Tag Archive | "food"

Travels with Larry Olmsted: 10 Great American Barbecue Joints

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Hot Rod's Real Pit BBQ, Wharton, NJ

Hot Rod’s Real Pit BBQ, Wharton, NJ

By Larry Olmsted

America’s love affair with barbecue has never burned hotter than right now – and the opening of new specialty barbecue restaurants where you’d least expect them is fanning the fire.

Not too many years ago if you wanted truly great barbecue, it usually meant traveling to one of the hotspots of the cuisine, Kansas City, Texas, the South, or California’s Santa Maria Valley, home to its own regional spin on ‘cue. If you lived in places like New Jersey or Boston or the affluent ski town paradise of Telluride, Colorado, you were simply out of luck.

All that has changed, and today you can get world class barbecue in most parts of the country, from coast to coast, as the fervor of this delicious cuisine has spread like gospel, prompting everyone from celebrity chefs to self-taught smokers to master the arcane art and bring honest to goodness barbecue closer to home.

Here’s my list of the 10 best barbecue joints across the US …


DSC_0067-150x150    Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com

SLIDESHOW Paso Robles: California Wine Country’s Next Big Thing

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Paso Robles: Photos by Karen Glenn, Words by Tom Passavant
Paso Robles: Photos by Karen Glenn, Words by Tom Passavant

Paso Robles is California’s third largest wine-growing region, where deals are still struck with handshakes, and where winemakers gather to share gossip and loan equipment to the guy whose tractor broke down. Visitors who drop by a tasting room are likely to run into the winemaker, the owner, and probably their dog.

Paso Robles now includes over 200 wineries. At Halter Ranch, Winegrower Mitch Wyss (opening photo) oversees 20 grape varietals, most bound for the ultramodern winery tucked into a hillside.

Paso’s rolling hills used to be under the sea (the ocean’s just a few miles west), and some vineyards are famous for soils composed of marine fossils. Some west side Paso vineyards even have fossilized whale bones.

The area is famous for Rhone varietals like syrah and grenache, as well as cabernet, made by such illustrious labels as Saxum, Tablas Creek and Justin. That said, Paso’s “heritage grape” is zinfandel, like these at Steinbeck Vineyards.

Despite its recent boom in winegrowing, Paso Robles is still firmly devoted to traditional farming and ranching. Everything from almonds and figs to strawberries and tomatoes flourishes here. This tomato salad features local goat cheese and mint

Paso’s flourishing new food culture extends to goats and goat cheese. A morning or afternoon at Happy Acres, where you can milk the goats and blend your own fresh goat cheese, is a hit with kids—and grownups, too.

Happy Acres counts some 200 goats in its flock, and they all seem to love nibbling on peanuts. Or possibly your shoelaces. Their milk, by the way, is turned into some spectacular ice cream, available at the dairy.

Where grapes grow well, can olive trees be far behind? Pasolivo’s orchards, set in a beautiful shady dell among the twisty roads of west side Paso, yield excellent oil.

Going to the source is always best. Visitors to Pasolivo can watch the olives being crushed in the fall, and then sample some oils blended with other local products.

Some people (including famous chefs) think that Bill and Barbara Spence grow the best tomatoes in California at Windrose Farm. We won’t argue, but don’t miss their apples and spectacular semi-dried smoked tomatoes, either.

California’s Central Coast is not all rustic farms. Hearst Castle is just 45 minutes from Paso Robles. Try to sign up for an evening tour if possible, or go late in the afternoon when the fog starts swirling around the Moorish towers.

William Randolph Hearst’s modest swimming pool is just like the one you inflate for your kids in the back yard. Too bad no one is allowed to jump in anymore, though it certainly is tempting after a glass or two of pinot noir.

Sunset Magazine’s Western Wine Awards were held on the pier at Pismo Beach, and showcased wines from all over the West Coast. This dish of local lamb on a risotto cake helped all those cabs and syrahs slide down easily.

The main event was Sunset’s Savor the Central Coast, a food and wine extravaganza that should be on every hungry (and thirsty) traveler’s fall schedule. Not only can you sample dozens of wines, you can also buy them on the spot

Savor the Central Coast differs from other top festivals in its emphasis on food production, with a two-acre kitchen garden, gardening demonstrations and a produce showcase selling local vegetables.

Savor the Central Coast is held at the historic Rancho Santa Margarita, which dates to 1787, when its produce helped feed the nearby Spanish mission. This beautifully restored barn is used for cooking demos at the festival.


