Sunday, August 31, 2008

Broadway brings us to the GREAT HALL at the Lygon Arms (Cotswolds,UK)

Our last night in the Cotswolds found us at the LYGON ARMS Hotel, an historic property that has actually always been an inn for almost 500 years. It is indeed a remarkable property, although its recent change of hands thrice in five years may have put the dining room called the GREAT HALL into a slightly tenuous state.

The staff is attentive (and huge, as is the room), and the huge curved vaulted ceiling and walk in fireplace do lend a very old feel, although we were told this was a 20th century addition to the hotel! Apparently the stuffed animal heads that once adorned with upper wall are gone forever, now replaced with lots of mirrors which we did not care for (as you look up, you keep seeing yourself). The chairs are big and comfy and the tables are large, if a bit close (a gentleman next to me clearly had on WAY too much cologne). We were shocked that no amuse came, and the bread was standard and not warm.

We started with a bottle of BAY of FIRES "Tigress" SAUVIGNON BLANC from Tasmania as in the past we have enjoyed some great Tasmanian wines while in the UK. This was no exception with a huge gooseberry nose and even taste at first then moving into citrus and lemon. We also had some fun comparing bottled waters. The Great Hall's regular is the British BLENHEIM and it has a very steely taste when we compared it to our favorite, the French BADOIT, which is softer and also has a bit less gas.

Will's SMOKED TROUT PAUPIETTE was fresh smoked fish wrapped around a trout mousse with LYGON GARDEN Tomato Salad and was sublime. My TERRINE of DUCK CONFIT & POACHED PLUMS with Beetroot Relish was also nice, but no prize winner.

We moved to a simple MERCUREY (light Pinot Noir) 2004 from Domaine de Sureman with our entrees which were both excellent: Breast of GUINEA FOWL, Limes, Fondant Potatoes, Glazed Carrots for Will and for me the Chilean SEA BASS, with Creamed Leeks & Peas and Saffron Potatoes. I try hard to eat local foods and felt it was daft (UK for "lame") to order Chilean fish, but the sauce was sublime and I was happy. The potatoes were the standard parslied boiled ones and if there was saffron in them, it was barely a pinch.

Will chose the BAKEWELL Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert which is kind of an almond pie or cake while my PEACH MELBA, PEACH SORBET and Fresh Raspberries was a disaster, save for the sorbet and 3 raspberries. The peach was nice and sat atop a kind of cardboard-like semi-freddo. I asked the server what it was and she said "ice cream." I told her it tasted like cardboard, and since she was from Germany, she did not understand, but said she would pass it on to the chef. Nobody ever apologized, we paid and left for a short walk around the totally dead at 10pm village, where swe spotted a number of busy dining spots where we might have saved money and probably done a lot better!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chipping Campden take two:The NOEL ARMS not bad, not much

After our expulsion from the luxurious Cotswolds House we were shuttled across the street to a much lesser hotel owned by the same folks called the Noel Arms. It is an historic spot dating back to the 15th century as an inn, and Samuel really wanted to eat in the pub section which did look quite old and cozy.

It was getting late so he settled in with a plate of FISH & CHIPS, Mushy Peas (which he did not like, and Will stated were a bit to sweet) and what I think was the best Tartar sauce just about anywhere. We ordered a bottle of VINA del ALBA 2005 ALBARINO as we were hot and sweaty from settling in upstairs in our room with one teeeeny window and no a/c and welcomed the crisp cold wine. We deserved it!

Will chose the WHITE & BROWN (Devonshire) CRAB MEAT with spring onion, cappers (they spell it with one or two "p's" here), tomato salsa and fresh summer leafs (aka field greens). It was quite a watery display of crab with little taste, which we knew we shouldn't have dared to try, but felt we needed to as a service to you, my readers. Stick to Maryland crab! My HOME SMOKED WOODPIGEON BREASTS were the opposite, as dry as could be. The meat was smoked nicely and served with an APPLE & GOOSEBERRY Compote (basically applesauce) that did moisten the meat, but not much.

The main courses fared much much better with Will's PULLED HAM HOCK & Crushed New Potatoes in a Red Wine Sauce being a huge portion most tasty and my POUSSIN BREAST FILLET with Lemon and Coriander Seeds being moist in a slightly creamy sauce that was lemony, zesty and just plain yum yum. It came with two MARINATED LEGS and Basmati Rice. All dishes come with a large array of Seasonal veggies and we had the requisite, carrots, mange-touts (snow peas), and more. A bottle of CHATEAUNEUF du PAPE 2006 Cuvee Tradition from Caves Saint-Pierre went great and the wine was only about 20-something pounds (the Albarino was 19)!

Will had the Summer Fruit Pudding, very similar to trifle while I returned to the cheese platter. Here they also took care to note (like the night before) that each cheese came from within 15 miles; many were indeed the same tasty ones, but without all the chutney and such pairings:
SINGLE GLOUCESTER (which I did not even know existed) is nowhere near as good as
DOUBLE CLOUCESTER which we see much of in the US
CERVEY Goat returned along with HEREFORD HOP
Again the star was the ST. AEDBURGHA, which is apparently made just down the road from where we are today! I must try to get some to bring to Will's brother's home where we head tonight. This Camembert style cheese is slightly runny and loaded with flavor.
WINDRUTH VALLEY GOAT was a new one and the last cheese was called STINKING BISHOP--yup, and it did. Samuel laughed a lot at the name and
we went back to our hothouse room to try and sleep.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

JULIANA's is a jewel at Cotswold House in Chipping Campden (Gloucestershire, UK)

We arrived in the Cotwolds after the long drive south from Yorkshire and settled in to our totally cool and modern suite at the Cotswold House Hotel, which is a true gem. I should preface this rave of a review for Juliana's and its chef Stephen Love with the fact while we were guests of the sales manager, a friend of mine for several years, we had an awful experience the next day when we were told we had to move rooms....across the street to another hotel to a very hot and noisy (although amazingly historic) room. The experience, along with the hotel misplacing my jewelry and house key and losing much of the next night's sleep at the liability of the hotel, was most unpleasant...but has not changed my mind about the amazing meal we had (see, how FAIR I can be!).

