“Food is most flavorful when coaxed with very little,” says Jenn Louis, the chef and co-owner of Portland, Oregon’s Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, as well as Culinary Artistry, a full-service catering business. Louis loves to cook with the seasons and as simply as possible. Nearly everything in her restaurants is made by hand. Her pastas have earned her a reputation as something of an Italian nonna, and in March she’s bringing out a pasta cookbook, Pasta by Hand (Chronicle), focused on the under-loved category of Italian pasta: the dumpling (there’s a lot more going on there than just gnudi).
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At San Francisco’s Le Marais, the beautiful artisanal bistro and bakery in the Marina District, the crowds come for many reasons. Some arrive just past dawn for the best Kouign-Mann and croissants this side of the Atlantic Ocean. (It doesn’t hurt that pastry chef Emily Riddell uses locally-milled organic flours and European-style organic butter). Others come for lunch — a crusty griddled ham and cheddar with grainy mustard and cornichon, and a salad of roasted beets with pomegranate, fennel and burrata, or one composed of Yali pears and wild greens, walnut, celery root and bitter onion. Late afternoon it’s bakery time again — a cup of Stumptown coffee and a slice of banana pecan bread, and then back for dinner — maybe scallops with persimmon and Serrano ham, black bass en papillote with turnips sorrel and lemon verbena, or smoky confited chicken with chickpeas, raddichio and citrus. The place is always humming with happy people.
But truth be told, it’s more than just the food that keeps the crowds in que. Owner Patrick Ascaso, a former investment professional with a passion for food, and his wife Joanna Pulcini, a literary agent, have created the kind of restaurant you can’t quite tear yourself away from. The service is great, the place is charming, and the food is divine. You may never care to leave. “The idea was to create a European eatery that serves food all day long, with the scents of bread baking in the morning, and then the pastry in the afternoon, and the wood-grilling savory dishes at night,” said Ascaso. “With the wood interior, it is remarkable how the space changes from the warmth of a bakery to the elegant feel of a bistro at night.”
If you’re talking about great seafood in Brooklyn, chances are you’re talking about the fish restaurant Bergen Hill, a snug outpost located in a quiet corner of Court Street in Carroll Gardens. The chef, Andrew D’Ambrosi, cooks out of a kitchen that seems to have been built for a doll, not a fully grown man. It’s about 3 feet by 5 feet and has no oven; it includes four induction burners, one sandwich press and a toy-sized electric oven. (Don’t complain about your kitchen!)
Trending on the tables of eateries from Portland to Paris: Avocado Toast. This open-faced sandwich, sometimes referred to as Avocado Mash or Avocado Smash, has gained momentum as it requires few ingredients, offers endless possibilities and, well, it’s quite the looker. We like it for the fact that it is easy and quick, and its star ingredient is one of the best things you can put on your plate.
With their steady rotation of grilled cheese and butter-topped noodles, the “kid-friendly” section of restaurant menus has always been unimaginative. But these days it’s hard not to notice that the offerings are also fairly unhealthy. The palette of food geared toward children is primarily white, brown and orange — the colors of french fries, fried nuggets (of one sort or another) and mac and cheese. Not only is such fare typically lacking in creativity, it’s also lacking in nutrition, although there’s generally no lack of calories or sodium. It’s not uncommon for a kid’s meal to exceed 1,000 calories, more than any adult needs in one sitting.
The good news is that many restaurants are making strides in revamping the menu options for pint-sized patrons. The National Restaurant Association just hosted the second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge — a competition that encourages chefs to come up with enticing but healthy alternatives for kids. Winners included an organic sunflower butter and jam sandwich on multi-grain oat bread and a whole-wheat quesadilla filled with broccoli, chicken, peppers and corn. Read more
Over the years, Jamba Juice has expanded its menu to include a variety of drinks, breakfast wraps, fro-yo, baked goods and even kids’ options. With so much to choose from, it can make anyone’s head spin. But here’s how to give this blender bar a whirl.
By the time you turn the corner, everyone in the car is begging for food. The last thing you want to do is bring a never-ending supply of junk. Instead, pack a few good-for-you mess-free meals and snacks. To keep things fresh, bring a cooler (the traditional kind or one that plugs into the car).
- Whole-grain pasta salad or quinoa salad
- Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- Hard-boiled egg and cheese in a whole-wheat pita
- Sliced fresh fruit like melon and berries
- Snack bar
- Greek yogurt
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
If you end up having to hit the quick mart anyway, look for the smarter choices:
- Whole-grain pretzels
- Hummus cups
- Coffee or tea (nothing fancy)
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Small bowl of oatmeal
Chipotle Mexican Grill
After playing around with their nutrition calculator, I found the most balanced option was a salad with lettuce, 1 serving of steak, black beans, green tomatilla salsa and fajita veggies.
Nutrition Info: Calories: 355; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 40 grams; Carbohydrates: 34 grams; Sodium: 975 milligrams
If you’re in the mood for a taco, choose the soft corn tortilla and one protein (chicken, steak, barbacoa, or carnitas) and top with veggies (lettuce and fajita veggies) and your favorite salsa. This will give you a nutritious meal for around 400 calories.
Check out more healthy Chipotle options.
Rum and coke is a thing of the past. Instead, you’ll find bars offering up a menu of exotic cocktails created from high-quality booze and fresh ingredients. I had the opportunity to speak with the bar manager Sarah Boisjoli from Beauty and Essex — one of the trendiest bars in New York City, known for their high superb cocktail menu — about hot cocktail trends you’ll see this year.
Q. The term “mixologist” is now being used instead of “bartender.” Is there a difference between the two?
There is a difference. A mixologist develops the recipes while the bartender mixes and serves them. In order to develop a cocktail, we work as a team and put much thought and time into perfecting it using the freshest and highest quality ingredients.
Q. What are some of the infusions that you offer on your cocktail menu?
Many of our drinks are creating by infusing flavors. For example in the Sapphire Seventy-Five Bombay Sapphire is infused with blueberry-brown sugar and in the La Miel we infuse a local Brooklyn gin with vanilla.
Q. How can folks at home infuse their own cocktails?
A great combo is Woodford bourbon infused with cinnamon. Put cinnamon sticks into the bourbon and let it hang out for a few days or weeks (the longer it hangs out, the stronger the flavor). Strain it out and you have delicious cinnamon-infused bourbon.