The Cooperage American Grille Opens in Lafayette

Written by Ashley Almodovar
April 9th, 2014

Early last month, the long awaited and locally owned restaurant, The Cooperage, opened its doors in Lafayette, CA. This beautiful family-friendly restaurant has a stylish and comfortable atmosphere that is a home away from home. Customers will enjoy a delicious menu of American favorites such as a New York Steak or the restaurant’s signature burger – made with house ground Angus and all the fixin’s. For a healthier option, guests can choose from a great selection of salads made with fresh, locally grown and organic ingredients. If you’d rather have a quenching drink, make your way to the bar to indulge in fantastic vintage cocktails, diverse wines or beers on tap while watching your favorite sports team.


Why not take a night out with friends and enjoy some great American Grille at this amazing restaurant.



Bao Restaurant

New Authentic Asian Restaurant Opens in Fort Lauderdale

Written by Ashley Almodovar
March 26th, 2014

Just steps away from Fort Lauderdale beach, a new restaurant offering authentic Asian fusion cuisine is now open for business. Bao, meaning treasure in Mandarin or a fluffy bun, brings together complex flavored dishes with all natural proteins, local vegetables and tantalizing herbs. With its warm rustic and Indonesian atmosphere, locals will find Bao to be the perfect dining destination to enjoy great food and their favorite cocktails with friends, co-workers or family. If you like to watch the ‘back-of-house’ in action, Bao’s kitchen is exposed so customers can observe Executive Chef Mark Rivera and his culinary team create beautiful authentic Pan-Asian cuisines.


When in the area, be sure to stop by to indulge in Fort Lauderdale’s stunning sun-kissed beaches and the enticing menu at Bao.

Barrel Head Brewery

Now Open: Barrel Head Brewhouse

Written by Erica Bishop
March 19th, 2014

Bay Area beer fans just got a little bit luckier, as Barrel Head Brewhouse opened its doors in NOPA on St. Patty’s Day.


Located in one of San Francisco’s hottest bar scenes, the much-anticipated brewery and restaurant is the brainchild of managing partner Ivan Hopkinson and his team. Its interior is a mix of cool industrial openness and warm wood finishes. Currently, the restaurant serves guests from 11am to 2am weekdays and 10am to 2am on weekends.


Back in the kitchen, Chef Tim Tattan is dishing up a unique menu you won’t find anywhere else. Of his menu, he states:


I am so excited to have a hand in brewing the beer, crafting the food and making the best possible pairings between the two.  We strive to be a San Francisco favorite, but also a neighborhood destination.  My menu will have dishes that aren’t possible to make in a home kitchen, but for a price that allows patrons to come in three or four nights a week.  Guests can enjoy one-of-a-kind beer with great local food in a beautiful building.


While the brewery won’t begin producing hand-crafted hops for another 6-8 weeks, with 42 taps ready to start pouring, it’s definitely worth the wait.


Congratulation to the Barrel Head Brewhouse crew on your grand opening!

Choosing Restaurant Dinnerware

Choosing Restaurant Dinnerware that Complements Your Concept

Written by Ashley Almodovar
March 12th, 2014

While for most of us, the role of dinnerware in restaurant dining rooms isn’t something we consider, for restaurateurs, chefs and foodies, the choice of plateware can make the difference between a great presentation and a truly poor one. It’s an important component of the whole look of your restaurant. We know you want to make an everlasting impression on guests that dine at your restaurant, so here are some tips to consider when choosing the perfect dinnerware.


  • Ambiance. Think about what it is you really want to portray in your restaurant. Is it a fine dining or casual establishment? Refined and sophisticated? Fun and trendy? Warm and colorful? For a finer dining atmosphere, opt for porcelain or china plates, while for casual atmospheres, choose  melamine or plastic dishes. To get a trendy feel, use square plates, such as Churchill X Squared. To create a more fun vibe, add a little color to the table, like with Steelite Anfora Sedona.


