Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rye, NY's WHITBY CASTLE Restaurant reminds me of the old days with a new twist (1-16-10)

While visiting my mother this weekend in Westchester we tried a
restaurant that has been only minutes from her home for decades.
Whitby Castle ( was built about 150 years ago
for a local tycoon and actually has stones in it from the historic
Whitby Abbey in England (not far from Will's hometown, and
subsequently more famous for being the resting place of Dracula's
coffins in the Bram Stoker novel). The "castle" ultimately became the
restaurant for a country club and was eventually purchased the city of
Rye as a public golf club. The rooms are pleasant enough and have a
kind of old world flair with tables well separated and service pretty
decent (although we did have to pour our wine several times). While it
is not fine dining (I was quite surprised to see it is not even Zagat
rated!), some of the food was quite delish.
Samuel ordered the requisite CHICKEN Fingers & Fries and finished off
with a bowl of Chocolate Ice Cream (we think it was Haagen Dazs). We
settled in with a bottle of 2006 J. LOHR "Arroyo Vista" CHARDONNAY
from Monterrey, California that we have always enjoyed. It has lots of
flavor, a hint of oak, but it is not overpowering and is a great buy
at $32 (the wine sells for just about half that).
Will's SEAFOOD BEIGNETS were a failure in that you could not really
taste shrimp, scallop or lobster (as described on the menu) in these
New Orleans style fritters which came with pickled English cucumber
and a dollop of Chipotle mayo on top of each of the small round
fritters. They also were on the dry side and needed a tad more mayo
for flavor and moistness.
My mother's CRISPY GOAT CHEESE with MIXED GREENS, Dried Cherries,
Spiced Walnuts and Raspberry Vinaigrette fared better in that it was a
superb salad save for the quite mealy texture of the small lightly
battered and deep fried discs of goat cheese.
I hit the jackpot in taste and presentation with the Seared NEW
BEDFORD DIVER SCALLOPS on a Bolivian Salt Slab with Marinated Yellow
Oyster Mushrooms and GAI LON. The slab was about 6 inches by 3 inches
by 1 inch and came scalding hot on a black napkin with the scallops on
top searing. It was quite impressive, although I must admit, quite
salty as well (which I did not mind). The scallops were superb,
although the Gai Lon looked alot like baby bok choy to me. The server
said Gai Lon was Chinese Broccoli, but that for some reason they had
run out and used bok choy instead.
The bread came warm and tasty and was served with Boursin Cheese,
Butter and a whole head of roasted garlic that we all dug into with

For the main course wine, I first tried a taste of the INDABA South
African Merlot they offer by the glass which was quite spicy for a
Merlot, so we choose a superb smooth MONTEPULCIANO Riserva from
ZACAGNINI in Abruzzo, again for the mid-$30 range that seems to be the
deal here.

My Mom choose another starter of Marinated Grilled PRAWNS with Sesame
SHRIMP TOAST PLANK and Pickled Garden Veggies that was another hit
while Will ordered the King's Cut portion of PRIME RIB with Baked
Potato, Asparagus & Red Peppers. I mention KING's Cut as there was an
option for $2 less for QUEEN's CUT. The portion that arrived had to be
at least 2 pounds and we ended up taking home more than half of it! I
wonder how much less in size the smaller portion was?
My CRISPY SKIN DUCK CONFIT was a nicely cooked leg and thigh with
Chinese LONG BEANS, Bok Choy and excellent moist and tasty Forbidden
BLACK RICE. There could have been a bit more GINGER-HONEY Soy Sauce
for the duck as it was a bit dry in a couple of bites.
Right about this point, Samuel got up to give his grandmother (yaya,
as we call my Mom) a kiss and as he did so, lost his second tooth (the
first had come out about 2 weeks prior on the cruise!). I told him
that I thought the NY Tooth Fairy paid off for teeth much higher than
in DC, and indeed he collected $7 last night as the three of each
deposited different amounts not knowing what the others had done!
Lucky him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DC's BIBIANA get big bravos (even on Rest. Week) (1-12-10)

Now that DC's Restaurant Week is coming to an end and I have caught up
on my work from our long vacation, I have good news about the Italian
scene in downtown DC. BIBIANA, which opened last year at 1100 New York
Ave (entrance on 12th and H Streets, NW This
slightly noisy and a bit crowded space (ask for one of the two quieter
tables behind the beaded curtain!) has brought true Italian cuisine
along with excellent service, and they carry all this off EVEN during
restaurant week for the $35.10 three course special.
Samuel opted for a small portion of the superb TAGLIATELLE BOLOGNESE
and finished his meal off with a yummy Fresh SOUR CHERRY Sorbetto that
was bursting with flavor, a bit akin to gelato, and sadly a bit soft.
We started with a bottle of CRIVELLI RUCHE di CASTAGNOLE 207 from
Monferrato in Piemonte. It's a full bodied and slightly earthy red
that was great to warm up with on a cold winter night...and it had
been WAY too cold by this time. Sadly, the wine is stored at about 54
degrees (or maybe even less) and needed some warming up. Our second
red was superb as well, a 2005 VIGNABALDO SAGRANTINO de MONTEFLACO
from Umbria that our server recommended and truly shone with our main
courses, despite the fact that one was seafood.

