In the Palm (Springs) of His Hand

Acclaimed Chef Stephen Wambach Finds an Oasis in the Coachella Valley

The first thing I notice about Stephen Wambach when I interview him is that he smiles. He smiles a lot. It’s not just a polite smile that chefs give during interviews to appear engaged, either. It’s the type of wide grin that, every time it’s flashed, conveys a feeling of “I can’t believe this is real.”

It’s real, all right, and it’s earned. Some of the wattage comes from his new stint as Executive Chef at 4 Saints and Juniper Table, the two main eateries at the Kimpton Rowan Hotel Palm Springs, the Kimpton Group’s Palm Springs property slated to open November 2017.  The rest of its power comes from the journey he’s taken to get here.

“I didn’t take the normal path,” he confesses. “I grew up in New York and was interested in getting into the industry, but I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any formal training. When I tried to break into the business, the Internet wasn’t what it is now, so I went all over town dropping off my resume at all kinds of places. Eventually, I got a call from the Royalton Hotel in Manhattan, and that’s where I started. I’ll never forget how lucky I am that it worked out.”

Executive Chef Stephen Wambach

Landing the gig at the Royalton did more than work out. It sent Wambach on a career arc so stacked with connections and adventure, it almost seems like a pastiche from other chefs’ journeys. He’s worked with Michelin-starred chefs like Jean-Michel Lorain and Marc Meneau. His resume boasts stints at Michelin-starred restaurants L’Eperance in Burgundy and Restaurant Marc Forgione in Tribeca. He’s opened restaurants in Miami, Hong Kong, and Chicago; the latter city’s restaurant, Epic, landed on Esquire’s “10 Best New Restaurants” list in 2009. These merely represent a sample size of his achievements.

It’s also a career that’s seen its fair share of stories. “I had a chance to do a little work in Panama City,” he says. “When I’m down there, I get a call from a colleague, asking me if I want to help him open up a restaurant in Beirut. I thought ‘why not?’ Worst plane trip ever, by the way – it took me 40 hours to get there.”

Wambach’s phenomenal, globally-charged career demands that one question be asked: What leads a chef of his caliber to Palm Springs, a resort town of about 44,000 residents known more for its Sinatra-smooched past than its present? “It’s a quality of life thing,” he says. “I’ve been in big cities all of my life, and I love the quietness of the desert. I also like that I don’t have to deal with catching a subway or the hassle of a city commute. I can ride my bike to work if I want to – that’s refreshing to me at this stage in my career.”

While Wambach digs Palm Springs’ slower pace, he has no intention of blending into the scenery from a culinary perspective. This becomes evident halfway through the interview, when a waitress breaks in on Wambach mid-anecdote. “Sorry to interrupt,” she says. “We just pulled your cockscombs out of the freezer.”

“Thanks!” Wambach replies with a smile, natch. “I’m trying to create cockscomb chips for an appetizer,” he says to me nonchalantly.

He wouldn’t be able to hide from Palm Springs with or without the cockscombs. When the Rowan opens, it will automatically be crowned as the tallest building in Palm Springs.  At its top will be 4 Saints, a rooftop chef-driven restaurant offering dramatic views of the Coachella Valley landscape. The visuals alone promise to keep the place packed, but Wambach is refusing the venue to just be a pretty face. This is where the cockscomb chips will land if he pulls them off, and they’ll be joined by a host of other items ready to nudge the desert community’s palate forward, like foie gras bread & butter and sea urchin tofu with green apple-coriander salad, squid ink, and black sesame crisp. “I could take the easy way out and make it a place that serves burgers, sandwiches, and tacos,” he says. “But I can’t do that. The freedom I’m allowed to have at 4 Saints makes it too good of an opportunity to just play it safe.”

Rendering of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel Palm Springs

Wambach plans to balance his adventurousness at 4 Saints with Juniper Table’s more casual culinary approach. Situated on the ground floor, the eatery will be a more casual all-day option. Guests coming here can expect more traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner options with a touch of Mediterranean influence. “We want to make sure our guests have options,” he says. “Juniper Table allows us to provide something more laid-back.”