  • Mix and Match. Look for dinnerware that complements the feel of your restaurant. If you have white dinnerware, experiment by adding colorful accents or shapes to your setting. Even different textures can be a great way to express your creativity. However, if you prefer to stick with the timelessness of bone china, try mixing in accompaniment pieces in various shapes to give your setting a different look while keeping it simple, too.


  • Budget. Have a specific budget in mind, but also consider the value of your purchases. Keep in mind, buying better and more durable pieces now that are a little more expensive could save you more cash in the long run. Great quality china will not scratch as much when stacked, as the bottom is smooth and it is more resistant to markings left behind by flatware. Dinnerware for commercial settings is generally priced higher than for the home, their heavy-duty durability is well-worth the investment.


  • Intended Use. If your restaurant serves some dishes on hotplates, look into choosing dinnerware that can withstand the high heat and investing in underliners. Shop for plates and bowls that are microwave-safe or oven-safe, which will be more durable and long lasting. Also, don’t forget about Sizzle Platters, which are a great way to serve steaks and other piping hot cuisines.


When selecting your dinnerware, be sure to take the time to choose the right options that fit your restaurant’s concept. It’s important that the first impression is a great one that leaves customers eager to come back again and again.

Brandon Hernandez, San Diego Reader

Q&A with Brandon Hernández of San Diego Reader

Written by Erica Bishop
March 12th, 2014

San Diego may be best known for its surf and sun, but the county is quickly becoming recognized for its burgeoning craft beer scene. The area boasts a diverse range of breweries, brewpubs and brewery-restaurants, not to mention an annual beer week, numerous brewery tours and, soon, accommodations tailored to the traveling beer connoisseur.


If you’re looking to understand the ins and outs of San Diego’s booming beer scene, then grab a brewski and check out the latest beer news from local writer Brandon Hernández. An award-winning journalist, Hernández is passionate about his hometown’s craft beer culture and has turned his obsession into a thriving freelance writing career as well as a coveted communications position at the largest craft brewery in Southern California. He frequently pens a column for San Diego Reader and has contributed hops-inspired articles to a slew of industry publications, including San Diego Magazine, Imbibe and Beer Magazine.


In our interview, Hernández shares which brew trend will be hot this year and reveals his inspiration for creating the area’s first comprehensive guide to more than 80 local breweries.


R.W. Smith: You are San Diego’s top craft beer journalist and a contributor to many local and national publications, including San Diego Reader. How did your writing career get started, and why craft beer?


Brandon Hernández: My road to beer and food writing was both long and uncommon. Since junior high school, I’d written fiction as a hobby. After high school, I developed an obsession with the culinary arts and immersed myself in them for over a decade. Along the way, I discovered craft beer—I was lucky to have never had macrobreweries’ bland industrial interpretation of beer, so it was easy to fall in love and avoid substandard imitations. I also had the good fortune of having Food Network select and spotlight one of my award-winning recipes. That led to a return performance as a consultant to Emeril Live. My efforts with Food Network lit a fire inside me. I wanted to devote my energies and my culinary knowledge to a career in food, but I was in the midst of a career I’d worked hard to establish and not in a position to pursue kitchen work. A friend of mine who knew of my writing suggested I reach out to local publications. I did and, within 24 hours, had assignments from three publications.


Over the next seven years, as a result of diligent work, tenacity and assistance from industry contacts, I have become one of San Diego’s most prolific food and beverage journalists, and the county’s most keyed in craft beer voice. I was one of the first to focus on the latter medium, and the first to contribute articles on San Diego’s craft breweries (well over 80 operating brewhouses in the county at the time of this writing) to many of the area’s magazines. Back when I was pitching round-ups of the brewing scene, editors were confounded by the subject and leery of freeing up page space for it. I was ahead of the curve, but recognized the exceptional nature of the high quality ales and lagers being produced by San Diego companies, and fought hard to win some ink for the industry.


Fast forward to present day and San Diego is considered by most to be the craft brewing capital of the United States. Local brewers are celebrated nationally and by the county’s residents. It’s rare to come across a publication that doesn’t feature beer in some significant way, and I am proud to have, in some small way, helped to make that happen. Craft beer is a driving force in my life and something I very much appreciate and feel honored to have a platform to support.


Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries by Brandon HernandezRWS: Last fall, you published San Diego Beer News Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries, which takes readers through nearly 80 local craft beer brewhouses and tasting facilities. What motivated you to create this in-depth guide?


BH: No definitive guide to what is arguably the country’s finest craft brewing landscape existed, so I created one. But in doing so, I avoided approaching the subject of San Diego’s breweries in the manner most every other journalist reporting on the subject does—as a cheerleader only expounding on the many positives. As with any type of business in any region anywhere, there are great operations, there are good operations, there are so-so operations and there are some that fall into the unacceptable range. Anybody interested in a guide to a region’s breweries will naturally want to know what category those breweries fall into rather than read a glossy, all-sunshine production that reads like it was put together by the local chamber of commerce. I endeavored to give readers the truest interpretation of craft beer quality in San Diego County on a business-by-business, venue-by-venue basis, drawing on the educated opinions of local bar owners, brewing industry personnel, beer experts (Cicerones) and quality control professionals. The result is a guide containing numerical scores mirroring the Zagat Review (for which I am a local editor) in three categories—beer quality, service and setting. It is the only critical guide to what is a fascinating region for artisanal ales and lagers that should be a required entry on any craft beer lover’s bucket list.


RWS: We noticed you’re the Communications Specialist at Stone Brewing Co. That sounds like a pretty interesting job! Tell us, what is a typical day is like?


BH: Honestly, there is no typical day. Like most craft breweries, Stone has a lot going on, usually all at once. My day begins with triage, assessing which projects—new beer promotion, bottle and packaging text generation, social media content development, blog post writing, long-term planning, internal communication, imagery coordination, event planning, etc.—require the most immediate attention. Since it’s all about the beer, tasks related to it are hammered out first. The best part of my job, and something I try to do as often as possible, is taking fans behind the curtain and giving them as many glimpses as possible at what life is like here at Stone as well as what we have in the hopper. Being a craft beer enthusiast, I know this is what people like me want and it is both a privilege and a joy to get to share this amazing place and the talented people I work with to Stone fans. Though always busy (often too busy), it is an extremely fun and rewarding job that falls directly in line with my core passions and skill sets. And did I mention there’s beer there?


RWS: Any craft brewing trends making their way on to the local scene this year?


BH: Imperialized everything—high-alcohol beers in every style one can think of—have been the norm in San Diego for some time. By and large, brawny, big character beers are what locals crave (as do outsiders consuming our beer abroad), but there is a growing demand for session beers—low-alcohol ales and lagers imbibers can consume several of without succumbing to deeper degrees of inebriation. There is one condition, however. San Diegans are not willing to give up the big flavor of their imperial beers. Session beers, which generally come in at 4.5% alcohol-by-volume or lower, need to pack the tasty punch of big beers to be considered viable alternatives. Fortunately, more and more breweries are picking up the gauntlet and laying down seriously flavorful and pleasantly sessionable brews, thus further diversifying San Diego’s sudsy portfolio.


RWS: Spring is nearly here in San Diego. Which seasonal food and craft beer pairing is your favorite?


BH: I could never choose just one pairing as my favorite, but when I think springtime, my mind conjures images of the many seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs hitting their stride. To me, few beer styles convey the green, vibrant nature of spring and its edibles as well as saisons. Spicy, flowery and effervescent, these ales hailing back to farmhouses in Belgium and France pair beautifully with the season’s bounty thanks much in part to yeast-borne fruit and funk.



Brandon Hernández is a native San Diegan and award-winning journalist with a passion for the culinary arts and all edible and quaffable fare. He is an editor for Zagat Survey and a communications specialist for Stone Brewing Co. In addition to his work for the San Diego Reader, he is also the San Diego correspondent for the nation’s oldest craft beer publication, Celebrator Beer News, and a contributor to national outlets including Wine Enthusiast, All About Beer, Imbibe, The Beer Connoisseur, Beer West, USA TODAY and Tasting Table. He has served as a consultant for Food Network, and has contributed to numerous chefs’ cookbook projects. His book, San Diego Beer News Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Renaissance Phoenix Logo

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel Welcomes New Executive Chef

Written by Ashley Almodovar
March 12th, 2014

The Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel recently welcomed one of its newest members, Judson Branch, to their hotel family. In December 2013, Judson Branch joined as the New Executive Chef of ICON Lounge and Marston’s Café. Chef Branch brings a wide variety of culinary creations, including American favorites made with locally grown produce. He even has his own herb garden located on the rooftop terrace.


