Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Weekend in Fort Worth Texas Offers Western Nostalgia In a Modern Metroplex For all Ages to Enjoy.

  Fort Worth Texas is featured as “The City of Cowboys & Culture and is lauded as the 16th-largest city in the United States and part of the No. 1 tourist destination in Texas, welcoming 6.5 million visitors annually,” according to ForthWorth.com.

Photo Scott Harris

Before it was a notable tourist destination Fort Worth was an Army outpost from 1849-1853 protecting the Western Frontier after the Mexican American War  and then it became known as “Cowtown” as  Fort Worth became a resting point for cowboys driving their cattle to Abilene, Kansas along the Chisholm Trail and with the influx of Cattle came the rough and ready cowboys who filled their time drinking, gambling and carousing in the gentlemen saloons. Gone are the days of bawdy cowboy debauchery in Hell’s half acre but the ambience of the Stockyard National Historic District reverberates with stories of outlaws and gamblers.    Walking down the weathered plank walkways you feel like your stepping into the old timey West. Rustic buildings now house tourist attractions, restaurants and plenty of souvenirs shops for every type of traveler.

Photo Scott Harris

Being such a tourist draw for Texas, we had to take a trip to the Lone Star State to see what attracts thousands of tourists to the place of Cowboys, cattle and some of the best down home cuisine in America. Fort Worth has district areas for visitors that offer a plethora of recreation and dining options. We spent time investigating the Stockyards National District, the Downtown area, and the cultural district on a weekend giggy-up tour of this iconic American city. The Stockyards are a historic district that plays into the inner cowboy within every red blooded American.  This district is the place to experience authentic western heritage at every turn; unique western saloons, the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive; the Fort Worth Herd, Billy Bob’s Texas also known as the world’s largest honky- tonk, and plenty of two stepping, beer drinking, and guitar twanging amongst the cowboy culture of this unique slice of Americana.  And let’s not forget about the food. Whether you are seeking the best steak, BBQ, Tex Mex, or fine dining, the Stockyards offer a plethora of dining options as well.

Photo Scott Harris

Starting out with a meal is usually a good way to gage a place and its environment, and we were mightily encouraged to try the Chicken Fried Steak at a place known as the Horse Shoe Hill Café. What is Chicken Fried Steak? Is it steak or a chicken or a combination of both? We quickly got the low down on what consists of this down-home dish at this notable newbie eatery located along the rustic weathered restaurant row of the Stockyard district.

Horse Shoe Hill Chicken Fried Steak Photo Scott Harris
Chicken Fried steak may owe its  culinary origins  from German immigrants who brought the beloved Weiner Schnitzel to the United States.  The first terming of “chicken fried steak” came from a 1914 Colorado Springs restaurant advertisement. As more people sought their fortunes out west this tasty breaded tenderized cube steak coated with seasoned flour and then pan fried and smothered with a white salt and pepper gravy was sought out as a dining staple.  Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café offers a variety of chicken friend steaks that would have any good old boy begging for more. Native cowboy cook Grady Spears opened this place to combine great home-style cuisine with down-home southern hospitality.   The menu gives many “ways” in which to enjoy your chicken fried steak , including, the Cowboy Way with peppered cream gravey, The Vaquero Way saddled with ancho cheese enchilada, The Farmers Way loaded with chili gravy and a fried egg, Matt’s Way with chili con carne and queso blanco . Our choice was the Frontera Way offering a thoroughly tenderized flank steak, dredged and dipped and then fried to a golden crust and  nestled under a savory blanket of peppered cream gravy with several bright green ancho chili rellenos to add just the right Mex to the Tex of this iconic dish.  With a large portion to share amongst ourselves, we found that we would have gladly had our own since each bite was a miniature moment of culinary bliss. Larry McMurray aptly stated, “Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas and not eat a chicken fried steak”.  We were glad to stop by this homespun kitchen to indulge in a dish that did truly feed our souls and spirits with a glimpse into  authentic Americana.