I started with the SHEEP's MILK RICOTT AGNOLOTTI with Lemon Butter,
Marjoram & Spinach which was a hearty sized starter and had an intense
yummy lemon flavor over the cheese stuffed pillows. Will chose the
BURRATA with Winter Vegetable Salad, which was a tasty rich version of
the now famous cheese, but was not at the creamy level of the Burrata
at Dino's.
Will's main course was the CARNAROLI RISOTTO wit Diver SCALLOPS, PESTO
GENOVESE, Pine Nuts and Green Bean Salad. The greenish (from the
pesto) pasta was excellent, although I always prefer it slightly more
al dente, and credit goes to the kitchen for the extra salads or sides
offered on each plate during this budget-driven week. I should note
that the Restaurant Week menu was special and had about 6-8 choices in
each category. The regular menu was not available, so we really need
to go back to test that out, and I know we will!
I chose the Roasted Shenandoah Valley LAMB LEG with CHICK Peas &
Escarole which was a huge portion of tasty lamb that really showed off
the purveyor and our region. We opted for an extra side of CAVOLFIORI,
cauliflower with garlic and anchovy that was simply divine.

For dessert, Will chose the Fresh SALTED CARAMEL Gelato, a nice
lighter and tasty option, while I went for the VANILLA PANNA COTTA
with Liquid Orange Center and Orange Streusel. This novel take on the
dish had the yummy panna cotta in a light orange fruit soup with the
crumble sprinkled around.
Everyone was happy, and especially for the special deal.....

Monday, January 11, 2010

ADDISON's at the GRAND del MAR in San Diego is elegant, but addles the tummy

On the last day of our 3 week vacation (of which 18 days were on the
cruise), we arrived in San Diego for one night and chose to stay at
the elegant and wonderful GRAND DEL MAR resort about 20 minutes north
of downtown San Diego (just east of La Jolla). The exclusive
restaurant ere is ADDISON's with award winning Chef WILLIAM BRADLEY in
charge, who mixes French cuisine with American flair to great
perfection in many cases.
The restaurant itself has a vast feeling with cathedral ceilings
towering above us and giant iron chandeliers draping from them. There
are terra cotta colored tile floors, but the sound level is that of a
church, although at times there was a faint echo of other
conversations at tables not so close (obviously a small acoustic
fault). The booths are big enough to live in and you are lulled into
spa feeling with new age "spa" music, a gigantic fireplace blazing and
if you are there before dark, beautiful vistas over the hills. The
tables had truly ugly brain-size and brain-shaped glass votives.
We were told the water was complimentary and we chose sparkling, which
turned out to be our world wide number 1 choice- BADOIT. It is nice
when things are clear from the start and you are not charged for each
silly little item. Angelo, the sommelier, rolled over the "champagne
in ice cart" and explained the several options offered by the glass.
Tempting, but be sure to ask the prices before imbibing. Will opted
for a $17 glass of PHILIPPONAT BRUT Reserve Rose which had a
distinctive cranberry taste. I went for the drier ALFRED GRATIEN Brut
which was very different from most French Champagnes in that it had a
very pineapply taste and was quite fruit forward; different, but nice.
There were several dining options and wining options as well. The
chef's 6-course tasting was $140, but gave no clue of what was to come
and the pairings were an extra $125. After all the food on the cruise
and a net weight gain of 3-4 pounds at least for me, we opted for the
ala carte which was either $80 for 3 courses or $98 for 4. Wines were
available with these, but at $100 per person for the 4 course (which
we chose), I felt we could devote the $200 or perhaps less to two
wonderful bottles of wine rather than getting 4 small glasses each! I
chose a RUDI PICHLER 2005 Terrassen GRUNER VELTLINER "Smaragd" from
Wosendorf, Austria that had aged beautifully and was now a pale
yellow. The four years in bottle for this old vines wine was just
right and it blossomed as we enjoyed each taste.
The first amuse arrived and was a superb Consomme of PICKLED
CRANBERRIES with BASIL Creme Fraiche that we both oohed and aahed
over, especially with the small bites of tiny fresh basil leaf
garnish. I said it was both tart and sour, yet creamy, while Will went
for the sweet and tart definition. An okay MASCARPONE filled GOUGERE
A slightly sweet brioche roll was served by a guy who mumbled
something about the butter...

