Category Archives: Chef

A New Spin on New Mexican Ingredients

Hotel Andaluz chef cooks out of the culinary box.

As award-winning Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marc Quinones was cooking his way around some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Southwest, he prepared a lot of excellent versions regional favorites. But when the recently appointed executive chef of downtown Albuquerque’s historic Hotel Andaluz was asked to cook for a Denver media reception on behalf of New Mexico travel interests, his imagination took wing, and he offered contemporary dishes from various traditions but using New Mexican-grown and -raised ingredients.

Some of the dishes:

Pineapple, watermelon and grape salad with Marcona almond crumble and pimenton. oil.
“Peas & Carrots,” a whimsical name for toasted corn and white Balsamic/sambal chile dressing.
New York strip steak (two levels of doneness) with jalapeno butter. Thick slices of toasted sourdough were in a separate dish. Since it is New Mexico-raised cattle, perhaps it should be called New Mexico strip steak.
Hatch Green Chile Hummus on Broken Lavash with cilantro oil and red pepper gel.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized onion ragout and Cascabel chile Romesco sauce.
For sheer creativity, my ad hoc award goes to the Pinon Brittle, a clear sugary rectangles topped with oreango gremolata and lemongrass yogurt.

I think I was too busy eating and sipping cocktails made with Colkegan single malt whiskey or gin from Santa Fe Spirits, a craft distillery, to take pictures of two terrific dishes: the Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, yellow corn and harissa-sherry reduction  and the super-fab Mew Mexico ceviche — Bay scallops in tangerine, Maldon salt, pickled red onion and Chimayo chile vinaigrette.

Then there was the chocolate — the wonderful chocolate from Cacao Santa Fe,  which produces fantastic chocolate bars, beautiful and interesting bonbons, workshops led by master chocolatier Melanie Boudar and Factory tours with owner Derek Lanter.

Then there was Clear Light, the Cedar Company, which has been producing Cedar Essence and other aromatic potions since 1971, giving complimentary hand and forearm massages. The boss’s business card is a thin slice of cedar.

It was wonderful to have New Mexicans bring their eats and drinks  (and more) to Denver. High time to head south to eat in situ.

U.S. Restaurant Named World’s Best

Colorado restaurants and chefs have done passably well in domestic “best” and “top” lists, but even our finest have never been on a key global list. New York’s Eleven Madison Park was named the best restaurant on the planet by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a list that bears the implication of an organization whose name seems self-serving.

The four leaves of Eleven Madison Park’s logo is a vague monochrome echo of that of the late Four Seasons’ trees.

Other U.S. restaurants in the top 50 are Blue Hill at Stone Barns,  Pocantico Hills, NY at No. 11; Le Bernardin, New York at 17; Alinea in Chicago at 21; Saison in San Francisco at 37 and Cosme in New York at 40.

Melbourne’s new designer hotel, QT Melbourne, has partnered with the World’s 50 Best Restaurants,is proud to be the official hotel of the 2017 event program. The World’s 50 Best chefs are set to experience the unique hospitality of QT Hotels and Resorts, with the entire group staying there during the program.

Taste of Vail This Weekend

Delicious almost-end to epic ski season food and wine event.

The early-April timing of the annual Taste of Vail couldn’t be better. Spring  conditions are great — whether on late season corn or after a spring snowstorm.  I’ve written about the Taste of Vail before. This year’s dates are April 5 to 9. Be there if you can.

For locals, a trip up to the mountains for a day or a weekend of wine, bites and more. is restorative and delicious. The 27th Annual Taste of Vail Festival features more than 30 guest chefs, restaurants and sommeliers as well as more than 55 top wineries from around the world—it is one of the nation’s top food and wine festivals named by Forbes.com and the Travel Channel. The five-day festival includes such in-town and on-the-mountain signature events such as The Mountain Top Tasting, Debut of Rosé, and of course, The Grand Tasting. Click here for tickets.

‘Top Chef’ to be Filmed in Colorado

Denver, Boulder and Telluride to be featured.

Boulder chef Hosea Rosenberg was the winner of “Top Chef,” season 5, and a decade later, the highly rated Bravo show is going to be filming in Colorado. Details have not yet be revealed (after all, “reality” shows thrive on suspense), but Denver, Boulder and Telluride are slated as venues.

Entertainment Weekly broke the news host Padma Lakshmi and  judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot are to be featured. Colicchio, the head judge, is an admirable member of the culinary community for his anti-hunger work and advocacy for organic foods.

