Browsing articles in "wine festivals"
Aug 21, 2014
Terri Judson

Meet Nancy Oakes at the 4th Annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival






Nancy Oakes

Nancy Oakes

Photo courtesy of HFWF

“If I were making a list of pioneering chefs, Nancy Oakes would be at the top,” writes San Francisco dining critic Michael Bauer. Her flagship restaurant, Boulevard, was one of the first to serve upscale American food, and 20 years later, it’s still beloved by San Franciscans and Oakes’ peers, who bestowed it the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award in 2012. In 2010, she opened another, more casual restaurant, Prospect. We chatted with her on her current obsessions and her insights on the restaurant business.

What’s the best thing you’ve made recently?
This is an amazing time of year, and we’re fascinated with things like kefir. We have a producer in Sonoma of Italian [water] buffalo milk and so we’re making our own ricotta with gorgeous little tiny ravioli. Now is the season of Australian perigord truffles. I love it. [So we have] little postage-stamp sized ravioli filled with the buffalo milk and toasted Italian pine nuts and really good olive oil. We do complex things, but I love simple, strong flavors. Everybody gets carried away once in a while, but when you’re making your own ricotta, and you have these truffles and really good oil, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Someone in Sonoma is raising buffalo for milk?
Yes! They were making cheese, I don’t think they do that anymore. Now they make ice cream.

What do you plan on doing while you’re in Hawaii?
For the [HFWF] dish, Roy really wanted people to use local ingredients, so we’re getting little abalone. We’re going to make a very fun and textured slaw with sea beans (sea asparagus), some Big Island hearts of palm and it will probably have bacon in it. Something crunchy and refreshing to go with the quickly pan-seared abalone.

[Recreationally], I’m part of Les Dames Escoffier (an organization of women in the culinary profession). You have some great Dames on the island. We’re going to go someplace that they’ve chosen. And someone from the restaurant was just on vacation [to Hawaii] and they went to The Pig and the Lady, he loved that. So I’m going to try to do that the night we get there.

So your restaurant has been open for 21 years—how do you keep your restaurant full every night?
The food isn’t static. I don’t really have a signature dish, because it’s all up for grabs and change. And that’s how you evolve and how you stay relevant—you don’t flop on every trend that comes, but you pay attention to what’s going on and how people are eating. And you do the best job you possibly can. And you have to stay involved.

Like cooking at food and wine festivals?
Staying involved in the restaurant. It’s also important to be part of the chef community—I do a fair amount of community work and it’s important to get out and meet everybody and let people know you’re still alive. When you want to know why I go to the food and wine festivals, yeah, it’s to let them know I haven’t keeled over.

What kind of community work do you do?
I’m the chairman of the gala for Meals on Wheels in San Francisco. I’ve been the chairman for about 11 years. I’ve done Meals on Wheels for about 24 years.

You opened Prospect pretty close to Boulevard. Did you worry that it would cannibalize your business or create a synergy?
Well, you have to think about that, and then I had to think about the reality of me and anybody else who is [going between the two], if it gets too far away, you lose touch with them.

The interior is so dramatically different, and the neighborhood is so different, even three blocks away, that [Prospect] hasn’t cannibalized it. And we’ve built a whole new younger set of customers, really. It’s a younger crowd, more casual crowd.

I noticed that the last time I was in San Francisco, there were so many restaurant groups opening restaurants.
That seems to be a trend everywhere, if you look at everything that’s opened in Seattle, it’s almost all the same group of people, the same is true in Portland, the same is true in New York. One of the things is, in my case, the reason I opened Prospect, you have people with you for 20 years, and somehow, thank you isn’t enough, so you make them a part of your business. That happens a lot with [restaurateurs] who are opening a second or fourth. You have a standout person in your kitchen, you open another spot.

It seems like it’s happening all at once.
It turns out, if you open a really small restaurant, it has a really limited scope to it.

Everyone wants to believe that cooking is something different, but in truth, it is a profession and a career and you have a number of years to put yourself together. We’re no different from anybody else who has to put their financial future in order. So that drives people as well.

Where do you like to go in San Francisco right now?
Lissa [Doumani] and Hiro [Sone], they’ve opened Urchin in San Francisco. I want to go there. When I want to take sous chefs out, as more of a teaching dining experience, I take them to Benu or Saison, which is a very different style of food than what we do here, but there’s a lot to be learned in terms of service and presentation and the wine list and that experience.

