Category Archives: Travel

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


MICHELIN Guide 2016 New York City – Michelin Stars

Michelin Guide NYC 2016


Another year, and another set of MICHELIN stars has been descended upon New York City. In the three-star realm, all six of last year’s restaurants remained in top standing including one of my favorite NYC meals from last year at Jean-Georges. In the two-star category, the Modern is the newest addition to rise from its one star in the 2015 Guide. There were nine additional New York restaurants added to the one-star grouping. Read more at: MICHELIN.

Three Stars
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Eleven Madison Park
Jean Georges
Le Bernardin
Per Se

Two Stars
The Modern
Momofuku Ko

One Star
Ai Fiori
Blue Hill
The Breslin
Café Boulud
Café China
Casa Enrique
Casa Mono
Caviar Russe
Del Posto
Delaware and Hudson
The Finch
Gabriel Kreuther
Gotham Bar and Grill
Gramercy Tavern
Jewel Bako
Kyo Ya
La Vara
The Musket Room
M. Wells Steakhouse
Peter Luger
Pok Pok Ny
The River Café
Somtum Der
Spotted Pig
Sushi Azabu
Sushi of Gari
Sushi Yasuda
Take Root
Tempura Matsui
Tori Shin
Uncle Boons
ZZ’s Clam Bar

Del Dotto Vineyards in Napa Valley – A Lot More Than Just Wine

Del Dotto Winery Dinner - Food Fashionista

On a recent California weekend, I escaped to a Venetian-estate setting in the heart of Napa Valley for a 2012 Pinot Noir release dinner. St. Helena’s Del Dotto Vineyards is a close-knit, family-owned winery which has been making estate grown, cave-aged, premium Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wine for 20 years. And while most wineries can only boast about their wine, here at Del Dotto, it is paralleled by an impressive culinary program headed by executive chef Joshua Schwartz. His talents are a synergistic match with the award-winning wines creating an incredible food and wine pairing program which he has developed through a great deal of time spent tasting and conferring with the winemakers all year long.

Del Dotto Farm Napa Valley

Chef Schwartz finds inspiration through the property’s 5-acre culinary garden and he is a true artist of pairings. His food is elevated – and more representative of fine dining with a cooking background of 12 years at Chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and Per Se.

Chef Joshua Schwartz Del Dotto VineyardsChef Joshua Schwartz and team preparing for the Pinot Dinner in the Del Dotto Kitchen 

This Pinot Noir winery dinner I attended at Del Dotto Vineyards was indeed a delightful and entertaining one. We started off with Del Dotto’s passed appetizers including:

Smoked Whitefish on Everything Bagel Potato Cake w Trout Roe, Bronze Fennel & Verbena – inspired by Chef Schwartz’ childhood food memories. 

Foraging Del Dotto Garden

Del Dotto’s Pete Kirkpatrick picking fresh herbs in the garden for the evening’s winery dinner. 

Del Dotto Chef Joshua Schwartz

California Lamb Chops with Garden Chives, Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil were so tender and flavorful I couldn’t help but enjoy at least four or more of them. 

Del Dotto Winery Dinner
Casatiello Napolitana Crema de Lardo & Speck (smoked Prosciutto) 

Tony Incontro Salumist Del Dotto VineyardsDel Dotto Salumist Tony Incontro heads the artisanal salumi program which includes an impressive aging room with a signature boars head at the entrance. 

Del Dotto Caves Napa ValleyAdjoining the tasting room is the estates’ wine barrel cave, with 300 year old terracotta tile ceilings, and 130 year old cut Varreggio marble walls, and a collection of imported Venetian Murano glass chandeliers which were hand assembled on site.

Del Dotto 100 Point WineThey call the wine in the cage The Beast – a Cabernet Sauvignon created from a blend of all of Del Dotto’s top vineyard holdings. It was rated 100 pts by Wine Advocate. The Beast has abundant richness, incredible density and generous notes of blackberries, black currant liqueur, graphite, licorice, truffles and incense.


