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In the Media: Food & Drink

Will Write for Food | The Ringer

jason tesauro

No less than Jonathan Gold, the esteemed Los Angeles Timesrestaurant critic, has suggested that food now occupies the cultural airspace once devoted to music. So it follows that food critics — and food bloggers, food-source polemicists, and writers concerned with the lives of chefs — would assume the mantle once worn by rock critics. They lead a national cultural conversation, and — more to the point — they have the jobs every other journalist secretly wishes they had.

Consider: The New York Times Pete Wells may be the “first viral restaurant critic,” as Slate’s Isaac Chotiner suggested. Wells is certainly the most viral critic at the Times, showing food criticism’s status versus, say, movie criticism.

The Scylla to Wells’s Charybdis is Gold, who in a 2016 documentary can be seen cruising strip malls in his green Dodge truck looking for his next great Southern Thai meal. In Los Angeles, Gold is less a food critic than a civic hero. In the film, one admirer compares his literary vision of Los Angeles to Raymond Chandler’s.

The New Yorker, which began publishing a food issue annually in 2007, now overflows with food writing. Adam Gopnik, Dana Goodyear, and Bill Buford have collected the smudged napkins discarded by A.J. Liebling and Calvin Trillin. The magazine isn’t just turning it monocle on chefs (Yotam OttolenghiDamon Baehrel) but on food writers. In the last six months, it has run profiles of Wells and Anthony Bourdain.

For his part, Bourdain, who hosts Parts Unknown, is not just the model of a globe-trotting gourmand. He has pulled off a miracle: He hosts a show on CNN and is not held up as an example of the depravity of cable news.

Years ago, Besha Rodell, who’s now the restaurant critic at the L.A. Weekly, told an editor at Vice (then a mere magazine) that she wanted to write about food for him. The editor was flummoxed: “You are so not the audience we’re going for.” Today, you need only toe-dip into the Vice empire to find a story titled, “The Quiet Genius of the Most Underrated Japanese Chef in Paris.”

Adam Sachs, the editor-in-chief of Saveur, told me he used to merely nod at a couple of dog-walkers in his New York neighborhood. Then Sachs appeared on the episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table starring Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson. All of a sudden, the dog-walkers got very interested in him. As Sachs recalled, “They stopped me and said, ‘You know Magnus?’”

The same glamour-adjacent pleasures that once drew writers to rock now draws them to food. “It used to be that the cheesy boomer binary was, do you like the Beatles or the Stones?” said Jeff Gordinier, the food and drinks editor at Esquire. “Now, it’s are you Gabrielle Hamilton or Dan Barber? Are you David Chang or Alex Stupak? It’s become the cultural conversation.”

Yet when I told Corby Kummer, the longtime Atlantic food writer, that a horde of writers were following his path, he said incredulously, “And they feel they’re going to make money at it?”

This — no pun intended — is the rub. Just as the world has minted enough Bourdain-worshipping, elusive-taco-truck-hunting foodies to create a reliable audience for food writing, it is struggling to pay for it. Music is cheap to stream, and even cheaper to steal. You have to pay $700 for the privilege of panning Per Se. If everyone wants to be a food critic, who’s going to pick up the bill?

Everybody’s writing about food,” said Barbara Fairchild, the former editor of Bon Appétit, “and everyone I meet is a lawyer who wants to be a food writer. It’s really getting kind of freaky out there.” Figuring out what happened is like determining which L.A. eatery invented the French dip sandwich. It’s a long, occasionally winding road but entirely worth the journey.

Perhaps the biggest reason food writing has new status is that American food has new status. By the mid-2000s, “you have a confluence of a coherent food blogosphere coming into being,” said David Kamp, author of The United States of Arugula, “plus you have more and more young chefs and restaurateurs being a little more enterprising.”

Mitchell Davis, the executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, said the rises of food culture and food media are almost always linked. In 19th-century France, the new middle-class cooking was documented by L’Almanach des Gourmands, which Davis called a “proto-blog” — the Eater of its day. “Otherwise, there’s no sharing of the art form,” Davis said. “You can perform a concert in the town square and the whole city can hear it. You can’t do that with food.”

