Edible Eureka: 4 Chefs Share the Meals That Changed Their Lives

Looking back over all the thousands of meals they’ve ever eaten, chefs can often pinpoint those that had the greatest impact. These epiphanic moments might inspire them to cook, profoundly alter their culinary philosophy, unveil a deeper revelation about the human experience, or instill a deep-seated love of a particular dish. Here 4 top chefs share the meals that changed their lives.

Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore, Maryland
“My dad was in the restaurant business, so I got to eat in a lot of fine dining restaurants growing up. In 1984 in Charleston, I dined with my parents at Morton’s in the Vendue Inn – no relation to the steakhouse – a 35-seat restaurant helmed by chef Marcelo Vasquez. I remember he personally prepared a number of dishes tableside: steak tartare, rack of lamb, and côte de boeuf with chimichurri, which no one was doing at the time. It was French-based cooking with Argentine influences. I was so excited after I ate there that I wanted to work with him. I went to culinary school in 1985 at the CIA and did my externship with Vasquez the next year. He became my mentor. He did one dish he called Shrimp Beaufort – named after a nearby town – made with sweet corn, green onions, lemon, butter, and salt. It was super simple. Local everything. It was so fresh. Simple, fresh, and local defined the rest of my career. He also taught me a deep respect for the product. One day, he bought a New York strip steak for us to have for dinner, which cost a lot of money and was a very extravagant thing to do at that time. I didn’t get it cooked in time for employee meal, so I cut them it into steaks and grilled them individually. I can still feel how disappointed he was in me. I’ll never forget that. But he instilled a real respect in me.” Make a reservation at Charleston.

Chefs Share the Meals That Changed Their Lives

Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
“My dad was a tour operator in Ireland, so he sold airline tickets and hotel rooms as packages. His firm bought tickets in bulk and sometimes there would be a couple of seats left over. We’d be sitting around the dinner table and my dad would say, ‘Wanna go to Portugal tomorrow?’ He loved cooking, so food was always a part of our family and our trips. When I was six-years-old, we went to Alicanté in southeast Spain. One of dad’s travel agents took us up into the mountains to meet his grandmother. The men went out into the fields and caught rabbits, which they skinned alive. They dug a pit and hung the paella pan over it. It was incredible and made the longest lasting impact as a food memory. Since then, paella has been one of my favorite dishes to eat. However, my father prepared the best paella I’ve ever had in my life. Only about five years ago, I asked him to teach me the way to make it the way he does it. Similar to bouillabaisse or cassoulet, there are layers and layers of flavor in paella, which make a symphony. It’s everything food is supposed to be.” Make a reservation at Restaurant Eve.

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Making Herstory: Pacific Northwest Culinary Stars to Watch

The Pacific Northwest produces some of the finest local ingredients for cooking and drinking. It also has some of the finest chefs and mixologists in restaurant kitchens and bars doing magical things with those products. Here are a few of our favorite Pacific Northwest culinary stars to watch. Book a table to taste excellence this summer.

Hailey Pasemko, Bar Manager, Wolf in the Fog, Tofino, British Columbia
Hailey Pasemko is making a splash at the bar — by running it. For her, that means choosing wines and creating cocktails that complement what’s coming out of the kitchen and also pioneering new ways of spotlighting the unique local ingredients that can be found on Vancouver Island’s rugged and stormy west coast. Pasemko’s method: start with a classic cocktail that’s already stood the test of time and then experiment with different flavors, such as including local salal berries (an earthier blueberry) in a Sloe Gin. “That’s where the magic happens,” Pasemko says. Pasemko also tips her hat to the seasons by offering spirit-based drinks in the winter, and long, refreshing versions in the summer. So, as we head into the warmer months, expect some interesting light florals—Pasemko’s feminine touch—like nasturtium to make an appearance in the Wolf in the Fog’s aperitifs. “Sometimes I feel the pressure to be more conventional,” admits Pasemko, “but when I tone it down, things are never actualized the way I intend them to be.” Make a reservation at Wolf in the Fog.

