Two Michelin starred restaurant Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Northern Spain, will celebrate the launch of the new 2014 season by running a competition that will give six winners and their guests the opportunity to be the very first to try the new menu. The all-inclusive lunch takes place on the 8th of April 2014, the day before the official opening date of the restaurant.

Mugaritz, from celebrated chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, will reopen its doors after devoting four months to the development of its new menu. During this time, the team has worked behind closed doors, elaborating on their previous research and developing new techniques with the aim of achieving new sensations and flavours.

Considered one of the most innovative chefs of our times, chef Andoni Luis Aduriz works closely with scientists, anthropologists, musicians, artists and many other experts in various fields, their collaborations summing up to an incredible creative process. The result is an astonishing experience translated into 50 dishes.

Registration for the prize drawing opens on Thursday 27th March 2014 at 10:00am on the Mugaritz website ( under the “You Open The Doors of Mugaritz” section. Participants will have until the 31st of March to complete the entry form. At 9:00am on Tuesday the 1st of April, the fortunate winners will be contacted by the restaurant. The new Mugaritz menu, drinks and service charge are all included, but guests will need to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses.



The Fiesta de la Vendimia – Harvest Fest  – March 2 - 11 ,  the largest festival of its kind in Latin America, marks the end of harvest in Mendoza.  It is a colorful and picturesque celebration of wine and food in a city that can undoubtedly claim the title of Latin America’s  Capital of Wines.


mendoza gauchos

mendoza peopleWeeklong  you can see women in folkloric  “criolla” garb with long tresses and long, 19th Century peasant dresses roaming  the cobbled streets of the town’s center,  and splendid gauchos proudly strolling, their “facon” or knife tucked  into their wide coin-studded belts and their colorful scarves knotted under their chin.  Freshly baked empanadas and tasty “asados” are the fare of choice as wine generously flows everywhere to the sound of folk-songs, tango and guitar playing.

The festival is kicked off by the traditional blessing of the fruit, and is followed on the following weekend by numerous parades .

mendo showIt is a sight to see hundreds of gauchos in full regalia stomping down the main street and Beauty Queens waving from the crest of floats decorated with insignia from each wine appellation. The Festival ‘s grand finale is a major show in a large amphitheatre.  When I attended a few years ago, the then president of Argentina was in the midst of the audience, applauding  the group of over 1,000 performers bowing on the 13,000 square-feet stage.


(Click to watch a video on


mendozabackThe Vendimia is a good pretext to discover the city of Mendoza  with  its restaurants and picturesque cobbled streets,  and of course the vineyards and wineries of the many appellations that produce the wines we love to drink,  including those of Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Valle de Uco or San Rafael , which are spread along the foot of the Andes at different altitudes.  It is a kind of Raiders of the Lost Ark ride in a desert  moon-like scenery that   makes for an unforgettable experience, at the end of which you get to drink amazing wines accompanied by delicious local ingredients and cuisine.

For additional information log on to

carole-kotkinAs  manager of The Ocean Reef Club Cooking School in Key Largo, Carole Kotkin − who is also co-host  of the Radio show Food and Wine Talk WSFG,  a syndicated food columnist for The Miami Herald, a travel contributor for South Florida Gourmet,  among other publications   – gets to invite the best of Who’s Who in today’s gastronomic firmament.

Not only does she get to invite celebrity chefs to teach cooking classes at the prestigious school, but she also invites winemakers, mixologists and renowned producers and manufacturers from around the country and around the world to show and tell about their specialties.

Travel Dreams Magazines just published a profile and a story on this grand lady of Haute Cuisine.

Click here  to read the story Chefs Eat, Play, and Cook, in Key Largo by Tim Cotroneo of







HaVen to Malabar




Cusco & Machu Picchu


Pizza maker in Cusco 
pizza maker final

Pre-Columbian treasures and fare meld with audacious neo-Andean cuisine

Part One: Lima & Gastón Acurio  (Photo: Alpaca weaver)


Heathrow has announced that the multi-award winning chef Heston Blumenthal will launch a new restaurant at Terminal 2, The Queen’s Terminal in June 2014. The restaurant will be built over 443 square meters and will be located immediately after security when passengers enter Terminal 2’s departure lounge.