Photo Scott Harris

Photo Scott Harris
We paid our bill and meandered down the path into the iconic White Elephant saloon. This saloon is located in the once famed Hell’s Half Acre, where rough and tumble cowhands made their way to raise a little hell after driving their herds for hundreds of miles to Kansas. The Historic building  resonates with nostalgia  and Chef Tim Love has revamped this historic building to include a dance floor and  a chili bar for a good bite to eat after all those cold beers. Refreshed with a cold beer from local Rahr Brewery , we toe-tapped to the country music band and then made our way down to the Famous Billy Bob’s Texas to catch some live bull-riding. We really felt like we are part of cowboy culture as we walked into a crowd of wrangler wearing cowpokes adorned with the expensive leather boots and Stetson hats as they made their way to the bleachers to cheer on the brave bull riders as they struggled to hold on to the reigns of a massive writhing bull. 

Photo Scott Harris

We joined in with the boisterous cowboy crowd and yelped and yahooed with the best of them as one rider after another gallantly heaved up and down on the enormous agitated animal. After that it was time to try some toe-stepping around the vibrating dance floor already filled with couples sashaying with fancy footwork while twirling dipping and swirling their partners with skill and grace. We were indeed intimated at our meager attempts to move about with some sort of coherence. We managed to glide along with the other dancers and gracefully bowed out after a few rotations. With a country music band playing on the main stage, we took our seats to hear a few songs and then made our way back to our hotel after a complete evening embracing the fun and spirit of the Historic Stockyard District.

Photo Scott Harris

Day two brings us to a celebration of the 150 year of The Chisholm trail with period costumed Civil War and Confederate Soldiers giving us a true glimpse of history. The Fort Worth Herd was about to make its way through the streets just as they did in times past. The Texas Longhorns meandered slowly down the cobbled street as real cowboys lead them through the captivated spectators.

Photo Scott Harris
Truly this is the reason that Forth worth has been nicknamed “Cowtown” since this remembrance offered us a look into the life of the American Cowboy. We worked up an appetite and decided to change gears and head of the cultural district to try Heim BBQ which has been deemed as one of the best places for BBQ in the entire city. All the meat is smoked daily, sides are made in house, and with that in mind we were excited to sink our teeth into some really good Texas style brisket.  And we were not disappointed as the signature savory slices of smoky fork tender brisket were just we had hoped for in bringing a smile to our faces and a deep satisfaction to our empty stomachs.

Heim BBQ Photo Scott Harris

After all that great brisket and green chili mac and cheese,we made our way back to the Stockyard area for some rest and relaxation before our final moments in the Fort Worth area. Morning came quickly and a breakfast burrito at local favorite Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery and Café. Homemade tortillas, tangy sauces, and tender carne asada was just what we needed to begin our last day as we refueled for a look at the Downtown district. 

Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery and Café. Photo Scott Harris
  We had to stop at Sundance Square to see the Downtown area that marries the best in modern architecture with historic buildings from the 1800’s. Right in the middle of all the action is Downtown’s Sundance Square a unique urban area that is the perfect place to people watch and enjoy a cup of Joe or a refreshing ice tea on a hot Texas afternoon. With a 35-block of shopping and entertainment area that filters out from the Square there is something for everyone on the itinerary.

Photo Scott Harris

As we enjoyed the relaxing ambience we watched the multiple water jets that spring up from the metroplex to the delight of the many little children that were playing amongst the water features.
Photo Scott Harris
The 32-foot tall Teflon umbrellas brought needed shade to the area that is home to three live theaters, art galleries and plenty of shopping.  Our time was gone and we took one more look around at a city that retains its western heritage with style, creativity and that good old cowboy charm.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Pasta Shop in Henderson Nevada combines pasta and paintings into food for the body and soul.

