Calling All Hot Heads

We want your help. Okay not want – need. You got any idea how many chile festivals there are out there? No? We don’t either – not a blooming idea. But heck, we know it’s a lot. So why not tell us about your favorite chile festival. Maybe it’s one in your own neighbourhood. Maybe it’s one you discovered on your travels (personally we’d like to go to Chilifest Finland or how about the Sawtell Chilli Festival in Australia?).

COLLAGE 1A faithful Chile Trail follower in London, England sent us these pics from the Festival of Heat – London’s first chile (or chilli as they insist on spelling it) festival held at the Spitalfields City Farm in east London. Kind of makes you want to hop on a plane, doesn’t it?


So share your favs. Send us photos. Tell us how you gave your tongue a 3rd degree burn when you sampled that too-hot-to-trot hot sauce. Regale us with the jalapeno contest you won (or lost).

The Chile Trail awaits.


Travel Notes: New York City Top 6

How cruel to ask Tracey Ceurvels to pick six foodie favorites for New York City. Only six??? Tracey loves sniffing out the best places to eat in NYC as well as cooking and creating her own recipes with the incredible ingredients she finds in local specialty shops. In fact, she created an App: NYC iFoodShop—A food lover’s guide to shopping in NYC, which helps food lovers find markets and ingredients. You can find Tracey’s food recommendations and recipes on her blog, The Busy Hedonist.


Tracey Ceurvels worked at several top Boston and NYC restaurants before she hung up her apron over 10 years ago to devote herself to her twin loves of food and travel. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times City Section, The New York Daily News, Dean & Deluca’s Gourmet Food Blog,, The New York Sun, Relish, Time Out,,, among other publications.

My 6 favorite food destinations in New York City
by Tracey Ceurvels

What I love about New York City is that I can find nearly any ingredient I desire, whether I want a rare Indian spice or a unique cheese made locally at a nearby farm. I also love the dining scene here, from casual Asian bistros to high-end temples of seafood and everything in between. Whatever you like, I’m certain you’ll find it here, which makes New York City my favorite food destination in the world.

The Meadow (also pictured above), I enjoy using different types of salt and discovering how they can enhance a dish. The Meadow’s owner wrote an award-winning book, Salted, and his passion for the subject shines through at his gorgeous store that sells hundreds of salts (and chocolate, too).

Murray’s Cheese, Blue or goat, stinky or smoked…cheese, in all its glory, is the specialty here. Stop by the store and the knowledgeable cheesemongers will help you decide on which cheese to take home.

Kalustyans, This gem of a store is the go-to specialty ingredient and spice shop for many local NYC chefs and home cooks. And no wonder: they sell nearly every spice under the sun, from Peruvian hot peppers to sour pomegranate seeds—and everything in between.

The Roasting Plant, My coffee addiction began at The Roasting Plant, where beans are roasted on site, shot through a pipe overhead and brewed to order. I stock up on their Block Party Blend, a mix of nutty Brazilian and fruity African beans, which is great hot or over ice.

Talde, My latest favorite neighborhood restaurant is Talde, where Top Chef alum Dale Talde, has created a menu to swoon over, that is if you like creative Asian dishes like Pad Thai with oysters and bacon or Wok charred ribeye with black pepper caramel and holy basil.

Le Bernardin, When I’m celebrating, I head to Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert’s midtown masterpiece. From the service to the food, this is a stellar experience worthy of a celebration or a special lunch with a loved one.