Following passed hors d’oeuvres and the private cave tour, everyone took their seats for dinner which began with thunderous music and jovial entertainment from a band, and not just any band, but a 50-plus piece marching band. I learned very quickly right then, that when the Del Dotto family throws a party, it’s a full-on celebration. The band definitely got the party started!


Pan seared scallop w garden parsnip purée, English peas, tone’s pancetta & black truffle syrup – a beautiful, well-balanced dish that complemented the smooth and rich in fruit notes of the 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 

Del Dotto Garden Napa ValleyA local bee enjoying a California Poppy and sunshine in the Del Dotto Garden 

Hudson Valley Foie Gras n’ duck breast w white asparagus, wild rice pancake, acacia honey gastrique and fresh arugula just picked from the garden. Paired with a 2013 Estate Pinot. 


Executive Chef Joshua Schwartz putting the finishing touches on a winery dinner course 

There are a number of wineries in Napa Valley, but if you find yourself in the St. Helena area and looking for a winery that offers exceptional food along with its wine, you can’t go wrong at Del Dotto Vineyards. Their food and wine options are a satisfying choice for discriminating and varying food and wine palates. Another fact I’ve noticed about the Del Dotto culinary team, is that whether it’s an on site, special collector’s dinner or a local food festival like Heritage Fire or Eat Drink SF, Chef Joshua Schwartz and his team always deliver a high quality product and impeccable service. In fact, the first time I was even introduced to the Del Dotto brand, was at a local Wine Country event where they were serving their signature cured meats and intricate bites to the throngs of guests. I was impressed by both the high standard of cuisine served at a festival, where most restaurants lack and the fact that they never ran out of it. It was to my surprise, that it was not a restaurant, but a winery that was offering these distinctively satisfying bites. That is when I knew I had to make a personal visit to Del Dotto Vineyards and I’m sure glad I did.

See more of my Del Dotto Photos at

Chef Joshua Schwartz

Chef Joshua Schwartz’ Pork Shank and Beef Brisket in Brioche at Heritage Fire  

Delicacies by Del Dotto (St. Helena): $75 per person – Offered again starting November 2015

Available from Thursday through Saturday at the Venetian Estate and Caves. The opulent five-course tasting menu indulges in premium ingredients such as caviar, truffles, lobster, Mangalitsa pork, Wagyu beef, and Michelle Cuizel chocolate. The tasting menu is paired alongside five of Del Dotto Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast Del Dotto branded wines, such as the 2010 Brut Sparkling Wine, 2012 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Before the pairing, guests are guided on a barrel tasting of four wines in the Venetian Cave. The Delicacies Tasting is $75 per guest, and is available at 10 am or 1:00pm, Thursday to Saturday. Please note their menu is subject to change.

For Del Dotto Wine Tasting Reservations:

Del Dotto Winery and Tasting Rooms Information 

Venetian Estate and Caves, 1445 St. Helena Hwy South, St. Helena, CA 94574

Napa Historic Winery & Cave, 1055 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa, CA, 94558.

Piazza Del Dotto, Highway 29, Yountville, CA – Coming Soon

Winery appointments can be made online ( or by calling (707) 963-2134. The winery is open daily from 11am to 5pm, every day of the year.



Ultimate Culinary Clash Competition at Intercontinental Hotels

Johnny-Jump Ups

Johnny-Jump Ups from Magdalis Galzara’s dish

It’s typical that most want to experience a chef’s cuisine when they’ve become a public success, but what about when they’re a relatively unknown at the start of their careers? We must remember that all cooks and chefs began sans the shining accolades, and through thick, thin, and a whole lot more thick aka the journey, that is where their real story took place. And this is why it was so fun to experience the dishes of the aspiring chefs and cooking students at Intercontinental Hotel and Resort’s Ultimate Culinary Clash competition.

