This Traveling Chef’s Exotic Cooking Show Changed the Game


This Traveling Chef's Exotic Cooking Show Changed the Game

May 13, 2019

On his television show No Kitchen Required, celebrated Chef Kanye Raymond gives a whole new definition to the term ‘outdoor kitchen.’ When he sees a whale in the ocean, Kayne Raymond doesn’t grab a camera. He jumps in the water. “The captain and I both dove in,” says Raymond, reminiscing about a humpback whale he saw earlier this year. “I’m always jumping in to things, even if it scares me. I just don’t think about it. I have plenty of fears but I have a lot of confidence. When you have a little bit of fear, you get that rush. That’s why I’m a good chef. I feed off it.”

Good chef is an understatement. Midway through the airing of his first television series, No Kitchen Required on BBC, Raymond has just spent 13 weeks filming the reality television show on various islands and in exotic countries around the world. A bit like Survivor-meets-Top Chef, he and veteran chefs Michael Psilakis and Madison Cowan traveled to far-flung locales where they were celebrated by tribesmen and women who they turned around and cooked for the next day. This is no “stocked pantry, mystery ingredient” affair. Part of the challenge was not just cooking traditional fare—with a personal twist, of course—but in procuring the ingredients. And sometimes those ingredients were jungle rodents or other critters.

Meant to be a grueling, boundary-pushing experience, it was something else for Raymond. (Of course it was. Spend five minutes talking to him and it’s easy to see Chef Kayne has a fairly different perspective on life.) Having spent the past five years helping his wife, Linda, beat cancer; raising their daughter, Miela; as well as working full time as a private chef, Raymond was flat-out spent and ready to shake things up.

“It’s been super, super tough for everybody in the whole family,” he explains, talking about Linda’s fight. “But this show—it was great going away because I was drained. I used it as a break to go and find who I was again, so I absolutely flourished.”

The chefs knew vaguely where they’d be heading when they committed to the show, though nothing specific. Everyone received a packet of basic information on local customs before they rolled into the villages, a basic summation of what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. But other than that, Raymond didn’t study up.

“For me, it was better to go with an open heart, open arms. To just go and learn,” he says. “I think if I’d read up on a lot of stuff, it wouldn’t have gone so well. If you don’t have preconceived notions of how it’s going to work or what it’s supposed to be, then you can just enjoy how it happens.”

He admits it’s a sentiment that translates to the rest of his life. To wit: If you want to go by the book, it probably doesn’t include starting a relationship with a woman who’s in the middle of chemotherapy treatments. He was nervous before his first date with Linda, putting on his best shirt to spruce himself up. He had only seen her at work in her work clothes. When she pulled up in her Barracuda muscle car, wigless and flaunting her tattoos, he looked up to the sky, laughed, took off the fussy shirt and climbed into her car. He was home. They’ve been together ever since.

“I’m surrounded by powerful women,” he admits. Raymond includes his mother in that statement. A single mom, she raised her kids with support and patience—though she did find it irritating that as soon as she would put a plate of food in front of her son, he would lean over and sniff it deeply. To his mom, it looked like bad manners, though all has been revealed now.

Raymond has been on the move since he was 19. Raised in Auckland, New Zealand, he lit out for Australia before cooking his way through Southeast Asia and Europe. He ended up in California when some private clients fell in love with him on their boat in the Caribbean and brought him home with them. He now lives in San Francisco. “I love this city—the ocean, the diversity. It reminds me of Auckland,” he says. Though he digs the road and easily can spend three hours in a coffee shop chatting with whomever walks by, he’s glad to be home for a while.

“The food thing’s easy—I can chef with my eyes closed,” he says. “But I won’t ever be able to watch my daughter take her first steps again. I won’t always be able to watch her being 5. That’s all important stuff, too. It’s about balance, about getting the balance right.”

Miela takes after her father: She jumps off of whatever presents itself, and though she’s a great swimmer (he’s an avid surfer), she doesn’t like cold water, period. “We like going places as a family,” he explains. “Family time is so important.” 

The Founder of the World’s Favorite Vacation Spirit Gives Back


The Founder of the World's Favorite Vacation Spirit Gives Back

May 9, 2019

The man at the helm of the world’s largest privately-owned spirits company, Facundo L. Bacardi balances his professional life with his charitable foundation, as well as personal downtime. Growing up, Facundo L. Bacardi learned the importance of giving to his community. After all, his family—whose name is synonymous with rum— has been recognized for generations for its altruism and compassion.

“Long before philanthropy was fashionable, the Bacardi family would offer support in Santiago and Havana, Cuba, that eased the everyday burdens Cubans faced,” says Bacardi, chairman of the board of Bacardi Limited, the world’s largest privately held spirits company, still family-owned. “Those values have been handed down from generation to generation.”

In addition to his duties as chairman, Facundo L. Bacardi serves as executive director of the Facundo and Amalia Bacardi Foundation, named for the company’s founder, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, and his wife. “The foundation is an extension of the family’s core belief of providing for the general well-being of citizens in our communities,” Bacardi says. “It was my great-great grandparents who initiated the development of the philanthropic values we still hold true today.”

Don Facundo distributed food after a devastating earthquake in Cuba in 1852, and he was quick to loan money to his friends to help pay for reconstruction. Bacardi family members in a number of countries have established foundations that reflect their forbearers’ values. The Facundo and Amalia Bacardi Foundation focuses on bettering the lives of less fortunate residents of Florida through assistance in food and housing, education, medical research and health, environment and historical preservation. “Witnessing the deep impact one can make in the lives of others,” Bacardi says, “makes everything else pale in comparison.”

The roots of the family’s philanthropic culture go back to Santiago de Cuba, where Don Facundo, the son of a Catalonian bricklayer, immigrated in 1830. He became a wine merchant and purchased a small distillery with bats in the rafters. Pioneering an innovative rum-making process, he opened the Bacardi company in 1862. Nearly a century later, after surviving war, earthquakes, epidemic diseases and Prohibition in the United States, Bacardi lost all its Cuban assets to Cuban revolutionary government forces.

Subsequently, the company established its headquarters in Hamilton, Bermuda. Today, Bacardi has 27 manufacturing facilities worldwide, and its portfolio boasts some of the most ubiquitous and iconic brands behind the bar, including Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s Blended Scotch whisky, Martini vermouth and sparkling wines and Bombay Sapphire gin. Bacardi says he takes a personal pride in the popularity of the drinks. “We continue to receive awards for the quality, taste and innovations,” he says, “by pursing the same philosophy as my ancestors’.”