Regardless of venue, Wambach plans to govern both concepts with a distinct culinary philosophy that’s cognizant of his surroundings. “We’re in the desert, so I want to keep things clean and light,” he states. “We’ll have a big steak on the menu, of course, but there will also be plenty of fish options, and lots of dishes high in acidity. They’ll satisfy you, but you won’t feel uncomfortable like you may feel after having a big meal.”

As Wambach settles into his Palm Springs digs and preps for The Rowan’s November opening, he’s found constant inspiration from his cavalcade of previous experiences – it turns out working with people like Lorain and Meneau sparks creativity. It’s also been the impetus of great personal responsibility. “It’s my goal to teach my team of cooks to be the next generation of Coachella Valley chefs,” he says. “If you don’t teach, all of that knowledge you have dies with you. I don’t want that to happen. I was given a golden opportunity two decades ago by some incredible chefs, and I want to pay that opportunity forward to others. That’s how I think you measure personal success. It’s not what you achieve, it’s what those that work with you achieve.”

That’s something worth smiling about.

Thoughtful Sushi

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon an anecdote from a Las Vegas chef, regarding the Pixar movie “Ratatouille.” He organized a weeknight field trip to a local cinema with 40 to 50 fellow chefs to catch the last showing of the flick on a Tuesday night, after all the serious dining patrons had returned to the land of loud ticket-spitting machines and free cocktails. The collective nestled into their seats and quickly realized they had commandeered the theater, giving them the freedom to act and react any way they damn well please without judgment. According to the anecdote, when they got to the moment where the film’s eponymous dish whisks the mind of briquette-souled food critic Anton Ego back to his mom’s perfect iteration of the dish as a child, a chef shot out of his chair like a Mentos-addled soda stream and proclaimed, “You see? THIS is why we do what we do!” Nobody shouted him down. They were too busy nodding in agreement.

It’s a great story, veracity be damned. It’s great because the sentiment plays just as well on the other side of the kitchen. I live for these Anton Ego moments, where a simple bite of food alters the fourth dimension just enough to make you a temporary time traveler within your own psyche. They’re my favorite bites without question. I have no idea how my taste buds and my inner photo book occasionally connect. I don’t care, really. I’m just glad that it does.

The best thing about taking a memory-triggering bite of food is that you have no idea when or where it’s going to happen. It’s not unlike the old relationship axiom that everyone tells you when you’re a dorky teenager. You can’t seek it out, you just got to let it happen. When it does occur, it’s fun to bask in its afterglow and deconstruct how and why it took place. Sometimes this is easy for me to do – it’s fairly obvious why a bite into a juicy burger from a mom and pop joint may evoke memories of childhood family barbecues. Then there are times when the sensation stems from a place so esoteric, it nearly feels like cognitive dissonance. Having my childhood memories triggered by sushi in deeply suburban Orange County, California qualifies as the latter.

Yorba Linda is a pretty slice of affluent suburbia tucked in the far northeast quadrant of Orange County. It’s stocked with gently undulating foothills, and select streets are lined with wide white post and rail fences to prevent neighborhood horses and their riders from accidentally veering into the road. Its limited freeway access also makes it a trek for most OC residents to visit. The restaurant scene here tends to reflect this logistic challenge; the city is loaded with chains and neighborhood family joints that, while buoyed by the devotion of locals, aren’t very alluring to outsiders needing to contend with rush hour traffic and overstuffed weekend schedules.

There is one exception: Sushi Noguchi. It’s in a strip mall along Yorba Linda’s main drag, a few doors down from a grocery store and a couple of doors up from a liquor store. Its unassuming location boosts its trustworthiness – Southern California’s best sushi joints tend to be in strip malls. When you walk through its nondescript storefront, you’re treated to bright woods, black and white family photos and flourishes of color, some of which are provided by the beautiful hunks of fish lining the bar where sushi chef and co-owner Hiro Noguchi crafts his magic. You’re also in the presence of OC’s finest sushi.

