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San Francisco: 5 Things We're Craving Now

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Here's my personal and subjective list of five things I want to seek out to taste this month in San Francisco:

1. Creative cupcakes from punky pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez, whose Les Elements stand at the biweekly Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market includes an intriguing Darjeeling tea cupcake with black pepper frosting.

2. The Margharita pizza from Una Pizza Napoletana, where the dough is made from wild yeast spores and topped with buffalo mozzarella.

3. Local Hodo Soy Beanery's yuba tofu strips, marinated in spicy teriyaki sauce and pan-fried.

4. A whisky cocktail at the newly renovated House of Shields, one of the city's most historic and beautiful bars.

5. The red velvet fried chicken (yes, really) at American Cupcake (pictured above).

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Jaime Gross is Travel + Leisure's San Francisco correspondent.

Photo courtesy of digitalShe™

Eat Your Pudding: Chef Marcus Wareing Opens New Restaurant in London

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It’s one of the most buzzed-about and eagerly anticipated hotel openings across the pond: London’s iconic St. Pancras railway station has reinvented itself as a sumptuous new Renaissance hotel, and last week unveiled The Gilbert Scott restaurant. Celebrated chef Marcus Wareing (of the Michelin two-starred Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley) derived inspiration for his second restaurant from both the historic building itself, as well as from dishes that are nearly 200 years old, but cooked with modern techniques.

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NYC Chefs Cook for Japan

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When nature displays its most brutal side, humanity often displays it’s best. That’s why this Wednesday, mega-chef Masaharu Morimoto, together with a star-studded panel of culinary giants from across the United States are lending their talents to Chefs Cook for Japan at New York City's Harvard Club, with all proceeds going towards disaster relief for the devastating earthquake and tsunami that slammed Japan over two months ago.

On hand to mingle with and feed the crowd? Red Rooster’s Marcus Samuelsson, Devi’s Suvir Saran, Iron Chef Jose Garcas of Philadelphia’s Amada, and countless others (Ken Oringer, Jonathan Waxman, Paul Bartolotta to name a few). All this plus specialty cocktails courtesy of Lani Kai’s Julie Reiner, for just $150 a head.

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La Maison Mère: In (American) Food We Trust

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It’s no secret that the French are enamored with New York. Not the whole state, however, just the city. Astounding Parisians not only by its sheer size, energy, and unapologetic excesses but also by its boundless food choices, Manhattan is like a culinary amusement park. For the French, whose food scene has long been dominated by traditional, bistro fare, the diversity in NYC is understandably appealing.  But what seems to seduce French appetites most is not the ethnic variety so accessible in NY but rather straight up, all-American comfort food—bagels and cream cheese, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, cupcakes and “real” NY cheesecake.

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Carnival Debuts First Shipboard Pub

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Somewhere between Venice and Dubrovnik, the brand new 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic ran out of ThirstyFrog Red draught beer.

This was significant not only because there was a whole lot of drinking going on from the very first night of the maiden cruise of Carnival’s latest “Fun Ship”—the 23rd vessel in the fleet—but also because Carnival clearly has a hit on its hands.

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Shopping Moscow's Market

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Rinok. Just saying the word brings a sense of calm to my disjointed Russian life in Moscow. All at once, the sprawl of doorways open as if they are choreographed. I pass stalls where ducks and coffee and wild honey are being sold. You can get your keys copied, or a box of chocolates, maybe a fuzzy pair of house slippers. When they are in season, truckloads of watermelons are sold by the hour.

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Just Back: Pebble Beach Food & Wine

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I just returned from an amazing weekend at the fourth-annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine, a four-day festival in one of the most beautiful settings—Monterey, California. I was there on business, but it’s times like these that I realize how fortunate I am to do what I do.

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From my arrival at the Monterey airport—complete with an unbelievable aerial view of the Inn at Spanish Bay and Peninsula—I knew I was in for a good time. What’s not to love about great food and drink, and golf at the wildly scenic Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Here I am (on the left) with Cody Plott, president and chief operating officer of Pebble Beach.)