The concept and the menu will showcase Heston's love for nostalgia and celebrate his pride of all things British with dishes very much inspired by his “In Search of Perfection” TV series.   "This is an incredible project,” Heston explains. "There are so many different elements to consider when people are travelling.  We want to deliver a broad spectrum of easy to enjoy, familiar dishes from fish and chips to pizza.  When we made the ‘In Search of Perfection’ series we spent hours researching the temperature of a pizza oven or the crunch of batter; it’s this inspiration that is behind the menu at Heathrow – with some truly British eccentricity thrown in for good measure."

With an average of 55,000 daily passengers, and a total of 67 outlets including shops, bars and restaurants,  “the brand new, £2.5bn terminal will not only showcase the best of the UK’s art and engineering talent, but also one of its greatest culinary minds.  This new restaurant will introduce a unique and original dimension to the airport eating experience at Heathrow,” says Muriel Zingraff-Shariff, Heathrow’s retail director.



Grand Lucayan Resort, upping the paradise in Grand Bahamas  

Charming Grand Bahama Island continues to be a coveted tropical getaway for those looking for an action packed vacation or for others who just want to soak in the rays and relax.

To leave his imprint on the international culinary map, renowned Scottish-Australian chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo, who recently opened  two restaurants - Street-Adl and Orana In Adelaide, South Australia , will open a pop up restaurant “The Forager” at the prestigious Margaret River Gourmet Escape. from November 22-24
Chef Jock’s cuisine focuses on Australia's native ingredients and indigenous culture . At Street-ADL, the tastes and flavors of Australia are celebrated with dishes  like Pulled Sangas (sandwiches with hot smoked kangaroo shoulder), BBQ KI Marron (Kangaroo Island marron quickly blanched and then BBQ’d with Australian mountain pepper) and Pork Ribs (marinated, slow cooked, glazed and fried in quandong and bush tomato). The use of native ingredients spreads from the dishes into the cocktail menu where classics are influenced using  the flavours of quandong jam, native mint and lemon aspen, amongst others.
The upstairs 25-seat  Orana, meaning “welcome” in some Aboriginal language, offers  two tasting menus with dishes like Fire Charred Coorong Mullet, Flax Lilly & Sweet Apple Berries or Fresh Mudcrab, Sandpaper Fig & Wild Pea  that showcase Jock Zonfrillo’s philosophy and love of country.
From November 22 through 24 Margaret River Gourmet Escape will showcase an unparalleled line up of over 25 international, Australian and local food & wine celebrities including Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein, Alex Atala, Sat Bains, Neil Perry, Adriano Zumbo and more in over 15 unique events set in stunning locations across the Margaret River Wine region.

According to famed Fat Duck Check Heston Blumenthal “The Gourmet Escape is going to be quite unlike any other, you will be able to mix with wine makers, cheese makers, chefs, producers; all kinds of people who are passionate about food and cooking.”
Create your own gourmet experience at any one of the amazing events on offer throughout the Margaret River region between the 22-24 November. Explore the heart of the festival, the Gourmet Village,  at the beautiful Leeuwin Estate or take part in one of the many Satellite Events, such as indulgent long lunches, exclusive world class dinners and the specially designed pop up beach BBQ restaurant. In addition, there are many more Fringe Events put on offer over the weekend to explore throughout the region by local restaurants and wineries.
To further explore Margaret River Gourmet Escape:



              No visit to Italy’s Amalfi Coast is complete without a stop in the famous Isola di Capri.          
 A mere 50-minute fast-ferry ride from the craziness of Naples, the spectacular island of Capri,
 long known for its glitz, glamour and breathtaking views,is halfway to heaven.
 And the beautiful Capri Wine Hotel where I stayed turned out to be paradise.
Eating habits, just like food preparations, have undergone many changes. People, especially in rural areas, used to eat food collectively. However, with the advances in industry and invention, these habits have taken new forms; the use of all sorts of table spoons and forks has become common between different countries and civilizations. This distinction or division in eating habits can be seen in the Moroccan society. Although some people think that Moroccans should give up eating from the same dish, this habit is actually supported by cultural, religious, and ethical reasons.
Many people around the world share the belief that eating from the same dish is not an aspect of culture. However, this eating habit is not only applied in Morocco and the Arab world, but it is also a cultural behavior shared by different countries throughout the world. The Moroccan kitchen, with all its special foods and ingredients is a cultural icon, and eating from the same dish is what characterizes the food culture. The Moroccan couscous for instance–which is now well known all around the world and is cooked in five stars restaurants in Paris, Dubai, and Istanbul–is always eaten collectively from one dish. Although it is served to be eaten individually in some places, it is the appeal of eating it collectively that makes it special.
Another argument delivered by the supporters of eating individually suggests that this habit is a behavior adapted from animals, especially from monkeys. Nevertheless, this cannot be validated, since the habit of eating from the same dish was inherited from previous generations; from the Middle Ages, and throughout history, people used to gather together with family and relatives and used to treasure eating as one family.
In our Moroccan culture, we have the concept of  “Al Baraka” which is an Arabic term referring to a sense of divine presence or a type of spiritual energy believed to exist according to specific environments or atmospheres. This idea is, in fact, common between Moroccans; it is believed that when a family is gathered to eat collectively at the convenient time of eating, “Al Baraka” will exist as blessings from God to each member of the family; however, when a person eats individually, it is seen as if he is just fulfilling his own physiological needs, or satiating his hunger. Thus, in Morocco, people do not eat just for the sake of satiating hunger, eating is, actually, a cultural and religious practice.
The last argument presented by the opponents of eating from the same dish brings about ethical and moral issues. They claim that eating collectively from one dish is disgusting and unhealthy and this makes it an immoral practice. Conversely, what is immoral and unethical in Morocco is, in fact, eating alone or after the convenient time of the meal.
Lunch and dinner are the most important meals in Morocco, and the specific moment of each meal must be respected within the family. Therefore, when lunch is served at 12 or 1 P.M, it is better to eat it at that moment and to be present to share it with all the members of the family and relatives. This act, in Moroccan society, is a sign of respect not only to the food but to the family members as well.
Given the previously discussed arguments, it should be evident that eating from the same dish is a cultural aspect and an inherited practice that is valued and accepted among all Moroccans. Although the Moroccan kitchen is being affected every day by its counterparts, from the Europe and the United States with fast food spreading out and being popularized throughout the country, the Morocco’s everlasting eating habits will never perish since they are revived every single day in Moroccan houses and promoted all around the world.
Read article in


From Monday, October 7th till Saturday, October 12th, Villa La Massa, the enchanting and luxurious Tuscan estate owned by  the prestigious Villa d'Este Hotels and set on the river Arno just 6 miles from the historical center of Florence, is offering  the ultimate dolce vita experience.

The exclusive week of delicious Italian food and fine wines, truffle hunting, music, art and..of course, rides in sleek Ferrari cars through the Chianti region includes visits to legendary wineries, visits to  Lucca   −Giacomo Puccini's birth place –  a musical performance with famous arias at Chiesa di San Giovanni, and many more delightful activities.


