Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.




Vatican Via The Arch

on June 30th, 2010
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  • pinitbutton Vatican Via The Arch
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The Reliquary of Saint Peter & Saint Paul

by Amy De La Hunt 

Aside from the summer heat, Rome doesn’t have much in common with St. Louis. But until Sept. 12, both will host long lines of tourists intent on seeing the Vatican’s artistic and religious history. And while the Missouri History Museum can’t rival the glory of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, there is something to be said for its pastoral setting in Forest Park.

The exhibit Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art is a chronological tale of Christian art focused around St. Peter’s Basilica. Starting with the saint’s upside-down crucifixion by the Romans, it travels 2,000 years, dropping names like Guercino, Giotto, Michelangelo and Bernini along the way.

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Political Growling

on June 29th, 2010
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One of three polar bear residents at the San Diego Zoo

by Jeff Hoyt 

Do politics belong at the zoo? Like Oscar winners giving their acceptance speeches, when you’re one of the world’s best, I guess you’re not afraid to speak out at the risk of alienating your audience.

Last year, the San Diego Zoo re-opened their Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge at a cost of a cool $1 million. But the world-renowned institution isn’t content with just showing their three bears at play on land and water. The conservation-minded organization which also runs the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park is trying to get the message out that global warming is melting the ice floes that these animals need to live.

  • pinitbutton Hot Jeans Hang on Cool Clotheslines
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The Levi's Care to Air design challenge at the Levi's showroom in the Hollywood Hills

by Nick Winfrey

Eco-friendly fashionistas and conscientious denim collectors came out in droves to the Levi’s showroom in Los Angeles last Saturday evening to help kick off the jeansware giant’s Care to Air design challenge. Running now through July 31st, this one-of-a-kind contest looks to promote line-drying jeans as a means of reducing the substantial negative effects that laundering clothes can have on the environment, and calls on green pioneers and inventors to submit original air-drying solutions, with the mind behind the best carbon-neutral contraption receiving $10,000 in prizes.

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  • pinitbutton Hiding Celebrities In Plain Sight
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Olympic-gold-medal snowboarder Shaun White with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot
We know we cannot see Olympic-gold-medal snowboarder Shaun White when he practices his routines. I can watch him while he competes, but with my job, the easiest way to see him live is to run into him at a restaurant. This happened at the famous steakhouse Mastro’s in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago. I am happy to report that he is as charming and nice as he comes across on camera.

But the next day, when I called the restaurant to ask what the champion had chosen from their menu, they refused to give me any information. Of course, the restaurant protects its celebrity clientele.

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  • pinitbutton Sucking on a Dogfish Head
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Our 2010 Summer Wine Newsletter is here!

by Jeff Hoyt 

Mom always told us to drink more when it gets hot, so our Summer Wine Newsletter should come in very handy. Beat the heat with our Top 10 Summer Beers which include pale ale, pilsner and wheat beer. When someone says they’re “Sucking on a Dogfish Head,” you’ll know what they’re talking about!

If you want to imbibe at home, we offer two versions of The Perfect Margarita Recipe: how to make a batch for friends and single serving. But instead of drinking home alone, go out to an adult-beverage event near you! We’ll show you where and when. It’s easy to make new friends when you’re attending a bourbon dinner or Sake tasting. Speaking of bourbon, check out our review of Maker’s 46, only the second whiskey ever produced by Maker’s Mark.

As Funky As It Gets

on June 23rd, 2010
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Top chef winner season 2 Ilan Hall at The Gorbals with Sophie Gayot

 by Sophie Gayot

I remember meeting Top Chef Season 2 winner Ilan Hall at the opening of Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, right after his May, 2005 victory. It must have been a lucky night for me, because on top of chatting with him, I was accompanied by Curtis Stone. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to discover Hall’s cuisine at The Gorbals Los Angeles that we call “eclectic.” Between the food and the décor, I’m not sure which is more eclectic, but eclectic is indeed the appropriate description. Go, but by no means should you dress up while heading to Hall’s first restaurant, as it is located in in the downtown Los Angeles’ run-down Alexandria Hotel.




  • pinitbutton Pierre Gagnaire in Las Vegas
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Chef Pierre Gagnaire

by Sophie Gayot

The first time I met chef Pierre Gagnaire was on a cruise ship crossing from Dakar, Senegal to San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. A “Croisière Gourmande” had been organized with chefs including Jacques Chibois. Alain Dutournier, Michel Bras, and many more. It must have been some time ago, as I think I was still under the legal drinking age!
At the time, I gave Pierre Gagnaire the nickname “The Salvador Dali of Gastronomy,” and it still holds true today. His renderings are creative, dramatic, somewhat crazy, unexpected, phantasmagoric, with a genius touch. But the catch is you either love it or hate it; and always at a high price, just like Dali. A 2005 menu from his eponymous restaurant in Paris I keep in my office offers a perfect illustration: a casserole of chestnuts and topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke), with a crème chocolatée de panais (carrots’ cousin) served with a gâteau de foie blond and truffle, at a staggering € 143!



  • pinitbutton Horsing Around With Absinthe
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Horse-drawn carriages provided the transportation for the evening of absinthe tastings in downtown Los Angeles

By Jeff Hoyt


I had heard the stories of absinthe causing delusions, but I did not believe them until now. True, I had never imbibed it in such great quantities before. Pernod, the creators of absinthe more than two centuries ago, had invited me out on the town to try the anise-flavored spirit in a number of different ways, and now that I had consumed it in such great quantity, “The Green Fairy” was playing tricks on me. But my hallucinations seemed so vivid: was I dreaming, or was it possible that I was actually riding a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of downtown Los Angeles?

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Good Luck, Amanda

on June 18th, 2010
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Water Grill chef David LeFevre & Top Chef, Season 7, contestant Amanda Baumgarten with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot

Some restaurants install large screen televisions for special sporting events, like the World Cup or the Super Bowl. But last Wednesday at Los Angeles’ Water Grill, the TVs were tuned to the premiere of season 7 of Top Chef in Washington D.C. Among the contestants was Amanda Baumgarten, who had been working at the downtown seafood restaurant as sous-chef under executive chef David LeFevre for just ten days.

As we dined on Thai snapper, soft-shell crab and Columbia River king salmon, we cheered Amanda on as she followed Tom Colicchio’s orders, and winced when she cut herself deeply while peeling potatoes.

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  • pinitbutton Top Chef Michael Voltaggio Moves On
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Top Chef, Season 6 Winner Michael Voltaggio

Volte-face from one of the Voltaggio brothers

by Alain Gayot


A sports recruiter standing on the sidelines can pick out a young athlete and get a feel for his potential performance and ensuing achievements. Meeting Michael Voltaggio was a bit like that. Instantly, we felt that his performance would deliver continued success in his culinary career. He is a tremendous creative asset for any kitchen, and his food is something you look forward to eating time and again even if not all the dishes are successful one hundred percent of the time.


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