Food Travel

Work travel strikes again but at least this time I ended up in one of my favorite cities – San Francisco! Here are notes from the travel scratchpad. I took photos when appropriate; client dinners don’t always lend themselves to foodie habits. If you’re planning a trip there yourself, check out our past reviews in San Francisco.

Landing in San Francisco late in the evening, I was flying solo for dinner.  I wandered from my hotel but was not lost. Boulevard was calling my name and I knew I could find a warm seat at the bar. The brasserie feel of the restaurant put me at ease immediately, as did the fact that it was so crowded at 9pm on a Tuesday night. I scraped my chair up to the bar and immediately landed on my dinner for the evening: pan-roasted California squab with homemade gnocchi, white truffles from Oregon, and roasted brussel sprouts. I was in heaven. The squab was rich and moist – slightly crispy on the outside but still the deep red I was hoping to see in the center. The soft, plump pillows of gnocchi melted on my tongue and the slight tang of the sprouts brought my palate back down to Earth. The by-the-glass wine list was a little pricey but a well-made bourbon cocktail soothed me into the rest of the evening. Their Michelin star is well-deserved.

Boulevard on Urbanspoon

Barbacco Eno Trattoria

courtesy of A Food Lover's Life

Ask someone to come up with trademarks of the Bay Area and you’re likely to get similar answers: great food and technology. (It’s no shock that OpenTable is based there.) Barbacco has found the perfect way to blend both: the drink menu is on an iPad. Brilliant. But the restaurant is more than a tricked out lunch joint. The food was spot on: brussel sprouts lightly fried in duck fat might just spur a religious experience while the farro risotto melds a lesser known grain with a round, full-bodied flavor and the risotto texture I expect. Well done all around.
Barbacco on Urbanspoon

A Top Chef restaurant, another Michelin starred spot, late night burritos, and the top of my Next Time! Wishlist after the jump.


It is just about summer time in South America. A wine tour in sunny Argentina sounds just fine to me.

Santa, are you reading this?

Argentina’s Napa Valley –

When it comes to food trucks, DC is quickly earning a place as one of the most diverse and delicious cities across the country.  We’ve got Maine lobster rolls, Cuban sandwiches, Canadian poutine and Korean BBQ tacos – even food from the Fojol brothers’ native “Merlindia!”  On any given weekday a lunch crush could be gathering just outside your office for a taste one of these or a dozen other concepts.

But not yesterday and today.  With the first annual Curbside Cookoff, Washington’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs brought them all together in the parking lot at 11th and H Streets, NW for a snacking summit of epic proportions.  Voters selected their twenty favorite vendors from those who sell in the DC metropolitan area, and they all received invitations to set up at the site of the old convention center for two days of food and fun.

Yesterday’s crowds were a testament to just how popular these food trucks have become – an estimated 8500 guests waited in lines that sometimes exceeded an hour just to taste some of the favorites.

We stopped by for a quick look around in the early afternoon, and some of the vendors had already sold out for the day.  They’ve promised to reload and come back ready for twice as many people today.

Planning to be one of them?  Check out our guide to the Curbside Cookoff – complete with photos – after the jump. (more…)

There’s something fitting about this particular Travel Tuesday going up on a Wednesday morning.  A few weeks back, I told you about my trip to New Orleans and my highly scientific study of the Crescent City’s signature sandwiches, the po’ boy and the muffuletta.  Three of each over the course of the trip…not too shabby.

But that pales in comparison to the dedication with which I threw myself into my third and final quest: a search for the best Sazerac in the city that created the cocktail.  To say I’m fond of a well-made Sazerac is a bit of an understatement.  Over the course of my trip I tried no fewer than five different versions of the classic rye-and-absinthe drink.  I even paid a visit to the Museum of the American Cocktail (an impressive collection within the larger Southern Food and Beverage Museum).

I sought the Sazerac in the classics – the bars that claimed it as their own as well as the ones that have likely been serving it since its earliest days.  I tried a few in bars with no obvious connection to the drink besides a commitment to well-crafted cocktails.  I even checked out a Bourbon Street bar’s offering for the sake of comparison.

