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Friday, March 04, 2016

A Well Deserved Best Chef in the Southwest Nod to Steve McHugh

In May 2014, my sister and I walked into a new restaurant in San Antonio called Cured and were blown away by dish after dish. Everything presented that meal was masterful from the selection of innovative charcuterie to the symphony of favors found in that ridiculously good pig’s head dish. “Crawfish Love Letter” was a tribute to the decade Cured’s chef Steve McHugh spent in New Orleans as chef de cuisine to John Besh. Even the mundane burger, a patty made with bacon and topped with smoked onion and homemade American cheese was one of the best burgers I've ever had. All delivered in a classic 1904 space in the burgeoning Pearl District (see my story on this emerging foodie neighborhood in The Washington Post). So I was delighted to read last week that McHugh is getting the acclaim he deserves, chosen as one of the semi-finalists by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Best Chefs in the Southwest. He’s the only nominee from San Antonio, which I find hard to believe, because it’s one of my favorite places to dine in America. Do yourself a favor this spring and book a room in the new Hotel Emma, housed in a former 19th-century brewery, and simply walk to dinner every night in the Pearl District to one of the 15 restaurants. You’ll thank me. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 02, 2015

Exciting Changes in the Newton Food Scene

It’s not everyday that I write about my hometown, Newton, Massachusetts, but I’m excited to tell you about the latest batch of restaurant openings. For once a week this past decade, Lisa and I have been having lunch at Coffee Corner in Newton Highlands, home to the best tuna melt, iced coffee, and salads in the area. Owner Danielle sold Coffee Corner in the spring and has now opened Newton’s Nectar (87 Union Street) in a great space across from the T in Newton Center. Nearby, the owners of the consistently tasty fare at Sycamore will soon be opening Little Big Diner, an East Asian-style diner featuring ramen, rice bowls, buns, and more. In Newton Highlands, Boston’s favorite burrito, Anna’s Taqueria will be opening in mid-November at the former Baker’s Best site. Last but certainly not least, New Haven’s Frank Pepe’s, home to one of my top 10 pies in New England, the white clam pizza, is finally making its debut in Massachusetts on December 1st at the former Paparazzi’s in Chestnut Hill Mall. Never thought I’d be saying this, but the Newton food scene is happening. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Perfect Paris Picnic

When designing itineraries for clientele headed to Paris, I always tell them to drop their bags off at the hotel and head straight to the Rue Cler neighborhood in the 7th Arrondissement. Purchase a hot out of the oven baguette from a boulangerie, soft reblochon (one of my many weaknesses in Paris!) and harder comte cheese from a fromagerie, some jambon and saucisson from a butcherie, and a pint of strawberries and a bottle of water from a grocer. Then head to the grounds in front of the Eiffel Tower and have a memorable meal. Now that I’ve heard about a new company, Paris Picnic, I might have to make some changes. Paris Picnic does the work for you, partnering with the top artisanal food and wine producers in town, to create a gluttonous picnic basket one can only dream about. Le Classique (priced at 32 Euros per person) includes a choice of wine, baguette, assortment of cheeses, charcuterie, fresh salad du jour, artisanal crisps, mineral water, and dessert. Or you can go for broke and order Le Chic, which includes champagne and foie gras. Paris Picnic will deliver the goods and blanket to any number of picnic spots in town—under Eiffel Tower, along the Canal St-Martin, or the grassy slopes of Buttes Chaumont. Oui, oui monsieur! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nova Scotia Week, Clamming for Lunch