Although Bermuda is the company’s adopted home, he says the Bacardi heritage and roots are proudly Cuban. The company’s offices in Hamilton are located in a building designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which was originally intended for Cuba but is now a landmark in Bermuda. 

Naturally, Bacardi and members of his family understand how a quality product can help create a memorable experience, whether it’s a celebration with friends or a vacation with loved ones. “Everyone wants to experience the best in life, and it is high-end brands—representing the very best in quality—which help achieve this by delivering the very best experience,” he says. He describes a luxury brand as one that can be trusted to consistently deliver top quality. “That can only be achieved through exceptional care, attention to detail and a drive to perfection,” he says.

“For us at Bacardi, it’s about the best ingredients, a process meticulously crafted 150 years ago and the complete experience of that perfect sip.” So what does the complete experience of a quality vacation entail for a man who knows quality when he sees it? “Consumer expectations have risen, leading to a greater demand for a heightened experience,” Bacardi says, noting that vacations are no longer simply two people relaxing in a one-bedroom unit. “The vacation experience is about spending time with family and friends. And in the world we live in today, security is an integral part of any vacation. The destinations that can capitalize on these components will be leaders of the industry.”

Bacardi’s most memorable vacations are often at beaches, with ocean-side accommodations and a stand-up paddleboard ready to hit the water. He’s a big fan of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Australian beaches, St. Barts, the Dominican Republic and Hawaii’s Big Island. With a hectic schedule at home, he savors every moment of a low-key, relaxing getaway. “My typical schedule is too activity-filled,” he says. “I need some downtime.”

And of course, what’s a vacation without his favorite cocktails? “Without a doubt my favorite beach cocktail is the Original Bacardi Cuba Libre—Bacardi rum, cola and freshly squeezed lime over ice.” And as an aperitif? Grey Goose vodka dry martini, he says. With two olives.

Exquisite Wines You Have to Try from Around The World​

Exquisite Wines You Have to Try from Around The World

April 22, 2019

There are many terrific reasons to collect wine: investment, showcase, commemoration, hobby. Some collect it simply because they enjoy good wine and want to have unfettered access to exceptional bottles. Others collect as an investment because there truly is value in some great bottles from around the world. And others collect because … it’s fun. Whether your cellar consists of a handful of special vintages or cases of futures, there is always room for a few more excellent bottles of wine. But as days lengthen and grow warmer, we think more about enjoying wine in the sunshine rather than stashing it away for a special occasion. Here are some out-of-this-world finds worth drinking right now. Destination Cellars Estate Sommelier Sean Q. Meyer specializes in hand-tailoring experiences for wine lovers seeking exclusive and personalized access to prestigious properties and vineyards around the world.

One of my favorite spring ingredients is the morel mushroom. And my favorite grape to drink with morels is Pinot Noir. There is something perfect about the way Pinot fruit and earthiness work with the mushroom. One of our favorite producers of Pinot Noir in California is the small production, little-known Arista winery, founded in 2002 by the McWilliams family. It is in every way a family-run operation, from the founders whose vision made it possible to their sons who manage the day-to-day operations.

The founding family enjoys sharing their story firsthand with visitors, and you will simply not find a family more passionate about its craft. But the wines speak for themselves. They show profound elegance, complexity and the ability to cellar for several years: three things not always common to California grapes. Arista’s fruit comes from the Bacigalupi Vineyard, which lays claim to its own share of history. It’s the same vineyard that produced the Chardonnay grapes for the famous 1973 Chateau Montelena, which won top prize for white wines tasted at the 1976 “Judgement of Paris.” And some of those vines still grow alongside the Pinot Noir grapes that make this wine. But history or no, it’s an exceptional label and an excellent wine.

Grüner Veltliner is a great wine for spring and summer. There is a spectacular balance of fruity and savory essences, framed beautifully by the natural acidity of the grape. Fruit flavors such as green apple, pear, lime and white peach are interwoven with fresh notes of white pepper, daikon, watercress and tarragon. This dichotomy of flavors provides a tremendous amount of versatility for food and wine pairing. Grüner can often be the perfect wine for all of your challenging pairings such as asparagus, lentils and artichokes. It also pairs well with spring onions, chives, ramps and green garlic.

In the Wachau, the ripeness of grapes and potential alcohol is named on the label using local terms. Steinfeder (a kind of local grass) is the least ripe and lowest in alcohol. Federspiel (a falconer’s tool) rates right in the middle. And Smaragd (an emerald-colored lizard found in the vineyards) is the ripest with the highest alcohol. Hitzberger was one of the first estates to take a “no compromises” approach to quality. In fact, many consider them to be nearly singlehandedly responsible for the incredible spike in quality throughout the region. Sauvignon Blanc is, in my opinion, at its best in the Loire Valley of France. The racy acidity, bright lemon and lime flavors, and profound minerality make it a must-have as either an aperitif or as a first-course wine at any spring feast.

The Vacheron family has had an extraordinary impact on Sancerre from the turn of the 20th century. Currently, Jean-Laurent (the fourth generation to tend the estate) handles the majority of the operations. The winery was certified organic in 2003 and converted to biodynamic agriculture in 2004. Due to the extra care in the vineyard, the wines excel at communicating a sense of place. There is a focus and intensity to these wines, which makes them among the best.

This time of year always carries a certain amount of excitement and anticipation for those in the wine trade. In April, all of the Chateaux in Bordeaux open up their doors to the sommeliers, wine writers, importers, distributors and retailers to show how the wines of the current vintage are developing. The event is known as En Primeur, and most of the production in Bordeaux is sold this way.

Consumers are also able to make a commitment to futures and pay for their wines now and take delivery when they are finished, roughly two years following the purchase. In great vintages this can be a good gamble, as the pricing for futures is often well under the price of the released wine. Most years we attend and often bring groups with us. The stories from these trips are always exciting and sometimes amusing.

Last year, when visiting Smith-Haut-Lafitte, we were hosted by one of the owners, Florence Cathiard. To say she is a woman of profound charm and grace would be an understatement. As her guests, we were shown every nook and cranny of the beautiful estate. As the tour concluded, she brought us to a room where, with a click of a handheld remote, the floor opened to reveal the stairs to a cellar full of wines dating back more than 100 years, beautifully chosen artwork and cool jazz softly playing on an audiophile-grade system.

The tour of the cellar was absolutely magical. As it was time to go to our tasting and dinner, we started leaving the cellar. With nearly everyone out, the doors began to close, seemingly of their own accord, trapping three from our group in the underground cellar. The lights and music were set to automatically shut off when the doors shut, keeping our guests quite literally in the dark. A look of panic crossed our host’s face. Something was wrong with the doors and they would not open. Rather than cries of panic, we heard calls for a corkscrew from our trapped compatriots.

