Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hyatt and Hyatt House New Orleans Provide A Wonderful Duet In A Classic American City.

New Orleans has a rich, colorful and tragic past.  After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city there were some who said they city will never been the same and others who said perhaps they shouldn’t rebuild.

Over the years, there has been a rebirth of epic proportions which we just had to witness and experience firsthand.  An excellent example of the rebirth of this iconic city is the Hyatt New Orleans and their extended stay property Hyatt House.

Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu

In fact, we were honored to attend the grand opening of the Hyatt House with a proud, gleaming Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu. With an emotional toast of Champagne with rebuilt downtown as a back drop we celebrated the birth of yet another part of this very historic American city.

The Hyatt House feels like your own home, designed for one night stays to weeks and even months at a time. This brand new property is located in the downtown area surrounded by new and famous   restaurants that feature fresh cuisine and cocktails any time of the day.

Why not start your day your with a made-to-order omelet from the complimentary Morning Spread. No matter what time of day you may need to satisfy your hunger, the 24-hour Guest Market serves fresh prepared salads, sandwiches and snacks.  You can even make your own home cooked meal by taking advantage of the complimentary grocery shopping service and enjoy an evening at home.


For a hand crafted libation pull up a seat at the H Bar and lounge order some comfort food, a cocktail or a nice choice of premium wine and beer.

Executive Chef Eric Damidot 

Take a walk in the New Orleans Warehouse District and dine one of the 8 restaurants headed up by French Chef Eric Damidot next-door at the Hyatt Regency, including 8 Block Kitchen & Bar.

Guests can really relax in roomy, comfortable can apartment style rooms & suites. On our stay we felt like a like a long-time resident and so will you as you settle into a spacious studios and one-bedroom kitchen suites with separate living space, bedroom and work areas designed for up to six people.

Sleep peacefully on comfortable beds with ultra-plush pillows, triple sheeting and a pillow-top mattress. Enjoy the conveniences of home like the 42” LCD TV and DVD player and fully equipped kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, stove, small appliances, and utensils.

If you’re in New Orleans on business the Hyatt house is for you. The one-bedroom hotel suites give you generous work space with a full-sized desk, dual-line phone, voice mail and free Wi-Fi. In town visiting a nearby hospital in the Medical District?


The large apartment style suites has plenty space to keep your lifestyle routines rolling as if you were at home. At Hyatt House they told us that we are more than a guest, you’re a welcome resident.

After indulging in southern hospitality with a New Orleans flare, dining with Chef Eric Damidot, we could not agree more.  Hyatt House New Orleans is truly a home away from home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chef Justin Hancock Has Big Things Happening At Fresco Italiano In The Westgate Resort In Las Vegas.

It is always nice to be pleasantly surprised when visiting a new dining venue. This was the case when we stopped into Fresco Italiano to meet Chef Justin Hancock and explore his culinary options. A nice way to start is their housemade charcuteire plate featuring fresh baratta and a wide variety of imported meat choices that is sure to peak your interest and palate. Chef Justin also shared that soon he will be curing his own proteins in house.
Chef Justin Hancock
We highly suggest one of their flatbreads made fresh from their pizza oven with imported Italian flour. The Marinara is a house specialty with a few old family recipes and worth a try. The rich Eggplant Parmesan with a plethora of creamy cheese and Marinara is the perfect way to experience a marriage on a plate. You certainly can’t go wrong with a perfectly prepared Bone in Veal Marsala on a bed of homemade angel hair pasta.

 If you desire a treat from the sea, the Gamberetto Shrimp Fra Diavlo with a large Langoustine is worth casting your net for. The most unique dish we enjoyed was Chef’s Porcini Risotto with 15 mushroom varietals that will be remembered for quite some time.
Keep an eye on this young Chef at Fresco Italiano as he brings his creativity to his sections of Meats, Seafood, Pasta, Risotto and Gluten Free and Whole Grain Pasta that is sure to satisfy your cravings as well as your wallet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Harvest by Chef Roy Ellamar Brigs Farm to Table Dishes To The Bellagio Resort.

Recently we saw the transformation of shuttered Sensi, into Harvest by Chef Roy Ellamar. Transformation is a very positive word, in that it encapsulates change in the most positive mode, and that is exactly what has taken place between the walls of this new dining venue.