The late Chef David Alenik created some of the finest Italian gourmet food on the Las Vegas Strip for over 20 years beginning with first job at Las Vegas restaurant icon Piero’s and continuing on his culinary journey as personal chef for Steve Wynn where he served dozens of A-listers that came through Vegas craving a good dish of pasta and “gravy”. In 1989 he opened his own Pasta Shop Ristorante with his lovely wife Ann that stood as an Italian restaurant institution for several decades. His widow Ann and their children continue to honor his legacy at their Henderson Nevada location, the Pasta Shop. We were invited in to visit with this special family as they continue to carry on the wholesale pasta business, restaurant and art gallery all combined into inspirational and imaginative cuisine and art.

Son Trent now manages the business aspects of the Pasta Shop with loving dedication and concern for the family legacy. “This is truly a family style business,” said Trent. “I remember having to help my Dad cut the pasta when I wasn’t even tall enough to reach the counter, so he made me stand on a milk crate. Later he taught me how to run the machine feeds to make the angel hair pasta, fettuccine and pomodore.” The family still sells their house made pasta to area restaurant and businesses. “This is a true family business and when my Dad passed we wanted to come together to keep the legacy alive since he put his heart and soul into this. He built a community here. What other restaurants can you go to where they know you by name?  To create such a community within a larger town despite the transient nature is so special and that is what my Dad wanted to happen here,” added Trent
Ann Alenik has taken her talents as a visual artist and continues to combine them with the culinary history of husband David bringing color and vibrancy to the wall space within the small dining venue. While she proceeds in engaging customers in the front of the house with her lovely art pieces, her warm smile and management skills make everyone feel like part of the family when they enter the doors of the Pasta Shop.

The dedication to family and stellar food is clearly seen in the dishes presented to our table beginning with the thinly sliced artichoke platter, drizzled in balsamic vinegar and EVOO and then moving onto the Linguini & Clams comprised of fresh littleneck clams sautéed with EVOO garlic and claim juice bathed in a lovely red sauce with the perfectly cooked pasta heartily nestled in between three juicy prawns. The passion and dedication to quality was tasted in each bite, and with our palates beaming with delight we knew that the next dish of chicken parmesan with a side of rigatoni pasta pomodoro would be as lovely as our previous menu item and we are more than correct with that assumption. The chicken parmesan was extremely well executed, juicy and sumptuous with a generous portion of the famous house made rigatoni pomodore adjoining in perfect union with our taste buds. Not only were we pleasantly and delightfully pleased to meet the family but the food brought our upmost appreciation and gratitude for the Alenik’s mission in creating a lasting culinary heritage.
Finishing our meal with of course, a homemade Tiramisu and cappuccino we felt that we had crossed over from being restaurant goers to warmly welcomed family members. As George Bernard Shaw stated, “There is no love sincerer, that the love of food,” and this is made evident through the Alenik’s tribute to the husband and father who instilled and modeled that love of food to carry on for generations to come. For more information go to: www.pastashop.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

We sit down with Chef David Chang and learn about his passion and his new venue in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino.

Having the drive and ambition that demonstrates the wattage of Las Vegas, Chef David Chang is the man that knows how to get things accomplished. His acclaimed Noodle bar and culinary exploits are expansive and his reputation as being determined and disciplined in learning and gleaning from the best kitchens in the world is reflective in his focus and fortitude in an industry that is fraught with disaster . 

Chef David Chang continues to move forward in his creative process while maintaining the integrity of his vision and branding as a culinary entrepreneur and restaurateur. We had a few minutes to spend with Chef Chang to find out his take on his newest addition, Momofuku located in the upscale, hipster swank of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Casino and Resort in Las Vegas and learn of his perspective of the turbulent restaurant world.

VLV: How long where you eyeballing Las Vegas for this venue and are you elated to finally be opened?

DC: We have been looking at Las Vegas since the economic collapse in 2009. It has been a long time with working with the Casinos. I feel like Goldilocks following the breadcrumbs, until we found the right fit here at the Cosmopolitan.

VLV: I have read that Momofuku is a “hype-generating, buzz magnet” is that how you would describe the venue?

DC:  We don’t do any of that; we just try to do great food. We hope that we are more substance than flash. We have a lot to figure out in Las Vegas.

VLV: Hospitality is the mainstay of the economy in Las Vegas, what is your definition of hospitality and how will be presented in Las Vegas?

