Musings from an International Top Chef: Dieter Koschina, owner and chef of Vila Joya Restaurant in Portugal

Kristen Oliveri of Pasta’s Kitchen sat down with Chef Dieter Koschina in Los Cabos to discuss his participation at food festival Sabor a Cabo, his restaurant in Portugal and his food philosophy.




On Prepping for the Food Festival:

Koschina was in Los Cabos for the Sabor a Cabo food festival where he was paired with local Cabo-based chef Chef Angel Carbajal the owner of sushi restaurant Nick-San. Once he arrived, the two chefs headed straight to the local food markets to choose their ingredients for a multi-course meal they were preparing for the festival. Key items include the likes of avocados, lemon, ginger, papaya, black chile and lychees, among others.

Next Koschina spent several days in the Nick-San kitchen, familiarizing himself with a new space, new cooking utensils and laboring over the creation of the menu. “I like the Mexican kitchen,” he told me. “It’s spicy.”

On What He Uses in his Own Kitchen:

He prides himself on working with only the freshest ingredients at his restaurant in Portugal. “The food comes to us very fresh, still alive with its soul,” he explained, adding that at Vila Joya the menu changes every day.

On What He Eats On His Day Off:

When asked what he likes to cook at home, he stated simply that he doesn’t. “When I have a day off, I go to the beach and I eat fresh seafood. I’m never home,” he said. “On those days, I go swimming. Too many people in this industry worry too much about the dollars. But what they really need is some time on the beach.”

About the Chef:

The pioneer and lodestar for Portugal’s gourmet cuisine is Dieter Koschina from Dornbirn. Born in 1962, the chef has been working for the restaurant of the luxury hotel Vila Joya in the Algarve since 1990. He was awarded his first Michelin star there in 1995. Prior to this, he spent time working under Heinz Winkler at Tantris in Munich as well as under Gerhard Schwaiger at Tristán in Puerto Portals on Majorca. Koschina also worked together with Eckardt Witzigmann, before the call came from Vila Joya, a luxury hotel directly on the Algarve. He has now cooked at Vila Joya for over 20 years, supported by some 20 co-workers, many of whom are Austrians looking to gather international experience – and he has thus simultaneously nurtured the next generation of elite Austrian chefs. Since 2013, Vila Joya has been ranked 37th in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The restaurant, which has been awarded two Michelin stars, combines local products with Northern European methods.


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The Daily Meal: Trump Doonbeg Ireland

In my recent article for the Daily Meal, I review the beautiful Trump Doonbeg in Ireland. Read all about the Christmas market and the stellar food and beverage program crafted for this newly-renovated hotel. 

The Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, Ireland, is any golfer’s paradise with a stunning course and sweeping views of the Irish coastline. While the golfing is top-notch, as is the scenery, it is now becoming a food destination all in its own right. The Lodge at Doonbeg joined the Trump Collection with a new name earlier this year and is already beginning to make its mark as a vibrant hotel with stellar food and beverage offerings.


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The Daily Meal: Hotel American Launches Rooftop Ski Chalet

Here is the latest on the Daily Meal where I review Hotel Americano’s new winterized rooftop concept, SNOB. New York City meets French Ski Chalet on the West Side.

Must try: Chocolate Mezcal Fondue

For the full story, click HERE.

One of New York’s coolest winterized outdoor spaces in the whole of the city is found tucked on the West Side at Hotel Americano. The hotel converts its rooftop pool and bar each season to a food and drink winter wonderland. This year, the restaurant SNOB has been transformed into a French ski chalet, complete with a fondue menu, that delights all of the senses.

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A Q&A with Milano Green Vodka

Kristen Oliveri of Pasta’s Kitchen sits down with Vik Shetty, CEO and Founding Partner of Milano Green Vodka to speak about their product, how it is made gluten free and how the company is shaking things up when it comes to sustainability in the spirits industry

new logo #Vodkasnob

Q:  When was the brand launched and what was the impetus behind it?