“We are always on the hunt for the next great culinary destination and Colorado is fast becoming a hot spot for young chefs and foodies, making it an ideal backdrop for our upcoming season,” executive vice president for current production at Bravo Media Shari Levine told Entertainment Weekly .

Frasca & Redzikowski are Beard Finalists

Colorado contending for Outstanding Restaurant & Best Chef Southwest .

Narrowing down the annual list of James Beard Award winners is a length process: nominations, semi-finalists and finalists all announced with deliberate timing by the James Beard Foundation. Two Colorado contenders have made it to the finalist round: Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine in the Outstanding Restaurant category and Steve Redzikowski of Boulder’s Oak on Fourteenth and both Acorn and Brider in Denver as Best Chef, Southwest. As I have written before, being nominated is an honor. Being a finalist is greater honor. And winning a Beard Award is, well, over the moon.

Jasinski on Best Women Chefs List

Gayot.com picks the country’s top 10, including one in Denver.

I have mixed feelings whenever I see a list of the “best women something.” Unless it’s a sport that requires brute strength, I wish women were given equal opportunities and judged equally. But since they aren’t (yet), we have the token woman in a list of men and also “the best women.” The latest in the culinary realm being Guyot’s selection of the “Best Female Chefs in the U.S.” When I saw the title, I figured that she was a shoe-in.

Chef Jennifer Jasinski Photo by Clayton Vurciaga, courtesy Gayot.com

Here’s what self-described “guide to the good life” wrote about her:

Chef Jennifer Jasinski climbed the culinary ladder at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant empire before settling down in Denver, where she and business partner Beth Gruitch have had a string of hits.

At Rioja, she adds her own big, bright flavors to the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean. Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen puts an upscale spin on the American gastropub, while Stoic & Genuine is a sanctuary of pristine seafood. Bistro Vendôme remains a favorite for French comfort food.

NOMA Popping Up in Tulum

Fabled Copenhagen restaurant’s next temp location in Mexico.

René Redzepi, the wildly creative owner/chef of NOMA in Copenhagen, set the culinary world on its collective ear when the restaurant began collecting Michelin stars and was named the Best Restaurant In The World by San Pellegrino. It wasn’t fancy French cuisine. It wasn’t classically Italian. Or nouvelle anything. It was original. Redzepi became the first star chef to make exquisite dishes from foraged food — no small feat in Scandinavia.

La Zebra at the edge of the jungle where NOMA will set up shop; for just seven weeks.

Following successful pop-ups in Tokyo and Sydney, the next temporary NOMA is soon coming to Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This tropical area provides very different ingredients and a way longer growing season, but there is no doubt that Redzepi’s team can meet the challenge.  From April 12 through May 28 , NOMA Mexico takes up residency outdoors under the canopy of the jungle, close to La Zebra, a Colibri boutique hotel  in Tulum on what is promotionally called the Mexican Riviera.

The NOMA Mexico pop-up reunites René Redzepi with Rosio Sanchéz to develop a new and original menu using only local and indigenous Mexican ingredients. Sanchez is a first-generation Mexican-American from Chicago, a former NOMA  head pastry chef and now owner of the taqueria Hija de Sanchez in a Copenhagen market hall.  Sanchez and the NOMA team have reportedly begun to develop their vision for the Mexico residency. A group of international chefs has been traveling across the country in search of inspiration, flavors and preparations from Mexico City to Ensenada, from Chiapas to Puebla, from Oaxaca to Guadalajara and throughout the Yucatán Peninsula for inspiration.

Like all things NOMA, the experience does not come cheap. It is $600 per person person (plus 16% local tax and 9% service charge) for a multi-course tasting menu, beverage pairing including a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, water and tea/coffee. Click here if you have the urge and the budget for what promises to be an extraordinary experience, but don’t be surprised if reservations are impossible to obtain.

Click here for La Zebra’s hotel and dining package (if available) that includes “access to purchase two tickets” for the NOMA Mexico pop-up restaurant, a minimum of a two-night accommodation for two and daily à la carte breakfast. Options previously announced: Deluxe Package, $1,550 per person for three nights’ accommodations for 2 in a seaview suite; Premium Package, $1,850 for same but in a beachfront, ground-level suite with plunge pool, or Penthouse Package, $2,500, same but in a beachfront penthouse with “private ocean view” and plunge pool. Not within waddling distance after the feast but alternatives if La Zebra has no rooms on a particular night are three other Colibri hotels nearby (Mi Amor, El Pez and Mezzanine).