ES Chats with the Michelin Man


Wednesday morning was the equivalent of Oscar nominations day for New York City chefs of a certain caliber, who woke up and found out whether they had won or lost a star from the esteemed French food critics at Michelin. (Yes, the same people who replace your tires are also the world’s most feared and respected food critics — go figure.) But it was also an interesting day for Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin’s directeur general, whose job is to personally call each chef and break the good (or bad) news. We caught up with the foodie world’s Santa Claus/Grinch to see how his big day went.

ES: So you actually call each of these chefs yourself? Are they expecting your call?
Jean-Luc Naret: Yes, I call each newly starred chef every year. You never know if they are expecting you. It’s sometimes really beautiful, such as with a chef like Cesar Ramirez at Brooklyn Fare [the first Brooklyn chef to ever receive two stars] who I called this morning and told him that he has two stars. That was a great call because he knows what it means. And it’s not two stars in Brooklyn — of course it is in Brooklyn, but it is two stars period. It means that his kitchen is becoming one of the best kitchens in the world. So he’s going to have a lot of focus on him now and hopefully he can keep it the same way.

But you also do the other call — when someone loses a star. Sounds awkward. How does that go?

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Guacamole and Fish, Together at Last

aja- hamachi guacamole

No, really — it works. I swear.

On a recent trip to Chicago, the best meal I ate was at aja, an inventive find in the otherwise bland River North neighborhood downtown. Joshua Linton is a 30-year-old chef who has worked under a whole bunch of notable names, including our boy Jose Andres in D.C., so you know he’s got some tricks up his sleeve.

Before I dined at Aja, several Chicagoans all told me the same thing — be sure to try the hamachi guacamole. Um…what? That does not sound right. Clearly, I had to taste it.

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Top 10 New Things to Put in Your Drink

We’ve certainly never been against drinking here at ES — it just traditionally takes a back seat to eating. However, in the last year we’ve found ourselves getting more and more excited about cocktails — because every time we go out we discover our favorite ingredients have migrated from the plate to the glass. From fruits and vegetables to spices and more, here are our top 10 favorite new things to mix in our drinks.

10. Saffron

A saffron ice cube anchors the Venetian, one of several new food-inspired cocktails at Tulio in Seattle.

Not just for paella anymore, the Spanish spice has started showing up in cocktail glasses, too. Saffron Restaurant and Lounge in Minneapolis has mixed the pricier-than-gold flakes into saffron-mango mojitos, saffron-blood orange martinis, and their current offering, the gin-based Saffron Rose. Tulio, an Italian restaurant in Seattle, recently introduced The Venetian — a vodka cocktail poured over an orange-y saffron ice cube. For those experimenting at home, the folks over at Video Jug have a video on how to mix a saffron vodka martini. (Tulio photo: Evan Johnson)


9. Beets

Fresh beet juice, ginger and vodka make up the Beetnik at Colorado's Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.

It’s hard to make a drink look more dramatic than when filled up with bright red beet juice, as in the beet sangria at New York’s Tailor or the Beetnik, a vodka-ginger-beet concoction served at Crested Butte, Colorado’s Dogwood Cocktail Cabin. Meanwhile, the gals at The Humble Kitchen have a recipe for their own tequila-based Beetnik. (Dogwood photo: eenwall)

8. Mole

Mole bitters liven up the Palermo Gentleman at Death + Co. in New York.

Mexico’s spicy-sweet chocolate treat is making the surprising transition from tamales to cocktails via Bittermens Bitters newest product, Xocolatl Mole Bitters. A neat way to add quite a substantial kick to any drink, the mole bitters are showing up in new cocktails like the tequila-based Chipilo at Brooklyn’s Buttermilk Channel and several options at Manhattan’s Death + Co. (Photo: Vidiot)

7. Sriracha

Every Top Chef contestant’s favorite secret ingredient can save a cocktail menu too, as in “El Scorcho,” a fiery mix of habanero infused vodka, sriracha, and jalapeno foam at Bend, Oregon’s Blacksmith restaurant. The sauce also makes a great replacement for Tabasco in bloody Marys — the blog White on Rice Couple has a great recipe, and if you want to get super-serious, check out their instructions on how to make sriracha from scratch. (Photo: White on Rice Couple)

6. Chinese Five Spice

A Chinese five spice grilled lemon garnishes the Fortune Teller at Bar Pleiades in New York.

Another ingredient Chinese chefs may be shocked to discover in American cocktails, C5S is showing up both as a garnish, as in the Fortune Teller drink served at the Surrey Hotel‘s new Bar Pleiades in New York, and as the basis of a drink, such as Imbibe magazine’s Five-Spice Fizz. (Photo: Bar Pleiades)

Next: Top 5 New Things to Put in Your Drink

Feeding the Monsters: Kids’ Restaurant Week


Lets be honest, I really don’t keep up with the daily events on Sesame Street. Thanks to gansie for alerting me to this particularly interesting event happening across the country.

As you may know, it drives me (and many other people) insane when restaurants/parents/idiots assume kids only eat shit. Thankfully, for one week, parents and patrons alike will be saved from this mayhem.

Mimicking Restaurant Week, where high-end restaurants offer a multi-course prix-fixe menu, Cookie and Gourmet’s Kids’ Restaurant Week 2009 is set to take place June 13-21 in Washginton, DC and June 20-28 in New York In Chicago.  Adults pay $29, while kids 11 and under pay their age. Dinner seatings are early (from 5pm-7pm).

The main event, obviously, is the food. Restaurants participating claim to offer “kid-friendly” (what the hell does that even mean) versions of their menu offerings. Seems good for parents, good for kids. One big happy family, right?

Although many news sources have marketed Kids’ Restaurant Week with the “tired of giving your kids chicken fingers?” routine, some restaurants are still sadly serving chicken fingers, french fries, and the ever popular macaroni and cheese (fail) during Kids’ Restaurant Week. However, others are serving up kid accessible versions of their delicious adult counterparts, such as duck tacos and tandoori chicken skewers. Perhaps at least some people are finally starting to get it.

Bottom line: if you’re interested in taking your children out to eat in Washington, DC, I’d first check out some of the menu offerings here to avoid another chicken fingers meal. If you’re in the windy city, check out this writeup of the Chicago events, where Kids’ Restaurant Week originated in 2008. If you’re in another city, or just want to see who is in on the hoopla, a list of participating restaurants for all cities can be found at the official Kids’ Restaurant Week site.

As always, if you do take your little ones to this (or have before),  let us know!

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