Cat Cora was one of the high-profile chefs offering cooking demos at the festival. Local beef, oysters, cheese, and even beers made guest appearances in the dishes.

Paso’s dining scene naturally focuses on beef, but there’s lots more, with restaurants like The Artisan and Villa Creek joining Thomas Hill Organics and the historic dining room at the Paso Robles Inn.

The Paso Glow dinner, held outdoors on the town’s shady central square, evokes a kinder, gentler era. Winemakers at each table—we struck gold with Adelaida Cellars’ Terry Culton– offered generous pours of their best bottles.

How to enjoy both the stunning scenery and the abundant wines in the hills around Paso Robles? Book a tour with The Wine Wrangler, Coy Barnes. The Wine Wrangler

Anita Stewart, Founder of Food Day Canada

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Dining at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, British Columbia


Interview By Everett Potter

On July 30, 2011, chefs, farmers and backyard barbecue fans will celebrate Canada’s bounty by cooking, eating and raising a glass at Food Day Canada. This is a nationwide event that was created by culinary activist, educator, and writer Anita Stewart. For more than 25 years, Stewart has been a tireless speaker and advocate for Canadian farmers, fishermen, chefs and restaurants. In her 14 books, she’s tapped into the culinary history of this vast country, from the French cuisine in rural Quebec and the food of First Nations’ communities to chic restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto. Long before the term “locavore” was in vogue, Stewart was all about local, regional and seasonal. As Food Day Canada approaches, she took a few minutes to talk about the big day and her work.

Anita Stewart


Everett Potter: Anita, what will happen on Food Day Canada ?

Anita Stewart: It’s the largest locavore celebration in Canadian history.  It’s a big, continent-wide party that is driven by the participation of an invited community of great chefs.  Many of them are the innovators and opinion leaders, the food voices that make a difference. In most cities I have the A list restaurants. Others are not famous nor renowned but are deeply committed to their regional community of producers.  On Saturday, July 30th, they virtually join hands, cook Canadian, and tell the world. The menus are posted at www.fooddaycanada.ca .

There’s also a public component. After all, public involvement is where it began with the World’s Longest Barbecue, which I organized in 2003. Over the years, the menus have been posted from the high Arctic to B.C. Gulf Islands to rural Atlantic Canada.  You know I like to say that there’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day, they are all about the eaters. Food Day Canada is about the producers and the ingredients and the chefs, a real time for them to strut their stuff.



EP: Give us an idea of the kinds of events that will occur on Food Day Canada.

AS: Events are just now being developed but I do know for sure that the chefs of St John’s Newfoundland will greet the sunrise on Signal Hill at 5:37 a.m. Signal Hill is one of Canada’s National Historic Sites, the reception point of the first transatlantic wireless signal by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901. So the chefs, lead by Roary MacPherson a born and bred islander, will kicking off Food Day Canada before  heading back to the Sheraton St. John’s to serve forth a typical Newfoundland breakfast complete with salt fish and baked beans and scrunchions.They are donating most of the $10 cost to the St. John’s food bank. Then Food Day Canada follows the sun with restaurant events all across the nation and finally ending at The Wickaninnish Inn with a Dungeness crab boil on Chesterman Beach in Tofino.  (FYI…The Wick, has just been named as the #1 Top Resort in Canada, #1 overall top Accommodation property in Canada and the Inn’s Ancient Cedars Spa was also voted the#1 Best Hotel Spa in Canada and #3 Best Hotel Spa in the USA and Canada in the  2011 Travel + Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Awards.) There will be food events at a dozen or so of our National Historic Sites as well, such as Fort Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.


Chef Norman Laprise and business partner Christine Lamarche of Montreal's Toque

EP: How many restaurants are participating and what are they doing for Food Day Canada?

AS: About 290 and I am still adding them so we are looking at 300.  Even though I have been traveling and eating my way around Canada for three decades, a lot has changed.  We have an incredibly dynamic food community. I have asked them to do what they”re most comfortable with, from a small prix fixe to a longer menu in honor of Food Day Canada. Some are student run, like at Benchmark at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute in Niagara, where the food is paired with the medal winning wines, which are also produced by students. There will be an amazing picnic on the rocky headlands of Ferryland lighthouse which, by the way, is the most easterly point where there’s foodservice in Canada.


Chef Nick Nutting of the Wickaninnish Inn, British Columbia

EP: How aware are Canadians — and Americans, for that matter — of Canada’s bounty and abundance?

