Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nobu Miami Beach brings it on with bravura (and bucks) (6-20-17)

Our one night in Miami Beach at the Nobu Eden Roc Hotel was spent with our two local friends at the hotel's NOBU MIAMI BEACH restaurant.
The décor is calming, the music a bit booming, and we never did figure out what was going on as the hosts shouted as each party was seated.
That said, the food is spectacular and the service attentive, even if the prices are what one might consider a bit insane.
We told our server, Peter, that Sam was a vegetarian and he made tons of suggestions, and I have to admit the flavors of the dishes for vegetarians was wide and superb.
We started with some "snacks" of Crispy Okra, Avare and Spicy Tosazu as well as some of the best ever Spicy Edamame with Chili Garlic, Sake Soy, Sesame Oil & Peanuts (on the side for the one allergic).
These were both irresistible and our only complaint was that most of the dishes tend to be very soy sauce intense, but the spice of the edamame was amazing.
Drinks were varied from Samuel's Lychee, Passion fruit and Pineapple to the adults'
Mia Margaritas with Corralejo Anejo Tequila, Passion Fruit, Honey, Lime and Schichimi (Japanese 7 spice).
There was also a Taiko & beet drink which I failed to write the ingredients for that was super as well as my Matsuhisa Martini with Reyna Vodka, Hoketsu Sake and Pickled Ginger which was so intensely alcoholic it took me quite some time to finish it; which I guess is good.
Samuel's first dish was a gorgeous Tofu Sashimi fried with citrus and soy which he raved about. Each dish for him disappeared quite fast before we could often taste!
Peter suggested we share 3 or so cold dishes as starters and he was just right and suggested the amazing melt in you mouth Salmon Nasmi (some of the dishes are Nobu standards and others are exclusive to this location such as this dish) which was Scottish salmon wrapped around Asian pear with yuzu, truffle oil and truffle salt. It is sushi gone nuts and so amazing it cannot be resisted. I have to not that almost every cold dish was priced at $20-something to $30-something so when the bill arrives it's quite a shocker.
Next came the Lobster Shitake Salad with Organic Greens, Sesame Seeds, Spicy Lemon Dressing, Dry Miso Crumble and Micro Arugula which had a small bowl on the side of palate cleansing baby peaches or Momokochan which indeed cleansed the mouth before this delicate  and delicious dish. Peter said there was half a lobster in the dish, but between the four of us we each got about 2 bites of lobster; maybe he meant half a lobster tail!
Our third choice was the Seafood Ceviche Nobu style which was a larger dish which was welcome, but indeed just a ceviche and therefore nothing that wowed or made it special, though it was very good.

Samuel's next dish was the Spicy Veggie Taco with Spicy Aioli in a Dumpling Shell....we didn't get tastes as they were quite petite.
We also received a dish that Peter brought out of Brick Oven Cauliflower with Jalapeno Salsa and Soy Salt which was mostly for Samuel, but we all tasted and marveled over. I am truly going to try and recreate this one at home. Oddly enough, we didn't order this, and when it appeared on the bill, I asked and it was quickly removed.
We started with a bottle  of Pascal Jolivet Rose from Sancerre 2015 which was superb, but at $63 quite pricey as was all the wine (more than 75% was over $100, and many were in the hundreds and thousands!).
We moved on to a bottle of Arinzano "La Casona" 2008 Tempranillo from Navarra, Spain as the red from Puglia where we will be in 2-1/2 weeks was sold out! It was a very intense tannin wine for its 9 year age, but quite delicious, even at $95. I should add that our party of 5 also had a mandatory 18% gratuity added as well as 10% tx, so 28% on top of any menu price.

