Category Archives: Travel

Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest at Carmel-by-the-Sea

Chef Michel Bras Olivier Roellinger Relais Châteaux GourmetFest

The third annual Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest returns to postcard-perfect Carmel-by-the-Sea on the weekend of February 25-28. And as in previous years, you will find the most illustrious names in food and wine descending upon California’s Monterey Peninsula. This year’s culinary celebration will feature 17 Relais & Châteaux chefs from around the world participating in a total of 18 unique events spread throughout the weekend. In addition to the showcased gastronomy, carmaker BMW will be launching its new 7 Series during the occasion; and several renowned wineries will be pouring rare vintages.

Relais Chateaux GourmeFest

Pastry Chef Liz Miller Blackberry Farm Ron Mendoza Aubergine

Pastry Chefs Liz Miller (Blackberry Farm) and Ron Mendoza (Aubergine) during the plating of Milller’s dessert course of Strawberries, Coconut Meringue, Crème fraiche Ice Cream and Candied Pecans at the GourmetFest 2015 Grand Women Chefs & Winemakers Luncheon 

Relais Chateaux GourmetFest Blackberry Farm

Festival founder and L’Auberge Carmel Proprietor David Fink will be hosting along with the stellar local team at Aubergine, the restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel led by Executive Chef Justin Cogley and Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza. Keeping with tradition, Relais & Châteaux’s GourmetFest will be headlined by several three star Michelin chefs with a 2016 lineup including David Kinch (Manresa, Los Gatos), Joshua Skenes (Saison, San Francisco), Michel Troisgros (La Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France) and Hiroshi Nakamichi (Restaurant Molière, Sapporo, Japan). There aren’t many places where you’ll be able to experience the cuisine of these international culinary masters up close and personal and all in the same location, but once again, you will have that special opportunity soon in Carmel at GourmetFest.

Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest

With an abundance of food and wine festivals these days, Relais & Châteaux has done an exceptional job of curating a  standout event that delivers only the best of the best in food, wine and luxury brands for a festive, high-quality wining and dining weekend. There is also an online auction where you can bid on several of Relais & Châteaux’s most extraordinary properties. The auction will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and the CSU Monterey Bay hospitality program.

For a sampling of what you can expect at this year’s GourmetFest, here are some more photo-worthy highlights I captured at last year’s R&C GourmetFest weekend:

La Playa Carmel Relais Chateaux GourmetFest

La Playa Carmel was the setting for the Opening Party

Chef Tetsuya Wakada Relais Chateaux

Chef Tetsuya Wakada & team plating their Salad of Aburi Alaskan Salmon w Daikon & Myoga 

Tetsuya Wakada

Chefs Olivier and Hugo Roellinger Relais Chateaux GourmetFest

Chefs Olivier & Hugo Roellinger served Oysters with Cured Lemon and Morita Oil sharing the spirit and spices of their seafront Brittany property, Les Maison de Bricourt with its vicinity near the bay of Cancale and its oyster farms. They will be returning to the 2016 GourmetFest cooking together at the Father & Son’s luncheon. 

Chef Olivier Roellinger Oysters Relais Chateaux GourmetFest

Carmel by the Sea SunsetCarmel-by-the-Sea and the Monterey Peninsula not only offer incredibly beautiful nature views year round, but a variety of the freshest, locally-sourced seafood which you’ll be able to enjoy while in the area.  

Ernst Loosen - Dr Loosen Wines

German Winemaker Ernst Loosen (Dr Loosen)  is all smiles in Carmel 

Chef Justin Cogley Aubergine Carmel Relais ChateauxChef Justin Cogley (Aubergine) serving Rainbow Trout with Seven Herbs and Smoked Trout Roe (below) at the Opening Night Welcome Party. 

