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After suffering much Top Chef withdrawal from watching their masterful creations come to fruition week after week on Top Chef All Stars (Master's just doesn't have the same catty appeal) the only thing that will satisfy the hole in my heart is a cross country road trip to try these artists' food at the real Top Chef restaurants. From Midwest to the coasts, these Bravo stars have a hold in almost every major city. And it's a little strange that they put so little focus on where these magnificent gems are in America. So without further ado, your favorite chef-testant's livelihoods.


Richard Blais- Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta, GA


The ever worrisome winner combined his chic molecular gastronomy techniques with down Southern home flavors. Believe it or not, his restaurant re-modernized the burger with homemade condiments and milkshakes made of liquid nitrogen (and yes, Krispy Kreme and Foie Gras are actual flavors).


Casey Thompson- Brownstone, Fort Worth, TX


The girl next door and America's favorite winner of season 3 got her training from celebrity chef Dean Fearing at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, working her way up from prep cook to sous chef before leaving to accept the executive chef position at one of Dallas' most popular Asian restaurants, Shinsei. Thompson returned to her native Texas roots in 2010 to serve as executive chef of Brownstone Restaurant & Lounge in Fort Worth, spokesperson for Terrazas wine and also serves as a culinary ambassador for the Bay Area Red Cross.


Jen Carroll-10 Arts Bistro & Lounge, Philadelphia


The once mild mannered East Coaster surprised audiences with her take no prisoners attitude this season. Carroll returned to her hometown of Philadelphia after working as Sous Chef at New York's Le Bernardin, under the tutelage of Michelin 3-Star Chef Eric Ripert. She returned with him to Philly to open 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton, Philly.


Fabio Viviani- Café Firenze, California


It's no surprise that comedic and fan favorite, straight off the boat Fabio has his hands in not one, but two Italian eateries, Café Firenze in Moorpark, CA and Firenze Osteria in Toluca Lake, California. Viviani brings his Tuscan dishes and Florentine flair to Southern California and is also working on a line of signature gourmet food products, GoGourmet.


Stephanie Izard, The Girl and the Goat, Chicago, IL


The surprise hometown (and first female) winner of Top Chef, Izard opened her wildly popular gastrobistro the Girl and the Goat last summer. With patrons fighting for reservations 6 months in advance, she is in the process of opening her second restaurant, the Little Goat, a neighborhood diner/bakery later this year.

While the overwhelming majority of visitors to Kentucky do so for the ever-popular Kentucky Derby, there is one other major draw to the Blue Grass State, The Bourbon Trail.  With over 98% of the country's bourbon being produced in the lone state of KY, you can literally smell the sweet whiskey in the air. More than 1.5 million visitors from all 50 states and 25 countries have made the trek to the winding country roads of rural Kentucky to visit the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® in the last five years alone.


History of the Bourbon Trail


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In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers' Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon, and to educate them about the rich history and proud traditions associated with the US's signature spirit. With six of the best bourbon brands no more than 75 miles apart from one another, a turn by turn guide provides you with directions to each stop on the trail to check it off on your virtual passport.  Get a stamp at each and receive a complimentary t-shirt to mark your crowning achievement.


Trail Highlights


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Maker's Mark- Set on a really cool interactive estate (the wall photos talk to you), the impressive Maker's bottlers can dip up to 25 bottles a minute. The culmination of the tour is getting to dip your own bottles in the world famous red wax. And don't miss the bourbon ball samples!


Four Roses Distillery- In addition to sampling a variety of bourbons, visitors have the opportunity to view normal operating equipment that cannot be seen during production.


Heaven Hills- America's largest independent family-owned producer of Bourbon, the Bourbon Heritage Center gives you a special session in their unique barrel-shaped tasting room.


Jim Beam- The closest stop to Louisville, stop by the American Outpost and pick up a souvenir signed by Seventh Generation Beam family distiller, Fred Noe III.


Wild Turkey- Located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Master Distiller Jimmy Russell showcases his signature 101 proof whiskey.


Woodford Reserve- The oldest and smallest distillery in Kentucky, Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. Experience the only copper pot and triple distillation process.


Know Before You Go


Due to religious laws and seasonal brewing schedules, not all distilleries are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Especially on Sundays- don't make the trek to find your favorite brew house closed for holiday. Also, cell phone reception is a bit sketchy out in the hills so if you're trying to meet up with folks or using your phone's GPS for directions, have a backup meeting spot and print directions ahead of time.

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Madagascar cuisine is synonymous with large portions and plenty of spice. The island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa has produced excellent cloves, black pepper and nutmeg, but it was the cultivation of vanilla in the mid-19th century that secured the island's reputation as one of the world's great spice centers. The food in Madagascar incorporates all of these wonderful spices and is based around the Malagasy cuisine, which is a style of cooking that reflects the influences of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled in the country.


Rice is the main staple of the Malagasy diet and it is usually accompanied by some form of kabaka, which is a protein dish such as fish, meat, chicken, or beans, as well as vegetables, sauces and of course, some spicy seasonings. Other common dishes include ro, which is beef and pork marinated in vinegar, water and oil, then cooked with leaves, onion, pickles and other vegetables and seasoned with pimento, and ravitoto, which is simply meat and leaves cooked together.