DC. Hospitality has a multiple of viewpoints and has multiple roads but I believe for a long time hospitality was defined as one kind of way which was a Western or Michelin star French way. But I think how I define hospitality is in what really matters and that is how the customer leaves the restaurant. Hopefully they leave ecstatic and they got value from the experience. How you get there doesn’t really matter as long as you do it with ethical and moral guidelines.

VLV: What do you want people to encounter when they first enter you restaurant? 

DC: Most of our restaurants are very different; some are what I would term bare boned. After traveling and working abroad and in Asia, I have found that décor and ambience is certainly a very Western perspective to what is delicious and what is great that can be Euro-centric in most part. Living and working abroad and in Asia opened my eyes, in that some of the best food in the world is made in the most humble of places. I would rather have a place that has to overcome its limitations, than to be accentuated by them. It does not mean I don’t enjoy great ambience, but for me it is about seeing the happiness in people’s faces when they are having a good time. It’s a high bar, but that’s the road that I chosen. 


VLV: What do you look for in your employees especially in such a transitional type of business?

DC:  First thing I look in an employee will they be harder on themselves than I would be? Are they willing to make mistakes? Do they want to work hard and be a part of the team? It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be exceptionally talented but do they have the grit and fortitude to go forward.

VLV: What are some of your expectations of your venue here in Las Vegas?

DC:  This menu has been really difficult. We have never done the same menu anywhere and that makes it difficult on ourselves, but some things are the same and certain things are not. We try to work with local purveyors to source different ingredients, so things taste different. This restaurant had to get a lot of targets, one is that it is in a Casino that doesn’t really have a Noodle house and there is every type casino in the world that doesn’t have some sort of noodle house, and it has to appeal to a wide range of people; It has to appeal to foodies potentially; it has to appeal to people from out of town looking for a fun night, well it literally has to hit just about every type of demographic. It would have been easier to say we are a steak house but we aren’t, but in fact the challenge is in hitting all our goals and having a menu that we could execute.

I have been talking to a lot of our customers and thankfully most people are enjoying us, but there are people with super expectations that maybe let down, I wish we could blow people away, but we just opened so that doesn’t make me happy. So let’s see how we are judged in year 2 or year three. It’s not like a movie premier; the movie is not like going to get any better. We will get better after six months, a year.

VLV: As we the final note, what words of advice would you give an aspiring Chef?

DC: You are going to have to push harder than everyone else; you are going to have to tough it out. That’s true. Every time you think you are at a bottom, there is a lot lower that you can go. And when you reach your top, wherever that might be it’s just a higher fall.

When is Las Vegas, Chef David Chang’s Momofuku is worth a stop to dine and explore a mouthwatering venue with a view.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chef Andre Rochat Opens Andres Bar & Bistro in Las Vegas.

Chef Andre Rochat has forged a culinary legacy in the annals of Las Vegas restaurant history spanning over 30 years beginning his iconic namesake Downtown venue, to the stunning Alize at the Palms and his recently closed Andres at the Monte Carlo hotel.  Chef Andre has now journeyed back to his original roots by going back full circle in engaging the locals at his newest namesake, Andres Bistro &Bar located in the former home of DW bistro southwest area of Las Vegas.

Andre's Bistro & Bar combines the classic French Bistro and American tavern scene and is Chef’s attempt to have everyone enjoy his cuisine in a more affordable and relaxed neighborhood setting. “We want our patrons to eat, drink and talk to each other, not just eat and rush out. In Europe, we take time to socialize, spending a few hours with friends and family, and we want people to do that here,” explained Chef Andre. Chef Andre is continuing to serve superb cuisine in the suburbs and at age 73 he shows no signs of slowing his pace or cutting corners with everything being made in house and sourced as fresh and local as possible.

