Marcus Pop Food: Food in Ft. Worth, Texas

Learning more about regional differences in American food is one of my favorite reasons to travel. In the South I have been to Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and getting to taste the regional variations in barbecue has been a great experience. I'm slowly getting this understanding of barbecue, this special cuisine, which isn't common for a lot of chefs in the North.

Last week I was in Ft. Worth, Texas. Every time I go down South, I learn a lot about food. Not just how you cook something, but about the culture of it. In Ft. Worth, the food is authentic and real. I sat with the pitmaster at Angelo's barbecue restaurant and spent three hours just eating ribs, brisket, and delicious sides. When you're at Angelo's, you are in and of a place; it's like a time warp.

Tex Mex is itself a reason to visit Ft. Worth. We had a great experience at Juanito's taqueria. When you walk in, the aroma immediately confronts you and you know the food will be amazing. The menus were all in Spanish, and the food was completely authentic. We had tacos with tripe and pig ear tacos, two things you don't see often in New York, only in the most authentic places.

Thanks to Tim Love and his team of cooks. They were great hosts and all his guys were excellent help at the Texas Restaurant Association's Show. Thank you also to Remington College, whose students were all-star helping hands. I am always struck by Texan hospitality and friendliness whenever I visit. I can't wait to get back down South to learn even more.

Marcus Pop Food: Why I Love Aspen Food and Wine

One of my favorite events in the food industry is Aspen Food and Wine Classic. All year long, I love going to all the food events, but this one in particular, the Classic, is fantastic.

The event is very special and feels intimate. I love getting to spend time with industry colleagues and hearing what other chefs are up to.  It's not on a world stage with hundreds of people, but you actually get to interact with each other and learn. This years group of Best New Chefs were all there, and meeting them, seeing what they're doing, and tasting their food was a great experience.

One of the best aspects of the Classic is getting to see what the new generation has to offer.  I'm really impressed by what all these chefs are doing, and especially the geographic diversity represented in the group. The best new chefs are from all over the country this year. It used to be that chefs were really concentrated in San Francisco and New York, and now you see someone fantastic cooking out of Birmingham, Alabama or Salt Lake City, Utah.

At the Classic, one of the dishes by a Best New Chef really stuck out to me. Stephanie Izard's dish at the event was spectacular. I ate at The Girl and the Goat last time I was in Chicago and really loved it.

It was really exciting to see all the emerging talent. I want to wish this years Food and Wine Best New Chefs congratulations-it's an amazing honor.

Marcus Pop Food: Aspen Food and Wine Classic 2011

Every year I look forward to the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. It's my tenth or twelfth year going, and each year it's amazing how much I learn from my chef colleagues. It's inspiring to hear about what they're up to, to be inspired to try new things, and to hear the feedback on Red Rooster.

It's been a really great trip already. Last night's barbecue at Jose Andres' house was a great start for the trip. I've been having a great time hanging out with my buddies, and discussing what's going on in the food world.

This morning started off on a great note. The Meet the Masters panel was truly inspiring. The panelists-Daniel Boulud, Judy Rodgers, Frank Stitt, and Jonathan Waxman-all had a lot of great stuff to say about the state of food right now, which challenged me to think about the message behind Red Rooster.

We've been open for about six months, and now the next step is about how we define our culture at the restaurant. Being here is definitely helping me with this progression.

When we're thinking about defining Red Rooster's culture, we want to get across is the sincerity of the message and the hard work. Sometimes you have a good night, sometimes you have a bad night, but in the end, you just want the sincerity and hard work to get through.

Like planting a tree, starting a restaurant grows down through the roots of the organization, and stretches up and out through the branches and onto the leaves.  The roots come from our message, our culture, and our team, which is still in development, growing, and expanding. The branches are our staff, connecting with customers, and spreading our message. We continue to grow and establish ourselves with in the community and in the meantime, we'll be learning and figuring it out.

I had a great time with the Stella Artois team at today's seminar and demo and tonight, I'm looking forward to cooking at the Bombay Sapphire dinner. One more demo and seminar tomorrow then hanging out with my fellow chefs for the rest of the weekend.

MARCUS POP FOOD: Seville Lounge - A Taste of Old Harlem

Living and working in Harlem, it can be easy to take the legendary spots for granted, places I walk past every day on my way to Rooster and hang out with my buddies, but there are great places to explore. If you are heading up to Harlem to eat at Red Rooster, then you've got to check out Seville Lounge afterwards, a great neighborhood joint.

Named for the old Caddy, Seville is an awesome old school bar with a great sense of history.

Sitting on the northeast corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 126th, Seville is a really fun place to spend a night hanging out. It's simplicity reminds me a lot of Africa, like Ethiopia's tej bets where men sit to drink honey wine and share local gossip, and the entire place has got a real sense of old Harlem. Decorated with colorful lights all year round, the walls have pictures of regulars and some famous people, too.

Guys are dressed in dapper Stacy Adams shoes, and the entire place buzzes with ladies enjoying blue and green drinks, fun jazz or blues playing on the stereo, and everyone having a great time.

When I think about Old Harlem, this is it.

MARCUS POP FOOD: The Sandwich

The sandwich. It's one of those foods that you can't help but love and definitely can't resist when placed in front of your face.

The sandwich is many things: flavorful and filling, stuffed with meat or veggies, and wedged in between fresh bread or some other delicious starch. But for me, there's much more to a sandwich than just yummy goodness.

I think it's the simplest yet best representation of a location, a personification of it's spirit.

If you want to taste a city, savor it's culture and feel the pulse of the people, you be sure to check out one of the down home spots and order the specialty sandwich.

That's the route I take whenever I visit somewhere new and want to learn about my surroundings.

Going to Reading Market and picking up a Philly Cheese Steak or visiting my favorite NOLA chef Leah Chase, and devouring her famous po'boy - that's how I immerse myself into the local food scene.

I love how a sandwich tells a story about a place. In Maine or eastern Long Island, a buttery lobster roll speaks to the abundance of the shellfish in the waters offshore.

Grand Central Market's tacos - yeah, it's a stretch - share LA's diverse history and rich Latin and Central American roots.

For me, it's also a humble tale, an American one. The sandwich has its beginnings in Europe but we in the US have shaped it and made it our own.

Through a sandwich, there's a sense of community and an experience of the people.

And the best part? It's affordable too. Rediscover America through the sandwich.