Travel Notes: Santa Fe Top Picks

The Chile Trail is back home in Santa Fe this week. And what better guide to all things foodie than C. Whitney-Ward. She moved to Santa Fe eight years ago (she already had the cowboy boots and the pawn jewelry) and with the addition of a few vintage fringed jackets she settled right in. Originally from Boston, she worked back east as a journalist, food editor/stylist and PR Director of the Four Seasons Hotel, Boston. She created Chasing Santa Fe two years ago and has been photographing and celebrating Santa Fe ever since. She now gets more than 9,000 hits a month and will be opening a Chasing e-store in January showcasing Santa Fe artists’ work. Check her out at

“Chasing Santa Fe” Restaurant Picks

Whenever I meet someone new in Santa Fe the first thing they ask me is “What’s your favorite restaurant.” The answer can be daunting because I have my favorites for atmosphere, desserts, breakfast, afternoon tea/coffee, lunch and dinner; and I keep adding new favorites. But, here goes…

CHEZ MAMOU, a French bakery and cafe, opened a month ago and what a delight! It’s quite charming and when you step inside, you feel as if you’ve been transported to a cafe on the Left Bank. Sun pours through the large front window and delightful seating vignettes beg you to sit and enjoy breakfast, lunch or a late afternoon coffee and pastry. I loved the Eggs Benedict, Butterfly Palmiers and the amazing Meringue with Ganache. (CHEZ MAMOU, 317 E. Palace, next to Noëlla Jewelry, Santa Fe, 505-216-1845)
Chasing Santa Fe

THE BEESTRO is a nifty and delicious curbside take-out eatery on Marcy Street—next to the Design Warehouse. Owner/Chef Greg Menke opened The Beestro in October and whips up dazzling entrée salads, cold and hot sandwiches, hearty soups that you can order and drive by to pick up. The menu changes daily and everything is fresh, locally sourced and delicious. I love the Ruben Panini and the Lamb Salad.  (THE BEESTRO, 101 W. Marcy Street, Santa Fe, 505.629.8786, or check the daily menu at

Chasing Santa FeRESTAURANT MARTIN: I had lunch the other day at this lovely restaurant. It was delicious, but dessert was even more wonderful. Owner/Chef Martin Rios does all his own pasty and what was presented at table—a Hazlenut/Chocolate Pot de Crème—was pure theatre for the taste buds. There were bit-sized pistachio daquoise; caramel bananas, milk chocolate and Earl Grey tea ice cream; paper thin chocolate meringue wafers; and lovely fruit and herb purees. (RESTAURANT MARTIN, 526 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, 505-820-0919,

Chasing Santa Fe

JINJA BAR AND BISTRO: a chick Pan Asian restaurant is a favorite both for the food and crisp and friendly service. I’m a creature of habit and seem to order the same thing for lunch every time I visit—Lettuce Wraps, Tempura Shrimp and Vietnamese Spring Rolls—but they’re wonderful as is everything else on the menu. Their warm Chocolate Silk Cake with Caramel Sauce is amazing… (JINJA BAR & BISTRO, 510 N. Guadalupe, Santa Fe, 505.982.4321,

Chasing Santa Fe

And, if you have a hankering for wonderful Brioche French Toast, LA PLAZUELA at La Fonda Hotel serves up the best! Santa Fe’s legendary CAFE PASQUAL’S has fifty million wonderful things on their menu, but their Mexican Hot Chocolate is the perfect way to begin the day.

Chasing Santa Fe

One of my favorite hangouts is CLAFOUTIS. I love their pastries, especially their Lemon Cake and Sugar Brioche, and every Saturday morning they have divine Beignets.

Chasing Santa Fe

And my latest favorite—PICCOLINO—an off-the-beaten-path Italian dine-in and take-out restaurant on Agua Fria St. The menu is huge—wonderful veal, seafood, chicken, and pasta dishes. But if you have a hankering for Italian with a New Mexico twist, I suggest the “Pasta Polloco”—sautéed chicken, red crushed pepper, garlic, butter parmesan cheese, cream, and green chile. Sensational!

Travel Notes: Oklahoma City top 6

This week, the Chile Trail is leading us straight to Oklahoma City to visit all the hotspots recommended by fabulous food blogger, Kathryne (are last names really necessary? We thought not) of vegetarian food blog, “Cookie + Kate.” We noticed Kathryne was handy with the spicy stuff, so we knew we’d love her picks.

Kathryne is a 20-something photographer and vegetarian cook who spent twenty-plus years in the Oklahoma City area, but recently moved to Kansas City with her quirky black and white mutt, Cookie.

