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Entries in Culinary event invitations & coverage (68)

Tuesday
Jan172017

A trip up, down, and back up the California coast

Prior to moving back to NYC to begin culinary school (February 2016), I wanted to leave California with a bang.  Mom and I decided to plan a girl's coastal road trip from Monterey to Pismo Beach, and back again.  Having completed my last day of work on January 15th, I had merely days to pack up my apartment and head south to San Diego, where I'd meet my folks.

On Tuesday, January 26th, Mom, Lucy (my pup) and I flew an Alaskan Airlines "puddle jumper" from San Diego to Monterey.  *Did you know? Alaskan/Horizon Airlines serves free regional beer and wine (from the Pacific Northwest) on some flights.  Once we arrived, we rented a car and drove to Carmel - a mere 10 minutes from the Monterey airport - and checked in to the Carmel Country Inn, a charming bed and breakfast where we would stay for the night.      

Mom and Lucy at the Carmel Country Inn

After unpacking a few essentials, we decided to walk to town and shop.  And, because Carmel is incredibly dog-friendly, Lucy was welcomed in to every store; not to mention restaurants with outdoor seating AND our hotel.

Among other baubles, Mom fell in love with this 5-carat sparkler.  Luckily, we were running late for our dinner reservation, so she couldn't pull the proverbial trigger...

Dinner at Il Tegamino (my favorite restaurant in Carmel):

Because of Carmel's proximity to the water, I ordered the fresh swordfish for my entree, while Mom went the "carb route" and chose the house-made lasagna.  

Dinner at Il Tegamino: Grilled swordfish  

Dinner at Il Tegamino: LasagnaAfter a fabulous meal, Mom and I walked back to our room and went to bed in anticipation of an early morning drive. 

We meandered our way from Carmel via the coast/Big Sur en route to Pismo Beach.  This incredibly scenic and breathtaking journey took approximately 3.5 hours (roughly 200 miles).  Upon arrival, we checked in to our hotel, the outstanding Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa, where our "room" featured a kitchen, dining area, living space, not one - but two - bedrooms, and a sizeable balcony overlooking the grounds and the marvelous Pacific.  Wow! 

Gorgeous Big Sur! 

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: The facade

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: What a view (from our balcony)!!!

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: Cheers!

The next morning, we woke up late and decided to get spa treatments.  After all, we weren't leaving Pismo Beach until the following day.  Post our rejuvenating hour plus-long massages, we spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling the beach walk, sipping cocktails and noshing on fresh seafood, and admiring the gorgeous views of the Pacific.  

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa: Enjoying the briny jewels of the Pacific!

Heading northbound up the coast, we drove to Cambria in anticipation of visiting the Hearst Castle.  (<--- If you click on the link, you will find a picture of the famous Neptune Pool with the following caption, "Visitors have a rare opportunity to see the white marble floor of the empty Neptune Pool while it undergoes restoration. The pool was initially drained because of leaks, but the action was also part of a larger water conservation effort at Hearst Castle during the current severe drought."  Sucks, right?  Right.  And that was the exact same dismal view that Mom and I saw.  Now I don't know about you, but isn't the only reason that people visit the damn Castle to see the Neptune Pool??)

Hearst Castle: The depressing, empty Neptune Pool 

Hearst Castle

So, while the outdoor pool was an atrocious disappointment, the indoor pool pretty much made up for our buzz kill...

Hearst Castle: Indoor pool 

With all of the land in which the Castle is comprised, there is a ranch and a winery bearing its name.  So, when our tour ended, Mom and I couldn't help but stop at the tasting room to sample some of Hearst's namesake wines.  We both fell in love with the 2014 Petite Sirah, and left with a few bottles to enjoy for the remainder of our trip!

After a short drive to Cambria (just 15 minutes from the Castle), Mom and I checked in to our home for the night, the quaint Blue Dolphin Inn.  

For dinner, we went to the Black Cat Bistro, where we enjoyed local wine from Paso Robles, handmade bread with rosemary butter, cheese-stuffed fried olives, and locally-caught seafood.