After some fiddling with the controls and the hydraulics, the doors opened and our companions were free once again. After our little ordeal, we were escorted to a dining room at the Chateau and served a delightful meal paired with their wines. Of all of the places we visited, I am certain that our new friends will never forget their visit to Smith-Haut-Lafitte and the great comedy of being trapped in a room full of extraordinary wines.

Artisan Food Marketplace Founder Gives Her Best Travel Tips


Artisan Food Marketplace Founder Gives Her Best Travel Tips

April 10, 2019

“Food and drink really bring people together and make for long-lasting memories,” says Mindy Schapiro, event planner and co-founder of Emporiyum, an annual marketplace that brings artisan food producers from across the country to Baltimore and Washington, DC. “Some of my earliest travel memories are being in Mexico with my family when I was 10 or 11 and eating the food there.

Even then I loved its freshness and simplicity. Today, eating Mexican food transports me back to those trips. Food isn’t just about eating, but about the whole experience.”


Schapiro co-founded Emporiyum with Sue-Jean Chun to facilitate food experiences for others. “Visiting Smorgasburg [a food “flea market”] in Brooklyn, it blew me away,” she says. “I saw no reason we couldn’t have something similar, but on a smaller scale, in Baltimore and D.C.” The first Emporiyum debuted in Balitmore in 2014. It sold out with 2,500 people buying tickets to meet and sam- ple food made by nearly 70 different producers, from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (from Columbus, Ohio) to Mobtown Meat Snacks (Baltimore), Quin Candy (Oregon) and celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio. The first D.C. Emporiyum was last fall. Baltimore’s second was in April. And there’s another in D.C. this fall.

How does Schapiro pick the purveyors? “I need to try the product before we let them in,” she says. “We’re not just looking for interesting food, but also great personalities. Meeting the vendors behind the brands—hearing why and how a soda is made or sisters talking about their mom’s chocolate- covered pretzels and why they decided to turn that into their business (Fatty Sundays)—that’s part of the experience.” Traveling to find these purveyors are what Schapiro always looks forward to. “Wherever we go I spend at least one day checking out the local food scene,” she says.


Mindy on Travel

Will Travel for Food: “The food scene is a huge factor in deciding where we travel. My favorite food cities are definitely Charleston, San Francisco, Los Angeles—Sugarfina there is one the world’s great candy stores—Hong Kong and, recently, Washington D.C. I don’t need fancy—give me a great burger, great fries and a great shake and I’m happy—but as a family we don’t shy away from fancy either. Over Christmas we took our two young sons to the Michelin three-star Flocons de Sel in Megève, France, and it was one of our best meals ever.”

Finding the Most Authentic Food Experiences: “Instead of asking Destination Concierges for the best restaurants, I ask them for good food resources in their city. That’s how I found Edible Excursions in San Francisco; Lisa is amazing, familiar with both restaurants that have been around forever and also the new places that seem to open every week. I also find foodies on Instagram and look for food bloggers in the cities I’m traveling to. In L.A., I go to consumingla. com. In Charleston, CharlestonFoodBloggers’ Instagram feed is an amazing resource.”

Colorado Chefs Are Foraging in the Mountains for This Magic Ingredient


Colorado Chefs Are Foraging in the Mountains for This Magic Ingredient

April 9, 2019

Chad Scothorn wears two sets of work clothes. Mornings, he dons hiking pants and a long-sleeved shirt for mush- room-gathering missions in the mountains around Telluride. His pant legs are stained from kneeling on the duff, but the skin-covering, safari-style outfit protects against bug bites. “When the mushrooms are at their peak, the flies are pretty bad,” Scothorn explains.

Come afternoon, the 55-year-old scrubs the soil from his fingernails and exchanges his foraging garb for a starched white chef ’s jacket. On a good day, he will have stockpiled some 40 pounds of wild edible mushrooms that will accent that night’s dinner dishes at Cosmopolitan, the Telluride restaurant he opened after earning national acclaim at Chadwick’s and Beano’s Cabin ( both in Beaver Creek, Colorado). He dusts sea scallops with porcini powder before searing them, and makes mushroom-based vegetable stocks that stand in for beef broth. “People talk about the farm-to-table movement, but this is almost better,” Scothorn says. “You can’t get any more organic than wild-grown.”

With 300 to 400 types of mushrooms growing around Telluride, this mountain town has long been a hub for mushroom-lovers. The Telluride Mushroom Festival started in 1981 as a celebration of all things fungi, including the mind altering properties of some, but now instead showcases their culinary and reparative powers: Experts converge here every August to sup on shrooms (in 2015 La Marmotte chef Mark Reggiannini hosted a multi-course mushroom dinner for festival goers) and share developments in mycoremediation (the burgeoning science of using fungi to clean up environmental contaminants).


But Telluride holds no monopoly on mush- rooms: The whole state is a hotbed. More than 2,000 varieties have been identified, making it the second-largest concentration of edible mush- rooms in the United States (trailing the Pacific Northwest). And interest in them has never been greater, especially among gourmands.

“Mushrooms are on the upswing,” says Maggie Klinedinst, executive director of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. “They’ve become cool, almost a hipster thing, like pickling veggies and brewing your own kombucha.” Nationwide, more and more people are foraging for mushrooms or growing them themselves. “It’s part of the whole revival of farming and getting in touch with your food,” says Klinedinst. Many proponents are surprisingly young, in their 20s and 30s, Klinedinst says.

Scothorn was 36 when he started scavenging for mushrooms, having found himself in one of the nation’s richest hunting grounds. And with the most esteemed mushroom experts leading educational forays into Telluride’s forests every summer, Scothorn learned plenty. “I couldn’t have found that opportunity anywhere else in the world,” he says, having gleaned identification and harvesting techniques from the likes of Gary Lincoff (author of a host of books, including the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms).

Scothorn collects his treasures in a box or paper bag—never plastic, which steams and smashes the ’shrooms. He cuts the mushrooms at ground level, rather than digging down into the soil and disturbing the sub-surface parent fungus (called the mycelium). And he carries a small sponge, like the ones painters use, to scrub each mushroom before adding it to his crate. By cleaning his mushrooms in the field rather than back in the kitchen, he keeps them from becoming impregnated with dirt and stimulates the next crop. “There’s a saying that if you field- clean your mushrooms, you help spread the spores,” he explains.

That’s key, given eaters’ voracious appetite for Colorado mushrooms. Its chanterelles have an incomparable apricot fragrance, and its porcinis are on par with Italy’s finest. After sampling them in Tuscany and around the world, Scothorn says, “Ours are the best.”