Main courses were hearty and delicious with Pan Seared Sea Bass with Kabocha Squash and Crispy Spinach and another sea bass with Tomato Salsa, Trufffle and Micro Chives for our friends. I can never resist Soft Shell Crabs and Peter said these hail from Boston (odd) and were deliciously fried with Pickled Watermelon. I did order the special version which was supposed to come with Crispy Kurobuta Pork Belly in a Spicy Miso Caramel, but that never arrived. Peter had excused himself as he had an "emergency with his girlfriend" and Gisella had taken over. She apologized and offered to replace the dish, but I loved the crispy crab so much, I stayed with it. Will chose the amazingly inventive Nobu Fish & Chips with Triple Cooked Fries, Crispy Eggplant Fries,Nasu, Salts and Spices. there were many dipping salts as well as three delicious creamy dips (aji Amarillo, jalapeno and spicy) which were heavenly. He said it was a truly memorable dish, but the fish itself did not rank number one on earth as back in the UK it's better, but it did get raves.

We also ordered a shrimp dish with glaze that we saw go by earlier for the table to share and this was really one of the best we had all night as well.

Desserts were varied with Miso Vanilla Tart, Sable, Miso Caramel, Vanilla Mascarpone and Miso Cucumber getting the most raves.
My Strawberry Lychee Pisco Sour with Lime Sponge cake, Lime Cremeux, Pisco Mousse, and Orange Bitter Meringue over the top and a scoop of Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream on the side came in second.
Banana Soy Toban with soy caramelized bananas, candied pecans and Malaga Ice Cream was less exciting and probably the least exciting was the Smoked Peach Cake, Black Orchid Sponge,Blueberry Shisho Compote, Smoked Peach Mousse and White Peach Sorbet.
A small bottle of Hokusetsu Junmai Daiginjo "The Sake 71" was a wonderful after dinner drink as we made our way to bed after the shock of the bill.
We board our ship tomorrow for 16 days, so while there will be an occasional report from a port, the food reviews will start in earnest in Italy after that.
And FB photos abound for all!!

Monday, June 19, 2017

AMBAR is awesome in Arlington (6-18-17)

When you have four dads and two sons who all have different likes and tastes from carnivore to vegetarian, where do you go with huge variety and the best bargain in town? AMBAR in Clarendon has a $35 unlimited small plates per person charge ($15 for kids!) and the selection is unreal with many veggie options and tons of lighter and heavier plates which I will explain below.
On arrival we tried the Cucumber Basil Smash with vodka instead of gin, muddled cuke, basil, a dash of liche juice, seltzer and some spice(chili) which was refreshing but gone in seconds, so we moved to a superb white wine recommended by our server Melvin. The Stobi Rkatseli from Tikves in macedonia 2015 has green apple and mineral flavors that would remind you of a Gruner Veltliner and drinks superbly with spicy or lighter foods. We eventually moved to a nice red from Serbia, a 2009 Budmir Triada Prokupac(that is the grape) with dry tannins and some cherry hints, but not as regarding as the white. The wines as the food are all Balkan, with décor of old B&W photos many with Russian words plastered on them so you can tell these are further north in the Balkans. The wines are from macedonia north and are very varied and all new to me and most priced under $40-50.
The menu is broken into several sections and we chose from all and shared and loved it all.
The spreads are superb and come in the form of Urnebes (aged cow cheese with ajvar and chilli glakes), Garlic Bean spread with onion and paprika, Dry Roasted Red Pepper(Ajvar) with Garlic, and Roasted Eggplant as well.
Puffy bread comes to mop it up as well as Fried sourdough and corn breads; all unavoidable.
There are the cheeses and meats which come plated like charcuterie such as Beef Prosciuto, Spicy Salami, &  Zlatibor which is an aged 3-6 month cheese like a salty feta crossed with cottage cheese.
Samuel headed right for the Frilled Veggie, Pesto & Calamata Flatbread, while his younger friend chose the Sudzuk or sausage flatbread. It is interesting to note on the menu the Balkan term for flatbread is pizza!
We adored the salads:
Organic Slaw with carrots, red onion, watermelon radish and cabbage
Ambar Spring Salad with kale, shaved carrots, apple, endive, pine nuts in an excellent elderflower-lemon dressing
Red Quinoa with broccoli, green pees and pea puree, strawberry and a superb mustard-lemon dressing.
Homemade Meat Pies are the best made with flaky phyllo and topped with garlic yogurt!
Less exciting was the Wild Boar Patty made with bacon, smoked gouda and served with pickled pesto. It was very rustica style and a bit greasy, but not bad.
The veggies are superb including Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and lemon & garlic yogurt
Grilled Asparagus with veloute, crispy prosciutto, roasted squash and a fried quail egg.
There are as always many photos on FB!
One of my favorites was the Grilled Shrimp on a bed of corn puree, while the Calamari was braised with herbs and served Gremolata (it said there was a potato salad, but I missed that).
Rainbow Trout had a crispy skin that was superb and was indeed served with the Potato Salad in a German style with no mayo, but good vinegar base.
Balkan Kebabs were a big hit and had many repeat small plate calls. They are small beef/veal rolls grilled with a small mound of paprika to dip them in as well as raw onions(skipped those).
Stuffed Sour Cabbage was filled with mashed potato, pork belly, rice and yogurt and was sublime.
There is no question that the top dish winner was the Almond Crusted Chicken which may sound simple but it was the best "fried" chicken ever served with walnuts, green apples, chive and a "wasabi" mayo, that had virtually no spice, but was still super.
Dessert was Chocolate mousse with tarragon gnocchi, black tea infused something, sprouts and so much going on, I got lost after one bite as I found it very overwhelming. Some liked it, but next time, stick to the small plates which are unlimited.
If you get hungry you can order unlimited big plates of meat and fish and more for an extra $10 per person, but not needed.
Service here is friendly and helpful as there is so much to choose from and most of the staff work in teams. We loved the way they managed to scatter the dishes and we chose to order as we went along rather than all at once; a very good move.
Balkan bistro food is bravissimo.

