Little Gem: What It Means to Eat in a Modern California Eatery

Little Gem

“It’s a pretty wonderful mix,” says Eric Lilavois, owner of Little Gem in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley. “We had a couple come in last night and I think that they were fresh out of yoga and they asked, ‘Are we underdressed?’ And I said, ‘No, of course not.’”

Little Gem, a counter-service restaurant in origin that opened to countless accolades and a standing feature in Eater’s 38, has decided to open its doors to OpenTable reservations each evening. Opened by two alums of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, the restaurant certainly has fine dining in its pedigree – but the intent was always to elevate the experience of what it means to dine in a casual environment like the one where a post-yoga salad lives side-by-side a romantic Friday evening for two.

When asked how The French Laundry legacy has informed their new approach, Lilavois points to the core of it all: “The heart of hospitality, where there was such great emphasis on care and detail with everything that we did.” In their new project, where everything from all day café-style dining to now seated dinner for any level of occasion is on offer, “it’s that very same sense of caring, attention to detail, and awareness that we apply in a deeply casual way.”

Little Gem

Whether delicate lettuces with expertly poached chicken or divine salmon tartare are your thing or you’re simply craving a fried egg-topped bibimbap with heirloom brown rice, the restaurant’s gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free ethos make it the perfect place to indulge in just about any mild to serious craving (regardless of your dietary restrictions.) But it’s so much more than health food on the menu.Continue Reading

Small State, Big Eats: Where to Dine in Rhode Island Now

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Prateek Shewakramani may have gone to Providence to go bar-hopping with friends, but he found some of the best food he’s ever had — and that’s saying a lot from someone who lives in New York City.

“The wings at the Rosendale are some of the best I’ve ever eaten, even better than the hundreds here in NYC — tons of flavors and fried just right,” he said. “And the chicken and waffles I had the next day was an amazing brunch. Everything is so close-by you can walk and get a few different experiences and vibes — you still have the old family-run places, but there are all of these new places popping up with creative menus and twists on traditional cuisines.”

Among his favorites is Local 121, half restaurant, half “saloon-like” bar that after years of being used as a dining hall by Johnson & Wales University—whose culinary school has become a Providence talent incubator—was renovated to reveal beautiful original woodwork. Today, cafeteria trays are nowhere to be found, but the hideaway spotlights local beers, creative cocktails, and such inventive apps as pizza with a fried-dough crust.

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Shewakramani is just one foodie singing this small city’s praises, which is also a favorite day trip for area chefs. Michael Schlow makes it a point to do at least one summer drive from his home in Boston for a lobster roll at Hemenway’s, and Rachel Klein, an alum of several Boston hot spots including Liquid Art House and Providence’s X.O. Café, thinks of her former home fondly.

“It’s an awesome city — it’s so small but there’s so much going on, especially on the food scene. You’ve got Gracie’s, Nick’s on Broadway, and now Champe Speidel’s opened Persimmon.”

Robert Sisca, another J&W grad who lives in nearby Cranston, R.I., commuted over an hour to Boston’s Bistro du Midi before deciding this winter to keep it as locally sourced as his produce. Now with a shortened commute as the corporate executive chef at the ProvidenceG, a historic building that includes swank Garde de la Mer, the all-seasons upscale bar Rooftop at the G and Providence GPub, he’s able to dedicate his time to inventive menus, training kitchen leaders, and working with local farmers and vendors. The results are apparent tableside: delicate Hamachi crudo with Asian pears, green garlic, and almonds (pictured), smoked white asparagus soup with a poached egg, prosciutto, and frisse, and layers of crispy-sweet French toast topped with duck confit, lingonberry, and a cured egg yolk all grace the menu.

Where to Dine in Rhode Island

But the creativity doesn’t stop on the plate, says ProvidenceG director of operations Jeff Mancinho. “Art is such a foundation here, just like the culinary scene. We’re trying to integrate it all and capture everything that is Rhode Island,” he said. Mancinho’s latest endeavor includes working with local artists on digital pieces for his renovated space that will transform over time, and reflect the city’s attitude of changing with the times.

Where to dine in Rhode Island

Providence hosts outdoor arts festivals and music events almost each weekend from spring through fall and as home to the Rhode Island School of Design there’s a larger focus on integrating compelling media into the everyday (including painting murals on large brick building “canvases” downtown) says Christina Robbio of the city’s visitors bureau. The most famous art installation, the eighty bonfires installed on rivers running through the city center as part of the WaterFire sculpture by Barnaby Evans, are incorporated into several evenings of music and entertainment annually.

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Produce Playoff Draft 2016: The Picks Are In!

