Sunday, November 28, 2010

PUBLIC HOUSE puts out at National Harbor, MD (11-28-10)

Just back from brunch at National Harbor and I must say the PUBLIC HOUSE (199 Fleet Street, National Harbor MD) puts out big time on its brunch menu. The service is attentive and while I wanted to hit that make your own Bloody Mary Bar, I refrained.
Samuel was not thrilled with the chicken fingers saying he has had better (and he is an aficionado), but the OPEN CRABCAKE SANDWICH is divine and at $16 offers up a monster sized cake with tons of crab, charred corn, seasoning and a peppery bite on top of some guacamole, greens and bread topped with a fried egg and served with home fries. I would estimate the crab cake at about 1/2 pound, perhaps a bit less, which is truly amazing for the price.
three of us adored it and the Southern Breakfast features true homemade SAUSAGE GRAVY (the chef's recipe from his grandmother) on a biscuit that is truly decadent.
I am not a brunch fan as it tires me out so early in the day, but if you are near National Harbor, this is a great deal not to be missed (and they open at 10am!).

Just to let you know that we are getting very busy with Hannukah, upcoming theater and such, so that there won't be too many reviews in the coming weeks, but we do head to South America soon! Keep your eyes open for a whole new cuisine!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

SEASONAL Restaurant & Weinbar in NYC cooks up reconstructed Austrian cuisine (11-26-10)

After a way too big Thanksgiving dinner, I really wanted to keep the
Friday dinner lightweight, especially with a 4-1/2 hour opera that
night. I had read about SEASONAL ( which opened
two blocks from Carnegie Hall about a year ago and decided to give it
a go. I was on my way from Times Square (Billy Elliott matinee with
Samuel) to Lincoln Center (Don Carlos at the Met), sp 132 West 58th
Street was right on the way.

Seasonal is small, cozy and subdued with a couple dozen wooden tables
(with those silly woven mats), black leather comfy chairs, modern and
traditional artwork and a small eight seat bar in the center (if it
gets busy it could create some noise, but not a soul was there last
night). Speaking of bar, the Austrian wines are impressive, but I knew
I had to skip wine tonight and went for a bottle of Saratoga water.
Black & White breads were brought out with two creamed cheese spreads
(pumpkin seed oil in one and a second I never did figure out).

There was a tasting menu that I will surely return to in the future,
but this time I stuck to three lighter courses starting with an
amazing novelty POCHIERTES EI. The cuisine here is devised by two
Austrian chefs who run the kitchen and they have deconstructed and
reconstructed Austrian traditional cuisine with great flair. This soft
poached egg (actually it was cooked medium) came with 5 huge chunks of
tasty LOBSTER, HEN of the WOODS foam and crunchy PUMPERNICKEL bread
that was broken up and then cooked in a flash fry it seemed. So the
dish had some slight crunch from that as well as superb flavors that
changed with each of the various ingredients.
ZANDER is the perfect dish for someone keeping it light. The WALLEYE
PIKE is cooked skin-on to perfection and has a Parsley Puree that only
highlights the fish itself along with an Egg Sauce, Small tasty root
vegetables and potatoes and a Horseradish Powder. This was clearly a
salute to the chemical chefs we know today, but also a salute to
excellent fish without any overpowering flavors.
For dessert I chose the PFLAUMEN STREUSSEL which was a plum compote
and plum-beer sorbet. The descriptions of the dish list only the main
ingredients, so don't be afraid to ask specifics before you order. The
Austrian head waiter/maitre d' is more than accommodating. When I told
him I adored Austrian wine, especially desserts (but could not have
any due to the long opera), he brought me a taste of a German1997
(wow) Riesling from Mosel that had huge acidity, low alcohol, medium
sugar and paired brilliantly with the intense plum sweetness. The
dessert itself was a tart with the plum compote covered with poached
plums and the crunchy streussel bits actually inside the superb
sorbet. I loved it, and it was also not overpowering or heavy.
To boot, the coffee is some of the best European style I have ever
Whatever the season, SEASONAL is in!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sur La Place still suits me (Palisades, Washington,DC-11/15/10)

Monday night eight of us headed over to Sur La Place (5105 Macarthur Boulevard NW-Washington-(202) 237-1445) and it still does some of the best budget meals around DC with decent food and good service.
The place was virtually empty, and we were concerned that it seemed to take a long time for the appetizers to show, but other than that our server Angel handled us with care and concern.
The HEARTS of PALM Salad is always a hit with baby Spinach, White & Green Asparagus, Apple and Citrus Vinaigrette. I chose the new-on-the-menu SMOKED TROUT SALAD with baby Spinach, Strawberries, Endive, Strawberry Vinaigrette & Pommes Pailles. It is, like the others, a huge and filling salad piled with those tasty thin fries on top and tasty pieces of smoked trout. POTATO LEEK SOUP got raves as well.
The best thing for a main course here are the mussels, but Samuel of course had the STEAK FRITES seasoned and cooked deliciously with a mild sauce and bearnaise (which he opted to skip) on the side. The MONKFISH & SCALLOPS got nice commenst, but the Roasted CORNISH HEN was apparently very dry.
Mussels ranged from BEBERT-with celery, onion, smoked salmon, leeks, horseradish and the Belgian beer Delerium Tremens all making a tasty dish with a novel salmon twist in chunks buried amongst the mussels.
DIJONAISE was celery, onions, Dijon Mustard, white wine and herbs & BRUXELLES with celery, onion, bacon, garlic, leeks, goat cheese and bier was apparently a bit more loaded with bacon this time than last.
JAMAICAN ISLE was a novel twist with celery, onions, herbs, coconut cream, curry and bier. I thought this would be a rich creamy concoction, but the curry was good and the coconut added at a level for flavor rather than rich sauce.
Our first wine was a GRANGE des ROQUETTES Marsanne/Viognier blend which was a good price and tasty. We looked forward to more with the mussels, but we had the last bottle and so switched to a pricier, yet just as tasty Domaine Thomas Sancerre "La Crele" that was also a great mussel wine!
We left full without dessert, even though it is made so well here!
It's really great to have Sur La Place just 5 minutes from the house with street parking, good prices and friendly faces!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adams Morgan's MEZE makes tasty Turkish tapas (11-14-10)

Last night we took Samuel to Adams Morgan and hit upon MEZE which has apparently been hidden there for 10 years ( and while the decor (not comfy chairs, wobbly tables, and a bathroom that Samuel warned me NOT to try) has much to be desired, the food comes out on top.
We ordered three "tapas" style plates to start Samuel off and he let us devour all the MUHUMMARA a rich and decadent red pepper, walnut, olive oil, lemon and garlic paste (a bit thicker than hummus) that was divine on the puffy "pita" style bread. He ate most of the SIGARA BOREGI which are bourekas-type cigar pastries made from phyllo stuffed with melted feta, parsley & dill, we shared and these were also creamy and rich inside, but the pastry was perfect and flaky and a great foil. Sam did like the KOFTE-beef & lamb meatballs (actually patties) with an onion & parsely compote on the side that he skipped.
We ordered up a bottle of MARTIN CODAX "ERGO" 2008 (the menu said '06) Tempranillo from Rioja that went very well with all the different flavors coming to the table due do its more than medium body, nice aroma, slight smokiness and tinge of spice.
Will and I chose a variety of meze and were delighted with them all...we wanted more, but the four we chose and the tastes of Sam's totally filled us up!
MERCIMEK KOFTE was a vegetarian lentil cake (not a kofte kebab) made from bulgar with onion & parsley and a nice simple yogurt sauce. They were not dry at all and actually I thought they would make a great filling alternative to rice in grape leaves!
SIS KEBAB was a tender skewer of lamb with a yogurt & dill sauce and SOMON KEBAB was a tasty salmon kebab on skewer with SPINACH Puree on the side as well as mashed Potatoes. I loved the dill yogurt dip with these even more.
KARIDES GUVEC was on the menu as East Mediterranean stew of shrimp, tomato, garlic and cheese and was more akin to an Italian scampi with gobs of mozzarella all over the shrimp. The sauce was nice and quite garlicky, but if you want to cut cholesterol, avoid this one.
Our server Aykut (he said to call him "Ike") from Turkey told us we really should try to KUNEFE for dessert and he was spot on with this suggestion, and well worth the 10 minute or so wait. The dish comes to the table with a sizzling metal insert filled with shredded wheat, unsalted white cheese, crushed pistachios all made into a pancake on which a lemon honey sauce is poured. It's a very nice presentation and the dish tastes spectacular. Different from the Syrian pastries of shredded wheat as this one is made with cheese as well giving a completely different feel. Even Samuel seemed to like it a little and asked for more.
Ike offered up some Turkish coffee on the house and we went home quite full having spent well under $100 (without tax and tip, but including a $30+ bottle of wine!) for all three of us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tosca's MASSIMO FABBRI fires it up at FOOD & FRIEND's charity dinner (11-10-10)

Each year we attend a wonderful private event in the kitchen at FOOD & FRIENDS headquarters. Last night we had the pleasure of dining with a couple dozen others and the chef in the kitchen was MASSIMO FABBRI of Tosca & Posto. This event is done several times a year at Food & Friends for major donors, and for a donation you could attend as well.....maybe we shall see you there next year!
I have to admit we have been to Posto, but have sadly not been to Tosca since the departure of its original chef Cesare Lanfranconi who we so sorely miss. Chef Massimo did a superb job last night starting with some sparkling Vouvray and several hor's d'oevres:
A SALMON Mousse on crostini (I wish the crostini was a bit smaller so the wonderful mousse would have super starred over the bread)
mini-pastries(a la quiche) of creamy rich FONTINA Cheese with Shallot and Truffle Oil
and Grilled Sausage slices
It was a yummy start, but we had to refrain knowing that much more was to come.
In the kitchen we were treated to ROASTED SCALLOPS with Sunchoke Puree, Foie Gras Lentils and Port Wine Reduction. This super dish takes the scallop to a new autumn/winter high. One of the folks at the table raved about the lentils saying she could not make them this well at home, and deservedly so--I explained what foie gras was (a bit) and that was clearly the divine secret. DOMAINE GARDIES 2009 Vin Pays des Cotes Catalanes "Mas Las Cabes" Blanc a fascinating blend of Muscat, Grenache Blanc & Macabeu that was a smokey white and a great match to the intense lentils, yet perfect for the lighter scallop.
CHATEAU LA BASTIDE 2008 Corbieres from Durand was a superb red wine on its own, and when it met the TORTELLI filled with super-rich divine ROBIOLA Cheese & Blakc Truffles in a Porcini Mushroom Sauce the marriage was consummated divinely. All of us adored this pasta dish and raved about the wine.
BEEF TENDERLOIN is something I avoid eating out and rarely order except at steak places or if the preparation is special. Here it was presented cooked to perfection and as tasty as could be with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Tuscan kale and Oxtail Sauce....but I would have preferred a veal, duck or other meat oh so much more. DOMAINE de FONTENILLE Cotes du Luberon 2007 was a good companion.
Dessert was a PUMPKIN CREME CARAMEL with Orange-Cranberry Compote and a magnificent mini Walnut Macaroon.
Overall, it was a superb meal and maybe we have to return to Tosca to see what main courses are being offered up by Chef Fabbri and his always pleasant partner Paolo.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Five NAPKIN BURGER bombs a bit in NYC and HALE & HEARTY hits highs (11-7-10) Options