Bar Manager Hailey Pasemko

The crew at Salty’s Waterfront Seafood Grill, Des Moines, Washington
The Salty’s kitchen in South Seattle’s Redondo Beach is literally teeming with talent. The salads and sushi stations, the buffet, dessert preparation — all are being handled by what Executive Chef Josh Green calls “the right people,” who just happen to be women. Detailed-oriented Alissa Bilderback creates dishes that look “perfect on the plate, but not forced.” Janice Rabiteau uses her sautée pan to bring out the color and flavor of Salty’s fresh, local seafood. Adela Gomez is responsible for Salty’s chowder (which is a Big Deal since a seafood restaurant is its chowder.) And Leanna Spillner, who started at Salty’s three years ago, when she was just 15, preps sushi, salads, and desserts. Explains Spillner, “It’s a great time for women to be in the kitchen because women bring an indescribable small difference to cooking — and that goes a long way.” Make a reservation at Salty’s.

Salty's Chefs

Melissa Mayer + Maylin Chavez, owners/chefs, Olympia Oyster Bar, Portland, Oregon
Melissa Mayer and Maylin Chavez are well aware that lots of folks either have no experience with oysters — or have had a negative one. They also know the way to develop a taste for the bivalves is through curation and comparison. That’s why they launched an oyster bar with a selection of oysters from various regions and with different flavor profiles instead of opening a restaurant that simply had one oyster dish available on a larger menu. “Once people try them in our kind of setting, most of them feel changed forever,” jokes Chavez. Also on the menu (which is currently being broadened): housemade linguine with clams and Chilpa Chole, a mussels dish prepared in a shrimp consommé base that also includes cinnamon, fresh herbs, and chunks of radishes and avocado. At some promotional events, their male friends have mistakenly been presumed to be the restaurant’s owners. ‘This is a boy’s industry,” says Mayer, but she doesn’t let that cloud her vision or goals for Olympia Oyster Bar. “It’s always a good time for women to be doing this and to be leaders,” she concludes. Make a reservation at Olympia Oyster Bar.

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Restaurants and Bees: Where to Get Buzzed on Dishes + Drinks with Local Honey

Blog header Trace copyBe aware: Bees are getting a lotta love these days — in restaurants! Here are some sweet spots where you can get buzzed on cocktails as well as enjoy entrees and dishes—made with honey from on-site hives. The apiary trend is nationwide, but you’ll note that in Boston, restaurants and bees are, well, a thing.

City Table, Boston, Massachusetts
The bees that buzz on the rooftop at the Lenox Hotel forage at a distance of up to three miles for flower and plant nectar, returning for turndown service each night. They get the royal treatment: Beekeeper Dean Stiglitz travels to the hotel every Monday morning in season to tend to the bees. The hotel’s City Table restaurant features several honey-inspired dishes including Avocado Toast (fried egg, sticky honey, diced avocado, and red chili flake glaze). And the hotel’s City Bar serves cocktails that use the honey — sip The Queen Bee (gin, green tea, honey and prosecco) or Colonel’s Choice (Calvados, Maker’s Mark, Combier, honey and garnished with an orange slice). Make a reservation at City Table.

Restaurants and Bees

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, Boston, Massachusetts
OAK is housed in the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which also houses three beehives located next to the rooftop herb garden. Best Bees Co. tends to the bees, which produce 30 to 40 gallons of the sweet nectar annually. The honey is used to make the Rooftop Honey Butter, which is served with the Hearth Baked Bread and the Buttermilk Panna Cotta, among other dishes. And, wait, there’s more buzz. Wild mason bees are some of the most effective pollinators on Earth, and the hotel just debuted its new Bee Hotel, located in the hotel’s herb garden next to the honey bee apiary. OAK will offer a selection of pollinator menu items like the Avocado & Peekytoe Crab Toast (the avocado is pollinated by the bees). Make a reservation at OAK Long Bar + Kitchen.

Restaurants and Bees

Fearrington House, Pittsboro, North Carolina
This restaurant located just outside of Chapel Hill has a beehive on property that’s overseen by one of the restaurant’s sous chefs and a local beekeeper who assists in the harvesting of the honey. Dishes in which the honey plays a cameo role include the Sweet & Sour Tuna with Fresh Chickpeas, Yuzu, Cucumber, Salsify, Avocado, and Fearrington’s honey. Make a reservation at Fearrington House.

Restaurants and Bees

Japengo at Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii
“The global decline in honeybee population has also seriously affected the Hawaiian honeybee population, resulting in legislation at the state level to encourage honey production and sales throughout the islands,” says a hotel spokesperson. And so, the hotel created its own honeybee colony and a honey program called Hula Meli, meaning “Dancing Honey.” The honey that’s harvested from the apiary is used in a signature cocktail served in all of the hotel’s dining outlets, including Japengo; the Bee’s Knees cocktail combines Hendricks Gin, triple sec, and fresh lemon juice with the honey. The cocktail is shaken with crushed ice and served in a tumbler with a garnish of fresh honeycomb from the hotel’s hive. Make a reservation at Japengo.