Word has gotten out. On summer afternoons, pickups sit parked along Colorado’s dirt byways. If the truck is muddy, with mismatched tires and West Coast license plates, “it’s probably a commercial picker,” says food writer Eugenia Bone, who divides her time between New York City and Crawford, Colorado. Professional foragers were sparse when she started foraging 15 years ago. Now, says Bone, “They’re really prevalent.” When the mushrooms appear, commercial pickers do, too, like a secondary crop. “They drive mushrooms to restaurants in Aspen or Telluride, or sell them to distributors,” says Bone. “We could be eating Colorado chanterelles in New York City.”

Bone discovered Colorado wild mushrooms before they got popular. One August evening, with remnants of the afternoon’s thundershower lingering in the air, she hiked up Mendicant Ridge east of Crawford. “There were porcini every- where,” she recalls. Having noticed them once, she started seeing them everywhere she hiked. “It’s the excitement of pattern recognition,” Bone explains. “You see nothing, then you notice a few, and boom! You notice hundreds.”

She had eaten porcini in Italy, and as a child growing up in an Italian-American household. Her father often went foraging (the only “outdoorsy” thing the family ever did, says Bone) and later in- cluded those mushrooms in roasted rabbit dishes or pasta with shrimp and mushrooms, which he called mare et monte. “Italians are mycophiles,” says Bone, who wrote about foraging in her book, Mycophilia, and heads up the New York Mycological Society.

Americans, meanwhile, have greeted mush- rooms with more skepticism—at least until recently. Many U.S. kids grew up hearing that they shouldn’t touch any wild mushrooms, and Americans often avoid mushrooms on the dinner plate, too. But, says Bone, “The millennial generation is much hipper to wild edibles than my baby boomer generation. They are really smart about the possibilities, not as fearful.”

One such millennial is Graham Steinruck. The slender 29-year-old led foraging tours for resorts in Aspen and Vail before launching Hunt & Gather Wildcrafted Foods. He still takes inquisitive clients on mushroom hunts; plus, his Denver-based company supplies wild, foraged edibles to restaurants around the state.

“A lot of people think of Colorado as a desert,” Steinruck says. But along with its arid zones, Colorado also contains plenty of snow- and rain-soaked high country. The various elevations create a diversity of ecosystems, which helps explain Colorado’s mushroom bonanza. “More ecosystems equal more mushrooms,” says Steinruck, who’s personally eaten more than 60 species—and counting—of Colorado mushrooms. “There are lots of edibles that aren’t as highly regarded as the porcini but are delicious if prepared in the right way,” he explains.

Along with variety, Colorado also produces great numbers of edibles. That’s because within each ecosystem, there can be great uniformity of species: Vast stands of pure Englemann spruce give rise to thick clusters of porcini (which typically grow beneath spruces). “In the East, if you find a couple of chanterelles, you’re quite happy,” says mushroom authority Lincoff. But in Colorado, he’s encountered bogglingly vast swaths of them. “It looks like the ground is carpeted with gold, as far as you can see,” Lincoff says.

Naughty and Nice: Some mushrooms are delicious. Others are deadly.

“These are gorgeous things,” he continues. Mushrooms’ rich reds, oranges and yellows combine with intriguing surface textures to create truly compelling eye-candy. And unlike birds that fly away when spotted, mushrooms stand still, allowing ad- mirers to photograph them, collect them—and eat them. “There’s a pleasure in this that nothing else compares with,” Lincoff says.

As for mushrooms being dangerous, or that it’s hard to tell safe edibles from unsafe ones—both are misconceptions, says Lincoff. Kind of. “Stick to learning the few edible mushrooms that are easy to know and that have few, if any, look alikes, and that you can find in large quantities,” he says. Then, you can appreciate mushrooms not just by sight, but by their intense, earthy taste. Says Bone, “I look at these mushrooms as being a real part of the Colorado culinary estate.”

Quite a few Colorado chefs forage for mushrooms, though not everyone is willing to share their treasures with customers. Shawn Lawrence, executive chef at Aspen’s 39 Degrees, started foraging as a kid in the Midwest and continues his hunts now that he lives in the Roaring Fork Valley. Each foray is a party of sorts, with friends and family members combining forces to collect chanterelles, porcinis, even morels (though these spring delicacies prefer river valleys, which tend to be privately owned). They rarely appear on the 39 Degrees menu. “They’re too much of a love for me to sell them,” Lawrence says. Instead, he freezes and dries them, and preserves young porcini by turning them into a confit—all of which he keeps to himself.

Other Aspen chefs, such as Chris Lanter at Cache Cache and Tiziano Gortan at L’Hostaria, will occasionally share their foraged treasures with diners. But it’s not as common as you’d expect. Most health department regulations frown on cooking wild mushrooms of uncertain origin. About five years ago, Telluride established a certification program that lets Scothorn and other chefs serve mushrooms. Before any foraged edibles arrive on diners’ plates, Telluride inspector John Sir Jesse (who also leads foraging tours) examines them and deems them safe enough for public consumption.

Few communities have established inspection systems like Telluride’s. In the past, authorities paid little attention to foraged edibles or their regulation. But as interest in wild mushrooms grows, so does the push to enforce public health guidelines, says Steinruck, whom the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has approved as a “Wild Mushroom Identification Expert,” which allows him to inspect foraged, wild mushrooms sold to the food industry.

Regulations aside, wild mushrooms’ limited availability also explains their infrequent menu appearances. They only appear from late July through early September, and gathering them requires a lot of legwork for modest yields. That’s why Vail chef/ forager Jean-Michel Chelain of The Left Bank rarely puts them on his menu, preferring to cook them by special request. “If it’s mushroom season, I usually have a few chanterelles or porcini in the kitchen,” he says.

Also in Vail, Restaurant Kelly Liken boosts its wild mushroom offerings by buying from local foragers. “Some, we have been buying from for years,” says Liken. The restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Matt Limbaugh, is also a dedicated forager and “always finds the best mushrooms,” attests Liken. Consequently, her restaurant is consistently able to feature wild mushrooms on its menu, in such seasonal dishes as roasted duck breast with chanterelles and fig jam, or ricotta and Swiss chard agnolotti with wild mushrooms and peas.

“Wild mushrooms taste like the forest they grow in,” says Lawrence, who prefers not to overpower the distinct character of Colorado mushrooms by smothering them with competing flavors. “Mushrooms that grow here definitely taste more piney than ones from other parts of the world,” he explains. His favorite preparation for Colorado chanterelles, for example, is to simply sauté them with olive oil, garlic and fresh thyme. And when those delicacies have been located and gathered by you and your friends, says Lawrence, “It’s a true umami feeling.”

