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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The Chef’s Garden – Eden Exists in Ohio

BU4A1055Ohio is not the first place that would have come to my mind when thinking about sourcing a wide variety of top quality vegetables, herbs and flowers, but it is the home of what may very well be the finest grower and purveyor of such products in the country. The Chef’s Garden, run by the Jones Family in Huron, Ohio, on the banks of Lake Erie, not far from Cleveland, is an incredible story of a phoenix of a farm that rose from the ashes of the notorious farm credit crunch of the late 70’s and early 80’s to reinvent itself to provide a service to an industry that was just starting to come into its own in this country in the early 80’s. Continue reading


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Kin Shop – Tasty NYC Thai From a Top Chef Winner

BU4A2225Kin Shop has been open for some time now, but until recently, I had never made it there despite hearing good things and a desire to go. In fact, it has been open long enough now, that one doesn’t hear much about it at all, especially in light of some more recent Thai accented openings. That’s a pity, because it’s a nice place with good food in an excellent, accessible location. Continue reading


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Ducks Eatery – Simply Fun and Flavorful

Chef Will Horowitz

Chef Will Horowitz

It’s dark, it’s cramped and it’s loud. These are all traits in restaurants that tend to turn me off, but somehow, at Chef Will Horowitz’ Ducks Eatery on E. 12th Street in Manhattan, they were endearing. Perhaps, it is because Will himself is such an enthusiastic and likable fellow or perhaps it is because his food is just plain good and fun. Both of those are true, but I think the main reason it works at Ducks Eatery, is because the ambiance is not out of character with the food. Horowitz is not trying to be artistic. He is simply trying to put out food that is delicious and a good value. He does just that. This is not to say that his plates lack finesse or look ugly. They don’t. They just don’t come from the school of delicate manipulation. I love beautifully prepared dishes and believe that when much effort is taken in a dish’s presentation, it should be able to actually be seen to be able to appreciate it. The food at Ducks is hearty and not too fussy. The visual aspect is not as important here and so lighting is not as critical. As for the rest of it, it is simply a function of how popular and fun the place is. It’s small, good and relatively inexpensive, so it is bound to be loud and crowded. Under the circumstances, it works quite well. Continue reading


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elBulli 2005-2011: A Legacy of Innovation – A Video From Phaidon Press


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A Few Bites at The Boqueria in Barcelona

The ever-effervescent Juanito Bayen of Bar Pinotxo

The ever-effervescent Juanito Bayen of Bar Pinotxo

It may very well be the most famous food market in the world today. It is large, vibrant and contains an incredible selection of both fresh and cooked foods, ranging from immaculate fresh seafood to a surfeit of meat and poultry to an amazing array of mushrooms to a kaleidoscope of vegetables, fruits, nuts and candies and more. What really sets Barcelona’s La Boqueria (aka Mercat de St Josep) apart, though, aside from its premiere tourist-friendly location just off Las Ramblas, is the quality of its small kiosk restaurants, which provides some of the best breakfast and lunch bites in the city. While my son, L.J. and I were in Barcelona to experience the restaurants of Albert Adriá, we met some friends from home, who were visiting the city and took them on a tour of this famous market. Continue reading


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Around the World in 41 Courses – The 41º Experience

BU4A9621The full elBulli experience will never be replicated. While the food was of paramount importance, the magical setting of Cala Montjoi, the paradoxically traditional decor of the restaurant space and the creative ferment of the kitchen all combined as major contributors to the full experience. Of all those factors the easiest to take away and replicate to varying degrees are the quality of the food and the creative aspects of the endeavor. Given the importance of his position as part of the creative team of elBulli, it should be no surprise that Albert Adriá has succeeded in doing just that. He has taken the creative magic of elBulli and transplanted it to Barcelona. While each of his four current restaurants (as well as the likelihood of those still on the way) carries the spirit of elBulli, none project more of that than at the 41º Experience. This small restaurant, which serves only 16 guests per evening a total of 41 courses each and is attached to the larger Tickets, originally opened as a cocktail bar and after 11:30PM reverts back to that format. Its cocktail bar origins carry over as a number of the courses come paired with specific cocktails. 41º Experience channels its progenitor (elBulli), while also being something new and fresh. It is indeed its own experience and it is worthy of the Adriá name associated with it. Continue reading


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Bodega 1900 – Beguiling In Barcelona

BU4A9557It’s tiny and it’s mostly (but not totally) classic. Bodega 1900 is the most recent opening in Albert Adria’s growing empire of restaurants located around the Avinguda del Paral-lel between the Ciutat Vella and Montjuich. Situated within blocks of Tickets/41º, Pakta and the soon to open Yauarcan, the tiny Vermuteria is an homage to traditional Catalan and Spanish culture. The restaurant is named Bodega 1900 because it sits in a building built in that year and the food, drink and ambiance aims to reproduce or at least convey a sense of that era. Perhaps because of its traditional roots and its relatively unassuming presence, it might be considered to be the least interesting of all of Albert’s restaurant creations. To consider it as such or anything less than a truly outstanding restaurant regardless of its style, would be a very big mistake. The truth is, Bodega 1900 is pure, delicious and totally beguiling with its very nature the root of its magic. Continue reading


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The Astonishing World of Albert Adriá

Albert Adria at Pakta

Albert Adria at Pakta

Albert Adriá is not exactly an unknown. The brother of Ferran Adriá and the longtime pastry chef at elBulli, the legendary restaurant that set the modern culinary world on its ear, Albert has received much praise over the years and is widely considered to have been one of the, if not the, major creative forces behind elBulli. He stepped away from that restaurant in 2009 and opened a tapas bar in Barcelona called Inopia. elBulli closed in the summer of 2011. Prior to that closure, Albert had sold Inopia and opened a new tapas bar in Barcelona, Tickets, along with a cocktail bar, 41º. Tickets preserved much of the spirit of elBulli as well as the creativity, however, it changed the vibe to a circus-like setting. Indeed the food was the culinary equivalent to the Cirque du Soleil. 41º eventually morphed from a cocktail bar into an intimate, even more elBulli-like 41 course tasting menu of diverse small plates now officially called 41º Experience . Continue reading


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The Art of The Iberian Pig – A Week in The Heart of Spanish Pork Country – Part 5 – Los Pedroches

The Iberian pig dominates, but they are not the only delicious animals raised on the dehesa.

The Iberian pig dominates, but they are not the only delicious animals raised on the dehesa.

We had one more day of pig ahead of us, but we had to get up and out early to do it. We left Sanlucar after breakfast driving east into a bright sun. We made our way up past Sevilla, then through Córdoba and into the hills and dehesa of Los Pedroches, a D.O. in northern Andalucia. It is a small D.O., but there is a lot of land devoted to the dehesa and a high concentration of pure Iberian pigs. Continue reading


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