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Proof: Hotel Dining Without the Pretension

Proof: Hotel Dining Without the Pretension


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Proof, an American Canteen, at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, proves hotel dining does not have to be stuffy, boring or pretentious. Having such a wide variety of dining options makes Proof a great location for just about any occasion.

Menu items are inspired by the Chef's travels around the US and include things like Deviled Eggs, Chicken & Waffles and Pretzel Knots. Proof is the kind of restaurant that guarantees to have something on the menu for everyone in your dinner party.

Outdoor dining is always my first choice and the patio at Proof offers an intimate 5 star dining experience with spectacular views. Handcrafted cocktails make perusing the menu fun, but with so much to choose from narrowing down dinner is not always easy. My suggestion would be to get a little of everything; which is exactly what we did.

We started our meal with 3 appetizers; Fried Green Tomatoes, Pretzel Knots, and Duck Fries. I had never had fried green tomatoes before and wasn't sure what to expect. Coated in cornmeal, fried to a nice golden brown and topped with a crab remoulade, they were both sweet and tangy all at once.

I won't go into much detail about the pretzels knots but I will urge you to order these soft, chewy, slightly salted balls of dough with their accompanying spicy cheese sauce. Delicious!

My favorite appetizer, hands down, was the Duck Fries. Crispy fries loaded with gravy, lots of shredded duck and local cheese curds; what's not to like.

As my main course I chose the Beer Can Chicken with a side of mac & cheese and a side of sweet corn succotash.

My dining companion went with the 3 Meatloaf. We were both very pleased with our selections. Chef Jesse spent some time with us during dinner explaining each item and the work that went into its preparation. He shared with us how the beer can chicken takes about 3 days to make due to the amount of time needed for brining and marinating. He also told us that the reason he uses beef, pork and veal in the meatloaf is for both taste and texture.

Although we were stuffed it was impossible to turn down dessert once we found out all the ice cream was made in house. One scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream served over a warm chocolate chip cookie was plenty for me.

My dining companion, on the other hand, decided to try the caramel macchiato ice cream topped with coffee liqueur and caramel almond praline. I'm not sure how he finished it all; but he did and loved it!

If you are looking for a different kind of dining experience, something that will please young and old alike, let me suggestion you get on over to Proof...you really can't go wrong.

Cuisine type: Comfort food at it's finest.
Price Range: $10-$28
Atmosphere: Relaxed American Canteen inside with a 5 star outdoor patio option.
Additional information: Small party packages & restaurant buy outs are available.


The Original Brings Elevated Diner-Style Food in McGregor Square’s Rally Hotel

Diner-style food typically evokes feelings of comfort and nostalgia and makes you feel at home in a time where many restaurants are focusing on complicated, trendy concepts to stand out. Yet many diner-style restaurants use low quality ingredients, lack exciting flavor profiles and utilize uniform techniques that can make every item on the menu taste similar and lack depth. McGregor Square’s newest restaurant — The Original — unites the best of both worlds by marrying the no-frills style of cooking reminiscent of childhood meals at home with high-quality ingredients and inventive methods to put a, well, original spin on diner food.

Photo courtesy of The Original.

The Original — the newest concept from Sage Restaurant Concepts — is located within the Rally Hotel in the heart of LoDo. With Executive Chef Denis Zvekic at the helm, the restaurant brings a modern, fun approach to classic Americana fare. “Inspiration for this menu was born at the most micro-level of ingredients,” said Zvekic. “The impeccable quality of the food is what I am most proud of, and our guests can take comfort in knowing they are not only indulging in dishes that make them feel good on a nostalgic level, but also that these dishes are thoughtful and rooted in character.”

Zvekic has operated several Sage Restaurant Concepts restaurants over the past 12 years and enjoys elevating familiar, classic cuisine by utilizing fresh, local ingredients and adding a bit of flare.

“Food should be approachable, simple and showcase the quality of the ingredients, as well as a chef’s skill in working with those elements,” Zvekic said. “Cooking should not be ego-driven — we find balance in what our guests are looking for and present the product without pretension. To me, dining should be all about creating or recreating memorable experiences. Our sense of hospitality is at the core of how we make people feel welcome and at home.”

Photo courtesy of The Original.

Zvekic’s appreciation for each individual ingredient comes from his humble beginnings growing up on a farm in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This environment taught him how to make use of every aspect of an ingredient and maintain its integrity when cooking. In the 󈨞s his family fled to the island of Sardinia to escape the Civil War in then-Yugoslavia where Zvekic was exposed to authentic Italian cuisine and learned how to make handmade pasta and prepare fresh seafood. At just 16 years old, he moved to Denver and started working as a dishwasher at Tuscany restaurant before working his way up to line cook and simultaneously earning his degree at the American Culinary Federation in 2003. Since 2008, Zvekic has worked at a handful of restaurants under the Sage Restaurant Concepts umbrella before being tapped to open The Original this year.

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From the kitschy decor on the walls to the comfortable booths and nostalgic menu items, The Original’s inspiration from 󈧶s diners and rail cars is evident. “We are taking classic Americana style and adding a Denver flare to it. It’s simple and not pretentious,” said Zvekic. The menu includes shareables such as charred carrots ($10) with pistachio pesto and goat cheese, ricotta toast ($8) with seasonal fruit compote and “everything bagel” deviled eggs ($9) with the unique addition of salmon bacon that adds the perfect amount of salt along with a great crunch. The sweet and savory croughnut sliders ($9) are Zvekic’s take on doughnut sliders that are made with croissant dough instead of a doughnut — a sweet and salty combination that will have you craving them long after dinner is over.

