Monday Neighborhoods: 5th Ave. and Stetson, Scottsdale, AZ

The Phoenix metropolitan area is truly fascinating, rapidly becoming Los Angeles in everything from freeways and sprawl to a city so focused on suburbs that now has re-connected with its actual downtown core years later. Often when people imagine Phoenix, they actually imagine the cactus and palm tree landscapes of the resorts in Scottsdale. ScottsdaleContinue reading “Monday Neighborhoods: 5th Ave. and Stetson, Scottsdale, AZ”

Le Plat du Jour: Monday March 26, 2012

Back from a weekend jaunt to Yosemite, taking my 86 year old grandmother (who doesn’t look or act a day older than 26!) for the first time. More on Yosemite dining later this week. It’s not Paris, but it’s also not like camping. O.k., well, you can camp at Yosemite and eat freeze dry scallops,Continue reading “Le Plat du Jour: Monday March 26, 2012”

Cocktails of the Week: El Presidente and the Moonraker from Bar Agricole, San Francisco

San Francisco’s now two year old Bar Agricole continues to break new ground, while remaining true to its heart as a modern urban tavern. Tavern? The James Beard award winning design inside and out on the patio where 350 days a year it’s too cool in the city to enjoy, are far from the tavernsContinue reading “Cocktails of the Week: El Presidente and the Moonraker from Bar Agricole, San Francisco”

Le Plat du Jour: Thursday March 22, 2012

Just like how El Bulli and its molecular gastronomy became the fashion of last decade’s high end gastronomy, the “New Nordic” cuisine thus far has been the rage of the new decade since last year when Rene Redzepi’s hyper-local cuisine at Noma in Copenhagen supplanted El Bulli as the world’s “best” restaurant according to theContinue reading “Le Plat du Jour: Thursday March 22, 2012”

Le Plat du Jour: Wednesday March 21, 2012

Spring is here, which means it’s one of the best times of the year for seemingly everything. The snow will soon be melting. March Madness basketball leads to opening day for baseball. Movies? Ok, well this is the slow time for film season, so catch up on the classics or see the new season ofContinue reading “Le Plat du Jour: Wednesday March 21, 2012”

Wednesday Wines and Beers: Arizona Wines? Yes, they Exist!

If you play word association with Arizona, chances are wine, vineyards, or anything in the subject of oenology would come up. It’s a desert, right? Grapes can’t grow in deserts! Correct. Grapes cannot grow in deserts. Incorrect, however, because not all of Arizona is a desert. The Chiricahua Mountains of Cochise County, in the southeastContinue reading “Wednesday Wines and Beers: Arizona Wines? Yes, they Exist!”

Welcome to Trev’s Bistro!

On this beautiful first day of Spring, I wanted to welcome everyone into Trev’s Bistro! Reservations are not necessary though for peak times you probably should consider one. I’m Trevor Felch, a former French major student at Claremont McKenna College where I served for 2 years as our newspaper The Student Life‘s dining critic andContinue reading “Welcome to Trev’s Bistro!”

Le Plat du Jour: Tuesday March 20, 2012

Le Plat du Jour: Tuesday March 20, 2012

Yesterday, the much debated and I guess anticipated James Beard Award nominations were announced in New York. As many journalists like to describe them, the James Beards are the “Oscars” of the food world.

Indeed they are like the Oscars in terms of prestige and an excellent representation of where we are in the context of film and gastronomy today compared to history. Comparing David Chang to Câreme is similar to “The Artist” with “Wings”…well, in the case of the Oscars this year there certainly was a blast to the past. Any way you look at the James Beards, you must understand, just like with films, that there is truly no “best.” What they present to the world is a collection of very deserving chefs, mixologists, writers, restaurateurs, and anybody else involved in the food and beverage industry, who excel at this highest caliber of what they do.

I don’t use the James Beard Awards nominations list as a guide to which restaurants I must go to. I do certainly use them as a factor in the process, much like the Oscars for viewing films. I do attempt to view the nominations as an attempt to see how best we in the culinary community are doing in strengthening the vision half a century ago of the awards’ namesake. Mr. Beard loved the pizazz of life. It was in his personality to his love of myriad cuisines to his signature kimonos. He also loved simple, subtle purity in his food and his writing. Beard loved grandiose haute French cuisine feasts, but always appreciated simple fresh fish grilled over the campfire, like he often prepared in his Oregon youth.