At the fourth annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, Oakes will be cooking at Oahu opening night event, the Lucky Modern Buddha Belly. For more info on the HFWF and to buy tickets, check out hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com

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Aug 21, 2014
Terri Judson

A Food and Wine Festival For Every Season

A Food and Wine Festival For Every Season

Charles Steadman at Palm Beach Food  Wine Festival

Whether it be paddle boarding in Hualalai with Seamus Mullen, journeying to six countries in seven days via your taste buds in Bangkok, or playing beach volleyball in Palm Beach with Robert Irvine: for more than a decade, various Four Seasons properties have been creating or hosting annual food festivals that offer one-of-a-kind experiences for consumers to indulge their culinary fantasies. This year Four Seasons is working with community partners to spotlight these events through a new program: Four Seasons Hotels Food Wine Festivals.

The newly launched series features events around the world that offer epicureans the opportunity to mingle with globally recognized talent alongside the locally-revered Four Seasons culinary teams.

“Innovation and creativity have always driven the Four Seasons approach to evolving our dining experience,” said Guy Rigby, Vice President Food Beverage, Americas. “Engaging the local and international culinary community allows us to share our passion for creating incredible dining experiences that connect with and excite Four Seasons guests and gourmands alike.”

2014 Festivals

World Gourmet Festival at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok (September 1-7) marks the 15th anniversary for this week-long culinary extravaganza filled with daily lunches, dinners and cooking demonstrations all presented by visiting master chefs from around the world. Participating chefs include: Hong Kong’s Hideaki Sato, Barcelona’s Paolo Casagrande, Paris’ Akrame Benallal and Oakland’s James Syhabout.

Chef Fest at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (October 22-25) – Today’s top chefs will come together to do more than cook in an intimate and relaxed beach setting at the fourth year of Chef Fest. Complementing the daily interactive cooking classes, guests can connect with chefs in more personal ways from a round of golf with Ben Ford to practicing yoga with Amanda Freitag and Marco Canora, to stand-up paddleboarding with Seamus Mullen all on the picturesque Kona-Kohala coast of Hawaii.

The Palm Beach Food Wine Festival at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach (December 11-14) – Considered a distinguished staple event on Palm Beach’s annual social roster for the past seven years, this annual event brings together an eclectic collection of the world’s most illustrious chefs, culinary personalities, authors, winemakers and mixologists in picturesque South Florida each December. With specialty cocktail and hors d’oeuvre receptions, five-course dinners with premium wine pairings, kids’ cooking classes and the final grand tasting and cooking competition, the 2014 Palm Beach Food Wine Festival offers something for everyone. Participating chefs include: Daniel Boulud, Robert Irvine, Marc Murphy, Ken Oringer, and Fabio Viviani.

Also new this year is a dedicated online home for Four Seasons Hotels Food Wine Festivals, housed on the Taste by Four Seasons website. The dynamic platform will serve as a portal for consumers to learn more about each event as they tap into live social media dispatches from the festivals, and articles showcasing highlights and exclusive recipes. Guests can also seamlessly connect to the online tickets portals for all events should they wish to join in the fun.

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Aug 21, 2014
Terri Judson

Okanagan College Unlocks the Secret to Local Wine Success

Photo Credit: Okanagan Wine Festivals Society

Professors at Okanagan College have conducted extensive research to find out what motivates wine visitors to come to the valley, and what is needed to ensure they return.

Along with the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and the British Columbia Wine Institute the team discovered the “greatest influence on visitor motivation.”

“Using interviews with 900 visitors to the Winter, Spring and Fall Okanagan Wine Festivals in 2012 and early 2013, we looked specifically at what impact wine-related events and festivals had on their desire to come to the region,” says leader of the research project Dr. Blair Baldwin, Okanagan College School of Business Professor and Okanagan Wine Festivals Society General Manager.

The execution of the festivals, not just the presence of the events, but the experiences guests had while there was the greatest influence.

Photo Credit: KelownaNow.com

“You may sell out your event or win an award for your wine but if you haven’t devoted enough resources to ensuring a seamless experience, such as having prominent directional signage, good traffic flow to your wine shop, enough tasting room servers, and ample parking, visitors won’t return. And they won’t recommend it to their friends either,” says Baldwin.

Recently the Okanagan was named the number two wine destination in the world, behind Alentejo, Portugal but the U.S’s largest circulating newspaper, USA Today.