I am always looking for a new lunch spot or light supper pre-theater
and a couple years ago discovered FIVE NAPKIN BURGER on 9th Avenue at
45th Street. I headed there yesterday before a matinee of a wonderful
(and quite controversial) new musical by kander & Ebb called "The
Scottsboro Boys." Lunch was not up to the level of the show, though. I
loved my burgers there before and opted for the ITALIAN TURKEY BURGER
which comes on a sesame egg roll (which is great) with Melted
MOZZARELLA and a Spicy Tomato Marinara Sauce as well as Vinegar
Peppers. The burger was, alas, on the dry dry side (as turkey bugers
are wont to be), but was redeemed by the marinara, cheese and peppers
which were sublime. I opted to "upgrade" my fries from the regualr to
TUSCAN which have spices and Parmesan cooked in. Don't bother as the
regular fries are just fine and the added spices don't do much more
and the Parmesan is minimal. A glass of nice Puppeteer SHIRAZ from
Australia is decent (at 8$) and goes great with the burgers. I am not
sure if I'll head back soon as the place is indeed so noisy and
crowded. I did have a reservation and boy was I lucky I did, as the
folks before me were told the wait was 30 minutes (at 1:30pm on

On the other hand, all over New York can be found dozens of HALE &
HEARTY ( soups and sandwiches and salads and I
love this place. There are twnety o0r so soups in varying sizes and
they are all quite good and many divine. On Saturday for lunch I chose
the ARTICHOKE MUSHROOM which was tasty (it needed a dash of salt) and
had it paired with a half sandwich--a super TURKEY on Ciabatta with a
superb WALNUT PESTO. there are salads as well and you can create just
about any meal, although the prices can get high..but the quality is
If you are in NY often, get a frequent diner card...after 9 trips,
your 10th soup is free!

NYC Lincoln Center fine dining-TELEPAN takes the top place (11-6-10)

I was in NYC only overnight and was attending a matinee opera and evening concert both at the NYC Opera at Lincoln Center, but wanted to have a fun, new meal choice so I went to TELEPAN (72 W. 69th just several blocks away. I was surprised to find that it had been open for 5 years and I totally missed this wonderful dining experience in the past. While Telepan was jammed and full on a Saturday, I never felt crowded, rushed or pressed; it is a wonderful dining experience with superb food in a simple setting of exposed brick, reasonably spaced tables with many comfy banquettes in separate rooms, a small bar in the front and subtle mauve walls with some nice simple traditional artwork.

There are ala carte menus or tasting options from 4 courses at $55.00 which is a steal anywhere today. The wines can be added to the 4 course for another $55, but I chose this menu and 3 glasses ala carte on my own (I was worried 4 glasses might knock me out for the fab Bernstein concert I was about to attend!).
A small tray of 3 Amuses arrived that set the scene: Cheddar Gougere was nice, CHICKPEA & CARROT Salad on Crostini was very good and the SQUASH SOUP with Walnut Oil made me sorry I had not ordered one of the soups on the menu.
Later in the meal I saw the Italian Bread Soup come to the next table. It was a huge bowl and I was sorry to see the guy salt it and then again twice more! So maybe I was smart with my choices, or maybe he was a slat fiend.
I started with the House Smoked BROOK TROUT which came room temperature like a tartare on a warm cushy CELERY ROOT BLINI with a layer of GREEN APPLE SOUR CREAM. Chives were splattered around with some chive oil on the circumference of the plate. The dish is one of the chef's signatures and is a dreamy tasty mix and was paired beyond perfection with my choice of the supercrisp big green apple GRUNER VELTLINER "Grande Reserve" 2009 from Forstreiter in Kremstal, Austria. The wine had huge legs, a lasting finish and a big aroma as well. It was an intense dining revelation.
The breads were semolina with raisin, wheat and the white ciabatta, which was the only one I tried and was the best for mopping up anything as it was simple and plain.
My next course was the DUCK & FOIE GRAS RAVIOLI made of four huge decadent pasta pillows filled with duck and dotted with cubes of foie gras. There were both a PARSLEY ROOT Puree and a DRIED FRUIT SAUCE on the plate, neither of which was overwhelming and just enough to take small tastes. Too much sauce would have wrecked the purity of the pasta and it all worked divinely. My server recommended a perfectly matched "Tous Ensemble" PINOT NOIR 2008 from COPAIN in California's Anderson Valley that was full bodied with nice fruit forwardness, but not too powerful to overwhelm the dish.
Again my server had suggested the perfect main course of MONKFISH with DUCK CONFIT, large Beans, BRUSSELS SPROUTS and a Red Wine Sauce. The fish came crispy on the top with a slash of the red wine reduction across the top, moist and tasty inside. I was glad I did not chose the heavier pork dish, but I know I have to come back to try more dishes! My wine was a slightly spicy PITTNAUER ZWEIGELT 2008 from Burgenland in Austria, a wine that receives too little attention in the USA and was brilliant with the heavier fish dish that begs for red.
The dessert menu was a hard choice as I wanted cheese, but opted for the Crunchy PEANUT BUTTER & MILK CHOCOLATE GIANDUJA with Peanut Brittle Ice Cream and Huckleberry Gelee. The Gelee was actually cubed tiny jellies that did little for the dish and the ice cream was peanut butter and delish, but had no brittle in it which would have been the perfect crunch the dish needed for texture. The decadent cake had pastry on the bottom, a layer of rich peanut butter, the chocolate and cocoa on top and was indeed the ultimate REESE's relative! The Cappuccino was SCALDING and took 10 minutes to cool to where I could drink it. Why do so many places do this?
A tasty coconut macaroon was placed on the table in a wrapper for later and I thought that I missed a lot of great meals not knowing about Telepan!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

National Harbor's BOND 45-beware of prices and quality (10-30-10)

Saturday night was a very special occasion of the 35th Anniversary of
our dearest friends and we were thrilled to be invited to the new and
fun BOND 45 ( at National Harbor just south of DC on
the Potomac River. The owners of the original Bond45 in New York have
a long list of well known spots in NYC that I have dined at and
enjoyed, but I must say I know that some of their prices can be
astronomical. They have brought their sky-high prices to National
harbor, and while the staff is superb as well as the service, not all
the food is at the level of the prices charged.
Oddly enough, Chef Enzo Febbraro, a well known Italian figure in DC
over the years is in charge here. They do call Bond45 a New York
Italian Steak & Seafood restaurant, but I think the Italian cuisine
chef Enzo adores and cooks is missing; not even one pasta graces the
On arrival our anniversary party received a glass of Prosecco VILLA
JOLANDO which had an intense lemon flavor.
We were treated to yummy puffy huge cheese popovers when we arrived
and enjoyed a Vinosia 2009 FALANGHINA from Campania that was light and
fresh. We moved quickly to red with a MONTEPULCIANO d'ABRUZZO 2007
from Collefrisio "ZERO" which was also light, but with a nice slightly
earthy body to start off our reds and move bigger, as we did with the
MONTE ANTICO 2004 "La Lecciaia" SuperTuscan which had a huge mineral
taste and actually we decided was better with food.
We shared a bunch of starters from the "signature" FRAVIOLI GRANDI
which is basically a huge fried piece of dough with stracchino cheese
and mozzarella filling with a piece of prosciutto and sopressata
draped on the outside of each. While these are loads of fun, they are
about 4 inches square each and basically loads of dough and filler.
You would do better with the FRIED SHRIMP & CALAMARI which come with a
roasted cherry pepper aioli and a plain aioli. The BURRATA is pricey
and not the quality one would see at other places it is offered in DC
(say Galileo or Dino) and while tasty, was closer to a regular
mozzarella and not so creamy. It had very little flavor unless you
ordered the plate with PROSCIUTTO and wrapped it around the cheese.
The version that came with BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES offered up thick
slightly greenish and unripe tomatoes, although nicely dressed.

The main courses all seem to run way above $35 with the aged steaks
all ringing in the high $40 range. For this price, the quality should
be superb, but we had numerous issued. The SCOTTISH KING SALMON with
zucchini, leek vegetable-like salsa got raves as did the gargantuan
VEAL CHOP PARMIGIANA (I thought of this but decided to go steak as we
were in a steak place!). My NY STRIP 14 ounce with FOIE GRAS-PORCINI
Butter was ordered rare and came RAW, while my neighbor's PRIME RIBEYE
29 day aged 20 ounce steak was ordered medium and came well done. When
things were fixed, the quality of the meat was not at the level I
expected nor the prices charged! The FILETs were perfect and a Black
Truffle Tartufata was a nice topping (each topping is charged ala
carte!) Side dishes went from a magnificent ROASTED PARMESAN POTATOEs
which were crunchy and tasty to a bland Creamed BROCCOLI RABE which
came to the table cold. The Grilled ASPARAGUS PARMESAN were nice but
the sauce was very thick and almost gloppy.
Desserts fared better with a wondrous PANNETONE with chocolate sauce,
decent Tiramisu, profiteroles (I always find these boring) and
excellent VANILLA & CHOCOLATE MOUSSEs. In an effort to calm our
disappointment, these were all complimentary.
So while the staff tries hard, the steaks are not what they should be.
If you do happen into BOND 45 stick with seafood and veal for the best
What is most important on this occasion was that we had the company of
the most wonderful folks around!

GALILEO III is great,great, great! Donna is back and does it even better (10-27-10)