Chef Branch is a past Food Network’s Chopped contestant, where he won 2nd place! And recently, both the Executive Chef and the Renaissance Phoenix culinary team won the silver medal at the Devour Phoenix Food and Wine Classic 2014 with pork trimmings, flour and spices dish.


Congratulations to Chef Branch and the culinary team! We wish you continued success at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Vee Quiva

Recent Project: Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino

Written by Ashley Almodovar
March 7th, 2014

Project: Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino – Gila River Gaming Enterprises, Inc.


Opened: July 2013


About Company: Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino is owned by the Gila River Indian Community and food and beverage operations are managed by Ovations Food Services. Located in Laveen, Arizona, Vee Quiva, meaning Mountain West, is a place where guests can enjoy playing slots, bingo or tables, and be entertained by live music, comedy shows and special events. Guests have several fantastic dining options ranging from Panda Express to Ditka’s, a world-class all American dining experience from legendary Coach Mike Ditka.


Length of project: 1 year


RWS Contribution: R.W. Smith helped to create a smooth and efficient experience for Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino from their restaurants and bars, to their banquet facilities and in-room dining. From start to finish, our sales consultant developed several weekly presentations to showcase new trends and cost saving ideas. RWS developed a turnkey package that included all front of the house supplies, tabletop items and back of the house smallwares and light equipment. Throughout the project, items were delivered on time without any setbacks.  The client was very pleased about the quick and efficient service.


Partnership: RWS and Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino maintained a great and trustworthy partnership from the start of the project to the very last box of supplies. Our sales consultant developed the perfect package and provided the ultimate customer service experience to make sure every part of the package was done in a timely and professional manner.  This was a wonderful opportunity for RWS.


The level of service and professionalism provided by R.W. Smith for our project was outstanding from start to finish; from selecting product all the way through to delivery. R.W. Smith was an excellent partner.” – Ed Healy, Director of Food and Beverage.

Carolyn Jung

Q&A with Carolyn Jung of

Written by Erica Bishop
March 6th, 2014

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a whole slew of famous restaurants, food companies and food varieties, such as the Mission burrito. So it’s no wonder cuisine plays a large part in the Bay Area’s culture. From Fisherman’s Wharf to roaming gourmet food trucks, the city is truly a delight for local and visiting foodies alike. And who better to talk local eats with than a bona fide San Franciscan?


Meet Carolyn Jung, a former food writer/editor for the San Jose Mercury News who currently contributes to local publications such as San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco magazine. Her work also appears in national and international magazines, including Gourmet Magazine, Food Arts, Coastal Living and Wine Spectator. An award-winning food and wine journalist, Jung has received accolades from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors. Since 2008, she’s been musing about food and wine on her blog,, and in December 2013, she published her first cookbook, San Francisco Chef’s Table.


In our interview, Jung talks about how she discovered her love of food writing, what inspired her to create her first cookbook, and her tried-and-true tricks for cookie baking success.


R.W. Smith: As an award-winning food journalist, how did you realize your love of food writing?


Carolyn Jung: I always tell people that I was born in San Francisco to parents of Chinese heritage, so an appreciation of good food just runs in my blood naturally. I was the type of kid who baked every weekend – after finishing my homework, of course. When my best friend and I were teenagers and young adults, we didn’t give each other “normal’’ birthday and Christmas presents. Instead, we saved our money and took each other to Chez Panisse. That being said, I never envisioned being a food writer. Not at all. Most of my career was spent as a newspaper journalist, covering everything from plane crashes to trials to endless city council meetings. When I was covering race and demographics issues for the San Jose Mercury News, the food editor went on maternity leave, then decided not to return to the paper. Her job was posted on the bulletin board. I saw it, and thought about it for a brief second. But it was really my friends at the paper, who’d put up with me talking incessantly over the years about favorite restaurants and dishes I’d cooked over the weekend, who encouraged me to apply for what they deemed my “dream job.’’ Turned out they knew far better than I did. I applied for the job – the best career decision I ever made. I feel incredibly lucky to have turned what was a passion or hobby into my profession.


