Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Join the Food Gal in Yosemite for “Chefs’ Holidays”

Chef Ariane Duarte of "Top Chef'' fame talks with attendees at a previous Chefs' Holidays cooking demo. (Photo courtesy of the Ahwahnee)

Chef Ariane Duarte of “Top Chef” fame talks with attendees at a previous Chefs’ Holidays cooking demo. (Photo courtesy of the Ahwahnee)

 

 

If Santa didn’t leave you exactly what you desired this holiday season, here’s a chance to treat yourself to a real four-star gift.

Imagine spending a few days and nights in majestic, snow-capped Yosemite during the winter, all the while mingling with celeb chefs, and enjoying their cooking demos and gourmet gala dinners.

You can do exactly that at the annual Yosemite Chefs’ Holidays extravaganza that runs from Jan. 11 through Feb. 6.

There are eight sessions to choose from, each featuring three top toques from around the country strutting their stuff in cooking demos before preparing a multi-course dinner in the spectacular Ahwahnee dining room.

The Ahwahnee all decked out for Chefs Holidays. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

The Ahwahnee all decked out for Chefs Holidays. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Ahem, you might be partial to attending either the Feb. 1-4 Session 7 or the Feb. 4-6 Session 7 because I’ll be acting as the moderator at each. Hey, just sayin’.

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A Meal of A Lifetime: My Dinner at Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Laboratory

What would a Modernist Cuisine dinner be without a little liquid nitrogen action going on? Chef Naomi Pomeroy gets in on the fun.

What would a Modernist Cuisine dinner be without a little liquid nitrogen action going on? Chef Naomi Pomeroy gets in on the fun.

 

BELLVUE, WA — Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer turned maestro of modernist cuisine, has held less than a dozen invitation-only dinners at his Intellectual Ventures laboratory. The exclusive guests have included the likes of Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, David Chang and Jose Andres.

In June, I was lucky enough to join that illustrious list when I was invited to be part of a very special dinner. What made this dinner so epic was not only the fact that it was Myhrvold’s largest dinner party to date, but that all the guests were women.

The wizard-genius behind it all, Nathan Myhrvold, stops by each table to explain the dishes.

The wizard-genius behind it all, Nathan Myhrvold, stops by each table to explain the dishes.

The Modernist Cuisine team hard at work on the one-of-a-kind dinner.

The Modernist Cuisine team hard at work on the one-of-a-kind dinner.

Plating in action.

Plating in action.

A reminder that you are dining in an actual science laboratory.

A reminder that you are dining in an actual science laboratory.

Twenty-one female chefs and four female journalists sat down to a marathon 35-course dinner that lasted six hours. The guest list was as follows:

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The Man You Should Thank For Your Love of Sugar Snap Peas

Calvin Lamborn's over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

Calvin Lamborn’s over-sized pea 52s that are as sweet as candy.

 

TWIN FALLS, IDAHO — You may not be familiar with Calvin Lamborn’s name. But you know his delicious life’s work. He is the plant breeder responsible for creating the first commercially viable sugar snap pea in 1979.

It’s hard to imagine a time without those sweet, crunchy pea pods. But before Lamborn worked his magic, you couldn’t find sugar snap peas regularly at farmers markets or supermarkets. Oh, and those stringless sugar snap peas we all adore because they don’t have to be peeled? Yup, he created those, too.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

Calvin Lamborn and his wife, Bonnie, who had a sugar snap pea variety name for her.

At 80 years of age now, Lamborn is not thinking about slowing down anytime soon. And top chefs in New York are sure thankful for that. Lincoln Ristorante, Union Square Cafe, The Breslin, wd-50 and more clamor to use his handiwork in their dishes — over-sized pea 52s that taste as sweet as candy, snap peas the bold color of a red chile pepper, and frilly pea leaves the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

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St. Helena’s Press Welcomes A Most Appropriate New Chef

The very clever carrot "hot dog'' at Press in St. Helena.

The very clever carrot “hot dog” at Press in St. Helena.

 

Earlier this summer, Press in St. Helena welcomed a new executive chef — Trevor Kunk, who was the chef de cuisine at Blue Hill New York for seven years.

It’s a most apropos choice, given that Blue Hill is renowned for its almost painstaking use of locally grown ingredients, including those from its own farms, and the fact that Press is very much a root-to-shoot, nose-to-tail steakhouse with the bulk of its provisions coming from its 13-acre Rudd Farms and Chef’s Garden.

In Kunk’s hands, the food at Press embodies the garden even more so now, as evidenced by my recent dinner there when I was invited in to dine as a guest of the restaurant. My dinner was a week ago, prior to last Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Napa. Fortunately, no damage occurred at Press, which is operating as usual.

Press was founded by Wine Country mover-and-shaker Leslie Rudd, who also owns Rudd Oakville Estate and Dean & DeLuca. The graceful restaurant was designed by Howard Backen, who has been responsible for the look of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Archetype in St. Helena, Kokkari in San Francisco, and a slew of premiere wineries including Harlan Estate, Ram’s Gate, Dana Estates and Bond Estates.

You can't miss the sign on Highway 29.

You can’t miss the sign on Highway 29.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The beautiful, light-filled dining room.

The soaring barn-like restaurant fills with natural light, lending a casual but elegant ambiance. With an old-fashioned, hand-crank grape press as its logo, Press takes wine seriously. There are more than 1,500 Napa Valley selections, with a specialization in Cabernet Sauvignon, that you can thumb through on an electronic tablet. Or just put your hands in Sommelier Angela Stem’s hands. After all, with a surname like that, how can you go wrong?

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Hankering for Hawaii Part V: The Posh and The Pig

Broken surfboard art in the lobby of The Modern in Honolulu.

Broken surfboard art in the lobby of The Modern in Honolulu.

 

Morimoto Waikiki

OAHU, HAWAII — Most trips to Honolulu, I’ve stayed on Waikiki Beach. Close to the action, for sure. But touristy to the max.

For an alternative on this latest trip, the Hawaii Visitors Bureau offered to put me up a little farther out — but still within walking distance to that hotspot — in The Modern, which opened in 2011 on Ala Moana Boulevard not far from the mega shopping center there.

The Modern lives up to its name. Unlike so many other Hawaiian hotels done up in plenty of loud floral prints, this hotel is all soothing white and warm wood. It’s much more South Beach than Polynesia.

Behind the check–in desk, you’ll spy a catchy art piece of broken surfboards, many of them signed by the surfer sto whom the boards once belonged to.

The lobby also boasts a little subterfuge — a bookcase spanning one wall that pushes aside to reveal a secret space where guests can enjoy coffee in the morning or cocktails at night.

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