The research project was part of a larger body of research originally conducted by the same group in the fall of 2013 that looked at the economic impact of wine tourism to the Okanagan. See www.thewinefestivals.com/blog for more details.

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Aug 19, 2014
Terri Judson

Hawaii Food & Wine Fest to showcase love for the land

Having planted its flag in Oahu and Maui, the 2014 Hawaii Food Wine Festival (Aug. 29-Sept. 7) is expanding to include a third Hawaiian island. Now in its fourth year, the festival will begin with its first-ever visit to the Big Island; the Aloha’ Aina, Aloha Kai (“love of land, love of sea”) gala will treat guests to a six-course feast on the volcanic grounds of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. Also new to this year’s festival will be the presence of children; Keiki in the Kitchen: Food, Fitness, Family and Fun will feature chef demos, a farmers market, educational booths and fitness activities.

As indicated by its theme, “Taste our Love for the Land”, Hawaii’s biggest annual culinary event takes the farm-to-table approach to another level by having all participating chefs use locally–sourced produce and ingredients. This allows locals to see what big-name mainlanders such as Michelle Bernstein, Charles Phan and Andy Ricker will be inspired to create using the local tropical bounty. Leading chefs from as far as Australia and Japan populate the festival’s events, the majority of which take place in Hawaii’s largest city, Honolulu.

The festival program provides out-of-towners with an ideal introduction to Hawaii’s diverse culinary scene; the roster of local participants reads like a who’s who among the state’s chefs. Many members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement will be on hand, including the festival’s legendary co-founders, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong.

SEE MORE: Honolulu’s hot new neighborhood dining

Organizers smartly incorporate Hawaii’s world-class scenery throughout the program; locales include the breezy roof of the Hawaii Convention Center and the stunning beach of the Ko Olina Resort (home to Aulani, A Disney Resort Spa). Perhaps the festival’s most unique event, Laulima at He’eia, will see attendees work side-by-side with the likes of Jose Garces and Hubert Keller on the restoration of an 800-year-old fish pond while assisting with the cultivation of the most Hawaiian of roots, taro.

Since its inception, the not-for-profit festival has provided nearly $1 million in net proceeds to beneficiaries including the Hawaii Agriculture Foundation and the Hawaii Seafood Council.

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Aug 15, 2014
Terri Judson

Stars of LA return to fourth annual food and wine fest

The fourth annual Los Angeles Food Wine Festival presented by FOOD WINE takes place August 21-24, and in just a few years the festival has become the City of Angels’ premiere culinary gathering. More than 100 of the country’s most decorated chefs, sommeliers and mixologists will participate at events in Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Santa Monica, with the majority of happenings taking place in the region’s most dynamic dining neighborhood: Downtown LA.

“The very footprint on Grand Avenue that hosts the festival each year is an exciting testament to what’s happening in Los Angeles,” explains David Bernahl, CEO of event organizer Coastal Luxury Management. “This year’s festival has expanded to take on another block; the construction of the highly anticipated Broad Museum will tower over the thousands of foodies we will welcome to the festival. The food scene around the city is exploding at the same pace. It’s special to be able to celebrate LA’s culinary scene in such a dramatic way.”

New to this year’s festival is the Ultimate Bites of LA presented by Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Hosted by Graham Elliot and Fabio Viviani, the event will see some of LA’s most popular chefs pack Grand Avenue, dishing out inventive bites while providing “the most comprehensive way to taste the best LA has to offer,” according to Bernahl. Similar walk-around events such as Lexus Live on Grand and a pair of Lexus Grand Tastings will see hungry hordes of festivalgoers descend on Downtown LA to sample top-notch wines alongside bites from a kaleidoscope of culinary titans.

A highlight of every LAFW is the Tribute to a Legend; this year’s event will honor the local icon Nancy Silverton. Decadent types will make a beeline to the rooftop of the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills Hotel for the I Heart Champagne and Caviar bash, while this year’s Dinner with the Michelin Stars will honor one of France’s biggest culinary names, Pierre Gagnaire.

This being an entertainment capital of the world ensures that the big names on hand won’t just be limited to the food world; Fergie of Black Eyed Peas (showcasing her namesake Ferguson Crest wines at the Lexus Grand Tasting) is just one of the stars who will be on hand throughout the weekend.

“The whole weekend experience is as important to us as the food, and that includes the cocktails, wine and music,” explains Bernahl. “It’s essential that we deliver more than guests could ever expect, like once-in-a-lifetime tribute dinners, extraordinary music performances and so much more.”