Roberto Donna has finally come back to intimate fine dining in DC and
GALILEO III at 600 14th St, NW (the home the late Butterfield Nine &
Garfinkel's) looks as good as the food tastes. The decor is classy,
refined, elegant and it has been lightened up and opened up from the
smaller rooms that existed before. The bar is on the street level with
the restaurant dining both up and downstairs. Our table was right next
to the kitchen door and we were treated to many visits by the chef who
comes out to check on his clientele regularly. No problem here, as the
staff is talented, knowledgable and attentive.
The menu offers a choice of seven appetizers, seven pastas (includes
one soup) and ten main courses. There is something for everyone from
the old Galileo-lovers who miss those dishes to the new Galileo-goer
seeking new innovation. The menu can be ordered in only a prix fixe
format of $55 (two courses plus dessert), $72 (three plus dessert),
$89 (four plus dessert) or as Chef Roberto says $125 for as many
courses as you can manage until you say stop!
We ordered a bottle (the last one from the cellar) of ELIO ALTARE 1995
LANGHE ARBORINA from Piemonte which was drinking oh so smoothly and
had a medium to full body that had served its 15 years of aging to
perfection. We were upset that this was the last bottle so we moved on
to a 1993 vintage which was an amazing experience as it changed with
each taste. From a bit spicy in the mouth and more full bodied at
first it became smoother and changed with the various foods. What fun
wine can be, especially when it is of the highest quality, and Chef
Donna knows how to serve wine as well as superb cuisine.
The breadsticks and breads came with a ricotta based pesto to dip in
and Samuel was in heaven along with his Shirley Temple! We also adored
the breadsticks which we missed so much from Galileo II that the great
pastry chef Laurie Alleman had started making.
CARNE CRUDA all'ALBESE is on the mean and is a hand chopped Catelli
veal top round tartare served with lemon juice and Ligurian olive oil.
On the menu it is topped with celery leaves, Parmigiano Reggiano
shavings, thin mushroom slices, artichoke chips and parsley puree. We
got the cheese, mushrooms and an added (hold your breath) treat of
WHITE TRUFFLES! Yes, they are back in season and taste superb. Wait a
week or two and they should be in full bloom. BUDINO di PARMIGIANO is
another starter that will amaze you as it is like a thick souffle but
looks like an espresso....the pudding of cheese is topped with a layer
of Burrata cheese (which was not available back in the days of Galileo
II), cream of porcine mushrooms and sliced black truffle...we all
Looking for seafood to start, head for the POLIPO, a grilled octopus
with fingerling potato salad, black olives, fried capers and salsa
Verde that will melt in your fork needed to cut this, let
alone a knife!
Samuel was in the mood for penned and got it his favorite was
BOLOGNESE and it was divine.
I headed for the Zuppa di CASTAGNE, which I crave every fall as this
chestnut soup with "tatra" timbale, foie gras, mascarpone cheese,
pancetta and duck gizzard is probably the best preparation you will
find anywhere this side of Paris!
PAPPARDELLE al CINGHIALE is one of Chef Donna's stalwart dishes and
the pasta can't be made better in town, not to mention to wild boar
ragu! If you want a fall pasta choose the CAPPELLACCI di ZUCCA which
are small ravioli stuffed with butternut squash puree with "mostarda
di Cremona", melted better and sage sauce with crumbled Amaretto
cookies. Only Samuel did not like it, as he said it was a bit too
sweet for him (imagine, a child not liking sweet!).
For the main courses I can't help recommending everything, but we went
for the birds the other night. PICCIONE was a roast SQUAB breast with
squab meatballs in a divine huckleberry sauce, potato alla parmigiana
( a souffle like square) and sauteed Brussels sprouts. The lighter but
just as heavenly FARAONA is a cylindrical roulade of GUINEA HEN breast
stuffed with guinea hen sausage, braised salsify, cabbage with
pancetta in a mascarpone sauce.
We must also give credit to two familiar faces that handle the
reception and floor. On arrival we saw our dear friend Karen Shannon,
who has graced so many podiums in DC (including her own) and know is
at Galileo III (mostly at lunch), and Chef Donna's charming and
lovable wife, Nancy, who keeps everyone in line!
The pastry chefs, Wendi James & Joshua Jarvis, get credit as everyone
loved the TORTA di CIOCCOLATO, A dark rectangle with pistachio cake,
candied lime, basil gelato and coconut sorbet to the GIANDUJA
SEMIFREDDO with dragee Alba hazelnuts, cinnamon sauce and fresh banana-
coffee-rum froth. CROSTATA di MELE is an apple tart with honey roasted
pecans, caramel gelato, cider jelly and parmesan foan, a real autumn
treat. Alas, while Samuel did not care for the orange-fennel sorbet,
he did wolf down the CHOCOLATE ALMOND cookies that came afterwards. We
also loved the simple hazelnuts in dark chocolate which we munched as
we rolled out the door!
GALILEO III, we will soon be back to thee!

Baltimore's SALT is so-so (10-17-10)

After taking in a great performance of The Wiz at
CenterStage we headed with our friend Erica and Samuel to SALT just
east of downtown ( at 2127 E. Pratt St. which is a
totally residential neighborhood and a truly odd restaurant location.
The decor is lots of exposed brick and not such pretty artwork, but
that can work when the food is good.
I asked the server was SALT (there was just table salt on the table,
so that them made no sense) and she said the chef's grandmother used
salt a lot and it was the first taste he remembered as a child.
Anyway, we ordered a bottle of decent MULDERSBOSCH Sauvignon Blanc
2009 which the menu said was from the Steele in South Africa, but the
bottle said Western Cape.
There were lots of nice starter options and we managed to get Samuel
to agree to the ASIAN BEEF SHORT RIB TACOS, although he would have
none of the Kimchi, Fried Quail Egg or Ginger Creme Fraiche that came
with it! An order of DUCK FAT FRENCH FRIES was divine and their
excellent taste and crispness lasted for the entire stay. It came with
3 aiolis: White Truffle which was nice, Malt Vinegar which was
plainish and a slightly spicy and delish Honey Chipotle.
Will chose the MARVESTA SHRIMP CEVICHE which was decent, but no winner
in its field and I had the tasty flaky CRAB & CARAMELIZED ONION Tart
made from pretzel dough with a house made mustard. The combination
worked wonderfully.
For main courses we had the Coriander & Pepper Crusted AHI TUNA which
was tasty, but when cut with a knife had the weirdest almost "tough"
feel to it, despite its tenderness. It came with Seaweed Salad, Spicy
TUNA POTSTICKERS all with a Ginger Soy Glaze. Again the dish was
tasty, but no awards.
Will had the Chestertown MD CRABCAKES with Roast veggie Slaw and Old
Bay with Chive Buttered Gnocchi. This was probably the best main
course, but again the filler was a bit more than we are used to back
in DC (and this was Baltimore!!).
My Braised BBQ PORK CHEEKS with Foie Gras and Spiced Pecan Brussels
Sprouts were a total flop. Perhaps a spoon of Foie Gras was mixed into
the sauce, but none of the meat appeared on the plate and the cheeks
were way overcooked. had it not been for the sauce, they would have
been too dry and inedible. A glass of decent Laurel Glen Zinfandel
2008 from Lodi, California was a good choice from our server.
Kudos goes to the super bread served with a Red Pepper/Garlic
Tapenade, but I don't see us headed back to SALT soon.

Phooey on the FARM of Beverly Hills (10-11-10)

As our final breakfast we returned to the original location of THE
FARM of Beverly Hills, a spot I raved about only half a year ago here
on this list (that was the downtown LA LIVE location). Well, I must
retract that rave and say "STAY AWAY."
Only the coffee was really good as we sat down and they presented us
with a limited menu due to the Columbus Day holiday brunch. I recalled
an exciting multi-page menu back in April and this was a bore. There
was a kid's menu and at 9:30am Samuel really wanted the CHICKEN
FINGERS. Actually, other than the coffee, this was the hit of the
My CORNED BEF & POTATOES was billed as Two poached eggs on slices of
corned beef with crispy potatoes and caramelized onions. There was one
chintzy slice of beef that was overcooked, and the whole dish seemed
so cheap. Nobody ever asked how the food was, so I filled out the
questionnaire (we shall see if we hear from them). Will's VEGGIE
OMELET seemed to be lacking in veggies. He had a couple small pieces
of artichoke and asparagus with some goat cheese...that's it. The
sliced tomatoes (you could have had hashed brown potatoes or fruit) on
the side were red, but boring.
That said, I will keep you posted in the future if I hear from the
Farm folks!
ALAN now home...

Beverly Hill's MONTAGE Hotel Conservatory is cool and quiet (10-10-10

For our last night in LA we were simply exhausted after a long hot day
at Universal Studios and opted to dine in the hotel at the rooftop
CONSERVATORY at the MONTAGE Beverly Hills. It was a good choice if a
bit pricey. Samuel had spotted a kid's menu with ravioli and he was
hooked. They were simple with cheese in butter and parmesan and
excellently home made for under $10.
There ambiance is ideal with views of the hills, a fireplace (in the
70 degree heat, it burns all day even when it's 85 degrees) and an
very Italian feel with wrought iron furniture.
We started with a bottle of Marsanne from KRUPP Brothers Stagecoach
2007 that was an amazing quality wine with oak, creaminess and a huge
finish. With all the servers they had, I was surprised that I had to
pour the wine several times myself.
Will had the excellent CEVICHE (halibut, shrimp and calamari) with
avocado, mango & chili served with yummy crunchy tortilla chips. I had
the I can't believe it cost $35 Restaurant Week 3-course special with
each course so huge I was floored.
CALAMARI & Salted Cashews were about eight huge pieces of squid
breaded and fried and served over a spicy teriyaki sauce with hon-
shimeji mushrooms. It was delish, but the sauce was a bit too
My main was three huge Pulled Pork SLIDERS with Provolone and House
made slaw. On the side was the option of fries or salad and I chose
the latter with a white balsamic vinaigrette. I chose a glass of Anoro
MALBEC from Mendoza Argentina 2008 that was note real great.
Will had the HALIBUT TACOS that he raved over with Cotija Cheese, Lime
Slaw, Avocado Salsa, Black Beans (and more tortilla chips!).
We split my BERRY PIE on the special which was okay and Sam loved his
We hit the sack before 10pm again for the third night in a row knowing
we had a long trip home on Monday.

LA's ANGELINI OSTERIA is all it's hyped up to be (10-9-10)

Saturday night dining anywhere is often a no-no, but when traveling
one has no choice. We chose one of LA's hottest locations as we knew
Samuel likes pasta. ANGELINI OSTERIA ( at 7313
Beverly Blvd in West LA is a place you must got with a reservation. We
arrived for our 7pm table only to wait about 20-25 minutes and see
over 7 people without reservations turned away. The place is tiny, but
well worth the wait. Ours hostess offered a glass of wine, which we
were charged for on the bill at the end of the night (it was
ultimately removed). Sam had a Ginger Ale, while we quaffed a GAVI
2009 La Guistiniana that was quite nice.
We sat down to delicious flatbread (the regular bread was okay) which
I repeatedly gobbled down all night.
Samuel was in a plain pizza mood so we ordered the Margherita without
the sausage and he loved it. I would not order pizza here because the
other items are unreal.
Will and I split every dish starting with two starters:
ANCHOVIES were Fresh and served over a huge bed of ARUGULA & Greens
over a plate of BEETS. Simple but superb. The Braised BABY ARTICHOKE
Hearts in Casserole of Olive Oil & Garlic were divine.
Our server (the ever handsome Andrea from Sardinia) suggested the
FEUDI di SAN GREGORIO Greco di Tufo 2007 from Campania that we always
enjoy, but this was a great pairing with the TAGLIOLINI with WHITE
TRUFFLES. These were our first ones in quite some time and a little
honeymoon treat that was just amazing.
The one main course we split was Farm Raised LIBERTY Breast of DUCK
with SPINACH and Aged Balsamic Vinegar. I was not sure about duck and
vinegar, but it proved to be an ideal creation and a carafe of
SAGRANTINO di MONTEFALCONE 2004 from Umbria was a perfect foil. The
wines are varied and reasonable and many are available by the carafe
making this not a rip off SoCal kinda place, but a down to earth
Italian bistro with damn good food that people line up to get into!
We thought about dessert but the hostess brought out two cups of
vanilla gelato with candles as everyone sang "Happy Wedding" or was fun and we went home very full and very happy.