For details on the program and for further information on the journey and the booking   visit:



Tianducheng, a miniature Paris near Hangzhou, China

has an Eiffel Tower over 300 feet high, and a replica of a fountain from the Luxemburg Gardens 


Foray into a Tuscan Kitchen

A week at Toscana Saporita cooking school near Lucca and  Pisa is more than just a vacation
First Class 8 Days Swiss Pass  fraught with attractive Freebies
For travelers looking to get the most out of their Swiss travel experience, the Swiss Pass is the perfect choice! It offers unlimited travel on the Swiss Travel System, including trains, boats, buses, local urban transportation systems, and free entry to over 450 museums.
Swiss Travel Systems and Rail Europe offer fantastic freebies with a Swiss Pass: Each traveler booking a First Class 8 Days Swiss Pass receives a free one-way Fast Baggage Voucher, and a free Swisscom Pocket Connect for 8 days. This WiFi device is the most convenient way to access the internet while traveling in Switzerland as it comes without software installation or roaming charges. The Fast Baggage service provides same-day luggage delivery between 46 cities in Switzerland.
The First Class 8 Days Swiss Pass Summer Promotion can be booked until July 30, 2013.
Enjoy the Swiss summer! To the offer




Swiss Travel Systems and Rail Europe offer fantastic freebies with an 8-days First Class Swiss Pass for travelers looking to get the most out of their Swiss travel experience:  

- unlimited travel on the Swiss Travel System, including trains, boats, buses, local urban transportation systems

-- free entry to over 450 museums.

 Each traveler booking a First Class 8 Days Swiss Pass receives a free one-way Fast Baggage Voucher, and a free Swisscom Pocket Connect for 8 days. This WiFi device is the most convenient way to access the internet while traveling in Switzerland as it comes without software installation or roaming charges. The Fast Baggage service provides same-day luggage delivery between 46 cities in Switzerland.

The First Class 8 Days Swiss Pass Summer Promotion can be booked until July 30, 2013.  Go to the offer, click here



It seems like an unlikely place to go for a salad: a warehouse in the middle of car repair shops on a San Juan side street, where few tourists venture.

But this warehouse is the home of El Departamento de la Comida — the Department of Food — an organic produce vendor that doubles as a restaurant serving dishes such as rice pilaf with squash and tortilla española with plantains and cilantro. It fills at lunchtime with people looking for what constitutes rare food in the Puerto Rican capital.

Healthy fare is plentiful in most major U.S. cities. But it’s still hard to come by in Puerto Rico, where most restaurants still serve the familiar staples of rice, beans, fried plantains and some kind of meat, usually chicken or pork, often fried and sometimes on a stick. Vegetables, if they even make it to the plate, are also often fried and may come from Costco.

But things are definitely changing. Puerto Rico has been undergoing something of a restaurant renaissance, with a handful of eateries adopting elements of the local food movement that has flourished on the mainland.

“In terms of the food scene, things have gotten much, much better. People are starting to catch on,” said Tara Rodriguez, who started El Departamento de la Comida just over two years ago, initially to deliver organic produce to people’s homes. “We’re about 10, 15, 20 years behind everybody else in some things.”

Fortunately, the best new places are not as out-of-the-way as her warehouse in Santurce. But they’re not exactly easy to find, either. A popular San Juan restaurant called Jose Enrique, which specializes in big plates of fish suffused with tropical flavors, has no sign in front of the residential space it occupies a block from the Plaza Mercado farmers market; Verde Mesa, a vegetarian restaurant, is on a quiet back street of colonial Old San Juan; Abracadabra, a lively cafe, is in a neighborhood that hasn’t quite lost its sketchiness despite several new apartment buildings and shops.

One thing that these and several other relatively new entrants into the market have in common is a more sophisticated approach to the island’s cuisine, said Giovanna Huyke, executive chef at Mio restaurant in Washington and the author of two books on Puerto Rican food culture.

For many years, chefs on the island were either European or at least trained in that style, and their cooking reflected it, Huyke said. This started to change in the 1980s, as a younger generation emerged and incorporated flavors of home such as sofrito, a mix of onions, cubanella and sweet chile peppers, cilantro and garlic, as well as some of the island’s traditional fruits and vegetables, including yuca, malanga, yautia, apio, batatas and breadfruit.

“Puerto Rican kids started to look at cooking as a profession in the 1990s,” she said. “We have more professional chefs now who embrace and are proud of our culture and our history of food.”