Rice can also be accompanied by laoka, which may be vegetarian or include a protein and is typically cooked in sauce often flavored with ginger, onion, garlic, vanilla, curry powder. Laoka recipes are diverse and may include such ingredients as bambara peas with pork, beef or fish, shredded cassava leaves with peanuts, or chicken sautéed with ginger and garlic or simmered in its own juices in a preparation called ritra. In some parts of the island a side dish called romazava is served and consists of green leafy vegetables in a seasoned broth. Side dishes in Madagascar are generally served to add flavor and complement the rice rather than provide nutrients, as the rice is the main star of the show. Romazava is distinguished by its inclusion of anamalao flowers, which produce a mild analgesic effect when the broth is consumed.


Most Malagasy dishes are prepared in one of four ways: fried, grilled, boiled in water, or cooked with coconut juice and a spicy condiment known as lasary, which is made of chili peppers, green mangos, or lemons, can be added to enhance flavor. Food is generally prepared in a kitchen that is physically separated from the main house for fire safety. Meals are served in the house, on the veranda, or on mats placed on the ground outside the house. Lunch and dinner leftovers are warmed for breakfast the following morning. Breakfast consists of rice and a tea made of local herbs or leaves and sweetened with sugar.


Some alternative breakfast foods include boiled manioc, maize porridge, or fried cakes made of rice flour. Rice may also be prepared with varying amounts of water to produce a fluffy rice used in a soupy rice porridge called vary sosoa that is often served as another breakfast choice. Beverages are limited and water is the usual beverage served with meals. Rano ampango, or water boiled in the rice cooking pot, is sometimes served, as well.


If you're eating on the go, a variety of foods can be found in small kiosks and restaurants throughout Madagascar, most notably a wide selection of cakes and fritters known as mofo. The most common sweet treat is known as "Malagasy bread" and is made from a batter of sweetened rice flour that is poured into greased circular molds and cooked over charcoal. Other sweet mofo fare includes a deep-fried doughnut called menakely and a doughnut hole called mofo baolina. If you're looking for a more savory than sweet dish, try a fritter flavored with chopped greens, onions, tomatoes and chilies called mofo sakay or "spicy bread." Perhaps one of the most well-known sweet delicacies in Madagascar is the Koba akondro that is made by wrapping a batter of ground peanuts, mashed bananas, honey and corn flour in banana leaves and steaming or boiling the small cakes until the batter has set. Other delicious fare found on the streets of Madagascar include bonbon coco's or coconut balls that are made with peanut brittle, dried bananas and tamarind paste rolled in colored sugar, and a snack of deep-fried wonton-type dough called kaka pizon.


Known for producing some of the most superb vanilla and cocoa in the world, it is not surprising that Madagascar has so many sweet confections. Commonly called the "Vanilla Island," vanilla serves as a key ingredient in many of the country's desserts. Dessert in Madagascar is usually fruit flavored with vanilla, which sounds simple but with the number of fruits available in the country, it can often be a delectable choice for travelers. Temperate fruits found in Madagascar include apples, lemons, pumpkins, watermelon, oranges, cherries and strawberries, in addition to many tropical fruits like coconut, tamarind, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, loquats and guava.


If fruit isn't your thing, other desserts include koban-dravina, a Malagasy specialty cake made by grinding together peanuts and brown sugar and then wrapping in banana leaves to caramelize and bonbon coco, a popular candy made from shredded coconut and cooked with caramelized sugar. A firm, cake-like coconut milk pudding known as godro-godro is also a popular dessert among locals and travelers alike.


Whether you are in the mood for a little bit of spice and seasoning in a traditional rice dish or have a sweet tooth and are looking for a bit of flavor with infamous Madagascar vanilla, the island nation offers a wide variety of choices for all curious palates.


"One part bitters, two parts sweet, three parts strong, one part weak" is the rhyme Roger

Goddard of Cutters uses to explain the delicate flavor profile that makes his rum punch the #1 recipe in all of Barbados. Using only the finest locally sourced ingredients- fresh squeezed lime juice, Cockspur Old Gold Rum, simple syrup made from sugarcane, a dash of bitters, ice and freshly ground nutmeg- he hand mixes his rum punch every day so that each batch is handmade with authentic Barbadian TLC. Though the recipe varies slightly throughout the island with the biggest debate being the recipe for the "weak," (some use water, some use ice, some use orange juice), if that's the locals most pressing problem, I think they've got something right with the chill Caribbe an attitudes.


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Mount Gay Rum from Barbados is the oldest rum in existence, being distilled since 1703. Proudly displaying the country map on their logo, Mount Gay rum has notes of almond, banana, vanilla and moka, making the sweet island liquor is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. With tours offered daily Monday through Friday, sample the four different flavor variations- extra old, eclipse, silver and 1703 to taste and compare the different strengths, smoothness and hints that make Mount Gay one of the most beloved brands in the world.


With over 1600 rum shops on the island, it's a requirement of every church is to have one within walking distance. As the Barbadians proclaim, both facilities bring you closer to god. Clever.

 

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