As far as entrees go, you’ll notice familiar items with slight differences in preparation. The All-American cheeseburger ($12) uses a Wagyu beef patty to give it more depth and that melt-in-your-mouth sensation while the short rib stroganoff ($25) is a deconstructed version of the beef stroganoff your mom used to make with a 24-hour braised short rib claiming most of the attention. Desserts are also a can’t miss part of the meal with boozy milkshakes ($7), a brownie sundae ($8) and a root beer float ($7) to round out the food menu.

Before you head over to The Original — or if there is a wait when you arrive — you can grab a cocktail at The Rally Bar next door. The bar is situated across the hotel hall from The Original and has a simple yet delicious list of cocktails to choose from. The Golden Sombrero ($13) is similar to a spicy margarita with the addition of spicy bitters to give it an extra kick while the Rally Up ($11) is a refreshingly pungent option that’s perfect for a hot day. The Rally Bar also serves several appetizers including Johnny Dogs ($12) — a version of mini corn dogs — beet tartare ($10), a pretzel-crusted scotch egg ($14) and a burger ($15), if you’re really hungry.

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If you’re craving comfort food but want a fun atmosphere, elevated ingredients and great cocktails, The Original is the place to go. The warm atmosphere, exciting take on familiar ingredients and sentimental decor will have you coming back for more than just the food.


Dragon Quest Builders 2 room recipes

  • Fiery Frying Pan: Bonfire, Frying Pan
  • Dining Table: Table, Chair, Decorative Food Dish
  • Buffet: Large Table, Crock Pot, Crockery
  • King's Banquet: King's Table, Fancy Chairs x4, Decorative Food Dish x4, Candelabra x2
  • Meal: Large Table, Salad with Soup, Fish Platter or Meat Platter, Basket of Bread, Decorative Food Dish
  • Onsen Bath: Onsen Water blocks x10, Scattered Petals or Lion Fountain
  • Swimming Pool: Pure Water blocks x10, Ladder (inside pool)
  • Cocktail Counter: Bar Counter, Stool x4, Cocktail Shaker
  • Simple Sipper's Set: Table, Chair, Decorative Drink
  • Social Sipper's Set: Large Table, Chair x4, Decorative Drink x4
  • Card Table: Table, Chair x2, Playing Cards
  • Medication Station: Chair, Crate, First Aid Kit
  • Rocket Battery: Firework Cannon x3 (in a row)
  • Dracky Totem: Dracky Totem x3 (on top of each other)
  • Slime Stack: Stackable Slime x3 (on top of each other)
  • Tree Swing: Tree, Swing
  • Potted Flower: Pot, Flower
  • Potted Plant: Pot, Plant
  • Station: Rail Track, Stop Sign (at the end of the track)
  • Darty Party: Dartboard x3 (on a wall in a row)
  • Playable Piano: Grand Piano, Chair

Bedrooms

  • Basic Bedroom: Bed (any) x2, Light Source (any)
  • Social Bedroom: Bed (any) x4, Light Source (any) x2
  • Communal Bedroom: Bed (any) x8, Light Source (any) x4
  • Prepared Bedroom: Bed (any), Light Source (any), Grandfather Clock, Potted Plant (set)
  • Farmers' Bedroom: Bed (any) x2, Light Source (any), Farming Tools, Firewood
  • Farmers' Flophouse: Bed (any) x4, Light Source (any) x2, Farming Tools x2, Firewood x2
  • Farmers' Lodge: Bed (any) x8, Light Source (any) x4, Farming Tools x4, Firewood x4
  • Dormitory: Bed (any) x8, Pot x3, Inn Sign
  • Better Dormitory: Bed (any) x8, Pot x3, Inn Sign, Light Source (any) x2, Stool x2
  • Luxury Dormitory: Four-poster Bed x8, Pot x3, Inn Sign, Sconce x2, Stool x2, Chest of Drawers
  • Basic Soldier's Bedroom: Decorative Armour/Swords, Bed (any) x2, Light Source (any)
  • Barracks: Decorative Armour/Swords x2, Bed (any) x4, Light Source (any) x2
  • Bigger Barracks: Decorative Armour/Swords x4, Bed (any) x8, Light Source (any) x4

Bathrooms

  • Double Bathroom: Bathtub/Shower x2, Towel Rack x2, Washtub x2, Light Source (any)
  • Private Men's Bathroom: Bathtub/Shower x2, Towel Rack x2, Gentleman Sign
  • Private Women's Bathroom: Bathtub/Shower x2, Towel Rack x2, Lady Sign
  • Rustic Bathroom: Basic Bathtub, Towel Rack x3, Washtub x4, Chair (any)
  • Deluxe Bathroom: Bathtub x2, Towel Rack x3, Washtub x4, Stool, Light Source (any), Firewood x2
  • Shower Room: Shower, Towel Rack, Folding Screen
  • Scenic Shower Room: Shower x4, Towel Rack x2, Folding Screen x2, Light Source (any) x2, Window x4
  • Onsen Bathroom: Onsen Water x10 blocks (dig holes for them), Flower Petals (on top of Onsen Water), Bathroom Stool x3, Washtub x3, Filter Fountain (pouring into Onsen Water)
  • Suspicious Spa: Plasma blocks x10 (dig a hole), Evil Item (any), Bathroom Stool x3, Washtub x3
  • Swimming Pool: Standard Water x10 blocks (dig holes for them), Ladder (inside the pool), Pool Chair, Sun Parasol, Cactus Drink