A: Milano Green was formally launched in New York in the summer of 2012, soon after our initial trials where we were awarded the gold medal at the San Francisco Spirts Competition and also beat some of the largest brands in the segment at the New York Ultimate Spirits challenge with a 91 point rating. (Belvedere scored 87, Absolut Elyx 84).

Other than the Italian craftsmanship, the impetus was to introduce a specialty vodka to a segment that is mired in synonymy and to create something that had its own natural flavor created using the world’s finest ingredients, and reducing the amount of processing required to create a world class spirit. It truly is from the heart of Italy and for the love of Vodka.

Q:  This is a family-run brand. Can you speak about the background of the family and who’s running the company today?

A: The brand is curated and crafted by an Italian family of viticulturists who have been in the wine and spirits business for the last 175 years. The eye for detail and quality is apparent in every sip.

The brand and company, however, is run by the Milano Green management team. We are spread across Milan, New York and LA and oversee the day to day management.


Q: What makes Milano Green unique in terms of flavor profile? How does it stack up against other popular vodka brands?

A: Milano Green is built on three uncompromising principles that are instilled in every step of its creation: Individuality of flavor, ingredient quality, and integrity of the production and promotion process.

With its flawless crystalline appearance, Milano Green has a distinct bold flavor profile with hints of licorice and grainy wheat cereal. That medley is followed by an exceptionally sleek and smooth finish with a silky texture on the palate.

Most premium vodkas today go through excessive processing, neutering the spirit and leaving it void of any character. Milano Green fills that void with a vodka that has character and an exceptionally smooth finish. Milano Green uses water sourced from the Italian Alps and is always unfiltered, cos we simply wouldn’t want to take anything away.

Q: Why do you focus on the green/sustainability aspect of the vodka?

A: Aside from environmental sustainability being an important element to the founders of the brand, the preservation of a lot of our ingredient sources depends on a sustainable future. This theme will continue to grow and improve with the brand.

Q: What are some of the sustainable practices that go into production?

A: Integrity of the process, as we mentioned earlier, has been one of our guiding principles. Ingredients are sourced only from select producers who use sustainable practices. Our distillation process uses half the amount of energy the mainstream brands use through pressure manipulation and we are a zero waste facility. Our packaging is made from recycled material, and the design on the bottle is free of any lead or chemicals. Instead, we use crushed glass from the original bottle infused with natural minerals to provide the different colors which then gets fused back onto the bottle. A lot of our promotions for the brand are also centered around sustainable initiatives.

Q: Is your product gluten-free? If so, how is it certified?

A: Milano Green is Gluten and Allergen free. This has been declared by certified entities in the European Union, and also by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Food Allergy Research and Resource Program in the US.

The test commonly used for this is an enzyme immunology for the quantitative analysis of contaminations by prolamins from wheat, rye barley and flour.

Q:  What is your favorite cocktail to make with Milano?

A: Milano Green’s viscosity makes it blend exceptionally well with other mixers, however a cocktail that allows Milano Green to truly expose itself in all its splendor would be a Martini. There is simply nothing to hide behind. The Milano Green ‘Venetian Summer’ which is a spin on the infamous Bellini created at the Cipriani in Venice is also a crowd favorite.

Q: Where can we find the brand locally in NYC? Nationally?

A: Milano Green is available in a number of specialty cocktail bars around New York City as well as fine dining restaurants. Il Mulino, Cipriani, Serafina, Taboon, Tallulah and Botanic Lab are a few of the many great places that stock us.

We are also featured in a number of stores that cater to customers looking for artisan products.

We are currently available in New York and are in conversations with distributors to expand the brand’s footprint across the country. We routinely run promotions or feature our retail partners on our fan page, so please do follow us on for regular updates.

Q: What’s next for Milano Green?