But as I discovered, too much natural beauty can be a distraction. I hate to admit it… it wasn't one of my better performances. When you play this legendary course without a cloud in the sky, it’s not about the golf, it’s all about the setting. And there was an interruption at every hole—whales, Cypress trees, fabulous homes. My golf game wasn’t top of mind. Can you blame me?

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A Fashion Photog Goes Rogue in Paris

201104-b-paris-5jpgRead the first part of guest blogger-photographer Elizabeth Lippman’s special series about departing from the fashion flock here.

In the beginning: disaster. ALL my luggage is lost. I have my cameras and my computer, but no clothing. Let me repeat: NO. CLOTHES. For PARIS FASHION WEEK. I have only what I am wearing, my traveling-at-4am-clothes, and a toothbrush.

Happily, my husband Jac is meeting me at CDG, and we take the RER together right to the neighborhood of our first Paris apartment—"Le Studio de St. Paul" from Airbnb.com, which I've booked for three nights for $359. It's a TINY studio with a loft bed, RIGHT on Rivoli/St. Antoine in the heart of Le Marais, and packed with the clothing and personal items of the owner, a young actress. She greets us, and gives us the keys.

201104-b-paris-6jpgThe apartment is above a French chocolate store, the L'Atelier du Chocolat, and the scent of bittersweet chocolate wafts thru the open windows. Not bad. My husband has only been to Paris once, and I am eager to show him “my Paris,” my bars and cafes and, most importantly, now that I have no luggage, my favorite boutiques, all in the Marias—Blancs Manteaux, Les Petits, and Maje. BHV, where I stocked up on Princess Tam Tam and Etam undies. We make our way to Rue Charonne. Luckily for my bank account, the Isabel Marant boutique at no. 16 is closed.

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T+L's Best of Europe for iPad!

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All this Royal Wedding chatter got you thinking about your next trip to London? Or maybe it’s the weather forecast in Santorini you’re after (high 60s, scattered showers and possible T-storms until Saturday….) Check out Best of Europe, Travel + Leisure’s latest digital edition for iPad ($1.99), now at TravelandLeisure.com/iPad or on the App Store. The editors of T+L have put together an essential compendium of where to go right now from the Azores to Istanbul, just in time for your summer holiday planning.

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LUCKYRICE: Get Your Asian Food On in NYC!

201104-b-luckyricelogojpgWhen I was growing up in the white-bread hinterlands of Maine, a pu-pu platter at the Golden Fan (a Chinese restaurant) at our local Holiday Inn was as exotic as food got. But, it gave me taste for something more than bologna sandwiches.

Today, my world is a much bigger—and tastier—place, one filled with bánh mì, congee, unagi maki, and bibimbap. I now keep a bottle of Sriracha sauce in my desk drawer, and am pretty sure Momofuku’s Berkshire pork buns are the secret to happiness.

I know I am not alone in this ever-expanding obsession/love/appreciation of Asian cuisines. In the words of Danielle Chang, the savvy founder of the LUCKYRICE Festival: “Asian food is having a moment. But when isn’t it?!”

201104-b-luckyricemktjpgIn its second year, the ultra-popular Asian food festival, LUCKYRICE, runs from May 2-8 in NYC, and includes another exciting tongue-tickling line-up of culinary events—from an Omakase Dinner with Iron Chef Morimoto to a buzzy Night Market in Brooklyn featuring over 50 restaurants serving Asia's best street food. Will I be there? Pho-getaboutit.

You can purchase tickets here. (They’re going fast, but there's still availability for the Grand Feast at the Mandarin Oriental; Opening Cocktails hosted by Opening Ceremony; and the Talk + Taste events with cooking demos.)

And check out my video Q&A with LUCKYRICE Festival visionary Danielle Chang:

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