I say this now because I’ve been there several times. When I initially heard about it, I had trouble getting past the specter of driving 20 miles for sushi. There were places near my neighborhood that satisfied. All I could think of when I heard colleagues talk it up was, “is it worth the drive?” This question weighed heavily at first, but the inquiry’s poundage inquiry kept dropping each time another colleague raved and showed me photos of their sculpture-quality omakase – and there were many colleagues. Eventually, I felt like a weirdo for not embarking on the journey. When I finally went, my enthusiasm equaled my curiosity.


That I was willing to drive for sushi is nearly a story on its own. I used to be an ugly American when it came to raw fish for reasons that can only be chalked up to flimsy rationale. I was a teenager when sushi made its first hard, widespread splash in the Los Angeles area in the mid-80s. When it did make the scene, local lifestyle shows like “Eye on L.A.” presented the Japanese delicacy as some wackadoo fad du jour followed by trend-obsessed Angelinos. My brain latched onto this treatment like canon. I don’t think that I was ever turned off by the concept of eating raw fish, but I was definitely put off by the notion that eating sushi equated to chic Hollywood silliness. I came from a blue-collar family. We ate relatable food like chili and meatloaf. Sushi was too gauche.

I carried this stubborn position with me until a summer night in 1998. I was ironically in Hollywood, helping a friend that needed a house manager for a play his fledgling theater company was producing. About a half-hour before the space’s doors open to the public, one of the actors speed-walked up to me, a quartet of sushi piece semi-sandwiched between black Styrofoam and sloppily pulled back cellophane in his left hand.

“Hey man,” he said. “You want this?”

“Uh…sure?” I replied nervously.

“Cool,” he answered, slapping the container on an adjacent table. I didn’t think about things; I just reached down, grabbed a roll, and popped it in my mouth.

“Crap. I like it.”

I now realize my abnormality. The proper response would have been to be wowed by the discovery of a new and exciting food that had unexpectedly entered my life. Instead, I reacted with a twinge of disappointment. I’m not entirely sure where the emotion came from, either. It’s still debatable whether I was saddened because I willfully avoided an awesome food for over a decade or because I felt like a sell-out. All I know now is that the sushi probably wasn’t all that great. Sushi packed in Stryofoam and cellophane seldom excites. I also know that every time I indulge in quality sushi, there’s a part of me that feels like I am making up for lost time.

My wife and I take a seat at Sushi Noguchi’s sushi bar. We have ordered Hiro’s omakase, per the recommendation of every colleague that had dined here before. The leadoff dish comes out shortly after we pour sake for each other. It’s a visual stunner. Radiantly hued sashimi festoons each corner of the triangular plate – tuna, salmon, and yellowtail, simple yet sensual. They’re arranged diagonally, and each piece naturally directs the eye to the center, where two gorgeous, burly rolls of uni wrapped in seaweed boldly stand. Their golden shade is too alluring to let stand for long.

I take a slow bite of the uni. The oceanic essence of flavor bursts in my mouth. My eyes close without shutting. I’m no longer looking at the plate where the uni once stood. Instead, I’m 12 years old, hanging out amongst the rocky outcroppings of Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, California, a few slippery steps from the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of a massive cliff. I’m precariously standing on a too-smooth rock, surrounded by tide pools of varying sizes. The brine fills my nostrils. The summer sun mildly taps my fair complexion. The surf and cliffs create a polyrhythmic beat as if it were a jazz fusion percussionist. I look down to spot a hermit crab in his latest makeshift shell darting from one crag to another. I look up and see my father on a broad, flat rock that’s dripping wet with the occasional intrusion of surf. His hair is not shock white. His knees have yet to betray him. He is the dad of my youth, the dad that still exists in my heart, the one that I still cling on to when I see him slowly amble to my house with hunched back and cane-addled gait. The visual lingers too fleetingly. It would have been too short if it lasted minutes. I return to reality with a slightly quivering lip.

“Everything okay?” my wife asks.