Her blog is all about celebrating good food—real, sustainable food that delights the senses and nourishes the body. We thank her for her contribution.

Oklahoma City is experiencing a food renaissance of sorts. Over the past few years, I’ve watched the locals become more health conscious eaters, and going to farmers’ markets on the weekend has become more mainstream. Fantastic local restaurants are popping up as well. For a state that admittedly doesn’t have the most exciting culinary history, I’m so happy to see greater demand for good food and support of local restaurants.

1. Ludivine: Exceptional farm-to-table meals in a hip environment. Great cocktails, too. (Thanks to Sarah Warmker for the beautiful photographs. You can see more of her work here and here.)

2. Big Truck Tacos: A taco truck-turned restaurant that offers super fresh, inventive tacos. We recently took a Californian visitor there and he admitted that their tacos were better than anything he’s tasted at home. My favorite thing to get is actually the wojo burrito—garlicky black beans with tons of sautéed vegetables, spinach and feta. Amazing.

3. The Mule: My friend just opened up this gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. Grilled cheese makes everything better.

4. Oklahoma City Museum of Art: The permanent Chihuly exhibit always feels like a trip inside Willy Wonka’s candy factory.

5. Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market: A beautiful, unique old two-story building built in the 1920s that hosts specialty vendors, grocers and special events.

6. Super Cao Nguyen Market: You might not expect to find an impressively large grocery store that offers a wide variety of Asian ingredients and exotic produce in OKC, but Super Cao Ngyen is just that. It’s hard to miss, thanks to the giant artificial palm trees out front.


Last week, we featured a contest to win Cooking with Johnny Vee, and the lucky winner is Bonnie Brauner from West Orange, NJ! (Hope you got through the storm okay, Bonnie.) But we can’t stand to stop there, so we’re giving three runner-up gifts (a packet of our Christmas Salsa Mix) to Debbye Doorey of Dallas TX, Mike Stolz of Casper WY, and Ginger Johnson of Hayward CA. Thanks for playing!

Travel notes: Milan top 6

Here’s the challenge…we’ve asked some of our favourite bloggers and foodie aficionados to share their top six foodie finds for a city. They got to choose the city, we got the inside scoop. What a deal!

Choosing a city was no sweat for our first guest blogger, Charlotte Moore. American-born Charlotte has lived in Milano (that’s Milan to you and me) for 15 years and knows it like the back of her mano (ok enough with the Italian). Charlotte is an advertising creative director/art director (check out her work at and blogs on The Daily Cure where she charts her love affair with Italy and France with a healthy dose of food thrown in for good measure.

Stay tuned in upcoming weeks for more Travel Notes from The Chile Trail.

Ciao tutti! Welcome to my city. Milano is, in many regards, an over-grown town waiting to be discovered, and chock full of hidden treasures. Especially gastronomical ones. If you live here, you end up searching hard for your favorite places (the ones that make you feel happy to be here), and when you find them, you feel like they belong to you and to no one else. So, these are my neighborhood secrets. Shhhh.

1. La Macelleria di Walter Sirtori, Via Paolo Sarpi 27. If you’re a meat eater, you just died and went to heaven. Actually, you’re in an Italian butchershop sitting in the middle of Milan’s Chinatown, but let’s not be sticklers for detail. Here you’ll find an awe-inspiring range of meats and poultries—plus rare bits, bobs and preparations—that always surprise with their sheer outer and inner beauty. This is food handled with love, care and knowledge. Features: organic meats; ready-to-cook meatballs, loaves, and cutlets; all possible Italian salumi; and fresh pastas, salsas and sughi. Not to mention string shopping bags for who’s come empty-handed, and goose eggs when the farmer has any available. And its all exquisitely wrapped up in an atmostphere that makes you wish you had to wait in line just a little bit longer.