Open for lunch, dinner and brunch, Andre’s Bistro & Bar is the perfect place to meet with friends, family and associates.  Andre’s intention was in creating a place where that similar “cheers” kind of feeling overtakes you from the moment you in walk into the front door. With plenty of open seating and Andre’s hallmark roosters gracing the wall décor along with whimsical drawings rendered by Chef’s niece, Isabelle Michaud, a convivial and relaxed atmosphere has been achieved with flair and thoughtfulness. The Happy Hour menu is designed to put a grin on the face of any budget conscious diner with menu items such as the perfectly cooked lamb burger accented with tangy zatziki and feta and a generous portion of frites for a mere $7, or the Andre’s signature beef burger with Swiss cheese, red onion marmalade and truffle mayo for the same price point.

Similarity, the main menu showcases the tried and true Andre French classic dishes such as the lovely Golden Trout Almandine with green beans and buerre noisette, or the Moules Frites with a generous helping of PEI mussels surrounded by tomato concasse, garlic and parsley accompanied by a side of seasoned French fries;  another option is the duck fat fries for  a deeper crunchy textured frites .The seared fois gras , another true French classic dish,  intermingles rich duck liver with apple and almond crumble, crème anglaise,  and pork reduction. Desserts are always a pleasurable experience when it comes to Andre’s culinary magic, as highlighted in decadent Apple Tartin or the memorable grand mariner soufflé.

The wine list, hand crafted cocktails and beer menu offer generous and ample offerings for everyone in your dining party. With over thirty years of honing his Las Vegas hospitality and culinary craft, we applaud Chef Andre Rochat for continuing his legacy as a neighborhood restaurant and as Bastian of stellar service and impeccable food. For more information on Andre’s Bar &Bistro go to: https://www.andresbistroandbar.com

Friday, January 20, 2017

Taste of Waldorf makes a stop at Boca Raton Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

Boca Raton  Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is a part of history. It was an important link in winter luxury train travel for the affluent in the north east wanting to winter under the warm Florida sun.  Go back in time riding in a luxurious private stateroom heading south on Henry Flagler’s railroad in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, leaving snow behind and the beckoning orange blossoms have you in anticipation of your upcoming winter activities.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club, which opened February 6, 1926 as the Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn, is a large resort and membership-based club and one of the crown jewels for the elite on Florida’s east coast. The luxury resorts included The Breakers in Palm Beach, Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn, The Biltmore in Coral Gables and the Casa Marina (The Flagler Hotel) in Key West. Ladies and Gentlemen of the era enjoyed the best of the best at these resorts as they traveled the Flagler Railroad to Key West and some on to Cuba.

Arriving at The Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton, it took us back in time with unbridled luxury and service.  This grand lady was originally designed by California-born architect, Addison Mizner in 1926.

The Boca Raton Club Tower was built in 1969, the building is still considerably taller than any other building in southern Palm Beach County. The resort has recently undergone a $150 million renovation, while the cloister and tower rooms were redesigned in 2006.

The Resort is located just a few steps from the stunning south Florida coastline and their private beach.
Our wall to celling windows provided a romantic view of the Atlantic Ocean,
Inter Coastal Waterway and the marina which is the home of yachts well over 100 feet long.
Guests can dine at one of the 11 award-wining restaurants or unwind with an ultimate spa experience at the hotel’s Waldorf Astoria Spa, voted as the number one spa in the country by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. We were here on a culinary mission, partaking in Taste of Waldorf Astoria, a competition that had us deep sea fishing and sourcing ingredients with Resort executive chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star chef Sara Hauman from San Francisco.

In a world inundated by food TV contests and cooking competitions, an interesting twist on a traditional rivalry is always a refreshing deviation into the creative culinary world. The Waldorf Astoria has partnered with the James Beard Foundation (JBF) for a third year to find the next Taste of Waldorf Astoria champion. Five JBF Rising Star semi-finalists have been individually partnered with one of Waldorf Astoria’s Master Chefs for a multi-day collaboration to conceive the next culinary masterpiece. After the pairings have been created, the program culminates with a competition in February at the Waldorf Astoria in New York featuring a star-studded panel of judges who will determine the winning combination.
Editor In Chief Elaine Harris exploring the Yacht Club

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts have given the world classic dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Waldorf Salad and the Red Velvet Cake and now there is a worldwide search for yet another dish to hallmark this iconic brand.
Resort executive chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star chef Sara Hauman from San Francisco.