Incorporating a more open and inviting space with accents of wood paneling and hand blown light fixtures, Harvest creates an almost communal yet very sophisticated dining venue. Patrons also have the opportunity to see the dynamics of culinary creativity with the glass enclosed exhibition kitchen that creates an almost interactive dining experience.

Along with the welcoming and convivial décor, Las Vegas' own Chef Roy Ellamar calls upon his Hawaiian culture as the inspiration behind the menu that incorporates the best in local and regional produce, seafood and proteins.

To start things “rolling” with our dining experience, the snack wagon, a cart showcasing small bites advertized as “delights”, was our first taste in an array of eye-catching appetizers.

We opted for the Spicy Steak Tartare, with the classic dash of mustard seeds, oyster aioli and toast points.


However, the eggplant caviar,Kalbi Filet Mignon, smoke salmon dip or the signature Hawaiian Poke were all vying for our first culinary impression.The bowl of clam chowder was by far one of our favorite offerings of the evening, with a creamy tangy broth that caused our saliva glands to dance with pleasure.


Freshness, sustainability and farm to table are the guidelines for the catch of day or the steak that you may order for your main dish. From the “Catch of the Day” to the succulent Harris Ranch Filet, Chef Roy Ellamar’s Harvest is showcasing freshness of ingredients in the fullness of flavor. For more information go to: www.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chef Scott Pajak Continues To Impress at Emeril Lagasse's Stadium In The Palazzo Resort.

We have watched the very talented Chef Scott Pajak for years and can’t help but be impressed. In this culinary city of all-star culinary talent he can hold his own amongst the best. It is no surprise to us that renowned Chef Emeril Lagasse has kept him in the organization for years. Hearing that Chef Scott added some new creative dishes to the menu gave us just the excuse we needed to pay him a visit.
Executive Chef Scott Pajak
Executive Chef Scott Pajak
We highly recommend the New Zealand Lamb appetizer. This palate pleasing lamb perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper and Emeril’s essence with a side of mustard and veggies is a perfect addition to your game day dining options.
New Zealand Lamb
New Zealand Lamb
Follow the lamb with a dozen Beausoleil oysters chosen by Chef Scott for their constancy in flavor. A perfectly seared Ahi Tuna is yet another nice choice on any visit to enjoy whatever sport you may want to experience.

Ahi Tuna
Ahi Tuna

For your sweet tooth try Chef Scott’s Gluten free double chocolate brownie sundae. Our taste buds jumped for joy with the maple infused whiskey chocolate sauce, candy pecans, cream, and topped with coffee ice cream.
Beausoleil oysters

 Gluten free double chocolate brownie sundae.
Gluten free double chocolate brownie sundae.

The next time you are at the Palazzo Resort don’t pass up experiencing any or all of these dishes from Chef Scott Pajak.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Famed New York Chef Mario Carbone Opens His Namesake Venue At The Aria Resort In Las Vegas.

Famed New York restaurant Carbone is an Italian-American restaurant created by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick has opened in the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The restaurant takes its guests back to the mid-20th century featuring homage to the essence of the great Italian-American restaurants of mid-20th century in New York, with tableside service and showmanship by a captain. The cuisine invokes gastronomic memories of a by-gone era like seafood Salad, linguini vongole, lobster fra diavola, chicken scarpariello and veal parmesan. We highly recommend the truffle pasta dishes and the tableside caesar alla zz.

 Chef Mario Carbone
Chef Mario Carbone
Recently, we spoke to Chef Mario Carbone about his newest venue and the industry as a whole.
How does it feel to open up your first restaurant in Las Vegas?

It feels amazing. I am very excited to be here. Carbone is very much a restaurant that belongs in Las Vegas. It feels just as home here as it does in New York City.

Besides opening your new restaurant Carbone at the Aria, is there any other project you have in the making?

Not at the moment. Opening Carbone is a big enough project right now. However, we have really enjoyed opening a restaurant in Las Vegas and we are open to the idea of doing more in this city.


How would you describe your cuisine?
It is mid-century, fine dining, Italian-American food. The menu is filled with cuisine that everyone is familiar with, but we want to make the best version of those dishes you have ever had. You’ve never had meatballs like our meatballs, you’ve definitely never had veal parm like our veal parm, and so on.