I breathe deeply. “Oh, yes,” I reply, leaning back in my chair. “I just had a moment. A very good moment.”

I finish off the uni, knowing full well that the next bite will not contain flashback material. That’s the way these things work. You cannot re-experience the unexpected once the veil has been lifted, no matter how transcendent the morsel. This seems especially true if the experience comes from highly odd origins. But I don’t care. A delicious piece of sushi sent me back and time so I could chill with my dad amidst rocky outcroppings. There’s no reason for me to get greedy.

About a month after my sushi-fueled fever dream, I’m in the midst of a father-daughters day with my two pre-teens. Our Friday morning excursion to the Long Beach Aquarium wrapped up quicker than anticipated, despite sitting down and watching a sea lion show and a documentary analyzing the Port of Long Beach’s insane daily bustle. Heading home isn’t an option given the summertime gorgeousness. I get an idea. We’re going to Point Fermin.

This decision is purely a product of logistics. Point Fermin is 25 miles from my house and tucked away from freeways. This normally makes it a pain to visit, yet the trip to the Aquarium cuts the slog in half. This make it perfect for me to pass my childhood happiness to the next generation.

We pull into Point Fermin’s parking lot, and the oldest excitedly points out the park’s centrally located lighthouse in a manner that I may have some thirty years ago. They scamper quickly toward the black and white-striped tower while I mosey behind under thick shade. The park is empty, save for the couple strolling hand-in-hand along the seawall. The chunky crunch of waves slapping cliffs grows with each step. It’s positively Kincaidian.

And all I can think about is Hiro’s uni.

My senses became engorged on the memory of this bite. The scent of the sea makes me miss the aromatics of the dish. I shut my eyes long enough to visualize the texture of the morsel. I breathe through my mouth to see if any tastes are triggered. It only succeeds in making me wonder when I’m going to get back there to enjoy the uni again, which I naturally hope is sooner than later – you know, making up for lost time and all that.

It’s a good thing Hiro’s uni keeps my mind occupied. Point Fermin is a fraction of what existed in my head. Its grass is unkempt and blotchy, its benches and pergolas distressed. The natural rock formation that leads to the tidepools I frolicked in is now forbidden territory, cordoned off by a hideous chain link fence. The barrier’s presence knocks me from my mental sushi loop long enough to recall the story of Mario Danelo, the USC placekicker who fell to his death around here. Even if the tragedy does not officially equate to the closure, it becomes self-correlation as I stare through its holes. I spy a pair of young guys slowly squeezing through a makeshift gash in the fence, carefully maneuvering past the sliced metal sticks that threaten to snag their T-shirts. Any personal temptation to do the same thing ends with my daughters’ voices. I sigh.

I gather the girls and head back to the car. Hiro’s sushi fades from memory by the time we hit the parking lot. “Did you have a good time?” I ask.

“Yes!” the eldest squeaks. “Can we come back and tour the lighthouse?”

“Sure we can!” I reply.

“Coolio,” she answers demurely.

We get back on the road, a big smile on my face. Sure, dropping by Point Fermin turned out to be a dud for me – apparently you can’t go to parks of your youth again, either. But I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that one day, there may be a day my daughters inadvertently flash back to the time spent at the park with their old man. Possibly because of a perfect bite of sushi.

The Race for Wine

It’s about fifteen minutes to midnight on a hot August night. I’m in front of my computer screen and fading fast, despite my best efforts to stay engaged. This isn’t easy, especially since I slept like garbage the night before. Nobody’s updating their social media feed, probably because they’re all in bed like I should. No new headlines are popping up on my favorite news aggregate site. The electronic Euro-style board game I have on my hard drive has ceased to be entertaining for the night. Even the heavy guitar riffs of Queens of the Stone Age’s “Rated R” album seems to lose its perk-up powers with each passing song. My eyes are heavy, my muscles tense, my butt sore. I want to stagger to my bed in the adjacent room and crash.