RELATED: The complete culinary guide to LA
SEE MORE: The rest of summer’s food (and drink) festivals

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Aug 14, 2014
Terri Judson

Four Seasons launches food-and-wine festival program

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Aug 13, 2014
Terri Judson

Collio wine country: Italy’s undiscovered region

If any area within Italy can be described as “picture-perfect,” the bucolic wine country of Collio with its rolling hills and vibrant mosaic of emerald green-hued vineyards is a destination worthy of that artistic depiction.

Located about an hour-and-a-half drive from Venice, in the Province of Gorizia, Collio is a crossroads of cultures, sharing a border with Slovenia and close to Austria. Situated in the northeastern-most part of Italy — between the Alps and the Adriatic sea — this region is a bit off the beaten tourist path and still considered ‘undiscovered,’ yet offers an ambiance of familiarity, warmth and naturally, plenty of wine.

The area specializes in crisp white wines, along with some reds as well. Collio’s indigenous grapes are malvasia, ribolla gialla, pinot bianco and friulano, which is one of the most famous varietals in the community (formerly referred to as ‘Tocai’). Another local grape, picolit, is considered rare, emitting a smooth, mellow and complex flavor. The region’s most distinctive offering, “Collio Bianco,” is a blended white that is made at over 100 wineries – and synonymous with the territory.

In addition to vineyards and vintages, this picturesque region is steeped in history and the landscape is dotted with castles and farms, as well as an array of taverns, wine shops and restaurants. Collio’s residents are friendly, and many of the wineries offer lodging, ranging from basic rooms to luxuriously appointed accommodations. Most are passionate about agritourism and provide a homemade breakfast or other meal options and feature stunning vineyard vistas from patios and balconies.

For transportation around Collio, travelers can hire a local driver, or choose to rent sunflower yellow bicycles or Vespa scooters to zip through the towns and explore the undulating rural hillside, stopping at wineries along the way. The region also has a number of picnic tables situated at various scenic points on the main roadways, inviting guests to take a break, have a snack or just relax and soak in the views.

“This area of Italy is very nuanced, as many cultures are in close proximity and are blended together,” says Elda Felluga, president of the Association of Wine Tourism in Friuli Venezia Giulia and owner of winery Livio Fellugia. “I believe that because we have the influence of diverse traditions and rich history, our wines and culinary offerings are especially wonderful.”

This year, the Collio Wine Consortium is celebrating 50 years of the region’s distinctive wine culture. Robert Princic, Consortium president, explains, “The Collio region is a territory with great traditions and many important historical influences. Our producers are truly unique because they are genuinely motivated by their passion for the land, and for making the highest quality wines possible. Their dedication and innovations have permitted grape harvesting in Collio to continue its successful growth.”

The region’s “Wine and Cherry road” leads travelers past the area’s many wineries, each with its own distinctive character and unique wine offerings. Most offer vineyard and cellar tours, with tasting rooms open to the public, although some require advance reservations, depending on the day and the season.

Here are several we recommend:

Villa Russiz

With nearly 100 acres of vineyards, Villa Russiz’s history dates back to 1868, when the land was given as a wedding gift to French count Theodore de La Tour and his wife Elvine Ritter von Zahony. Today, this award-winning winery specializes in several wines, including: pinot bianco, pinot grigio and picolit. Visitors fortunate enough to meet general manager Giordano Figheli will be greeted graciously and treated to an exceptional and memorable tasting experience. In addition to winemaking, Villa Russiz is dedicated to the community and has been supporting a children’s home (Fondazione Villa Russiz) through its charitable contributions for many years.

Livio Felluga

Renowned throughout the Italian wine community as the man who reinvented the area’s winemaking heritage in the 1950s, Livio Felluga’s vineyard today stretches over 400 acres amidst the sloping hills. Some of the wines include: illivio, friulano, terre alte and more. In addition to a contemporary, chic tasting room, the family has an affiliated tavern and inn a few steps away, called Terra Vini, with a rustic interior and a lovely outdoor garden terrace. The small hotel has eight charming guest rooms with modern amenities and private balconies. The restaurant is the real deal – offering fresh, regional specialties daily with locally sourced cheeses, prosciutto and produce.