Among those who embody this trend is Jose Enrique, whose namesake restaurant near San Juan’s main farmers market is packed most nights and doesn’t take reservations. The menu changes frequently, depending on what’s available, but includes such dishes as carne guisada or whole snapper served with a papaya and avocado salsa.


Puerto Rico, with a population of about 4 million, has more than 7,000 restaurants, including many of the chains found on the U.S. mainland. The island has only recently emerged from a six-year recession that saw lots of eateries go under, including many in tourist zones such as Old San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde.

Tourism is important to the island economy, though it contributes much less to the gross domestic product than manufacturing, and local officials are trying to promote Puerto Rico as a foodie destination.

For the past five years, the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association has organized an annual food festival called Saborea at Escambron, a beach between Old San Juan and Condado. The dishes one finds in Saborea have evolved over time, along with the local restaurant scene, says Clarisa Jimenez, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association. Though there are still plenty of old standbys, including the fritters stuffed with ground meat known as alcapurrias, there are chefs displaying more sophisticated dishes. “Cuisine has more importance now, more relevance,” Jimenez said.

Few local restaurants, and perhaps none, have embraced the farm-to-table ethos to the extent of Verde Mesa, which overlooks San Juan Bay and the city’s cruise ship port.

Founder Loyda Rosa became a vegetarian 20 years ago and realized just how hard that was to maintain in Puerto Rico. She eventually developed enough expertise to open the restaurant 4 1/2 years ago.

At first, just getting good ingredients was a challenge. Puerto Rican agriculture has been in decline for years as workers have fled the countryside for manufacturing or service jobs, and as cheaper imports have flooded the island. Rosa says that those farmers who remained were far from San Juan and reluctant to deliver the eggplant and zucchini she needed. But that has changed, thanks to demand from people like her, as well as a couple of farmers markets and vendors such as Rodriguez.

Her restaurant’s philosophy is to offer interesting, organic and local vegetarian cuisine, but to do it in a subtle way. She describes it as being more like an invitation to try something rather than preaching to customers about what to eat. For those who want more than just vegetables, she prepares fish as well as creamy fruit shakes made with almond milk.


Experts in the island’s restaurant scene have a pretty short list of favorites, with many names appearing again and again. They include Abracadabra Counter Cafe, which opened in 2010 on the long and busy Ponce de Leon Avenue and features wraps and fresh juices, along with live music at night and events for kids.

Pure and Natural has been around for several years, offering healthy Caribbean food and fruit shakes. It’s on Ashford Avenue, in the heart of the touristy Condado, but it’s easy to miss the storefront amid the surrounding fast-food joints.

Also among the favorites is Bodega Chic, a blend of French-Algerian and Caribbean cuisine; its dimly lit spot is just up the cobblestone street from the cathedral in Old San Juan.

Outside the old city, there is La Jaquita Baya, serving tapas such as small fish tacos and bok choy as well as more traditional Creole dishes. There is also Pikayo, which for many years was inside the Puerto Rico Museum of Art but has moved to the Conrad Condado Plaza Hotel. It’s considered another of the more ambitious restaurants; chef Wilo Benet has a book on Puerto Rican cuisine and a TV show.


Rodriguez got into the restaurant business as an afterthought. She returned to her native Puerto Rico from New York in 2008 to help her mother, who had left a San Juan retail career to become an organic farmer. Rodriguez started to help her mother promote and sell their fresh produce. At first, she was dismayed.

“How am I supposed to sell organic produce if Puerto Ricans don’t know what dill is, they don’t know what tarragon is,” the 29-year-old said.

Later, she started El Departamento de la Comida — an ironic name meant to highlight the fact that she feels the Puerto Rican government doesn’t do enough to promote healthy eating — which has no waitstaff and offers a select menu of tapas for lunch. Regulars track it on Facebook to find out what’s on the menu each day.

Rodriguez says that she has started to get a few tourists, and she plans to double the size of the kitchen with some grants she has received.

“We realized that there was a huge, huge world that could get opened by just cooking this food,” she said. “And the conversation is amazing, because you don’t serve rice and beans anymore.”

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