But I can’t. There are a handful of deeply discounted bottles of Zinfandel that’s one e-mail away from going on sale. I received the announcement of its impending delivery earlier in the afternoon. It’s the second such announcement I’ve received in as many weeks. I botched the previous sale because I failed to pounce when the it officially launched at 11:09 PM. I look at my computer’s clock. It’s 11:39 PM. They’re 30 minutes late.  “That’s cool,” I think while stifling yet another yawn. “That e-mail is going to hit my inbox any minute now. Yep. Any. Minute. Now.”

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The Zinfandel causing my self-inflicted suffering is a 2014 reserve from VGS Chateau Potelle, a tiny Napa winery whose French-sounding name may conjure thoughts of pinkies-out sophistication. I must confess to expecting as much when my wife and I stopped by there last May, on the strength of a colleague’s recommendation.  I must also confess that when we signed up for a wine tasting, we primarily did so because each sample was paired with bites from the Michelin-starred restaurant La Toque, with each duo enjoyed amongst the flowers and babbling water features ensconced in the tiny property’s garden. I suppose this also means I’ve just confessed to being occasionally frou-frou by proxy, but whatever.

The bites were terrific, but it becomes obvious to us after the second glass that the wines were even better. We gush this revelation to our server around pairing number four.  After he responds with gratitude and a brief rundown of the next glass, the question arises.

“So, what does VGS stand for?” My wife asks.

“It’s not what you think, he responds, grinning slightly. “Then again, maybe it is.”

She leans forward, brow furrowed. “Does it mean ‘very good stuff’?

“Close. Very Good Shit.”

So much for the extended pinkies. Our server says according to legend, when the winery’s founder had friends over to sample the wines he made, they’d ask him to break out the small batches of wine he’d reserve for select occasions. In early 1970s Napa vernacular, this equated to asking for not just the good shit, but the very good shit. The story alone compels us to give them our e-mail and our business in the form of a Zin and a red blend. We crack open the Zin with friends a couple months later, some 430 miles away from the property’s seductive setting. It’s delicious.

Hence the reason I’m struggling to stay awake. The bottles they’re offering is their modern-day very good shit, marked down to make room in their cellar for the upcoming harvest. I’m not missing out like I did the prior week, when naivete and stupidity overwhelmed my brain. I knew it was coming thanks to the advanced announcement, but I didn’t know what time it would arrive. When it did hit my inbox just after 11:00 PM, I froze. Specifically, the part of my brain in charge of telling my right hand to reach for my wallet went on strike. The rest of my noggin over-compensated with questions: “Are we sure we want the Zin?” “Did we really discuss getting a bottle?” Did we really discuss getting two bottles?” “Should I talk to my wife about this in the morning?” I went to bed conflicted and wine-less. I woke up to a big mistake.

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It’s now midnight. I’m done with hopping on Facebook and counting how many of my friends’ kids had their first day of school that morning. The Queens of the Stone Age have put away their instruments. I start to contemplate visiting Reddit, despite my better judgement. The email has yet to arrive.

The bed is calling out for me at this point, although that could just be the sound of our dog struggling to find comfort amid our home’s second-floor balminess. I want to give up, but I can’t – I know that Zin is going to live up to VGS in its non-acronym state. It’s going to be fantastic. I must persist. I must stay awake. I start having a weird sort of empathy for the main character in the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire.” Very Good Shit will apparently do this to you.

The night ends about as well as the story does for London’s unnamed protagonist. I give up at 12:15 on the dot, a couple of minutes after one final ping in my inbox reveals nothing more than a spam for a tactical flashlight. I shut off my PC and crawl into bed, far too tired to feel defeated by an email that never came.

The email arrived at 12:18.

I try in vain to buy a bottle the next morning. Alas, my purchasing power proves to be futile against those that stayed up three extra minutes longer than me. The loss I couldn’t feel when I drifted to slumber hits me with the force of Negan’s barbed-wire bat. It’s a little tough to focus the rest of the morning. Yet as the day progresses, I find resolve. I’ll be better prepared to hunker down for a late night the next time Chateau Potelle drops a deal like this in my inbox, whenever that may be. I just need to figure out how to appropriately ready myself. Perhaps I’ll throw on the latest Queens of the Stone Age album while I wait.