The second reason for the rise of food writing is the democratization of restaurants. In 1975, when Jane and Michael Stern pitched their first Roadfood guide to cheap, regional restaurants, they were met with bewilderment. “The editor had a hard time convincing the publisher that there were enough interesting restaurants in the United States of America to fill a guidebook,” Michael Stern told me. The Sterns will publish the 10th edition of Roadfood this month.

“The word ‘foodie’ was not yet coined,” Michael Stern continued. “In those days, if you were into food it meant you were into French or Continental food. … Writing about barbecue and clam shacks and chicken-dinner halls was just not something people had thought of doing. … What’s happened in a way is that we as Americans have gotten over our culinary inferiority complex.”

By 2014, when The New York Times changed the name of its “Dining” section to “Food,” the transformation was complete. There’s still plenty of writing about fancy restaurants (look at the bombs Ryan Sutton and Pete Wells set off inside Per Se). But more writers are following in the footsteps of the Sterns or Calvin Trillin, traversing Brooklyn or the Brooklyns of America to discover a new chef or trend.

There are food writers who mourn the changeover. “If it’s new-casual and organic or farm-to-table, there’s a tendency for it all to be praised,” said Alan Richman, an award-winning food writer who wrote for GQ and other magazines. “Then there’s these nut-bag trends. Remember the ramen burger?”

Food writing is also sustained by a deeper interest in where food comes from. You can draw a line from writers like Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan to a site like Civil Eats. As with every other corner of journalism, President Trump has provoked interesting food writing, from chef Allison Robicelli’s piece about how Obamacare helped restaurant workers to the recent Times feature about a chef who was deported from the United States years ago and is now making Mexico City’s food great again.

In a fully digitized world, food offers the promise of writing about something tangible. “I feel like people are longing for connection,” said the writer Jason Tesauro. “We’ve gotten to a place where soul and authenticity and genuineness — there’s a dearth of it about. A lot of food writing just deals with surface — it’s restaurant reviews and hype and ‘Look at what I’ve found that you haven’t heard about yet.’ But peel that back and what you’re really getting is an excuse to write about what’s real.

“Food writing happens to be on everyone’s coffee table,” Tesauro continued, “so it’s a great entry point.”

L.A. Weekly’s Rodell said: “I would love to think Americans all of a sudden are really interested in pleasure and culture and community. But, really, I think they’re interested in commerce and status, probably.” Either way, they’re reading about it.

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How to Find the Best Restaurants in a New City, According to Top Chefs and Foodies | Oyster.com

jason tesauro

Header Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Dorli Photography

While on the go, the average traveler might typically defer to a quick internet search to help guide them to the best food. But the problem with a keyword search is that it can only yield what’s already out there—and the restaurants that are most mentioned, aren’t always the restaurants that are most worth dining in. The last situation any traveler wants to get stuck in is an overpriced and under-impressive tourist trap meal. We've all had them—the ones that leave you full of dissatisfaction and a hefty case of eater's remorse.  

And while Yelp reviews and message boards can be helpful in validating the quality of food in a restaurant you're already interested in, they don’t always help you find the restaurants you didn’t know you were looking for. You know, the places that the locals eat at. The places that help you expand your palette. The places that turn your trip into an experience. The places that make you want to fly back just for a chance to order the same meal twice. The places where you couldn’t help but take a blurry overhead wannabe-blogger photo because you didn’t know how else to act out your appreciation. Those are the kinds of meals you want to have when you’re traveling, and the best way to find them isn’t always intuitive. 

The best resource you can have while traveling hungry is the instinct of a seasoned foodie or chef. We’ve pooled together some prime insights from a collection on exceptionally sharp members of the culinary elite—here’s how they find the best food while traveling in a new city, without any help from Yelp.

Jason Tesauro, Writer, Speaker, Sommelier

Courtesy of The Modern Gentleman

"When I'm in a new place, I look for three markers. One, I'm looking for things that I don't have back at home. I stick to ethnic [cuisine]. Two, I look for evidence that something fresh is happening. I look for handwritten signs with specials. I want to know that the place isn't overstocked with dry goods. I want to know that they're going with what they've recently hunted and gathered. I want to smell fresh bread being made. I want to see bikes and dogs tied up outside to show that people went out of their way to get there. Three, I'm looking for something that's off the main boulevard. I'm looking for a place that's putting more money into ingredients than rent on a flashy street. I'm ignoring what the convention bureau wants me to pay attention to!""