Our Favorite Culinary Stops Around the World

Our Favorite Culinary Stops Around the World

March 25, 2019

Some people like to hunt for truffles, cruise open-air markets and talk shop with cheesemongers. Others prefer their culinary adventures to revolve around making the perfect reservations. No matter your inclination, good food that shows a sense of place is a welcome addition to any foray from home. We’ve got the scoop on a Tuscan cooking class, barefoot indulgence on St. Barts, and a gastronomic driving adventure along the French Mediterranean.

There are no shortcuts to making good homemade pasta, as you’ll learn soon enough, arms aching, belly full, after a cooking class at the Capezzana estate. The Tuscan winery is an idyllic setting for an epicurean escape, mastering the basics of Italian aristocratic cuisine among the vineyards and olive groves in one of the region’s most stately properties. In the 1990s the Bonacossi family, who have been making wine here since 1925, decided to open their home to the visiting public. Their personal chef began sharing his secrets, in one- and five-day cooking classes in a big, rustic kitchen just across from the main house. With translation provided by a member of the family, most of whom speak flawless English, the chef begins with a hands-on tutorial on pasta perfection. It starts with the flour, a mix of semolina and 00 pasta flour, in a volcanolike mound on the big wooden table. Eggs in the center, whisked in slowly with a fork, yield a gluey mess. Even for a pro it takes a strenuous knead to produce pasta dough that’s perfectly pliant. You’ll need to practice at home to get a sense when its right—in a kitchen in Tuscany it all comes too easily.

The pasta, rolled and cut into beautifully silky papardelle ribbons, is your first course at lunch topped with the wild boar ragu you’ve watched simmer all morning. There might be a Tuscan beef roast to follow, rubbed with garlic, rosemary, and sage, served with golden potatoes roasted in pan drippings, and grilled zucchini and eggplant dressed with olive oil just pressed on the property. The Bonacossis, who sell their intense green olive oil in the United States at fine gourmet markets, eat like this every day. The more time you spend here, the more you’ll learn to enjoy la dolce vita—the good life—as they do. If your timing’s good, Count Ugo Bonacossi, the family patriarch—now in his 90s—might be your host. He has welcomed Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver as guest chefs here, but leaves day-to-day operations of the winery, olive press, cooking school, and rented villas to his children and grandchildren. Play your cards right and he might even invite you inside the main house, where he still lives among the family art collection, for a glass of vin santo and a tour of the rose garden tended out back by his wife. On a clear day you can see the Duomo in Florence way off in the distance.

After lunch you’ll want to stroll among the Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and pick up the new-crop olive oil and latest wine vintage. In summer a cool breeze blows in from the sea, which makes this a great destination even in the hottest months. But autumn is when the property really buzzes. First comes the grape harvest, followed by a few feverish weeks picking olives for oil. Olive picking is an occasion around here, the entire community joining in to pick fruit from the trees. The payoff is enough gratis olive oil to last all winter long—not just a functional gift that enhances your own cooking, but a memory of a day (or few) spent among the Tuscan trees and vines.

St. Barts in the French Caribbean is well-known for its jet-set party scene, stylish villas, and glorious wind-swept beaches. But it’s the food that really separates this 8.1-square-mile speck from its neighbors. No island paradise has more good places to eat, particularly barefoot, sand between your toes. There are formal white tablecloth spots serving foie gras from France and lobsters from Maine, but that’s not really what this place is about. The best options for a romantic dinner or a languid lunch are as relaxed as you ought to be as soon as you step off that puddle-jumper onto the island’s very small runway.

These are restaurants like La Plage at the Tom Beach Hotel, where meals are delivered just steps from the water—no shoes required—with a DJ spinning lounge music tracks. The colorful cocktails and fresh local seafood are as vibrant as the scene itself. After your herbstuffed daurade or spiny lobster dressed in aioli you might find yourself dancing off lunch. The scene is a bit more sedate, but hardly stuffy, just up the beach at the ultra-exclusive Eden Rock Hotel. Top New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten recently took charge of the food here, overseeing the lunch served at the casual Sand Bar and the more serious dinner offered under the stars at the hotel’s long-running On the Rocks restaurant. A salad of local lobster in Champagne vinaigrette—available in bathing suit and sarong—won’t slow you down if you’re thinking of a long swim after lunch. The more ambitious fare offered at night in the open-air dining room features local seasonal ingredients with bright Asian accents like tuna tartare with fresh ginger and sautéed snapper with vinaigrette.

Caribbean-Asian fusion has been a St. Barts mainstay for ages, particularly at Maya’s, one of the island’s longest-running food institutions, a hotspot here for more than 25 years. This relaxed restaurant gets so mobbed in high season many villa dwellers opt to get their dinner to go. To meet the demand, a few years back the restaurant opened a take-out annex just across the street from the airport, where you can grab a mahi mahi red curry or Thai beef salad that travel exceptionally well. The menu at the restaurant changes daily, depending on what’s at its seasonal peak.

While you might want to eat light most of the week, save Fridays for an ambitious feast. That’s when Les Pecheurs, the restaurant in the fashionable Le Sereno hotel, serves its weekly bouillabaisse special, an authentic French seafood blowout. The fish itself is Mediterranean—flown in special from France once a week—but the setting, overlooking Marigot Bay, is pure Caribbean bliss.

For a small island, St. Barts offers a remarkably diverse range of restaurant options, from the authentically Creole—try Pipiri Palace in the capital, Gustavia—to the raffishly honky-tonk—Andy’s Hideaway is a favorite spot for off-duty waiters and bellhops grabbing pizza and beer. Along Shell Beach—literally covered in thousands of seashells—is one of the island’s most unusual spots, a castaway fantasy owned by a French sports star. Do Brazil, the chic wooden beach shack owned by former tennis champ Yannick Noah, is the place to go for upscale barbecue in an exotic mix of Asian, Latin and Caribbean flavors. Come by for sunset drinks, then linger for dinner and music late into the night.

There’s no better way to tackle a gastronomic tour of the French Riviera than at the wheel of a nimble new sports car. A small car, like the new two-seater MercedesBenz SLK 250, is perfect for hugging hairpin Mediterranean turns en route to your next hot food destination. Many of the top restaurants here are out in the middle of nowhere, up a tight alley, perched on a cliff overlooking the sea.