For both Canada and the U.S., food is so elemental that’s it’s been traditionally taken for granted.  However, the good news is that times are changing and we are wisely exploring our own food sheds. We wonder, we question. Suffice it to say that we’re getting there.    But we have a long, long way to go.  And this is the journey that I want to encourage and perhaps, for a while yet, lead.


Visit  Food Day Canada


Letter from Hawaii: Another (Delicious) Side of Maui

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Darren Strand with a Maui Gold pineapple

Story by Tom Passavant

All photos by Karen Glenn


What would it take to tear you away from Maui’s gorgeous beaches? If you love good food, especially of the local and sustainable variety, I can now suggest several dozen reasons to put down the tanning lotion and pick up a knife and fork.

Maui is home to a booming food scene centered on the truly vast array of things that can be grown, caught, raised, and created on its 729 square miles—the second largest of the Hawaiian islands. In just six days recently, we tasted everything from the expected pineapples and macadamia nuts to local lamb, goat cheese, strawberries, and honey. We had out-of-season mangoes that were heartbreakingly luscious. And unexpected treats like egg fruit, chocolate sapotes, Surinam cherries, and Maui coffee. There was even a local organic vodka called Ocean, made with sugar cane and distilled sea water. When we return next year we might even get to sample Maui-produced blueberries and—believe it—olive oil.

To understand all this, a little geography lesson is in order. Maui is dominated by 10,023-foot Haleakala, a dormant volcano. Occasionally there is snow on top. Want to grow cool-weather crops like grapes? Just head up the fertile slopes. Need more rain for your bananas? Go east, towards the rainy windward coast. Now add a growing number of chefs dedicated to doing business with local farmers and fishermen, a vibrant Slow Food chapter putting on regular tastings and tours, and you’ve got one tasty food scene.

Local ingredients at the Flatbread Company


We started on the north shore, a few miles east of the airport, in the funky crossroads village of Paia. Once a town built on sugar cane, it’s now a seriously laid-back refuge for surfers and stoners. (I can’t vouch for the pakalolo, but the waves here are awesome, dude.) We could easily have spent a relaxing week here, inspecting the growing number of excellent art galleries and restaurants. Flatbread Company (808/579-8989), which pulls beautifully-charred pizzas out of its wood-burning oven, won a Friend of Agriculture award for using local ingredients. They even make their own chocolate sauce from Maui cacao. Across the street is the even more causal Paia Fish Market (808/579-8030), where the ultra-fresh catches of the day—often snapper, wahoo, and tuna—are charbroiled and served up as soft tacos or burgers. The Paia Inn (808/579-6000), set smack in the center of town, looks like a place cobbled together by footloose hippies, but has stylish suites and highly professional service. “When the owners built this place, they put in double-glazed windows and poured sound insulation between all the walls,” says Carly, one of the charming hosts. Paia Inn also has some freestanding bungalows running down to the beach.

After a peaceful night, we headed upcountry in search of the obvious: pineapple. A century ago, Maui was practically synonymous with pineapple. Today, smaller producers determined to offer a quality product can still make their mark. At Hali’imaile Pineapple Company, president Darren Strand told us that 70% of their sales are within the state of Hawaii. That said, if you send in an order from anywhere in the country, Darren or one of the other owners will go out in the field and pick an extra sweet, low-acid Maui Gold pineapple for you, then ship it via FedEx.

Surinam cherries


A few miles east is Makawao, an old ranching town that’s recently become a charming blend of upcountry and upscale. There are some fine women’s clothing boutiques and, every Thursday morning, a farmer’s market in a vacant lot on Baldwin Avenue. Maybe a dozen vendors show up with coconuts, papayas, bananas and—new to us–Surinam cherries. Our small bag of the tart, peppery fruits came from a Summer of Love veteran who grew them in her front yard. Makawao also boasts one of the best restaurants on the island. The two-year-old Market Fresh Bistro (808/572-4877), with a chef from New York’s Union Square Café, has made a big impression on Maui’s local food scene. Dinner one night included roasted leg of lamb from the slopes of Haleakala and fresh swordfish over a bed of spring onion risotto. Do not miss this place.

The next morning we left the Paia Inn at 7 a.m. for the drive to Hana. The Hana Highway is every bit as beautiful as advertised, 36 coastline-hugging miles with more twists than a Dan Brown novel. Hana itself is a zero-stoplight blip, but we were headed another five miles down the even-hairier road to what promised to be tropical fruit heaven.