We sat down with Declan, our friend, to champagne and hor's d'oevres in the bar which consisted of
a POTATO with SMOKED SALMON, Creme Fraiche & Caviar
Crispy PORK BELLY on AVOCADO (this was supreme)
Parmesan SHORTBREAD with TOMATO Fondue and Feta

As we perused the menu, it was hard to choose, so we all decided on different things so we could taste lots more. A bottle of SAINT VERAN Domaine Jean-Claude BOISSET 2005 started us off on what had turned out to be a quite warm and almost muggy day for England...about 77 degrees....

The amuse was a Warm BEETROOT Puree with Poached QUAIL EGG and GOAT CHEESE that was also superb and we knew that more good stuff was yet to come.

The starters were 65degree(Centigrade) Coddled Free Range EGG, Braised PIG CHEEK, Pork Belly (actually more like bacon), Wild MUSHROOMS and "Hogan's Cider" (actually in jelly form) Seared SCALLOPS with Peanut Textures, Pickled and Raw Cauliflower, White TRUFFLE and APPLE Salad and my CUCUMBER and LANGOUSTINE which had a cucumber sorbet, papaya, cucumber soup and Royal Baer;s caviar.

The starters were all god but not really superlative....I think the pickled part of the scallops tuned me off and the egg, was again as in Yorkshire, an matter how intense the cooking procedure.

We moved to a bottle of LA CADENE Cotes du Rhone 2000 from Domaine Chaume-Arnaud that was just perfect at this age and great with all the main courses: 21 Day Matured BEEF(a 4ounce Herefordshire fillet) with Braised Ox Cheek, Oyster, Garlic, Blackcurrant, Onions and coffee brittle. As you can see Chef Love is inventive and creative to the max.

LIGHTHORNE LAMB Loin, Braised Shoulder and Epigramme (actually saddle of lamb, pressed and rolled in breadcrumbs) with Sweetbreads, Leeks, Mint Jelly and Girolles was also quite excellent, the highlight being the saddle.

My GOOSENARGH DUCK two servings came with the first platter of Breast, Winglet, Liver and Gizzard (these latter three gorgeously glazed), Peas, Carrots, Apple, Cumin & Dates. Second came a plate with CONFIT LEG and smashed pineapple. I was in heaven.

We all wanted dessert, but could not resist the awesome local we split a cheese platter which was perfect:
Cotswold Organic Brie served with Quince Jelly (Kirkham Farm) Berkswell with fig & almond wheel (like a small paste brick) from Ram Hill
HEREFORD HOP with apple. apricot & vanilla chutney haisl from Pind Farm and is a gorgeous crunchy, yeasty treat that we returned to again the next night!
CERNEY ASH GOAT with chilli jam was a great combo. a light goat dusted with ash
ST EADBURGHA came with tomato and pear chutney an is made at Gorsehill Abbey in Broadway (where we actually are tonight) and while Brie-like is creamier and richer like a double cream and was one of my favorites
St OSWALD served with plum and ginger chutney from the same Abbey is another treat that is not to be missed in the region
COTSWOLD BLUE is light again like the Yorskshire and was served with fig jelly and also comes from Kirkham Farm.

I do not know how I will survive back in the US without these magnificent treats.

We moved on to dessert and had the RHUBARD-RHUBARD which included ices, fritter and a rhubarb-ginger parfait with macadamia nut and custard on top. I loved the variety and fact that it was like three different dishes--well, you all know me by now.

Marinated Poached PINEAPPLE came with Coconut Porridge and Sesame Seed Crisp was not real porridge and was a bit of a disappointment for Will, and the STRAWBERRIES and CREAM with port wine, local vanilla ice cream, pink champagne jelly and smoked macadamia nuts was gobbled up pretty fast by our host Declan.

After some port (Grand Marnier for me), we rolled back to our suite and had a great night of sleep...which was good, as the next day was to bring a disaster.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the last night in Yorkshire--LEVEN at Crathorne Hall

We met up with Will's teenhood theatrical pal Sue and her partner Steve who we have been in touch with over the years and dined at our hotel, CRATHORNE HALL just 10 miles south of Middlesborough and has a 4-Michelin hotel rating. Despite our problems with the manager, the hotel and dining room deserve kudos as our dinner was superb. BRUNO PAILLARD Brut Premiere Cuvee Champagne started us off in the bar with some wonderfule treats:

Sun Dried Tomatoes, Olives and Roasted Punmpkin Seeds in soy(yum) Chef James Cooper who we did not meet (was he there?) has a local menu that shines and we all tried lots of great dishes.

Steve opted for the Terrine of Smoked Eel, Runner Bean Salad and 2-1/2 hour egg.....I asked what it was like...and Steve bluntly said--a poached egg!

My POACHED LOIN of RABIT with Roasted Local LANGOUSTINES, Lentils and Lentil Dressing and Crisp Prosciutto was a dream come true and also included surprise GNOCCHI and mini-lardons. We had asked for a bottle of DOMAINE LAFAGE Cuvee Centennaire 2006 Cotes de Roussillon WHITE and they had opened the same in RED...but no problem..,we liked it and sked for the white first, which was yummy too. The red was a Cuvee Authentique 2005, and after sitting an hour was perfect.

Hand Dived Scallops with Smoked Bacon Creme Caramel (hints of the Fat Duck here),Peas & Girolles was another brilliant composition. The entrees were less varied as three of us chose LOIN OF MILK FED VEAL(bacon wrapped) with Pressed BRISKET en croute, DUCK LIVER Toastie (a bit high on fat) and Hazelnut Butter.It was the simple column of brisket that blew our minds and mouths.

Will chose the tasty ROASTED POLLACK with Cauliflower Cheese, Crayfish Pie (like a stuffed Yorkshire pudding) and Mash with Poached Egg. HEAVEN as well.

Desserts were all superb with a RHUBARB & CUSTARD deconstructed composition; the former in a mason jar, the latter as creme brulee all with Crumble Biscuits. Raspberry & Lime Jelly came with Elderflower Arctic Roll (sponge cake and ice cream), Poppyseed Tuile but it was MY YORKSHIRE cheeses that blew away all four of us:
Katy's White Lavender --ewe's milk
King Richard III cow (less exciting)
Ribblesdale Smoked Cow
and the supreme but not too strong but sublime creamy YORKSHIRE BLUE from Shephard's Purse near Thirsk just 15 miles away....we had that
again and again this week!

Sadly the music in this magnifcent Edwardian mansion came from a boom box in the corner and amounted to sad 70's pop....other than was a sublime evening.

I apologize for yesterday's pub posting listing CHICKEN ASTA not PASTA, and I wish this google group system had a good food spell check!