Black Cat Bistro: Handmade bread & rosemary butterBlack Cat Bistro: Cheese-stuffed fried olivesBlack Cat Bistro: Local fish

The next morning, we woke up early, grabbed coffee, and strolled along the vast beach path.  It was absolutely breathtaking!

Cambria: Mom standing on the beach path near a tree that had been hollowed for pedestriansCambria beach pathWe took to the road mid morning and headed back towards Carmel; only this time, via the highway, which made for a quicker journey (2.5 hours).  We arrived at our next "home" just in time for lunch, the grand Carmel Valley Ranch!  It was immediately clear why Conde Naste Traveler chose this as their #1 resort in Northern California!  

Famished from our journey, Mom, Lucy, and I were seated at a prime two-top at the resort's Valley Kitchen Restaurant overlooking the heated outdoor pool and sprawling grounds.  With bubbles in her hand and a glass of red in mine, Mom and I toasted to our amazing California adventure and to the fact that there was even a food menu for dogs!

Valley Kitchen

Valley Kitchen: A menu for your best friend :-)

Lunch began with house-made Kennebec (potato) chips and caramelized onion dip...  

Valley Kitchen: House-made potato chips & onion dipFor my entree, I chose the Monterey Bay Salmon Salad.  It was delightful!  

Valley Kitchen: Monterey Bay Salmon SaladAfter two glorious nights at the Ranch, Mom and I really didn't think it could get any better.  For our final night in the area, we headed to nearby Holman Ranch, where we - and few other folks in media - were treated to an afternoon and evening of wine tastings and pairings, a tour of the ranch and property (including an olive grove, organic vineyard, plus horse stables and boarding facilities), and elaborate meals and snacks.  

Although the guest rooms are not available to the public, per se, you can rent them for your party if you host an event on the property.  I can only imagine how fabulous and special it would be to get married at the Ranch and have all of your friends and family be able to stay onsite.  

 

Holman Ranch

Holman Ranch: Sitting area outside of our guest room

Holman Ranch

Holman Ranch: Dusk ...

Have you been thinking about making a trip up/down the California coast?  If you've already been, did you go to any of the towns or sites that visited?  I'd love to hear from you!

 

Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Oct272015

(NYC) Finding my perfect match with "Wines from Spain"

*This post was written by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell.**

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Wines from Spain recently celebrated its 22nd annual "Spain's Great Match" event which was held at the Frank Gehry-designed IAC Building in NYC's tony Chelsea neighborhood. 



With a showcase of over 300 Spanish wines, there was no shortage of both tried-and-true and brand new sips to be had.  Not to mention an array of specialty food distributors and nibbles from some of NYC's top Spanish restaurants! 

As I strolled through the maze of vendor tables, it came as no surprise that the wineries I frequented the most were those who were pouring Rioja.  My favorite glass was the Marques de Riscal Reserva 2009 DOCA.  Produced from the Tempranillo grape (whose vines are at least 15 years old), the wine is matured in American oak casks for 24 months prior to bottling.  I would describe this particular Rioja as a full body red with a lingering, dry fruit finish.  I loved its intensity, melange of notes (vanilla, toasted oak and plum fruit), and hints of spice and licorice.
Photo found on wine-searcher.com: Rioja As I continued my tour of Spanish wines, I sampled some amazing goat cheese-stuffed olives and, one of my absolute favorite items on the planet, ribbons of salty Jamón Iberico (cured ham from the Iberico black pig, which happens to be one of the last grazing species in Europe). 

Cheese-stuffed olivesJamon!Of course, I saved the best for last!  My favorite tasting of the event was the Anna de Codorniu Brut Rose, NV.  Hailing from the Penedes (DO) region of Spain, this rose is composed of 70% Pinot noir and 30% Chardonnay grapes.  With its incredibly fragrant aromas of red fruit (strawberry and cherry) and green apple, I absolutely fell in love with this wine and its elegant, refreshing finish.  And how about that fabulous pink bottle?

Brut roseIf all of that wasn't enough, the event was attended by super famous Wine Bible author, Karen MacNeil!

...

Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Oct142015

(NYC) A 'Journey to the Stars' with Michelin

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Jean Hsu and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Ms. Hsu.**


The Michelin Guide Gala for 2016 - a culinary celebration in which the 2016 Michelin starred-restaurants are announced - was recently held at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan.  And I got to go!

Prior to the uber-famous Michelin Man making his grand appearance in a roaring yellow Corvette, guests were encouraged to mingle whilst enjoying light canapes and seasonally-inspired cocktails from several of the Guide's Starred restaurants. 

Of those that I sampled, the "Valborg" cocktail from Aquavit Restaurant (Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, grapefruit, and lemongrass-infused aquavit) was my favorite.  Snow Leopard Vodka, Cutty Sark Whisky, a plethora of wines from Napa Valley, plus G.H. Mumm Champagne flowed generously throughout the eve.  Additionally, we were treated to a tasting of Macallan's newest rare cask whiskey - served on the rocks (just how I like it).  And how about those ice cubes (below)?

I must admit - I was a little surprised by how small of a focus there was on food, considering all that I had read - and seen - about this event from prior years.  Mini crab and lobster sandwiches, watermelon bites filled with feta, polenta morsels, and crackers topped with smoked salmon/roe were periodically passed by waiters.  Additionally, there was a long table in the back of the space that featured a grandiose spread of artisanal breads and macaroons from Bridor de France.

After the squishy and adorable Michelin Man made his entrance, Michael Ellis - Managing Director of Michelin Guide - took to the stage and began to announce the Star recipients!  Below are  all of the *new* Stars that were awarded to New York City restaurants.  For the full recipient list, click here:

In regards to the cultural diversity and vegetarian-focus in this year's selection, I was really impressed!!  Congratulations to all of the brand new, additional Stars-gained, and annually-recurring recipients!

...

Until we eat again,

Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle

Monday
Sep282015

(NYC) Fighting cancer with music...and mezcal

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by The Style Gourmande.*

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Yellowchair - a free, membership-based social media network for foodies - collaborates with chefs, restaurants, interesting venues and brands to create one-of-a-kind culinary experiences.  Members have access to curated dinners, tastings, private events and culinary adventures making it the perfect backdrop for “Dinner with NEW friends.”  And the ideal sponsor for last week's agave-infused dinner at Casa Mezcal, hosted by Corey Wade (third place finisher and first homosexual male contestant on America's Next Top Model, musician, TV personality, and LGBT spokesperson) and Sound Affect, a platform that partners with celebrity musical artists to promote their appraoch to revolutionizing the war on cancer.  Pretty cool, eh?

Our famous - and gorgeous - musical entertainment for the eve: Corey Wade (Photo courtesy of Yellowchair)Casa Mezcal is a modern and eclectic Mexican restaurant located in Manhattan's super hip Lower East Side neighborhood.  And, given its name, the perfect venue for a mezcal-fueled dinner!

We were given 2 types of mezcal to sample: Los Amantes (thrice distilled) and Santa Pedrera (twice distilled).  While each version of the spirit delivered the traditional smoky flavor and aroma, the Santa Pedrera‘s notes were much heavier - or shall I say fuerte!

Aside from the chips and salsa/guacamole, the first dish to be presented was the "Chapulines estilo Oaxaca"  (Translation: Toasted grasshoppers seasoned with salt and lime).  I could only bring myself to eat one.  It wasn't that the insect tasted bad...I just couldn't get over what I was eating!!  And that crunch!  (Squirm!)

Grasshoppers!!! The second dish we were served was the Queso con Yerbasanta (Translation: pan fried cheese wrapped in santa herb and served atop tomatillo sauce with tortilla on the side).  As a self-professed cheese'oholic, I could not have been happier. 

Post dinner, Cory Wade was our entertainment for the night!  He sang tons of awesome cover songs and had the most sultry voice.  After his performance, he sat down with us and had a few shots of mezcal!

 

...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Friday
Sep252015

(NYC) I got crabs...and I loved it!

*This post was written by Eric V. and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Eric V.*


In honor of Singapore Restaurant Week in the Big Apple, yours truly was invited to attend the Singapore Crab Throwdown at The Daily Meal Kitchen & Bar!