Livon

Family-owned Livon has grown tremendously over the years, expanding throughout Italy and opening wineries in Tuscany and Umbria. Livon uses the latest technology in the winemaking process, incorporating natural and innovative vineyard management methods. Their winery features a tasting room where guests can sip a robust array of white and red wines, such as: pinot bianco, fenis (ribolla gialla), merlot and others. Nearby, the Livon family owns Villa Chiòpris, a winery with an adjacent upscale bed and breakfast situated on a picturesque vineyard. It houses nine stylishly designed rooms with and a swimming pool. This winery often hosts special events and wine tastings.

Tiare

A well-respected winery with a tasting room and a trattoria featuring homemade traditional local cuisine, Tiare invites guests to enjoy a leisurely meal in the countryside while tasting a selection of their top quality vintages. In fact, Tiare’s unoaked 2013 Sauvignon blanc was awarded a gold medal at the 5th edition of the World Sauvignon contest, held in Bordeaux, France. Chosen from nearly 500 wines from 21 countries, this was highest honor ever given to an Italian wine at this major international event.

Paraschos

Known throughout the area as “the Greek winery,” Paraschos was founded in 1998 by the winemaker Evangelos Paraschos. Today, this popular, family-run vineyard produces a variety of local wines through traditional and organic methods, harvested by hand without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Perched at the highest point in the region, Paraschos offers six spacious guest rooms with mesmerizing views overlooking the tranquil, sprawling vineyards. Guests lucky enough to stay at Paraschos are greeted in the morning with a delightful, abundant homemade breakfast – a delicious way to begin a day of Collio wine tasting.

When to go: The Collio region hosts a number of wine festivals and celebrations throughout the year, such as the upcoming Spirito di Vino event, set for September 13, 2014.

SEE MORE: Explore Italy’s Prosecco province

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Aug 13, 2014
Terri Judson

Las Vegas Is America’s Food & Wine Festival Capital

Las Vegas has a golden rule that has shaped its destiny: if something is good, than more of something is better. First it was conventions. Then it was luxury shopping. Next came celebrity chef restaurants. Now it is food and wine festivals and Sin City can’t add them fast enough. Currently there are half a dozen such events scheduled – in the next month.

In the past decade interest in culinary and gourmet topics has boomed among Americans, and there has been a great expansion in the number of food, wine and beer related festivals nationwide, but for the most part, particular destinations tend to focus on one. Even big tourism cities like New York, LA, Miami and New Orleans hang their hat on one main annual festival, and in terms of prestige, two of the three biggest aren’t even in major cities – those would be Aspen and Pebble Beach.

Vegas, on the other hand, has embraced food events big and small, niche and mainstream, even as it hosts arguably the single best such event in the country, Bon Appetit Uncork’d. I’ve written in this column before about this marquee fest, which fetes the travelling public, rather than industry insiders like other top festivals do. Spanning several major casino resorts and held over Mother’s Day weekend in May, it gets by far the best cast of star chefs, because Vegas has the most star chefs with actual restaurants here, unlike other festivals that have to attract talent to locations where they have no vested interest.

Burgers in Las Vgeas

Throughout the year you can usually find some sort of food, wine or beer festival in Las Vegas serving up delicious eats. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

You can read much more about what makes Uncork’d so good by clicking here, but it is hardly the end of the dining and drinking festivities in Las Vegas. There are more than a dozen others, year round, spanning every sort of cuisine and style, and several also offer A-list live music performances, something most other food fests lack. For instance, one notable offering is the oddly named Rock ‘n Roll Wine Amplified Weekend (October 10- 11). Now in its ninth year, this popular event has grown big enough where MGM Resorts, its host, had to move it to a bigger venue, the outdoor MGM Resorts Village near the Luxor. The two-day festival combines big name national bands with a wine-centric theme featuring more than 60 wineries and 150 wines, plus craft beers, a “hidden speakeasy,” barrel tastings, grape stomping, cocktail lounge and food truck area with. The Friday and Saturday night headliners are Train and Blink 182 respectively, plus performances by Violent Femmes, Michael Franti Spearhead, Better than Ezra, The Mowgli’s and Mystic Roots, among others. Ticket options range from one day general admission ($69) to a 2-day VIP pass ($299).

Pool party at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Pool Party, Vegas style, at Bon Appetit Uncork’d, the nation’s premier food festival, held each May. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

On September 27, the same outdoor venue will host the one day Boulevard Brew Fest with Grammy Award-winning band Kings of Leon and other live performances, while the Oregon Brewers Festival has teamed with MGM Resorts to feature beers from more than 50 Oregon breweries, plus local selections from Las Vegas-based craft breweries, along with, yes, food trucks.