 Are there any trends that you dislike?
I would like to see the tasting menu die. I really dislike the idea of sitting for three or four hours eating miniature food for 30 courses, albeit it is something I used to do early in my career. I’ve stopped doing it and I would like everyone else to join me. It is really selfish cuisine.

What do you like to cook at home?
Honestly, I don’t cook much when I’m at home. I’ll occasionally make pasta, fresh salad or some oatmeal.

 Is there any Kitchen item that you cannot do without?
I really can’t function without a side towel. I feel naked if I have my apron on without a towel. It is a weird thing I have. It completes my uniform. I’ll fold it and refold it at least a hundred times. I don’t know why.

 Where your favorite place to vacation and what is is the restaurant you are sure to visit?
There are so many places, it is hard to choose. If I had to select one, it would be Harry’s Bar in Venice. I love Venice and I love Harry’s Bar.

 What advice would you give an aspiring Chef or culinary student?
If you are not ready to sacrifice everything and make this the single most important priority in your life for the next 10 to 20 years, you should stop right now. If you are ready, the restaurant business is one of the most amazing industries in the world that gratifies you over and over every single day.

Carbone at the Aria Resort is a work of art on and off the plate. It may put a dent in your wallet but the experience and cuisine is well worth the price.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cuisineist Editors Sip & Savor The Hyatt Carmel Highlands Resort and Spa.

There are places on this lovely planet of ours that are truly special and can bring out feelings  of awe that even that hardest person would stop and reflect on what there senses are telling them. California’s Big Sur coast line is one of those places. The gateway to this picturesque coast line is the Carmel Highlands.


Carmel Highlands was laid out in 1916 by developers Frank Powers and Franklin Devendorf. This one of a kind community is only about 3 miles south of the quaint hideaway of the rich, famous and infamous Carmel-by-the-Sea or known simply as “Carmel" by those in the know. Who lives here you may ask? Carmel Highlands has some of the most expensive homes in the United States.


Driving along famed highway one we pass Point Lobos a 3,400 acre nature reserve that features some of the most iconic views in the United States. A quick turn and we see our destination. The 4 star Hyatt Carmel Highlands Resort and Spa.


Pulling into the porte-cochère we were greeted by our footman who directed us to the lobby to check in. Our hideaway was ready and were escorted champagne flutes in hand to our large suite with views that brought tears to our eyes. Upon opening the door to our suite our eyes were drawn to the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Big Sur coast line.


Gazing around the room our eyes locked on a huge standalone jacuzzi tub facing yet another floor to ceiling widow with a view we would soon not forget.
Over whelmed with the beauty before us, we took out seats on our outdoor patio and sipped our Champagne before venturing out to explore the property.


Our first stop of the evening is the Sunset Lounge with spectacular views of Point Lobos reserve. It is here we met our effervescent host Shelly Rodriquez as we sipped on classic cocktails and the sun provided us a colorful show of purple, orange and yellow hues as it slipped below the horizon.
We sampled some tasty bites and highly suggest the Highlands Inn Clam Chowder with manila clams, yukon gold potato, bacon and chive and Dungeness Crab Cakes on shaved fennel and roasted red Pepper remoulade.


Very pleased with the start of our evening, Shelly suggested dinner with a view at the award winning Pacific Edge restaurant. We could not help but be impressed as we walked down the hallway adored with AAA 4 Diamond awards year after year, Top 100 Restaurants in America by Zagat, Top Ten Restaurants with a View by USA Today and Grand and Excellence awards by Wine Spectator.

Taking our seats by the huge windows with jaw dropping views we settled in for the evening. Chef Chad Minton and Executive Chef Alvaro Dalmau, Executive Sous Chef were ready to show off their best. With Chefs like this at the wheel, we let them do the driving for the evening.


Our first course literally was soured right outside of our window. The Monterey Bay Red Abalone with braised endive, meyer lemon, wildwatercress and burgundy truffle was an excellent way to experience what Pacifc Edge is all about. A flavorful Ceviche featuring local halibut , scallop and coriander provided a nice segway to our next course.


Sipping on world class wine with a world class view, our palates waited with anticipation for what would be coming to our table next. Our next delight arrived as smiles grew across our face when the Short Rib appeared. The Short Rib with potato risotto, swiss chard, foraged mushrooms and natural jus fit the bill just right by providing us with a savory rich course.