Adding finishing touches to NYC’s seared Pacific Branzino with fava bean puree, and ramp butter

The second annual Ultimate Culinary Clash at the InterContinental San Francisco was part culinary student cooking competition and part scholarship fundraiser. Cooking student finalists from four InterContinental hotel regions battled against each other for a $5,000 scholarship to further their culinary careers. The personally-developed dishes were judged by a group of media, chefs and hotel executives and were based on taste, creativity and presentation. This year’s student chefs and their mentors – established chefs from four local InterContinental properties came to compete from New York, Mexico City, Cleveland and San Francisco – where one-star Michelin restaurant Luce is located.

InterContinental San Francisco

InterContinental San Francisco, SOMA

After a lively night of sampling various dishes, the winner was announced and it was Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez, a culinary student at Anahuac University who impressed judges and wowed the crowd creating a 20-plus line deep of people throughout the evening. She was recognized for her “Tacos de Lechon” dish accented with cilantro, garlic, habanero guava foam and a red dried ant sauce on the side.  She was assisted by InterContinental Mexico City’s Chapulín restaurant Chef de Cuisine Alejandro Fuentes.

Mexico City’s Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez plating her winning Lechon dish

Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez Presidente InterContinental Mexico City Dish: Taco de Lechon

Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez Presidente InterContinental Mexico City Dish: Taco de Lechon

“With Michelin-starred chefs and celebrity restaurateurs to help develop our innovative culinary creations, the InterContinental brand’s world-class food and beverage program features signature bars and restaurants with exceptional menus that pair local flavors with global inspiration. It gives us great pride to introduce the next generation of culinary talent to our brand’s affinity for haute cuisine and support their progression as a student in a meaningful way.” –  Jean-Pierre Etcheberrigaray, VP of F&B, The Americas, IHG

Grilled Skirt Steak

Magdalis Galzara InterContinental Cleveland Dish: Grilled Skirt Steak with Belgian endive + orange-cumin marmalade, potato-cauliflower fritter, horseradish aioli foam

Chloe Sackett InterContinental New York Times SquareDish: Seared Pacific Branzino with fava bean puree, and ramp butter

Chloe Sackett InterContinental New York Times SquareDish: Seared Pacific Branzino with fava bean puree, and ramp butter

Christopher Wan InterContinental San Francisco Dish: Ballotine of Young Chicken with Red Miso, DePuy lentils and grain mustard

Christopher Wan InterContinental San Francisco Dish: Ballotine of Young Chicken with Red Miso, DePuy lentils and grain mustard

InterContinental Hotel San Francisco Desserts

These fruit gelee tarts were pretty in pink!

Chapulín restaurant Chef de Cuisine Alejandro Fuentes, Luce Executive Chef Daniel Corey, Ultimate Clash winner Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez

Chapulín restaurant Chef de Cuisine Alejandro Fuentes, Luce Executive Chef Daniel Corey, Ultimate Clash winner Ana Paula Oviedo Gómez

The Ultimate Culinary Clash serves as an opportunity for the InterContinental brand to showcase its commitment to culinary excellence. It began four years ago as a local annual cooking competition at the InterContinental San Francisco hotel’s Luce restaurant. The competition invited students from a local culinary school to compete for a chance to work with the restaurant’s Michelin-star Chef Daniel Corey and showcase their own menu for one night in Luce. The competition was expanded for the second year in a row to include other InterContinental hotels from the U.S. and Mexico.

Although only one ultimate winner could be chosen, all of the students from the various Culinary Clash stages did a tremendous job putting out some pretty impressive plates. Kudos to all and excited to see what the future holds for all of you!


Ham 2.0 – Culinary Trends Magazine

Ham Culinary Trends Food Fashionista Mika Takeuchi Writer

For this issue of Culinary Trends Magazine, I showcased cured ham. It was both an interesting and educational topic to write about since I found it to be a subject that many chefs and diners were both so passionate about. Also, having been a judge at a previous L.A. Cochon 555 event, and having attended the recent hog wild San Francisco event, cured ham was on the brain, and most likely still in my intestines. Enjoy!

 The Elite of Meat

 by Mika Takeuchi

Read more