Chef Justin Cogley Aubergine Rainbow Trout

relais chateaux gourmet fest

Chef Francis Wolf (Le Hatley Restaurant at Manoir Hovey)’s Panna Cotta of Cultured Goats Milk, Sweet Clover, Arctic Rose Flat Oatcake, Green Alder Candied Beet and Birch Syrup paired with a 1990 Philippi Barrel Aged Auslese at the Cuisine and Wines of the World Dinner at Seventh & Dolores.

Chefs Michel Bras Olivier Roellinger Relais Chateaux GourmetFest

Legendary Chefs Michel Bras (Bras) and Olivier Roellinger (Les Maisons De Bricourt) discussing their game plan for the dishes at the much-anticipated and sold out Taste of France luncheon.

Michel Bras Relais Chateaux GourmetFest Carmel

Chef Michel Bras’ L’endive Farcie, parfum de truffes paired with a 2008 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône Valley

Olivier Roellinger GourmetFest Carmel

Chef Olivier Roellinger’s St. Pierre “Retour de Indes” – Hommage to the 18th Century French Mariners paired with a 2011 Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-A-Vent, Beaujolais 

relais chateaux gourmetfest women and wine lunch

The All-Star Team at the Grand Women Chefs & Winemaker’s Luncheon

Gaja Wines GourmetFest Carmel

2005 Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay Langhe from Piedmont, Italy was paired with Chef Annie Féolde (Enoteca Pinchiorri)’s Risotto with Prawns, Licorice Powder and Asparagus Marinated in Red Wine (below).

Chef Annie Feolde Risotto

Relais Chateaux GourmetFest Carmel

Pre-lunch cooking demo at the Gaggenau Demo Kitchen at La Playa Hotel’s courtyard featuring 3 Star Michelin Italian Chef Annie Féolde and team from Enoteca Pinchiorri.  

Chef Lanshu Chef (Le Mout Restaurant) Relais Chateaux

Chef Lanshu Chen (Le Moût Restaurant) plating her Pigeon with Yilan Style Pork Liver, Chantrelles & Lapsang Souchong Tea paired with a 2012 Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir from Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma County, California and a 2012 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley, California. 

Lanshu Chen Pigeon Relais Chateaux GourmetFest

Relais Châteaux Taste of The World

View the entire Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest schedule here, which includes these standout events for 2016:

Welcome Party (Thursday, February 25): The must-attend event of the weekend. This strolling dinner shines a spotlight on world-class Relais & Châteaux chefs – including all four Relais & Châteaux three star Michelin chefs – at stations paired with famed wine estates and beer & spirits producers and luxury vendors.

• Rarities Dinner (Friday, February 26): An extremely limited, 10-course dinner meal-of-a-lifetime prepared by three Relais & Châteaux three star Michelin chefs: David Kinch of Manresa, Joshua Skenes of Saison, and Michel Troisgros of Troisgros. This spectacular dinner is parked with rare wines directly from the Chateau, Domaines and Estate cellars.

• Wild Mushroom Hunt & Lunch with Ranger Chuck Bancroft (Saturday, February 27): Retired Point Lobos Ranger Chuck Bancroft and his team of mycologists lead guests on a wild mushroom hunt through the pristine 20,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve in upper Carmel Valley. Following the hunt will be a sumptuous wild mushroom lunch prepared by the Preserve’s Host Chef Jerry Regester and Relais & Châteaux Chef Matt Zubrod of The Little Nell with accompanying wineries pouring rare vintages from Galante Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream.

• Father & Sons Lunch & Michel Troisgros Cooking Demo (Saturday, February 27): Delight in a lunch prepared by two iconic French father and son chefs, Olivier and Hugo Roellinger of Les Maison de Bricourt and Michel and César Troisgros of Troisgros. The lunch, paired with some of the most highly sought after wines made in France including Chateau Grillet and Domaine d’Eugenie and finished with the wines of Napa Valley superstar Araujo, is preceded by a cooking demo in the Gaggenau Demo Kitchen and Champagne Taittinger reception.