Lily Boerner of Ono Farms


Lilly and Charles Boerner have owned Ono Organic Farms ( 808/248-7779) for 35 years. Every weekday at 1:30, by reservation only, Lilly or her daughter Autumn conducts a tour and an extensive tasting of whatever is ripe on their 50 lush acres. Sitting on the covered porch of the charming wood home, my wife and I bit, sucked, slurped, and chewed our way through 15 different fruits as Lilly regaled us with facts about the farm and how each is grown: Apple bananas, far sweeter than the dull variety back home. Intense papayas. Eggfruit, a dead ringer for creamy yams. Custardy chocolate sapote. Soft white rambutan. Jackfruit, guava, mountain apple, cacao nibs, coffee beans, honey and jams. It’s the Garden of Eden, totally off the grid except for a phone line. Sign us up.

After the long drive back, we were happy to bed down at The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono (808/244-5897), a 13-room bed and breakfast that dates to 1924. The plantation-era main house has been tastefully updated, the beds draped with fine Hawaiian quilts. Owner Janice Fairbanks mingled with an eclectic array of guests during the justly-famous breakfasts. One morning over French toast we traded notes with Bonnie Friedman, who leads food tours to Maui restaurants and farms. She also offers personalized Maui restaurant guides called Cuisine Confidential, which I highly recommend ( 808/242-8383).

By now, Maui’s beaches were definitely calling us, so we pointed our rental car for the west side of the island. First stop: Yee’s Orchard in Kihei, to stock up on the most fragrant mangoes on the planet, then lunch at year-old Star Noodle in Lahaina (808/667-5400). Not for nothing has sleekly hip Star Noodle, set in an industrial park above town, been nominated for James Beard Awards this spring, for Best Chef and Best New Restaurant in the Pacific region. The array of share plates and noodle dishes included a sparkling salad made with local fiddle head ferns, old-fashioned “fried soup” with thick chow fun noodles, and the finest tofu dish we’ve ever tasted, broiled cubes with sautéed local mushrooms and red miso.

As for the sea and sand, we chose Kapalua resort, on the lush northwest side of the island, for its peaceful setting and what we’d been told was an array of excellent, local-centric restaurants. This sprawling resort, with two famous golf courses, centers on a Ritz-Carlton hotel (808/665-7231) that’s very un-Ritz like in both its laid-back demeanor and emphatic commitment to Hawaiian traditions and culture. “We try to balance culture, commerce, and trust,” said Clifford Nae’ole, the hotel’s Cultural Advisor. He leads free programs that offer insight into native Hawaiian traditions and beliefs, including a large burial site whose presence required the original hotel location to be moved. Added Nae’ole, “The most rewarding moments for me are when tourists ask questions.”

We didn’t have time to try all the Kapalua restaurants, but we couldn’t resist the Pineapple Grill (808/669-9600), which last year was named the best restaurant on Maui by Honolulu magazine. Highlights included a slab of supremely fresh ahi coated with pistachios and wasabi peas, served with sautéed mushrooms—an umami-rich combination perfect with a pinot noir from their deep wine list. Oh, and the most luscious pineapple upside down cake ever.

Peppers in the Chef's garden at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua


But the real eyebrow-raising meal came at the Ritz-Carlton itself. The Banyan Tree dining room had been under the command of chef de cuisine Jojo Vasquez for just a few weeks, but he’d already made his mark. Dishes such as his ahi kampachi ceviche with green mango and coconut, and roasted hapu (a local sea bass) with island mushrooms and lemongrass foam showed both a delicate hand and a way with bold flavors. He’s planted a big new garden on the property, growing eggplants, peppers and lots more. “We’re about to convert a couple of the tennis courts to aquaculture, and raise fish,” he told us. Another net gain for food lovers.

For more information, consult the excellent website gohawaii.com/maui. Maui Revealed, by Andrew Doughty, is a very insightful guidebook that’s frequently updated at wizardpub.com.


Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.


Karen Glenn is a freelance writer, poet, and photographer based in Carbondale, Colorado. Her writing and photography have appeared in Diversion, McCall’s, Edible Aspen, Seventeen, Savvy, Good Food, Self, Aspen Magazine, The New York Times, Mademoiselle, and many other places. Her poem Nightshift was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.



Letter from Paris: A New Edition of “Hungry for Paris”

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Our Letter from Paris columnist, Alexander Lobrano, is the author of  Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants It’s just been released in a new, updated edtion by Random House. Read the full story

Letter from Paris: The Last Good Brasserie in Paris?