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The 6th Annual Elby Awards | Richmond, VA

jason tesauro

Jason Tesauro, bon vivant and master wordsmith, delivered a compelling address as a recap of Richmond's dining scene over the past year at The Elbys. The awards show and after party took place at The Altria Theater. For a full transcript and recording, see below.

Photo courtesy Richmond Magazine

Photo courtesy Richmond Magazine

"More than 800 guests, bedecked in their beaded, feathered finest, turned out for the sixth annual Elbys, the Richmond region’s restaurant awards, hosted by Richmond magazine at the Altria Theater on Sunday evening.
Named after master chef Chef Paul Elbling, who now oversees Richmond's French Food Festival, the Elbys honor the work of Richmond chefs, restaurateurs, servers, purveyors and the industry’s philanthropists. This year’s awards ceremony and reception, in keeping with the circa-1927 theater venue, celebrated Prohibition-era chic." - Richmond Magazine

DO YOU GIVE A FORK?
On the occasion of the 6th Annual Elbys...
From a decent gentleman who felt like going Rogue. 

I've got ramen.
I've got boozin'.
I've got rooftops.
Who could ask for anything more?
Old man Bundy, I don't mind him
But I like Brittanny 'round my door.
Oh Beth Dixon
my favorite vixen for fixin'
what Ardent Craft ails ya
Kuba Kuba never fails ya
but L'Opossum assails
ya senses with fabulosity
Metzger Butchery & Bar
is the fully risen star
but Aaron Cross my heart's
in Trevor Knotts over this year's
hardworking guns
Scott Lewis, Craig Perkinson
and 57 saucy ways to dine
when you catch up with Julie Heins.
Michael Smith, a jolly fella,
he could run Mama J's, Perly's and Stella's.
I've got Dave & Dee's
I've got Tomten
I've got Victory
Who could ask for anything more?
Moonshine for miles
I might not go so far afield as Chester
but for a flask of Belle Isle
I've ventured to Manchester.
Caught a buzzzzzz with Blue Bee
spiced it up with Crunch Dynasty
gone awry with Reservoir Distillery
Nightingale Ice Creamery
Son of a Texas Beach bloody.
Let's talk philanthropy:
Jessica Bufford from Talley's Meat & 3
Aline Reitzer and Joe Sparatta
representing Jersey
Michelle Jones out to Pasture
is a great Comfort to me.
Spoonbread, Shagbark, Laura Lee
Hey, Lee Gregory
let me get a word in
for you and family Murden.
All the love I've felt
in and above The Roosevelt.
Oh, and this just in
along with Mrs. Anderson
Dogu, Evrim, Sub Rosa, weird
our mustachioed prince of bread
is also up for a Beard.
Who could ask for anything more?
More Employees of the Year
Mary, Edwuan, Hosea
What up playa?
When we go to Nota Bene
I don't feel like Pizza Tonight
Antler & Fin Boka roadkill quite a sight
Another one of Michelle Williams's visions:
Water Grill morphed into East Coast Provisions
Wegman's came and Southern Season went
Curry Craft: Mel, I woulda helped pay the rent!
Grace St. Confession: 
never been to Wong Gonzalez
but dig me some Rapp Session.
Side note: 
Pasture and Heritage, 
anagrammatically-speaking
their letters scrambled
start squeaking
U ARE PIG THEATRES
#justsayin
Who could ask for anything more? 
Remember that time when
RTD struck food-writing gold?
Scoops are normally not a sin
oops, turns out that journalist's Gold touch
was LA Times' Jonathan.
Every anti-copy-and-paster
rushed to lambaste her
Elliott Shaffner left the field
but she ain't the only one who keeled:
Chris Bopst left a mark
Owen Lane left town,
But then hella sad and too soon
Ted Santarella and Kurt Moon.
Everyone who knew them
would not have asked for anything more.
We've got fast casual
We've got flagons
Chefs on the wagon
Who could ask for anything more?
Create or imitate:
what defines our dine psyche?
I likey like "Hey, Mikey" when
we're innovative or true
to our roots in the region
and whence we all came
I need you to be authentic
but soulful is the name
of the game we must claim for our scene
this is all right nice and glossy
with Richmond Magazine
I don't mean to be bossy, 
but set your sight beyond
the borders of your plate
the corners of our state
await your day-tripping, night sipping,
beer crawl to a distillery
or above Secco and Julia's swillery
cuz I'm with her like Hillary
from The Pit to the Peel
let's get real Stoned and Steamed
three sheets and Three Notch'd
above The Veil
with an ale from Hardywood
our big daddy but not