It’s low tide on Digby flats, not far from the largest scallop fishing fleet in North America. I took full advantage of their catch last night, trying the tender pan-seared scallops at the classic Digby Pines resort. But today my attention turns to my favorite seafood, the clam. A handful of clam diggers have already drove their trucks up to the sand bar to snag their 100 clams, the limit for recreational clammers. I’m here to meet Wanda VanTassel, owner of Fundy Adventures, and that legendary Nova Scotian, Terry “The Clammer” Wilkins. Wilkins will be turning 60 soon, but he’s been digging in this muck since the age of 11 and he’s not going to stop anytime soon. 
Fundy Adventures takes our group of 8 onto the flats, where Terry teaches us to look for small holes in the mud, a clear sign that there’s a clam down there. Then he hands out a 4-pronged clam hack and a bucket with a small circular ring used to measure the clams and ensure that they’re at least 1 ¾ inches big. I start jabbing at the mud, excited to score my first clam. But it’s a lot harder than it looks. A lot of times I hacks away at the Bay of Fundy bed and come away empty handed. Terry threw down 1,000 pounds of clam seed a year ago and it’s just starting to sprout. 2 years from now, the Digby flats should be back to the taking of Terry’s youth. 
Once we tire of digging, we head back to the high water line and watch the amazing tidal shift happen on the Bay of Fundy, a whopping 26-foot difference between low and high tide. The sand bar completely disappears under the water. Wanda serves us buckets of steamed clams, with meat so sweet you really don’t need the butter. It also helps that the bellies are some of the biggest I’ve ever had. She also serves tasty dulse biscuits and a roasted nori seaweed snack. The Clammer breaks out his guitar and starts singing “I am a fisherman, lowly digger of the clam.” His voice is excellent, the sun is shining off the water, with spectacular views of headlands across the bay, and my stomach is full of just-caught clams. Life is bliss. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/10/15 at 04:59 AM
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Monday, June 08, 2015

Nova Scotia Week: Oyster Farming at Eel Lake

With its slight mix of salt and fresh water, the 5-mile long Eel Lake is ideally suited for oyster farming. The clean, cool water is home to the premium Ruisseau oyster, high on the chef’s wish list of oysters in Toronto. On our first day in Nova Scotia, after the smooth and easy ride on Nova Star Cruises and a stroll around the stunning seascape of Cape Forchu Lighthouse, we met up with Colton D’Eon. Colton’s dad, a lobster fisherman, Nolan, started Eel Lake Oyster Farm with his wife Kim. Now the business is thriving with over 4,000,000 oysters in various stages of growth. Colton and another employee, Jed, took us out on their boat to show us the many rows of oyster beds. Through use of hydraulics, they pulled up one cage to show us how much one oyster had grown just in the past month, no longer dormant in winter. The oyster you typically suck down in a restaurant is approximately 3 years in age or 3 ½ inches in length. When harvest starts in the fall, Colton notes that there are often 100,000 oysters being shipped from their small plant. When we get back to the docks, Colton shucks one of his oysters and we quickly understand what all the fuss is about. The meat is tender, rich and sweet. But it’s that Eel Lake water, with its slight brine that enhances the flavor. Tours are open to the public, so be sure to schedule one for an intriguing glimpse into the life of a Nova Scotian oysterman. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/15 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A Carnivore’s Delight at San Antonio’s El Machito Restaurant

One look at the 12-foot-long open fire mesquite grill, where flames roast the myriad of meats standing tall on metal poles around the rim, and you understand why chef Johnny Hernandez named his latest restaurant, El Machito. “It means little tough guy, as in takes a little tough guy to cook over this fire,” says the gregarious chef, greeting diners on the patio when he’s in dire need of a break from the heat. It took Hernandez 6 weeks to master the art of cooking over his handcrafted asadero, the massive iron grill that was created by metalworkers in Guadalajara. Chicken needed to be near the higher flames, shrimp as far away as possible, beef and pork ready for a slow roast. The chef’s signature dish is cabrito, milk-fed baby goat that is sourced locally at a farm in Utopia, Texas. The chance to savor this one traditional northern Mexican meat has quickly made Hernandez’ latest San Antonio restaurant a must-stop for folks craving a Jalisco-style parrillada or barbecue. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Celebrate D’Artagnan’s 30th Anniversary

I recently went to a 5-course meal at the stylish Liquid Art House in Boston to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the gourmet meat and charcuterie purveyor, D’Artagnan. Founder Ariane Daguin, who I last met at a luncheon a decade ago at No. 9 Park, has successfully filled a niche for both chefs and consumers, delivering healthy free-range meats from farmers all over America. For example, the rabbit in the first course, Rabbit Ballotine, created by one of my favorite Boston chefs, Tony Maws, was raised on a farm in Arkansas. Other dishes included duck, bison, and porcelet. Daguin is headed across the country this year to host special 30th anniversary dinners, so be on the lookout in your city. In the meantime head to the D’Artagnan website to see special discounts on many of her meats. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tasty Debut of Hungryroot

