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There were so many highlights for me today. I felt like I totally dorked out when it came to getting photos with chefs but that’s okay…I’m not embarrassed:). It all started when I spotted Fabio Viviani…I LOVED him from Top Chef Season 5. He was so cute with his Italian accent and man-crush on Stefan!

Next I laid eyes on Ming Tsai and Michael Chiarello who were nice enough to pose with me for a photo. After that I had a cookbook signed by Bobby Flay and got a photo with him and Michael Symon. Both were so nice and personable! After that I spotted Ed Lee from the most recent season of Top Chef. I wish he had made it further in the show but I have no doubt he’ll do well.

We went to 3 seminars today…all which were great! First was Jose Andres…so full of energy and it’s clear he loves what he does. I wish I could have a private meal with him. He seems so interesting and I’d love to pick his brain. And I can’t forget to mention that we sat right next to Nobu and had a really nice conversation with him! (we’re going to his restaurant tonight and are really looking forward to it!). Next was Paul Qui – the Top Chef Season 9 winner! He’s new to his “famous chef status” but was so authentic and seems so appreciative of everything he’s been given since. Last but not least was Bobby Flay. He’s just classic when it comes to the food scene. He’s been a part of the Aspen Food & Wine Festival for 14 years…that’s crazy! But he’s clearly deserved it and seems like a great guy.

Can’t wait for tomorrow!!!

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I have no idea who the woman is getting her picture with Giada is but I had to get a picture of Giada:) She’s gorgeous! And so tiny:)

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I’m not sure where to start really…this place is amazing! I’ve wanted to go to this event for YEARS but haven’t been able to until this year. We got into Denver last night around 4:45pm and made the 3.5-4 hr drive to Aspen which was gorgeous. Once we got here it was just past sunset and we checked into the beautiful St. Regis where I immediately spotted Top Chef winner Paul Qui outside:). So fun! After a wonderful and relaxing dinner at Brexi across the street, we made our way to the SKY bar to meet up with fellow Seattleites Cormac Mahoney and Zoi Antonitsas of Madison Park Conservatory (Cormac is here featured as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs!). A few drinks later we stumbled home and woke up this morning a little later than planned.

We started the day at Limelight for the Brunello di Montalcino: Tuscany’s Greatest Reds tasting. 10am? Why not?! Perfect time of day to throw back some of the finest wine:). At the end of it I realized I really do love the Altesino “Montosoli” that we’ve been drinking! That and the Il Palazzone and Antinori “Pian delle Vigne” are definitely on our “to buy list”.

Next we were off to the Private Grand Tasting located conveniently across the street:). There we enjoyed food and wine without the big crowds. Although we probably should have branched out, we couldn’t help but visit some of our favorites…Duckhorn, Freemark Abbey, Étude and then some newbies that we really liked…Monte Real, Barrymore (yes…it’s Drew Barrymore’s and it’s great!) and some Greeks…Mantinia and Ktima Papaioannou…delicious!!!

After a nice little break in the room we headed downstairs to see Mario Batali only to be told that we were too late (boo!) but that we could sit in on Emeril’s demo. Not bad…he is a classic after all:)

Next was Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons for the Top Chef: Salty & Sweet. Who doesn’t love those two?! Together they used the same ingredients to make a savory and sweet dish…looked great!

Tonight we’re headed to Steakhouse No. 316 for a tasty steak and then home to get rested and hungry for tomorrow!!

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Robataya (Roppongi) – Tokyo, Japan

This is by far the best meal I’ve had in Tokyo.  I honestly couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this place!  The experience was so fun and entertaining and the food couldn’t have been fresher and more delicious.  There isn’t a menu because the ingredients are bought in fresh everyday and gone through every night assuring that nothing is old and needing to be sold off the next day.  I don’t think you can make a bad order here.  All the ingredients are recognizable so just order based off of what you like and you’re safe!  The preparation is simple…lightly seasoned and grilled right in front of you.  I highly recommend this place.  There are only about 20 seats in the whole place and reservations are necessary!

The amuse bouche – tuna sashimi with fresh tomatoes, onions and a light vinaigrette

The sashimi plate

Fresh asparagus

Waygu beef – seriously the best I’ve ever had!

Fresh grilled peppers

Whole fried snapper (if I remember correctly:))

Cinnamon and sugar mochi that was made right in front of us!

Le Vin sur la Table – Otari, Japan

We found this charming little restaurant from the staff at our lodge in Hakuba.  The chef had spent a couple of years working in the south of France before opening his own restaurant in his hometown of Otari, about 30 minutes from Hakuba.  It’s not very convenient unless you happen to be in the Cortina area.  If you ski there I highly recommend making the 15 minute drive to this spot for an impressive meal.  My dish, the trout, was $16.25…a steal considering the quality of the food and overall experience, not to mention it included soup and dessert.  This was such a special lunch.  I totally recommend this place to anyone in the area.

Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Trout

Pork Minced Meat

Wild Boar Stew

Dessert – panna cotta with espresso caramel, fresh seasonal fruit and persimmon ice cream

Our chef and his wife

Madeo – West Hollywood, CA

This was my first time dining at the popular Northern Italian restaurant Madeo and I can tell you that it won’t be my last.  It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  I normally opt for fish dishes (and I still did this time) however I always rely on my husband for a bite of pasta.  He chose wisely and went with the classic Spaghetti alla Bolognese made with a veal meat sauce and honestly…it was probably the best we had both had.  Simple and far from fussy, the tender meat and perfectly cooked pasta intensified with every bite.  It was sad when it was gone.  My sister-in-law went for the special Veal Meatballs which I think we all assumed would be coming with pasta however it didn’t BUT, these meatballs were melt in your mouth good.  Perfect from start to finish.  They were delicate and soft not over mixed, hard or dry.  They (aside from my Cafe Lago meatballs) are the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  Next time I go if these are on the menu I’m getting them!  Another dish in the mix on our table was the Osso Bucco which was also to die for.  The veal shank was cooked the way it was supposed to be with the meat falling off the bone.  Absolutely delicious.  I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t really go wrong at this restaurant, or at least that’s what my first impression has led me to believe.  The ambiance won’t blow you away but there’s something nostalgic about it and you’re bound to find some famous faces in there which is always fun:)

Carciofi e Parmigiano – baby raw artichokes and Parmigiano cheese and rucola  *SO good!  A light dish that got eaten quickly…everything about it was well balanced and seasoned perfectly.

Prosciutto e Melone – Parma ham and melon  *Classic Italian dish…how can you go wrong?

Fagioli e Aragosta – Italian Cannellini beans with diced lobster and Rucola salad in a lemon dressing  *This was such a beautiful flavorful starter.  Plenty to share but honestly something I could eat everyday.  DE-lish!

Calamari Affogati – sautéed squid in tomato sauce  *Some of the best calamari I’ve ever had!  you need a spoon to get some sauce with every bite:)

Branzino di Mare al Carciofi – filet of wild sea bass baked with white wine and artichokes  *On the special menu…VERY good!

Vitella Arrosto – sliced roasted leg of veg from the cart  *We didn’t order this but as we were paying our bill…STUFFED…we all salivated while the chef started carving this beautiful meat and then carefully coated each delicate piece with some au jus.  Thankfully our waiter saw our oh-so-descreet drooling and had the chef make us a plate.  I can’t describe how flavorful this was.  It was on the special menu but seriously if you go and it’s on there and you have enough people to share with…GET IT!!!

I feel lucky to have the Pike Place Market so close to my house.  Does that mean I go there as often as I should?  No.  My excuse?  I’d probably default to the lack of parking but at the same time there are lots you can pay for so that’s not good enough.  The truth is I have no excuses and should go there more often.  It’s not just a tourist’s destination.  It’s a local market full of farm fresh produce, seafood, affordable fresh flowers…it’s our local farmers that we should be supporting more.  Not to mention all the ready-to-eat food.  Where do I start?!  I’m a sucker for Beecher’sDeLaurenti Specialty Food & WineThe Crumpet ShopPiroshky-PiroshkyLowell’sLa Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods…the list could go on and on.  My advice is to go in the late morning and eat your way through for lunch:)  Go with a friend and share so you’re not stuffing your face but so you can try enough different things without feeling like your pants are going to pop.

La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods – go for some great wine tasting and tastes of truffle goods…yum!

Mr. D’s Greek Deli – great gyro’s here!

Beecher’s Cheese – there’s a viewing window to show you how and where the cheese is made not to mention plenty of delicious foods to buy.  The “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese is pretty amazing…the name says it all.

Piroshky – Piroshky – Does it get much better than a beef and onion piroshky?  Nope:)

Granville Island Public Market – Vancouver, BC

On an eating tour of Vancouver this summer (you think I’m kidding?) we stumbled upon the Granville Island Public Market for the first time.  Having now discovered it I’m so excited to go back and spend more quality time there taking my time up and down each aisle really exploring the different stalls and vendors.  Everything looked so perfect and fresh…you can tell there’s and excellent standard of quality there.

Think Pike Place Market meets The Ferry Building in SF…that’s what this food lovers heaven is like and I love it!  Do yourself a favor and visit it on an empty stomach because there’s plenty to try and a ton of variety so you won’t want just one thing.

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