• Taste of the World (Sunday, February 28): Experience a “strolling Route du Bonheur” in which wines, many from local Monterey County wine estates, are paired with bites from Relais & Châteaux properties from all over the world.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the 2016 GourmetFest, visit:

Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest

carmel by the sea sunset

…and while in Carmel-by-the-Sea, make sure to take in the magnificent sunset. This photo was captured a few minutes before last year’s GourmetFest began. Absolutely magical start to an unforgettable weekend.


Food for Thought @ Tickets Bar – Barcelona, Spain

As we begin this new week, it’s important to remind ourselves to stop, slow down and smell the roses. There really is beauty and always something to be grateful for in all of our lives, if we can just take the time to recognise it.

I took these photos in the whimsical dessert room at Tickets Bar towards the conclusion of my incredibly delightful meal at the playful and renowned restaurant in Barcelona, Spain.

In the center of the fresh rose petals was a dessert sphere of lychee and raspberry with a rosewater gelatin. The rose itself wasn’t edible, but I did end up taking it back home with me. After all, how often does one get a beautiful red rose from the Adrià brothers. Okay, maybe everyone who got that dessert, but to this day, I still admire the rose on my mantel, and it brings back many delicious, course-by-course memories of a mind-blowing meal on a warm summer day in Spain.

Restaurant Geranium – Copenhagen, Denmark 

IMG_6915Restaurant Geranium has been on my bucket list for a while now. Executive Chef/Owner Rasmus Kofoed is the only three-time medalist of the prestigious, biennial Bocuse d’Or world-chef championship with a gold medal win in 2011. The two-Michelin starred restaurant is perched on the 8th floor of Parken in Fælledparken (Common Gardens) with floor-to ceiling panoramic views from the sweeping, open space. And despite its expansive exterior city views, the main focus of the eyes throughout your Geranium visit will be on the kitchen and the whimsical offerings arriving on the dining room table. Chef Kofoed’s dishes are exquisite, elegant and a gastronomic feast for all senses. Geranium is what a seamless fine dining experience is all about and Chef Kofoed and co-owner Søren Ledet, a Sommelier and accomplished chef himself have created a restaurant where the beauty and refinement of the cuisine matches the space and service.

Here are photos from my ‘Geranium Winter Universe’ dinner with both wine and juice pairings.

We started off dinner with a glass of Champagne along with five signature snacks.

  2009 Marguet, Grand Cru Ambonnay, Champagne

Jersualem Artichoke Leaves, Walnut Oil & Rye Vinegar. The paper thin leaves were delicate and light to the touch with a distinct artichoke flavor hitting the tongue and quickly melting in the mouth. Winter has deliciously arrived.

Tomato Water, Melted Lard & Aromatic Flowers

Even with a hint of lard, the combination of the floral petals and tomato water created a wonderfully balanced dish that was clean and light on the palate.

Lobster, Milk & Fermented Carrot Juice

IMG_6834aCharred Potato in Aroma from Bark & Sheep’s Butter – this is a signature Chef Kofoed dish. I first tried it when he cooked at Meadowood’s Twelve Days of Christmas and couldn’t wait to reconnect with it again.

“Dillstone” Horseradish & Frozen Juice from Pickled Dill  (horseradish not pictured). The display of the “dillstone” with its bright green hue and silky, smooth texture provoked a connection to the sea not only visually, but for my taste buds and mind as well. The cool and subtle flavor of the sea reminded me of walks on the beach collecting sea shells and watching the sunset. It was nostalgic.

“Razor Clam” – Chef Kofoed’s famous dish has inspired many with his expertise in the trompe l’oeil style of dish presentation. It’s remarkable how realistic he creates his dishes to look so much like items from the earth (stones, razor clams rocks, stone). True artistry.

This was also the last appetizer course.