The first course was perhaps the highlight of the entire evening with
Will choosing Baby SEA SCALLOPS (these did not look baby in size to
me) with LEEK FONDUE and GOLDEN CAVIAR, Vermouth and Champagne Foam.
The caviar was actually Ossetra, not golden, though no complaints
there and the entire dish was a dreamy treat. My LANGOUSTINES GRILLES
were served in a Toasted INDIAN CURRY "Scampi" Style with Crispy
Garlic chips. Another divine creation.
The second course did not fare as well with what should have been a
superb CARAMELIZED SABLEFISH with Sweet ONION Mille-Feuille, Miso &
Mustard for Will that he said was too salty. I thought it was nice,
but a bit over-oniony, although the crispy shallots were a nice touch.
My FOIE GRAS POT de CREME with Sesame Seed Tuile, Bacon & Amaretto
Creme Glacee was another oddity that Will said was just too busy. I
thought the basic idea with a foie gras pate at the bottom covered by
a layer of smoked bacon mousseline (the creme glacee) and a sesame
seed tuile on top was headed in the right direction; at least some of
the flavors worked, but it was simply overwhelming.
The third course fared better for Will than me when he chose the RIS
de VEAU Poelee with PARMESAN RISOTTO and Aged Balsamic "Glacage." The
sweetbreads were divine and the dish overall a success, while my LE
BOEUF TAQUINE with ONION MILLE FEUILLE wrapped with 3 year aged
PROSCIUTTO di SAN DANIELE had a big problem. The braised short rib
beef was marred by a thick marmalade glaze that I ended up scooping
off as it was cloyingly sweet and wrecked the meat, which was way too
fatty as well. Two of the tiniest haricots verts I have ever seen on
earth were a wonderful garnish, but alas the only real redeeming part
of this dish was the Onion and Prosciutto. A wonderful brittle of
onion was the mille feuille and it was wrapped in the crispy
prosciutto sandwich-like and simply stole the whole plate away.
We enjoyed the earthiness of THE OJAI VINEYARD "Rolo Ranch" 2004 SYRAH
which probably went better with my dish than Will's. He adored the
fact that there was an OJAI Vineyard of the same name as that in the
TV show Brothers & Sisters.
We were both escorted to the bathroom which was palatial in itself
with huge orchids, marble out the wazoo and gilt edged mirrors.
The cheese tray was rolled over and we saw four cheeses that did not
give us an overall huge impression (cheddar, camembert, blue), but I
loved the look of one small aged goat and the server quickly offered
us a complimentary taste of the SU YOUNG Goat A CAPELLA, which is a
cheese and cheese maker from California I will look for in the future.
Tangy, aged, and divine, this cheese had a huge personality.

The dessert course was preceded by a WILD BERRY SORBET with APPLE
CIDER GRANITA that was sweet on one side and tart and refreshing on
the other.
Will opted for the ENGLISH BUTTER TOFFEE of candied caramel and honey
comb with Creme Glacee which was a superb dish. His only complaint was
that there were two huge toffee brittle triangles and one was enough;
I wish this was our only complaint. My BLACK FIG BRULEE was made of
roasted figs bruleed and touched with gold leaf for a visual touch. A
Cinnamon Creme Chantilly with Pate Brisee and Balsamic were also
present. I liked the biscuit of the pate and the whole assembly
itself, but overall the dish was less impressive than Will's.
The lone post-dessert was a tiny PATE de MENTHE which reminded us both
of a glorified After 8 Dinner Mint, which I have never liked as it is
mint and dark chocolate, two items that I am not truly fond of.
We took our small boxes of chocolates (not yet tasted) and headed
outside to our Mercedes and driver which took us back to the main
hotel about 3 minutes away; a nice touch, but not enough to redeem the
small errors in the evening.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

BLUE RIDGE in Upper Geo'town is good, but no bowlover (1-10-10)

