New Tastes of New England – Part 1 – Portland’s Eventide, The Honey Paw and Hugo’s

Classic steamed Maine lobsters

Classic steamed Maine lobsters

It is difficult to imagine a specific New England cuisine. Unlike the South, there are few ingredients or dishes that appear to be New England specific, especially if one removes certain locally caught seafood items. What New England does have going for it, besides the aforementioned seafood is a wealth of ethnic influences and some superb local product from both sea and land. I recently had the chance to experience a variety of chefs in a number of locations throughout the region. I’ve eaten the food of some previously, while this was my first experience with others. Between them, there are similarities framed within their own distinct approaches. Three chefs and their teams, in particular, caught my attention, all within a coastal geography, ranging from Maine to New Hampshire to Rhode Island. Continue reading


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The International Flavors of Miami

20160417untitled-EF24-70mm f-2.8L II USMBU4A9216109There are few cities in the Americas more international than Miami, Florida. The city is perhaps the major gateway from North America to the Caribbean and South America, a fact which permeates this city’s culture. From its tropical visages of palm trees and island fruits to art deco designs and pastel color palette, Miami is a city unique in North America. Cuba supplies the single greatest international influence, but the rest of the Americas as well as Europe, Asia and Africa add significant touches as well, especially when it comes to the culinary world. These facts, as well as a relative dearth of quality, artisanal, small farm product has meant that some major global culinary trends, in particular, the noma-fed rise on the emphasis of natural, local product and new regional cuisines resulting from that, haven’t really found much of a home there. At the moment, there isn’t anyone re-developing a hyper-local cuisine, though Miami and South Florida, to a great extent through the work of my friend, Norman Van Aken, was responsible for integrating flavors from Latin America into a mainstream south Florida cuisine. This works well with what has been an abundance of top notch Caribbean, Atlantic and Gulf seafood as well as tropical fruits and vegetables of the area. It remains the linchpin of the region’s cuisine, but international imports from ethnic cuisines to high-end dining concept chains, have filled in around the edges. Continue reading


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A Taste of Cuba(n Miami)

20160416untitled-EF24-70mm f-2.8L II USMBU4A8966058It’s hard to imagine what Miami, Florida would be like now if the Cuban revolution never happened in the late 1950’s. The Cubano culture has become such an integral part of the city and surrounding areas. I’m sure there still would have been a significant Cuban presence, but not the total richness that there is now. My Travel With Doc Culinary Insiders tour group and I literally got a taste of that culture on our trip thanks to the guidance of people like Norman Van Aken, Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog and Javier Ramirez and the stellar work of a variety of cooks, restaurateurs, bakers, shopkeepers, barmen and fishermen in and around the famous Calle Ocho, Little Havana and other parts of the city. Come along for a virtual taste! Continue reading


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Dan Barber’s The Third Plate

IMG_6993-3I used to be a voracious reader, devouring books as if they were Benton’s bacon at a buffet, but then, I centered much of my world around the universe of food. I still read quite a bit, but my focus shifted from books to articles and social media, with much of my spare time now reserved for writing and photo-editing. Lately, however, I have tried to devote more time to literature, aided by the technology of audio books. Time spent driving is no longer wasted, as it spends double duty listening. A book that has been at the top of my reading list since it came out last year is Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. I am acquainted with Chef Barber, have eaten at his restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns and have attended a number of his presentations at events like StarChefs International Chefs Congresses. In fact, it turns out, that over the years a lot of what he put in the book, he had also presented at various StarChefs ICC’s. While at first glance, that might seem redundant, it wasn’t. Overall, I found that the familiarity I had with a number of his points helped draw me in even deeper. In addition, he did not simply regurgitate what  he had previously spoken. Time between the presentations and the book has added wisdom and insight, both for the author as well as this particular reader and he has utilized this writing as a vehicle for tying all of these insights together. Continue reading


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Our Newest Cats!

20051004untitled-Canon EF 135mm f-2.8 SoftCheetah Kittens001If you follow my Instagram feed, you know how much I love my cats. I got very excited when a friend, who raises cheetahs, asked me if I would be interested in taking a couple of his newest litter of kittens, who are now weaned from their mother! It didn’t take a lot of deliberation before my wife and I said yes! While Stella and Sammy do a good job of keeping the local mice and chipmunks in check, lately we have seen an increase in larger predators. These kits should do a great job of keeping them in check!


