é by Jose Andres, Las Vegas

No, I haven’t fallen off the planet! Let’s just say that life and laziness have gotten in the way of blogging. But, I am back and, of course, have had many wonderful meals to tell you about.

First off, an amazing meal at é in Las Vegas. We met some friends of ours there in December and were able to make a reservation for the intimate 8 seat dining experience at é, by José Andrés. The space is located inside Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan. When you arrive all the guests are seated in the bar and explained the drink options before being taken into the separate space as a group. They offer a couple of pairings with the meal at different price points as well as a complete drink and wine menu. We opted to share one of the pairings as we have found these types of pairings can translate into a lot of drinks!

Inside the space is intimate and the décor eclectic. The space is dimly lit but bright with jewel tones and metallic surfaces. The eight guests are seated at a semi-circle allowing us to see everything as the chefs’ plate each dish of the 21 course set menu. Below are pictures and a brief description, with my thoughts, of each course.

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Yamazushi, Durham

I must admit, we have been lucky to enjoy some amazing meals in wonderful locals but I really didn’t expect one of the best meals of my life to be in a nondescript strip mall in Durham.

Yamazushi is located in the Woodcroft Shopping center in Durham. When you step into the restaurant you are immediately transported to restaurant in Japan. As we learnt on our trip to Japan, in traditional eateries the dining area is separated from the entry. When you walk into Yamazushi there is a narrow walkway created by a screen on your left which hides the dining area behind it. At the end of the narrow walk is a small welcoming water fountain.

As we entered, we were greeted warmly by Mayumi, the wife in the husband and wife team that run the restaurant. She immediately knew who we were as they stagger the reservations so that every guest can be welcomed and seated with personal attention. She seated us and explained the kaiseki menu. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese muticourse dining experience which is rooted in the Buddhist culture.

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Tapas in Barcelona

Earlier this year, G and I were lucky enough to spend a week eating in and exploring Barcelona! It is a fantastic city and I am finally getting a chance to write up my copious notes into blog posts. I thought I’d start with some thoughts on tapas as they are ubiquitous in Barcelona!  There are tapas bars all over the city; some small quaint hole-in-wall joints to larger, stylish restaurants.  Tapas are small dishes which were originally provided free with the purchase of drinks.  Now they range from the traditional small bites to small plates style dishes.  Tapas are a great dining option because you can sample several flavors and items and not have a huge meal, especially when you are on the go.  During our week stay in Barcelona we were able to try several tapas bars and I thought I would highlight three of our experiences.

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17th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour

As I have said over and over, the Triangle area has a great farm-to-fork culture with restaurants capitalizing on their proximity and access to local farms.  Luckily, there are several opportunities for us lay people to visit these bountiful farms.  The largest of these events is coming up in just a couple weeks, The 17th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour.  In fact, it is the nation’s largest sustainable farm tour and will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29, from 1-5pm each day.  The tour is great event for the whole family and an opportunity to learn where our food comes from.  We had a wonderful time last year and are planning to go again this year and check out some different farms!

This self-guided tour features 40 scenic and sustainable working farms in Orange, Chatham, Alamance, Durham and Person counties. Sites include a biodynamic fruit farm, a food truck farm, pasture-raised livestock farms with lots of wonderful baby animals, sheep shearing and fiber demonstrations, hayrides, pick-your-own strawberries, two vineyards, an award-winning cheese dairy, lots of organic produce farms, and more!

Tour tickets, good for both days, are $25 per vehicle in advance and $30 on the tour weekend or you can choose to pay $10 per farm (available for purchase at all of the farms during the tour). Groups of cycles count as one vehicle. Tickets can be purchased online now at www.carolinafarmstewards.org or at WeaverStreet Market.

Choose the farms you want to visit on the interactive map at www.carolinafarmstewards.org to plan your tour. Visit any farm in any order. And, don’t forget to bring a cooler so that you can bring home some of the farm fresh products for sale at many farms! No pets allowed. The tour is rain or shine. Proceeds from the tour support the work of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

New farms on the tour this year.

o  Boxcarr  Farms: This 3-year-old farm features dairy goats, pigs, chickens, bees, and produce. Their food truck, Local in Motion, will be selling food from the farm during the tour!

o  TwoChicks Farm: This small farm grows year round thanks to their hoop houses.  They sell fresh and preserved veggies at Farmers’ Markets throughout the Triangle.

o  MinkaFarm: Come meet their baby chicks,goat kids, calves, and tour their beautiful orchard!  Wool sheep will be sheared by hand on Saturday!

o  Irvin Learning Farm: This impressive farm project assists Karen refugee farmers from Burma transition into farming in the US.

o  Sunset Farms: This multi-generational farm will show off their free-ranging poultry, intensively-grazed beef and a wide variety of vegetable crops.

o  Dutch Buffalo Farm: Check out high tunnels and hoop houses, on-farm composting, trellised crops, perennial fruits and veggies!

Halcyon Restaurant, Charlotte

Over the long Memorial Day weekend G and I went to Charlotte to check out the ‘big city!’  I wanted to take G out for a special dinner while we were there and was trying to do some research online.  I was having a difficult time with the various review sites as it seemed people were more interested in the atmosphere or the price but few discussed the food.  So, I turned to the Twitterverse and asked for some suggestions.  The food editor from the Charlotte Observer, Kathleen Purvis, was kind enough to direct message me her email address and asked what type of food, price range, etc I was looking for.  What a treat! She suggested a few options and based on those and the menus, I made a reservation at Halcyon.

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Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York City

A few weeks ago we went to NYC for a long weekend. It has been a long time since we had been to NYC so we were quite excited to try several places we hadn’t tried yet.  Some friends of our from Boston, met us in the city.  One of our friends is obsessed with fried chicken and when he heard that David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar offered a fried chicken dinner he was sure we got reservations.  This meal is only offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday with limited seating times early in the evening and late at night. I believe this is to avoid large groups taking up seating during prime seating times.  We had a 11:45pm reservation so we only had a couple of appetizers earlier in the evening in anticipation of the chicken dinner.  We had a group of 8 so there were enough people to take care of the chicken.

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