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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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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Perfect G&Ts: 11 Top Gin and Tonics to Beat the August Heat

During the mercury spiking summer months and the still steamy early days of autumn, humble gin and tonics are the quintessential heat-beaters. The effervescence lifts you up and the nuanced sharpness of the tonic cuts through the humidity, while a complex arrangement of botanicals works to sooth your frazzled nerves. Here are 11 top gin and tonics that go beyond a simple mixture of Schweppes and Beefeater.

Amada, New York, New York
G&T goes DIY at Amada. Guests pair a variety of gins – such as Gin Mare from Spain and Brooklyn’s Dorothy Parker – with their choice of tonics. To complete the personalization, they choose from an array of garnishes, including lemon, Arbequina olives, fennel, grapefruit, licorice, kumquat, kiwi, and basil. The drinks are served Spanish style in giant goblets. Make a reservation at Amada.

top gin and tonics

Indique, Washington, D.C.
Cocktail crafter Carlie Steiner worked with executive chef K.N. Vinod to create a series of Subcontinent styled sips. One of their greatest collaborations is her tonic infused with housemade garam masala, a customizable mixture of spices used as a seasoning in many Indian dishes. Vinod’s version features cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander seed, star anise, and black pepper, which match up well with the botanicals in gin. The resulting G&T is cooling but still slightly spicy. Make a reservation at Indique.

Top gin and tonics

Zaytinya, Washington, D.C.
The flavors of the Aegean come alive in this creative G&T. The bar team combines rose petal and cucumber-accented Hendrick’s gin with lime juice, cardamom syrup, cooling cucumber juice, and a spice-rich Mediterranean tonic to create a cocktail called the Juniperus. Take a sip, close your eyes, and you’ll swear you’re on a beach on Mikonos. Make a reservation at Zaytinya.

Top gin and tonics

Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
Bar star Todd Thrasher spent nine months perfecting his homemade tonic. He infuses the deep brown syrup with cinchona bark powder containing the tonic’s trademark quinine, honey, yuzu, lemongrass, and lavender grown in the restaurant’s garden. The mixer is paired with the tippler’s gin of choice and arrives in a Collins glass. Make a reservation at Restaurant Eve.

Top gin and tonics

Boqueria–Flatiron District, New York, New York
The bartenders place a premium on a tip top, top-notch tonic, so they make their own in-house. The base syrup features cinchona bark for a wallop of quinine, as well as bitter Gentian root, allspice berries, orange zest, lime juice, and cane sugar. Ultimately, the tonic has a rich earthen vibe with spicy undertones and a little bite. Mix it with your choice of gin and then, “Salud!” Make a reservation at Boqueria-Flatiron District.

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August 2016 Restaurant Weeks: Summer Savings Ahead

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At home or on the road, you can enjoy discounts on meals this month at cities across the nation, thanks to August 2016 Restaurant Weeks.

* Dine Out Downtown Delray Restaurant Week brings you the best for less with $20 lunches + $20-$40 dinners through August 7. Make a reservation.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week will charm you with $15-$25 lunches and dinners, through August 20. Make a reservation.

* New Orleans COOLinary offers lunches for $20 or less + $39 or less through August 31 in NOLA. Make a reservation.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks make for a most delicious month. Book $20 brunches + lunches and $25, $35, and $45 dinners through September 5. Make a reservation.

* Miami Spice delivers two months of nice. Take advantage of $23 lunches + $39 dinners through September 30. Make a reservation.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week has three ways to save with $25, $35, and $45 dinners, August 8-14. Make a reservation.

* DFW Restaurant Week Preview is your chance to get a sneak peek of all the dining fun to come. Snag a seat for $20 lunches and $30 or $45 dinners, August 12-14. Make a reservation.

* Bethesda Magazine Restaurant Week showcases the tastiest of Maryland with $16 two-course lunches + $36 three-course dinners, August 12-21. Make a reservation.

* San Antonio Restaurant Week features $10 + $15 lunches and $25 + $35 dinners with heart, August 13-27. Make a reservation.

* Dine Out Boston is coming soon. Book now for $15, $20+ $25 lunches and $28, $33 + $38 dinners, August 14-26. Make a reservation.Continue Reading