RWS: Over at the trendy food and wine blog,, you write about new restaurants, irresistible recipes and celebrated chefs. What was it like for you to witness the site’s rise in popularity?


CJ: Do you remember the scene in the movie, “Julie & Julia,’’ in which Julie, played by Amy Adams, checks her blog a few days after launching it, then screams with excitement when she gets something like three comments from people she did not know? I think every blogger gets that rush in the beginning. You put a piece of yourself out there in the blogosphere, much like throwing a needle into a haystack, and wonder if anyone will ever find you or ever read you. Certainly, it takes time, persistence and dedication. It’s been gratifying to see the site grow. What really amazed me are the wonderful relationships that have resulted. I have regular readers who have been following me since I was a food writer at the Mercury News. I have readers from as far away as Australia. And I have really sweet friendships with people I have never met in person or talked to over the phone. I know them only from the comments they leave on my blog or emails they send. One is a woman in Wisconsin who discovered me online and now sends me the most poignant emails about her family, her love of baking and the cheesecake bakery she once had.


San Francisco Chef's TableRWS: Before publishing San Francisco Chef’s Table, you spent many years as a newspaper journalist. What inspired you to compile your own book of recipes and chef stories?


CJ: Actually, it all just fell into my lap – or my inbox, more specifically. Lyons Press, which publishes this series of “Chef’s Table’’ cookbooks around the country, emailed me out of the blue one day, asking if I’d like to write the San Francisco Bay Area book. While the publisher already had done a “Charleston Chef’s Table,’’ a “New Orleans Chef’s Table,’’ and a “Santa Barbara Chef’s Table,’’ surprisingly there was not one focused on the Bay Area yet. I was thrilled to take it on. But I nearly had a heart attack when the publisher gave me only three months to complete it. It was definitely a challenge to get it all done. I think my head was spinning at times. But fortunately, I already knew the Bay Area food scene well, and had interviewed many of its best chefs in the past for my blog or for newspaper and magazine stories I had written. So, getting access to them or convincing them to participate in the book was easy.


RWS: As a native San Franciscan, you’ve sampled menus from all around the Bay Area. Where’s your favorite place to eat about town?


CJ: That varies depending upon my mood or what I’m craving. Certainly, I have a soft spot for the French Laundry, not only because I’ve enjoyed dishes there that just left me rapt, but because my husband proposed to me in the parking lot there. I love Incanto because Chris Cosentino is fearless in what he puts on the plate. Matthew Accarrino just amazes me with his creative take on Italian food at SPQR – all made in a teeny-tiny kitchen. State Bird Provisions is just plain fun. And what I wouldn’t give to live next-door to B. Patisserie so I could start every day with one of its impossibly light, flaky and uber-buttery kouign amann pastries.


RWS: You’re a self-proclaimed sucker for a well-made cookie. So tell us: what’s your secret ingredient for making a truly delicious cookie?


CJ: Great dark chocolate. Some nuts for good crunch. Patience to chill the dough before baking. Attention to detail. And the desire to put a smile on your own face – and on others – with something truly decadent that’s just the perfect size.

Renaissance Glendale

Customer Profile: Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa

Written by Ashley Almodovar
March 6th, 2014

With incredible mountain views and beautiful desert skies, Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa offers guests endless opportunities where they can enjoy a drink at Ray’s lounge or dine at Soleil, an upscale restaurant that serves delicious contemporary American favorites. Located in Glendale, AZ, the hotel is within walking distance from exciting sport venues such as the University of Phoenix Stadium and an array of shopping boutiques. We had the privilege of interviewing Ray Trom, Executive Chef, to learn more about Soleil Restaurant, the beautiful hotel and a little about  the talented chef himself.