Kitchens

  • Simple Kitchen: Chest, Bonfire x3
  • Kitchen Diner: Chest, Bonfire x3, Dining Table (set)
  • Agricultural Kitchen: Chest, Sack of Wheat x3, Firewood x2, Bonfire x3
  • Agricultural Cafe: Chest, Sack of Wheat x3, Firewood x2, Bonfire x3 or Fiery Frying Pan (set) x2 or Brick Barbecue, Dining Table (set)
  • Simple Mushroom Cookroom: Chest, Fungus (any, pick up with gloves and bring inside), Bonfire x2
  • Deluxe Mushroom Kitchen: Chest, Fungus (any, pick up with gloves and bring inside), Fiery Frying Pan (set) x2 or Brick Barbecue, Dining Table (set)
  • Simple Castle Kitchen: Chest, Well, Brick Barbecue
  • Castle Cafeteria: Chest, Well, Brick Barbecue, Buffet (set)
  • Gory Grillhouse: Chest, Meaty Marshy Mountain, Brick Barbecue
  • Standard Dining Room: Light Source (any), Dining Table (set) x4
  • King's Dining Room: King's Table, Fancy Chairs x4, Crockery x4 (placed by chairs), Candelabra x2, Fireplace, Bold Banner x2

Private Bedrooms

  • Private Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any), Bed (any), Light Source (any), Stool
  • Master Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any), Bed (any), Light Source (any), Chair (any), Table (any), Wall Hanging, Velvet Draping or Triangular Bunting
  • Private Noble's Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any), Four-Poster Bed, Fancy Chair, Fancy Table, Sconce, Wall Hanging
  • Rough n' Tough Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any), Barrel, Bottles, Dumb-bells, Light Source (any), Bed (any)
  • Neat n' Sweet Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any), Dressing Table, Chair, Ornamental Flower, Light Source (any), Bed (any)
  • Royal Bedchamber: Resident's Sign (any), King-Size Bed, Fancy Chair, Fancy Light Source, Fireplace
  • Princess Bedchamber: Resident's Sign (any), Four-Poster Bed, Fancy Chair, Fancy Light Source, Potted Plant (set)
  • Simple Shared Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any) x2, Bed (any) x2, Light Source (any), Stool x2
  • Superior Shared Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any) x2, Bed (any) x2, Light Source (any), Chairs x2, Table, Wall Hanging
  • Shared Noble Bedroom: Resident's Sign (any) x2, King-Size or Four-Poster Bed x2, Fancy Light Source, Fancy Chair x2, Fancy Table, Wall Hanging

Outdoors

  • Ranch: Haystack, Wooden Gate, Grass x5
  • Animal House: Haystack, Pet Bedding, Pet Bowl
  • Watering Hole: Water blocks x10 (dig holes for them), Chest, Washtub, Pot x2
  • Well Room: Wooden Doormat (use at entrance), Well, Flower
  • Playful Park: Tree Swing (set), Bench x2, Wooden Plank Pathway x2, Flower x2
  • Grassy Garden: Bench, Plant x5
  • Flower Garden: Flower x6, Plant x4
  • Luxurious Park: Fancy Bench, Rose, Rose Leaves, Blue Hydrangea, Flower x8
  • Tree Park: Bench, Branch x2, Leafy Tree, Palm Tree, Fir or Cedar Tree, Birch Tree
  • Cactus Garden: Bench, Small Round Flowering Cactus x3, Cactus Stem x3, Cactus Head x2, Gladiolus, Sunflower
  • Tropical Garden: Bench, Pongsettia, Bigonia, Tingleweed x5, Fan Fern, Coneconut Tree
  • Stone Garden: Bench, Large Rock x3, Small Rock x5, Paving Stone x2, Pile of Pebbles
  • Fountain Garden: Fancy Bench, Water blocks x10 (dig holes for them), Filter Fountain (position outside Water blocks), Lily Pad, Lily Flower
  • Snow Garden: Bench, Snowman, Snowy Cedar Tree x2, Snow Flower x3
  • Freak-Out Room: Simple Bench, Vile Tile, Huge Horn x2, Septic Shrub x3, Dead Tree x2, Pampas Grass x3
  • Cantlin Garden: Fancy Bench, Pure Water blocks x8 (dig holes for them), Holyhock x5, Blossoming Shrub x3, Cherry Blossom Tree, Basic Bridge
  • Simple Bar: Cocktail Counter (set)
  • Well-Stocked Bar: Cocktail Counter (set), Social Sippers (set), Simple Sippers (set) x2, Beer Cask x2, Pub Sign
  • Game Bar: Cocktail Counter (set), Card Table (set), Darty Party (set), Water Pitcher, Light Source (any)