Fresh off the red-eye into Nice, it’s just a short drive to your first noshing stop, the covered Marche Provencal in downtown Antibes. This bustling food market is a great place to graze on local cheeses and olives and gorgeous fresh fruit. Grab a crusty baguette and other provisions to go and you’ve got an impromptu beach picnic for lunch.

Dinner is just around a few harrowing corners, along the coast road that hugs the Cap d’Antibes peninsula. Here you’ll find the Michelin-starred Les Pecheurs restaurant (no relation to the St. Barts establishment), where chef Philippe Jego turns Mediterranean seafood into gorgeous upscale creations. On the terrace overlooking the windswept bay, the catch of the day comes by on a cart. Pick your own fish if you like—they’re served simply grilled—but the chef’s more elaborate dishes are a much better bet. There might be enormous head-on red shrimp with chorizo, squid, and shaved summer truffles, or Parmesan-crusted turbot fillets in a delicate wine sauce made with the local white, vin de Bellet.

The next day you’re off up the coast, top down, wind in your hair. Heads turn as you pass the yacht-clogged harbor in St. Tropez. Your destination for dinner is just out of town at the boutique Hotel Sezz. Colette, the restaurant there, is the only South-of-France outpost of superstar chef Pierre Gagnaire (whose restaurant in Paris has three Michelin stars). Dinner, out by the pool, is casual-chic, featuring fresh local seafood adorned with exotic ingredients, like sole meuniere with an Asian-style barbecue glaze and green mango puree.

Linger a while in St. Tropez the next morning. It’s just a two-hour drive up the coast for your meal in Marseille. The alleyways that lead to the entrance of Le Petit Nice, the city’s only three-star Michelin restaurant, are a very tight squeeze. With its glorious Mediterranean view, the restaurant, overlooking rocks packed with sunbathers, is an ideal spot for a very long lunch. Chef Gerald Passedat offers a spin on a classic bouillabaisse that turns out to be an elaborate five-course feast with lobster, squid, pristine local fish, and an intense seafood broth. It may be the world’s most decadent bouillabaisse.

Polish your epicurean week off in Cannes, en route back to Nice. The city, best known for its film festival glamour, has never been a real food destination. Which might explain why one of its most enduringly popular restaurants is the extremely casual seafood brasserie Astoux et Brun. The bright-lit establishment, opened in 1953, doesn’t look like much from the outside. But there’s a reason so many locals line up every night to get in. The restaurant, which sells retail shellfish, too, is the best place in town to get simply shucked oysters and clams and big towering platters stocked with other good things from the sea—with cold lobster, big shrimp, miniature snails, and split langoustines. Everything here is impeccably fresh. And the stuffed mussels drenched in garlic butter are not to be missed. Whether you zip back to your villa at top speed or take a more relaxed approach, go with a sated appetite and the promise of a digestif (Cognac, Armagnac, or Calvados, perhaps) under the night sky.

This Boston Restaurant Owner Is Creating Community with Food


This Boston Restaurant Owner Is Creating Community with Food

March 13, 2019

After Harvard Law School rejected her application, Rebecca Roth Gullo went to cooking school, and then took a job as a cook in a restaurant in Boston’s South End. And she hasn’t left the neighborhood since. Today she manages two full-service restaurants—The Gallows, a gastropub, and Banyan Bar + Refuge, which serves Asian fusion—and the Blackbird Donuts chain. 

“I live 90 seconds from two of my restaurants and within a four-minute walk of another,” Roth Gullo says. “I see my guests at the park with my kids and when I drop them off at school. I know the cops who patrol the neighborhood. Community is everything to me, and it’s always been an integral part of our restaurants. We have each other’s backs, and that matters so much in today’s fractured times, to know that I’m providing places for people to come together.”


“There’s an old saying that ‘Boston is a very big town’— not a city, a town—and I believe it. I see it every day in my restaurants.” Roth Gullo points to the hundreds of first dates she’s hosted, then bridal or rehearsal dinners, then anniversary celebrations, and then those same couples coming in with their kids. The idea that her establishments serve as sort of common living rooms for her South End neighborhood is what gives her the most pleasure. “Everyone needs to eat. Everyone needs to get out of the house every once in a while,” she says. “And when they do, we’re there.”

Of course, even the closest communities occasionally need to find some space for a while, and for that Roth Gullo leaves it all up to Inspirato to take her, her husband, and two daughters, ages 4 and 6, to someplace very different. “It’s usually someplace tropical that’s a direct flight from Boston and has a beach,” she laughs. “My life is crazy enough raising a family while running a business seven days a week with 150 employees. When I travel, I want easy.”

Right now, the Cayman Islands are her favorite destination. “The residences inside the Ritz-Carlton resort are safe and super kid-friendly,” she says. “At this point, our lives really are all about survival, so anything we can do to make our vacation a true vacation, we do,” Roth Gullo says. “We hire a babysitter or nanny to take care of the kids so we can relax. And we will hire a cook, so we don’t have to worry about when the next meal is and who is making it.”


When it comes to traveling, Roth Gullo’s young children determine where and how she and her husband travel. Here’s what she’s learned:

First, take your full-sized stroller, not the tiny travel one, and gate-check it. It becomes a luggage cart, shopping cart, beach/pool wagon, and, yes, will cart your tired kids around. Second, take your own car seats. I never want to rely on renting car seats and then finding out they’re not available or they’re not as protective as I expected. And finally, pack your kids’ bathing suits in your carry-on. The first thing to do after checking in is to let the kids go to the pool or beach. It’s a hero move that will be even more heroic if your bags go missing.

The Newest Super Tuscan Wine Has Roots in Family Farming


The Newest Super Tuscan Wine Has Roots in Family Farming

February 28, 2019

The partnership that resulted in the Tuscan winery Urlari started on a ski lift in Portillo, Chile, and today its wines are imported by a company based in Teton Village, Wyoming, the small community at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Italian co-founder Roberto Cristoforetti is both a certified fruit farmer and handcrafts custom ski boots for the world’s best ski racers. (Since the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, 83 Olympic medals have been won in Cristoforetti-made boots by skiers including Alberto Tomba, Hermann Maier, Tommy Moe, Picabo Street, and Julia Mancuso; he plans to retire after the 2019-2020 race season.) Urlari’s other co-founder, Mary Kate Buckley, has skied her entire adult life and this past summer started as president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In 2002, the two found themselves on a lift together in Portillo.

Initially they chatted—in German, because that was their common language—about athletic footwear. At the time, Buckley was Regional Vice President and General Manager for Nike’s Americas Region and was curious that top World Cup racers all had custom boots. As their friendship grew, Buckley soon learned of Cristoforetti’s passion for wine, which had its roots in his friendship with Italian ski racer Alberto Tomba (who was known as much for being an oenophile as for his dominance in skiing’s technical events). 


