Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Portland - BlueHour

Portland, Oregon for a while now has been a weekend get-a-way for West Coast foodies. With less than an hour travel time to some of the best Pinot Noir wines in the world and home to a growing number of well known chefs and restaurants, Portland is a foodie mecca in the Pacific Northwest.
So, it comes as no surprise when a opportunity to travel to Portland came up, I planned to squeeze in time to visit a few places that have been creating buzz.
One in particular, Blue Hour. A modern styled restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland, it has received complimentary reviews from magazines such as Gourmet, for their simple yet flavorful Mediterranean styled dishes. The review from our hotel concierge was not as flattering, but I still wanted to give it ago.
The atmosphere was contemporary posh. The restaurant is in a large open warehouse with flowing black curtains separating tables, low light, candles, white leather and stainless steel chairs.
While the service was professional and impeccable, I wish what we had ordered was equally as nice. It was disappointing that there was only one Pinot Noir (by-the-glass) on the menu. My colleague Caroline, opted for the "special" cocktail - special of the house that evening - which was mediocre at best.
I was excited knowing that the BlueHour menu is a daily menu, thinking fresh, fresh, fresh. There are of course a few favorites which are standard.
I ordered the seared foie gras with roasted fig as my first course. It was among the best I've had. Tender, creamy and rich with flavor balanced by the sweet smokey flavors of the roasted fig. But, my risotto however was another story.
The next course was the Mushroom risotto. Foraging in the Pacific Northwest is a popular past-time, and the mushrooms are plentiful and robust. My disappointment was that I had little mushrooms, if any, and the flavor was pure Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving, but to have my risotto taste like good old fashioned poultry seasoning was something I could have done without.
Caroline's soup and pasta dish were also equally as disappointing. Luckily, there was the cheese cart. As I mentioned, the waitstaff is incredible. The cheese selections were beautifully categorized and presented on white marble. Our cheese steward knew every cheese and how to describe it in detail, making our mouths water. We asked for a selection of soft cheeses which would compliment one another in a flavor progression, and the steward did not disappoint us.

While a few things were good, overall, I thought while the prices reflected the publicity, neither reflected the expectations of quality. Perhaps it was an off night for the restaurant? That's the only thing I could think of...except that maybe our concierge was correct after all.

Monday, September 08, 2008

According to Media Week, the first isssue of Food Network Magazine is slated to be distributed next month. Below is the article by Lucia Moses.

Let's hope the magazine will feature more than just the personalities mentioned below in the article!

Hearst to Test Food Network Magazine

The first of two test issues is slated to come out in October, with a second to follow in January, said Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst.