Beverly Center (LA)breakfasting-do DOUGHBOYS (10-10-10

Before heading to Universal Studios for a long day of fun, we decided
to take in a big breakfast and DOHBOYS was the perfect choice just
blocks from the Beverly Center at 8136 West Third Street in LA
( I believe there are other locations in the
area as well, but this is a bakery and cafe that will please you all
The servers look (as always) totally handsome and must be aspiring
actors, and ours told us that we could have a 1/2 portion for Samuel
as a 4-egg frittata is way too much, but when his Frittata with
Tomato, Garlic, Basil and Pecorino Romano (called Pizza-style) came it
was HUGE. They insisted it was 1/2 size, but the bill was for a full
price one, which was quickly repaired.
Will had the Frittate with Caponata (diced veggies here), Mozzarella
and Pesta with Walnut Toast. These came with large side salads and
cost under $10!
The coffee was a bit bitter, and the breads look better than they
My BREAKFAST CROSTINI was on two slabs of grilled sourdough with
Prosciutto, Cantaloupe, Arugala and Sahved Parmesan with two steamed
(like poached) eggs on top. It was much lighter than the 4-egg
monstrosities and I adored every bite as it was like a salad with a
bit of meat and eggs.
We were all full and indeed none of us wanted a bite all day until
dinner, so Doughboys did the job!

lunch at LA FOOD SHOW is fun and filling (Beverly, Hills CA-10-9-10)

Yesterday's lunch was also a block away from the hotel at LA FOOD SHOW
(original location in Manhattan Beach) at 252 N. Beverly Hills Dr.-
tel 310-550-9758 and was loads of fun. It's a huge place with a cool
backlit blue bar, lots of red cushy booth and beige leather chairs
with upbeat pop music playing, but not too loudly. We headed in at
11:30 (the time change is not easy) for the earliest possible lunch
and got two servers, Nick & Hilary, who were so LA bubbly it was a bit
too much. Nick was from the UK and had come to LA to act (like
everyone else), but was adorable to boot. Samuel had the FISH FINGERS
& FRIES (the kid's meals are about $8 and include unlimited soda or
lemonade as well). The fish was moist and the batter was light and
crunchy and not greasy at all.
I opted for the CHILE VERDE TUNA SALAD SANDWICH which was a white
albacore tuna sandwich with roasted Anaheim chiles that was spicy as
billed and superb on the toasted sourdough. It came with a huge pile
of thin buttermilk battered onion rings that were simply irresistible.
Will went with the TURKEY BURGER that he forsook cheese, but added
avocado to, and it was a huge juicy delectable burger. He chose the
house salad side (as opposed to fries or onion rings) and it was a
tasty salad with nice ripe tomatoes and spicy croutons.
All in all, this is a great spot for a reasonably priced meal, good
service and very good quality food.

the Beverly Hills branch of bistro BOUCHON for a birthday (10-8-10)

Yesterday we flew to LA for a short weekend which we have chosen to
call our "funnymoon," short for a family honeymoon. After our marriage
last weekend (even though we have been together 17-1/12 years it is
FINALLY legal to marry in DC!), we decided to bring Samuel on short
break over Columbus Day to sun and warm California.
As it was late on our body clocks, we headed next door to our hotel in
Beverly Hills to the LA branch of the famous Napa Valley bistro
BOUCHON. When Bouchon opened in Yountville years ago, you couldn't get
in, but last night there was plenty of room in the Beverly Hills
elegant location (235 N. Canon Drive), although when we changed our
reservation from 6:30pm to 7:00pm they told us we would have to be
moved to the Champagne Room, which sounded fine to us. This small room
is adorable with marble tables and a great French bistro feel, glass
doors all open to an outdoor patio and a quiet feel as well. It was
hard to get the server's attention, but once we appeared needy, all
went well. We were tired, but wanted to have a nice meal as it was
also Will's birthday.
Superb warm bread, butter and some pistachio nuts arrived, Sam got his
Ginger Ale and we ordered a bottle of BREZEME from Eric Texier
"Domaine de Pergualt" Vieilles Vignes 2007 which was a wonderful wine
that had lots of floral nose and essence, but also mineral hints and
just a lot going for it as a true French terrior can offer.
Someone brought out a large plate of marinated olives (with yummy
roasted garlic, too) and said it was complementary from the chef (I
bet everyone gets this!), but they were great.
Will opted for the RAIE a la Grenobloise, a large portion of superb
SKATE WING with Fingerling Potatoes, Caramelized Cauliflower, Lemon
Supremes, Capers, Parsley & Brioche Croutons. I opted for two
Beignets de BRANDADE which were tasty crisp fired puffs filled with a
superb COD BRANDADE that was more fish than rich cream and simply
perfect sitting on a disc of Tomato Confit with a piece of Fried Sage
on top of each of the 3 beignets. I had recalled the superb rillettes
from the Napa location years ago and went for the Plat de Cotes de
BOEUF PRESSE which was a crispy beef short rib rillettes with a small
crispy crust and served with Roasted BEETS (yellow and purple), celery
branch & leaves and served over a mild Horseradish Cream. It was one
of the most perfect bistro dishes I can recall.
Samuel had a huge portion of fries (don't let them get cold) and a
small plate of two beef sliders (mini burgers) that were perfectly
cooked and oh so tasty.
We decided to skip dessert as we were exhausted, but the staff knew it
was a birthday and brought out a small and wondrous plate with candle.
Featured were two small BOUCHONS or slightly molten chocolate cakes on
a bed of Banana Creme Anglaise with Malt Ice Cream. I had a glass of
house Cotes du Rhones Red (Catherine du Goeuil) which was mediocre
while Will enjoyed a martini before we all headed back next door at
9pm to crash!

Grace's MANDARIN is good and more (9-25-10)

I love going to Grace's MANDARIN at National Harbor in PG County, but
now I also fear it. Avoid this area on Saturday night as parking can
be worse than horrendous. Stick to weekdays and the crowds at the door
are easier to negotiate through as well, the service improves as
I generally avoid dining out Saturday, but it was the only time we
could see friends visiting from abroad and they were staying nearby
and we had just gone to Cirque du Soleil at the Harbor.
That said, our friends who live nearby always get the royal treatment
at Grace's, and that was indeed a godsend.
The DIRTY Martinis were as good as always with Gray Goose, but the
olives were more ginger than wasabi this time. Samuel chose the
CHICKEN DUMPLING Kids meal with Rice instead of LoMein, but Chicken
Fingers came instead of dumplings. This was rectified with a
complimentary order of PAN SEARED CHICKEN POTSTICKERS with Soy
Vinaigrette which Samuel gobbled up and we enjoyed as well! The PAN
FRIED CALAMARI was tasty, although our host thought over battered, but
perfectly crispy to my taste with the Bell & Jalapeno Peppers and
Peppercorn SAKE Sauce!
Tom Yum Soup (veggie version) came out with Chicken and they quickly
brought another veggie order (both bowls were happily accepted by the
table :-))
The JUMBO LUMP CRABMEAT SPRING Rolls are a big hit--huge, meaty and
crispy with a Chinese Mustard and Apricot Sauce so you can double dip
for varying flavors and levels of spice!
SUSHI/SASHIMI is of the highest quality with superb TORO & SALMON, but
don't miss the GREEN DRAGON Roll with Shrimp tempura, eel and tobiko,
a real treat!
Main courses were all superb but avoid the CRISPY WHOLE ROCKFISH if
you don't like dealing with bones. The fish was divine and the two
sauces varied and excellent: Thai Basil and the Scallion, Spicy Chili
Herb Butter.
PENANG CURRY is a super rich curry with chicken, pineapple, broccoli,
carrots, cauliflower, sweet peas and a hint of coconut to tame the
spice all served with a thick Malaysian Crepe which also helps to tame
the intense spice, which interestingly enough does not linger.
JUMBO LUMP CRAB CAKES are all seafood and served with grilled
ASPARAGUS, and a Spicy Soy Mustard & Sticky Rice.
We loved every bite and were way too full for anything more than
fortune cookies for dessert!
On the way out a stop in the men's room revealed a urinal with a TV
screen tuned to FIV which I could have done without
having eaten so much, I really did not want to see models on a runway!


chardonnay on THE CHARDONNAY-a truly divine dining experience at "sea"(9-12-10)

Last year at the local Helen Hayes Awards Auction (which is next month
again), we purchased a dinner for 6 on board the S/V CHARDONNAY here
in Washington Harbor catered by its truly wonderful owners. The event
was marred only by the fact that there was no wind and we had to stay
tethered to the pier at the Capital Yacht Club. We all had a superb
time with our old/new friends as well a superb meal with wines that
would wow anybody!
Martinis started off the evening and they were prepared to perfection
with "Truffles" of CHEVRE which were simply soft goat cheese dipped in
paprika, sesame or poppy seeds on a bed of marinated peppers and
The TEXAS COAST JUMBO SHRIMP "on the Barbee" were as jumbo and tasty
as they come.
We moved from the "living room" about the beautiful Chardonnay up to
the outer deck where an elegant table was set with probably more
glassware than any ship this size has ever seen.
TRUFFLED Diver SCALLOP was served with a Marinated Salad of HEIRLOOM
TOMATOES, MOZZARELLA & ARUGULA. The wines were an elegant SANCERRE Les
Chailloux "Cuvee Vielle Vignes" 2009 and a simply divine Burgundy
chardonnay, DOMAINE de ROALLY Vire-Clesse 2005 that we all adored
beyond belief.

Planked Line-Caught COHO SALMON in a Soy Ginger Glaze was tasty and
its accompanying LOBSTER RISOTTO with Maryland CRAB could have been
presented on its own with just as many raves. There was a white
JASNIERES Cuvee du Silex 2009, but also if you wanted some heft with
the salmon a COTE-ROTIE Domaine JAMET 2002 that was plummy, yet
lighter due to its slight infusion of Viognier. Age has only made this
Cote Rotie become better.

DUCK Two Ways was the largest plate of the night and I had to ask for
a doggie bag for the superb Grilled Virginia MAREGET Duck BREAST with
Blackberry Coulis and the CONFIT of Long Island DUCK LEG. It was
superbly paired again with a HIDDEN BENCH "Terroir Cache" MERITAGE
2006 from ONTARIO that really was a revelation and a CHATEAU GRUARD
LAROSE 1994 St. Julien, a magnificent Bordeaux that is drinking
superbly at this point in time. A Chopped Salad of Frisee, Belgian
Endive and Puslain (which I don't recall ever having before and loved)
was the perfect foil.

Racks of LAMB with Date Puree, Russian Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes
and Buttered Asparagus completed the meal at the table and again we
were treated to two truly magnificent wines: PENFOLDS GRANGE 1997 and
AZELIA BAROLO BRICCO FIASCO 1996, neither of which can be purchased
anywhere today save at auction, and then only for a small fortune!

We returned inside for cheeses: SOPHIA, CAMEMBERT d'ISIGNY and a 5
year old GOUDA with some Chateau Reynella Vintage "Port" 1980 from
Australia, which is a port style wine that was a bit sweet for me, but
still tasty.
Some had coffee, some had chocolates, I just relaxed with our new and
old friends hoping that someone does not outbid me next month on this
dinner if it comes up for auction!
Many thanks to Scott and Phred (sp?) and their wonderful staff for
this amazing evening!