Friday, June 09, 2017

ART WORKS NOW charity dinner features fearsome female chefs of fortitude (6-8-17)

Last night I was invited to participate in a superb charity event that has been running for 5 years now and by all means is a truly wonderful event. Art Works Now (www.artworksnow.org) is the brainstorm of Barbara Johnson and she spoke how over its short existence has gone from providing art classes and programs for 11 students to over 5000!! Barbara and her spouse Chef Ruth Gresser (of Pizza Paradiso fame) open their gorgeous home each year to a group of talented female chefs and about 50 guests for an intimate and exciting evening of food and drink as well as silent and live auctions of amazing trips and prizes.

The evening started with Sue McWilliams of Sue McWilliams Cooks serving up a yummy Slushie de Lima with Black Raspberry infused Pisco, Passion Fruit Juice, Lime and a Pickled Aji Amarillo Pepper (I got extras) served over a scoop of crushed ice. It was delish and I would have downed a couple more if the temperature were even warmer. It was indeed a gorgeous evening and celebratory so that Zena Polin of The Daily Dish (Silver Spring) was serving up Leo Hillinger Secco Sparkling Rose from Austria, which we actually served at Samuel's Bar Mitzvah exactly a year ago! Zena paired with Wendy Gordon of Flash Public Relations (who procured the wines) for the remainder of the wines all evening and we ended up going home with a wine tasting with munchies at The Daily Dish!
While we sipped, we also noshed on superb hor's d'oevres that seemed to never stop coming and restraint was hard as they were prepared by Bonnie Moore of Willowsford Farms who will definitely have to be noticed in the future!
Willowsford Farm Chicken Pot Pie Fritters (need I say more?)
New Asbury Farm Lamb Meatballs with a slightly kicky Romesco Sauce were irresistible
Country Ham Biscuits with Red Pepper Jelly were simply amazing
Farm Vegetable Risotto with Meadow Creek Appalachian Cheese had to be the best risotto hor's d'oevre ever made, so rich and creamy, warm and tasty on simple spoons we took bites off, but had to return for more and more and more. A true vegetarian dish (no chicken stock used) which truly impressed.