IMG_6842a2012 Les Limozin, Mersault, Bernard Bonin, Bourgogne

IMG_6844Oyster & Sea Urchin, Juniper Oil, Soup with Dried Oyster & Local Smoked Cheese

Chef Rasmus Kofoed Geranium

Chef Kofoed and team in the Geranium open kitchen. Despite a kitchen crew of many, there is a calm and peaceful fluidity in the space that transfers onto the dishes.

In the next month, they will be restructuring the space and relocating the kitchen so the entire dining room will be able to have a view of it from wherever they are seated.


Sea urchin tarts in the forefront with mementos from the sea in the background.

IMG_6848aGrilled Oyster in Seaweed with Dried Oyster Soup

Chef Rasmus Kofoed Geranium

Chef Rasmus Kofoed plating the Salted Hake with Parsley Stems & Finnish Kaviar in Buttermilk. This dish is stunning. My dining partner and I were in awe of the display of the hake which showed up at the table looking like a perfect, circular cut-out piece of white carrara marble. I failed to snap a picture quick enough before it was lusciously dressed with the caviar, buttermilk and parsley, but you can view it here.

The fact that the entire staff, including the kitchen are involved in synchronistically presenting and explaining dishes at the table is a warm and pleasant personal touch.

Restaurant Geranium Hake

No surprise that Geranium’s Hake dish recently won ‘Dish of the Year from the Sea’ in Denmark.

IMG_68662012 Morstein Reisling GG, Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen

IMG_6868Crispy Grains, Bread with Old Grains & Gluten Free Bread with Seeds and homemade butter


View of the bread course and the open kitchen


It’s rare that a restaurant voluntarily includes a gluten-free bread so this was a welcome addition. The trio of breads were served as a main-course dish which is also rarely seen. This was a nice touch since so often, the bread becomes an after thought of …”do I have room to even eat that?” or “maybe I shouldn’t eat that to save room for the other food.”

Chef Will King Smith, Copenhagen Denmark

Assistant Head Chef Will King-Smith putting the finishing touches on the Leeks, Melted Pork Fat, Salted Ramson & Melted “Vesterhavs” Cheese dish. After four years in the Geranium kitchen, this was Chef King-Smith’s last week of service. I’m happy I got to experience his cooking and presence while he was still there. I have no doubt that he’ll go on to do great things as well.


Leeks, Melted Pork Fat, Salted Ramson & Melted “Vesterhavs” Cheese.

It was refreshing to see the use of Danish cheese along with the repeat focus on the local terroir and regional elements in the Geranium dishes.

IMG_68802004 Robert Fleury Extra Brut, Fleury, Champagne

IMG_6882Scallop, Scallop Roe, Sour Berries & Chamomile


Juice Pairings at Geranium included:

Sea Buckthorn

Green Apple & Elderflower

Gooseberry & Sunflower Seeds

Black Currant & Juniper

Elderberries & Pine

Blueberries & Pine

Prune & Pilsner Malt

I wish more restaurants would offer juice pairings. It seems very common in Copenhagen, having also opted for it at Noma, but I haven’t seen it readily available at other spots around the world. Perhaps it’s not as in demand since Copenhagen seems to be a very juice-centric city but I do think it’d be a welcomed option for those who don’t drink as much alcohol. IMG_68882010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Casa Emma, Toscana


Next came the Wild Duck in Two Servings which arrived with a verbal note from kitchen: “be careful for bullets”. Since the duck is hunted wild, it’s a wise warning since there is a great chance of finding one. Thank goodness my dining companion found one instead of me, because I was picturing a gold, arrow shaped, shiny bullet (no, obviously not a hunter) where in reality it was a very small dark pellet. I probably would’ve thought it was a dense caper or peppercorn and broke my tooth. Even though I personally didn’t find it, it was admittedly quite exciting. 


Smoked Wild Duck Leg, Pickled Green Elderberries & Truffle from Gotland

IMG_69032011 Howell Mountain, Herb Lamb Vineyards, California

Wild Duck Breast with Grilled Pear, Wood Sorrel & Sour Pine

restaurant geranium wild duck


After the last savoury course, we took a tour of the Geranium space and setting.