ALAN --now in the Costwolds....more food reports soon.

Romaldkirk's ROSE & CROWN, a jewel, if pricey in remote No. Yorkshire

It's no often you get to pop in for lunch into a 1750's tavern a town where there are about maybe one to two hundred inhabitants and your partner runs into the church graveyard and finds four ancestors buried there!

Well, this happened yesterday at ROMARLKIRK in North Yorkshire where we chose the ROSE AND CROWN as recommended by our Michelin Guide! Well, the prices did seem very "Michelin" even without any stars, but the food was quite good. So, if you are about 20miles north of Barnard Castle, then head to the ROSE & CROWN.

Will could not resist the STEAK, KIDNEY & MUSHROOM Pie, short crust with Thealeston's Ale Gravy which was as superb pie en croute and had a thinner gravy than the pub the day before, but better ingredients.

Will's sister, Carol loved her WELSH RAREBIT with what looked like very yummy GRILLED BACK BACON and a side salad. Her partner, Gill looking for the veggie option chose the ROASTED VEGETABLE FRITTATA, Shaved Chevriot, Tapenade and Salad. Samuel gobbled up his BANGER, BEANS and CHIPS which is English for sausage, beans and fries....we told him it was an English hot dog!

My option was the CHICKEN ASTA with Chestnuts (which turned out to be Chestnut Mushrooms), BACON OLOROSO SHERRY and Rocket (which is English for Arucola). An excellent side salad made a complete meal for me, and we all headed on our tour of the region....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The POVERINA aint no poor girl in Normanby (Teesside, North Yorkshire)

When it comes to pub food, outside London is where it's at, and here we are more than 250 miles north of London outside the steel city of Middlesborough where Will calls home. Normanby is, well, a suburb, and very close to where Will gre up, and his sister led us to THE POVERINA, a small local pub that does an amazing job with prices lower than anything I have ever seen in the states, so sticker shock with the pound exchange rate is not a factor here.

The children's menu is 3.25pounds for anything and comes with a side of one veggie (choice out of 5) and Samuel opted for the Spaghetti Bolognese with peas on the side. He devoured all the pasta and most of the peas and the portion was substantial.

The four of us chose the lunch special which was also under 4 POUNDS!!!!!! TOTAL!!!! and included a full entree wand a side as well as a pudding (aka dessert).

Will and I devoured the STEAK & ALE Pies with fries in a yummy brown gravy, and this was the authentic homemade pie that tasted of ale and had yummy meat to boot. I was amazing at the GAMMON STEAK, a huge slice of ham served with fried egg atop and sides and then well all had HUGE desserts.

The RHUBARB CRUMBLE was divine, especially when coated with "custard," which basically amounts to about a full cup of thicker than usual creme angalise!!

OMIGOD!! We all adored the simple yet delicious food for the most unreal prices and praised the staff as we rolled out the door. We shall seek further Yorskire dining tomorrow night on our last night

in the north, before heading to the Cotswolds.

Monday, August 25, 2008

acclaim to AKBAR's The Grand in Leeds (UK)

On my second and final night in Leeds, I really wanted Indian food as it is always top notch here in the UK, and it was not hard to convince Will of the same, knowing that Samuel likes somosas, Our hotel and the guide books recommended AKBAR's THE GRAND at 16 Greek Street, just two blocks from the City Square where we dined the night before in the heart of the city, which is a vibrant up and coming area for al sorts of activity. It was, however, August bank holiday (e.g.. Labor Day), so many spots were closed.

Luckily, Akbar's was open and heaving. At 7pm it was almost full and the noise levels were high as we settled into high black leather chairs with the bit-too-dark lighting; although I did like the large votives hung on the central pillars. Samuel discovered "appleteaser," a fizzy apple juice and enjoyed a simple KEEMA SOMOSA if chicken onion and corn with no sauce.

The Papadam came with two superb chutneys: Tomato and Onion..I can't recall better. A HOUGHTON 2006 Western Australia Verdelho was bright and crisp and great with the spicy food.

The starters were MASALA FISH--a spiced and flash fried haddock (Sam loved the fish too)that was to die for and MURGH TIKKA a strongly spiced (ginger,garlic,coriander) chicken marinated in yoghurt then skewered and grilled to perfection. The cucumber and yoghurt raita was almost a necessity to cut the spice.

Our entrees were RISHAN LAL, a boneless lamb with onion, tomato and pepper with coriander which really needed the brown rice and was so filling and a miraculous MURGH TIKKA and KEEMA (not to be confused with the Murgh Tikka starter) which was a combination of large chicken chunk pot-roasted and mixed with minced lamb, ginger, garlic, herbs and spices. Even more filling than the lamb alone, this was a really novel and great dish. The NAAN we ordered was KULCHA with onion and cheese, but we marveled and the plain naan served at so many nearby tables on 3 foot tall metal hooks; our server insisted this was a tradition (at Akbars!!). We enjoyed a glass of HARDY's SHIRAZ and Sam requested the Strawberry Ice Cream--which they were out we agreed to chocolate, and they brought this laden chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream which Samuel sneered at (oh, how happy we were as it would have sent him into a sugar frenzy), finally getting the scoop if chocolate, which tasted like it cam from a carton in the freezer way to long (with ice crumbles on it!).

A nice touch was a complimentary plate of fruit including superb slices of Casabah melon, or was it Persian?

We rolled home knowing we had to head north to Will's hometown the next day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Leeds leads to good food at THE RESTAURANT Bar & Grille (Yorskshire, UK)

While Will & Samuel arrived in Leeds the day before me to visit Will's sister who lives here, I popped over the pond a day alter and managed to stay up for a superb dinner my first night in Britain at The RESTAURANT BAR & GRILLE smack in the center of the city at CITY SQUARE in the architecturally magnificent old Post Office ( We liked the large enclosed wine cellar that guided us in the door and our table overlooking the open kitchen, but it was the food that was the hit for all out family.

A bottle of LES CERISES Cotes due Rhone ROSE 2007 was crisp, dry and fruity after a warm (75degree) day here in Yorkshire and worked excellently with the ASIAN Starter PLATE made up of THAI PRAWN CAKES with FISH SAUCE to dip in that were superb, wonderful DUCK SPRING ROLLs which even Samuel loved, CHILLI (they use two "l's" here) SQUID which was a nice calamari-like battered squid, VIETNAMESE VEGETABLE & MINT SALAD that sported some hot chillis, TEMPURA KING PRAWNS which were gobbled up so fast, I never got one, but was told they were excellent and the unsatisfactory MALAYAN CHICKEN SKEWERS which were basically dry chicken skewers in a magnificent sauce of yogurt, cilantro and peanuts.