The city’s oldest such event is UNLVino, now in its 40th year. University of Nevada Las Vegas is home to a topflight School of Hotel Administration, the host, and the four day gala is held in April. This year’s marquee events included an open food and wine sampling at Wolfgang Puck’s signature Spago, a poolside gourmet BBQ bash at Caesar’s, a champagne night under the stars at the Venetian, and a grand tasting.

Las Vegas beer festival

Beer Fest, Las Vegas style. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

The World Food Championships, November 12-18, is an event seemingly custom made for Las Vegas: the finals of a yearlong string of regional “everyman” cooking competitions which culminate here. As the marketing collateral describes, “Tens of thousands of consumers will compete in a year-long trial to qualify for the World Food Championships. The World Food Championships takes over where Food Network leaves off – in the kitchen and backyard of every American home. Not fake made for TV stars – but everyday real consumers who simply believe they can.” The live event draws 25,000 spectators daily, and like a big Vegas poker tournament, winnows down round after round of competitors to final tables in each of nine categories: Barbecue, Chili, Sandwich, Burger, Dessert, Bacon, Pasta, Seafood and Recipe, which features an annually changing ingredient – this year it’s cheese. I especially love that Bacon is an entire category, unlike, say, chicken.

Las Vegas Foodie Fest is a unique event that brings together about 40 top rated food trucks (Vegas loves food trucks at festivals) from all across the country, sort of a reverse logic where both food trucks and food truck patrons can make long trips to eat fare far from its native curbside, every April. Bite of Las Vegas, put on by local radios station 94.1FM, is a one day, all day festival held in public Desert Breeze Park with an impressive list of live performers including Daughtry and Colbie Caillat, especially considering tickets start at just $25. The food side, however, is lackluster, with service from mostly chain and fast food restaurants (September 27).

Food event on Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Food festivals are held all over Las Vegas, from The Strip to Downtown’s Fremont Street Experience, shown here. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau

The Las Vegas Wine Food Festival, despite its grandiose name, is limited to the off-Strip Red Rock Casino, and held September 5-6. Attracting a more local crowd it nonetheless rolls out a very impressive list of some of Las Vegas’ top chefs and restaurants, and with tickets form $75-$100 each day, is a relative bargain. Participating eateries include Mastro’s, Aureole (Charlie Palmer) Roy’s (Yamaguchi), Todd English PUB, BLT Burger, Scarpetta (Scott Conant), Smith Wollensky, The Palm, STK and many more.

Held next week, August 22-28, Las Vegas Restaurant Week sees top eateries throughout the city, such as Andrea’s, Culinary Dropout, RM Seafood, Comme Ca, and Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse offering prix fixe meals for $20.14-$50.14 with a gala kick off at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. Other events include Epicurean Affair, the annual fest hosted by the Nevada Restaurant Association in May, which was at the Palazzo this year; the 4-day Las Vegas Greek Food Festival, September 25-28; the Downtown Brew Festival at the Clark County Amphitheatre, September 20, with unlimited samples of 150 beers, food from local restaurants, and yes, food trucks; and Festivino, a one night pairing of old and new world wines paired with dishes from the chefs at joined at the hip Italian-themed resorts, The Venetian and The Palazzo, on September 26.

Enjoy!

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Aug 12, 2014
Terri Judson

A mixologist and a chef hit their stride at Hilltop Kitchen

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On a warm July afternoon at 3 p.m., mixologist Chris Keil was prepping the bar for the evening and making a couple of drinks for early-bird patrons at the neighborhood bar/restaurant at 913 Martin Luther King Way in Tacoma, Wash. As he worked, he talked about how Hilltop Kitchen became the realized dream of him and co-owner/chef Matthew Schweitzer. The partners wanted to create a “food-driven bar that was wildly diverse,” where Keil could finesse his “craft” cocktails and Schweitzer could practice some modern techniques in the kitchen with “sustainable, local foods” and include vegetarian options that were actually interesting and flavorful.


While I sat at the bar, I ordered the seared scallops with a whipped gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, olive oil, saffron and mango.

Related

article: Tasting Tacoma: Seattle’s charming older sister to the south

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    Then Schweitzer stopped by to explain how he made the tasty gazpacho. First he blends the purée, passes it through a strainer, then heats it and adds xanthan gum to thicken it. He then chills it and passes it through a strainer, then shoots it through a carbonator. Sounds complicated, but the flavors meld together amazingly well. He learned some of his techniques working with fine chefs at food and wine festivals in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Vail, Colo.