Toilets

  • Basic Toilet: Pot or Toilet (any), Towel Rack
  • Shared Toilet: Toilet (any) x3, Towel Rack x3, Folding Screens x2 (place between the toilets)
  • Men's Toilet: Toilet (any) x3, Towel Rack x3, Gentleman Sign
  • Women's Toilet: Toilet (any) x3, Towel Rack x3, Lady Sign
  • Rustic Toilet: Pot OR Toilet (any), Towel Rack, Haystack
  • Lovely Toilet: Toilet (any), Towel Rack, Ornamental Flower
  • Soldier's Toilet: Toilet (any), Towel Rack, Wall Flag
  • Basic Changing Room: Wardrobe, Light Source (any), Dressing Table, Stool
  • Pool Changing Room: Wardrobe, Light Source (any), Towel Rack, Washtub
  • Bunny Girl Changing Room: Wardrobe, Light Source (any), Barrel, Ornamental Flower
  • Beach Changing Room: Wardrobe, Light Source (any), Towel Rack, Parasol
  • Chill-Out Room: Comfy Sofa, Potted Flower (set) x2, Potted Plant (set) x2, Fireplace, Swabbing Tools

Workshops

  • Barn: Chest, Pot, Haystack, Rope, Farming Tools, Firewood
  • Armoury: Chest, Ornamental Armour/Weapon x4, Barricade x2
  • Smithy: Forge, Chest, Hanging Bag, Pot
  • Metalworker's Workshop: Anvil, Chest, Hanging Bag, Weapon Sign
  • Brewery: Beer Cask x2, Chest, Hanging Bag, Barrel x2
  • Dyeing Workshop: Slime Paint Barrel x2, Chest, Hanging Bag, Washtub x2
  • Builder's Workshop: Builder's Table, Chest, Hanging Sacks, Medicinal Mortar, Tool Rack
  • Wizard's Workshop: Wizard's Workbench, Comfy Cushion, Crystal Ball, Incense Burner
  • Item Store: Table, Shop Sign, Price Tag, Crate x2
  • Weapon Store: Table, Weapon Sign, Price Tag, Decorative Armour/Weapon x2

Social

  • Reception: Table x2, Wall Hanging, Stationery, Candle
  • Corridor: Light Source (any) x2, Pillar x2, Ornamental Flower x2, Wall Hanging x2
  • Pumping Station: Dumb-Bell x2, Mining Tool x2, Towel Rack x2
  • Relaxation Room: Bed (any), Curtain x2, Folding Screen, Light Source (any)
  • Chapel: Altar, Candle x2, Goddess Statue, Chair (any) x4
  • Training Room: Target Dummy x4, Ornamental Spear Rack x2, Wooden Fortification x4
  • Throne Room: Throne, Bold Banner x4, Brazier x2
  • Shabby Throne Room: Disfigured Throne
  • Hargon Chapel: Unholy Altar, False Idol, Small Hargon Wall Gargoyle, Tall Hargon Wall Panel, Double Hargon Wall Panel, Sinister Sconce
  • Summoning Chamber: Forbidden Altar, Unholy Altar, Chest, False Idol, Peculiar Pillar x2, Sinister Sconce
  • Creepy Conservatory: Chest, Blooming Poxglove x2, Budding Poxglove x4
  • Playroom/Toy Room: Hammerhood Plush x2, Snow Yeti Rug, Chair
  • Music Hall: Instrument (Cello/Drums/Piano) x3, Stool (not in front of a piano), Curtain x2
  • Ballroom/Dancing Room: Dancing Platform x3, Light Block, Curtain x4

Culture

  • Sculpture Gallery: Stationary Statue, Handrail x3
  • Picture Gallery: Painting x2, Handrail x4
  • Large Museum Room: Painting x4, Goddess Statue x2, Handrail x10, Exhibition Sign
  • Small Exhibition Room: Exhibition Podium x2, Handrail x4
  • Large Exhibition Room: Exhibition Podium x5, Handrail x10, Exhibition Sign, Exhibition Shelf Connectors x2
  • Small Treasury: Exhibition Podium, Handrail x2, Treasure Chest x5, Treasure (any valuable item, try something gold)
  • Large Treasury: Exhibition Podium, Handrail x2, Treasure Chest x5, Treasure, Pile of Treasure, Bold Banner x2
  • Study: Bookshelf x3, Pile of Books x3
  • Library: Bookshelf x5, Pile of Books x3, Book x3, Table, Chair, Sheets of Paper

Miscellaneous

  • Graveyard: Gravestone x3, Flower x3, Bench
  • Fortune Teller Room: Comfy Cushion, Crystal Ball, Pile of Books, Book, Curtain x2
  • Mayor's Office: Table x3 (in a row), Planner's Stationery (put along table), Sign, Bell (hit the bell to call everyone in)
  • Prison Cell: Chains, Pot
  • Execution Chamber: Chains x2, Guillotine (rare drop for defeating a pink dragon by the Material Islands snowy lake), Straw Mattress, Human Bones x2
  • Slime Room: Slime Eye x2, Slime Mouth, Slime Block, Slime Lamp
  • Light Room: Bench, Sconce x2, Fancy Sconce x2, Brazier x2, Tall Brazier x2
  • Lava Room: Lava blocks x6 (dig a hole for them), Stone x3
  • Dragonfly Room: Filthy Water blocks x6 (dig a hole for them), Reeds x3, Dead Tree
  • Demonlord's Throne Room: Hargon Chapel already built, Demonlord's Throne, Demonlord's Banner Flag x2, Peculiar Pillar x2
  • Pot Chamber: Chest, Pot x5
  • Mushroom Chamber: Chest, Fungus (Any) x6
  • Wrecking Ball Room: Wrecking Ball explosive
  • War Room: Emblematic Table, Map, Wargame Piece x2