Just before the holidays we joined two accomplished Chefs’, one a twenty plus year veteran executive chef of the Waldorf Astoria, Andrew Roenbeck and his counterpart a young  James Beard rising star, chef Sara Hauman of San Francisco. As Taste of Waldorf contestants, they must collaborate executing a dish that could withstand the decade’s recipe revelations, and unusual ingredients. This is a culinary challenge that propelled these chefs together without any prior communication as they were tasked to prepare the a dish that will be not only featured in every Waldorf Astoria throughout the world but in the greater connection, an iconic dish is optimally going to withstand the test of time.

This year’s contest: transform the happy hour into the “Fifth Hour” by expanding bar offerings beyond traditional drinks and appetizers. Roenbeck and Hauman were challenged to create two small bites that must pair perfectly with an original cocktail and mock tail. Working amongst themselves and the skilled Boca Raton hospitality staff, they carefully took several days in creating a truly memorable dining experience encompassing every detail from the overall presentation from plate to palate. Not only is this a culinary challenge but also a mentoring and educational experience for the rising star chef.
We came along to catalog and chronicle the week long journey of these two vastly different chefs as they journeyed through their purpose, finding the best purveyors while developing their creative process into a winning plate of perfection.
With several of us coming together from different parts of the country and various time zones, we were all a bit jet-lagged but ready to be educated on the flora and fauna of the surrounding area. We met with some of the best local purveyors in search for the superior ingredients needed in producing the winning menu items. Our first culinary assignment; meet at the Waldorf Astoria boat dock for a fishing trip. Living in the desert does not include fishing expeditions, so this looked like an intriguing adventure.
James Beard rising star chef Sara Hauman from San Francisco.

The seas looked a bit choppy but knowing we were going to be with experienced fishermen, we put aside our doubts and bravely stepped into the small fishing vessel. Docked aside multi-million dollar yachts, this fishing craft looked diminutive and a bit fragile for the stormy weather that seemed to be brewing on the horizon. Our angst was starting to show, but we put on our seafaring faces and ventured into the channel as our jovial seamates reassured us of their skillful knowledge that would keep us from any impending doom.
That seeming reassurance faded very quickly as large white caps loomed on the horizon. While the captain jokingly hummed the theme song to the 70’s TV show Gilligan’s island-(and we know what happened to that crew!) under his breath, we were thinking will our fate to be any different? His carefree attitude did not pierce our cloud of trepidation as we heaved and pitched through the Inter Coastal water way and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Resort executive chef Andrew Roenbeck

We bounced through the rough waves like a rubber duck in an agitated child’s bath, all the while praying to the sea gods’ for mercy. Once we cleared the channel our fate looked dubious as storm clouds and rough waters seemingly increased by the minute.
Meanwhile hope glimmered briefly when the front fishing pole nearly bent in half sending the crew into action;  one trusting the bowing pole into the hands of hesitant but eager chef Sara and the other brandishing a menacing looking gaffing hook. ‘

The two worked in frantic unison bringing aboard the combative Mahi-mahi amidst bouts of bloody surrender. With the prize catch now subdued, we anxiously urged the captain to take us back to dry land, of which he obliged to our collective sigh of relief.
James Beard rising star chef Sara Hauman from San Francisco. 
And Mahi Mahi

As we bounced back into the harbor we were relieved and rejoicing, as our mission was now accomplished, having the first locally sourced protein in the quest for the best ingredients albeit almost to our own demise.
Resort executive chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star chef Sara Hauman from San Francisco.