2. Trattoria Ottimofiore, Via Bramante 26. A little deeper into China town, and off to the right, you’ll find this tiny piece of Sicily. Mamma’s often a bit brusque with the costumers, but she’s always right, and after eating her pasta alle sarde (a Sicilian preparation featuring fresh sardines, wild fennel, pinenuts, raisons and breadcrumbs) you’d forgive her anything. There’s a beautiful table of mixed antipasti (my favorites: eggplants crusted in almonds and an exquisitely agrodolce—sweet and sour—caponata). Reserve a table; the place draws a crowd particularly on weekend nights when a guitarist is known to materialize in the already packed eatery.

3. Hodeidah, Via Piero della Francesca 8. Coffee bar and purveyor of fine coffee (they roast their own), teas from around the world (green, red, black, white, South African, Japanese, Chinese, unsmoked and smoked), hard to find biscuits, and chocolates (including their own and several varieties from Modena). Step into the rich, authentic aroma of roasting coffee beans, time gone by and an attention to the finest, granular-sized, details. Belly up to the bar and ask for the standards (cappucini, espressi or marocchini) or venture forth with an espresso con panna. During the warmer months, you’ll do well to order granita al caffe con panna sotto e sopra, caffe scecherato (the italianization of “shakerato” i.e. shaken) or an iced infusion of sotto boschi (wild woodland berries). You pay in the back, which is a trap of sorts, as the cash register is surrounded by a closet-sized dreamland of floor-to-ceiling candies, fudges, jellies and sourballs. Browse with a basket and fill it to your heart’s delight.

4. Vegetables. I know. That’s not a specific restaurant, supplier or location. Suffice it to say that Milan, like most of Italy, knows how to “do” vegetables. There are fresh fruit and vegetable vendors everywhere, and while some are certainly better than others, they are for the most part exquisite everywhere. My personal favorite is probably All’Ortolana in Via Canonica, 59. Run by a crew of youngish men (the owners are brothers) this shop overwhelms with fresh options, in a polite, no frills, rough and tumble style (they’re too busy to be otherwise). Aside from supplying many restaurants (Ottimofiore is one of them), they’ll fill your bags, baskets and carts with the best that Campania, Sicily, and Liguria have to offer at terribly reasonable prices. They also deliver. By bicycle. What else?

Otherwise, hit an open air market (I recommended the market of Via Vincenzo Monti on Friday morning) or a covered, communal marketplace (I recommend the market in Piazza Wagner). They are all over the city, every day of the week (schedule here), and the produce is out of this world. Well, actually, it isn’t. It’s mostly from right here, right now (whatever season “now” happens to be) which is precisely what makes it so amazing. Please note, these markets have excellent fresh fish, meat and cheeses as well. Bring big bags, or even better, a wheeled cart.

It is worth noting that 75% of what I’ve learned to prepare in Italy, I’ve learned from butchers, seafood vendors and the fruit & veg shopowners. Shop without a list. Let yourself be inspired. And ask questions. The results are delicious.

5. Panini have become popular the world over. But, here, at De Santis (Corso Magenta, 9) you’ll come face to face with the originals. A tiny, narrow restaurant furnished with what looks like monks’ benches and tables, the De Santis menu features complex and creative combinations of meats, cheeses, salsas and, yes, chiles that are designed to wow. Sandwiches as delicious as the traditional atmosphere in which they are served. Worth waiting for the door to open. The place fills up in a Milanese minute.

6. I’m a bit restaurant heavy here, but it’s hard not to be. We’ve talked where to buy fruits, veg and meat for the home chef, but let’s face it. Sometimes you just have to let someone else do the cooking. When I wish I could board a plane for some other Italian city, but I can’t, I go to Da Silvano (via Londonio 22). This gets my vote for seafood and pasta served in an authentic Italian (Tuscan/Sardinian) atmosphere that always transports me away from the here and now. Career waiters treat you and themselves with dignity. Regulars sit at their regular tables. Tuna tartar is hand chopped to order. And female customers are greatly outnumbered at lunch-hour, which gives it a charming, almost fraternal vibe. Not to miss: the cooked, mixed seafood antipasti.