We were escorted into the house for dinner where the chefs were heatedly running around the open kitchen as we observed and settled in.
Lubanzi Wines from South Africa were a new find and on order for the first three courses. I just wish they didn't use colored glasses for the wines (amber for the white and red for the red). The white was a 2016 Chenin Blanc from Swartland and I generally don't care for 100% Chenin but this was refreshing, dry and totally worked with Chef Elizabeth Faulkner's vegan first course: Blackened Eggplant Hummus, Beet Quinoa, Collard Greens, VXO Sauce & Peanuts. It was indeed a dream "salad" with the raw kale (it must have been so well massaged with the dressing as it was so tender) and the beet quinoa so reminiscent of a steak tartare, many vegans would have been fooled!

Up next was TV superstar Chef Carla Hall with her co-chef from Carla's Southern Kitchens, Chef Janis McLean recreating an north African(Ghana) dish in the form of Grilled Shrimp, Braised Plantains, Short Grain Rice and a Spicy Tomato-Ginger Broth that demanded a spoon to get it all sopped (or souped if you prefer) up (there was no bread). This may have been my favorite dish for its novelty and creativity and the small pieces of crispy fried kale on top were simply an added treat.
We had switched to the Lubanzi Red blend of Shiraz (46%), Mourvedre (20%), Cinsault (31%) and Grenache (3%) which I immediately fell in love with and was lucky enough to get a bottle of to take home and share.

Chef Jamie Leeds of Hank's Oyster Bar/Pasta Bar/Cocktail Bar and more shared her duties with the one gentleman in the kitchen from her team, Jay Garrison and they excelled with the most tender of Duck Breasts with a creamy divine Spring Pea Puree with morel Mushrooms, Crunchy Pickled Ramps and a Black Truffle Vinaigrette. I adore duck and loved this dish which, as all the others all night, reflected the spring season and fresh ingredients way above and beyond the norm!

Dessert was from Chefs Caitlyn Dysart & Amy Brandwein (the latter who was unable to attend) from Centrolina and also was spring in essence with Local Strawberries, Ricotta, Robiola Budino and Basil which was truly a combination of a cheese course and a dessert and was elegant simple and light (photos available on my FB page). Paired with a superb sweet Domino de Punctum Dulce Venganza 2014 from Cuenca in Castilla Spain. I searched the bottle and finally discovered it was a Late Harvest Chardonnay which none of us could believe, but so superb it was, I had a second glass.

Record funds were raised and for such a great cause that I was honored to be able to be a part of this amazing event and amazing teaming of women in the kitchen who proved for sure that food in DC is in excellent hands!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Zealand dining is delicious at the Embassy! (6-3-17)

Saturday night was the Washington National Opera Gala and I had the pleasure of joining about 10 folks for an elaborate dinner at the home of The Honourable Tim Grosser, New Zealand's Ambassador to the USA. It was a delicious evening starting with hor's d'oevres and Deutz New Zealand champagne followed by a long and so enjoyable seated dinner. I must say that I have always believed in one degree of separation (or close to that) and the sweet woman seated across from me turned out to be good friends with our friends the Seamans in Naples, Florida!
This was a truly memorable experience for the company as well as the food as it turned out that Ambassador Groser spoke eloquently and extensively on the recent rejection by our president of the Paris Accord which he was influential in authoring!
We started with a simple demi-tasse of Tomato Tea which burst with tomato flavors and was a simple room temperature broth that we all wowed over. It was paired with Drumsara Dry Pinot Gris 2015 from Central Otago (all the wines, of curse, were from New Zealand). Next came Lobster & Caviar Salad paired with an amazing Squawking Magpie Chardonnay "Counting Crows" from Hawke's Bay 2015 that I fell in love with and paired beyond perfectly with the shellfish.
Next came a decadent and delicious Pan Seared Foie Gras with fresh Pears and Sauterne which was fascinatingly paired with a Cloudy Bay "Te Koko" 2013 tope of the line Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.
Chargrilled New Zealand King Salmon with Poached Asparagus and Tarragon Hollandaise was a lesson in the finest of French cuisine using New Zealand's best fish. We have Pacific King Salmon from Alaska which is awfully good, but this is farm raised in New Zealand and really blew us all away. The wine was "The Darling" Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Marlborough. Add the fact that the plate had some of the finest white asparagus I have ever had in this country (save for those amazing ones that come from Europe every May), and a sauce to die for...OMG.
Smoked Venison Carpaccio from a New Zealand farm as well came with Arugula and was a perfectly wonderful light option for a "meat course" as we were quite full by then. Anthony Joseph Vidal "El Legado" Syrah 2013 from Hawke's Bay was another wonderful treat.
French cheeses followed with Quince Paste and Ostler Caroline's Pinot Noir 2009 Waitaki that was a new and delicious full bodied red for me.
Lemon Tart with Persian Fairy Floss finished the meal with homemade macarons (the French kind)which was paired with a superb dessert wine, Seifried "Sweet Agnes" Late Harvest Riesling 2014 from Nelson.
As if this was not enough, chocolates of all kinds followed as coffee and tea were offered after our 3-1/2 hour extravaganza. WHAT A NIGHT!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