The next day after a lovely breakfast, we were on our way to meet a beekeeper and then off to visit notable organic farmers and a stop at Palm Beach County’s only Florida “winery”.’
Tower Suite

It’s not every day that one is offered the use of a very expensive Maserati (the official town car of the Boca Resorts) as means of transport to a bee farm. Was it the warnings we were told beforehand that made us just a tad apprehensive? Such as, do not wear black, (what about the shining black Maserati that we were driving up in? Would that be the object of bee wrath), and make sure you cover your tootsies; bees love to get at your toes.
Chef Andy reassured us that the bees were harmless as long as you adhere to the rules of the beekeeper. We soon were well versed on bee etiquette, as we entered into the buzzy world of Roxanne L. Altrui, passionate beekeeper. We gingerly opened the car door to the bee filled atmosphere; the distinctive buzzing sound and busy creatures were now surrounding us and we were anxious to approach their territory respectfully and safely.
 A visit with Roxanne L. Altrui, passionate beekeeper 

Roxanne, a tall robust woman adorned with a full bee suit, quickly gave us each our own suit and we made haste in getting our protective gear on as the bees were becoming increasingly interested in our presence. We felt snug and much more relaxed in our protective garment, although a bit warm on this humid Florida day.

Roxanne took us through an extensive overview of her bee world, with live demonstrations showing us the work of the queen bee to the birth of a new bee. Every facet of her work was fascinating and often enlightening. “See, there are millions of bees around us, and are they attacking us?” queried Roxanne. “They are only doing their job,” she added. And their job is making the incredible golden local honey that we came to gather on this day.
Roxanne L. Altrui, passionate beekeeper

Bee populations in the area and worldwide are diminishing as large number of these much-needed creatures are facing devastating environmental changes and over spraying. Roxanne claims to be the spokesperson for the bees and actually calls them her “girls “since there are no male worker bees.
Chefs Harvesting Honey with with Roxanne L. Altrui, passionate beekeeper

“We need bees to pollinate our food and they need us to help them thrive and dispel the fears that many people hold to be true often based in fear and ignorance,” she added. Today we truly learned the beauty and complexity of the bee world and both chefs procured the local honey for yet another ingredient in their menu quest. It was time to get back into our Maserati for the next part of our exploration.
Driving down dusty, palm tree lined roads with large open canals we lost our GPS signal. We knew we were truly lost in the back brush of south Florida when we unknowingly happened upon the entrance to a nudist camp. Quickly turning around, our navigation system finally alerted us to farm known as Swank Specialty Produce operated by a husband and wife team, Darrin and Jodi Swank.
chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star, chef Sara 
Hauman at Swank Specialty Produce

The couple, considered to be pioneers in the family farming business, left the eastern United States in the late 90’s to try farming in South Florida.  Hydroponic, natural farming was virtually non-existent and through a great deal of sweat, tears and extremely hard work the farm continues to offer the highest quality and best tasting produce in Florida.
Getting ready to walk the fields.. chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star, chef Sara Hauman at Swank Specialty Produce

The Boca Resort& Club was one of the first accounts for the Swanks. “Our products speak for themselves,” said Jodi Swank. “We were one of the first small family farms that started the local farming movement.”  Walking along the rows of brilliantly colored organic vegetables, we tasted fresh tomatoes, beans and other succulent organic produce.
chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star, chef Sara Hauman at Swank Specialty Produce

Both chef Sara and chef Andy seemed to bond over what produce that would be using in their next dish creation. This place seemed like a Garden of Eden, the perfect place to find the best ingredients. After walking the farm, it was time to visit a local winery and see what they had to offer up to please our palates.
David Bick, 42, and Teal Pfeifer, 33, are owners of Palm Beach County’s only winery, Sons and Daughters  that includes a retail space and a tasting room. As we entered the tiny tasting room we were looking forward to trying their wine made from dried hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as roselle, Jamaican sorrel, sour-sour and Florida cranberry.
Making a stop at Sons & Daughters Winery

“This is one of the only organic ways to preserve a high quality product by making wine,” claimed Bick. Bick and Pfeifer strive to maintain the organic purity of their product, and it comes out in the refreshing taste of this lovely coral color wine that boast subtle floral notes. Bick also added an extra benefit to this type of wine.

His wine boasts a 13% AVB but hang-over complications are nearly non-existence. This hibiscus wine has a cult following from well-known rock stars to enthusiastic locals. There is even a waiting list as production is on a small family farm scale.