A: We’re just getting warmed up, so you can expect to see a lot of us. Increasing our distribution in other states and overall consumer awareness are two of our main priorities over the next 12-18 months. We believe that a potent combination of online promotions and creative experiential marketing is the key to acquiring a larger following of, as we like to call them, “vodkasnobs.”

Although the distribution landscape in the US is unfavorable to small brands and vying for consumer attention is an ever-present challenge, we’ll get there, one #Vodkasnob at a time.

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Quantum of the Seas: A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

Kristen Oliveri of Pasta’s Kitchen had the pleasure of checking out the latest and greatest from Royal Caribbean International this past weekend. Sailing on Quantum of the Seas, she sampled everything from top notch nightlife to North Star to a healthy living experience. Below is a glimpse into what she encountered during her voyage. Stay tuned for more coverage and in-depth articles on her complete immersion adventure.

20141115_203155 (1)The Bionic Bar. Have you ever had a drink made by a robot? Well, I have! The Bionic Bar aboard Quantum of the Seas is unlike any other “spirits”experience I have ever had. This is how it works: You order your drinks on a tablet. You can create a custom beverage or stick to the classics. (I chose a Cosmopolitan.) Once you’ve placed your order the screen on the side of the bar gives you all the drink info: How many parts vodka to cranberry juice, etc. It gives you the wait time (two minutes until Kristen’s drink is ready…) and then notifies you when it’s finished. Viola!

20141115_140352 This was the breathtaking view from Quantum’s groundbreaking North Star. It provides 360 degrees of views of the ship and the sea. This photo was taken on our way up, up and up! Below is the pool and lounge area. Although too cold to lay out, it was beautiful nonetheless. As you can imagine there were many “oohs and ahhs” on this 10 minute long voyage. I even celebrated with a glass of champagne upon my departure of North Star. It seemed like the right thing to do.

20141114_145338Meet Genevieve Gorder, the host of Genevieve’s Renovation and Dear Genevieve on the HGTV cable channel and Royal Caribbean’s Experience Advisor for design. I had the pleasure of interviewing Genevieve who spoke to me about how the overall design and aesthetics of the staterooms and suites on board Quantum can enhance the customer experience. Stay tuned for more with Genevieve…

20141115_214019 Oh Mama Mia! Here is my boyfriend Nick and I at intermission of Quantum’s fantastic production of Mama Mia. It’s worth noting that I have seen the smash hit musical on Broadway and this rendition certainly did the original cast justice! It was Nick’s first time seeing the show and was caught singing along. He is a huge ABBA fan, after all. “Honey, I’m still free. Take a chance on me.”

20141115_194318Welcome to Wonderland. Wonderland was far and away my favorite dining experience aboard Quantum of the Seas. This innovative restaurant is known for its molecular gastronomy similar to the likes of Spain’s El Bulli. Inside, it’s basically a recreation of Alice in Wonderland. Above is a photo of the dessert menu that comes along with a beautifully hand-crafted key. We ordered the molten chocolate cake (flourless) and the Baked Alaska that exceeded expectations.


20141114_165110This biggest thrill while aboard Quantum of the Seas was being able to take part in the official naming ceremony of the boat. It was an amazing experience from beginning to end. The fairy godmother, actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth performed a memorizing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”


Stay tuned for more Quantum of the Seas coverage right here on Pasta’s Kitchen. Any questions or comments? I’ d be happy to answer any questions regarding my experience. To email me, please send a note to 

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What you Missed at Kristen’s Connections: Balvanera

Last night, I had the pleasure of hosting along with Lindsay Appelman, an intimate dinner party at Balvanera, a new Argentine restaurant located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Guests convened from all different industries such as finance, travel, education and the medical world. But the all bonded over their love of food.


Balvanera’s owner and head chef Fernando Navas addressed the group. He shared with them his cooking background (from El Bulli to Nobu to Sushi Samba) and also about fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant. Our curious crowd asked the chef a few questions before he was off to serving the group an amazing four-course meal.