Sam was in heaven with his Artisan Handmade TORTELLINI filled with SLOW COOKED SCOTCH BEEF RAGU in Tomato Sauce---it was as good as it sounds....

We moved on to a second ROSE, CHATEAU MINTY Reserve Cotes de Provence 2007 (from near St. Tropez) made from Grenache, Tiburon & Cinsualt and full of fruit, yet bone dry.

The entrees were even better and included SPIT ROASTED GRESSINGHAM DUCK with ORANGE & SPICE, ROAST LAMB CUTLETS & Fondant Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Peas and Broad Beans(described by Will's sister as "bloody lovely"), and a Sunday Special (all of these were read to us and sounded SOOO tempting) of 28 day AGED ROAST SIRLOIN BEEF with YORKSHIRE PUDDING, Roast Potatoes, Spring Green Vegetables and Gravy which Will gobled up tout-de-suite. The sides were gorgeous JERSEY ROYAL POTATOES which were roasted, yet light and fluffy and served with just a pinch of sea (or kosher) salt and the excellent SPRING GREEN Veggies consisting of PETIT POIS, BROCCOLI, MANGE-TOUT (the British term for pea pods) and more were prepared with a light butter sauce to perfection.

My CALVES LIVER with DRIED CURED BACON, Mashed Potatoes and Onion Rings came in a super rich brown sauce and was sublime. Our server Sally deserves 3 stars and never missed a thing, including getting Will and me a glass of red wine each with our entree--he had the Cotes du Rhones Villages Coteaux Les Bocetinot 2004/2006 (how weird to combine two vintages from more than a year apart) and I went for the richer bigger RIOJA VEGA del RAYO Vendemmia Seleccionada 2005/2006.

We could not resist puddings (dessert here in the UK) and Samuel adored his trio of ice creams: Banana/Toffee, Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple while Will gobbled up the very rich STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING with Vanilla Ice Cream. If you have NEVER had Sticky Toffee Pudding, it alone is worth a trip across the pond! The cheese plate consisted of excellent local cheeses: Mrs. Kikhan's Creamy Lancashire, Golden Cross & Cachel Blue with Biscuits and Pear Chutney. I adored my GRATIN of SUMMER BERRIES-blue,rasp,black and straw-with Raspberry Sorbet served in a light Creme Anglaise--Sam kept stealing my raspberries each time I turned away!

We all left knowing that we WILL return to this place on our next trip here, and Will's sister Edna and her partner, Sue, agreed to return in the fall for their anniversary!

Pentagon City is Puttin' on the RITZ at FABULOUS FYVE

Our restaurant week stories continue with only rave after rave, and we have found a new intimate fave rave at FYVE located at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. Chef Amy Brandwein opened here just months ago after a long stint under Roberto Donna and as Executive Chef at the late Galileo in DC (oh how we wish that were back!) and she is rockin' the RItz with modern new and exciting American-Mediterranean cuisine.

Indeed the small dining room is modernized Ritz at its best with lost of space, comfy big orange fabric chairs, orange and brown swirly carpet, modern orange art and lots of orchids. The woods are dark and each place has a leather placemat emblazoned with a flap (it looks live a leather clip) with FYVE on it. The crystal is Schott, the wine list decent, the menu varied and restaurant week here allows you to choose from any three items! Of course, we had more.

Our first wine choice was out, so our excellent server Jaime offered up a DOAMINE de la CHAPPELLE au LOUPS Saint-Veran 2002 which was superbly minerally and dry and loaded with apples (for the same price as the wine we wanted!). The GAZPACHO presentation gives you a good idea of what Chef Amy can do and make it fun, especially on a hot summer night. Sadly, the waiter (busboy) who delivered it just left it without a word and we were at a loss. Chef Amy arrived and saved us describing the dish as Tomato Gazpacho over BEET CAMPARI GRANITA (yum, yum, yum!). The slight sweetness of the beet with the bitter Campari and tomato was a brilliant foil and each mouthful was different depending on how you combined the elements.

The superb bread and lavosh comes with an impossible to resist Olive/Artichoke/Parmesan/Garlic Tapenade and we had to say no if we wanted to keep on eating when it came to more bread!

The GRILLED OCOTPUS is made of deliciously crispy tentacles and slices with YUKON GOLD POTATOES, Black Olives and Sun Dried CHERRY TOMATOES bursting with flavor, while the SEARED SCALLOPES are huge (almost two inches across) with BACON and a CARROT SAUCE.

Chef Amy has learned the art of pasta well from a master and serves up homemade PAPARDELLE in the simplest yet most buttery of HERB SAUCES that is simply divine.

We moved onto the KAIKEN MALBEC from Mendoza in Argentina which has a really sweet nose but is a wonderfully rich and smooth wine that goes well with just about everything. Will opted for the SWORDFISH with Grilled Sweet PEPPERS, Lemon and Olive in a very traditional Mediterranean feel but bursting with flavor.

My GRILLED LAMB CHOPS were perfect and served with ARTICHOKES and HONEY LAVENDER SAUCE. The seasoning was strong (but okay by me) with a light relish, but the honey sauce paired wonderfully in making the spice less intense.

Desserts were also a success with a MINI SOUFFLE DUO (Chocolate and Grand Marnier), but my LEMON MERINGUE TART with BLUEBERRY Thyme Compote easily winning the contest--although I could not possibly eat every bite...even though it was sublime.

After a glass of 1994 ROZES LBV Port we headed home from the elegant hotel knowing that it IS a place to return to for fun or intimate events alike.

Monday, August 18, 2008

DC COAST does it again with charisma

After a successful restaurant week in my book, I decided to return to DC COAST as I noticed that this week is WINE WEEK there. This means that there are eight wines by the bottle for $20.08 at lunch and $35.08 at dinner.

I settled in and ordered a yummy rich bottle of RIDGE "Three Valleys" ZINFANDEL 2006 from Sonoma that has a luscious blend of 80% zin, 10% Petit Sirah, 5% Grenache and 5% Carignane. A perfect wine alone or with most any food that is not too light or delicate.

