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San Francisco's Famous Tonga Room Tiki Bar May Close in 2011

Tonga Room at Fairmont Hotel

The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar—the famous and famously over-the-top tiki lounge at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel—may soon be sold, dismantled, and moved, or even closed altogether, as the hotel prepares a major renovation.

This is San Francisco, though, where the unexpected is an everyday occurrence, so it's not surprising that the city planning commission is withholding its approval of the hotel's plans while considering the room's "historic importance." A Tiki bar? Historically important? As I said—this is San Francisco, after all. Check out this amateur video for a sense of the bar's charming weirdness.

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Chef Vikas Khanna Asks, What Connects Food and Faith?

The Golden Temple, Amritsar

As with men and women, behind every great religion you’ll find a greater kitchen. At least that’s Vikas Khanna’s theory. In his new film series, Holy Kitchens, the 38-year-old chef delves into the relationship between food and faith. For the first installment, Holy Kitchens: The True Business, Khanna visits the Langar (or, community kitchen) of Harimandir Sahib—also known as the Golden Temple—the holiest site in Sikhism, in Amritsar, India. It’s an appropriate debut subject for Khanna, who was born in Amritsar. Though he now lives in Manhattan, he maintains very close ties to his homeland.

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From Farm to Truck: The Grub Street Food Festival

Mile End brisket

My foodie friends used to be horrified by my penchant for street snacks. For years it created a significant rift between us. While they spent their weekends at farmers’ markets, taking knife-skills classes at the Culinary Institute, and trying to snag a table at Wylie Dufresne’s latest chic eatery, I was scarfing down empanadas at random Brooklyn intersections and scouring parking lots for new taco trucks.

This past Saturday, we finally broke bread at the same metaphorical dining table. The source of our new common ground? A one-day street-food extravaganza hosted by New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street.

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Food & Wine All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas

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What better place than Las Vegas—home to some of the world’s best hotels, restaurants, and nightlife—to host Food & Wine's inaugural All-Star Weekend? Hosted by Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons and a slew of celebrity chefs, including alumni from Bravo’s Top Chef, this weekend of epicurean delights will take place from November 5-7 at some of Vegas’s finest luxury resorts, including the Bellagio, ARIA, and Vdara Hotel & Spa at the new CityCenter.

All-Star Weekend Highlights:

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New Study Lets Airlines off the Hook for Serving Bland Food

Airline Food

Despite the best efforts of Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and other celebrity chefs enlisted by airlines to jazz up their menus, a new study suggests that in-flight meals will forever be bland. It's not the preparation, it's our perception. As reported by the BBC, a study in the journal Food Quality and Preference shows that background noise can adversely affect both the flavor and texture of food.

Before you accuse the Food Quality and Preference editors of publishing frivolous, sensationalistic research, consider their other reports: "Consistent flavor naming predicts recognition memory in children and young adults"; "Impact of proprioception and tactile sensations in the mouth on the perceived thickness of semi-solid foods"; "Conditioning unfamiliar and familiar flavours to specific positive emotions."

These people are serious about flavor.

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New York City's Michelin-Starred Restaurants Announced Today

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As New Yorkers will modestly admit, the city is home to more great restaurants than anywhere else in the country, and quite possibly the world. Got a problem with that? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

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Fall Food Excursion: Southern Maine Coast

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Stubbornly unwilling to accept the true end of summer, I resolved to eek out the season's last drops with a weekend trip to the Maine coast. On Saturday, soaring temps made for perfect driving conditions up the state's coastal Route 1. With the windows down, my nose was on high alert for hints of salt air and the pleasant fishiness of lobster traps.

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Dispatch: Sonoma's Wine Country Weekend

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I'm not precisely sure when the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend festival went from fun to fantastic, but it may have been the moment when Congressman Mike Thompson started swatting at flying beach balls, deftly protecting nearby guests (not to mention a Kunde Family Estate Barbera).

On the first weekend in September, the winemakers of Sonoma County, CA, cheerfully raised their glasses, despite this year's challenging grape-growing season. The pre-harvest celebration was underway and sunny weather boosted everyone's spirits.

The annual festival rolls out a series of food-and-wine events as a major fundraiser for local charities. It's also a perfect opportunity to gauge the cultural differences between Sonoma and neighboring Napa.

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More (Delicious) Neapolitan Pizza Comes to NYC

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Last Thursday evening I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of Donatella Arpaia's latest restaurant venture. Donatella, an Italian restaurant with a big focus on authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, opens Friday, September 24, in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC. It's her first venture here below 50th Street; she also owns Mia Dona, a rustic Puglian trattoria; Anthos, high-end Greek; Kefi, a Greek taverna; and in Miami's Viceroy Hotel, Eos, for modern Greek cuisine.

Arpaia hosted the event and, beyond being super friendly, you could easily see the enthusiasm and dedication she has for this new spot. Her ingredients are beyond fresh; the techniques authentic; and chefs total experts. All of her pizzaioli—as well as Arpaia—were trained in Italy with pie whiz Enzo Coccia, who then came here to continue to oversee the project during its early stages.

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Ferran Adria: Cuisine Can’t Travel, So People Must

201009-b-bulli-3jpgYesterday morning, at I had the pleasure of meeting Spain’s most celebrated chef, Ferran Adrià. Since I’ll probably never get the chance to eat at El Bulli—his widely adored Catalunya restaurant-turned-culinary-institute, (which now no longer accepts reservations, though they were near impossible to get even when it did)—I consider it an accomplishment just to shake the man’s hand. Though, alas, I suspect that his was not the hand that prepared the cookies and Starbuck’s coffee on offer during the break...

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