blakeKathleen Blake, chef and owner of downtown's Rusty Spoon, will join other members of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs to prepare a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The dinner will be held Thursday, January 15, at 7 p.m.

Joining Blake will be WCR president Elizabeth Falkner; Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill Resgtaurants, Los Angeles and Las Vegas; Jamie Leeds, Hank's Oyster Bar, Washington, D.C.; Emily Luchetti, The Cavalier, Marlow, and Park Tavern, San Francisco; Susan Spicer, Bayona and Mondo, New Orleans; Rita Jammet, La Caravelle Champagne, New York; and Anne Rosenweig, a New York consultant.

Follow this link to the James Beard Foundation's website with details of the menu. You can also purchase tickets there. Cost is $200 per person for JBF members and $250 for general public.

The dinners are held in what was James Beard's townhouse on West 12th Street in Manhattan. Visiting chefs cook in the small but well equipped kitchen on the lower level and guests dine at tables set up in what was originally Beard's living room and dining room (and al alcove that was his bedroom).

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is dedicated to promoting and enhancing the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry.


Santiago exterior sign

One of the more interesting trends I've noticed in the past few years is the reemergence of brunch. Even more interesting is that the most brunches are no longer all-you-can-cram glutfests. The help-yourself buffets used to be synonymous with brunch. Even the perennial brunch favorite at La Coquina, now deceased, was an all-you-can-eat buffet, albeit one without a single steam chafing dish.

Now, you're much more likely to be handed an a la carte menu when you're seated for brunch. That's fine with most people (including me). Most of the folks who gather for a brunch after a night on the town are more interested in the all-you-can-drink options.

Santiago's Bodega offers all-you-can-eat-and-drink at its weekend brunch, and combines the steam-table options with carving stations and made-to-order omelets, waffles and other comestibles.


winemag logoWine Enthusiast magazine has named Orlando one of the world's top food and wine destinations it recommends its readers visit this year. The article in the current issue gives shout outs to local favorites Ravenous Pig, Eola Wine Co., Highball & Harvest, Hawkers Asian Street Fare and others. Orlando is listed alongside the Piedmont region of Italy and New York's Finger Lakes District. 

Here's a link to Wine Enthusiast's 10 Best Wine Destinations 2015.


Waiting tables is hard work. It requires skills that people who have never worked in a restaurant wouldn't understand. That's why not everyone is suited for a life as a waiter (though clearly some without these special abilities are nevertheless employed by restaurants all over). It's also why the system of tipping waiters for the quality of their service works. Give good service, get a better tip.

The problem is, the guest doesn't always go along with that reasoning. Tipping in America is not mandatory and the percentage the guest applies to the final check is discretionary and, at least officially, nonarguable. Because of that, servers go to work every day not knowing if they will be fairly compensated for their hard work.

A restaurateur in Pittsburgh is putting an end to that uncertainty. As reported in this article from Next Pittsburgh, Bar Marco will begin paying its servers a base pay of $35,000 a year, plus offer health benefits and private shares in the business. Co-owner Bobby Fry says he will do this without adding a service charge to guest checks or raising prices substantially.

But, I can hear you saying, if the servers don't have to be friendly and efficient to try to earn a better tip they won't put in the extra effort to provide a good dining experience. Possibly -- anyone who has been to Europe and been waited on by officious, unsmiling waiters might expect to see the same thing here with a policy like this. But considering that Bar Marco is being inundated with job applications following this announcement, I have to believe that the these positions will be treated the same as those in other professions, and the managers will have the final say: Do a good job or we'll find someone who will.

What do you think? As a guest, would you like to frequent a restaurant with a no tipping policy? And what about you servers -- would you rather have a guaranteed wage with benefits? Leave your comments below.