Ahead of the third annual Produce Playoff to benefit No Kid Hungry at Betony on August 24, 2016, the players gathered in New York’s bustling Union Square Greenmarket to “draft” the stars of the dishes and drinks they’ll be creating next week. “Competing” chefs and beverage experts, including event founders Bryce Shuman and Eamon Rockey (Betony), Bo Bech (Geist), Daniel Burns (Luksus), Flynn McGarry (Eureka), Danielle-Innes (Cosme), Mina Pizzaro (Betony), Leo Robitshcek (The NoMad), Caleb Ganzer (Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels), and Dean Fuerth (Betony), spent the morning dashing around the market to stake their claim to the season’s best bounty in two lively rounds.

Catch the action with these shots from photographer Simon Lewis. Then, purchase your tickets to join us at the Produce Playoff on Wednesday to support No Kid Hungry in a most delicious way.

Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Let’s get it started in here.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Chef Bryce Shuman of Betony sounds the horn of Gondor.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Forget being true to your school; emcee Corey Warren of Betony is true to the #NoKidHungry cause.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see your name on the list.”
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Chef Flynn McGarry has a eureka moment when he spies ripe watermelon.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
The future of the fight against childhood hunger is so bright, we’ve gotta wear shades.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
2016 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Daniela Soto-Innes channels her inner fashion blogger after selecting freshly harvested corn.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Pretty sure this is the prettiest draft board we’ve ever seen.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
“I haz all the herbs.”
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Open up and say … “Ahh!”
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Flags were hoisted as the battle among the chefs for the best produce continued.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Despite going sleeveless, we’re pretty sure pastry chef Mina Pizarro of Betony has a special plan for this celery up her sleeve.
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
“No, seriously, I’m going to squash the competition.”
Produce Playoff Draft 2016
Which chef has her or his eyes on the prize of summer tomatoes?

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Huli Pau! Four Top Oahu Mai Tais

Rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice, orange curaçao, rich simple syrup and orgeat. The classic Mai Tai. As the story goes, Victor J. Bergeron laid claim to inventing the Mai Tai at his California restaurant Trader Vic’s in 1944. But imbibing on this iconic cocktail is, to many people, an island paradise in a glass. After all, Bergeron says he created the drink one afternoon for friends who visiting from Tahiti; the Tahitian word maitai literally means very good. Today, Hawaii keeps the Mai Tai loving tradition strong. It’s the official cocktail of luau and is found on virtually every island cocktail menu. And while it’s hard to have a bad one, here are four top Oahu Mai Tais that are not to be missed.

French Topless Mai Tai, Azure-The Royal Hawaiian
Azure is not only known locally for its quality seafood menu but its top-notch Mai Tai. That’s probably because it’s on the same property as the Mai Tai Bar, located on the manicured ground of the Royal Hawaiian, Hawaii’s second oldest hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace of the Pacific. Both places have solid cocktail menus and renowned Mai Tais. For an upscale cocktail experience, head to Azure for the French Topless Mai Tai. This handcrafted libation has won a best in show spirits award in San Francisco. It’s a twist on the traditional Mai Tai, made instead with Korbel brandy, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, pineapple juice, and effervescence, but just as rewarding. Make a reservation at Azure-The Royal Hawaiian.

Top Oahu Mai Tais

Ilikea Mai Tai, Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge
There’s good reason Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge won the title of World’s Best Mai Tai in 2011. The classic cocktail is polished with Amaretto, Canton Ginger Liquor, kaffir lime, and caramelized pineapple and topped with pineapple-Bacardi sorbet. If you only get one drink at the Wai’olu, make it this one. In fact, the rooftop bar has sold more than 30,000 Ilikea Mai Tais since winning the prestigious award five years ago. In addition to its superb cocktails, the open-air bar overlooking Waikiki offers a picture-perfect view of the Friday night fireworks. Make a reservation at Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge.

Top Oahu Mai Tais

Mac Nut Mai Tai, 53 by the Sea
Rum aside, a key ingredient of the Mai Tai is the orange curaçao. 53 by the Sea takes the tradition up a kick with its housemade macadamia nut-infused orange curaçao. The result is sweet and smooth. Even better, each Mac Nut Mai Tai comes with a small bowl of housemade candied mac nuts. 53 by the Sea, is a stately mansion-esque looking restaurant located at 53 Ahui Street in Honolulu. As the name suggests, it’s located ocean side, ensuring you’ll have a great view with each sip of your Mai Tai. And from 4 to 6:30PM, the restaurant has a lively happy hour at its cozy bar. Make a reservation at 53 by the Sea.

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