Two and a half hours north of Seattle, on a small island, resides a bed and breakfast that serves up Michelin star quality food where the ingredients are all locally sourced. It sounds like the beginning of some mysterious story, a combination of the remoteness of ElBulli with the locavore philosophy of Noma. And you would be correct. Welcome to The Willows Inn.
After hitting the quality cuisines of England, Austria and Spain, I made my final stop on Gastropocalypse 2012: Germany. Just outside Cologne resides a giant palace, the Schloss Bensberg, and tucked within is the best chef in Germany and his restaurant, Vendôme. In May 2012 Chef Joachim Wissler was voted the best in his trade by the 100 finest cooks in Germany for the second time in a row, as the “Cook of Cooks”. A three star ending to a five star vacation. Or so I thought.
Catalunya, the current center of the gastronomic universe. I hadn’t been there since 2001, when food meant to me whatever the closest restaurant was offering at the moment. This time I walked through Barcelona with a culinary eye, and found (and ate) many a wonderful thing, if only for a short couple of days.
The gastropocalypse continued on from England and Austria into the next country: Spain. Specifically to the culinary paradise of Catalunya, and the beautiful city of Barcelona. There I had made reservations at a tapas bar. It doesn’t have any Michelin stars and isn’t in the Top 50 restaurants in the world. But I thought it was worth checking out. Why? Because it’s run by Ferran and Albert Adrià. You know, elBulli. Considered the most revolutionary cooks alive and all that.
Excuse me for a moment while I channel Eric’s excitement:
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I ATE AT TICKETS!!! I HAD A DRINK AT 41º!!!!!!! AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK, that feels better.
Continuing my European culinary journey which started in London, my next stop was Vienna, Austria to visit some friends and experience the city. And, of course, to eat at their local temple to gastronomy. Theirs is located in the center of town in the middle of Stadtpark. It has plenty of outdoor seating, which was a first for me in these kind of places. Its name is Steirereck.
I just came back from a two week jaunt through Europe. I hadn’t been on a two week vacation in over two and a half years, and hadn’t been to Europe in six years, so I was determined to pack in as much excitement as I could. And boy, did I. I decided one aspect of this vacation was to be a culinary exploration, and I managed to score reservations at some of the best places on the continent. I named the whole excursion Gastropocalypse 2012. The first stop on the culinary map: London.
You can’t make a reservation, and you can’t pay.
– Nathan Myrvold on having dinner at the Cooking Lab
Last night I had the rare privilege of attending one of the dinners at the Modernist Cuisine Cooking Lab. The phrase ‘rare privilege’ can be overused, but in this case, it is completely warranted. The purity and concentration of their flavors is off the charts. Twenty-nine courses of it. Needless to say, but it needs to be said: it was amazing.
I hear it’s pretty hard to get into high end restaurants. I’m not so sure – either the problem is exaggerated or I have an awesome lucky streak. My dinner for Next:Childhood? I just got online and reserved a ticket. Benu in San Francisco? I put in a request on the waiting list and a table cancelled.
So when I wanted to get into Alinea, considered the best restaurant in the US, and even the world (depending on who’s ranking), I called their reservation line. It was busy. I called again. It was busy. I called again. They answered and I made a reservation. I wouldn’t call that persistence. I guess it’s either not that hard or the food gods want my taste buds to do some worshiping. And if all else fails, of course, you can always rap battle.