The next course was “fit for a king” and a king it certainly was. A large Alaskan King Salmon graced our table accented by haricot vert, far west fungi yellow oyster mushroom with a chardonnay sauce. These chefs did the salmon justice with layers of fresh flavors that did not over whelm the star of the dish and let it shine.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée with berries, vanilla crème chantilly, almond florentina and royal tokaji wine co. tokaji -aszu, 5puttonyos, hungary was the perfect way to end the day on the big sur coastline.


After a restful sleep serenaded by the nearby Pacific Ocean we decided to enjoy breakfast Al Fresco overlooking Yankee Point on the redwood deck at the resort’s California Market. Looking over the menu we could not resist the Pont Lobos Benedict. Dungeness crab, avocado, cilantro with hollandaise on an english muffin was one of the best benedicts we have had in a very long time.


Feeling happy and satisfied we headed out for quick visit to experience the beauty of nearby Point Lobos before meeting our host for yet another adventure.

Shelly suggested we meet her for a goodbye lunch back at the California Market. Returning back to the resort from Point Lobos we took our seats with an ocean view to enjoy their lunch time fare. Shelly met us and had already had two dishes on her mind and we agreed of course. Dungeness Crab cakes with avocado relish, spicy remoulade and a rich balsamic proved she was right. This is a guest favorite and we can see why. Fresh, creamy and spicy all in one dish.

We didn’t complain when she told us more crab was on the way and this was her personal favorite. Crab and Lobster Spring rolls with thai chli and wakami salad with its crispy texture is the perfect finger food. Both dishes were extraordinary and enjoying them with a local craft beer was an added bonus.

The Hyatt Carmel Highlands, overlooking California’s scenic Big Sur coastline luxury hotel provided us with much more than a brilliant night’s sleep next to breathtaking ocean views great food and amenities, it provided us with an experience. We highly recommend you experience it yourselves.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cuisineist Editors Visit The Mexican Riviera at Rosewood Mayakoba For A Luxurious Mayan Experinece.

How do you combine the exotic and authenticity of the Mayan culture and the mystery and beauty of the rainforest with modern luxury travel? There is a place that has done this very well, Rosewood Mayakoba. Although the Mayan civilization lasted from A.D.250 to 900 A.D., the essence of their culture infiltrates the very fiber of the Mayakoba. The Mayakoba was founded almost 20 years ago, which continues to be dedicated to the preservation of the mangroves and living waterways, along with the burgeoning plant and animal life. Given this respect for the environment, visitors can revel in the beauty of flora and fauna while enjoying world class hotels, shopping and outdoor activities. Mayakoba is a 2 hour flight from many of the U.S. southern cities, and is convenient travel destination and yet a step back in time from the frantic pace of everyday life in the U.S.


The Rivera Maya is a square mile of undulation steamy tropical rainforest that is now adorned with a several resorts under the Mayakoba umbrella, among those is the Rosewood Mayakoba. This unique resort has embraced and enhanced the quality of upscale amenities while upholding the sacredness of the culture and the people that make your stay at the resort so memorable. Located along the mile long stretch of the Yucatan Peninsula, Rosewood Mayakoba is dedicated to “luxury tourism with a conscience.” As a Winner of the “Sustainable Standard Setter Award”, by the Rainforest Alliance and the “Ulysses Award for sustainable and responsible tourism development by the United Nations”, Rosewood Mayakoba is a leader in creating and maintaining a Sense of Place philosophy and environmental responsibility.


Upon arrival, amid a torrential downpour, my driver escorted me through the palatial stone gate, which was surrounded by swaying palm trees and windswept landscape. I was then greeted by my host and butler for the weekend, Pavel Rivero. His warm smile and charming manner put me at ease, as he led me to the awaiting golf cart off. Raindrops pattered on plastic window of the golf cart as we meandered through a forest of mangroves, tropical plants and palm trees to bungalow suite which would serve as my own private residence for the weekend visit.


