A Taste of Northern Spain – Part 3: Basque Bravos – Bilbao to Axpe

20151105untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A5943055When it comes to food – culture, production and crafting – is there a better place on Earth than the Basque Country of northern Spain? Blessed with a bounty from both land and sea and the know-how to use it all, Euskadi or Spain’s Pais Vasco is a culinary wonderland. The problem, if it can be considered as such, is that there are simply way too many choices. The breadth and depth of quality is so much that having to choose amongst the myriad of possibilities is daunting. The best part, though, is that it is very difficult to make a poor choice. Thus, Gerry Dawes and I had to make a few tough decisions when we planned the itinerary for just a few short days in the Basque Country. It turned out that some of our choices were guided by timing and made for us. It was timing that kept us away from places like Azurmundi and Elkano, the former because its opening hours did not work with our schedule and the latter because they were closed for vacation while we were in the area. When it came to choosing a Michelin Three Star restaurant in San Sebastian, we selected one of the two I had not previously been to. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for more. Continue reading


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StarChefs ICC 2015 Day Three Photo Highlights

StarChefs ICC 2015 Day 3


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A Taste of Northern Spain – Part 2: Asturias – Queso, Sidra & Much More

The Roman Bridge of Cangas de Onis in Asturias

Returning to Galicia was one of the main reasons Gerry Dawes and I put this trip together, but the opportunity to explore more of northern Spain, some for my first time, put it over the top for me personally. The region of Asturias, known for its mountains, beef, beans, sidras (ciders) and quesos (cheeses) amongst other things, was one of those places. Continue reading


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StarChefs ICC 2015 Day Two Photo Highlights

StarChefs ICC 2015 Day 2


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A Taste of Northern Spain – Part 1: Galicia

20151029untitled-iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f-2.2IMG_0700001Flying to Spain overnight is too short to get a good night’s sleep, but that was not enough to keep myself and everyone else on our tour of northern Spain from hitting the ground running. This was my first trip as a tour leader and I was excited to meet up with those trusting my choices. Perhaps not unexpected, but gratifying, the majority of our travelers[i] were personal friends known to me either actually or virtually for years. I was excited to be able to show them a wonderful part of a country that has come to be my favorite travel destination over the years. My co-leader of the trip and the man who could make it all happen like no other was my good friend, Gerry Dawes, aka “Mr. Spain,” who has spent decades learning the nuances of this beautiful and delicious country. Gerry is a writer, photographer and Spanish wine importer with vast experience taking people to visit his second home country. It was during our personal trip across Spain last winter that we felt the need to spend a bit more time in certain places and that it would be fun to share it with a small group. I have come, throughout my lifetime so far, to learn more about Spain and its cuisine than probably all but a few Americans. For Gerry, that statement can be extended to all but a few Spaniards. Continue reading


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Roots Action 2015 – Fermentation in Action

20150921untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A9712228

Presenters: Kevin Farley, co-owner of the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA and Chef Edward Lee, chef/owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY and author of Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen.

The following is an addendum to my reportage and reflections on the Roots 2015 Conference held at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio in September. My assignment in this post is Fermentation in Action, one of a dozen panel discussions presented at the conference, which, as with each of the presentations, could have been a conference unto itself. Like each of the topics presented, I came away with a better understanding of a timely subject, along with a personal goal to further explore and research the world of fermentation. When one initially thinks of fermentation, visions of jars, crocks, and vats filled with floating objects reminiscent of a science experiment or a laboratory in a science fiction movie come to mind. Although I am not a neophyte to fermentation, having experience with canning and preserving, bread and cheese making, I am now encouraged to do more fermenting for its health benefits, as well as for its ability to add flavor, diversity and complexity to foods. As a culinary instructor I am very excited to disseminate what I’ve learned to the countless students that I instruct every day. The best way to learn something is to teach it. And it’s always good to pay it forward. Continue reading


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StarChefs 2015 Day One Photo Highlights

StarChefs ICC 2015

Click the photo to get to the Flick’r Photoset.


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StarChefs ICC: The First Nine Years in Photos

This year marks the tenth StarChefs International Chefs Congress. Opening tomorrow at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. the event continues to be an important, engaging and fun exploration of the world of contemporary cuisine and this year’s edition does not appear to be an exception to that. Many a culinary star has graced the StarChef stages, large and small over the years. I’m proud to be able to claim that I am the only person who has photographed in depth each and every ICC to date. Click on the photo below to take you to my Flick’r photoset with highlights from the first nine years. If you wish to view it as a slide show, find and click the toggle slide show button in the upper right corner of the album. If you have been to or presented at the Congresses, you very well may find yourself amongst the photos.

Starchefs ICC Highlights Over the Years


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Spain at StarChefs ICC 2015

Yours truly with Spanish legends Paco Torreblanca and Juan Mari Arzak in 2009

Yours truly with Spanish legends Paco Torreblanca and Juan Mari Arzak in 2009

With a trip to northern Spain in the offing immediately following the upcoming 10th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress, my appetite will be stimulated by the programming just as it has so many times before. Continue reading


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Roots Action 2015 – Connections Between Seaweed and Health

Prannie Rhatigan, M.D.

Prannie Rhatigan, M.D.

From Ocean to Plate: Seaweed’s Potential to Change the World

Author of Irish Seaweed Kitchen, the ultimate bible for cooking with sea vegetables, Dr. Prannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor with a lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables. Hailed as “Ireland’s leading seaweed expert” in Food and Wine in June 2012, she has represented Ireland’s finest food abroad on many occasions and has given workshops and lectures on sea vegetables and cooking, facilitated workshops on seaweed cooking with seaweed researchers in the USA, and has shared her knowledge through a seaweed cookery demo at the Nordic Food Lab in Denmark when it was the research arm of Noma (awarded Best Restaurant in the World on three occasions). Continue reading


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