Down-to-earth luxury at Travelle

It has been a brutal three months for Chicago's restaurants. Beyond the Facebook Chiberia photos and scientifically illiterate global warming jokes lies the grim reality that the cold and snow of 2014 have kept Chicagoans in their homes and out of dining rooms.

Let us resolve to dine out more — in snow pants and boots, if necessary — in the coming weeks. And Travelle, the 8-month-old dining room within River North's equally young Langham Hotel, is a good place to start.

Devoid of exterior signage (the Langham is in the former IBM Building, a designated Chicago and historic landmark), Travelle does good weekend business (which will improve as word spreads about the sleekly attractive 81-seat river-view lounge) but is dragging during the week.

Tables are readily available the only question is when to dine. There's a breakfast menu of considerable ambition, offering a half-dozen eggs Benedict variations with Burgundian, Moroccan and even Norwegian influences. Lunch features imaginative sandwiches and a three-course, built-for-speed "Wabash Express" menu ($29). And dinner — well, dinner is when Travelle really gets interesting.

Chef Tim Graham, formerly of Tru and opening chef at Paris Club, presides over a seafood-focused menu that makes much use of Middle Eastern spices. A carpaccio of raw snapper, for instance, is topped with bits of white anchovy (standing in for salt) and sprinkled with za'atar (an herb and spice blend) a duet of suckling pig with crispy pork belly sits over pieces of kuri squash, fig and green olives, surrounded by a pork jus seasoned with fennel and cinnamon.

Many restaurants offer charcuterie — it's practically a law these days — and Graham dutifully offers salumi and cheese boards. But he also fashioned an imaginative "seacuterie" of ocean-inspired creations that mimic the textural range of a good charcuterie board. They include a smoked salmon terrine with olives and mustard butter, a mosaic of octopus reminiscent of head cheese, sturdy chunks of pickled mackerel and spreadable whitefish rillettes. It makes a fine, shareable starter.

Further into the menu you'll find goodies like California spot prawns, split lengthwise and dressed with olive oil, diced chilies and mint and crispy flatbread topped with crumbled merguez sausage and olives. Smallish pastas include house-made tortiglioni with wild boar ragu, and lemon thyme risotto topped with Parmesan crisps. (You can flesh out the risotto by adding lobster meat for an extra $18, and apparently quite a few guests do just that.)

The what-on-earth starter is dubbed "flaming saganaki wings," and, indeed, these meaty chicken wings, marinated in lemon and oregano, are flamed tableside (with 151-proof rum infused with fennel). What rescues this from utter gimmickry is the fact that they taste delicious, especially with the harissa-aioli accompaniment.

"It's a way to bring down the luxury-dining-room pretension," Graham says. "I can't believe they let me do (the dish)."

Main courses include some excellent fish dishes, notably arctic char with a tangerine vinaigrette, and a striped bass atop toasted cauliflower and hazelnuts, surrounded by a thin ring of pomegranate molasses. There also are a few steaks on the menu (it's a hotel dining room, after all), of which the hanger steak, a flavorful slab of sliced beef that's accompanied by fries and bagna cauda, is the most affordable and interesting (though serious beef lovers might take on that $62, 28-ounce porterhouse for two).

Pastry chef Scott Green marries the Middle East to the Midwest with goodies such as the Nutella baklava, a nut- and Nutella-filled pastry served with cocoa nib crisps and orange gelee domes topped with gelled balsamic droplets. A pithivier cake, sitting on a puff pastry base, includes bruleed grapefruit and honey ice cream and pink bits of Campari gel. Salted caramel makes the dark chocolate terrine a memorable sweet, and poached apple in caramel with vanilla ice cream is pure Midwest.

Travelle is well equipped to provide a luxury dining experience (see my story on the Seafood Elevation, above), but pains have been taken to keep the restaurant down-to-earth. This leads to some mixed messages, though. Luxurious napkins and table appointments and wide, cream leather chairs speak to high-end dining, but the lack of tablecloths and white-on-beige palette suggest something far more casual. But it's a very comfortable space, and for visual interest there's the glass-enclosed display kitchen that Graham dubs the "chef-quarium."

But it's nice to see a restaurant this well-appointed offering its entrees (those few luxury items aside) below the $30 mark. The same holds true of the 1,600-bottle wine list, which has all the indulgences one might expect but includes budget-friendly bottles as well.

One thing I wish would go away is the feedback card, which arrives with the check. A card that invites diners to rate "enthusiasm and genuine service" and "beverage quality and variety" on a poor to excellent scale is something I expect to encounter at a chain restaurant, not a dining room that is striving to be so much more.