The suite was more of an upscale second story apartment, lined with quarried marble, cool beiges, and wood accents. Fine linens adorned the bed, and soft lightening and music, brought a sense of calmness and tranquility. The spacious suite had a lovely sitting room and outdoor patio that led to a second story outdoor terrace overlooking the River Maya and the Pacific Ocean. The private plunge pool quickly became my favorite place to relax and unwind as I gazed upon nature’s grandeur that indeed surrounds every facet of Rosewood Mayakoba. The luxury suite also offered a large, soaking tub, and an outdoor rain shower for bathing in comfort and again embracing the space of nature and nurture. After a day of travel, I felt a sense of awe and a spirit of relaxation sweep over me as I nestled down for a restful sleep.


After awaking, I headed to Casa del Lago the main restaurant on the property that features Mediterranean upscale cuisine. While sipping on my cappuccino, I relished the warm sunshine streaming down upon the lovely swimming pool, verdant courtyard and the meandering River Maya that created a window of succulent scenery to start my day.


Casa del Lago is also the place that offers an astounding breakfast buffet of luscious fruits, cheeses, egg dishes, and a bevy of baked goods, from bagels to buttery croissants,. Rosewood Mayakoba offers several dining options for their guests, including the more casual lunch and dinner spot on the beach, Punta Bonita and the lovely sushi bar and tequila bar, Agave Azul. And now with the advent of their new town square El Pueblito, the La Fondita, offers signatures tostadas with the freshest local ingredients. “La Fondita is a place where you can try authentic Mexican food like a snack or a small bite, using the freshest of ingredients”, exclaimed Karin Salinas, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing. Whether choosing the fresh cerviche or duck tostada each bite will have you returning for more.

My agenda did include a visit to all the above but I was anticipating my cooking class at La Ceiba the outdoor cooking venue and gardens, hosted by executive Chef Juan Pablo, in particular. Interactive venues are my favorite, and cooking with others is a great way to learn about the ingredients and culture of a place.


After dining, Pavel promptly brought me to the Sense Spa for a day of pampering as an introduction to a new spa feature for the guests at Rosewood Mayakoba. Sense, the Rosewood Spa, has dedicated its services to, “stimulating the fine balance between life, nature, and spirit by integrating spiritual well being into traditional spa experience.” The Apothecary Spa treatment was inspired by the Mayan’s culture close relations with nature, as it elevates wellness as it first introduces one to the nuances of nature as it seeks to enliven the spirit and the senses.


By first relaxing in the outdoor veranda, surrounded by the mystical greens of the rainforest, I embrace the sounds of the nearby cascading waterfall. A lovely Hispanic woman, Cecila, greeted me with her effervescent smile and gentle manner. Cordially, she ushered me along the white pebbled path into the wood-planked door building that would serve as a window into the “apothecary” aspect of this spa offering.


While a person trained in apothecary is one who is an expert in the use of medicine and herbs in healing, my trained massage therapist turned out to know this is the. Today Cecila, lead me along the plant and flower lined walls, explaining the importance of the use of plants and herbs in the healing practices of the Mayans. She encouraged me to close my eyes and breathe in the fragrances, to let go and live in the present moment within this special rainforest garden.

As I tuned into the plants and flowers surrounding me, Cecilia encouraged me to select one that stood out me. My selection of lavender seemed a perfect fit to be use as the main fragrance in my spa treatment. After our apothecary journey, we again continued towards the nearby Cenote.


Many of these historic Cenotes, or natural sinkholes, were considered sacred and were believe to be gateways to the afterlife by the ancient Mayans. After a few minutes of contemplation, I was lead to my final destination; my outdoor spa bungalow. Tranquil soothing music filled the warm space as I prepared for several hours of exfoliation and massage. Starting with a cleansing scrub, followed by the detoxifying lavender infused Mayan clay; I was gently stripped of all the dead skin cells. As I stepped into my steamy private shower, I felt like a butterfly stepping away from a scaly chrysalis. The final massage was a welcome end to a day of rejuvenation and restoration.

With much gratitude for the thoughtful and integrative aspects of this new spa package, I left feeling more connected to the surrounding culture and more aware of the goodness of my present life. As I bid farewell to my new friend, Cecilia, I was in awe of the experience that made me more aware of how important it is to take time to stop, observe, and reflect on what is really important in life. Rosewood Mayakoba’s mission rings true as a special place that,” invites guests to integrate spiritual well-being through services that honor the local Mayan traditions in healing and highlights indigenous natural elements of its locale and region.”