Wow guys, I have been so busy catching up after our vacation that I
completely forgot to post this about our first night out after we
returned from the cruise. BLUE RIDGE (2340 Wisconsin Ave, NW) opened
quietly late last year in Upper Georgetown under the guidance of Chef
BARTON SEAVER (ex of Cafe Saint-EX & Hook) and seems to have an almost
local following.
When we arrived early on Sunday, the place was virtually empty,
although it did fill up a little by our departure, and most of the
folks seemed to be regulars moseying in for a bite. Whatever the case,
the chef was not in evidence, and while there were a number of
highlights, there were some lows as well.
Wonderful yummy and irresistible popcorn with brown sugar, oregano and
paprika comes to the table instead of bread. While I love the popcorn,
and it is surely less costly than bread, it can't be used for sauces,
and often serves as just a filler.
This was that period of the cold freeze in DC, so we went right to the
red wine with a JEFFERSON (Monticello, VA) Vineyards 2007 Cabernet
France which was medium bodied and just right. Many Virginia wineries
are making this varietal in a near perfect form, so it is a wine that
you rarely can go wrong with. Our second wine was a LIOCO INDICA 2006
Carignan/Petit Sirah from Mendocino, California that had much more
body indeed and stood up to the heftier main courses. There is little
to be faulted in the extensive and really fun wine list.
Our starters were DEVILED EGGS with Celery Root Slaw and Trout Caviar
which is a nice take on the tasty American dish, BIBB BACON &
Buttermilk BLUE Salad was okay, but it was my CHEF's CHARCUTERIE
Platter that was the star for its size, value and variety. It
Bev's 14 month Long-Leg HAM. There are many choices for the
charcuterie, but you must decide on only four, and I can't say that I
was not very impressed by all four choices. These come with Corn
Chips, Pickled Radish and Walnuts.

The main courses varied with CREAMY CORN GRITS GRATIN with Black Eyed
Pea & Turnip Green Ragu being a vegetarian treat, and Florida MAHI-
MAHI with Braised CABBAGE served in a CHORIZO Vinaigrette with
Fingerling Potatoes being a winner for fish lovers that don't mind the
tasty sausage for bite. It sadly arrived at room temperature, which
was a problem with several of our main courses. We were too tired to
complain or make note of this, as we just wanted to eat, enjoy our
friends' company and head home to bed. The RUSTIC PORK MEAT LOAF in
Smokey Tomato Sauce with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes inwould have
been tastier if it came out hot; the dish was indeed well created,
just not well served. It was further marred by a side of greens that
were very lemony, greasy and acidic.

We opted to split two desserts choosing the HONEY CRISP APPLE CRUMBLE
and New Jersey BLUEBERRY COBBLER. Both were tasty and we went home
thinking that the recipes (save the side of greens on the meat loaf)
were right, but someone in the kitchen was not doing their best with
food temperatures. I assume this would not happen if Chef Barton were
in house, but then one never knows when the boss is away; so how to
plan ahead?

FYI-quiet this week as I am dieting!
Hi folks,
I made a major error that spell check did not get as it was simply a
Hopefully, when Will posts the review to the website/blog he will
correct this one word as below from the BLUE RIDGE review I just sent
out. Here is the corrected version...

Platter that was the star for its size, value and variety. It
Bev's 14 month Long-Leg HAM. There are many choices for the
charcuterie, but you must decide on only four, and I can say that I
was very impressed by all four choices. These come with Corn
Chips, Pickled Radish and Walnuts.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

another lovely lunch at LAS ROCAS at Capella Resprt, Ixtapa, Mexico (1-3-10)

Hi folks from the Pacific Ocean where we visited the port of
Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa today.
I felt it was well worth telling you as foodies and clients as well
about the gorgeous new Capella Resort perched on the cliffs above
Ixtapa with spectacular exclusive accommodations and gorgeous infinity
Will, Samuel and I spent the day at the pool and enjoyed a superb
lunch from the poolside restaurant LAS ROCAS. I saw the menus for the
other two restaurants and I think they are the top level in the
While Samuel enjoyed the FISH & CHIPS I was wowed by the Chipotle Mayo
dip for the fries...he skipped it.
The drinks here are super too with cool CUCUMBER MARGARITAS (called a
Mujer Eleganate-or "elegant lady") as well as super yummy PASSIONFRUIT
versions. I stopped at two, but really wanted to try the BASIL!
Will and I split two of the excellent CEVICHES:
ACAPULCO was laden with fish, bay scallops and more with lime, tomato,
olive, capers and yummy tortilla chips, while GUATEMALA was loaded
with shrimp, onion, lemon, tomato, cilantro and habanero chili oil for
a small punch.
Will enjoyed his FISH TACOS al PASTOR with achiote, cilantro, onion
and pineapple salsa on the side while I adored my RED SNAPPER SANDWICH
with Grilled Artchokes & Kalamata Olive Mayonnaise on Focaccia.
It was a treat as we just relaxed and vegged out for the day.
Back on board we have a huge tasting dinner in the private restaurant