I don't eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry.

 

The quote in the above title is from Anthony Bourdain in an interview with Bon Appetit this past May. But, are any of us any different? Why has it become so fashionable to knock airline food? According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines raked in a profit of US$25.6 billion in 2015, a 241% increase from 2014. No surprise that in Travel & Leisure’s 2015 Guide to the World’s Top 10 Airlines, not one U.S. carrier made the list.

But wait…maybe things will change. In July, United Airlines announced a partnership with Illy to serve their coffee on all of their flights and in all of their lounges worldwide. Wow! This is the kind of decision that would make me select one airline over another. And, I suspect I am not the only one.


From the sublime to the sublime.

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I recently experienced breakfast in two different countries. In France, as the guest of Frederic Rouzaud, CEO of Louis Roederer Champagne, I entered the kitchen to find an exquisite table set with a variety of yoghurt, some fresh kiwi, extraordinarily good croissants and French pastries, smoked ham, homemade jams, crusty baguette with two hard cheeses and a selection of hand pressed juices. I wouldn't have expected anything less from the French.

Two days later in a pub in the Lake District, I ate a traditional English breakfast of bacon, egg, pork sausage, black pudding, hash brown fritter, mushroom, tomato and, of course, baked beans. It was delicious.

About 21 miles separates these two countries, but their cuisines could not be further apart.


It doesn't take much...

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The cost of the amenity program in most luxury hotels is enormous, and so it's important to make sure the investment is worthwhile. With a little thought and creativity you can not only win over your guests for life but you can create amazing social media opportunities when they either "tweet" images or post photos of such cool amenities on their Instagram feed.

When staying at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle recently the GM and Director of F&B heard that my dog, a golden retriever called Archie, had been bitten by another dog in the park. So they sent me an amenity which was so simple, yet so impactful! Cookies for Archie and a card signed by the F&B team! Can you imagine how many people I've shown this picture to?


The importance of a signature dish.

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I am sure this has been written about before, but I can't stress enough the importance of a great signature dish on your menu. It could be a "must-have" appetizer or an entree that helps you drive your average check.

Over the weekend I had dinner at Santina in New York City, a coastal Italian restaurant created by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick. At the top of the menu is an item called Cecina which is offered with a variety of accompaniments, Calabrian tuna, funghi, lamb tartare, gamberetti and avocado trapanese. The Cecina, our server explained, was a specialty of the restaurant and originated from Tuscany. It is a very simple chick pea pancake that is brought to the table on a flat cast iron pan and served on an attractive china stand. You could see one on just about every table.

The photo says a lot about the dish as my family devoured it before I had time to take the picture. The filling we chose was the gamberetti (shrimp, leek, garlic, broccoli, ginger, chili) and with it came a bottle of spicy avocado sauce and tomato sofrito (tomato, red wine, vinegar, Tabasco & chili).

The entire combination was so delicious and at US$15, the easiest up-sell I've ever said yes to. 


The perfect amenity.

As I travel extensively around the Americas I am always overwhelmed with the creativity (and generosity) of our hotels with the amenities they send me. 

During a recent visit to FSR Whistler, the team totally “got me right” with this amazing setup.
1. It was relevant — bottled cocktails are the rage in bars these days.
2. They “recognized me” by personalizing each cocktail with my name.
3. They gave me something I could take home without having to check my bag.
It also drew attention to their great mixology program, and had I been a regular customer I'd have been intrigued to visit the bar rather than going off property.


Kudos to Crudo

If there's something I preach time and time again, it's simplicity, quality and creativity. And when a restaurant gets this right, I become a loyal fan.

There is such a restaurant in Toronto called Buca.

Recently I ate the best crudo I've ever had there. It was a whole branzino carved tableside. On top the server drizzled prosecco, olive oil and lemon juice and then shaved sale di Cervia (a slightly sweet sea salt from Emilia-Romagna) over the top.

So delicious. So simple. So creative!

Bravo to Chef Rob Gentile.