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The Splendor of El Celler de Can Roca

20160129untitled-EF50mm f-1.8 IIBU4A7937135It has three Michelin stars (since 2009), is the current no. 1 restaurant in the world according to the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants list and has been in the Top 5 of that list since 2009 and either first or second along with noma since 2011. I had been to El Celler de Can Roca once before in 2007 before I started this blog, but not since they had moved into their luxurious new space. It was very good then and with its rise up the WFB list, I expected it to be even better, but I had no idea how much better and how great it would actually prove to be! To say the least, the whole concept behind The World’s Fifty Best list is controversial, but while I may personally agree or disagree with particular rankings up or down, I never fail to find the restaurants on the list worthy of discussion and interest and those that have been perennially around the top of the list, are, in fact, amongst my personal favorite restaurants in the world¹. I can now definitely say the same about El Celler. Continue reading


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Game On at La Buena Vida in Madrid

Rogelio Enriquez and the beautiful expressions of sherry that he brought to our dinner

Rogelio Enriquez and the beautiful expressions of sherry that he brought to our dinner.

I have been acquainted and know Rogelio Enriquez since my earliest days on eGullet. He was a leader of the then-thriving Spain and Portugal Forums, who has always been a clear source of worthwhile information on Spanish food and restaurants. When we met in person with our wives in Valencia in 2007 at Casa Montaña, we became great friends. Rogelio is a Madrileño and he and I have gotten together a number of times in Madrid over the ensuing years. One time, he and his wife came to my rescue when my scheduled overnight train from Madrid to Paris was cancelled at the last minute due to weather. That night, he and his wife assuaged my difficulties by taking me to eat the best tortilla Española that I’ve ever had. Needless to say, when getting together with Rogelio in Madrid, I generally leave the restaurant choice up to him. On this night when we would be joined by the lovely Anne Engamare McBride, he chose a small restaurant that hadn’t previously crossed my radar. La Buena Vida certainly was a promising name, but I couldn’t have guessed how apt it would turn out to be. Continue reading


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A Taste of Northern Spain – Part 6: A Fabulous Finish – Navarra, La Rioja and Madrid

IMG_2175Leaving a city like San Sebastián is never easy, but one of the things I love most about Spain as a travel destination, is that around every corner there is always something good to eat and drink and something interesting to see. Our trip was rapidly hurtling towards its conclusion, but it wasn’t over yet. We still had two full days where we would be together to experience tastes of Navarra, La Rioja and Madrid. While we did not have nearly enough time to fully appreciate all of the glories those areas offer, we still managed to make the most of the time that we did have. Continue reading


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Raves For Madrid’s Marisqueria Rafa

Rafael "Rafa" Andres

Rafael “Rafa” Andres

I went last year and loved it, but never got around to doing a post on it. I recently went two more times with my good friend, Gerry Dawes, while we were in Madrid for Madrid Fusión and again, each time, it was terrific. This time, I will not fail to post on it, but I will incorporate elements from all three visits. The premise of the restaurant, Marisqueria Rafa,  is simple – take great product, treat it simply, but with great skill and in a (mostly) traditional framework and serve it. The food generally speaks for itself, but I will add commentary as necessary. Everything was outstanding in terms of quality of product and preparation. There are two ways to enjoy the restaurant. One is a more formal, white table-cloth sit down table service restaurant. Continue reading


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My 17 Favorite Photos from Madrid Fusión 2016 Day Three

The great Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana

The great Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana

By day three of Madrid Fusion, between all the running around, not to mention the lack of sleep amidst the socializing, dining and drinking, I get pretty exhausted. Yet, the congress remains compelling, especially when the likes of the great Massimo Bottura is once again recognized with an award as “European Chef of the Year.” Bottura is more than just a great chef. Sure, his food is spectacular – creative, beautiful and delicious. He also happens to be a wonderful human being, full of energy, life, compassion and an incredible artistic disposition. He is one of my heroes and not just for his place in the culinary world. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Massimo. My day started by running into him as I was arriving at the Congress for the day. That is never a bad thing. Continue reading


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