My super bubbly and wonderful server Sarah came over to take my order and I already knew what I wanted as I had my mind set. She did bring a magnificent treat out that is not on the menu and the chef was experimenting with. Incidentally, the sous chef (I believe his name is Matt) just took over this week as Executive Chef until BRENDAN COX (of Circle Bistro) moves in as the new Exec in September! Anyway, Matt(?) handled the kitchen, the food and even my wonderful treat all with brilliance. It was a PAN SEARED DIVER SCALLOP and FOIE GRAS Sandwich. A piece of toasted BRIOCHE had twice thick slices of huge scallop disks on it with a small wedge of Foie Gras in between them (about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide) cooked to firmness and making this a
true "sandwich." A sauce on the side was a sublime TRUFFLE HONEYSUCKLE Honey served in a small pitcher with a wooden honey spoon to ladle over the sandwich. Need I say more?

At this point, as I was sitting upstairs on the mezzanine (it was my first time there), I started getting the giggles, thinking of how funny it would be to throw small pieces of bread out the cracks in the glass wall on the diners below. I didn't.

My appetizer was the huge portion of CAST IRON CROCK STEAMED BLUE HILL BAY MUSSELS in a rich and filling sauce of Sauvignon Blanc and Oven Cured Tomatoes. To top this off the dish comes with two 3-4 inch long miniature GRILLED CHEESE on BRIOCHE Sandwiches that taste amazing when dipped in the sauce. I was so full, I had to rest at least 30 minutes before my entree of CHINESE STYLE SMOKED LOBSTER with crunchy STRIFRY VEGETABLES and Crispy Fried Spinach. While waiting, I saw half of a CRAB TOWER go by--the diner had eaten the crabcake and left the softshell--I was MORTIFIED! My buttery and lightly spiced crustacean was a dream and will go down as one of the signature dishes of DC for a long time!

I was so full, I could not even think of dessert and packed off my little cookies to take home for Samuel (although I did eat the Blueberry Madeleine that was superb!).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Supeb SPEZIE rounds out Restaurant Week

While you can still grab one more night (tonight, Sunday) at restaurants that are open on Sundays, many DC dining spots have announced extensions of Restaurant Week specials, so check around and you may get a deal.

With Will and Samuel out of town for several days, I snuck off with "Uncle" Rick to SPEZIE last night ( where Chef Cesare Lanfranconi (late of Tosca and Galileo) has now been ensconced for some time. He has madea most homey place for himself with not only the atmosphere, but the food itself as it is truly ITALIAN fine dining at its best.

As soon as we arrived it was great to see our old friend LUCIANO who worked for umpteen years at Galileo and really deserves an award for best waiter in DC (so I hereby award him the FIRST "Phyllis-teenY" Restaurant Award, perhaps I shall start my own awards competition and ceremony!). His smile and welcome would make ANYONE feel at home, and it is indeed like being served in his home when you are at Spezie. All of the menu was available for restaurant week and it was hard to decide. Rick went for the TROFIE di CASTAGNE al PESTO all Genovese which I thought tasted more like WHOLE WHEAT Pasta than Chestnut flour (and when Chef Cesare came out, we were informed I was correct as they had run out of the chestnut!). The basil pesto sauce was superb and this truly traditional dish had green beans, potato and aged pecorino in the style of Genoa.

My CARPACCIO d'AGNELLO in SALSA VERDE e Insalatina ai Capperi was just perfect as I really was not in the mood for a super heavy meal (having just been to a baby shower where the food was yummy!). The light lamb carpaccio had a superb sauce and was served with pickled onion and mache.

We enjoyed a wonderful, light, refreshing and just slightly sweet on the tip of the tongue BARBOURSVILLE ROSE 2006 from Virginia. I tend to associate Chef Cesare with Barboursville as he has cooked there regularly and we have had the pleasure of being there a couple of times when he was!

We moved on to a full bodied, smooth and yummy MONTEPILCIANO d'ABREZZO 2205 from CATALDI MADONNA that works with heavier fish and meat as well.

Rick opted for the tasty SALMONE SCOTTATO con ASPARIGI al PORSCIUTTO e CIPOLLOTTI al BALSAMICO. The asparagus were wrapped in huge slices of fresh prosciutto and the seared Salmon Fillet was served in a tasty sauce with Balsamic braised cipolline onions.

My PETTO d'ANATRA Arrosto con TORTINO di RISO e ASPARAGI, Salsa di CILIGIE e GRAPPA was another dream dish with a huge number of roasted duck breast slices served in a magnificent cherry and grappa sauce with each of the several accompanying cherries having been soaked in the grappa as well! It was accompanied by a light risotto and asparagus cake which was a perfect combo.

Desserts are always a treat as I remember the Tiramisu at Tosca always having been one of the best around. Rick went for the traditional and well made CREME BRULEE, while I opted for the CROSTATA alle FRAGOLINE di BOSCO con CREMA di RICOTTA e MANDROLE, Salsa alla Vaniglia which was a flaky pastry filled with strawberries, ricotta and almond with a creme Anglaise sauce.

Due Limoncelli, or two small glasses of that miracle after dinner drink sent us home very satisfied and completely happy with this year's choices for Restaurant Week!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DC COAST conquers and claims the crab contest/DC Zagat '09

Hi foodies,

Just wanted to let you know that the Washington/Baltimore Zagat 2009 Guide came out last week and there are some new/odd/interesting items to be observed:

Most popular DC spots in order: Citronelle/Zaytina/Jaleo/Kinkead's
Top Food ratings go to Makoto (I like this but don't see why its #1)/Inn at Little Washington (tie) then 2nd place tie for Komi/Cityzen/Marcel's and L'Auberge Provencale. Third place honors for Citronelle/Eve/Obelisk/L'Auberge Chez Francois/Ray's the Steaks/Prime Rib/Le Paradou/Palena and Kinkead's.

Top Decor & Service went to Inn at Little Washington (watch here for a review in mid-Sept!)

While I may not totally agree, the Zagat guide does tend to be a pretty good reference in general.

As always, Zagat gives high scores (as I do) to DC COAST ( that has become, along with Kinkead's, one of the fine seafood bastions of DC cuisine.