Søren Ledet - Restaurant Director, Sommelier and Co-owner gave us a tour of the Geranium wine room which boasts the largest Champagne selection in Scandinavia. I’m usually claustrophobic, but being a Champagne lover, I did have fantasies of getting locked in there.

Wine Geranium, CopenhagenThe wine room is home to many bottled treasures . The pairings were fantastic, but don’t ignore the wine list. It’s impressive and sure to delight even the most discriminating wine connoisseur.

Champagne, Geranium, CopenhagenOui. Oui. Oui. Oui.

Geranium, Copenhagen
Geranium Inspiration Kitchen interior. In addition to testing recipes and family meals, larger groups are welcome to host events and dine in this creative and intimate space.

IMG_6925Geranium is all about the intricate details and there is no space left unturned. Chef Rasmus Kofoed’s connection to nature is visibly sprinkled throughout the entire restaurant.


Søren offers us a sampling from the meat locker and we say yes please, of course. IMG_6930

Here’s another room I wouldn’t mind being temporarily locked in, although if I did, it would be ideal if there was an adjoining door between this and the wine room. The hanging protein in this meat locker resembled a carnivorous jewel box. Everything was perfectly placed and meticulously showcased.

IMG_6932aSilhouette of Bibendum and a headshot of Kofoed spotted in the Inspiration Kitchen

IMG_69452013 Sämling 88 Beerenauslese, Tsuchida, Burgenland, Austria

IMG_6948Desserts started off with Beeswax Ice Cream, Pollen & Honey with Cloudberries


Dried Apples with Elderberries, Beetroots and Cider Apple with a Sheep’s Yoghurt which was sprinkled at the table like delicate falling snow.


The contrasting color of the wines and juices were a lovely sight to behold. IMG_6955a2011 Vin de France, Automne, Gaëlle Berriau, Loire


“Naked Tree” dessert with Dark Beer, Prune & Cream with Smoked Beechwood


Geranium’s dishes are a true reflection of nature. I’m someone who spends a lot of time at the sea and in the woods, and although I was sitting in a very modern and formal dining room, I felt like this meal was an edible exploration through the wonderment of the environment and landscape.



“The End” – Since we were fortunate enough to locate a bullet in the wild duck, we were presented with this special Salt & Licorice dessert to conclude our meal. As with all aspects of nature and life, everything has a lifecycle and our ‘Geranium Winter Universe’ meal was no different.

I guess it’s true when they say that all good things must come to an end…IMG_6975Geranium’s lounge area is the perfect place to lean back and relax in the Danish-designed chairs while ordering an after-meal drink.


Caramel with Aromatic Seeds with a vibrant colored Rose Hip Thé poured tableside

FullSizeRenderTea Service includes your choice of a selection of the freshest aromatic herbs and is preciously prepared while finishing the last of the sweets. I opted for a combination of mint and lemongrass.

IMG_6888IMG_7006Happy to report that “The End” really wasn’t the end, and our meal wrapped up with tea and these mignardises in the lounge: (l to r) Green Egg with Pine, Cake with Pumpkin Seed Oil, and Chocolate with Oats & Sea Buckthorn.

Geranium, CopenhagenThe only thing obviously missing after completing our 19-course gastronomic journey was that much-deserved third Michelin star. Having dined at many three-star restaurants around the world, Restaurant Geranium is no doubt in that league, if not better. From start to finish, you can’t deny the unmistakable skill, precision and authenticity that is highlighted in every one of Chef Kofoed’s dishes. He is a real deal culinary star.

Restaurant Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark

Thank you, Chef Rasmus Kofoed, Søren Ledet and entire Geranium team for an inspiring journey into the winter world of Geranium. I know you just celebrated your fifth-year anniversary at the current location and I along with many others are greatly anticipating what the next five years and beyond have in store for you. No doubt whatever the season may be, it will continue to be extremely sunny and bright.