Don Bu Don

DonBuDon, meaning "do you understand", is a play on the Taiwanese word for a rice bowl meal. Which in turn is a loanword from Japanese "donburi". The name embodies the multicultural heritage of Taiwan and at the same time denotes a light-hearted break from tradition - which one might not understand at first. The cuisine here is not traditional Japanese nor is it Taiwanese - but a modern and elevated reinterpretation of donburi and omakase-style dining without pretension or having to spend hours sitting at a meal.

For the uninitiated, choose from a diverse selection of donburis and sides. They are all masterfully put together with the best ingredients, but for a taste of DonBuDon’s essence try the shabu Japanese wagyu and fresh seafood bowl -- the pairing is untraditional but divine. For the next level, trust in the seasoned chefs for a unique omakase dining experience customized to each guest's needs and dietary considerations. This is truly the star of the show and a delight to the senses.

And for those who enjoy a tipple, there is an exclusive menu for pre-dinner aperitifs and after-dinner digestives designed and served by the mixologists from the upstairs speakeasy bar Oopsy Daisy.

It all may sound difficult to imagine, but after the experience, you will understand!


6 Changing Room

The Changing Room lets all the NPCs change out and upgrade their gear so they can ultimately be more helpful in combat situations. Most players in the early game won't realize the benefits until they're left alone with a magical enemy and no backup.

As soon as players start to come up against increasingly difficult monsters, the weak gear of the NPCs will be more and more noticeable. The bigger the room and the more gear that gets put in, the more numbers can help out in battle.


Taralli

Though many recipes boil the taralli before baking them, my mom’s does not. (Her recipe comes from her aunt they were all from Campania, in southern Italy.) And it uses yeast. The dough is pretty oily, which makes for crisp taralli. It also means you won’t need to flour the board for rolling the taralli. The taralli take on other flavors with aplomb. Mix in a tablespoon or two of anise or fennel seed, if you like.

1 package (¼ ounce) yeast

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)

1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)

2 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Stir the yeast into ½ cup warm water in a small bowl until dissolved allow to proof until foamy on top, 10 minutes.

2. Mix the flour, salt and pepper to taste in a stand mixer with the hook attachment on low speed just to combine. Add water and yeast mixture and the oil. Mix to combine, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Turn mixer to medium mix until dough comes together into a ball. If the dough is not coming together, you may need to add up to 2 more tablespoons warm water. (Alternatively, mix in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.)

3. Turn out the dough onto a dry wooden board you won’t need to flour it. Knead until dough has a springy consistency, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to rest in a warm place until nicely risen, about 1 hour. (It will gain about 50% in volume.)

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Turn dough out onto a dry board. Flatten slightly with your hands. Using a bench scraper, section dough into 4 long portions. Cut those into 8 pieces each, about the size of a whole walnut. Roll a piece into a log about ⅜-inch wide and 12 inches long. Cut the log in half. Shape each log into a ring, twisting ends into a loose knot (really just turn the ends over each other). Transfer to a baking sheet, leaving a little room between them. They don’t expand much. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Continue with remaining dough.

5. Bake until nicely golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. The taralli keep in a covered container for a couple of weeks and freeze beautifully.

Nutrition information per piece: 42 calories, 2 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein, 75 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

Note: This recipe has been updated to decrease the cup measure of the flour. The weight stays the same.


Vegan Pasta E Fagioli With White Beans and Basil

Lauri Patterson / Getty Images

This vegan pasta e fagioli (literally "pasta and beans") is a heartwarming Italian stew that's perfect for colder evenings when you crave a dinner that will stick to your ribs. This high-protein vegan version of the traditional recipe features white beans for loads of healthy fiber and protein. They're cooked along with small pasta shells in a nutritious, Italian-seasoned tomato sauce with plenty of garlic, fresh basil, oregano and paprika for extra flavor. Make it with gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free meal.


Andaz Seoul Gangnam's Pot Steamed Korean Mussels In Asian Style Curry Broth

One dish I've been desperately craving is mussels. I'm a regular at my neighborhood bistro for mussel Monday, so when I found this recipe for garlicky mussels by Executive Chef Hamish Neale of Andaz Seoul Gangnam, I couldn't resist.

What you'll need:

For the curry paste (blend all together) :

  • 6 red chili's
  • 12 Korean chili's
  • 3 shallots
  • 14 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups onion, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp shrimp paste (or prawn sauce)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp fresh turmeric
  • 3 Tsp coriander powder
  • 1 ½ Tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp lime juice
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp sugar

For the Mussels:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 12 chili peppers sliced
  • 6 red chili sliced
  • 20 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 leeks
  • 5 shallots Slice
  • 3 limes cut into wedges
  • 1 cup coriander sliced
  • 3 Tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 liters mussel stock or clam stock

Instructions:

Heat up a large pan, add oil and mussels and sauté. Add mussel stock or clam stock, leeks, and sliced garlic then cover. Once cooked, strain and reserve stock. Remove mussels from shells. In another large pan add oil. Sweat garlic, shallots, and red chili. Add in blended curry paste and cook until aromatic. Deglaze with mussel stock. Add in Korean chilies and cover with lid for one minute. Remove lid and add coconut cream, lime juice, coriander, and mussels. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves, sliced chili, and a lime wedge. Enjoy with steamed rice or noodles.


