Tropical Storm Harvey has caused extensive damage in and around Houston, dumping more than 50 inches of water on the United States' fourth-largest city. Houston's restaurant owners, still unable to assess flood damage, are checking on staff and hoping to reopen soon. Read Wine Spectator's full news report on this developing story.
Best of Award of Excellence winner Manresa will head to France for a dinner series at three fine-dining destinations, for the celebration of the Los Gatos, Calif., restaurant's 15th anniversary.
The series will kick off Sept. 28 and 29 with two dinners at Le Taillevent in Paris, a Grand Award winner and home to one of France's largest wine cellars. The next dinner will be held Oct. 4 at L'Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux de Provence, followed by another at Marseille's Le Petit Nice Oct. 6. All participating restaurants are members of Relais & Châteaux, an international group of upscale destinations.
The events will be a collaborative effort between chef David Kinch's team and the host venues, with each restaurant presenting six or seven courses to approximately 50 guests. Reservations can be made through the hosting restaurants' websites.
While the overall concepts will be similar, the dinners will have different menus and slight variations depending on the restaurant. At Le Taillevent, for example, the sommelier will select French wines for Manresa's Californian courses, and Manresa's sommelier will select California wines for the French dishes. Dessert will feature only French wines.
To commemorate Manresa's 15-year anniversary, wine director Jim Rollston will also be serving several wines from the 2002 vintage, the restaurant's opening year. His favorites include two Cabernet Sauvignons: A magnum of Ridge Monte Bello and a bottle from Mount Eden Vineyards that Rollston got directly from the winery's cellar and said he's "craving to pop."
Rollston says he's most looking forward to witnessing the inspiring atmosphere and operations of such high-end restaurants. "Just to see their systems, see their hospitality, see how they interact with guests," he said. "And then of course, in the case of Taillevent, to see their cellar. It's legendary and they've been building it for a really long time."
The celebrations won't end there: Acclaimed Italian chef Niko Romito of Reale in Castel di Sangro, Italy, will cook at Manresa in November as a guest chef.—J.H.
Last week, chef Tom Colicchio changed the name of one of his Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurants in New York, citing its negative racial connotations.
When the restaurant opened in October 2016, it was named Fowler & Wells, after a scientific institute and publishing company once located in the same spot. The company's founders were proponents of phrenology, a 19th-century belief that a person's skull shape is an indication of their intelligence and character traits. About eight months ago, Colicchio's team learned that phrenology was the basis of many racist arguments, including as justification for slavery and theories of African-American inferiority.
"Using their names for my newest restaurant was a way to link us to the location's past," Colicchio wrote in a press release. "After we opened, we dove more deeply into the works of Fowler & Wells and realized our research had been incomplete." The restaurant was renamed Temple Court, after the building that replaced the Fowler & Wells institute.
The name-change process was lengthy and expensive, but Colicchio deemed it necessary, stating that Fowler & Wells' beliefs "go against everything we stand for, both personally and as a company." The chef often participates in human-rights conversations on social media. Aside from the name change, the restaurant will remain the same and continue operations as usual.—J.H.
Award of Excellence winner Avec, housed on a ground floor in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, will soon take over all four stories of the building. The restaurant recently announced that the second floor will open Sept. 15 with a bar and private-event space.
Owner and wine director Eduard Seitan also told Wine Spectator that the third and fourth floors will become vacation rentals sometime next year. As far as an exact opening date and the rentals' interaction with Avec, Seitan says it's still unclear. "We haven't figured out the details, but most likely there will be room service, breakfast, etc.," he said.
The bar area will be fairly small, with just five bar seats and five seats at a counter overlooking the kitchen. A glass wall behind the bar will display selections from the Award of Excellence–winning list. While the restaurant is undergoing physical changes, Seitan plans to stick to the same concept that's guided the wine program since Avec opened 14 years ago.
"I've always wanted to stay with rustic, sun-drenched regions around the Mediterranean Sea," he said. "We started with southern France, southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, and then expanded more recently into Greek islands, Lebanon, Israel and Morocco."
The first Avec-hosted event in the private space will be a mid-October fund-raising dinner supporting islands that accepted large numbers of Syrian refugees. "I had this idea," he said. "Pair the wines from, let's say, the Greek islands, with Syrian food, and raise all this money for Refugee One, which is a charity that we believe in." Each week leading up to the event, Avec will feature one or two wines from a specific island.—J.H.
Resort and casino Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., has promoted Bruce Cartwright to director of beverage. Cartwright will oversee the beverage programs at all nightclubs, bars and restaurants on the property, which is home to three Restaurant Award winners: BR Prime Steakhouse, Jia and Stalla Italian Kitchen.
"I get to focus more on other areas that I haven't been able to due to me being tied down to, say, casino operations," Cartwright, who previously served as Beau Rivage's relief restaurant manager, told Wine Spectator. His goal now as director of beverage is to provide improved bar service and better cater to guests with a variety of wines. Sommelier Harry Hall was brought in about a year ago to manage the property's wine lists and execute Beau Rivage's vision for the program.
"Overall, we want a robust program, we want it to be diverse, we do want fast-moving and high-volume items, but we also want higher-end and bigger-name brands," Cartwright said. "If you go into one outlet and you find something that is your varietal or your brand, you should be able to go into another outlet and possibly get that same wine."
Cartwright joined the Beau Rivage team in 2005. When Hurricane Katrina struck that August, he was part of the team that worked to reopen the casino. He says it was a challenge to orchestrate a reopening on such a large scale, but one that was well worth it.
"There was so much riding on it because of the community, and supplying all these jobs and bringing all of these employees back to work," he said. "A lot of people had to go work somewhere else, and for them to come back and start over with the Beau Rivage, boosting the economy on the local level, it was such a big undertaking."—J.H.
Chef Lee Wolen, in partnership with the Boka Restaurant Group, will open Somerset in September. Wolen previously worked at New York Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park as a sous chef, and served as executive chef of Award of Excellence winner Boka in Chicago.
"With Somerset, we're hoping to create a neighborhood hub, inspired by some of the iconic and great restaurants of New York City; places like Gramercy Tavern or Gotham Bar and Grill," Boka Restaurant Group cofounder Kevin Boehm said in a press release.
Somerset will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and focus on American cuisine. Sample dishes on the dinner menu include smoked beet tartare with cumin yogurt and homemade flatbread, spicy lamb merguez linguine with kale, chile and feta, and roasted chicken and sausage with charred onions.
Wine director Marcello Cancelli has crafted a list that spans Spain, Italy, France and California, featuring around 35 options by the glass, and an extensive bottle selection divided into sections with names such as "Seduction," "Celebration" and "Intrigue." The offerings will include Kistler Chardonnay Russian River Valley Vine Hill Vineyard 2013 and Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero 2010.—V.S.
Portland, Ore., Award of Excellence winner RingSide Grill closed its doors Aug. 30 and has been sold to an undisclosed buyer.
"As a local, third-generation–owned family business, it was time to make difficult decisions for our restaurants," owner Craig Peterson said in a statement. He cited "the challenges of today’s hospitality market" among the reasons for the closure.
From burgers and flatbreads to rotisserie chicken and filet mignon, the restaurant was known for its globally-influenced American cuisine. The beverage program featured Oregon winemakers and brewers, with 21 local beers on tap, and wine and cider on draft. The wine list spanned 125 selections with strengths in Oregon, California and Washington.—V.S.