California Foie Flap: Hold the Panic

Last Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was once again free to enforce a ban on foie gras. PETA rejoiced. Chefs bristled in anger. The news came so abruptly, it felt like an end-of-the-week data dump. Its swiftness caught Michelin-star chef Josiah Citrin of Santa Monica’s Melisse off-guard, and it also caused mass confusion amongst diners. I saw more a few people on my social media feed fearful that they had just a couple of days to sneak in a sliver of fatty goose or duck liver before it disappeared from the menu.

Fear not – now is not the time to rush out and stuff your face with foie. It’s not going anywhere, at least for the near future.  The ruling leaves a two-week window for groups to appeal the decision. When this happens, it will initiate a process of deliberation that will effectively put the kibosh on implementing the ban for months. This is most assuredly a “when” and not an “if” scenario. The most famous name in the foie gras game, New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras, has already gone on record saying they’ll appeal the ruling, much like they did when the first ban dropped in 2012. By the time you read this, they may have already filed their appeal.

You shouldn’t panic about never being able to eat foie gras in California again, either. The ban restricts the selling of foie in restaurants, but not necessarily the serving of the delicacy. This creates a massive legal loophole that renegade chefs were happy to exploit through complimentary foie and unusual marked-up offerings five years ago. Thanks to this loophole, a $32 serving of crostini bread with raspberry compote wasn’t an oddity. It was code. That completely legal dodge is still part of the ruling, and I suspect that if the ban does go into effect, a greater number of chefs will take advantage of its presence. It probably won’t take too much leg work to find these rebels, either.

If you’re against the ban, don’t treat this ruling as an impetus to engage with the ruling’s ardent, sign-toting supporters. If you enjoy foie, the ruling undoubtedly upset you. Even if you’re ambivalent toward the delicacy, you may view the decision as an intrusion of personal freedom, something that you may find as digestible as a fast food burrito consumed at 1:00 AM. In either case, chances are great you’re socially ensconced in a social hive of like-minded individuals, ready to commiserate over the potential loss of a culinary indulgence. It’s in your best interest to keep it confined to such strata.

The most vocal advocates of the ban tend to be extremists in the animal rights movement. This is certainly the sector of the anti-foie movement that gets the most attention. Giving death threats to chefs will grab a fair share of headlines. These unsavory people are nothing more than a rich vein of frustration for foie aficionados. They are not interested in having genuine discussions with you about the issue, but they have no problem prodding and provoking to get a rise out of you. If I may be so bold as to inject a little hockey parlance, they are the equivalent of an on-ice agitator; a player that will engage in dirty, if not occasionally dangerous, play, but will turtle and hide when confronted by their actions. These players and their actions tend to remove dignity from the game (more so than the “goons,” but that’s a topic I’ll dive into if I ever start a hockey blog). Conversely, the loudest of the anti-foie advocates tend to strip relevance from the general cause of animal rights due to their behavior. This sector also seems to lack regard or awareness of the damage their actions do to their general ideology, which makes them look unhinged. That’s reason alone to not engage with them, no matter the promise of catharsis you may think it may offer.

However, if you side with the foie ban yet reject such pot-stirring tactics, this is the time to let your voice be heard. The crux of the foie flap is almost wholly focused on a lack of humane treatment of geese or ducks. When this nugget is not forcibly encamped in “good vs. evil” slots, it can become a touchstone to explore overarching concepts of growing and raising food. If you’re a rational ban supporter, you’ll find those on the other side of the fence more than willing to engage in this level of conversation. There’s a reason for this. When food is elevated to a certain degree, it can double as a key component of an ongoing educational process driven by the discussion of concepts and ideals. A talk about the ethics of foie gras and how it correlates to humane methods of food production fits this process rather well. It’s a discussion worth having. Unfortunately, because of the extremists that lay claim to your point of view, you will have to be the one to initiate the dialogue. But don’t be afraid to start this conversation. Instead, take comfort in knowing the late Charlie Trotter was on your side.