And what did I find?  Generally speaking, there’s a reason a bar (or a bartender) becomes a classic.  Whether through skill, art or sheer force of repetition, they deliver if you know what you’re looking for.  But beware of any place that claims too close an association with something…you’re apt to find the spirit of the thing lost to the marketing and hype that surrounds it.

After the jump, the making of a Sazerac and a run-down on the contenders for my new personal favorite. (more…)

When traveling for work, food can often be an afterthought.  You can’t control where and when you’re going, and chances are your meals will be dictated by the schedule of the conference or activity that brought you there in the first place.  So you make your peace with a couple of grab-and-go meals and you hope for a decent dinner or two along the way.

Unless, of course, you’re headed to a foodlovers’ Mecca like New Orleans.  Whether you crave high-end cuisine or down-and-dirty dining, New Orleans has you covered (and then some).  As the great philosopher Axl Rose once said, “If you’ve got the money, honey, we’ve got your disease.”  With this much great food all around, you find a way to eat well while you’re in town.

I wanted to make the most of my meals, so I decided to focus on three New Orleans specialties: the po’ boy, the muffuletta and the Sazerac cocktail.  The first two are ubiquitous sandwiches that can be found in varying forms throughout the Crescent City.  The latter is the cocktail by which I judge most bartenders – and it was first concocted in New Orleans.

But I couldn’t settle for just one version of these delicacies…the debate over who does them best is fiercely partisan and it just wouldn’t do to sample a po’ boy from Mother’s without also trying the one at Domilise.  Sure, the Central Grocery muffuletta is the original, but what’s with all the fuss over Verdi Marte’s hot version?  And whose Sazerac would be my new gold standard?

I would have to try a few of each, in the name of science, of course.  The things I do for this blog…


It’s Tuesday, but Eyjafjallajokull is making travel to and from Europe exceedingly difficult.  News of stranded travelers, massive ash clouds and the British Royal Navy on the move are everywhere.

So rather than talking about our own travel, we’re deferring to one of our favorite food writers: David Lebovitz.  He’s the guy who turned us on to homemade Roquefort and honey ice cream, and Elizabeth just flew through his “The Sweet Life in Paris.”

This morning he did a huge favor to those who are stranded in the City of Lights: a list of “10 Things to Do if You’re Stuck in Paris.”

Check out his list and try not to drool.  And if you’re a European visitor stuck in Washington, check out our list of 10 Things NOT to Do in DC.

Here’s hoping we get stuck in Paris soon so we can put Lebovitz’s list to good use…

Image courtesy Muppet Wiki

When you think of Swedish cuisine, the first words that come to mind are most likely “Bork, bork, bork!”  Once you get past the image of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, you’ve got little meatballs, herring, and cafeteria food from IKEA.  At least that was pretty much the extent of things for us until we first heard about Marcus Samuelsson.

Image courtesy of Bravo TV

Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish couple from his home in Ethiopia, and his adopted grandmother instilled in him a love of cooking.  His story really gets good after he came to America and made a name for himself as the chef (and now co-owner) of Aquavit.  He’s won multiple James Beard Foundation awards, published several popular cookbooks, cooked at the White House and guest judged on Top Chef (he’s about to compete in the second season of Top Chef Masters).

The combination of the chef’s mystique and the fact that we knew next to nothing about Swedish cuisine was too much to resist.  When it came time to plan a trip to New York for Mike’s parents’ anniversary, we suggested dinner at Aquavit.  Fortunately, everyone else was as intrigued as we were, so they agreed.

Aquavit offers two different meal experiences.  In the Dining Room, guests select either a chef’s tasting menu ($105 per person) or a select-your-own-courses prix fixe menu ($78 per person).  The Bistro, on the other hand, allows diners to choose from an impressive menu of Scandinavian classics with some modern American dishes thrown in.  With appetizers in the $10-$13 range and entrees running from $14 to $29, the Bistro’s menu makes for a more economical way to sample Aquavit’s fare – and the one we opted for.

What the heck is a smorgasbord?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

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