The menu included a variety of dishes showcasing everything the restaurant has to offer from seafood to steak to vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

Full menu:


sweet corn, roasted red pepper, provolone, aji amarillo (v) hand cut roast beef, hard boiled egg, onion, fresh chimi


strawberries, pickled onions, pistachios, arugula ~

SALMON CRUDO* lemon skin purée, pickled black radish, avocado oil, sea salt

ZANAHORIA AL HORNO*(v) roasted carrots, queso fresco, oranges, escarole, pepitas



tomato confit, fava beans, spinach, fiore sardo


skirt steak, fresh chimi, salsa criolla, garlic aioli, papas fritas


FLAN *(v)

dulce de leche


nectarine sorbet and a maceration of fruits

*indicates gluten-free (v) indicates vegetarian

To learn more about Kristen’s Connections or to be put on the mailing list, please send an email to Kristen, HERE.

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Enterprising Inspiration

I encountered Bob Viamari about a year ago through a phone conversation set up by a contact of mine based in Boston who had ties to the wealth management world. She urged me to speak with Bob given my background in both food and finance. I naturally obliged given how much I respect my friend Cindy and know she wouldn’t steer me wrong.

Bob, who is the publisher and owner of the Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine, and I had a natural bond. Perhaps it’s our two Italian last names, or perhaps it’s something else. He loved my work in both areas of my life and urged me to write for their Health & Wealth column. There began a lovely working relationship with him, his publication and his editor, Joy.

While we continued our many conversations, Bob mentioned that he was putting together a one-day event called Enterprising Women and was looking for speakers and panel ideas. The light bulb went off in my head.


Two close finance colleagues of mine wrote an amazing book called The Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom in 2012. I was very much honored to be a part of their process. I lent them a quote for their book jacket and hosted a panel discussion at my previous job where I managed and administered a business trade publication, Private Asset Management.

So together, we all decided the topic would be: Reinventing Yourself with the Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom and that I would moderate a lively panel discussion with Carol Pepper and Camilla Webster, the authors.

Last week, the event finally rolled around. It was hosted at the Cape Codder Hotel in Hyannis, Massachusetts and featured a variety of amazing women in not only speaking capacities, but also as award honorees.

While I was preparing to moderate the panel, I had a sheer moment of panic. I looked around the room and saw the most amazing, well-spoken, accomplished women in a variety of industries sitting under one roof. How could I possibly stack up to them? Many women sacrificed everything to launch their own businesses and forge their own path to come out on the other end standing. How could my own career even match up?

But then the first speaker delivered her presentation. Her name was Nancy Hunter Denney and she was none other than a motivational speaker. She spoke about the power of believing in you. The key to doing well and moving forward in your life and career boiled down to a few simple points: confidence, courage and curiosity.

As she spoke, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. What a fantastic reminder to pull it together, I thought. It was never about me not having any of those attributes at all. It was simply about me, reminding myself, of that every time I’m about to “perform” in any capacity.

We followed Nancy’s panel and I felt very confident that our message was something people wanted to hear. The audience was so engaged, asking questions and understanding the message—it was overwhelmingly empowering.

As the program went on, I was once again reflecting (paricularly when Olympic Skater Nancy Kerrigan took to the podium). I know that I have all the tools in my toolkit and the one thing that might look like a disadvantage in terms of my own personal work experiences (living in two worlds) is actually a positive attribute. I am in a unique position to bring people together to speak about two topics that every person should have a handle on.

While I went to Bob’s Enterprising Women’s event hoping to give something to the audience, I gained much more back in return. I have been nothing but inspired since the event and the wheels are always turning in my head.

The power to launch a business, start a new initiative, to build a brand—that all comes from me. It goes without saying that a powerful support network of my friends, partners and family mean so much, but the inspiration and motivation must come from within.

I look forward to everything that lies ahead for me now because I know it’s in my power to build it.

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