How to Dazzle Without the Frazzle

At Regina Charboneau’s home in Mississippi, Thanksgiving typically involves 15 dishes and five desserts, including mustard greens, small pecan or berry-custard pies, butter biscuits, corn pudding stuffed with greens, and sweet potatoes with cranberry-jalapeño chutney.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

At Regina Charboneau’s home in Mississippi, Thanksgiving typically involves 15 dishes and five desserts, including mustard greens, small pecan or berry-custard pies, butter biscuits, corn pudding stuffed with greens, and sweet potatoes with cranberry-jalapeño chutney.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Twin Oaks Inn, an 1832 plantation house in Natchez, Miss. In 2000, Ms. Charboneau moved back to Natchez to raise her sons, Jean Luc and Martin. She runs a bed-and-breakfast at her Twin Oaks plantation house, and is the culinary director of the American Queen, a cruise steamboat that plies the Mississippi.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Clearly, Mrs. Charboneau, shown here with her corn pudding stuffed with greens, is not your average home cook. In the 1970s, she took a job making food at a construction site in rural Alaska to earn money to attend culinary school in Paris. In the 1980s, she ran Regina’s at the Regis in San Francisco’s theater district. In the 1990s, she opened the nightclub Biscuits and Blues a block away.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

She has developed an array of tips and tricks that can make the dinner seem elaborate and elegant without countless hours in the kitchen. Here, her corn pudding stuffed with greens.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Almost daily from early October, she takes calls from friends around the country who are deep in the holiday weeds. “People think they can do Thanksgiving all in one day and that is wrong, wrong, wrong,” she said. “I want people to be one step ahead, always. It’s just the key.”

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Ms. Charboneau putting turkeys in the oven at her home in Mississippi. She roasts heritage turkeys well in advance of Thanksgiving to make stock and to render drippings for gravy. For the holiday table itself, she has her brother smoke a few turkeys, freeing up the oven that day for heating the stuffing and for baking the sweet potatoes.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

With her oven free, she can make her ridiculously easy sweet-potato dish. She rubs the prettiest orange-fleshed sweet potatoes she can find with oil, kosher salt and coarse black pepper and roasts them for an hour or more.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Peppers being readied for the chutney.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The chutney has been made well ahead of time, of course.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

After roasting the sweet potatoes, she slices them in half and places them on a platter, adding a spoonful of sour cream and a dollop of her cranberry-jalapeño chutney.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

For the past few weeks, Ms. Charboneau has been making dishes that lend themselves to freezing. “The only thing I really sweat is what happens if the electricity goes out,” she said. “I am constantly checking the freezers.”

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

She makes the dough for her biscuits in advance, using a laminating technique that leaves streaks of butter.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The biscuit dough is cut into shape and then frozen.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

At the last moment on Thanksgiving Day, Ms. Charboneau pops the biscuits into muffin tins to bake.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The flaky biscuits, ready to be eaten.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The biscuits have seduced many guests over the years, including Tate Taylor, a Mississippi native, who directed the movie “The Help.” Last fall, he was in town shooting the James Brown biopic, “Get On Up.” He and cast members, including Allison Janney and Chadwick Boseman, spent their Thanksgiving at Twin Oaks.

Credit. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

NATCHEZ, Miss. — Regina Charboneau, who is much more organized than you are, will host 145 people at her house this Thanksgiving.

She is related to nearly all of them. Her family tree has been growing in this tiny charm of a town on the shores of the Mississippi River for eight generations.

Ms. Charboneau (and, to be fair, an assistant) will make almost every one of the 15 dishes and five desserts on her table, down to the Creole gravy and cranberry-jalapeño chutney. The day begins at 11 a.m., when her family arrives to eat Cajun sausages and tortas made with fresh fig preserves and walnuts. The sausages are a tribute to her father, who was raised in Louisiana and was the cook in the family. At 1 p.m., an uncle will say a blessing. Then Ms. Charboneau will shout, “God bless the cook!” and the guests will sweep into the grand dining room of her 1832 plantation house to eat.

If the day goes according to plan, it will all seem effortless. “I guess it’s the Southern belle in me,” she said. “I don’t like being frazzled, and I don’t like breaking a sweat.”

But indeed, she will have sweated, a little bit every day, since before Halloween, when she began her long march to Thanksgiving.

Do not let Ms. Charboneau’s superior planning skills send you into a spiral of hopelessness. The point is this: A brilliantly executed, low-stress Thanksgiving meal can be yours with a solid game plan, freezer space and some simple but delicious shortcuts.

And it’s not too late to start.

Mrs. Charboneau, 60, has developed an array of tips and tricks that can make the dinner seem elaborate and elegant without countless hours in the kitchen. Think of it as culinary stagecraft with a Southern twist.

Image

“Even if you can’t cook that well, you can take canned whole cranberries and layer them in a pretty glass bowl with some orange marmalade,” she said. “Little things like that make a difference. They add up.”

Almost daily from early October, she takes calls from friends around the country who are deep in the holiday weeds. “People think they can do Thanksgiving all in one day, and that is wrong, wrong, wrong,” she said. “I want people to be one step ahead, always. It’s just the key.”

Planning ahead means less work on a day when the house is filled with both people and expectations. Begin now, she advises, by writing a menu. Then gather all of the recipes, and start filling in a calendar. Make a prep list, noting dishes that can be made this week or the next. Make shopping lists so you won’t be running to the store a dozen times. “You need lists for your lists,” she said.