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By Alexander Lobrano

Obsessively interested in good food, I always have the makings of at least one or two good meals on hand at home so that as someone who travels often, I never end up being forced to call out for a mediocre pizza or Indian food of unknown quality at the last minute. Read the full story

Smart Deals: Montreal’s “For Foodies” Package

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THE DEAL: Tourisme Montreal’s “For Foodies” package with nightly rates starting at $115 USD

WHAT’S THE DEAL: One of my favorite cities for dining (check out the new Brasserie t!, the affordable new spot from Normand Laprise, chef of the acclaimed Toque) has a fall special in more than a dozen hotels. The $115 USD is the going rate at Absolument Montreal B&B, but even pricier beds are now on sale: The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth from $164 USD per night, the chic Hotel St-Paul  from $203 USD per night and the classic Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel from $212 USD per night.

DETAILS: Each hotel is also offering discount coupons at check-in (for complimentary treats at
popular Montr al eateries and savings on culinary classes) and free pubic transportation tickets. The offer is good through December 31, 2010.

INFO: Tourisme Montreal

Letter from Paris: Ralph Lauren in Paris, Cookshop in NYC

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Ralph Lauren Terrace

Ralph's, Paris.

by Alexander Lobrano

Ralph’s, Paris: An American in Paris

If I lunched there several times a few weeks ago, and generally found the food to be much better than expected (with the exception of the worst frites I've ever eaten in France), it took a trip to New York to really put Ralph's, the new restaurant in Ralph Lauren's new Saint-Germain-des-Pres boutique, into perspective. To wit, I think it's sort of too bad the powers that be didn't decide to do a modern American bistro in the idiom of the very pleasant Cookshop in New York City's Chelsea district instead of a pricey slice of up-market Betty Crocker vintage Americana.

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Fred Plotkin, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

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Fred Plotkin.

Fred Plotkin is a self-styled “pleasure activist.” But that playful term doesn’t begin to encapsulate his extraordinarily accomplished and diverse background. Fred is one of the world’s leading authorities on Italian food and cooking, the author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, which has just been released in its 5th edition. A Fulbright Scholar, he’s taught a course on Fellini at the New School. As a wine expert, he has led tastings and organized cellars for restaurants.

Fred also knows a staggering amount about opera –- he worked at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera and authored Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera. You may have heard him as a guest on the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon broadcasts, or caught him lecturing onboard a Crystal Cruises or a trip run by the Smithsonian Institution. The author of nine books and countless articles for such publications as Bon Appetit and The New York Times, Fred maintains a dizzying travel schedule but took a few moments to answer some questions about Italy, food and the pleasures of travel.

The 5th edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is just out. I’ve used it as my food bible when I’ve traveled in Italy. How did it come about?

Most of my books seem to be the result of people asking me for advice and information about the things I love –Italy, opera, food, wine, among them. I have traveled more widely in Italy than anyone I know, including Italians. I have always had an eye and nose for that which is local and typical rather than touristy. Italy has an unmatched food and wine culture and I see it as something that should be documented so that it is not corrupted. Thirty years of notes formed the basis of the first edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler back in 1996 and there have been updates in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010.



 How exhausting is it to update such a guide?

Well, you should know that I do not have a staff. Everything I have written about in this book I have seen, smelled, heard, touched and tasted myself. This is a very personal guidebook that reflects my taste and experience. I never say that something is “the best” without adding the words “I know.”

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Alexander Lobrano’s Letter from Paris

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L'Avant Comptoir. Photo by Alexander Lobrano.

We are thrilled to welcome Alexander Lobrano, Gourmet magazine's European correspondent from 1999 until its recent closing, as a regular contributor. Lobrano has written for almost every major food and travel magazine since he became an American in Paris in 1986. He is the author of "Hungry for Paris" (Random House), his personal selection of the city's 102 best restaurants, which Alice Waters has called "a wonderful guide to eating in Paris." Lobrano’s Letter from Paris will run monthly in Everett Potter’s Travel Report. Visit his website, Hungry for Paris.

Jamin and L'Avant Comptoir

So "Jamin" is back, sort of. Or actually it's not. Instead, restaurateur Alain Pras has chosen to revive the name of the restaurant that propelled Joel Robuchon to international renown when he won his third Michelin star in 1984 and which went dormant when a short-lived Caribbean restaurant (La Table de Babette) occupied the space for a few years, but relaunch it in the ilk of the Guy Savoy bistros where he worked for many years (La Butte Chaillot, etc.).

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