This year’s nominations certainly show the wide spectrum of culinary ideas and platforms in 2012. Just look at the nominees for best outstanding chef.

David Chang, a chef known for his outspoken personality, unwavering love for pork, and cuisine where east and west mingle spectacularly, competes with the modern haute European vision of Daniel Humm, the dreamy pizzas and capreses from Nancy Silverton, modern Louisiana cuisine of Donald Link, the new American cuisine with Midwest influences of Paul Kahan, and the veteran of the group, Gary Danko, who’s menu hasn’t really changed in a decade and isn’t afraid to keep old French standards of butter sauces, souffles, foie gras, and truffles on nearly every table’s plates.

Right there are six deserving chefs who represent the passion for cuisine Mr. Beard always had, along with the state of restaurants in 2012.

After running through the nominations a few times, here are a few quick thoughts:

Big congratulations to Grant Achatz, Mark Bittman, Dana Cowin, Emily Luchetti, Wolfgang Puck, and Charlie Trotter. All of them have changed the way we eat for the much, much better. If it weren’t for Mr. Puck I would never have fell in love with food as a young boy in California and thanks to Mr. Bittman, I look at fruits and vegetables as ingredients that can be equally special as steak or chocolate.

For outstanding restaurant, Vetri was the premier dining experience I had in the United States in 2011 and the Blue Hill group are some of the hardest working, kindest people I’ve ever met. They all deserve the gold.

Rising Star Chef: After a visit 2 weeks ago to Flour + Water, I’d say it’s hard to consider Thomas McNaughton a “rising star” when his food is far more riveting and better executed right now than one of the outstanding chef nominees (see Danko).

Melissa Chou, Joanne Chang, and Dahlia Narvaez make dessert absolutely mandatory. Excellent to see Michael Mina honored for best service, something the rest of my dining party mentioned to me as we left the restaurant last month. Interesting to have Pierro Selvaggio’s Valentino group compared to receive so much praise despite every critic forgetting about it. My experiences there the past few years were far from inspiring.

I could never choose between Bar Agricole, Pegu Club, Aviary, and PDT for a cocktail. I can however certainly choose a Dogfish Head beer any day over Brooklyn Brewery. Frasca Food and Wine and A16 continue to revolutionize Italian wines to American diners.

AQ has shaken up San Francisco with its literal seasonal approach, but if Next doesn’t win best new restaurant, I’ll be more shocked than seeing Lehigh beat Duke. Then again, is Next even a restaurant? Or is it a show?

Excellent as always to see a John T. Edge writing piece honored. Seeing Jonathan Gold go up against Alan Richman is like if you pitted Humphrey Bogart versus Clark Gable: the legends with their own distinct unique style and voice, love them or hate them, they have changed the landscape of food journalism.

Lastly, very interesting to see all three nominees for best restaurant design and two of the three for best restaurant graphics are from New York. Is it that the architects are more thought-provoking in Gotham or just like why the Yankees and Red Sox always get more air time on ESPN? It’s probably a combination of both, though Bar Agricole in San Francisco did win last year’s best restaurant design price. It’s so spectacular it should win again this year.

Speaking of the aforementioned literally seasonal restaurant AQ in San Francisco, where the entire restaurant changes the menu, decor, and even the waiters’ uniforms each season, what happened today?

Winter became spring. No menu yet however on the restaurant’s website.

The first major review is out of Danny Meyer’s North End Grill with Floyd Cardoz, formerly of Meyer’s Tabla, behind the stove.

And nobody ever said it was easy to be a dining critic…eating out every night, sometimes even twice. How about when you’re a critic with a focus on “food crawls?” I usually limit my crawls to 2 or 3 places. Try 16!

Indeed these are great tips by Carey Jones. From my experience, the most important rules are the two bite rule and the walk/public transit route, which was impossible when conducting taco crawls in Los Angeles. The two bite rule is a must. The first bite tells if it’s worthy of a second bite. The second bite is for investigation. Then doggy bag and bounce.

Happy Spring everybody!

ChoLon Denver

A city of tremendous contrasts, Denver has officially entered the big leagues of dining cities. Colorado’s capital resides physically at the intersection of the Midwest and the eastern slope of the great Rockies and its personality reflects that meeting point of being an old cowtown and a cosmopolitan major city with the highest population betweenContinue reading “ChoLon Denver”