Trust me, when you’re celebrating Passover and trying to stick to a Passover diet—no wheat, no rice—the options become less and less during the course of the week. That’s why I was delighted to hear about Hungryroot, a vegetarian-based 7 minute meal that made its debut on March 31st. Thinly cut vegetables take the place of pasta noodles and are topped with delicious sauces like Thai sesame or walnut pesto. Our favorites were the Zucchini Noodles with Sweet Basil Gremolata and Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo. You can add chicken to any dish, but it’s really not necessary. Our son, Jake, not one to love his veggies, downed the zucchini meal in record time. Hungryroot is the brainchild of three partners well known in the culinary world. Ben McKean founded restaurant reservation service Savored, which was acquired by Groupon; his partner Greg Struck founded Long Island Iced Tea brands; and chef Franklin Becker founded The Little Beet and starred in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2013. Cost of each dish is $10 and Hungryroot is now shipping direct to clients in all cites east of the Mississippi. By the end of the year, they’ll be nationwide. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 27, 2014

What’s New in the New England Après-Ski Scene

There’s very little “new” in New England and that’s just the way we like it. We’re proud of our history in this little corner of the country, including home to some of the oldest ski resorts in the nation. After all, we’re the hearty bunch who still cherishes the single chair at Vermont’s Mad River Glen. Yes, we’ll happily embrace the new heated bubble chair at Okemo this winter, but we like our predictability. This is especially true of the après-ski scene, where we’ve been going to the same bars and restaurants for years, if not decades. That’s why it’s always a surprise when a new restaurant comes on the scene and creates a buzz in town. This is exactly what happened in Stowe this past March when the small eatery Plate made its debut. Los Angeles natives Jamie Persky and Mark Rosman create a Californian mix of salads made from local produce and meat dishes like a pork belly and egg appetizer. Local microbrews like Lost Nation Brewery from Morrisville are on tap and their signature dessert, the banana pudding, is already receiving rave reviews.

To read about other new restaurants close to ski areas in New England, see my latest story for Liftopia

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/27/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three New Restaurants to Try in Toronto

With its mix of intriguing ethnic choices, like the Cree food I sampled at Keriwa Café on my last visit, Toronto has always been one of my favorite food destinations. Having dim sum is always high on my list of priorities, but this time I didn’t head to Spadina Avenue. I checked out the latest offering from chef Susur Lee, Luckee, at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel. Called one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine, Lee became a media sensation on the Food Network’s Top Chef Masters and other hit show, Chopped. When he’s not in the kitchen, he’s out on the floor greeting clientele and agreeing to take selfies with fans. 
His dim sum was the most memorable I’ve had in a long time. The ubiquitous har gow (shrimp dumplings) arrived orange thanks to a hint of butternut squash, on a bed of wild mushrooms. If my brother Jim was with me, we would have ordered 6 plates of these. Even his vegetable dumpling, something I rarely order, was a tasty mix of spinach, celery root, mushrooms, and jicama in a light as air dumpling. Lee excels at other dishes besides dim sum, like the sautéed scallops sweetened with soya glaze, and “Luckee Duck,” an apt name for the person who orders this version of the Peking Duck served with a schmear of foie gras. Susur, I’ll be back again for my selfie! 
When a friend from Toronto recommended I visit the new America Restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Hotel in the Financial District, I was skeptical, thinking the place would be some Texan steakhouse offshoot. As soon as I stepped foot into the restaurant, I realized I was wrong. The vibe with subdued lighting is more New York supper club, circa 1940s, especially with the Ella tunes in the background. I sat on the comfortable banquette and dug into a foie gras pancake, a buckwheat pancake topped with a healthy dollop of the meat, chunks of peaches, peanut marzipan, and hot Canadian maple syrup. For entrees, the scallop jambalaya was served in a hot skillet, coupled with grilled octopus and Andouille sausage. It goes well with the Blue Mountain pinot noir from BC. Run by Oliver & Bonacini, the same people who brought you the award-winning Canoe, America is here to stay in Canada. 
SIGNS, another new venture in town, seemed like a gimmick when I first heard about it. All the servers are deaf and you order the food via sign language. As a travel writer, I’m used to ordering my food though sign language since I spend a good part of my life in places where they don’t speak English. But the thought of putting deaf people on display made me uncomfortable. My worries were quickly allayed when I met my server, a young woman who helped me learn signs quickly like “thank you” and “what do you recommend?” A tip sheet is handed to you when you sit down at a table, sort of a Berlitz guide to sign language, where you can learn how to sign “I’m a vegetarian” or “we’re in a hurry.” My favorite was “Fantastic!” where you thrust your hands high in the air. “How was your entrée?” my server signed me, pointing to my lamb shank. “Fantastic!” 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/23/14 at 06:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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