which I was told served the best steak in town, if not all of Nicaragua. Huge cuts of local beef and guapote (a bass caught in Lake Nicaragua) were being cooked on a big, open grill while dueling mariachi bands played in a corner. I didn’t expect to find great steak in Nicaragua, but my filete churrasco was excellent. The upside of being in town on a Sunday is that the market—a mishmash of produce and items that looked like they belonged in a convenience store or thrift market—was packed with locals, and people were idling around in the town square. I got a kick out of all of the locals drinking from small plastic bags that looked like they should contain a pet goldfish. Apparently, juices (and, as one local informed me, moonshine) are sold in plastic baggies, and you just pop a straw in and drink. At the market, the baggies also held everything from homemade mustard and salsa to chile peppers and pickled vegetables.
© Jen Murphy
Jicaro overlooks Nicaragua's Mombacho Volcano.
I try to start every year with an exotic, off-the-beaten-path solo vacation. My requirements: beach, decent surf, nature, a good local beer and supersimple, fresh food. On a late-night whim, I booked a flight to Nicaragua and mapped out an exciting four-day adventure. My friends cracked jokes about being on the lookout for Sandinistas, but we’re no longer in the 80s. Nicaragua in 2011 is all about fabulous, luxe ecolodges, unspoiled nature and… yoga (who knew!). I spent my first two nights at the new Jicaro Ecolodge
set on a tiny island in Lake Nicaragua. Each of its nine suites has a deck that overlooks the lake (I ended each night there on my oversized hammock with a cold Toña, the local pilsner). There are more than 300 islands in Lake Nicaragua, and in the morning, Fabian, the resident naturalist, took me on a sunrise kayak tour pointing out the various herons and egrets and parrots hiding in the trees. The local fisherman we passed often supply Jicaro’s restaurant with their day’s catch; the restaurant makes a point of using as much local produce as possible. Meals are served al fresco overlooking the water and highlights included shrimp tacos, seared lake fish over cauliflower puree, bananas Foster pancakes with Flor de Caña rum and mocha bread pudding made with organic local coffee. Everything on the menu is available in half portions, which meant I could try more local dishes. Roberto, another local staffer, seemed to read my mind. While I lounged by the infinity pool, he’d appear with a cookie as a midday treat or would bring me red bean hummus and vegetables to snack on just as I was getting hungry. Jicaro often hosts yoga retreats with teachers like guru Cyndi Lee, but can also schedule private lessons on the spectacular yoga deck with local instructors from Pure
in Granada. My instructor, Warren, gave me his cheat sheet for what to scope out in Granada on a Sunday. I'll post more on that tomorrow.