Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's tough not to talk travel without talking about food -- especially when those on the journey are chefs and restaurateurs.
Which destinations around the globe most inspire Valley chefs and restaurateurs? I asked a few and this is what they said. Any guesses as to which cities came out on top? Any that they missed?
Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur
It's a tough call between Portland, Oregon, and Montreal, Quebec. Both great food cities with natural resources, daring chefs, and an innate sense of hospitality. Le Pigeon, Grüner Restaurant, and Pok Pok in Portland are exceptional. I just got back from a trip to Montreal and had one of the best meals I've ever had, at Joe Beef, and memorable dinners at Garde Manger and Au Pied de Cochon.
Chef Theresa Wille, 32 Shea
Chicago (where I'm from) is known for hot dogs, pizza, steaks, and food from around the world. But for sometime now, restaurants have been offering a new style of cooking: taking old traditional menu items and creating a deconstructed version (places like Alinea and Moto incorporate molecular gastronomy with a unusual dining experience). My favorite style of cooking that's going on in Chicago now would be gastropubs like The Publican, Girl and the Goat, and Longman & Eagle.
Josh Hebert, Chef and Owner, Posh
Tokyo, because I can get ramen anytime, any place, anywhere, and a beer out of a vending machine.
Chef Monte Healey, Del Frisco's Grille
Phoenix. There's such a diversity of food and flavors, everything from traditional Western cowboy chow and spicy Southwestern and Latin American cuisines, to more exotic offerings such as authentic Vietnamese or Afghani restaurants. The chefs are innovative and willing to try new things, like classically French-trained chefs cooking with jalapeños and Mexican molé sauce, or Italian olives smoked with Arizona pecan wood.
Aaron Eckburg, Owner, Go Lb. Salt
San Francisco. It starts with the awesome fresh seafood. There's tremendous ethnic diversity and a great local movement including one of the best farmers markets in the country. Couple that with its close proximity to wine country and what more could you ask for?
Jared Lupin, Chef and Partner, Umami
Los Angeles, because of the underground food culture, pop-up restaurants, and world-influenced cuisine.
Guido Saccone, Chef and Partner, Cibo
It's gotta be Napoli. I love it because you can get the best and most authentic pizza in the world, fresh seafood, and always homemade pastas. They have amazing markets with flavorful fresh produce. And if all this wasn't enough, you have a picturesque view of Vesuvius and the Mediterranean Sea.
Farah Khalid, Chef and Owner, Curry Corner
Lahore, Pakistan. There is literally a street called Food Street with small street vendors open all night. The place surprisingly is always busy!
Joe Johnston, Owner, Joe's Real BBQ, Joe's Fresh Farm Grill, Liberty Market, Agritopia
San Francisco is my favorite because virtually all cuisines are represented, the competition is fierce, and you have some of the best growing regions, wine, and seafood at your doorstep. Great ingredients, a sense of culinary pride, competition, and diversity of cuisine are hard to beat.
Chef German Sega, Roka Akor
Buenos Aires. It has the highest-quality ingredients, the most amazing restaurants, and unsurpassed service. You can find a variety of great meals at 10 a.m. or 1 a.m. Buenos Aires has better pizza than Chicago and NYC combined, and it also has the most exhilarating nightlife scene.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
Paris, because you have every thing going on there, you can find everything in food today at every level and just about every type of cuisine, and the product is some of the best in the world.
Chef Ben Mulé, Hidden Meadow Ranch (Greer)
My favorite food city will forever be Chicago. The diverse ethnicity of the city shows in the volume of great restaurants. All of the different neighborhoods are dining destinations that would take years to figure out your favorite. Mine is Little Italy at a restaurant called The Hole in the Wall, where the menu is created daily. Going there before Blackhawk games is a tradition for many.
Chef Maurice Gordon, The Westin Phoenix Downtown, Province
Seattle. I'm big on seafood and what better place to enjoy delicious seafood than Seattle. One thing I really love about the city is that a lot of the great restaurants are within walking distance if one were to stay in the downtown area. Also there are a lot of fantastic markets and local farms to visit.
Pastry Chef Mary Cech, Lon's at the Hermosa
San Francisco, because of its endless seasonal fresh produce and non-pretentious food. They were doing farm to table long before it became fashionable.
Romeo Taus, Chef and Owner, Romeo's Cafe
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New York. Every conceivable eatery on the globe is here. From hot dog carts and food trucks to super name chefs and a constellation of Michelin stars, the vibe is tremendous. There's Afghani and arepas, bagels and bánh mì, pastrami and pot stickers, and crapes and caviar. No experience will prepare you for a Chinese New Year and eating your way through the Feast of San Gennaro.
Dustin Christofolo, Chef and Partner, The House at Secret Garden
Manhattan's international and eclectic food scene. The culture can change from one block to the next. Sometimes you turn the corner and you feel like you're in a different country. Every time I'm in New York, I go to the Union Square Farmers Market and then head to Central Park for a picnic. I'm partial to Manhattan due to my culinary training that took part in SoHo but in my opinion, it's culinary epicenter for chefs around the world.