Only after a very short time on this stunning property of white sandy beaches, and spectacular rainforest surroundings, I began to understand the very essence of this property and it had to do with the intuitive nature of the culture. My butler, Pavel, went above and beyond to make my stay comfortable and memorable. I noted that everyone who worked on the property was so friendly and happy. He replied with a beaming smile, “The owners are happy people and that makes everyone working for them happy also.” I was glad to hear of symbiotic relationship of genuine mutual respect and it resonated through the smiles all who graced the property. Pavel listened intently as I told him I was very interested in the animals that live in the rainforest on the property. He told me of the Coati that is considered the “Guardian of the forest in the Yucatan region.


The Coati look similar to a raccoon, and are seen quite frequently walking in family groups. I really had hoped to see one of the creatures, but as the day progressed, I did not happen to see any of these native creatures. When I returned to my room that evening, Pavel had a book about the Flora and fauna of the area, and a miniature Oaxacan statue of the Coati waiting for me in my room. I was so touched by his attentiveness and thoughtfulness. This type of customer service is above and beyond anything I ever recalled at a normal resort stay, and I was not alone in this observation.
I met a couple from New Jersey which praised the resort for this very aspect.

This was their second trip to Rosewood Mayakoba and they continue to be in awe of the special care and attention to detail that they received and continue to encounter at the resort. I also felt the same way throughout my entire stay. Rosewood Mayakoba also takes special care for families with children, offering the Rosebud* program that offers many interactive activities for children of all ages. So whether you are planning a family vacation, or an anniversary getaway, Rosewood Mayakoba, is a must for those who want to indulge in the best of all worlds, including the inner world of the spirit and culture.


My final night has arrived and off we go to our special dinner with the food we learned to prepare with executive Chef Juan Pablo. Tonight the warm night air is alive with the sounds of the Mariachi band playing. Twinkling lights adorn the entrance to La Ceiba, the outdoor dinner venue and working kitchen gardens, that now have been transformed into a formal dining area for our last communal meal of our stay. Being able to interact with the Chef and the other guests make this a memorable event. The mighty Ceiba tree is the center of attraction and rightly so, in that it is a grand shade three that has a mystical meaning in the Mayan culture.


The Ceiba tree is thought to bridge the gap between the earthly realm and the spirit realm, and tonight it graces the background of our dining experience, adorned with brightly lit hand crafted lanterns. As we make our way to our seats, plates of food start to make their way to the table, mounds of succulent lamb chops, and plates of fine filets doused in Mexican spices and cooked to perfection in banana leaves and of course, all this is accompanied by many assorted salsas and freshly made tortillas.

 The wines, served with pride by our Sommelier, are described as unique wines from tropical growing regions of Mexico. Spain’s influence on the wine growing regions of Mexico has secured international attention, especially as the wine industry which has flourished and grown over the years. With each glass of wine and bite of the best in authentic Mexican cuisine, each guest remarked with delight at the abundant feast before us.


As guest happily engaged in eating and conversation, Chef Juan Pablo Loza stopped by to see how we were doing and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this lovely feast.

Chef Juan Pablo Loza
Chef Juan Pablo Loza
Chef it looks like you love this place. What is it that truly inspires you?
“I love using the unique ingredients that are not well-know but are reflective of this area, such as the many Mayan spices.” “However, I do love using, chocolate and banana leaves.” “We can customize a meal to your liking using the fresh ingredients that are available to us.” “We can take a big group and do a cooking class and then we can turn what you have learned into a splendid dinner such as this one.”

Do you have a guilty pleasure aside from the regional cuisine offerings?

“Yes, I love hot dogs, and good Middle eastern food, such a authentic Greek cuisine.”

Well, there were no hot dogs at this dinner and I thanked him for his sumptuous fare, and bid him a heartfelt Gracias and Adios, for the evening as we did our final cheers with a “bit” of tequila.
Laughter and joyous conversations filled the air, as we reminisced of our adventures with the other guests who made their stay at Rosewood Mayakoba. La Ceiba gives guests the opportunity to join in this very interactive venue; a truly communal way to engage with other travelers and to enjoy the bounty and beauty of this Yucatán paradise.