CASA NONNA comes to DC - grand opening a great success (9-14-10)

Last night was the opening party of CASA NONNA where Chef Amy
Brandwien (previously of Fyve at the Ritz Pentagon City & Galileo,
amongst other locations) is ensconced in the kitchen. If her kithcen
is as secure as she was last night, this place will be amazing. She
schmoozed with the huge crowd as folks lined up for superb drinks (the
Limoncello Lemonade was my fave), tasty pizza, amazing antipasto
(golden beets, prosciutto & watermelon was a hit) and an entire buffet
showing off what will be to come. The swordfish puttanesca was great,
but I marveled at the Garlic Bread which laid on the table for quite a
time and still was soft and tasty!
We are looking forward to taking Samuel back to this truly Italin
bistro-style casual spot just a block from DUPONT CIRCLE at 1250
Connecticut Ave, NW.

when in St.John's,Newfoundland it's bravos for BIANCA's fine dining (9-1-10)

It had been ages since we were on land for dinner, so we took
advantage of our ship's late departure while in the wonderful charming
city of St. John's on the island of Newfoundland in Canada. All the
indicators pointed to BIANCA's ( just two blocks from
the ship and it turned out to be a wise choice. Friends of ours, from
nearby my hometown (in Westchester, NY) who had three girls that play
with Sam in the kid's club, joined us at what can be called real local
cuisine with flair.
We started with an amuse of EGGPLANT, ZUCCHINI Caponata Bruschetta
with a stripe of balsamic across the plate. If the main courses were
as good as this, all we be great. A bottle of SANCERRE 2009 from
Gitton Pere et Fils in the Loire was a great choice (wine can be SO
pricey in Canada because of the taxes!) with our seafood starters.
Raves came for the SNOW CRAB & SHRIMP BISQUE with Armagnac Essence,
Croutes and Sauce Rouille(which I did not taste). Will and I traded
halfway for the starters and the Toasted PUMPKIM SEED Crusted SCALLOPS
with Salsa di Pomodoro Aglio Fresca was the easy winner. This dish had
everything from tasty scallops perfectly prepared and even a small
hint of spice in the mouth after each bite (perfect with the
Sancerre). The SNOW CRAB CAKE with Garlic & Citrus Aioli and Basil Oil
Glace was a huge cake and nicely made, but we are so spoiled from our
divine almost pure crab cakes at home, that this was a bit of a let
down due to it being a bit breaded (even though much larger), although
the sauce was excellent.
We moved on to a YLLERA 2004 Tempranillo from Castilla y Leon in Spain
which was divine and smooth and tasty and absolutely perfect (well for
the 3 of us that ordered) with the FILET of CARIBOU with Fricassee of
Sun Dried CHERRIES, Bitter Chocolate, Potato Gnocchi and Sweet & Sour
Red Cabbage, It was a large and super tasty portion resembling a
slightly peppery mole sauce, but with the cherries added. PORCINI &
PECAN Crusted Cod with Roasted Peruvian Potatoes, Tomatoes, Smoked
Bacon & Green Pea Puree was about as good as cod can get, and this is
about the most popular of local fishes available far and wide in
Newfoundland & Labrador!
Our server Myron (when he saw me writing, he said his name was Bob!),
did a good job and kept us on time for our embarkation deadline. The
only minor problem was that we found ourselves pouring the white wine
from time to time. There was yummy bread with Sun Dried Tomato Butter
to mop up the super sauces and at the end of the meal when we asked if
there was a local dessert or ice wine he brought us over a taste of
Labrador's LADY of the WOODS Birch Sap Wine. When cold, it was half
decent, but upon warming had the smell of strawberries and the taste
of turpentine! Luckily, he steered us away from this and we went for
the Chateau Originac PINEAU de CHARENTES, a fare superior French
dessert wine. Alas, we missed some great Canadian icewine!
Desserts were decent, but win no prizes. I chose the CHOCOLATE PEANUT
BUTTER CREAM, Marshmallow, Graham Crackers, Peanut Rice Curry & Hot
Chocolate which was a deconstructed Smore.
The "cream" was actually a very rich thick fudge-like bar which was
just too rich and ganache-like for me.
The Sweet CARROT CAKE, Cream Cheese Icing, Candied Walnut Crunch,
Raisin Coulis and Cinnamon Stick Ice Cream got one rave and one "too
dry," so it's a wash on that, and the Blueberry & Lemon CREME BRULEE
seemed to be the best bet. We all enjoyed our last sips of wine and
headed back to the ships to be the last ones to board at 9:28pm (all
aboard was 9:30pm) and the ship sailed just 20 minutes later.
As we left, there was a lone soldier in 18th century garb at the
Queen's Barracks on Signal Hill (the military bastion that guards the
harbour) saluting us with a multi-gunfire salute as we left St. John's
& Newfoundland(we were in St. Anthony's the day before), where we had
such a great time touring and eating and meeting the ever so friendly

Tasting in Torshavn or being a foodie in the Faroe Islands (8-24-10)

Today we visited Torshavn (pronounced "Tor-shawn"), the capital of the
Faroe Islands. While these remote islands are technically a part of
Denmark, they rely only on that kingdom for international relations,
military and currency (the Danish kroner or crown). There is a local
parliament with prime minister and since these islands of less than
50,000 (with 17,000 in the capital) located halfway between Norway and
Iceland are so isolated they pretty much have their own cuisine that
has little to do with the rest of Scandanavia.
We decided to pop into the KAFE KASPAR in the Hotel Hafni in the
middle of town for a bite after our tour and ordered the local tasting
platter, which while interesting, was not a revelation, and indeed,
was a shock when the $60 tab for two arrived! Prices here are probably
the highest I have seen anywhere in the world, and we managed not to
buy even a thing (the t-shirts all seemed to ring in at $20-30!).
The platter consisted of yummy black bread and butter, a pile of small
sweet local shrimp, superb smoked salmon and delectable herring
fillets. The most popular local dish was also on the platter and the
"air dried" sheep is very akin to a thick sliced sheep carpaccio.
While technically "raw" it has been dried and aged. It does not have
much flavor and could have benefited from some mustard or such. The
reason this dish is #1 on the local palate is that the sheep
population outnumbers the locals at about 70,000 head. The two other
local dishes that were a bit harder to "digest" was the dried fish,
which is a small piece of smelt-like fish salted and dried. It is
tasty and we were told is to be used to wrap around the final local
delicacy, salted whale (pilot whale to be exact) blubber. The blubber
is in small cubes and is chewy and extremely oily. Combined with the
dried fish it is a bit more palatable (we were told to also dip this
in butter, which seemed to also improve the taste), but Will decided
he could not fathom the rubbery texture (think oily chewy clam).
The local Faroese cider was barely alcoholic (like 4%) and was the
perfect palate cleanser between tastes.
It was nice to try local tastes, but I can't say I'll rush back to
Torshavn for much more than a regular fish meal minus the whale.

seeking succulent Scottish pubfare-Maggie Dickson's in Edinburgh (8-21-10)

We spotted some yummy spots in downtown Edinburgh, but many were full
this afternoon as it is peak tourist season here and the big Festival
is on as well! So we settled for an almost dumpy pub called MAGGIE
DICKSON's on the main square called The GrassMarket (#92). We were
happy with the free wifi and the lemonades and Sam loved his very
filling huge bowl of thick vegetarian vegetable soup with a huge roll.
I later gave him many of the chips(that's fries) off my dish as well,
which were only okay and kind of bland, but he loved them with
ketchup. Will and I split two wonderul mains:
STEAK & ALE PIE which was a peppery stewlike dish with meat under a
large oval of tasty puff pastry with the chips and some simple steamed
and pretty dreary veggies.
BALMORAL CHICKEN is a breast (a bit too dry) stuffed with HAGGIS which
was DEEEVINE! The sauce was a wonderful mushroom sauce which made the
dryness of the chicken along with the haggis a real treat. Mashed
Potatoes and those same steamed veggies were also included. The prices
were all below 10 pounds for each main making it very reasonable (the
exchange these days is about 1pound=$1.56).
We left the pub full and really felt great about getting to eat local
for our day in Edinburgh.

AMSTERDAM appetite pleasers are pancakes and frites (8-19-10)

Today while I ran to the doctor to get antibiotics Samuel & Will
joined our friend Kevin at PANCAKES AMSTERDAM (Berenstraat 39, 1016GH
Amsterdam Will gobbled up the Dutch
pancake which is a bit thicker than a crepe and quite tasty with Goat
Cheese, Spinach & Bacon. Basically you can construct your own as
Samuel did the children's mix which allowed him to place, fruit,
chocolate, raisins, etc on his. I walked in just as they were
finishing to have a bite here and there as well as a delicious large
cafe au lait type coffee (the Dutch name is way to hard to remember).
For lunch before heading to the ship Samuel and I headed to
Amsterdam's top frites spot VLAAMS FRITES HUIS located on
Vortboogsteeg, a tiny street, just off Heilegeweg and the nearby
shopping promenade the Kalvertstraat.
Samuel of course opted for the ketchup, but I too the dae with the
SAMURAI Sauce which was a divine spicy mayo. Everyone sites on the
nearby stoops as the clapboard doors to this tiny spot are opened
every day around 11am or noon (they close by 6-7pm). There are baout
8-9 different mayo sauces and it is worth the trip if you are on the
other side of town, imperitive to go if you are nearby!


Amsterdam's d'THEBOOM is quaint, quiet and fine French (8-18-10)

Despite not feeling so well, I joined Will and Sam with our dear
friends Arie & Kevin who have been living in Amsterdam for over a
decade now. We headed off on their adorable little bopat just down the
canal to d'Theboom (the tea tree) at SIngel 120 (
which is a tiny adorable spot right on the canal.
The Amuse was a MACKEREL RILLETTES with Roe, Sesame Puff Pastry and
Balsamic which was superb and novel. We ordered two wines, both
French, as that is what they specialize in: A flowery SANCERRE 2007
Domaine de Quarterons by Etienne Riffault and a SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY 20007
Chateau de Hureau from Philippe et Georges Vatan. They were wonderful
with all the diverse foods we had as well.
Samuel settled in with a plate of sauteed chicken with fries and
various veggies and finished every last bite.
We started with Scotch SALMON TARTARE with Vodka Mayo & Blini, Salad
of Dutch SHRIMPS with Avocado and Sesame Dressing and a divine SMOKED
GOOSE BREAST with Quince Chutney & Pecans.
The main courses were superb local Fillets of SEA BASS with Crayfish
Sauce, Lumpfish Caviar for crunch, Rice and Candied Celery, Gratinated
VEAL ESCALOPE with Madeira Sauce & Sage and a LAMB Fillet with light
Garlic Cumin Cream.
By dessert I was started to feel funny and stuck with the Fresh summer
fruits in light vanilla syrup and lemon sorbet. The others had the
Apple Tarte Tatin and a STRAWBERRY GAZPACHO with Cognac Ice Cream and
We had a great time, but I ended up having to see the doctor today--so
I taking it easy as we board our ship today for the 18day voyage to
New York. I may post a bit here and there on local foods we taste
(Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada), but who knows....