Restaurants and Bees

Randolfi’s, University City, Missouri
James Beard semifinalist and chef-owner Mike Randolph features classic Italian here — with a twist. A unique ingredient you might not find on your nonna’s menu is chef de cuisine Tommy Andrew’s honey. The chef moonlights as a beekeeper — he has two hives in his backyard, as well as others at a separate location. The menu features the honey in several dishes including the oven-glazed vegetables, the cheese plate, and honey ice cream, as well as some of the cocktails. Make a reservation at Randolfi’s.

Restaurants and Bees

Trace, San Francisco, California
Trace is the W hotel’s signature restaurant, and the hotel has been harvesting wild honey bees for four years and is now home to 40,000 bees and 10 hives located on the hotel’s rooftop on the 32nd floor; 40 pounds of honey per hive are produced per year. The natural honeycomb is used in the restaurant’s menus, including the Roasted Beet Salad with burrata, pistachio, baby greens, and honey, and its Ginger Pork Skewers with rooftop honey and sesame seed. Make a reservation at Trace.

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Get in the Gold Medal Spirit: 7 Top Brazilian Restaurants

You can’t go anywhere lately without hearing the trill of vuvuzelas or the roar of the crowd. The games are underway in Rio, where records are shattered, dreams are made, and heroes are born. Can’t afford the plane fare and the cost of the tickets? Don’t worry, you can still get a taste of the host country here in the States. Here are top Brazilian restaurants to fuel your dreams.

The Grill from Ipanema, Washington, D.C.
The Brazilian outpost in the nation’s capitol thrives in the buzzy Adams Morgan neighborhood. Chef Alcy De Souza offers an epic menu, which encompasses the width and breadth of his home country’s cuisine. He makes a mean feijoada, Brazil’s national dish. The thick black bean stew is fortified with plenty of protein, including beef, pork sausage, and smoked meats, ensuring it will stick to your stomach for hours after you dine. It’s the perfect preemptive order if you plan on enjoying the tropicalia-styled cocktail menu, which features caipirinha (of course!), maracujinha (cachaça-amped passion fruit juice), and batida de côco (a creamy coconut sipper spiked with cachaça and vodka). Make a reservation at the Grill from Ipanema.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse, Webster, Texas
Being your meal at this churrascaria with a trip to the outsized salad bar, which features more than 30 options. Make sure you don’t overload your plate though because this is only the beginning. Back at your table, you’ll be given a coaster with a red side and a green side. Leave the green side up and servers will continue to bring you an onslaught of meats, including beef, lamb, chicken, and fish, as well as sides, such as mashed potatoes, garlicky rice, and caramelized bananas. When you feel like you’ve had enough – or you just want to take a break, so you can rest up for the next round – flip your coaster over to the red side to stop the edible assault. Make a reservation at Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Ipanema, New York, New York
Perched in the heart of Manhattan’s Little Brazil, this storied eatery has been giving diners a taste of their unique Brazilian-Portuguese (sometimes referred to as luso-Brazilian) cuisine for more than three decades. Expect the classics, including crème de camarão (shrimp bisque), vatapá (grilled monkfish and shrimp stew made with dende oil and crisped up hazelnuts), picanha, and feijoada. Wash it all down with a few caipirinha, which are available in the classic style or accented with your choice of coconut cream or passion fruit juice. Just don’t drink too many or you might wake up in Rio. Trust us, vuvuzelas sound even worse when you’re hungover. Make a reservation at Ipanema.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Espetus Churrascaria, San Francisco, California
You could call this a fire-to-fork concept. The rodizio style restaurant brings diners a seemingly endless parade of skewered offerings, all cooked over mesquite by the gaucho chefs. Options include bacon-wrapped filet mignon, pork loin, chicken hearts, shrimp, lamb, and pineapple, whose juiciness and caramelized sweetness offers a nice counterpoint to the proteins. Complement this fare with sides from the salad bar, such as moqueca de peixe (fish stew) and the requisite feijoada. If there’s still room for something sweet after overindulging on savory items, try the pudim (caramel topped milk and egg custard) or crème de papaya (a blend of ice cream and papaya) lavished with crème de cassis and accompanied by a scoop of cassis sorbet. Make a reservation at Espetus Churrascaria.

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