Tomba invited Cristoforetti to accompany him to wineries in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Chile, and California. Buckley had been introduced to fine wine in the mid-1990s when she was working for Disney and based in Hong Kong but often working in Tokyo. “In Tokyo, I sat in an office next to Guy [Aelvoet, president of Disney Consumer Products in Japan] and he became my mentor and a friend,” she says. “Guy shared his appreciation for fine food and fine wines. When [he] introduced me to a new wine, he’d not only introduce me to the quality of its attributes, but could speak articulately about the winery that produced it and details that translated [it] from being simply a great product in a bottle to a reflection of the deep passion and rich histories of its owners.”

By the time Cristoforetti and Buckley met, he was a partner in a start-up Tuscan winery. Later, he mentioned to Buckley that he was thinking about planting his own vineyards. (He grew up in a family of fruit farmers.) Inspired by his passion and always looking for new challenges, Buckley encouraged him, offered to be his partner, and to help—initially with marketing, and, eventually, sales. (Of course Buckley checked in with her wine mentor, Aelvoet: “When I told him I was thinking about starting a winery in Tuscany, he weighed in, first to warn me how challenging it would be to start a winery from nothing, but then to support with advice and cheer me on at every stage,” she says.)

Cristoforetti began searching for suitable land and, in 2004, found it. It was while Buckley and Cristoforetti stood on a 25-acre plot of sheep pasture in Riparbella, in Tuscany’s coastal Maremma region 4 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea, that they created the product vision for Urlari. The sloping pasture has an elevation between 700 and 800 feet and is surrounded by dense forests in which locals hunt for wild boars.

As the pasture was being transformed into vineyards—15 of the 25 acres were planted—evidence of it being cultivated since Etruscan times was found, including fragments of a wine vessel, a hairpiece, and a coin dating to 200 B.C. that eventually inspired the winery’s labels. Unusual for the region, Cristoforetti planted grapes very close together. (This is seen more often in Bordeaux.) “When the plants are so close, they fight for the limited water, so only the strong plants and grapes survive, and those that survive are going to be more intense than they otherwise would be,” he says.

To make Urlari’s first wines, Cristoforetti approached winemaker Jean-Philippe Fort, even though the Bordeaux native had never before agreed to work with a winery outside of France. (More than 40 percent of the wines Fort consults for are Grand Cru Classe, including Chateau Angelus, a Premier Grand Cru.) Intrigued by Urlari’s terroir and facilities, Fort agreed, officially bringing together the three world wine cultures Cristoforetti most esteems: Italian, American, and French. In 2010, using the 2008 vintage, Urlari produced about 8,000 bottles of its first wine, Pervale, a blend of Sangiovese (28%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc (25%), Merlot (15%), and Alicante Bouschet (7%). “Roberto sold these mostly from the back of his car throughout Italy,” Buckley says. Urlari’s second vintage, 2009, produced 24,000 bottles, and the winery extended its distribution. Its first export customer was Aelvoet’s son-in-law, who owned a restaurant in Belgium. “He bought 50 cases based solely on Guy’s recommendation,” Buckley says.

Not all sales were so easy though. “We thought the hard part would be making the wine, but the really hard part is selling it,” says Buckley. “There are so many wine labels in the U.S., and nobody needs another one.” She briefly looked for an importer, but was unsuccessful. “So I got my importer license,” she says. “If you look at the label today, you’ll see it says ‘Imported by Urlari USA, LLC Teton Village, WY.’” (Buckley bought a home at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the year after she and Cristoforetti bought the land for Urlari and she became a full-time Wyoming resident in 2009.) Her strategy was to sell wine to stores and restaurants in Jackson Hole and also to restaurants in New York City. “It’s the most competitive market in which everyone wants to sell their wine,” she says. “While I had never sold wine or anything else, I had confidence that the most sophisticated wine directors in New York would recognize and buy a truly unique, high-quality wine.”


In Jackson Hole, Buckley was able to walk into wine shops and restaurants without appointments and talk with owners and sommeliers. Dennis Johnson, the now-semi-retired manager of Dornan’s Wine Shop, which has a 1,500-plus bottle list and has earned a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence every year for 31 years, remembers the first time Buckley came in. “She walked into the shop and told me she had started a winery in Italy,” he says. “We like helping out smaller, individual wineries that are giving it a go, so I tasted the wines. It was nice stuff, a really, really good quality wine. I had no doubt it would sell.” Other bottle shops and restaurants in Jackson Hole quickly followed.

Making inroads in New York was more difficult. “I got a copy of Wine Spectator’s list of best restaurants for wine,” Buckley says. “And then I cold-called the ones in New York City.” Most restaurants wouldn’t see her, but “the ones I got in front of with the wine bought it,” she says. After Buckley had gotten Urlari onto the wine lists of restaurants like Keens Steakhouse, Delmonicos, Bar Italia, and Caravaggio, importers took notice. Today Urlari’s three wines—Pervale, L’Urlo (100% Merlot), and Ritasso (100% Sangiovese)—are sold through distributors in Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, and importers in the NY/NJ/ CT area and Pennsylvania. The 2017 New York International Wine Competition recognized Urlari as the Tuscan Winery of the Year, and its 2011 vintage Pervale won a “Double Gold” from a panel of top wine critics. James Suckling, regarded as one of the world’s top wine critics, has awarded scores of 93 points for Pervale, 93 points for L’Urlo, and 92 points for Ritasso.

On the phone in the middle of the most recent harvest, I asked Cristoforetti if Olympic skiers or grapes are more difficult to work with. He didn’t hesitate: “Grapes.” And that makes Urlari’s success all the sweeter. Buckley says, “Building a new business from scratch—literally going from standing in a sheep pasture and envisioning a wine made from grapes of plants that have yet to be planted and encountering hurdles along the way, to winning awards and having people enjoy all of our work—that’s so much fun.”

A Farming Renaissance in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Hero

A Farming Renaissance in Puerto Rico

February 28, 2019

After Hurricane Maria, the island’s farmers have made growing diverse produce—and sharing it with local chefs—their mission. “Look at this purslane,” says Daniella Rodriguez Besosa, on her farm in a mountainous region about a 90-minute drive southwest of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. Pointing to the stubby green succulent, she says: “Most people consider this a weed and pull it out.” On her 6-acre farm in Aibonito, its air sweetened with birdsong and its fields buzzing with life as honeybees flit from bright red cosmos to burgundy- veined translucent lanterns of tomatillos, Rodríguez Besosa cultivates it for one of San Juan’s top restaurants, 1919, in the Condado Vanderbilt hotel.