our only Champion
everyone's brother's got a mash
a stash of Berliner Weisse not whiter
than Trapezium or Triple Crossing
and then there's Buskey Cider
How 'bout them apples?
cool, but it ain't gonna replace wine in the chapel
at Can Can Brasserie
your mark-ups are too high for me.
Instead of saying, can I get a loan, yo?
I spill Dolcetto and dollars at Enoteca Sogno
or Lejha, where Sunny, man of leisure,
always has a grin and crisp chenin
to pair with mid-Atlantic's best vindaloo
and Acacia, too, keeps its wine list noble
like rot Botrytis
but I gotta implore other peeps: invite us,
Me and Master Somm Robert Jones
got a few bones to pick with yous dudes
whose crews can't properly use
wine screws, serviettes or decanters
mistaken mostly for vases and planters.
Some don't know the difference between Pinot and Port
because our city is growing faster than our talent can support.
I've got K Town
Goatocado
Sen Organic
Who could ask for anything more?
I could. 
And so should you.
I'm here to praise and poeticize
not to preach – that was last year –
but it comes with a push
for answers
forget that vexing election
I got pressing questions.
Are you better off than 1 year ago?
Where did you go?
What did you eat?
Who did you help?
How did you challenge
   yourself
   your staff
   your guests
   your palate
   your skills?
Compost, recycle
find something healthier than heroin
to fight off the funks    
hire undocumented workers and fire tweezer punks  
don't get a butcher tattoo, yo, 
if you can't chiffonade basil, bro. 
Sustainability, boy, isn't just about a local acre of tatsoi
it's how you restock the loo and dish soap, Boo,
Did you know that PFG is headquartered here, too?
I've got Nile
up in Church Hill
Still need a grocery
Who could ask for anything more?
In Elbys past,
I cried, avast, get thee to your kitchen
Now, I say, it's time to get out and go
that's how we grow
put out the sign:
gone fishin'
hand your apron to your sous
and join our comrades on the mission.
All those legends in your books,
did I mention, were just cooks
when they joked and said,
"We want to change the world!"
And when I broke bread
with David Chang he hurled
wisdom with Jacques Pepin,
"If you want to be smarter,
know it matters less what's in your larder
than what's in your heart."
The art of food and drink, I think
is not in the church of ego
but in the steeple of people
who give a fork.
Yes, you must toil in the soil
and bring that pot to a boil
but that's craft
and I don't mean to be daft
but that should be a given
if you're livin' your passion.
Just as the writer has to read,
to achieve F & B mastery
you must eat and drink
and get your ass from quart containers
to passport stamps and Spain or
steer to Staunton with Ian Boden at The Shack.
Or Charleston, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago
pack to snack and taste
then return to your crew and baste
them in the secret sauce of place
and watch their face
"What's that nutmeggy spice, Chef? Mace?"
I've got Richmond.
I've got breweries.
I've got Elbys.
Who could ask for anything more?
Because when you give a fork
you move the needle.
That love in Autumn Olive pork
started when those pigs were fetal
that's not to say my wine stem must say Riedel,
but it must say something,
whether by screw cap, box or cork,
that shows that you and your somm give a flipping fork.
Who could ask for anything more?
I could ask you to give a fork.
Do you give a fork?
Tell me, "We give a fork!"
Do you give a fork?
We give a fork.
Louder. Do you give a fork?
We give a fork.
Do you give a fork?
We give a fork.
Who could ask for anything more?
–  Jason Tesauro

Watch the video highlights:

Unique Culinary Experiences Are Part of This Year’s Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair | Houstonia Magazine

Kristel Poole

Seafood boils, Italian wines and meat curing are just a few of the tasty opportunities.

By Rafa Farihah  1/24/2017

IT MAY BE JUST OUTSIDE HOUSTON ITSELF, but once a year Sugar Land is the ultimate destination to celebrate the legions of epicurean traditions in the most ethnically diverse county in America. Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, a four-day festival from April 6-9 consists of dinners, learning experiences, a Grand Tasting and a two-day Sip & Stroll. On Friday, tickets went on sale for this year’s event.

Partnered with IWSC Group North America, the 14th annual Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair is bringing a fusion of flavors to our city, connecting people and brands through experiences. Think international food fest paired with some of the finest wines, and encompassing a melting pot of African, Asian, Latino, European and Southwestern flavors.

The following day is a real education, when the soon-to-open Bacon Bros. Public House plays host for the Cured & Fermented Lunch from 12 to 2 p.m. There, chefs Kevin Ouzts and Joseph Zerwas will discuss their methods for curing everything from salumi and kimchi. Just kick back and allow sommelier Jason Tesauro to select the supreme complementary beverage pairing with your meal. Treat yo’ self to fermented foods of every strip, whether meat, vegetable or grape.

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The RVA Pizza Guide: I Was Made for Oven You, Baby | Richmond Magazine

Kristel Poole

Take a peek inside the kiln to learn how pizza gets made

by Jason Tesauro, January 23, 2017

“I call her my fire-breathing dragon,” says Jenna Sneed, chef and owner of Fresca on Addison. “She has a personality and you have to talk to her sweetly.” Sneed keeps her gas-powered dome humming at 800 degrees all day; it can’t run below 500 overnight, “or else it takes too long to heat back up.”

At its heart, an oven is about two things: temperature and heat distribution. While most any oven will make good pizza, strict certifications, precise ratios and refraction dictate a great oven’s floor runs at 750 to 800 degrees, while the dome nears 1,000. At these temps, dough cooks in 90 seconds. And when a pizza is lifted to the dome, toppings are blistered in even fewer. “But it’s not easy to use,” says Randall Doetzer, executive chef of Nota Bene. He spins pizzas around the deck to work his Neapolitan oven’s hot and cold spots. “With so many variables, I can do a hundred pizzas just fine and then wreck the next one. It’s humbling.”

Then there’s the fuel. Wood is sexy, but it’s also dirty, full of oils and tough to control. Coal is cleaner but it’s hard to get the fire started, and more difficult to master. Lots of pizzerias keep oven-side piles of cordwood or coal, but don’t get burned by marketing; if that wood or coal isn’t the primary heat source, it’s just a fancified gas oven.

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Richmond Food News: Week of Jan 9-13 | Richmond Magazine

Kristel Poole

It's time for your week-in-food review, which, fortunately for you, comes complete with an old-timey PSA, some fried chicken, a new late-night option and a whole lotta beer:

  • Welcome to Friday! Let's kick it off with a bit of fun: Tickets for the sixth annual Elby Awards are now on sale! This year we're bringing "Prohibition chic" to the historic Altria Theater with a burlesque/variety show and a few surprises, all in celebration of the Richmond area's dining scene and those who make it happen. "But Stephanie," you might be thinking, "what am I supposed to wear to this event, where costumes are always part of the fun?" To you I say fear not, because my co-host Jason Tesauro and I are here to help. We made this very handy wardrobe PSA just for you, and we hope it answers any questions you might have! (We shot this in one take and my pipes had frozen during the snowstorm last weekend, so my hair is not looking 100-emoji good, but I still think we look pretty fly, in part due to the fine apparel from Blue Bones Vintage.) After the ceremony — which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19 — we'll head downstairs for the official after-party, where there'll be drinks and eats and dancing. Who's excited?? THIS BROAD. Need a refresher on which restaurants, chefs and purveyors are nominated this year? Jitterbug your way right over here.

The Critics Ate Crudo, Caribbean-Mediterranean Fare, and Pizza This Week | Eater Boston

Kristel Poole

By Dana Hatic, December 22, 2016

Harvard Square’s Waypoint receives a visit from the New York Times’s Jason Tesauro, who dives into the wood-fired pizza, snacks, and pasta. Tesauro writes that the fried smelts are crispy, the tallow fried peanuts are a clever snack, and the Royal Osetra caviar becomes fun alongside doughnut holes and blinis. The roast lamb shoulder is “umami-rich,” Tesauro writes, and the daily crudo is worth hogging for “its balance of salt, acid and buttery olive oil.”