ANTHONY's in LEEDS; lots of fine food, great wine and a dreadful finish from our server(8-17-10)

Our last night in Leeds was reserved for the 4 adults and the poshest
place in town...ANTHONY's in Boar's Lane.
We tried desperately on arrival to get more background on Anthony
Flinn (or is it Flannel), but everyone was mum. I thought he had
worked under Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck; our server Xavi (who
also didn't answer me when I asked if he was a manager or server or
what?), seemed to have no idea except that he had been at the world
famous El Bulli for several years. Not only was the staff secretive,
they just seemed very lapse about giving us any information.
There are about sixteen or so tables in the basement with basic decor,
nice linens, quiet atmosphere and a feel of elegance, with sadly some
awful muzak playing Tina Turner and the likes all evening.
We convinced Will's sister Edna and her partner Sue to take a chance
on the multi-course tasting menus with wines. The menu is 65 pounds,
which is a steal for London, but very high in Leeds...but still a
DEAL. The wines are an additional 45pounds...and the pours were very
We got all excited as we sat down upstairs to a bottle of Veuve
Cliquot Rose and some olives as we perused the menus. We headed
downstairs for our 4 hour extravaganza and entered the depths on
Our amuse was a CRAYFISH with CUCUMBER & LEEK VELOUTE which I could
have easily eaten as an appetizer...a great start...A warm mini-loaf
of bread arrived with three butters: salted, parmesan and toasted
beurre noisette (hazelnut) which was the oddest of the three. The
butter in the UK is SO GOOD, there really is no need to add anything
to it; it shows off the local producers.
RISOTTO of White ONION with ESPRESSO & PARMESAN FOAM was heavenly with
a small layer of tasty black espresso at the bottom and the white foam
on top. It came in a white curved beehive shape bowl that was open
only on our side which was adorable. All the French china was indeed
very classy and elegant. The wine was an ALBARINO Riax Baixas from
CAZAL CAEIRO which had perfume and fruit at first and became creamier
as it warmed. We all adored it with the risotto and without!
The next course was ROASTED SCALLOP with a Rice Cocoa Cracker, Apricot
Gel, Pomegranate seeds, saffron and couscous-another totally brilliant
combo and the wine was another winner-PETIT CHABLIS which warmed and
became a bit spicier as well. You may notice from here on that I omit
the specifics on the wine. Our server Xavi did not really want to
linger at the table while I wrote, so he said he would write it all
down and give it to me when we left...but that's another story for
SOUS VIDE MACKEREL was a tasty fish with Liquorice, Mackerel Tartare,
ENOKI Mushrooms, Roasted ARTICHOKE, a tart acidic BEETROOT cut in mini
squares and an ONION Wonton. I was wary about the liquorice, but they
said it was very mild....we did not taste it at all! The FLEURIE Pinot
NOIR "La Madone" from Georges duBoeuf was a super pair as the fish and
beet were so intense. It was soft, a bit spicy and had a huge full
bodied finish with long skinny legs.
The last red wine was a TEMPRANILLO La Mandia (?) and when Sue said
she really did not want any more red, they immediately poured a glass
of American Chardonnay. That was good service. The meat course was
SADDLE of LAMB with SWEETBREADS, Lamb Jus, Pistachio and Smoked SPRAT.
Yes, the small little sardine like fish. The sprat was filleted and in
the corner of the plate was the entire skeleton and head deep fried.,
standing up erect in a small dab of potato. We ate the skeleton whole
and it was salty and yummy, but I felt the fish itself was an odd
taste along with the lamb, which was divine.

Sue told us that Jamie Oliver had just opened in Leeds around the
corner, so we have a new spot for next time, and when you get to then
end, you must decide whether or not Anthony's is for you.

some more raves for THE RESTAURANT in Leeds, UK (8-16-10)

On our second night in Leeds, we returned after two years with the
whole local family to THE RESTAURANT which is located in the beautiful
historic City Square Old Post Office Building
( Our server Rosie (from Ireland)
admitted being a bit nervous, so we told her to relax. The six of us
kept her busy and she did a great job. We bumped into our server from
2 years ago, Sally, who is now the asst. manager! We decided to keep
Samuel with the same starter, CRISPY DUCK ROLL and he simply skipped
the yummy Plum & Pineapple Dipping Sauce.. He went on to try the PENNE
with Spicy Sausage, Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Sauce. He ate some of
the pasta refusing the sausage (it was not very spicy, but it did have
some spice).
We ordered a bottle of MACON CHARNAY Cuvee a l'Ancienne 2008 Burgundy
which was a steely chardonnay of citrus and melon overtones. It was
spot on perfect with my THAI PRAWN CAKES with Sweet Chilli Sauce. Will
went for the GRILLED ASAPARAGUS with Poached Egg and Hollandaise,
which was another superb starter making hits for all of us.
Main courses included the tasty Herb Roasted LAMB with Crushed
Potatoes, Peas & Broad Beans (where were divine as they are now in
high season--similar to Lima Beans) & Mint. The SEAFOOD MIXED GRILL
consisted of Lemon Marinated Swordfish, Salmon & King Prawns (a huge
portion indeed) with a Spiced Onion Yoghurt akin to Raita.
Crispy DUCK with Chinese Greens (Bok Choy) and Sesame and Honey
Dressing was nice, but it was just a bit too crispy (anotherwords,
cooked several minutes less, it would have been moister and indeed
The wine was a Chilean Pinot Noir TABALI Reserva Especial 208 from the
Limari Valley which had a nice spice and went well with everything on
the table.
The side dish of Spinach was a big improvement over the Bibi's same
dish the night before, and the STIR FRIED Veggies were also nice, but
both suffered from oversalting.
Sam gobbled up a Lemon Sorbet as many of the family enjoyed the CREME
BRULEE with Lemon Shortbread Biscuit and Will had to have the STICKY
TOFFEE PUDDING with Butterscotch & Vanilla Ice Cream which has to be
one of the best in Yorkshire.
I chose the cheese platter and was wowed with four selections coming
with celery, apple chutney, grapes and crackers: OXFORD ICES (named
for the crew team) is wrapped in mead and was a bit dry, but worked
great with the chutney. CORNISH YARG was intense and some might say
smelly, but a true treat. RAGSTONE GOAT was subtly salty and again
quite nice with the chutney. The hit of the evening was the BLUE
MONDAY an amazing blue with a slight sweetness made in Gloucestershire
by Alex James of the rock band Blur.
It was a fun and enjoyable night by all....tonight, ANTHONY's, the top
spot in town for fine dining a la Fat Duck/Yorshirewise!

Leeds' BIBI's is a loser have boring food and little other than glitzy decor (8-15-10)

Being exhausted after a long train ride and a long weekend, we ended
up dining with just the three of us around the corner from hotel in
downtown Leeds at BIBI's Italianissimo.
Upon entering we were greeted by decor fixtures, disco balls turning,
columns of black and white glass lit from inside and enough to blind
anyone. There was a sign posted at the door about proper dress being
required. I really wonder what that means as men came in with shorts
and flipflops, but most people were dressed nicely.
We were seated on an upper level closer to the window and away from
much of the blinding glitz and Samuel promptly asked for Pizza (which
has meatballs, but he took them on the side). The pizza was a god size
one and he at every last bite, but it was truly a typical mediocre
pizza parlour type edition, no thin crispy crust a la Italia (or even
Two Amy's at home) here. I later tasted one of the meatballs and they
were mostly filler and extremely dry.
We ordered a bottle of delicious MAN VINTNERS PINOTAGE 2008 from
Coastal South Africa which had subtle spices and was probably best
with Will's PAPPARDELLE al CAPRIOLO e PORCINI, wide noodles with
Venison (he had some trouble finding the small amount of meat),
Porcini Mushrooms and a Parmesan Cream. It seems that most of the
pastas are Parmesan creamed and it results in a bit too much of
gloppiness. My PAGLIA e FIENO con SALMONE e RUCOLA were both Spinach
and Egg Pasta with some super SMOKED SALMON on top and Poached SALMON
within. The same parmesan cream resulted in a blob of pasta glop, and
the Rocket (Arugula) Pesto the menu said topped off the dish was
nowhere to be seen. Upon my first bite, I grabbed the huge peppermill
on the table and repeatedly dumped pepper on the dish as it had
virtually no taste save for the smoked salmon. I later mentioned this
(having left half of the huge portion in my bowl) and they did remove
it from the bill, but did not ever apologize or say a thing.
A side of Summer Sauteed Veggies was decent, but the side of SPINACH
in Garlic Olive Oil & Chllies seemed to have no garlic or chillies and
was, like my pasta, totally bland and unseasoned.
You can bet your bippy that BIBI's won't be in our book again.

when in West Yorkshire, it's the WEATHERBY WHALER for Fish and chips (8-15-10)

On arrival here in Leeds, Will's family tok us immediately to their
favorite Fish and Chips spot, which is actuall quite a nice
establishment, rather than a storefront, shop or stand (which can also
be quite good, as we have seen in the past). The WEATHERBY WHALER
( is located in the hamlet of Pudsey
(pronounced Pood-see hee) and has other locations in Wetherby, York
and Wakefield.
There are options other than fish and chips, but we all chose the
regular size HADDOCK PRIME FILLET batter fried with chips. They come
in large size and huge size, and I have no clue how anyone could eat
hat much. A side order of Onion Rings was quite nice, tasty and
crispy, but a small napkin in the bottom on the large bowl would have
been a great idea so the bottom ring was not so greasy. The fish
batter was crispy, crunch and tasty, as was the flaky firm fish, the
fries were good, too, but no prize winners.
I discovered HP Sauce which is like a steak sauce, but more vinegar
based and about the consistency of ketchup. I used it on everything
instead of the traditional vinegar as it had a slight punch.
Samuel chose the kid's size FISH FINGERS with Fries and gobbled them
up. His portion came with Mushy Peas (a big bowl) which were the
mushiest I have ever seen, but still quite good, which the rest of us
Our friendly sweet pimply server Matthew always had a smile and the
place has a wonderful local ambience that might only be beat in a
small seashore town fish and chips spot!

London's THE LEDBURY is more luscious then ever, and tops across the pond (8-14-10)

Last night I returned to THE LEDBURY in London, (
located in Kensington very close to the Portobello Road Market and
Knotting Hill Gate, the gastronomic home of my favorite chef in the
UK, Brett Graham. It was almost one year to the day when I last wrote
that I would head directly here on my next visit to London; I did. I
sat right down to a glass of BILLECART-SALMON Brut Rose Champagne N/V
and perused the menus as my "head"waiter Stephen (who also hails from
Australia like the chef and has worked there 3 years) explained that
the folks I met last year had mostly moved on. While sad, I must say
that this staff is some of the best in the business, truly deserving
of the 2nd Michelin star earned just months ago (which I suggested at
this blog a year ago!). Indeed they deserve THREE stars as the service
is truly the best in London (eat your heart our Gordon Ramsey!).
Everyone is kind, considerate and SMILES because they really DO like
their work and those they are serving as well.
My first amuse arrived and was a burst of flavor in the mouth of
SMIOKED COD ROE on a large thick POTATO CRISP with Malted Vinegar
Powder. I was ready for the tasting menu (cost 75 pounds--about $120)
with the paired wines (total with menu 120 pounds-about $190) which is
one of the best deals anywhere for an establishment of this quality
and fame. The uber-Michelin starred chefs of today spread themselves
thin with dozens of locations, and the level of quality can't POSSIBLY
be maintained. Chef Graham has opened a small pub nearby in west
London's Fulham called the HARWOOD ARMS, and left control to one of
his chefs from The Ledbury; it is already the first pub in the UK to
earn a Michelin star! Congratulations!

Stephen had read my review from last August and arrived with the Warm
Bacon & Onion Brioche that I so adored. I also tried the Malt Grain
Bread in a small tower like shape that was great, but refrained from
tasting all the breads knowing so much was to come. The second amuse
was very similar to one from last summer: CEVICHE of SCALLOP with
KOHLRABI, that Frozen HORSERADISH Powder that I so adore, Seaweed Oil
and new to the dish-tiny pearl-like round apple jellies. This is one
of the best ceviches of scallop ever and it's due mostly to the powder
which sadly can't be bottled to take away.