Hers are rendered in precise detail. In October, she begins saving drippings and making stock for gravy. A week before the holiday, she will bring up the wineglasses from the basement. Next to her notation for the Cajun sausages, she wrote, “Have Jimmy bring day before Thanksgiving on his way to hunting camp.”

For the past few weeks, Ms. Charboneau has been making dishes that freeze remarkably well. Don’t gasp. A good bit of her meal will have been in the freezer weeks before it is served. “The only thing I really sweat is what happens if the electricity goes out,” she said. “I am constantly checking the freezers.”

She has already filled two hotel pans with her beloved Natchez creamed spinach, and several more with two variations of dressing. The caramelized sugar custard and other components for her banana trifle are in there, along with disposable aluminum pans of brisket already sliced and in gravy. (Brisket has become a tradition ever since she went looking for an alternative to turkey, which she doesn’t much like, and decided that prime rib was too expensive.)

Five Weeknight Dishes

Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • This coconut fish and tomato bake from Yewande Komolafe yields a gorgeous, silky ginger-coconut sauce.
    • A tasty recipe for sheet-pan chicken and potatoes by Lidey Heuck is really nice without being fussy.
    • This vegetarian baked Alfredo pasta with broccoli rabe is inspired by pasta Alfredo, but with green vegetables added.
    • Kay Chun adds asparagus and snap peas to spring vegetable japchae in this vegan take on the classic dish.
    • You could substitute chicken or another type of fish in this summery grilled salmon salad from Melissa Clark.

    Clearly, Ms. Charboneau is not your average home cook. In the 1970s, she took a job making food at a construction site in rural Alaska to earn money to attend culinary school in Paris. In the 1980s, she ran Regina’s at the Regis in San Francisco’s theater district. In the 1990s, she opened the nightclub Biscuits and Blues a block away.

    Along the way, she became a biscuit-bearing Thanksgiving fairy to a parade of friends and celebrities, which explains why she has framed snapshots of Robin Williams, Shirley MacLaine, Tim Curry and Lily Tomlin on her bookshelves. Mick Jagger and other Rolling Stones are among her fans, the proof hanging on her wall in the form of Ronnie Wood’s self-portrait.

    In 2000, she moved back to Natchez to raise her sons, Jean Luc and Martin. She runs a bed-and-breakfast at her Twin Oaks plantation house, and is the culinary director of the American Queen, a cruise steamboat that plies the Mississippi. Her husband, Doug, recently took a sabbatical from his job in New York as a bankruptcy consultant to open a rum distillery in an old building next to the historic King’s Tavern in Natchez. The couple bought the buildings last year, turning the tavern into a restaurant with craft cocktails and brisket flatbread.

    “We just don’t want to be bored,” she said. “When you find yourself watching ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and looking forward to ‘American Idol,’ you think, ‘We need to get busy.’ ”

    She took over the family Thanksgiving shortly after they returned to Natchez and immediately upgraded the menu.

    Her mother, an expert hostess, had insisted on real plates and silverware the guest list got so big she had to wash them in the bathtub. Ms. Charboneau has moved to good-quality plastic plates and flatware.

    In one of her many nods to convenience over convention, she buys prepared pie crusts from a shop in town. Other shortcuts include using grocery-store hot-dog buns instead of brioche in her mushroom-brioche dressing. She also gets her brother to smoke a few turkeys. (She encourages novice cooks to consider buying a smoked or otherwise prepared bird so they can focus on making spectacular side dishes.)

    The Monday before the holiday, she moves frozen dishes to the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving morning, she begins heating them.

    The dressing bakes first. Piping hot, she packs it into white Igloo coolers until she is ready to put it into chafing dishes.

    With her oven free, she can make her ridiculously easy sweet-potato dish. She rubs the prettiest orange-fleshed sweet potatoes she can find with oil, kosher salt and coarse black pepper and roasts them for an hour or more. Then she slices them in half, nestles them on a platter and adds a spoonful of sour cream and an artful dollop of cranberry-jalapeño chutney. The chutney has been made well ahead of time, of course.

    “It’s effortless, and people love them, love them, love them,” she said.

    Last, she bakes her biscuits. She makes them in advance, using a laminating technique that leaves streaks of butter. They get cut and frozen. She pops them into muffin tins at the last moment to bake.

    Julia Reed, the Southern author, has eaten more of those biscuits than may be polite to admit. In a foreword to Ms. Charboneau’s latest cookbook, “Mississippi Current,” she calls them “the flakiest, most meltingly delicious biscuits I’ve ever tasted in a long and active life of tasting them.”

    The biscuits have seduced many guests over the years, including Tate Taylor, a Mississippi native best known for directing the film “The Help.” Last fall, Mr. Taylor was in Natchez shooting the James Brown biopic, “Get On Up.” He and many cast members, including Allison Janney and Chadwick Boseman, ended up at Twin Oaks for Thanksgiving.

    “It is extremely organized chaos,” Mr. Taylor said. “She has a rigid schedule she has been working for weeks.”

    The results, he reported, were stunning: a glorious Thanksgiving tableau dripping with elegance. “It just appears,” he said. “You don’t see the carnage.”


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