My Photos From The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 Awards in NYC

The World's Fifty Best Awards 2016 - NYC

I had the great good fortune to experience the World’s 5o Best Awards in New York City the other night. Of course, these awards have become rather controversial as anything as subjective as a “Best” list is going to be. Are these rankings gospel? Of course not! They are, however, in my opinion, an interesting and reasonably approached idea of the current state of fine dining is around the globe. It is as close an approximation of the hierarchy of that state as there is, imperfect though it may be. From my point of view, the evening was a lot more fun in person, than my previous experience following over a live stream. As for the presumed biases in the awards, I believe that is more a reflexion of the current state of the industry than it is true bias. Those deficiencies need to be addressed by encouraging and supporting talented people, women and men, everywhere around the globe, while expanding the palates of the entire dining public and removing all barriers.

You can find the actual list here. Personally, I was happy with the Top 5 Rankings and was ecstatic for Massimo Bottura, his wife, Lara, and the entire team of Osteria Francescana for the first place ranking. The Roca brothers are just pure class and their restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, at this point remains my top meal of the year so far. As for Eleven Madison Park, the place is a great restaurant made even more special to me on a personal level. I have yet to eat at Central, though I have eaten the food of Virgilio Martinez and Pia León elsewhere and found it to be extremely compelling. It has been a long time since noma, the most influential restaurant in the world since elBulli has been ranked as low as 5. I have no doubt that they will continue to be as inspired, influential and wonderful as ever as they prepare to move to a new location at the end of the year. I was also thrilled to see Bitor Arguinzoniz and his brilliant Asador Etxebarri rise to the 10th spot.

The after party at an exuberant Eleven Madison Park with music by Questlove, a whole roasted Duroc pig from Mike and Amy Mills of 17th Street Bar & Grill, and food and beverage service handled by The NoMad, was as wonderful a party as I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Photos from there, however, were few!

Click here for the full Flick’r Photoset!

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The Big Apple Barbecue 2016 – Hog Wild!

I once again returned to one of my favorite annual events – the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in and around Madison Square Park in NYC. I particularly enjoyed this one seeing old friends, making new ones and, of course eating great barbecue from around the country! This one was particularly special given that with a transition of organizers (it reverted back to the Park Conservancy) it almost didn’t happen. Thanks to the great work of the event’s original co-founder, Kenny Callahan and others, the show managed to go on and did so stupendously with fabulous food, delightful drink, wonderful weather and copious camaraderie. Below are Flick’r albums of my photo highlights from this wild weekend. Please click on the photos or the links to go to the full albums on Flick’r.

Day One – June 11, 2016

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2016 Day One

Day Two – June 12, 2016

Big apple Barbecue 2016 Day 2

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Eleven Madison Park Made It Nice!

IMG_1394Disclaimer alert: My family and I are certainly known to the restaurant and I received a significant discount as well as no corkage fees for bringing a couple of special bottles of wine. My son, L.J., works at Eleven Madison Park in the front of the house, and we had arranged everything well in advance. While our experience was certainly enhanced by the relationship, it is no accident that EMP recently was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Service in the nation for the second time and it is currently ranked as the top restaurant in the United States and No. 5 in the world on the prestigious World’s Fifty Best Restaurants list. Whether it maintains that spot or rises even further will be known next week.  For my wife and I and our family, it proved to be the perfect place to celebrate a very special family occasion – our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Continue reading

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Making Way For Momofuku Ko

Momofuku Ko 8 Extra Pl, New York, NY 10003 (212) 203-8095

Momofuku Ko
8 Extra Pl, New York, NY 10003
(212) 203-8095

In its first iteration, despite a reputation for great food, I could never be bothered to go to the purportedly cramped, camera-phobic and aloof Momofuku Ko, but then it moved and it changed. It was no longer cramped, cameras were welcome, the staff was reportedly friendly and most importantly, the food was supposed to be as wonderful as ever. I finally went, and here, in mid-2016, is my long overdue report on one of my best meals of 2015, albeit late 2015. Continue reading

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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

Posted in Bistronomic, Cheese, Cocktails & Libations, Fine Dining, Florida, Food and Drink, Hotels, Places, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Books, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Food and Drink, Food Lit, Health, Madrid Fusión, New York City, Restaurants, Science, Slow Food, Southern Food & Cooking, Spain, Starchefs, The Heartland, The Southern USA, Upstate NY | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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