There will be plenty of time to have this type of talk. Foie gras is still on the menu in California, and will be for quite a while. Based on what happened the last time around, I don’t think the ban will survive the inevitable appeal process, although as someone that enjoys foie gras, this could be admitted wishful thinking. We shall see.

The Obligatory First Post

There’s a problem with first posts to any content-driven website, be it a blog, online magazine, or whatever its readers call it on their end. The first paragraph, like the one you’re reading now, doesn’t tell you jack about what follows, what to expect, or anything useful that a reader may be able to glean about the site’s content. This is no exception. In fact, it was pretty much written to get that whole first paragraph jazz out of the way.

But now that we’re all here, let’s just get formalities over with and allow me to welcome you to The Lazy Hunter. I hope you dig it, and I hope this isn’t the last time you drop by. The site may be sparse now, but that will change as time moves forward.

At this point, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Rich Manning, and I’ve been doing the professional freelance writing thing since 2004, although it wasn’t my full-time gig until 2010. Past and present publications I’ve written for include Gayot, Tasting Panel, Somm Journal, and a bunch of local Orange County magazines and websites. That’s the glamorous stuff. The ad copy and web content development that I also do is considerably less glamorous, unless an “About Us” page for Minneapolis plumbers somehow quickens your pulse.

More to the point, I’m a guy that’s grown tired of what has become of food, drink, and travel writing since it has migrated online.  A lot of what passes muster on these topics these days is either hyperbole-driven sensationalism or shiny, happy quasi-advertorial slog; bad trends made worse by the presence of ghoulish typos and mixed metaphors. It drives me a bit bonkers. Not because I want to say I’m better – I’m a writer, therefore I’m in constant fear that someone will discover I’m nothing more than a hack – but because I want something more as a reader.  It’s my sincere hope that I can provide you with something extra.

The concept of The Lazy Hunter is to share essays, stories, and news about food, drink, travel, and the ethereal spirit that somehow joins them at the cosmic hip. At their best, these stories will not break the cardinal rule of “show, don’t tell.” At their worst, they will hopefully be compelling enough for you to revisit here to see what may be next. For better or worse, the articles will not be clickbait. I’m not a fan of the style, and I will admit to having daydreams of it resembling a shadow in the shade one day. However, I resided myself long ago that those kinds of sites are here to stay, and their content will remain embedded in our social media feed because we have loved ones in our lives that enjoy sharing that kind of slop. I’m merely seeking out a way to co-exist as an alternative for those that want a little more substance out of what they read digitally.

It’s an alternative that doesn’t seek to tell you about food, drink, and travel.  Its aim is to show you why food, drink, and travel matter so much.  You’re not going to get beat over the head here with Instagrams taken from a media dinner so I can tell you how everything was amazeballs. What you’ll see instead is a dive into the observational and personal side of things, because those are the elements where passion and life experiences originate. These tales could be built around a conversation with a local chef at a farmer’s market.  They could touch on an annoying drink trend that is inexplicably ripping through the bar community.  They could convey the feeling of joy that can only come from accidentally stumbling into a nondescript hole-in-the-wall joint in some unfamiliar city in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances.  These are the things that stay lodged in our minds for decades, long after the edible elements of a quasi-unforgettable five course meal start to disappear.  These are the things The Lazy Hunter intends to share.

Some of the posts you’ll read here will be short and sweet.  Others may fall into the “print it off and go to the bathroom” length.  Regardless of length, I promise to be as genuine as possible at every turn. All positives and negatives will be organically cultivated and presented as such. Praise will be given to something or someone when appropriate and earned; criticisms will occur when necessary, but they’ll be bereft of needless bashing and self-righteous snark. Okay, maybe just a little snark. It depends on how warm my air-conditioner-free office gets.

The Lazy Hunter isn’t going to be the “next big thing” or some such poppycock. It’s simply a place where stories can be told and news can be shared. Please enjoy.

Rich Manning

Founder and Chief Dork

The Lazy Hunter