DC's FIOLA is far above and offers optimal enjoyment (5-5-17)

After our 3 visits to Fiola Mare this year, we settled in last night for a multi-course dinner at the parent restaurant, FIOLA, owned by Chef Fabio Trabocchi and his wife Maria. On arrival to my surprise, the new executive chef in the kitchen was the awesome Ed Scarpone, recently of DBGB, who told us he had been there only 3 months, but seems settles in quite well. The evening before, our server Joshua told us to ask for his friend Anton at the sister restaurant, and to our surprise, he was indeed our server, and another excellent one at that. Again, here, the staff is sublime and efficient, ready to assist with your every need. Nothing went wrong all evening, although if I had to ask for one thing it would be for gentlemen to be more kinder when urinating in the men's room (you know what I mean guys!) and I think they need to have someone on staff check it every hour or so.....sadly.
I ordered a Bellagio to start with Vodka, Elderberry shrub, Cocchi Rosa, Prosecco and an edible flower. It was gorgeous, delicious and just right again; not sweet, but slightly herbal. Delamotte Brut Champagne arrived next as we were served an amuse of Crispy Savory Cannoli with Mascarpone, Foie Gras, Chives and gold leaf on the outside; it was as pretty as it was tasty. Be sure to check out the FB photos! Magnificent flaky puff-pastry like rolls with cheese, seasoning and herbs arrived that were irresistible and we had to tell them to stop bringing more!!
The décor here is elegant with tall columns filled with see through (fake) trees, glossy dark tabletops, a huge sunken dining room below the bar with cushy chairs and banquettes. The tables here are a bit closer in some places than might be expected, but overall it oozes class.
We all wowed when the first course arrived: White Asparagus Three ways: Poached, Grilled Hearts and Shaved Raw on top with Egg Confit, Morels (from Oregon), Grilled Ramps, Mustard and drizzled with Extra Vecchio (25 year old+) Balsamico from an eye dropper.. It was a dream dish, which Will declared the best asparagus dish he had ever had on earth; I had to agree.
Jennifer, the head sommelier was eager to explain each wine and its origins and for the next course we had "from Black to White" Il Bianco 2014 from Zyme, a blend of Garganica and Trebbiano from Veneto which at first I thought might be too light for the rich pasta, but worked out perfectly. Cappelletti filled with Beef Cheek & Foie Gras in an awesome Bone Marrow Broth with black Garlic and more wild ramps!! Yum, this is the season for so much good vegetables!
Scallops  from Hokkaido in Japan came seared to perfection with Manila Clams, Fish Foam, Plankton Powder, Crunchy Sea Beans, Meyer Lemon, Sweet Spring Onion Compote and SIX kinds of seaweed. It was hard to taste each element, but fun to try and enjoy the so many flavors of this wonderfully conceived creation. It was paired with a Ca' Marcanda 2013  from Vistamare in Tuscany (owned by Gaja) made from Vermentino & Viognier that had an amazing creaminess and acidity as well.