Hosted by The Daily Meal and the Singapore Tourism Board, this exclusive cooking class was led by influential Singaporean chefs, Justin Quek and Wayne Liew, who flew in especially for the celebration!

Check out the drool-worthy menu lineup, below:

After a quick introduction of the program - plus an overview of Singaporean cuisine (and its pan-Asian Chinese-Malay-Indian fusion) - by the staff at The Daily Meal, the first live demonstration commenced. 

Singapore Chili Crab

Chef Wayne Liew, of Keng Eng Kee Seafood (plus his brother and sister who also work at the family-run restaurant,) explained that Chili Crab is a traditional Singaporean dish and a favorite in the city-state.  Although the team wasn't using Sri Lankan mud crabs in this particular preparation, which are preferred and used at Keng Eng Kee, local crabs made for a sufficient substitution, especially when dressed with a mélange of flavorful ingredients, including: Sambal, chili, sweet and sour sauce, and a pinch of sugar.

Crabs!

Chef Wayne Liew's Singapore Chili CrabSalted Egg Yolk Crab

Chef Liew and the Keng Eng Kee team also prepared a twist on the traditional Singaporean entree, Salted Egg Yolk Crab.  This salty egg yolk "powder" is a Chinese ingredient that's actually used on many dishes in Singapore, including onion rings, French fries, and calamari!  Some have even gone as far as to call it the nouveau truffle...

Mmmmm, salted egg yolk!Salted Egg Yolk Crab Chef Wayne Liew + the team from Keng Eng Kee Seafood and me!.

Justin Quek, one of the best-known Singaporean chefs in the world, was next to demonstrate his cooking for the group. 

When I used to live in Singapore a few years ago, I visited his fabulous restaurant, Sky on 57, and had a lovely Franco-Asian meal.  I was so excited to get to meet Chef in person!  And it was totally surreal to re-experience his cuisine in NYC!

Chef Justin Quek and me!Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger Broth

As an Asian chef who trained in France, many of Justin's unique culinary creations could best be described as "Asian food with French thinking or (vice versa) French food with Asian thinking."  In keeping with the shellfish theme, Chef prepared crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.  Inspired by Singaporean hawker-stall food, he explained that this particular dish could be enjoyed at any time of the day - served as a representation of Singaporean comfort food or made more upscale by pairing it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Chef Justin Quek's Crab Vermicelli in Light Ginger BrothWok Fried Black Pepper Crab and Maine Lobster

Chef Justin Quek's Wok Fried Black Pepper Crab & Maine Lobster

...

Until we eat again,

Eric V. for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Sep232015

(NYC) BBQ'ing in Brooklyn with Questlove, George Takei, and friends

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Edgar A. Castillo.*

 

Hosted and curated by QUESTLOVE, the Taste Talks All-Star BBQ brought world-renowned chefs together in Brooklyn to whip up their signature dishes al-fresco!  Check out the incredibly brag-worthy lineup, description of offerings, and my thoughts, below.

Photo courtesy of Taste Talks.

CHEF/CELEBRITY LINEUP + MENUS + MY THOUGHTS

Michael Psilakis (MP Taverna, Kefi, Fishtag) // Jarobi White (Musician; Eats, Rhymes & Life)
PULLED LAMB SLIDERS 

The chefs paired up with Los Angeles’ famed La Brea Bakery and created a pulled-lamb slider that made for an awesome start to the day!  This early favorite wowed me with a plethora of kick and an amazing range of flavor. 

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) // Dan Santoro & Bert Krak (Smith Street Tattoo)
RAW LAMB LARD & BBQ YUZU CABBAGE | With fish sauce, brown butter, mint, and thai basil

Certainly an interesting interpretation for a BBQ festival, this dish stood out for its lack of cooking (read: BBQ’ing) and its awkward (tang from the bitter yuzu) and inedible (charred cabbage) flavors.  Another time/another place, perhaps.  But here?  At a BBQ festival?  No.  Just no.