Wine number was a GRUNER VELTLINER Federspiel 2009 from Fritz-
Hirtzberger which unlike other GruVe's had a huge green (almost sour)
apple tart flavor that worked perfectly with the tang of the
horseradish and the vinegars in the salad to follow: Heritage (what we
call heirloom) TOMATOES with GREEN TOMATO Juice, GOAT's Curd and Herbs
was one of the best tomato salads on earth. Made from TigerStripe,
Oxheart, a small flayed red cherry with it's skin rolled back on top
and small gelatinous (agar) pearls of tomato. The "vinaigrette" was
light and made from green tomato juice and a small cylindrical tulle
was filled with goat cheese and sprinkled with dried olive. Small
shoots and adorable red and gold edible miniature marigolds made a
flame tulip like coloring on the plate.
The first fish was a divine Flame Grilled MACKEREL with the most
beautiful and crispiest of skins with Pickled Cucumber, Celtic
Mustard, Avocado Puree and Shiso. The dish was sprinkled with tasty
fried shallots, shiso micro greens (which are truly odd in that the
upper leaves are rounded and the lower ones jagged) and a purse (akin
to an Asian cold rice paper) made from Cucumber stuffed with Mackerel.
I loved the small slash of mild mustard across the top of the plate
for color, but also for a tangy taste to the fish. Each bite was
another trip to heaven. Here, the French sommelier, Johann (how's that
for a French name?) outdid himself and impressed me most with a
TERLANER 2009 Classico from Alto Adige in Italy, known for its light
and fruity wines. The blend was 70% Pinot Grigio with Sauvignon Blanc
& Chardonnay and blew me away with its flavors, dryness and perfection
in pairing with the fish and all the ingredients. Indeed, I think
Johann and his staff have one of the hardest job with each dish
containing so many ingredients! I wish I could buy this wine at home
as well!

I started a chat with the couple at the next table and their 12 year
old son, who was so well behaved and raved about each bite. My next
course was his appetizer, and he told me I was in for a treat with
Saute of CHICKEN WINGS with Milk Skin, White Carrots, Girolles and
Parmesan Cream. He was dead on. When we think of chicken wings at
home, just ranch dressing, spicy sauce and lots of glop come to mind.
This dish took the thickest part off the wing and laid it over the
milk skin, a kind of skim from the top of the boiled milk that had
hardened a bit. It was the only thing I could have done without in the
entire meal, simply because it was an odd taste, even though the color
was beautiful. The French girolles mini-mushrooms were ecstasy in my
mouth and the dish was creamy on the side with the parmesan cream and
a light emulsion of the carrots. Alex, the young man at the next
table, smiled and said, "I told you so." A superb steely KUMEU RIVER
ESTATE Chardonnay 2006 from New Zealand had the perfect finesse
which grew creamier in the mouth as it warmed up.

I always like to be treated special, nbut when the extra course from
the kitchen arrived, I knew I would have to forego the cheese trolley
I had been eyeing all evening. ROASTED TURBOT FILLET was on the menu,
but had licorice (liquorice in the UK) and they had asked me if I had
any allergies or dislikes at the start. I guess Chef wanted a
challenge, so he modified the course to suit me with a FENNEL Puree
and a voluptuous VELOUTE of ELDERFLOWER with those amazing GIROLLES as
well as Roasted MUSSELS and a breaded mussel for crunch. The wine was
a light bodied and suitably fruity PINOT NOIR called GRUYERE (odd to
be named after a cheese) from MacForbes 2008 in the Australian Yarra
Valley. It was the only wine I did not finish all night (I'm sorry, I
too fond of bigger traditional Burgundies and Pinot Noir).

Back on the tasting menu was the ROAST SEA BASS (another superb fish
from the south coast of England) with a dark TRUFFLE PUREE and
CAULIFLOWER PUREE which on the plate created a ying-yang like black
and white design with Parmesan GNOCCHI and SEA VEGETABLES. The gnocchi
was divine, but the crunchy seaweed-like veggies were a novelty that I
adored. Johann moved me right to the Burgundy Pinot I desired with a
full bodied FIXIN "Crais de Chene" 2007 from Rene Bouvier. I asked him
jokingly if the winemaker was related to the late Mrs. Kennedy. He
smiled and shrugged, obviously being too young to have a clue what I
was talking about. It sucks to feel old!

The one meat course was perfect-sized with two medallions of BEST END
and SHOULDER of New Season Lamb. The loin medallions were simple,
tender and lovely, while the crispy crunchy shoulder was more like a
confit. An AUBERGINE slice was glazed with Sugar & Garlic and served
with Aubergine (Eggplant) Caviar and a Spinach Puree and sauteed
SPINACH provided more delicious veggie input. A CHIANTI RUFFINA 2007
was again the perfect wine, but this time I asked the ever adorable
Johann where the lamb came from, assuming it was British. He smiled
and said, the best lamb now comes from the French Pyrenees, as this

A slew of desserts followed with the pre-dessert billed as OLIVE OIL
PANNA COTTA with Diced Peach, Peach Gelee, Peach Sorbet and Rum
Crumble. It was so refreshing, I could have had a second, but
refrained as the BROWN SUGAR TART with GOOSEBERRIEs and Stem GINGER
ICE CREAM arrived. The very large pour of dessert wine was almost too
much (they knew I liked dessert wines) and I was surprised when Johann
told me the sweet sherry from PEDRO XIMEMEZ came from their Australian
makers in the TURKEY FLAT of the BAROSSA Valley. I shared tastes with
some very nice folks nearby and we were all great friends soon.

I did indeed miss my adored Saint Marcellin from the cheese tray as I
saw it "ooze" by on the trolley, but when right to the mignardises
which are always a treat at the Ledbury:
Dark CHOCOLATE & Eucalyptus Truffle is a salute to the chef's homeland
ELDERFLOWER Marshmallows are fluffy but not too sweet
Passion Fruit Jellies are for the non-chocoholics
EARL GREY MACAROONS are one of my favorites
but the new WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT Truffle was so soft, smooth,
creamy and yummy that I may now have a new first place mignardise.

I said I would come back to the Ledbury, and indeed I will again and
ALAN now in Leeds, Yorkshire with the family.

London light-go to LA FROMAGERIE (8-14-10)

I arrived in the UK late last night and already had my mind set on
visiting a store about a 1/2 mile from my hotel called LA FROMAGERIE
as it had been written up extensively in the US
( They have two locations: one at 2-6 Moxon
Street in West 1 just off Marylebone High Road, the other in Highbury
Park (North 5). La Fromagerie opens around 9-10am for breakfast and
has a small cafe with and several tables that will fit no more than 2
dozen; the close by 7pm most days (5pm Sundays). I ordered the
Southwest France Breakfast plate which came with three cheese, two
meats, breads, butter and yogurt.
The cafe au lait was divine and so was everything else.
I started light with the Vardon Yoghurt which was fresh, smooth and
very tart then moved on to the mild Crottin Pic di Bigorre a small
round goat disc from Ariege that was rinded and aged a bit, but still
quite mild. The creamy almost semi-soft OSSAU, a ewe's milk cheese
from the Pyrenees was mild and tasty, it was great with the slightly
spicy local Saucissons and the Bayonne Ham which is somewhere between
a Spanish jamon and prosciutto. The best cheese was the aged, tangy,
slightly sharp and intense Le GABIETOUT made from cow and goat mixed.
Their farmhouse butter is divine, although the bread was only okay.
Don't miss a stop in the CHEESE ROOM which houses hundreds of cheeses
for sale from all over Europe that make your mouth melt. I wanted to
buy tons, but knew I was leaving London for the North tomorrow and it
would never keep all day traveling! I yearned for the runny St.
Marcellin and oh so many others.......
I left before my resistance broke.
Tonight I return to THE LEDBURY where I was so thoroughly enthralled
with Chef Brett Graham when I was here a year ago, that I swore right
on this blog and google group that I would return for this tasting the
second I set in foot in London. Promise kept and now The Ledbury
proudly boasts TWO Michelin stars (I said they deserved two, if not
three right here!). YAY!

GRACE's MANDARIN at National Harbor will get you going (8-10-10)

Last night we were invited to Grace's Mandarin
( at National Harbor, just 15 minutes south
of DC in Maryland, with gorgeous views over the Potomac. The food is
also gorgeous to look at, and almost everything made a great
impression with me from the first sip of my DIRTY MARTINI with the
most wonderful wasabi stuffed olives!
The sashimi and sushi is not what I would call the best in town, but
it made for a very nice start with some selections including excellent
SMOKED EEL and CLAM as well as a CRAB roll with a bit of Tempura
crunch in it.
Paired with SUIGEL Sake it was a treat.
The white wines were a tangy Cakebread SAVUVIGNON BLANC 2008 which
worked amazingly well with the spice in the top quality super spicy
Mandarin Special Pan-Fried Calamari with Peppers (incl jalapenos that
were not too spicy and full of flavor). The NEWTON Red Label 2008
Chard was very creamy and went well with the extremely rich (from the
cream cheese) CRAB RANGOON and the tasty Chicken Pot Stickers.
Salads here are tasty from the excellent house SESAME DRESSING which
should be bottled.
The Grace's LUMP CRAB CAKE is a bit creamy and has a slight spicy bit
making it very different from the average in DC, but still a treat.
Asian grilled LAMB CHOPS was the only dish that was a bit overcooked
and dry, but don't skip the SINGAPORE PINEAPPLE RICE with its huge
shrimp and pieces of pork. The Pan Seared vegetables of broccoli and
bok choy are also a nice side. WILLAMETTE VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2008 is a
light pinot, but works well with many dishes as well.
Since our host was celebrating his birthday it was a nice treat to
have the gorgeous Grace come out and open a magnum of Veuve Cliquot
along with the superb Strawberry & Almond Mousse Supreme Birthday Cake
from Gerard's nearby in Oxon Hill!
YUM YUM--Grace has got it going good!

This is the last summer meal from home--off to the UK!

get thee to GRAPESEED in Bethesda for softshells and more...(8-8-10)

As Will & Sam are off visiting family in the UK, I decided to partake
of Bethesda Restaurant week last Sunday at GRAPESEED
( and I had one of the best meals in ages, not
to mention the superb ambiance and great service.
Grapeseed has a huge selections of wines by the glass and they are
mostly novel and exciting. I started with a Domaine de BAUMARD
Savenierres 2006 Chenin Blanc that had a superb finish and was most
refreshing in the decent warm temperature weather we had over the
weekend. As soon as it hits 90, I seem to go to ice cold white and dry
or rose! Chef Jeffrey Heinemen sent out a divine bruschetta like
preparation using lardo with Sweet 100 Tomatoes (from his garden) and
A BEET SALAD with warm GOAT Cheese, Pistachios and a tasty Tarragon
Vinaigrette was a perfect choice as a smaller salad starter.
I moved on to The PINES 1852 Pinot Gris from Columbia Gorge in
Washington which had an intense citrus flavor. I really wanted the
FRIED CHICKEN LIVERS, but Chef Jeff sent out one small portion of that
as a soft creamy treat on crostini with Pepper Jelly!

A Broglia Gavi de Gavi 2008 Lameirana from Piemonte had long legs and
a slight perfume and went hand in hand with the chef's appetizer
recommendation of Sauteed CALAMARI, Parsley & Garlic. I was so happy
to have this delightful simple dish which was tender and cooked to

I had chosen Grapeseed for several reasons: I had not been in some
time, Bethesda restaurant Week, but most importantly the soft shells
were on the menu. I remembered the past preparations of this dish so
well and the new one is even better: CRISPY Soft Shell CRABS with
CREOLE TOMATO Sauce, Dirty Rice and Remoulade packed a slight spice
and every bite was a busting mouthful of flavors. The fresh home grown
garden tomatoes throughout the meal were great and really made an
impression in this sauce!
While the menu gives wine choices for each dish, the soft shells had a
St. Clair Sauvignon Blanc that I know well and Chef recommended I try
the Domaine ZIND HUMBRECHT 2008 Gewurtzrtraminer from Alsace which I
did and the peppery wine with its slightly sweet finish was the
perfect foil to the spice in the rice.