This was followed by a Chateau de Pibarnon 2014 Bandol from Eric de Saint-Victor which was 90% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache and drinking so beautifully despite its youth. It has a perfume in the nose, but in the mouth the flavors were all smoky.
The meat course it was served with was a beautiful roulade of Lamb with its own Jus, Green Asparagus, Chickpea, Ramps, Fava Beans and the most delicate yet delicious glazed Lamb Sweetbreads. Again, flavors burst at every new bite on the plate, but alas, we were so full, we had to take the remainder home--so we get t have it again on Monday!

We asked for a small cheese course and Anton explained that all these unpasteurized cheeses come from one purveyor named Renato Brancaleone  in Italy who ages them in limestone pits!
Birbette was a cow with Bavarian lager washed rind
Pecorino Alle More Selvatiche is a sheep that is wrapped in wild blackberry
Blu di Montefeltro was one of the most beautiful blues I have ever had from Italy.
they are accompanied by the paper thinnest of flatbreads, thin toasted fruit bread, fig jam and macerated Harry's Strawberries, which I am now in love with.
Jennifer offered a real treat with Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Laurence 2014 Gewurtztraminer which was so sweet and so peppery and so delicious. I mentioned that I had the pleasure of meeting Colette Faller, the matriarch of the winery in her home some 12 years ago for a private tasting and Jennifer told me that she had passed away a couple of years ago; I am so sorry.

Strawberry Sorbet with Rhubarb and a Lime "sponge" cake was a palate cleanser before the dessert of Gianduja Mousse (chocolate from Peru) with Alba caramelized Hazelnuts & White Chocolate sheets arrived paired with a sweet-sheery-like Ben Rye 2014 from Donnafugata in Sicily. It was a cross between caramel & vanilla and we added it to our must stop wineries this summer!
We rolled home, but have to say that fine dining still exists in DC and I am so happy we have found these places where one can relax all evening and truly savor the wines and foods and delicacies that make a meal so special with such excellent service as well.!!


Friday, May 05, 2017

Fiola Mare is best for business dinner in DC(5-4-17)

Last night umpteen travel agents were invited by the super amazing sales team from the US Virgin Island's  Caneel Bay, one of the top resorts in the world. The dinner was at the posh Fiola Mare where I returned for the second time in 2 weeks and even had the same superb service from Joshua!! We gathered at the bar first where I tried a delicious Forbidden Lust, a mix of Tequila Silver, a dash of passion fruit juice, lime, habanero for sufficient spice and a red wine float that had the top of the clear drink look like a red velvet cupcake! At the arrival reception we had truffle potato puffs and yummy crabcakes with a slightly spicy remoulade.
We sat down to dinner in one of the private dining areas as Nigl Sparkling Rose from Austria was poured and the team reviewed the glories of their amazing resort where we went some 2 decades ago, so a return is in order!
I chose to start with the Jumbo Lump Crab with Apple, Sorrel Coulis which Josh explained as a cold crab "salad." It was actually a monster-size cold crab "salad/cake" in a bowl of dreamy sorrel bisque with a hint of apple from some slices. Super refreshing for summer, this is a winner of a seafood dish for those that love crabmeat and as usual photos on my FB page. Lucian Crochet Sancerre "Le Croix du Roy" was the perfect wine with this as well. You all know how much I got down on sea bass while in Ecuador earlier this year, but it's been 4 months since then so I chose the Olive Oil Poached Royal Sea Bass (what makes it royal?) with asparagus, Pesto Cetarese (made with anchovy!!) and a light cream sauce as well. The fish had a light crispy skin and was cooked to perfection brining me back to loving this super fish, of course, this is Fiole MARE, were the sea(food) rules.
Desserts were a choice of Tiramisu or the Farm Strawberries with Balsamic, Candied Basil, Lime Cake and Burrata Gelato, which was any easy choice for me. The berries were so fresh and just marinated and macerated a bit and the gelato was awesome, a true winner of a novel dessert! A glass of Pinot Noir and off to home after an excellent business dinner that we all truly appreciated. Thanks so much to Caneel Bay and the excellent team at Fiola Mare.
Tonight--we go to Fiola, as it is time for meat :-)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NYC's GABRIEL KREUTHER is indeed a king in the fine cuisine realm (4-22-17)