As more people move into a sense of using their money in a more conscious manner, including where to spend precious time and funds, Rosewood Mayakoba has earned the respect and the accolades to become the place to vacation every year and as a place to continue to recapture lovely memories. From the El Camaleon golf course to the white sandy beaches, this resort will capture your heart, spirit and soul. For more information:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Omni Montelucia Resort and Spa In Scottsdale Hosts The Inaugural James Beard Foundation Desert to Dish Weekend.

Many people think of Arizona as a western state that is mostly desert, few mountains, sparsely populated and no home gown protein and produce. Those who think that are wrong, very wrong. Recently we explored Arizona with our boots literally on the ground. Arizona is a very abundant state with large certified organic farms, dairies, distilleries, breweries and yes, wineries. 

 What brought us to Arizona you may ask? That question is easy! The lovely Omni Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale hosted the James Beard Foundation and five renowned Chefs from all over the nation for the inaugural Desert to Dish culinary event. 

Our car arrived at this resort nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain, in the exclusive enclave of Paradise Valley. The Omni Scottsdale Resort &Spa at Montelucia is your own oasis inspired by Spain’s Andalusia region. 

Walking the property, it is very reminiscent of a picturesque Andalusian village featuring arching entryways, tranquil fountains and floral walkways. If its pampering you desire, we found an array of rejuvenating experiences at the award-winning Joya Spa, where we relaxed and decompressed in Scottsdale's only Hammam spa. It didn’t take long until we dove into one of the three pools, where stunning mountain views got us in the right mood to explore the restaurants and libation offerings for us to sip and savor. The Montelucia shows off its critically acclaimed restaurants including Prado or you can retreat to an elegantly appointed guest room perfect for stargazing on your private patio. No matter what brings you to Scottsdale, the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is perfect premier destination for luxury and romance, relaxation and recreation. In our case, it was the James Beard Foundation and Desert to Dish. 

The sun was setting just behind the mountain and it was time for us to meet the Chefs for the first time. Underneath a sky blanketed in stars we arrived at the reception in Chefs Kitchen & Herb Garden. Resort Executive Chef Michael Cairns welcomed us with a lovely evening of chef tastings, wine pairings handcrafted cocktails and craft breweries all sourced from Arizona. Enjoying the night on the lawn we mingled with the Desert to Dish chefs and local purveyors who we would become very close with over the next few days.

Mornings at this world class resort bring us a feeling of peace and rejuvenation. This morning however will begin an experience that we will remember for a very long time. We would spend the day teamed up with an incredible chef as we scoured the countryside sourcing ingredients for a dinner with the James Beard Foundation.

Chef Michale Carins Executive Chef at the Omni Montelucia introduced us to our Chef partners for the weekend. Chef Brain Luscher, The Grape Restaurant Dallas Tx, Chef Jason Porter, Seven Glaciers Anchorage Ak, Chef Joe Magnanelli , CUCINA Urbana + Enoteca San Diego Ca, Chef Joey Beato, Community Tavern, The Portage Chicago Il, and Chef Brandon Foster, Vesta Dipping Grill Denver Co. Introductions over, we joined a chef and headed out to find the best products available from the local purveyors.

Scott teamed up with Chef Brandon Foster and headed out to the first stop, Crows Goat Dairy. Wendell Crow  and his wife Rhonda  has partnered with their daughter Mary and her husband Erik to start Crow’s Dairy in Buckeye, AZ where they make a variety of products from the milk of their large herd of purebred Nubian goats. This was a true educational experience where we learned “the ladies” all know their names and come when called. These “ladies” are protected by two layers of security against predators. The first level are Turkeys, yes they kill and eat rattlesnakes! Yes, we all knew that right? Of course the great overseer of protecting the “ladies” is a beautiful large Great Pyrenees, this large canine greets guests with a big smile and a lick unless you’re a coyote. Having milked a goat, tasted some of the best cheese and goat milk paired with Arizona craft beer (it’s very good!); we loaded up our ingredients and moved on to the next stop. 

Across the valley, Elaine teamed up with Chef Brain Luscher where they made at stop at George B. Brooks Community School Greenhouse and Arizona Microgreens. Arizona Microgreens was founded by brothers Joseph Martinez and David Redwood and produce organic microgreens for restaurants, retail, throughout Arizona. It was interesting to see their special relationship with a school. They are located within the greenhouse at the George B. Brooks Sr. Community School and operate as a social enterprise that creates employment opportunities for the local community and contributes to the financial sustainability of the Community School. Choosing just the right mix, it was time to continue the afternoon’s mission of finding locally produced products.