We popped into DC COAST with Samuel on the second night of Restaurant Week and things were running quite smoothly. Those of you in the biz know that Restaurant Week can be feared. Will always enlightens me with such anecdotes about clients asking if they can SPLIT the lunch at $20.08. This week he got a call from one woman worried that being seated downstairs, she might be left in the dark! Anyway, DC Coast seems to have the clientele and the superb staff in order, and there was not a single glitch all night. Their menu includes a choice of about 6 or 7 starters, any main course (surcharge only for lobster) and a choice of 3 or 4 desserts. The minor limitations on starters probably keeps it a bit easier to manage, and they are all of good quality and have a wide range. Will had the YELLOW HEIRLOOM TOMATO GAZPACHO with CRAB that was sublime and I had the WARM BALSAMIC SHRIMP on WILTED SPINACH, Roasted Peppers and Garlic Toast. The three large skewered shrimp were moist and full of flavor from the balsamic sauce and roasted peppers in it.

Samuel went right for the FISH & CHIPS which were, to quote him, the best he has ever had (well, at least until we get to Yorkshire next week!). The batter was nicely seasoned and the fish was excellent. I thought at first it must be halibut, but was told it was tilapia, which I ALWAYS find so dry. I am totally amazed how Chef Travis Timberlake managed to keep this fish so moist! The fries were yummy too, as we explained to Samuel how the French called them "frites," the Brits "chips" and we French fries.

We started with a totally wondrous minerally, steely and slightly creamy SANCERRE 2006 from Chateau de Sancerre in the Loire; this wine has everything going for it and is perfect with most seafood (think of that mineral acidity with the gazpacho and the balsamic!).

We wanted to try several things so two additional appetizers came (not on the restaurant week menu) that were both magnificent and new to DC Coast:
GRATIN of ARTICHOKE HEARTS with Spinach, JUMBO LUMP CRAB, BENTON BACON (from Alan Benton of Tenn.) & Ricotta Cheese, all superbly broiled to melted perfection. Another dream dish with the Sancerre!

Pan Seared TERES MAJOR STEAK is another new starter served with TRUFFLES, Mashed Potatoes and a STRAWBERRY BBQ Sauce. We were told by the ebullient maitre d'/sommelier Ryan that this was a rare shoulder cut from the cow next to the filet (each cow apparently yields only a couple of these steaks--wow you learn something every day!). Well, no matter, the meat was supreme and the sauce was to die for, a brilliant combination of fruit, truffle, some spice and meat that melted in our mouths.

I must also mention our server, pretty perfect Patrick, who was there at every second to handle whatever Sam or we requested and never flinched or bat an eye (again, all this with the inquiries and demands of restaurant week). Samuel made drawings for Patrick, Ryan and another server Rick (who is a well known local actor we know) and carefully spelled out each one's name on the back. It was adorable, and this time, he was truly a gem!

By this point, he was on his SORBET TRIO consisting of Coconut-Lime ( a bit too mealy for me, more akin to Indian Kulfi), Passion Fruit-Banana and the one that Sam gobbled up-PEAR GINGER!

We had moved on to a superb 2006 ROUSANNE from VERGET in the Vin de Pays de Vaucluse region. We knew before we came to DC Coast what entree we both wanted, and it was no surprise after the previous night's crabcake competition that we opted for the now famous TOWER of CRAB consisting of a huge JUMBO LUMP CRAB CAKE sitting atop a Tempura-style battered CRISPY SOFTSHELL CRAB and a plate of SWEET CORN SUCCOTASH, also laden with chunks of crab. The simplest of crabcakes with no filler and just some spices was indeed the best one we have had in a very long time (including all those the previous night). It was moist and did not need the corn sauce below, although that was an enhancement from time to time. The softshell was also superb and I can only hope to see some more of them on my plate in upcoming weeks before the season ends.

Desserts were the KEY LIME CHEESECAKE with Cinnamon Sugar Graham Cookie, which was really an ingenious Panna Cotta in Lime sauce with cookie on the side. Pastry Chef Lauren Whitledge does a great ALMOND CREME BRULEE which crunchy top and a FRESH BERRY COMPOTE and Brown Sugar Biscotti on the side for a dash of extra flavor.

We WERE stuffed and are glad we have a night off before our next restaurant week assignment tomorrow!

PS- the only complaint we all had was that the dining room was a bit chilly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The CRABCAKE CONTEST or "I Love Crabcakes" presented by AIWF

Last night we attended the 3rd Annual "I LOVE CRABCAKES" Competition at Phillips Seafood in SW DC and it was a real treat of an evening presented by the local chapter of AIWF (American Institute for Food & Wine).

We had seven chefs from the metro area each making crabcakes and serving them along with nice wines and superb BLOODY MARYs made by the Phillips staff (their spicy version is a real zinger!). A small buffet of salad, fruit and soups also had some yummy fried chicken legs! But it was crabcakes that we came for and crabcakes that starred. All were pretty good, but some shone brighter than others:

RICK BECKEL of Hooked (Virginia) which seems to keep getting confused with Hook in Georgetown (I wonder why) had the simplest version with no filler and a simple remoulade. Incidentally, we hear they will open a second location in Shirlington soon!

NATE AUCHTER of Mitsitam Cafe at the National museum of the American Indian rightfully prepared his with a pressed corn mayo binder and served it over a sweet potato puree.

Perhaps the lumpiest (that's good) and best presentation (for me) of the CRAB itself came from JOHN PAYNE, Jr. of Stone's Throw at the Marriott Wardman Park simply because it was a huge lumpy all totally crab cake nicely broiled and then served with a dollop of red pepper puree with a bit of spice. I would have liked a bit more puree to dip and a bit more spice (jalapeno) for flavor.

A big winner for me was our dear friend JIM SWENSON of the National Press Club who created a BLUE CRABCAKE that was not "blue" crab, but crab made with Roquefort BLUE Cheese that had a nice flavor and was enhanced by a simple homemade lattice potato chip on the side.

A newcomer to DC is ROBERT GELMAN of McCormick & Schmick's at National Harbor (whose food we tasted at an event there in May). His New Orleans connections have his crabcake simply prepared with a dollop of jalapeno remoulade on top that had a slight zing and lots of flavor. He explained to us that some of the chefs were presenting the cakes differently to the judges and his came with a BLACKEYE PEA Salad and GINGER SLAW on the side that were both oh so tasty.

KEVIN MESIAH of Seafoodie out in Virginia (past Dulles?) was another favorite of mine as he took the crab, rolled it in a ball, dipped it in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and flash fried the ball. What a SUPER appetizer for passing this would make at any party (and they deliver by fedex!).

