I’ve been tracking Roy Yamaguchi since he was just one more up-and-coming Pacific Rim chef — and look at the guy now. Restaurants all over the country, more cookbooks than I can count, and he still doesn’t look a day over 35.
Roy’s latest big move is actually more of a series of small jumps — from one city to another, as part of a 20-stop culinary tour. It kicked off in Orlando on March 5, and is next heading to Los Angeles on March 20.
So what does this mean in foodie terms? A special five-course menu, a focus on locally sourced foodstuffs, and yummy pairings by Pernod-Ricard (including, perhaps, a few Argentine wine discoveries? C’mon Pernod … do tell.)
Though Roy won’t always be in the kitchen, he will helm the final Honolulu leg, dubbed the 20th Anniversary Spectacular and taking place October 4-5. He’ll be joined by Charlie Trotter, Alan Wong, Nobu and a host of other celebs. More details to follow about this travel-icious adventure.
If you’re not doing anything March 19-23, take a Mexico vacation in Veracruz, for Cumbre Tajin’s "Festival de la Identidad." It takes place during the equinox — which coincides this year with Easter — and is a transformative cultural/religious/musical experience that makes the festivities at Chichen Itza look minor. More than 150,000 people are expected to travel there this year, and 90 percent of them are from Mexico.
The festival is held on the vast archaeological site of El Tajin, a World Heritage site famed for its many mystical pyramids. Cultural exhibits include everything from artisanal food demonstrations (where every nibble is for sale) to films produced by indigenous organizations, to drum circles and traditional Temezcal ceremonies and herbal medicine exploration. The live music area accommodates thousands of people, and artists range from traditional Mexican rock to Ozomatli. The nighttime sound and light show is a spectacle on par with Cirque du Soleil or Burning Man.
Ticket prices are minimal ($20 entry fee per day, plus $15 to see the
evening light show). Basic or luxe camping is available onsite, and
limited space is still available at hotels in neighboring towns.
Las Vegas hotels are charging headlong into summer, with March openings scheduled
for several of the seasonal topless pools and all-day swimsuit parties
that are their sunshine signature. Bare at the Mirage Hotel and Casino is opening March
13, and Palms Place Hotel is debuting its own version of a Turkish bath,
which will probably be a thousand times more decadent than anything the
Ottomans ever dreamed up.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino entered the fine-dining fray with the March 3
opening of AGO, Robert De Niro’s sophisticated Italian eatery. Expect
similar mouthwatering pastas and seafood, specialty cocktails and
celebrity sightings as at the West Hollywood original.
The Palazzo Resort Hotel Tower is one of the newest Las Vegas hotels on the Strip, and several new restaurants will open there in March,
including Jonathan Morr’s Mainland and Wolfgang Puck’s CUT. Not to be
outdone, Morels French Steakhouse introduced the Enomatic, a
bells-and-whistles non-oxidizing wine dispenser that can store and pour
uber-high-end wines. Thus, Screaming Eagle ’04 and Bryant Family ’01,
plus 60-odd other boutique finds, are now available by the glass.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
While we’re on the epicurean trail, travel to the Riviera Maya and say ole to the Maroma Resort & Spa, where
Freddy’s Bar panders to our food-and-booze-pairing passions with the
addition of a tequila and ceviche service. This probably wasn’t too
hard to implement, since proprietor Senor Freddy is a known tequila
expert. Six ceviches daily, 100+ tequilas all the time … now there’s a
diet to rival South Beach.
Related Orbitz resources:
Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.