We were fortunate to have a sip or two and to gather a few bottles for Chef Andy and Chef Sara’s recipe treasure trove.
With full day of adventure, culinary education and enlightenment behind us, we still had time had to make a last stop at the Loxahatchee Nature Preserve to fulfill chef Sara’s desire to see a live alligator.
As the sun was setting over the peaceful canal, we looked around hoping see these prehistoric looking creatures in their natural setting.

Slowly a lone alligator emerged from across the embankment. We were on a tall platform looking down at the fierce looking creature and everyone was glad to be an observer and not his next meal.
After a full day of meeting purveyors, and learning of the diverse and abundant produce in region, we headed back to the opulent resort for some rest, a lovely meal at Morimoto, and reflection.
A long day ends with a sunset over the Florida Everglades.

The next day was crunch time, as chef Andy and chef Sara must now put together their creative skills and knowledge to come up with the winning “Fifth hour” bar bites, and cocktail pairings.
Watching the process of two vastly different Chefs, chef Sara, a 28-year-old San Francisco Chef, who has generated a great deal of critical acclaim with as the opening chef of Huxley, and Chef Andrew who oversees multiple restaurants, hundreds of chefs, and a multimillion dollar budget, was indeed an interesting voyage into the creative process.

Beginning with a simple drawing on a cocktail napkin, the conceptualization began. Ingredients were assembled, ready to use in capturing the flavor profiles and subtle nuances of tastes and textures. What was the final outcome, despite age and experience differences both Chefs acknowledged that skill and cooperation are essential is getting the job done with excellence and integrity.
chef Andrew Roenbeck and James Beard rising star, chef Sara Hauman

They spent another two days tasting, testing and working with the Boca Raton Resorts lead mixologist, in creating the drinks that must pair perfectly with the dishes. A final consensus was made and dishes must be executed and plated for a bevy of hotel executives and members of the local media.

Chef Andy who is a bit of a comedian kept everything moving in a jovial direction with his amusing stories and anecdotes as the pressure to execute seemed daunting as the day wore on.

It took four days of foraging ingredients that took us from sea to bees. It was now time to put all of the handpicked ingredients together into a culinary masterpiece. The first dish was all about Florida with an Asian flare, the Angry American Lobster: fresh lobster featuring the classic Florida citrus of key lime touched off with a spicy luscious Asian BBQ mayo topped with toasted sesame. How much more Florida can you get?
Angry American Lobster: fresh lobster featuring the classic Florida citrus of key lime touched off with a spicy luscious Asian BBQ mayo topped with toasted sesame.

We had the surf and now the turf side of the two dishes; The Kobe Carpaccio Bone Marrow Truffle Toast.  This gastronomic delight was spotlighted by thinly sliced Kobe Carpaccio layered atop of rich bone marrow toast(the truffles where brought in that very day)and accented with rich Parmigianino Reggiano truffle cream, tomato conserva, black truffle caviar and even a king mushroom with white truffle honey just to add a bit of ethereal sweetness to finish to the dish.
sliced Kobe Carpaccio layered atop of rich bone marrow toast(the truffles where brought in that very day)and accented with rich Parmigianino Reggiano truffle cream, tomato conserva, black truffle caviar and even a king mushroom with white truffle honey.
All this work for the perfect bar bites paired with a wine cocktail.

This one was  composed of Porto, Spanish orange liquor, honey lemon ginger simple syrup and a jasmine green tea brought accolades from the special guests that gathered for a secret unveiling before the public reveal.
Celebrating two world class dishes

We believe, along with the positive response from the food and beverage professionals, that chef Andy and chef Sara could easily be the next winners in the Taste of Waldorf Astoria competition. Their extremely well executed, inventive and decadent bar bites that will indeed put the happy hour into another dimension.  The next stop for these two world class chefs will take them to the renowned Waldorf Astoria in New York City where they will compete against other Waldorf chefs for the winner of The Taste Of Waldorf  2017.