In this issue: Chicago, Bourdeaux, San Francisco…
The most-coveted dinner reservation in the nation right now — believe us — is for the tiny restaurant Schwa in Chicago’s Wicker Park. Chef Michael Carlson is gaining national attention not only for his cuisine but for the conceptual experience of dining here. There is no wait staff (diners are served by the chefs), no host or hostess, and no sommelier. The experience is meant to focus on the cuisine, which uses seasonal organic ingredients to update dishes that blend American, French, and Italian influences. Call at least two months in advance, but not during dinner hours — there’s no reservationist either.
Shop: San Francisco’s playground for chefs
San Franciscans who love cookbooks, utensils, and high-end culinary gadgetry should hightail it to Le Sanctuaire, a super-amazing emporium for all the above and more. You can find just about anything here, from exotic Indonesian spices to $2,500 Nenox chefs knives. The brains behind the operation is Jing Tio, whose original outpost in Santa Monica has made him a household name among top toques. Our favorite items in Tio’s new San Francisco showroom are the dishes created by chefs for their own restaurants, like the “Faces” line from chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli, in Spain. 315 Sutter Street, 5th floor. (415) 986-4216.
Stay: The best in Bourdeaux
Wine lovers traveling to Bordeaux might be surprised by the chilly exclusivity of it all. Wineries here don’t have the same rules of access as those Stateside. Access is often limited to professionals only. Not so at Cordeillan-Bages, located in the heart of Pauillac. Here, you’ll find splendid accommodations in a 28-room manse and a stellar restaurant helmed by Thierry Marx. The wine program Bordeaux Saveurs organizes visits, classes, and access to special events like the music and wine festival and this summer’s concerts at Chateau d’Yquem, in the Sauternes region of Bordeaux.
Made to Order: New York’s best cup of coffee
Most java joints pride themselves on their ability to make really fussy coffee drinks with generally unpronounceable names, but at Café Grumpy, in New York’s Chelsea, it’s all about the beauty of the humble drip. You pick your beans, they’re ground to order, and brewed in the “Clover,” a state-of-the-art machine created in Seattle, the coffee capital of America. The Clover’s vacuum-press technology allows a fine grind to infuse with ultra-hot water for 40 seconds. Et voila! The perfect cup. The bean menu changes monthly. Prices start at a modest $1.75 but can rocket to $9 for a limited-edition bean like the El Salvadorian Aida’s Reserve.