The winner of both the public vote and the judges vote (a panel of 8 well known food experts/chefs/critics from our area) was CEDRIC MAUPILLIER of Central Michel Richard, and this was most likely for the least pure, but perhaps the most work-intensive and most "French" presentation as each cake sat on a bed of LEEK PUREE and a SCALLOP MOUSSE was used as a binder. YUM YUM.

Besides huge gallon jugs of TABASCO for the chefs and prizes, Chef Maupiller won a $3000 scholarship for a chef-intern at his restaurant (well, at least that is what I heard it to be).

We all had a great night, even though we missed the first night of DC's Restaurant Week, but tonight we will be taking Samuel for more seafood at DC COAST!


Monday, August 04, 2008

Santa Fe's LUMINARIA (previously Baleen) at the Inn at Loretto is luscious

My last night in Santa Fe was supposed to be at BALEEN at The Inn at Loretto, but just two weeks ago the Hotel was sold and they renamed the restaurant, LUMINARIA (, albeit with no change in chef and only some small decor and menu changes. Nevertheless, it was a rainy evening so outside dining, which is what Luminaria is famous for, was out of the question. The outdoor patio area overlooks the famous Loretto Chapel with fountains, candles and just a real warm local flavor. Indoors, are lots of adobe colors, woods, woven chairs, pillowed banquettes and again a posh, yet traditional Santa Fe feel. Candles are all over, even on the walls and after I sat down they lit the large fire in the corner (with the a/c on) only to have to open the door to let cooler air in; so much for efficient energy use.

A tasty amuse of three 1 inch squares of JICAMA came with three toppings: Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and Pineapple Salsa with dollops of aged balsamic..YUM YUM.

I really wanted the POMEGRANATE LEMONADE made from vodka, pomegranate juice, lemonade and limoncello, but knowing the opera was ahead, I settled for a glass of wine. With only about 6 white wines by the glass, my first two requests were out of stock; not a good omen. I settled on a WHITEHAVEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 206 from Marlborough in New Zealand that had a sweet-tartness to it with lots of citrus. It was perfect with the GRIDDLED CRAB CAKE and RED CHILE-LIME AIOLI that had a punch and was splendid. The crab came from Dungeness in Washington State as well as Alaska and got a B+/A- on the crab factor, but the cake and aioli get an A+ for flavor.

My entree was a spectacular IDAHO MOUNTAIN BROOK TROUT with SAGE BARLEY, FRESH PEAS (snap, English and tendrills) in a superb ALMOND BROWN BUTTER; one of the best pieces of trout I have ever had in an oh so simple splendid sauce.

I wanted to skip dessert, but settled for the MELON SORBET TRIO (watermelon,honeydew and cantaloupe) with Toasted Coconut and Candied Lime. Each two tablespoon size scoop was just right with the watermelon more like ices, and the honeydew being my favorite due to the sweetness. The coconut added sweetness to the watermelon and the lime was a nice touch.

I had to ask for my check three times and it was getting late. The hostess brought the check and comped the dessert, wine and coffee, which was most generous since I had a coupon for a free appetizer! I made the opera with about 12 minutes to spare, but loved my meal and know I will return to Luminaria when I am next back in Santa Fe, a city I love for food, opera and so much more.

Tesuque's (New Mexico) TERRA opens tomorrow at Rancho Encantado

I was invited today to visit Santa Fe's newest and most luxurious hotel Rancho Encantado, about 10 mins. North of the city nestled in the mountains with spectacular views.

The restaurant TERRA opens officially tomorrow and should be a huge success based on my excellent lunch. LOBSTER TORTILLA SOUP is served in a cool tall bowl with chunks of meat, lots of crunchy tortilla strips and a bisque-like soup that is creamy rich and superb.

The DUCK RUEBEN was a huge sandwich with large chunks of yummy duck, super juniper sauerkraut and homemade Russian dressing. There was a huge pile of fries, ketchup & Dijon mustard as well as fresh tomato slices and sauteed onions. It was the best Rueben I have ever had anywhere!!

Next question:can I eat dinner?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Santa Fe: FUEGO at LA POSADA passes with posh plates

I have stayed at La POSADA many times and dined at Fuego, their fine dining spot, many times, but it seems they have been plagued with a revolving door for chefs over the years. Only recently, Mary Nearn (whose stellar history can be read here) took over and revamped the menu, but the ambience and class of the spot still remain adjoining the grand old mansion of Santa Fe, the Staab House.

I chose FUEGO for my client dinner which turned out to be a tete-a-tete with the world's most famous countertenor due to cancellations and no shows, but we both had a superb time and enjoyed every morel and word. We joked with the two captains (to call them servers would be demeaning) about how they called us "sir," as if graduates of a military academy. Indeed, the service was perfect, save for one time I had to pour our red wine. There was the case of the busboys who sometimes serving us not being sure of what the dish was; I think it was more of a language barrier, which shocked me in a 4 diamond restaurant.

The lighting was also a bit too low and was raised upon request so we could enjoy and see the food even better, We looked at the menu and asked about the tasting menus that Fuego has been famous for, only to be told that Chef Nearn had done away with them for an all a la carte menu, but we could have a 7-course option if we liked and choose anything specific we liked from the menu. We did, and insisted only on the sweetbreads.

The restaurant seemed to have no more than three or four occupied tables, perhaps because it was a Sunday? I asked if Chef Nearn was in and they said yes, but we never did get the chance to meet her.

After cocktails, we ordered a bottle of DOMAINE SERENE CHARDONNAY "Clos du Soleil" 2002 from Oregon which, like northwestern chards, was very fruit forward and low on oak...superb taste and a great pairing with the dishes to come. The Amuse was SMOKED SALMON on Herb Blini with Mache and Chive Oil. It was nice, but did not really excite my palate for what was to come....

First was the WHITE & GREEN ASPARAGUS with ASPARAGUS Coulis, Carrot Puree, Fingerling POTATO CHIPS and Cypress Salt. A light dish for sure, but full of exciting flavors. We really got turned on by the Poached and Sauteed SWEETBREADS wrapped in ITALIAN HAM on MUSTARD GREENS with REDEYE GRAVY, which I learned is a southern treat based on a simple roux with coffee added. It was an ingenious combination of flavors and truly thrilled our palates.

Pan Seared DIVER SCALLOP with LEEK VELOUTE, BABY RADISH & Micro Greens was an exquisitely delicate dish that ended the first section of the meal, followed by a yummy MANGO SORBERT palate cleanser.