Alex Stupak (Empellón) // Damian Higgins AKA Dieselboy (DJ/Producer)
LA HAMBURGUESA CAMPEÓNA | Grilled short rib patty on a potato roll, Tex Mex style queso, red pepper-chorizo relish, crispy gaufrettes, smoked mayonnaise

What a remarkable slider!  Cooked to a perfect ‘medium rare,’ short rib beef patties were topped with smoked mayo, crinkle-cut potato chips, and – my favorite - Texas queso before being sandwiched within a soft and squishy potato bun.

Daniel Eddy (Rebelle)
GRILLED DUCK SAUSAGE | With plum jam

Although I found this portion to be on the smaller side, the sausage managed to fully deliver thanks to the inherent richness of the duck.  The plum jam proved to be a fantastic companion, to boot!

Rob Newton (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9, Smith Canteen) // Lee Gregory & Joe Sparatta (Southbound)
GRILLED PORK SHOULDER | With rice noodles, Virginia peanuts, cucumbers and herbs

The succulent, savory pork melted in my mouth.  I was so taken by this dish, I had to sit down!  The rice noodle-salad had a very familiar flavor, although it wasn’t listed - chicharrones, perhaps?


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Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the large presence of seafood dishes - from mussels and crab to lobster tails!

Hugue DuFour (M. Wells) // Mark Hegedus (Blue Point Brewing)
DEEP SEA RED CRAB

This was the longest line at the BBQ, and rightfully so: Hugue Dufour’s platter was so ample that it required me finding a seat to navigate through the plate of crab, summer corn, and Parker House rolls.

Ben Conniff (Luke's Lobster) // Matt Timms (The Takedowns)
CHILI-BUTTER LOBSTER TAILS | With grilled cabbage and corn slaw

These ‘tails were a surprise treat and very-well received amongst the heavier, "land" proteins.  Buttery and light with a nice amount of char, the lobster tails were served alongside a colorful purple cabbage and corn salad.

Russell Jackson (SubCulture Dining) // Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black)
GRILLED MUSSELS | with Korean gujoung pork fat butter and fermented cornbread peptia crumble

After an unforgiving rainstorm, this was the final savory booth that I visited.  And although my plate was a bit wet from the elements, the vibrancy of the flavors remained intact and the mussels, themselves, were delicious.

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Dessert: What a welcome addition to a BBQ festival!

Laura O'Neill & Ben Van Leeuwen (Van Leeuwen Ice Cream// Sharon Van Etten (Musician)
TRIPLE PEANUT | Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and crunchy peanut brittle
BUTTERMILK JAM | Buttermilk ice cream swirled with house made raspberry jam

This creative ice cream-version of a PB&J sandwich was chock-full of natural ingredients which helped me chase away any lingering feelings of guilt.

Allison & Matt Robicelli (Robicelli's Bakery) // George Takei & Telly Leung (Actors, Allegiance A New Musical)
FUJI APPLE PIE | With miso caramel and vanilla bean tofu cream

A unique take on the American staple (apple pie), this slice of heaven was made even sweeter by the fact that it was served by none other than George Takei (modern celebrity hero) and Telly Leung (actor, equal rights activist).

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While I made it a point to sample everything, there was only so much time and room in my stomach!  The following are the four booths that, unfortunately, I did not get to experience:

Justin Smillie (Upland) // Heems (Musician)
GRILLED VEAL RIBS | With charred cherry tomato salsa

Pierre Thiam (Pierre Thiam Catering) // Island Creek Oysters
GRILLED OYSTERS | With Spicy Smoked Crayfish Mignonette and Cassava Leaves with Peanuts

Roblé Ali (Roblé & Co. & Streets BK)
ROBLE & CO. SPECIAL

Shannon Shaffer (Design Cuisine) // Lauren Wagner (Street Art Throwdown) & Jenna Morello (Street Artist)
KOREAN BBQ BEEF BRISKET | Asian pear and fennel slaw, wasabi pearls, puffed rice cracker

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Thank you, chefs!Not even scattered thunderstorms could keep the crowds away!  Despite the passing showers, Questlove kept the mood upbeat by spinning for the crowd throughout the entire day.  And what a day it was!

Questlove!!

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle