When the New York Hilton Midtown—the city’s largest hotel, at nearly 2,000 rooms—announced in January that it was doing away with room service, people were shocked. The reality: Hilton saw that today’s traveler preferred a quick meal at a reasonable price, and room service was losing money. It was time for a change.
Enter Herb N’Kitchen, the hotel's new lobby dining outlet, open from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. It’s like an upscale grab-and-go cafeteria, offering everything from made to order gluten-free corn arepas to Pat La Frieda cheeseburgers. Also for sale: bottles of wine and locally made snacks, such as Tumbador chocolate-covered animal crackers from Brooklyn. In the adjoining room (which feels more like a restaurant), guests can have a hot buffet breakfast, or just enjoy their takeaway treats. And food from Herb N’Kitchen can be delivered to the room—it just comes in a paper bag.
When Napa-based wine master James Cluer told his client, Qatar Airways, that he would be out of contact for a month and a half, the airline asked questions. Where was he going? And why for so long? Cluer disclosed he was planning to fulfill a lifelong dream and climb Mt. Everest (29,000 feet above sea level)—a trip that had been years in the making. Qatar Airways suggested he might want to conduct a wine tasting to learn how altitude affects the palette outside of a plane cabin. Cluer agreed. Enter a few seasoned sherpas.
The story is a funny one—either the ultimate marketing gimmick, or an extreme experiment in satisfying one’s curiosity. Turns out, it was the latter. Cluer and Qatar Airways both take wine seriously. The Doha-based airline has won numerous awards, including Best Airline Wine List, and all of its flight attendants are WSET certified and able to provide sommelier services. And Cluer has dedicated his life to the grape. In addition to consulting, buying, and selecting what wines to serve onboard Qatar Airways flights, he also runs 16 wine schools in the U.S. and Canada and operates a luxury wine tour business called Fine Vintage Ltd.
One recent evening in New York City, I traveled to Memphis, and back. At City Grit, a culinary salon founded and nurtured and helmed by Food & Wine’s 2010 Home Cook Superstar Sarah Simmons, diners are invited to new tastes and experiences, often supplied by guest chefs who sometimes fly in just to make a single meal. It’s one of the coolest ways we know to travel and still stay at home.
The evening’s spotlight was on two Tennessee chefs, Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer, whose restaurant Hog & Hominy blends Southern and Italian cooking, and has earned legions of pork-loving fans.
Tonight the duo is back. To celebrate today’s release of their new cookbook “Collards and Carbonara,” Ticer and Hudman are again firing up the stove at City Grit, with Simmons playing back-up.
New York City: The playful vibe (yellow leather banquettes; framed photos of boomboxes) belies the serious dishes coming out of Charlie Bird($$$), the SoHo spot from chef Ryan Hardy and sommelier Robert Bohr. The wines—many made from little-known grapes—can all be ordered by the half bottle.
Philadelphia: Peter Serpico earned his chops as second-in-command at New York’s Momofuku empire. Now he’s partnered with restaurateur Stephen Starr at Serpico($$$). The seasonally driven menu includes raw diver scallops and an indulgent deep-fried duck leg.
It all started—as many ideas do—with an off-the-cuff conversation. While brainstorming concepts for a possible restaurant project in Pittsburgh, artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski started listing types of food they couldn’t find in the city. “We realized we were naming cuisines from countries that the U.S. government was in conflict with,” Weleski says. And just like that, Conflict Kitchen was born.
Every three months, the take out-only spot in Schenley Plaza rotates its menu—and its design scheme—to reflect a different destination, one that they hope will stimulate thoughtful political conversations. So far, they’ve featured Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Iran, and Cuba is up until October.
When Greg Vosits arrived to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport on July, 9th, he was headed to Vienna en route to the medieval city Györ, Hungary, his hometown, to spend the summer. But when the University of Connecticut doctoral student was approached by a woman clad in Heineken regalia proffering a chance to scrap his plans and play travel roulette—a game show-style contest with a far-flung destination waiting on the other end of a button—his mind raced.
“My friends will think I’m stupid if I don’t do this, I will regret it for the rest of my life,” he thought.
And so, with cameras in his face, he took his chance, Cyprus shuffled onto the board, and the Mediterranean beckoned. Now to just clear it with mom.
Last week, a six-clawed lobster was found off of Midcoast Maine, and just a week earlier a two-toned lobster was pulled from similar waters. But most lobster fans have been buzzing over the rare affordability of lobsters these days—prices per pound are the lowest they've been in 20 years. Maybe this is the one good side of Global Warming?
Americans consumed 231 million pounds of Maine lobster last year—a record high. The conclusion? A trip to Maine—especially in the late-summer or early fall—is not complete without eating lobster. In warmer months, lobsters molt, and their shells become so soft you can eat them with your hands, without the aid of crackers. Just ask for a "shedder" and you'll sound like a local. Maine native Luke Holden, of Luke's Lobster in New York City, shows you just what to do.
Over-the-Rhine (OTR)—known for its Italianate architecture—has gone from historic to hip.
Inventive Japanese gastropub and sushi bar Kaze amps up its ramen with littleneck clams and red miso broth; turkey sliders are piled high with sugar bacon, shiitake mushrooms, and house-made pickles. 1400 Vine St. $$$
The founders of 21c Museum Hotel set their sights on a landmark building for their second art-filled property. Technically just outside of OTR, it displays works in unexpected places; take the lobby floor, where a panel of wormlike neon patterns changes as you walk on it. Make sure to grab a drink on the rooftop terrace. 609 Walnut St.$$
Susana Balbo has been making a name for herself in the wine industry for over 30 years. She was Argentina's first female winemaker and the first woman president of Wines of Argentina, an organization that promotes the country's wine industry to a global market. Blending is Balbo's specialty and her talents have served her well. In 1999, she began building Dominio del Plata Wineryin her hometown, Mendoza, Argentina. Today, the 75,000-square-foot winery is surrounded by 47 acres of vines that produce two million liters of wine per year.
Harkening back to an age of classic diners and Americana, Harlem Shake features a green-and-white retro design with painstakingly restored high coffered ceilings. Locals and visitors alike are flocking to the restaurant for its fresh take on diner food, with a wide range of burgers, dogs, and milkshakes. Our favorite? The Hot Mess burger—topped with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, American cheese, and a chipotle mayo. Another crowd pleaser? A cholesterol-be-damned hot dog wrapped in bacon.
On the corner of 124th and Lenox, Harlem Shake sits just a two-minute walk from Red Rooster, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s hotspot, and within earshot of Alexander Small's duo of soon-to-open restaurants, The Cecil and Minton's, in the former Minton's Playhouse jazz club.
All this goes to show that while Baauer’s song went viral then disappeared, the restaurant scene in Harlem will be shaking (in a good way) for the foreseeable future.
Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.