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A Boston Area Restaurant Both Contemporary and Comfy | The New York Times

Kristel Poole

By Jason Tesauro, December 16, 2016

There’s wood-fired pizza, lots of fried snacks and house-made pasta. But there’s also seafood, a sexy absinthe bar and sleek décor. It is a place vibrant enough for a happy hour pop-in, yet intimate enough for after-dark canoodling over caviar and cocktails. Waypoint, whose name means a stopping point in a journey, is all of these things — and a destination unto itself.

“This is the next step in my trajectory as a chef,” said Michael Scelfo, the chef and owner, who also runs Alden & Harlow, barely a half-mile away. That next step is particularly focused on seafood. His fried smelts plate with ramp rémoulade and fried lemons and jalapeños was crispy, both kinds of hot and easy to divide around the communal table during a recent visit. Tallow fried peanuts with anchovy and pickled fish peppers made a clever snack, especially when paired with the Estate Grown, a creamy house cocktail of Martinique rhum, pistachio falernum and hierbas dotted with lime-and-herb oil.

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The MAD effect: One chef’s Danish pilgrimage turns her burnout into energy | The Washington Post

Kristel Poole

By Jason Tesauro, December 3, 2016

Powerhouse women convened for one of the most highly-anticipated seminars at MAD5, the international food symposium in Copenhagen in August. Yet its speaker, chef Iliana Regan, hadn’t prepared a word. And then, off the cuff, she nailed two hot-button issues chefs face: gender roles in the kitchen and the industry’s mental health. “I know my business, my craft, but I can barely some days get out of bed,” Regan said. “It’s the topic I don’t want to talk about, but it’s necessary. Why am I having the best year of my life and still taking Wellbutrin?”

This kind of gravitas is what Noma’s Rene Redzepi intended when he founded MAD (Danish for “food”) with Momofuku’s David Chang. “Typical food festivals are about the now of your menu and showing your marvels,” he said. “But MAD is about community- building, problem-solving.” Now in its fifth year, MAD aims to improve the global state of food, empower the industry’s people, and connect communities to their seasons and landscapes.

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A taste of Virginia: Take a food-focused trip to Richmond | WTOP: Washington's Top News

Kristel Poole

By Rachel Nania, November 4, 2016

WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital isn’t the only great food city in the local area. Virginia’s capital city is also raking in recognition for its innovative and fast-growing restaurant scene. 

In the last year, national publications including The New York TimesThe Washington Post and Saveur have put Richmond on the map as a top town for eating and drinking. 

Susan Winiecki, co-owner of Real Richmond Food Tours and associate publisher of Richmond Magazine, says the city’s shift into the culinary spotlight started about 15 years ago when chef Jason Alley opened his restaurant, Comfort, on downtown’s once-desolate Broad Street. 

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6 can’t miss Fire, Flour & Fork weekend events | WTVR CBS6

Kristel Poole

By Stephanie Ganz, November 2, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. — It starts in January, if you can believe it. It might seem like there are 11 long months until November, but I know better. Just after the New Year’s buzz fades, it’s time to get down to business– wrangling sponsors, calling chefs, organizing, promising, and emailing — so much emailing — to make sure Fire, Flour & Fork goes off with as few hiccups as possible.

GRAPETIONARY, AROUND THE WORLD IN WINE
Saturday, November 19 from 1:00 to 1:30, Vagabond

Do you love wine? I mean do you really, really love it to the point where you want to run a gauntlet of 26 wines before 2:00 in the afternoon? In that case, there’s no better spirit guides for your quest than Jason Tesauro and his team of sommeliers...

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From aglianico to zibibbo, he poured an alphabetical tour of wine grapes | The Washington Post

Kristel Poole

By Dave McIntyre, October 29, 2016

More than 1,300 varieties of grapes are used around the world to produce wine. Dedicated wine fiends may be able to experience most of those over a lifetime. Jason Tesauro would like us to taste an alphabet’s worth in a single fascinating evening.

He calls it Grapetionary, an A-to-Z exploration of the world of wine that combines ampelography (the study of grapes) with geography. It’s educational and fun — emphasis on fun.

Tesauro, 44, is co-author of “The Modern Gentleman” and sommelier and brand manager for Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia. He thought up Grapetionary while flipping the pages of Wine Grapes, an encyclopedic reference written by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. Think of it as the Oxford English Dictionary of wine grapes.

“I was going through the book page by page, and I realized there were a lot of grapes that sounded interesting but not very delicious,” he told me. “And there were some that were interesting and delicious. I thought, what a great party...

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As Copenhagen’s Noma Departs, a Welcome Arrival | The New York Times

Kristel Poole

By Jason Tesauro, October 7, 2016

Ever since René Redzepi announced that he’d be closing what’s been possibly the most celebrated restaurant in the world, the only thing harder to find at Noma than out-of-season vegetables are reservations. Fortunately, there’s a workaround. Just a summer plum’s toss from Noma’s back door, Mr. Redzepi has opened 108, a stylishly casual alternative that’s a third of the price, yet far more than half as good. Prep cooks run ingredients back and forth between the two kitchens, but a Noma alumnus, Kristian Baumann, is firmly at the helm.

Chef stalkers will find Noma staffers starting their mornings at 108, where an adjacent venue called the Corner doubles as a top-flight coffee shop with tea and pastries by day and a modern enoteca with beer and snacks by night. “It’s a friendly vibe,” Mr. Baumann said. “I wanted people to relax and have fun with family or a group of friends.”

Although 108 officially opened on July 27, it began as a 13-week pop-up at Noma while Mr. Redzepi and company were off cooking in Australia. The kitchen is already in practiced rhythm, and the first dish, like many on the menu, had the hallmarks of Noma’s creative...

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Highlights From the Food World’s Most Game-Changing Festival | The New York Times

Kristel Poole

By Jason Tesauro, September 12, 2016

At the fifth MAD Symposium — Denmark’s annual culinary twist on the Butterfly Effect, where small acts lead to large outcomes — a young cook from India, Ashwami Manjrekar, landed a gig with Rosio Sanchez, the Mexican-American chef from Chicago who opened a now-famous taqueria in Torvehallerne. That two women from disparate cultures on opposite sides of the earth found common ground over tacos under a circus tent is just one example of how MAD Symposium is arguably the most impactful food movement around.

Founded by Noma restaurant’s chef/owner/visionary, René Redzepi, MAD (the Danish word for “food”) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to spread ideas, forge new relationships, discuss injustices and update – in real time – the global playbook for an ethical, sustainable food culture. This year, organizers pared the guest list from 1,500 applicants to a vital 350 catalysts from 43 countries who promised to engage, collaborate, expostulate, break bread — and break barriers.

From August 28-29, attendees were delivered by kanalrundfart (canal boat) to an undeveloped peninsula jutting between the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean, to explore the MAD5 theme of Tomorrow’s Kitchen via two questions: What do we hope our kitchens will be like in the future? And what can we do today to make those dreams a reality? After hot debate, cold beer, laughs, tears and enough Norwegian mackerel to trigger a tent-wide omega-3 brain-boost, one truth emerged: The answer is not in the food, but in the people behind it. Barefoot in rolled-up pants, the DC-based chef/humanitarian José Andrés, one of this year’s keynote speakers, paced over pine straw laid inside the not-for-profit organization’s signature red circus tent — where he delivered a TED Talk–like sermon imploring cooks, restaurateurs, suppliers, food writers and tastemakers to “provide for others what you want for yourself.” Heads nodded and fingers snapped in united affirmation.

With nearly 100 different sessions running throughout the symposium, countless secondary topics – from millennial chefs and microbial terroir to alpha females and food waste...

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Nile Flows Uphill | Richmond Magazine

Kristel Poole

One of Richmond's favorite Ethiopian restaurants reemerges in Church Hill

By Jason Tesauro, August 19, 2016

Ten years after founding the original Nile on Laurel Street, the Teklemariam family is bringing its Ethiopian restaurant to Church Hill.

Brothers Yoseph and Benyam Teklemariam first laid eyes on the 96-year-old commercial building  at 306 N. 29th St. years ago but settled into the VCU district instead. Now, after eight years near the college, a continuing hot-bar arrangement at Ellwood Thompson's, and a brief collaboration with Portrait House in Carytown, they've reemerged with a new space of their own, which soft-opened Tuesday in the former Str8 Out of Philly location. While the brothers Teklemariam get a feel for their new business, you can stop by for dinner...

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The Most Unique Wine Event I've Ever Experienced | Forbes

Kristel Poole

By Cathy Huyghe, June 9, 2016

First there was the disorientation of the place. A working vineyard? In the middle of urban Atlanta?