Restaurant Geranium

Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 2100 København Ø, Denmark

Café Atelier September – Copenhagen, Denmark

atelier september

Upon landing in Copenhagen, I needed some caffeine. I’d been up for approximately 24 hours and was eager to explore the city and catch up with friends. Café Atelier September came highly recommended from a trusted source and is also a favorite among local Danish friends. It was also conveniently located within a short walking distance from my hotel and the famed colorful Nyhavn port. The friendly staff, easy wi-fi, and communal tables made it the ideal first stop to feel right at home in a new country.atelier september, copenhagen, denmark

Croissants and Lemon-glazed Madeleines  - enjoy the pastries with their homemade jam 

This intimate spot serves breakfast and lunch daily and specialize in all-natural, seasonal dishes focusing on the freshet fruits, vegetables and herbs. Their plates are bright, bold and beautiful. Check out their instagram feed here.

Atelier September, Copenhagen

Unkaku Matcha tea from Marukyu-Koyamaen, Uji, Kyoto in a Steve Harrison ceramic cup 

Atelier September, Copenhagen

Find a seat along the arched window and order a cup of Koppi coffee, tea (matcha, oolong, hojicha), or a glass of natural wine and enjoy the people watching along the bustling Copenhagen street.

Atelier September

Gothersgade 30, 1123 København K, Denmark

Urban Remedy Retreat – Carmel Valley Ranch

Urban Remedy - Carmel Valley Ranch - Therapeutic Bath


With all the indulging and multitasking in every day life, we often forget how important it is to take a moment, or a long weekend to relax and completely get away from it all. A break from life’s noise is not only nourishing and necessary for the body, but also for the mind and spirit. This is why I’m so looking forward to escaping to one of my favorite destinations in California soon. Carmel is approximately a two-hour drive from San Francisco, an hour from Silicon Valley, and a place very close to my heart. It’s also the location I’ll be attending Urban Remedy’s Detox Retreat at The Ranch.

Carmel Valley Ranch Hotel

Carmel Valley Ranch is a 500-acre luxury resort that offers a true nature retreat with panoramic views of mature oak trees and the lush Carmel Valley.  I can’t wait to take a breather in the hundreds of miles of hiking trails and at one of the nearby beaches to hopefully catch a beloved Pacific coast Rothko sunset.


Urban Remedy embodies the belief that Food is Healing, and at the Urban Remedy Retreat, we’re going to delight in healthy meals and also learn how to make them. I’m really awaiting the visit to the on-site organic garden and attending a Q & A about organic farmstead practices and growing with Carmel Valley Ranch’s own Organic Farmer Mark Marino.

Meet the resident Artisans at:

Carmel Valley Ranch.

Neka Pasquale – the host for the retreat, is a licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Urban Remedy. She released the Urban Remedy Book earlier this year and is a huge believer in the power of raw foods and juicing. In as little as three to five days of resetting nutritional habits, she’s witnessed huge and positive changes in client’s health.

I’m personally excited to see how I physically and mentally feel after the detox weekend. In my world and profession, it’s unrealistic to eat raw on an every day basis, but I can take breaks from my usual dietary and work schedule and give this nourishing gift to myself. Balance. It’s all about balance.

Urban Remedy - Carmel Valley Ranch Salad

 “A retreat is time we take away from our everyday stresses in life to focus on ourselves. Taking a break from social media, our phones, eating unhealthy foods and the hustle and bustle of modern life. It is a time to create intention to go within and connect with your spirit and receive the messages of your soul. It is a reset where we eat nourishing and cleansing foods and juices that heal and balance the body. A retreat is a gift to yourself that supports overall wellbeing mentally, physically and spiritually.” - Neka Pasquale, Founder of Urban Remedy.


To attend or learn more about the retreat and property, visit:

Carmel Valley Ranch

Urban Remedy Detox Retreat