    The bar is uniquely built around agave, with a strong focus on mezcal and tequila. “It is one of the best mezcal selections in the country — probably one of the top three or four,” said Keil, who is drawn to what he calls “artisanal” spirits with interesting agricultural histories. He is attracted to the nuances of the widely varied mezcals made by Mexican farmers who get very creative in the distillation of the spirits, such as infusing the smoky spirit with berries and quail or smoking rabbit or pig over their batches. “Everyone has his own recipe,” he said.

    Although he is inspired by mezcal, he creates a wide array of cocktails, which have attracted local and national attention. I ordered the very refreshing and pretty “Lost Steps” cocktail made with cachaca, lime juice, basil simple syrup, ginger beer and a cucumber garnish. The recipe follows.

    Keil and Schweitzer have found their own recipe for success in what some would have considered an unlikely spot. Their gamble appears to have paid off, for them and for their many loyal regulars.

    LOST STEPS

    This summer cocktail created by Chris Keil of Hilltop Kitchen is mixed with Keil’s house-made ginger beer. In lieu of that, he recommends buying a high-quality ginger beer, such as “a Jamaican — with no high-fructose corn syrup.” Cachaca, pronounced ka-SHAH-sah, is a distilled liquor made from sugarcane juice and used to make Brazil’s national drink, the caipirinha.

    1-1/2 ounces cachaca

    1/2 ounce lime juice

    1/2 ounce basil simple syrup (recipe follows)

    Ginger beer

    Sliced cucumber garnish

    Mix cachaca, lime juice, simple syrup and ginger beer in short bucket glass. Top with ice and serve with a thinly sliced cucumber garnish. Slice the cucumber lengthwise with a mandolin, roll and, for a pretty presentation, roll the cucumber strip and hold the roll together with a cocktail stick.

    For basil simple syrup:

    Chris Keil’s recipe for basil simple syrup comes from “The Bar Book” by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. This is an adapted variation.

    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    1/2 cup water

    1 cup fresh basil leaves

    Put sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir and heat until it boils; sugar will dissolve, and the syrup will be clear. Add basil leaves, stir to submerge, then turn heat off. Allow leaves to steep until liquid cools. Strain leaves from the syrup using a mesh strainer. Store the syrup in a labeled jar in the refrigerator for as long as a month.

    Makes: about 3/4 cup

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    on

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014 1:00 pm.


    Topics:

    Chris Keil,


    Matthew Schweitzer,


    Lake Tahoe,


    Chef,


    Cocktail,


    Tacoma,


    Food-driven Bar,


    Bar Book,


    Recipes,


    Lost Steps,


    Basil Simple Syrup

    FACT CHECK See inaccurate information in this story? Tell us here.

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    Aug 12, 2014
    Terri Judson

    Summer food festivals

    Soak up some food and wine under the sun this summer at one of the many festivals held all around the world. Look through the gallery to get a peek at what’s been happening on the festival scene so far this season and what’s still to come.

    Here’s where you’ll find food and wine lovers gathering each summer:

    Miami Spice Restaurant Program, August 1-September 30

    Safeway Barbecue Battle, Washington, D.C., June 21-22

    Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, August 24

    Asia-Pacific Food and Wine Festival, Hong Kong, June 13-16

    Big Feastival, Oxfordshire, U.K., August 29-31

    Copenhagen Cooking, August 22-31

    Eat Drink SF, August 1-3

    French Market Creole Tomato Festival, New Orleans, June 7-8

    International Mango Festival, Miami, July 12-13

    LA Taco Festival, August 16

    LA Wine Fest (CRUSH), May 31-June 1

    Lan Kwai Fong Beer Music Festival, Hong Kong, July 19-20

    London Foodies Festival – “FEAST”, August 15 – 17

    Los Angeles Food Wine Festival, August 21-24

    Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, August 11-17

    San Francisco Street Food Festival, August 16

    Satchmo SummerFest, New Orleans, July 31 – August 3

    Sin City Beer Festival, May 17

    Taste of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., September 13

    The Taste, Los Angeles, August 29-31

    Truck Stop, London, First Thursday and Friday of July, August and September

    SEE MORE: Plan ahead for fall’s biggest festivals

    Recommended Reading

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