Then there was the very well put-together arrangement of the event, a luncheon last Friday during the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. The arrangement included long, elegant dining tables between the vines, and large white canopies to protect guests (and wines) from the noonday Southern sun.

But the kicker -- the indicator that demonstrated that we were no longer in Kansas, Toto -- was the one-page "map" to what the event was all about: Grapetionary A-Z, with one grape designated for each letter and one wine made from each grape. The guests at the lunch were treated to tastes of each of those 26 wines, most of which they'd never tasted before and will likely never taste again.

Identifying those grapes, and pulling those wines altogether in one place at one time, was a logistical accomplishment, to say the least. The driving force behind Grapetionary A-Z, and the guide for the event, was Jason Tesauro, a.k.a. The Modern Gent, an author, beverage specialist, and consultant based in Richmond, Virginia.

Vivacity, creativity, and unconventionality are earmarks of Tesauro's programs, which make for lively, outside-the-box experiences. In true gamer character, Tesauro responded with gusto to my challenge of answering 26 questions -- from what it took to pull off this event, to why his approach to events is good for wine, to how luminaries like Jancis Robinson and Randall Grahm influenced him, to what happened with all the wine that...

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North Heads South | Richmond Magazine

Kristel Poole

1 North Belmont's Frits Huntjens takes to Petersburg for a new restaurant and farmers market concept

By Jason Tesauro, May 13, 2016

Six years ago, one of Richmond’s most elegant restaurants closed its doors. 1 North Belmont, where Stuzzi currently resides, was a victim of both an economic downturn and an untenable spot on the sophisticated fringe of RVA’s dining scene in those hungry years before The Roosevelt, Secco Wine Bar, Pasture, The Magpie and Heritage energized our city.   

Soon after the closure, chef and owner Frits Huntjens packed up his knives, clogs and Dutch accent and traded the turbulent life of an independent toque for a sweet corporate gig in North Side as the executive chef of Westminster Canterbury, a top-tier retirement community. And now, he’s unveiling an ambitious master plan to take his talents south. South to Petersburg. “Two investors are putting their money – well north of a million dollars – where their mouth is," says Huntjens, "and where everyone else’s mouth will be.”

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Preview: On the Set of "A Moveable Feast" at Merroir Restaurant | Style Weekly

Kristel Poole

By Brandon Fox, May 6, 2016

“Mingle,” the assistant director tells us. “Pretend like you’re meeting each other for the first time!”

Apparently, we aren’t mingling aggressively enough for the crew of WGBH’s “A Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.” They take away the tables around us, and unexpectedly, while I tip a raw oyster back that’s still ever-so-slightly attached to its shell, a camera is in my face. It can’t be pretty.

I’m at Merroir restaurant, on the Middle Peninsula in Topping, and the PBS show is filming an episode for its fourth season. “A Moveable Feast” follows Australian chef Pete Evans while he travels throughout America to taste regional specialties.

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Food News: Sad ham projection, wine-pared confection, raw cheese perfection | RVA News

Kristel Poole

By Stephanie Ganz, February 25, 2016

Richmond’s dining elite brushed off their finest white attire to attend the Elby’s (en blanc) last Sunday at the VMFA. Dutch & Company took the honor of Best Restaurant, while Vagabond chef Owen Lane was named chef of the year. Richmond Magazine put on a great show, complete with a winged, sermon-spouting Jason Tesauro; a Bjork-goose-dressed, albino wookiee, and Leia-bunned Stephanie Breijo; and plenty of f-bomb dropping chefs for good measure. Gotta keep things authentic, after all.

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Richmond Abuzz

Kristel Poole

In honor of National Coffee Day, a roundup of the best coffee spots in Richmond from our January 2015 "Best Brunches and Breakfasts" issue.

By Jason Tesauro, September 29, 2015

Whether coffee is a thoughtless part of your morning routine on par with teeth-brushing or it’s a fetishized ritual akin to wine tasting, somewhere in the 804 there’s a cup with your name on it. Our city boasts many these coffeehouses, but RVA’s entire scene can be broken down into three classes of perk joint: Geek Out, Gack Out and Hang Out. Forget blind loyalties and hit the right one according to each day’s particular kind of java jones.

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