Despite the mixed history of publishing partnerships, Hearst Magazines and the Food Network are forging ahead with their new food title. Food Network Magazine, as they’re calling it, will represent the array of the network’s celeb chefs, from Paula Deen to Ina Garten to Bobby Flay. The first of two test issues is slated to come out in October, with a second to follow in January, said Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst.Hearst has been tight-lipped about the magazine since starting to work on it in earnest early in 2008. The company has only recently acknowledged its existence and begun sharing information with buyers. Hearst is proceeding relatively cautiously, calling the titles a test, setting distribution at a relatively modest 300,000 copies, and holding off on hiring a publisher or dedicated sales staff until it decides to proceed with a full launch. Clinton agreed to talk about the magazine after Mediaweek learned details of the tests. The first issue contains 160 pages, 50 of them ad pages, including such clients as JCPenney, Kraft and Unilever. Some buyers said Hearst offered pages for free to loyal advertisers; Clinton said the company doesn’t comment on financial arrangements with clients. He also declined to give details of the partnership with the Food Network, saying only it was a collaboration.Food titles have taken their licks this year, with ad pages down 11.5 percent across the category, per the Mediaweek Monitor. But Jeff Fischer, senior vp, managing director at Universal McCann over Johnson & Johnson’s print business, said that with only a handful of mass-reach food magazines, there was room for another title, particularly as advertisers look to target consumers based on their passions. He said the Food Network, with its strong brand equity, also would be a plus.With the tagline “Cook like a star,” the oversized title will plug a hole in Hearst’s portfolio, which is heavy on women’s books but lacks a pure food magazine.“We saw an opening in the epicurean field for a unique product,” Clinton said. “It is such a powerful brand today in America. The opportunity to create a new product through the lens of the Food Network got us really excited.” Magazines formed from partnerships have had uneven success, as Hearst well knows. Three such magazines it was involved with, Offspring, Talk and Lifetime, flopped. Even O, The Oprah Magazine (a partnership between Hearst and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo) has seen its success cool lately. Single-copy sales fell 17.3 percent in the first half of 2008. So far this year, its ad pages have declined less than other women’s lifestyle publications, but for all of 2007, its ad pages rose only 4.5 percent versus an overall category gain of 11.3 percent.Clinton said Food Network Magazine’s advantage would lie in its fun approach to cooking. Unlike other celebrity-based magazines, notably Reader’s Digest Association’s Every Day with Rachael Ray (where Maile Carpenter was an editor before Hearst poached her to create the tests), the Food Network Magazine won’t have its fortunes tied to a single personality. “It’s not just focused on high gourmet or food that you make everyday, but everything in between,” he said. “Anyone who’s interested in food is going to be interested in the magazine.” The magazine will be promoted though subscription cards in the test issues and other Hearst titles; direct mail; and Food Network’s online and on-air properties. Clinton said a decision about a full rollout and frequency would be made after the test period.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ripert Report - Coming to Seattle

A few weeks ago I attended my first ever Seattle Food Bloggers event at a new restaurant named Olivar. The Chef came out and greeted our table, introducing the tasting menu he had prepared for us all. There were a few items I preferred over others, but the lamb was the bit hit among our two tables. Olivar's restaurant menu is designed around small plates for sharing…I’m beginning to see that trend pop up in quite a few new places around town. I definitely want to go back and see if the food and service is as good without the special attention to our table that evening.

Most importantly about the night however; I found out that Eric Ripert is coming to Seattle as part of a “cooks and books” tour promoted through Kim Ricketts book events. Being fans of Union and HUGE fans Le Bernadin, I phoned Union that evening and signed up for the dinner event.

For those who are interested, the dinner is on Sunday, December 14 , 2008 and from what I hear, Ripert will be discussing his book "On the Line," and give guests an "inside the World of Le Bernardin."

A bit about the book and the topic for the evening here is an excerpt from the Kim Rickett's Web site:

How does a four-star restaurant stay on top for more than two decades? To answer this question, all one has to do is walk through the doors of New York City’s celebrated Le Bernardin, which is one of only three restaurants in the city to earn three Michelin stars.
Chef Eric Ripert, with New York Times writer Christine Muhlke, offers fans of gourmet dining a unique insider’s account with his new book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin. From the front of the house to the back of the pantry, Ripert takes readers on a detailed tour of the restaurant and shows how culinary magic is created station by station, person by person and plate by plate.
On the Line goes way beyond a behind-the-scenes restaurant tell-all. It includes 50 of Le Bernardin’s signature recipes with breathtaking images and candid photographs capturing the energy of those on the line. It reveals the secret to snagging a reservation, how to fold a Madeleine napkin, the 129 “cardinal sins,” which every new employee must memorize, and takes readers inside the 14,000 bottle wine cellar and more. Truly, a must have for foodies!
Eric Ripert is the celebrated and award-wining chef and co-owner of New York City’s highly acclaimed restaurant, Le Bernardin. Ripert served as guest judge (and “fan favorite”) on Bravo’s highly rated Top Chef for two seasons. Ripert is the Chair of City Harvest’s Food Council, working to bring together New York’s top chefs and restaurateurs to raise funds and increase the quality and quantity of food donations to New York’s neediest. When not in the kitchen, Ripert enjoys good tequila and peace and quiet. He lives on the Upper East Side and Sag Harbor with his wife and young son.