When I ask what else she grows, she says in rapid-fire staccato: “basil, arugula, radishes, beets, peppers, eggplant, carrots, and, over there in the corner, green beans, cilantro, sweet peppers. With winter coming we’ll plant cabbage, bok choy, pineapple, tarragon, passionfruit, dragonfruit, and breadfruit.” And that’s just a partial inventory. The plantain and banana trees are toward the back of the property, to make the fruit harder to steal. And there are tomatoes, though when I’m there, “it’s really not tomato season,” she says. “We shouldn’t be planting tomatoes, but we like pushing boundaries.” Her rescue dog, a muscular mutt named Coa, bounds between the rows when Rodríguez Besosa calls.

This idyll belies what has been a difficult year for Rodríguez Besosa, 33, and most other Puerto Rican farmers. Slender and strong, with penetrating eyes, she has been working relentlessly since Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island in September 2017. “Everything was vaporized,” she says. Yet, assisted by grants from relief agencies, she has started over. She calls her new farm Siembra Tres Vidas, a garden with three lives.


Rodríguez Besosa’s approach is emblematic of a new mentality on the island that’s gained momentum since the hurricane. For the past century, Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has grown crops primarily for export, such as coffee and sugar, and its residents relied heavily on food shipped to the island. “We don’t need to be exporting products,” she says. “We need to be producing a huge diversity of food for our people.”

In San Juan, I dine at chef Juan Jose Cuevas’ restaurant, 1919. Cuevas, a Puerto Rican native who oversaw the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants including New York’s Blue Hill, organized daily meals for thousands of hurricane survivors in the months after Maria. At 1919, amid amber tones and elegant décor, he presents a contemporary menu that features mostly local fish and vegetables. One of his star dishes is wahoo with purslane, the succulent grown on Rodríguez Besosa’s farm.

In the first months after the hurricane, not much fresh produce was available, Cuevas says, but “what I am getting now is 10 times better, in quality and diversity, than what I got before Maria.” Cuevas and other chefs are partnering with farmers, agreeing to buy their produce in advance of planting, giving the farmers some financial security. While local farmers still grow Puerto Rican staples, such as yuca and cassava—“the diet of our ancestors,” Cuevas says—they’re also planting more carrots, beets, kale, and collard greens, in part based on what chefs want for their restaurants. “Chefs can have a huge impact on the economy of Puerto Rico, now more than ever,” he says. “We have the power to support farmers so they can continue growing.”

Noting that the island imports more than 80 percent of its food, Cuevas says, “We cannot depend so much on importing stuff. We can grow items ourselves, and we can be sustainable if another disaster happens.” The crisis has provided the opportunity to experiment, he says, which is precisely what the wife-and-husband team of Angelie Martinez and Efren Robles are doing on a half-acre farm, called Frutos del Guacabo, near Manatí on Puerto Rico’s north coast.

Arriving on a dirt driveway lined with tomato plants, I see goats in a corral with a crowing rooster perched on a post. The scents of lemon basil and oregano blend in the air, and the sound of flowing water rises from a hydroponic network of white PVC pipes. Robles warmly greets me and introduces me to something I’ve never tasted, a Brazilian flower called a lemon drop that sets my tongue tingling with a sour citrus flavor. Before starting the farm in 2010, Robles worked as a mechanic; Martinez as a chemist. They grow some plants in the earth, others in water carefully monitored for pH to produce the highest quality produce, using organic practices and shunning pesticides. The property abuts a craggy lime- stone slope and most of the goats, which provide milk to make cheese, are free to climb it.

The diversity of plants grown on this tiny plot is staggering: bok choy, cherry tomatoes, passionfruit, and microgreens that are sent live in tiny trays to San Juan’s top chefs. The farm is helping to popularize the Habanada pepper, a sweet version of the hot Habanero pepper. “We look for products that are in demand,” Robles says. Frutos del Guacabo is also a distribution center for more than 50 of the region’s growers, and a model for what can be done with little land. But Martinez and Robles haven’t forgotten their traditions. “We sell jams of papaya or pineapple,” Robles says. “We make hot sauce with the skin of pineapple fermented with peppers; that’s the way our grandmothers used to do it.”

After the hurricane, it took 177 days to rebuild the farm and get back to delivering food, Robles says. If he and his wife can turn half an acre into an Eden-like garden, he believes anyone can—and that the future of the island depends on it. “We are trying to educate people that food self-sufficiency is viable; that they can start farming,” Robles says. “Our role is to show people this can be done. It’s not only economic but social; you need to grow your own food—it’s that simple.”


Chef Peter Schintler of San Juan’s esteemed Marmalade restaurant is awed by what Martinez and Robles accomplish at Frutos del Guacabo. “It almost looks like a Jurassic garden,” he says. “The amount of passion and love … you can taste it in their product.”

At True Leaf Farm in Palomas, about an hour south of San Juan, Gabriel Mejia shows that attentiveness can produce tiny bursts of flavor in edible flowers, herbs, and microgreens. Mejia, 29, studied horticulture at the University of Puerto Rico. After the hurricane, which toppled his greenhouses, he rebuilt his battered farm. Top chefs, such as Jose Santaella, eagerly buy his peppermint tops, mini cilantro, micro basil, baby radishes, and zucchini blossoms. Mejia cultivates what chefs ask him to grow. “It’s their last detail,” he says. “The level of attention and care this requires is humongous. If you’re not passionate, you’re not going to deliver a product they’ll put on their plate.”

As I bid Mejia farewell, he loads a large white cooler of freshly harvested produce into his dented Toyota sedan and drives down the vertiginous hills to San Juan. That night at the popular Santaella restaurant in San Juan’s Santurce District, I meet Erin Schrode, operations director of Jose Andres’ food relief group Chefs for Puerto Rico. We order malanga fritters with local avocados. When the appetizer arrives, Schrode tells me the fritters are topped by microgreens grown by Mejia. The tiny cilantro leaves are the perfect touch.

Schrode notes that many of the young growers seeking to change the way Puerto Ricans farm are women and says Rodríguez Besosa’s vegetables and fruits are among the best on the island. “Daniella’s produce is of a quality that’s so exquisite. She’s amazing, her passion,” Schrode says. That passion is reflected in Rodríguez Besosa’s commitment to her farm, her community, her island. More than 150,000 people fled Puerto Rico in the first six months after the 2017 hurricane and haven’t returned. Asked if she ever considered leaving, Rodríguez Besosa emphatically says, “Never. I’m staying put. It’s conviction. We stay where we’re needed.”