R.W. Smith: Soleil Restaurant has a variety of American cuisines with a southwestern flair. What popular dishes do guests rave about?


Renaissance Glendale Lamb Dish

Ray Trom: Our Chorizo Hash Eggs Benedicts have been received well by our guests and locals. The dish is composed of local chorizo, fresh shredded potato and topped with chipotle hollandaise.  Also, our roasted rack of lamb, served with Oaxaca cheese and potato-filled Poblano pepper and finished with Chilcostle Chili Demi Sauce, is a very popular dish with out-of-town guests.


RWS: Looking back on the many cuisines you’ve prepared over the years, please share with our readers a particular dish that you considered to be special and why.


RT: I was adopted from South Korea when I was 12 years old into a small town in Southern Minnesota.  I developed my interest for cooking food when I couldn’t find Korean restaurants near me.  I would often buy ingredients and try to make Korean dishes.  I had no one to show me, but a small cookbook that I brought with me when I came the United States. This naturally helped me to develop my curiosity for cooking. When clients ask for “something different and exciting,” I often incorporate Korean flavors, ingredients, or cooking techniques to enhance guest experiences.  Korean Lettuce Wrap action station has been a great addition to our banquet events and, most importantly, I have fun.


RWS: What favorite kitchen tool can you not do without?Renaissance Glendale Teriyaki Dish


RT: Definitely my knives.  I take great pride in how my knives are maintained and how they are used.  When I was working at a restaurant in New York City, I was very fortunate to meet a Japanese Master knife sharpener in Korin who showed me how to sharpen and properly maintain knives.  I can always judge a cook on his or her first day based on how they use their knives and what shape they are in. You can tell a lot about a chef by how they take care of his/her knives.


RWS: Being located next to The University of Phoenix Stadium must have its perks and its challenges. What challenges have you encountered when preparing for big events or conferences?


RT: When we opened 7 years ago and Glendale hosted the Super Bowl after only being open for 3 months, we thought we were prepared for the event, but fell short in many areas.  However, we learned a lot about how to deal with a game day crowd and other unforeseen challenges.  We are looking forward to the next Super Bowl where a record crowd is expected.


Some of our challenges with big events and conferences are the guest demographic.  We host events where the world’s best engineers and doctors are the attendees.  We could also host events for local charity organizations on the same day.  Learning how to accommodate different groups of people is challenging and exciting.


RWS: What advice would you give young, aspiring chefs to help them be successful in their career?


RT: My advice to young and aspiring chefs is to make sure your passion for food and the business are genuine and sincere.  The hospitality business demands your time, dedication, sacrifice, passion and professionalism.  Learning how to balance out your responsibilities and personal life is tricky, but necessary to last in this business.


Giveaway: Win Bauscher Enjoy Dinnerware {Closed}

Written by Erica Bishop
February 24th, 2014

Update: Our giveaway is now closed. The winner of this giveaway has been contacted by email.


Enter for your chance to win!


Discover dinnerware designed to make a captivating impression. This lively and striking pattern is perfectly suited for restaurant, catering and hotel banquets. With international style and complementary round and asymmetric shapes, Enjoy collection will bring a little ooh la la to any tabletop.


You Could Win!

R.W. Smith & Co. has partnered with Bauscher to award one lucky winner with 12 sets of Enjoy dinnerware. Our 5-piece setting prize includes:



To learn more about Bauscher’s stylish dinnerware collections, visit


How to Enter

The Bauscher Enjoy Giveaway is open exclusively to our Facebook fans who are Restaurant Owners and Managers, Chefs and Food & Beverage Directors. Participants must provide location of current establishment in which they are employed or own.


For your chance to win, visit our Facebook page and fill out the required information by 12:00 pm (Noon) PT on Monday, March 3, 2014. One winner will be randomly selected on Monday afternoon and announced on our Facebook page at 3:00 pm PT. Winner will also be notified by email. Winners will have 1 week to respond before an alternate winner is selected.


Take this opportunity to win exceptional new dinnerware!


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