Chef Brandon Foster and Scott stopped into Cancer Treatment Center of America to meet Executive Chef Frank Caputo and tour his certified organic farm. After a wonderful lunch prepared by Chef Caputo with ingredients literally sourced from right outside the kitchen, it was time to roll up the sleeves and get to work on the farm. While walking the farm, Chef Caputo explained that the patients at his center do better by enjoying fresh organic products produced and sourced on the campus. Walking an organic farm picking produce on our knees with two chefs brought home what this whole experience was really all about.

Elaine and Chef Brain Luscher stopped into Blue Sky Organic Farms and Arizona Cheese.
The first stop was the Blue Sky Organic Farms, a family farm located in Litchfield AZ. Blue Sky Organic farm been producing some of the finest certified organic produce in the Valley. They can also be found at the Scottsdale Farmers Market on Saturday and are now bringing a new CSA program, (Community Supported Agriculture), where neighbors can support the farm in exchange for a weekly share of the harvest. R. J. Johnson, the vocal advocate for the Farm and representative of Chef turned farmer, David Vose’s farming techniques, gave us an extensive tour of the Farm, including providing for us a lovely lunch, with produce from the fields.  During lunch he told us how he has seen the results of eating certified organic foods and how this has helped many people.

 Although coming from a restaurant management background, he had no real understanding three years ago of the power of food in creating and maintaining your health. He now travels throughout the Valley teaching others of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle that includes eating whole foods. “I starting meeting people that where profoundly affected by their food, including three women, who were diagnosed with terminal cancer, to the point where they could not take anything else to help their situation, went on a 100% organic juice diet and they are now cancer free.” “So, I have seen it and I believe and I preach it.” “I have spent tens of thousands of dollars to be certified organic, and we farm for flavor not just for yields.”

 We were glad to have the opportunity to visit a place that exudes passion and some of the best produce in Arizona. For those who want to venture to the farm, there is a well stocked store open to the public and they their products are available at Whole Foods stores also. David Vose’s produce is sold across the country and can be found in some of the best restaurants in the nation.
 We took our gifts from our dedicated host and looked forward to see what Chef Luscher was going to create with the bounty of the earth.

This tasty stop was just that, lovely and rich, in some of the best cheese around.  Nearly two-and-a-half years after discussions began, the Arizona Cheese Company made its first vat of Blue Cheese and Cheddar Cheese on Monday, July 20, 2009. Manufacturing and packaging has continued during typical five-day weeks while volumes are gradually increased. Plan designs enable processing eventually of around 500,000 pounds of milk per day. Arizona has become second only to Wisconsin in the total number of pounds produced of Blue-veined cheeses, and is now the largest producer of private-label Blue-veined cheeses in the United States. For Hand-Crafted Artisan cheese made from All Natural, 100% Fresh Cultured Grade A Arizona Milk, Salt & Enzymes, this is the only place to go. Having gathered the bounty of the day it was time to put it to good use.

What is a dinner without a protein? With a Cheshire Cat smile Chef Brandon Foster visited The Meat Shop where he found a variety of beef, pork, chicken and lamb are sourced from Arizona farms and ranches. Coolers full, dreams of the dinner yet to come, excited all involved in the harvest.

This gastronomic weekend, kept our palates constantly at work with a variety of master culinary classes taught by the five visiting chefs, all unique in their own way. As oenophiles and sommeliers ourselves it was a pleasure and honor to taste and compare Chilean and Arizona wines with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer as the afternoon began to turn to evening.   

Sitting in the cozy Mbar at the Omni Montelucia, we reflected on the experience that we have participated in over the last several days. This experience had us in organic farms, dairies, wineries, breweries and butcher shops collecting the best Arizona had to offer with renowned chefs. We saw all of our work sourcing ingredients with the chefs come together on a perfectly prepared plate of Arizona goodness. 

The inaugural James Beard Foundation desert to dish was a huge success and look forward to next year’s event.  Looking back over the weekend and the whole experience gave us a feeling that we know a whole lot more about Arizona and its diverse purveyors bringing healthy products to your plate.