I had heard much about Chef Gabriel Kreuther from Alsace and his move to 42nd Street in the Grace building just between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Saturday night he delivered over two hundred percent! (www.gkny.com)
On arrival I was impressed by the large room with super high ceilings and way oversized paintings decorating one wall that were very modern splashes of color. I was a bit concerned as the bar area was full and very noisy; the space was so open you could see back to the kitchen and the chef's table where people were already seated enjoying themselves. My fears were allayed however and within an hour so the bar had quieted down and the restaurant filled up but there was never a din of noise that was bothersome.
I ordered a glass of Andre Jacquart Brut Experience 1er Cru Blanc de Blanc and perused the menu. I noticed a small glass fixture on the table with a whole in it which I assumed to be a bud vase, but I was wrong because shortly afterwards they brought over a glass holder with a savory Kugelach (is that a cross between a kugel and a rugalach?) in it which was placed into the glass container so that it sat on the table.  I tried to untie the string it was wrapped in, and ultimately my server Rachel assisted, then took a slice  and smeared it with gorgeous chive sour cream with which it was served. Delicious!
I relaxed on my elegant but firm banquette which also had pillows in case I needed them and settled in for a four plus hour evening which really was an amazing experience.

Three amuses arrived and they were in this order: a grapefruit segment in Mezcal with tomato chili powder served on a slice of lime which you're not supposed to eat,  a Savory Pea Falafel sitting on a bed of Meyer lemon yogurt with sea salt, and a white pepper scone which was crispy and savory with a cremini mushroom marmalade. I felt that ordering a bottle of wine would be the best route so I chose a truly amazing Mas La Mola dark intense red fruit and smoky wine from Priorat 2009. It was a good choice because even my courses which seemed to logically pair with white wines were quite rich and heavy.
First up was Hamachi with Black Truffle and Foie Gras served in a "Milles Feuilles" set-up that was a gorgeous chess board construction with little pieces of celery carved out into teeny circles sitting on a grape slice with a rich truffle vinaigrette.  It was quite rich and I ate it as slowly as possible to savor every bite, as it was truly one of the best if you can call it "pates" I have ever had.
I advised my superb server Rachel and Molly who was the sommeileuse that I wanted plenty of time between the courses and they guided me through this wonderful journey which was absolutely perfectly timed.
After a while I was surprised when they brought over a dish that I had not ordered, but thought about on the menu. The Sturgeon and Sauerkraut Tart was so Alsatian in its creation, I was blown away especially by the perfection of the puff pastry and Siberian Ossetra caviar (from Finland)that sat on top. It was served under a glass dome which had smoke surrounding the tart which wafted up into my nose as they lifted the globe. I can't recall ever having a savory puff pastry tart ever this brilliantly assembled and so delicious.

