Husk – A Look Behind The Scenes

Husk GM Dan Latimer

Husk GM Dan Latimer

After a fabulous meal at Husk this past October, I and my friend, Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, who had been dining there that evening with his family, had the pleasure of a behind the scenes tour of the restaurant with Husk GM, Dan Latimer. In terms of approach, quality and volume, the restaurant that Husk most reminds me of is Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen under Chef/Owner Spike Gjerde. Continue reading

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Husk – A New Taste of the Old South

Chef Sean Brock

Chef Sean Brock

The last time I had been in Charleston, Husk was a gleam in Sean Brock’s eye. He knew where and what it was going to be and when he spoke about it it was with great excitement. Chef Brock made his initial reputation by cooking Modernist cuisine and he did it quite well. That last time in Charleston, we had a wonderful dinner at McCrady’s, his seminal restaurant that combined a strong sense of history with a decided modernity. He was still utilizing modern techniques, but he had begun to mix those techniques with those from the past and nothing excited him more than rediscovering the delicious and mostly lost old ingredients of the Old South such as the original form of sesame that had been known as benne and had all but disappeared until resurrected by Brock and Glenn Roberts, the founder and visionary behind Anson Mills. Husk was going to be a natural extension of his passion for the historical ingredients of the South. In fact, his idea was to use ONLY ingredients for cooking that had actually been produced in the Southern United States. Brock’s enthusiasm was infectious and I already knew the level of his talent and skill. I knew as he spoke about it that Husk was a restaurant that I was going to have to get to. Continue reading

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R.I.P. Steven A. Shaw – aka “Fat Guy”

Joseph Bavuso, myself and Steven with a friend at Flying Pigs Farm summer of 2004

Joseph Bavuso, myself and Steven with a friend at Flying Pigs Farm summer of 2004

Few people outside of my family have made as much of a difference in my life as Steven Shaw. Steven, along with Jason Perlow, was one of the co-founders of, which went on to become the eGullet Society of Culinary Arts and Letters ( Little did I know when I joined back in late March of 2003, how it would open up a vast new world for me and change my life and as a result the life of my family. For better or worse, this blog would not exist were it not for Steven and eGullet. Continue reading

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Back to Birch

BU4A2325Ben Sukle is one of my favorite young chefs in the country and it has been a pleasure watching (and tasting) his continued progression as a chef from his early days at The Dorrance, where the influence of his stint at noma was quite evident to  the opening early last summer of his own restaurant, Birch. The latter is an intimate space with counter seating around a bar. Sukle’s food retains the influence of New Naturalism, but his own voice has grown ever stronger and louder. A recent visit reinforced this sentiment. Continue reading

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Perfektion at Pakta

Pakta Nikkei Cuisine Barcelona, Spain "Macchgu Picchu Menu"’s well known that Peruvian cuisine, with its diverse cultural influences – from Spain, Germany, China, Italy, Japan, and of course the indigenous Peruvians who have made it their home for centuries before these new arrivals – and incredible wealth of endemic ingredients, is a jewel of the global foodscape. The trouble is that it has been difficult to explore the many facets of Peru’s beauty without actually going there. While there are plenty of good ethnic Peruvian restaurants in New York and around the world it’s difficult to find a restaurant dedicated to any of the Peruvian-fusion cuisines that are so prevalent in the motherland. Granted, Barcelona is a wholly different destination, but Albert Adrià’s work at Pakta is making it possible for a whole new set of visitors to experience some of the best of Nikkei, Peru’s famous Japanese-fusion cuisine. Continue reading

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Los Andinos in Madrid – A Force of Nature

Rodolfo Guzmán, Virgilio Martinez, Carlos Pascal and Michelangelo Cestari at Kitchen Club in Madrid

Rodolfo Guzmán, Virgilio Martinez, Carlos Pascal and Michelangelo Cestari at Kitchen Club in Madrid

As the movie Ratatouille pointed out, the ring of the familiar and the allure of the distant or not so distant past, often has a lot of influence on what is considered to be “delicious.” Indeed, various iterations of “comfort food” have popped up everywhere, frequently to great popularity when done well and that is as it should be. Sometimes, as a result, it is easy to forget the other side of deliciousness – the adventurous side, that of the exotic and unfamiliar, the new and the intriguing. As much of the world has seemingly shrunk it has become increasingly difficult to be beguiled by the unusual. One part of the world that is gaining much deserved attention for its many incredible products not found anywhere else is the continent of South America. From Colombia to Brazil to Argentina and in between on the Atlantic side and Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador on the Pacific, there are sensational native products that are finally gaining attention outside of their respective tierras. A major reason for the increased attention is the creative culinary talent that is bringing out the very best of those products.This year’s Madrid Fusión featured the work of superstars and rising superstars of the Andean cooking of western South America including  Gaston Acurio (Astrid y Gaston, La Mar) and Virgilio Martinex (Central) of Peru, Rodolfo Guzman of Chile (Boragó) and Kamilla Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari of Bolivia (Gustu). Each of these individual chefs have focused on the wonderful native ingredients of their respective countries and have produced their own signature styles of delicious, creative cooking. My son and I were fortunate to have been invited to a special dinner on the final night of Madrid Fusión highlighting the cooking of these Andinos. Organized by the Spanish food writer, Ignacio Medina and hosted by Chilean native Carlos Pascal at his finely appointed cooking school and pop-up, Kitchen Club, the dinner brought together the talents of Cestari, Guzmán, Martinez and Pascal assisted by Martinez’s wife, Pia León and Guzman’s sous chef, Tommy de Olarte amongst others. Continue reading