We switched to red wine with a LANG & REED CABERNET FRANC 2004 recommended by our captain and it was a real budget find at $40-something with lots of body and flavor with a slight tartness, bigger than the Virginia Cab Fracs we like and perfect with the meat course, but especially the cheese to follow.

DUCK BREAST with Confit of DUCK & PEACHES and Baby Fennel was our main entree and even though I am not a fennel fan, the mild baby fennel was a nice touch to the superb duck and peaches combination that really did fill us up.

We were given the choice of dessert or cheese and quickly chose the latter having seen the wonderful cheese trolley at the entrance. We did right...our captain came over and in a display of what I have never seen before, proffered a taste of each cheese to both of us with a complete explanation. It gave us the opportunity to try them all and then choose the four or five we liked best for our plates. It's a shame this is not done more often.

GRUYERE CRU from Virginia was more liked a reserve gouda with a bit of crunchiness (Samuel would have loved this). Cowgirl Creamery's RED HAWK was another treat OSAU IRTAY (sp?) was a Basque sheep. Two chevre cheeses followed and then there were two blues. TAYLOR STILTON was mild and crunchy and PERSEILLE de MALZUE was a molten Roquefort that had my guest in heavenly ecstasy, especially when combined with a fresh lavender honey.

The plates came with apples and bread (I skipped most of that) and two salts for flavoring the goat cheeses: Fleur de Sel from Brittany and ALEA, red sea salt.

Small postludes of mini-CHEESECAKES finished off the evening as we rolled out.

I must only say that if count everything including the amuse and sorbet (not the cheesecake) it does add up to 7 courses. Usually, I don't include the amuse (and sometimes not the sorbet) in the course count. We were full enough not to be upset, but I would have gladly had a smaller portion of the duck and an extra course, perhaps the quail & beets??

Oh well, there's always next time.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Santa Fe's 315 is a find in a city of varied cuisine

I've been coming to Santa Fe for over 25 years, and was thrilled to hear some raves about a new dining spot called 315. Upon arrival at 315 (located at 315 Old Santa Fe Trail -, my server advised me the adorable French-style bistro had been open for twelve years! Was I shocked!

315 is a small, slightly cramped indoor space of yellow and blue adobe walls, but cooler than the outside seating in the almost 90 degree heat. The walls have vases of dried flowers and small oils of the French countryside making for a nice ambience. The wine list is varied (it is actually called 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar, and I ordered a glass of SCHUG Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc and kept it to just the one glass as another long opera was in store for that evening.

The menu is also varied, but its the blackboard of specials that seems to draw everyone's attention. I immediately decided on the SQUASH BLOSSOM BEIGNETS over Goat Cheese Fondue and Tomato Coulis. There were six or so large blossoms, lightly battered and fried to perfection over a light cheese sauce and coulis that had just the right amount of flavor to enhance these treats. They were my first squash blossoms of the season and indeed, it's been a year since my last tasting of these rare delicacies.

My entree was LINE CAUGHT KING SALMON and SWEETBREAD NAPOLEON with SUCCOTASH, ZUCCHINI SOUFFLE and Local Farmer's Market Scallion Coulis. The northwestern salmon was perfect and the sweetbreads ideal, but I am not sure why it was called a Napoleon as it was simply the two on the plate with no real "layering" or such. The succotash sat bowl-like inside the small souffle, which was okay, but a bit dry; the scallion sauce sublime and solved any dryness in the small souffle.

I felt the simple standard desserts were not on the charts and enjoyed a superb cappuccino before heading to FIGARO.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Santa Fe: Cut the COWGIRL BBQ and Hawaiian musings at MAUKA

Yesterday's dining was a mixed bag all day with my return to the COWGIRL BBQ at 319 S. Guadalupe ( where we had a super breakfast just a couple of years ago. I was in a GREEN CHILE BURGER mod and really wanted to go to my favorite burger place around (Bobcat Bite) but just didn't have the time to drive the 15-20 minutes each way, and could not justify the waste of gas. Sadly, Bobcat is only open Wednesday-Saturday and since I leave Tuesday, I know have missed that option! Cowgirl's GAME BURGER sounds great and looked even better on the plate. A combination of elk, buffalo and venison smothered with melted cheddar and a superb green chile sauce. Simple, yes, but I asked for it medium rare and it came pretty well done! I mentioned this to the server who shrugged. When the bill came, he had removed my lemonade and cut the cost of the burger by a buck or so, but it was so dry I felt cheated. The accompanying salad was nice!

Two years ago the NY Times gave KASASOBA raves, and I loved it too. It closed last year way too soon and has been replaced my MAUKA ( where Joel Coleman is the chef/owner. "Mauka" is the Hawaiian term for mountainside, and Mr. Coleman's Hawaiian roots are clear on this menu. The space itself has not changed much with black wood booths and banquettes with not too comfy pillows on the seats remain, but the Japanese kitschy movie posters are gone and replaced with large mirrors on the plain walls and four "Audubon"-like prints of Hawaiian flora. Outside dining, as in so many places is an option as well.

The HAWAIIAN POKE SPRING ROLL was four huge slices of superbly raw Hawaiian ahi tuna wrapped and then flash fried for crunch and serve over a bed of Pineapple/Scallion/Thai Chili salad. The pieces were almost and inch and a half across and really a bit too large to eat in one bite, although I persevered..the guy across the room ended up dissecting each piece. The $15 appetizer was huge and tasty, so I asked the waiter for a good rest before my entree.

The Fish special was WALLOO (Hawaiian ESCOLAR) cooked over Market Veggies (zucchini/mild peppers/thin yellow was beans/greens/onion and a couple of cold potatoes) with a superb lightly creamy TRUFFLE PINEAPPLE REDUCTION. When I told the server about the potatoes, I got an "I'll tell the kitchen." When the bill came I was in shock at the $35 entree price (well, it was my fault as the menu read MP--or market price-- and I should have asked!) as the dish was good, but no revelation.

Things went back to quality with my dessert and I opted to make this a "three course pineapple tasting" with the BLACKBERRY CLAFOUTIS served with a large puddle of PINEAPPLE CARAMEL that was heavenly and three fresh blackberries nesting atop the sauce. The cake was simple and the dish was excellent..a shame the entree was not up to the same level overall.

As the opera was long, and my nap didn't ever work out, I refrained from alcohol (I was surprised that sake was NOT served by the glass) and had a yummy pot of tea.

Today--dinner at 315--which has been getting the raves as one of Santa Fe's newer spots.