The next dish was typically ordered for two people, but they told me they would manage to bring it for one although it was quite a large dish if I was okay with that. It was the Austrian White Asparagus which we had had so often the month before in Europe  and I could not resist. They were served in a mason jar in which they have been marinating in white wine since I ordered them; they also came  smothered with morels spring onions and topped with Pea Tendrills which was all assembled in front of me on the table. Also a warm French whole wheat ficelle had arrived and was served with Societe Originale Quebecois cultured butter from grass fed cows. On the side I also received a demi-tasse cup which had a brunoise of the white asparagus on the bottom covered with asparagus soup and again topped with Siberian Ossetra caviar.
This is a one-of-a-kind dish that I or anyone in the neighborhood during this month to run over and grab as quickly as possible.
While I was eating the chef himself came over and introduced himself and I was thrilled to talk to him learn a little more about him and also discover he had worked in Washington at Le Caprice years ago when he first came to the United States. A very sweet gentleman who knows that having one restaurant for fine dining is truly the way to go rather than splitting yourself among a hundred where the food quality deteriorates.
For my main course I had ordered the Long Island Crescent Duck Breast with Black Trumpet crust, Fleischnacka and Ginger Jus which  came with balsamic strawberries, hazelnuts, crispy trumpet mushrooms and broccoli puree. The duck was so tender you could practically cut it with a fork and the crust on top made the most amazing burst of flavor in your mouth, easily one of the top 10 duck dishes of my life.
I do have to say that the Lehmann Crystal was a little narrow in the top on both the champagne flute and the red wine glass making it a bit difficult with my nose to drink.
I did love the elongated cutlery which was served on the leather strap at the side of my plate. 
More bread arrived in the form of a buckwheat and rosemary roll served with a Mangalitsa Lardo that was simply out of this world. Up until a couple of months ago I would have skipped the Lardo, but after having it in Canada I am now a huge fan.
I rested awhile before contemplating dessert and ultimately chose what I was going to have, but of course a free dessert had to come first in the form of Cara Cara Orange refreshing on top of a rich Tapioca Yogurt  base with Malt Biscuit. 
The main dessert was Lambent-Mandarin Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter Crunch, Mandarin Jelee and Milk Chocolate Cream. A true winner of deserts this one I will remember for a long time, not to mention its beautiful presentation which you can always see on my Facebook pictures.
After this I was treated to Cheesecake macaroons, pistachio Rosemary chocolate, spiced pear chocolate and honey saffron chocolates all of which I took home.
A teensy glass of Rochelt Black Elderberry, which apparently is an Austrian eau-de-vie aged in glass balloon, was proffered by Molly as a gift which truly settled my digestion and had me on my way after four plus hours.
No question here that this is one of the top 10 meals I have had in my life, and I truly cannot wait to come back!

NY's UNCLE NICKS:Bloody Marys & Brunch (4-22-17)

Well there's not a lot to write about today's lunch at Uncle Nick's on 9th Avenue and 50th(multiple locations exist) in New York City, though it was a very special afternoon for me because I got to see a friend I have not seen for over 25 years. Facebook is good for that and you can see photos from today's lunch of what is called a saganaki or feta, tomato and sausage casserole in a cast iron pan topped with an egg. It's very Greek and very simple but very delicious and Uncle Nick's has a bottomless Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Sangria for $18 so that was sure worth my three or four drinks as I lost count. The Bloody Mary's come with spicy olives as well as hot peppers so that's a real nice treat.

NYC's FUJI SUSHI is a super sushi deal in midtown(4-21-17)

It was almost a year ago when I was in Manhattan for a quick visit that I dropped into Fuji Sushi which at the time I mentioned I must have passed hundreds of times and never noticed in a small narrow location on West 56th Street just between 7th Avenue and Broadway.
I decided to return last night and was in for another amazing $50 dinner treat.
Apparently they have a two for one drink deal which nobody could refuse, so I ordered a Saketini which was dry sake, vodka and muddled cucumber and boy did this Super dry drink pack a punch. It took me almost an hour to drink it and then when they asked if I wanted another one complimentary. I said I would have something a little sweeter but much less potent and they brought out a very heavy on the juice instead of liquor, but excellent cosmopolitan.
I started with House Haru-Maki which is explained on the menu as shrimp crab lettuce and cucumber in a rice pancake. I asked her what it was like and she said it was like a spring roll of vegetables with a little fish. It was a treat and these delightful light rice wrap rolls were filled with vegetables and shrimp and crab with a thick soy-based dip. The dish was more of a vegetarian dish sprinkled with a couple of pieces of shrimp and crab and hence made an excellent appetizer or it could even be considered a great substitute for a salad with a little fish. 
For my main course I chose the Triple Roll which were huge sushi rolls filled with avocado asparagus and cucumber and each was a Toro quality Sushi of tuna salmon or yellowtail.
As you know I'm not a dessert person but I decided to treat myself here and order a plate of three varied Sashimi I went with three things I probably wouldn't usually order: the sea urchin or uni, the baby octopus and the Botan ebi or sweet shrimp. It was a small light plate and the flavors burst in my mouth both the octopus and the uni were in small sculptured cucumber bowls while the shrimp lay beautifully on the plate with its head standing nearby. Be sure to check my Facebook page for photos, and if you're in New York and like sushi and don't have much time this is one of the best deals you'll find between Lincoln Center and Times Square.