Posted in Chile, Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Food Events, Madrid Fusión, Pastry, Peru, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Spain, Top Tastes, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

April Fools

It was personally gratifying to receive so many encouraging responses to yesterday’s April Fools post. What I find particularly interesting is that so many people actually thought that it could be real even though they knew full well that it was posted on the First of April. It is interesting because it wasn’t all that long ago, that a possible career change like this for a man my age would have been inconceivable or at the very least considered to be a form of insanity. The sad truth now, though, at least as far as Medicine is concerned, is that it isn’t inconceivable now and despite the prankish nature of the post and my current level of satisfaction with my main career, I can actually foresee the possibility of something like this – following a passion – happening with me in the not too distant future.

Medicine in the United States is in a very difficult situation with major flux. So far, few changes have actually improved the system with ever increasing dissatisfaction and ever decreasing reimbursement (not necessarily directly related) amongst physicians.

Few colleagues I know are actually encouraging their children to follow in their footsteps. I haven’t. Money aside, so many of the aspects that made Medicine such a great career choice have disappeared into the past or are rapidly doing so. There is too much paper or data pushing, not enough meaningful patient contact and way too much bureaucracy. The entire industry is becoming more and more adversarial.The health insurance industry is a nightmare on both member and provider sides, doctors are pitted against fellow doctors, against hospitals and even against patients and I have no faith that the government will actually improve things. The government is a big reason behind the growing adversarial nature of the industry, but there is plenty of blame to go around, including myself and my fellow physicians.

The idea of increased coverage of the population is a worthy one, but the actual reality is that more people who have had coverage are finding themselves with less and less thanks to the rise of high deductible plans. On top of that, the cost of a Medical Education, like higher education as a whole, only worse, has grown completely out of hand. It is not a good time to become a physician. I am entering the latter part of my career, hoping to continue through to a typical retirement. Whether that happens remains to be seen. It is nice to know, however, that my prank, as outlandish as it may have seemed to me, may not ultimately be so foolish.

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My Big News – A Major Life Change!

To those of you who know me, this may not be a huge surprise. To others, well, what can I say? Perhaps not so apparent here on the blog, but if you also happen to follow my Instagram feed,  you may be aware of how much I enjoy making and yes, occasionally even drinking cocktails. My career in Medicine is making cocktails of a different sort, though ultimately with less pleasure for those partaking of them. That is to be expected I suppose, since those people are actually undergoing surgery.

I’m not getting any younger and I feel that one must do what one must do. As a result, I will be leaving the practice of Medicine to open a new cocktail bar. I’m working on a space and a name as well as talking to various individuals who may be involved. Further news will be forthcoming. I hope that you can share my excitement!

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A Conversation With Chef Philip Tessier, USA’s Candidate for Bocuse D’Or 2015

I didn’t know much about Chef Philip Tessier before he was selected to be the  American Candidate for the Bocuse D’Or in Lyon France in January 2015, but I did get to know him a bit at the Benefit dinner held for the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation at The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Huron, Ohio earlier this month. I learned that this Executive Sous Chef at The French Laundry is very personable, focused, driven, talented and is uniquely situated to make a superb candidate. He is also not on any social networking sites. Here is a conversation that we had on the selection process, who he is and how he and his coaches plan to approach the competition.

A Conversation With Chef Philip Tessier from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

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Bocuse d’Or USA at The Culinary Vegetable Institute – In Good Hands

BU4A1075Competitiveness is a basic human trait that has been around for as long as history has been recorded and likely well before that too. At its basest level, competition can bring out the worst in human nature, but at its most elevated levels, it can elicit marvelous achievements and be just plain fun. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that something as inherently human as cooking should become subject to competition. In fact, cooking (and eating) competitions have become standard television fare, some of it base and some interesting and worthwhile. No cooking competition that I’m aware of, however, approaches the Bocuse d’Or, which takes place biannually in Lyon France, in grandeur, skill, pressure, prestige and excitement. It has become an international competition that is to cooking what the Olympics are to athletics. Countries around the world and especially in Europe take this competition very seriously. It has only been within the past ten years, however, that the United States has begun in earnest to harness and apply the resources necessary to compete at this level. The closest this country has been to a Top three finish and a place on the podium has been 6th place. With people like Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse, the son of Paul Bocuse himself, behind the American efforts, it has become a matter of culinary pride and respect for the United States to find a place at the podium. We have come a long way with very respectable efforts, but the easy fruit has been reached. To take that last large leap to get to the top requires a lot more work and the need for ever-increasing resources. (See here for a compilation of my reports on previous Bocuse d’Or competitions in the US and in Lyon) Continue reading

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