Dessert was ideal and light with Shenandoah Valley BLUEBERRIES with a
Limoncello & Black Pepper sabayon and Lavender Shortbread. Need I say
more? It was idea with a glass of Gabriel Meffre LAURUS Muscat Beaumes
de Venise.
One can't leave Grapeseed without mentioning the wonderful crusty
fresh bread, but even more so the accompanying oil with tomato and
garlic to dip it in! Impossible to resist!

POSTO is positively up to par (8-3-10)

Last year when POSTO opened with a no reservation status, it was
virtually impossible to get near the front door, the host stand or
even to a table. Last night, I decided to meet some friends across the
street at the just opened ESTADIO, and while we were able to get to
the host stand, we were told the wait was about an hour. NO WAY!
What is it these days with a no reservations policy. We decided to
cross the street and got a table at POSTO within minutes!\Some GRUNER
VELTLINER 2207 from Stadt Krems in Kremstal, Austria got us refreshed
very fast and a beautiful basket of Rosemary-Salt flatbread focaccia
was divine dipped in olive oil.
The menu is extensive with pizzas, pastas, primi and secondi, so come
The PICCANTE PIZZA has spicy salami and Italian sausage and offers up
a slight punch of spice which went great with our peppery red a 2005
EVO from Bodegas Guelbenzu "Ribera de Queiles" from Navarra in Spain.
I would never have guessed the grapes to be Cabernet, Merlot and
Tempranilla as the wine was pretty full bodied and resembled a mild
CHILLED Yellow TOMATO Soup with Jumbo Lump CRAB TIMBALE was one of the
most refreshing soups I have had all summer; I could have easily had
seconds! POLPETTI was a chilled Grilled Baby OCOTPUS Salad with
Saffron POTATOES, Chickpeas and Frisee; another perfect summer dish.
For main courses we had the superb IPPOGROSSO or Pan Seared Alaskan
HALIBUT with grape Tomatoes, Green pea sauce and Green Pea-Parsley
Salad which had a crunchy tasty salty crust that was heavenly. The
CAPESANTE were four huge roasted SEA SCALLOPS with Green beans, Yellow
Wax beans and a Bell pepper Sauce that was also perfectly cooked and
seasoned. My GUANCE were superbly sauced Braised VEAL CHEECKS with
Sauteed SPINACH and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. One piece had a bit of fat
on the side and suffered only from not being well trimmed, but the
preparation was otherwise perfection.

If you seek dark chocolate, head right for the CHOCOLATE MOUSSE and
Goat Cheese Chevre Creme with Fleur de sel and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
I took the cheese route and was thrilled with the tangy PECORINO
CROTONESE and adored the BLUE del MONCESINO, a medium blue that was
creamy and rich and a novelty for me as well. Only the ROBIOLA TRE
LATTI was a bit firm when I like it runny. More of the flatbread came
as did some fruitbread for the cheese, which gave the Robiola a nice

All in all, it was a superb evening, and we did not have to wait!

KOMI comes out on top! (7-29-10)

We went to Johnny Monis' gastronomic Greek temple KOMI
( once before the renovation and changeover to only
the tasting menu and enjoyed it quite much (save for the tarama;
whipped too much!), but after returning last week for the multi-course
tasting menu at $125 (accompanying wines $68) we decided this tasting
was one of the tops in town! He is a star chef winner and well worth
the expense!
We had great service from our main server Kyle and the sommeliers Kat,
but it seemed that everyone works as a team at this intimate place;
there are only about 7 tables for four and 7 for 2, making the
capacity about 40! It was one of those awful humid, hot (well around
90) evenings, and we appreciated the glass of Ode Panos Spiropoulous
Organic Brut Sparkling made from moscafiero grapes with big apple and
unripe pears lingering afterward in the finish. First amuse (where the
amuses ended and the meal began was impossible to tell!) was a Steamed
BRIOCHE with Greek YOGURT, TROUT ROE and a sprig of chive that was
(like the brut) ever so refreshing. Next came the SASHIMI TRIO-
Kampachi (yellowtail) with chive, Liramassa (amberjack) with Armenian
cucumber and Red Snapper with Sumac, Onion & Caperberry which was
fleshy and full of intense flavor and had a crunch from the spice. All
were superb, but we began to notice a trend of oversalting. The salt
used was a tasty sea salt which worked fine, especially on the
kampachi, etc, but at times we felt it a bit overdone.
Maine DIVER SCALLOP was next with Australian Truffles, Mustard seed,
Dill, Toasted Almonds and Pickled Beets with Fresh Wasabi. This dish
was a revelation in the mouth and had many exciting elements,
including intensity from both the beets and wasabi!

The next white was a PONZI ARNEIS 2009 from the Willamette Valley in
Oregon, a grape not seen too much in the USA and always a welcome wine
with flavorful foods.
COLD SMOKED SALMON BELLY with Candied Pine Nuts and Shiso Sorbet was a
refreshing mouthful that had a blast and CRISPY SPINAKOPITA was
another in the mouth explosion of this traditional Greek dish turned
totally around here. It was loaded with creamy melted feta and dill
and was superb, although a bit more spinach would have been nice.
Heirloom TOMATO SALAS with MIZITHRA Cheese (a Greek sheep) made in
house was very soft and tasty (like a farmer's cheese). Added cucumber
was nice, but that salt was overdone again.

Watch out Ben's Chili Bowl up the street when your Chef of the Year
winner down the block starts making HALF SMOKES with RAMP Relish and
Watermelon Creme Fraiche! This bite in a bun would have me coming back
to KOMI regularly if they had take-out!
We moved to a TXAMIN ETXANIZ "Txchakolina" style wine from Spain
Getaria that I discovered a couple of years ago and I call salad wine
as it works so well with spice of vinegar as it has a slight
Roasted DATES with MASCARPONE, Olive Oil & Sea Salt (too much again)
were excellent, but all I could think of was the salt on the pretzels
at the beach boardwalk!

Our first red wine was a MENCIA with thick legs, medium body and a
great perfumey nose called LUNA BEBERIDE 2008 "made by Finca La Westa
in Bierzo. This was served with divine TAGLIATELLE (that Will felt
needed to be warmer) with Blueberry, Sausage and Blue Foot & Maitake
Mushrooms. There was a slight spiciness to the sausage which was tamed
by the blueberry in the most perfect of ways.
Our main red was a DOMAINE MERCOURI 2004 from Ilias in Western
Peloponnese that would do battle well with any quality red, proving
Greeks can make quality red wines with intensity that would also drink
alone well.
It was served with the "main course" of Braised GOAT SHOULDER with
thick-style puffy pita, EGGPLANT Puree, and a plate of condiments:
Oregano Salt, Tzatziki (chunky creamy cucumber), Hot Sauce, Pickled
Cabbage and Red Onion Mustard (that was more of a red onion marmalade
with mustard seeds!). This most rustic of dishes was as about as Greek
as one could wish with so many exciting touches as well. The different
bites with each condiment made for lots of fun and tastes, and we
adored the crunchy skin so much we almost fought over it!
A glass of Oregon Baldecker Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir from Willamette
Valley as well was an extra treat we ordered as we wanted to rest
before dessert.
The cheese course was oddly LA TOUR cow-goat from Piedmont (Italy, not
Greece) which was soft and mild with Baby Fennel Marmalade and salted
Salted CARAMELS and other jellies of Orange and Cherry came as well
and I just had to laugh at all these "salted" extras! The BAKLAVA was
crispy walnut phyllo tulle and served with Virginia Honey Sorbet; this
was a revelation in the baklava filed and was served with a divine
SAMOS NECTAR U.W.C.S. 2001 Muscat loaded with honey and acidity and
just totally perfect for the dish!
LOUKOUMADES or Greek fried honey donuts came with Micro BASIL YOGURT
GELATO and Blueberry-Blackberry Compote which was another wonderful
treat that we shall remember.
We were given some jellies to take home and Orange Saffron Lollipops
for the road as well.
While the salt was heavy, the food was indeed divine and we shall
return to KOMI for sure to eat like the ancient gods of Greece!

TWO AMYs PIZZA is near perfect (7-28-10)

It's been a while since we headed 5 minutes away to TWO AMYS at 3715
Macomb Ave, NW ( because the lines can be quite
long. We tried again last night, parked right out front, and got a
table for six within minutes. What a break!
Samuel settled in and gobbled up his entire TWO AMYS (basic cheese,
tomato) in a flash. His almost 2-year-old friend Oliver seemed to like
the POLPETTINE al FORNO which were tasty little meatballs in a rich
thick tomato sauce.
A bottle of TREBBIANO d'ABRUZZO 2007 from Cataldi Madonna was tasty
and refreshing and worked with the spicy, but tasty small plate of
CAULIFLOWER with ANCHOVY, GARLI & HOT PEPPER. This dish had a buttery,
salty, garlicky, peppery sauce that begged for bread (think escargots,
but spicier) and when the tasty rustic slices came, I mopped up every
last bit. SALT COD CROQUETTES were not too rich and the COPIETTE di
"CAVALLO" was a tasty take on venison jerky that was tender and
delightful. The small plates are fun and also included a most yummy
Bruschetta with Tomato Fonduta made with those huge pieces of rustic
bread and a mild tomato blend.
As Sam will vouch, the pizzas are some of the best around from the
simple MARGHERITA made with superb Bufala Mozzarella & Basil to the
"design your own." Will went this route with Mushrooms & Pancetta. I
took one of the "house-styled" VONGOLE which was a Mozzarella-less
pizza with Manila clams)called cockels), capers, hot pepper, and grana
(a hard cheese grated for light flavor. This "less cheese" style was
lighter, did fill me up, but offered a cholesterol break.
A glass of Di Majo Norante Sangiovese was perfect to pair with Will's
Pancetta on his pizza and I went for the softer Cataldo Madonna 2007
MONTEPULCIANO d'ABRUZZO (same maker as the white) with mine.
Everyone was very happy and a fgood and fun time was had by all
(despite the high noise levels from the completely full room). We saw
a short line on the way out, but they were moving folks fast. We were
there about 90 minutes, and I think they prefer folks come and go
fast, but you can linger as long as you eat! And it is a GREAT place
to EAT!

CAVA makes mezze magnificent (DC Capitol Hill location) 7-18-10

Hi folks,
Just a reminder that you can view all past Phyllis-teen reviews at
this google group, but also at the blog site,
which is now updated regularly.
We have not created a search mechanism, so you'll have to manage that
on your own!
Last night Will & Sam arrives at Union Station by train and we decided
to head over to 527 8th St.,SE and visit CAVA for Greek MEZZE, as we
have always enjoyed their yummy tastings at the Bethesda Central
Farmer's Market over the years. We'll it was a great choice for many
reasons. The train was late and we didn't sit down until after 8pm and
Samuel was hungry. The food came fast and was filling, and we were out
pretty fast and had Sam in bed before 10pm! I do recommend that if you
wish to linger, dop NOT order all your small plates (mezze) at the
start. Take it slow and go with the flow.
CAVA ( also has a Rockville, MD location and will be
opening in Arlington, VA (Clarendon) next winter. The decor has much
to be desired with some nice family-like photos on the wall that seem
very antique at times and very 60's as well. There is a big bar with
TV and the lighting needs some improvement. We got the back left
corner table which had some decent lighting for Samuel to do his
connect the dots while we waited. The floors are hard and the tables
are worn wood and the boring (thought not awfully loud) rock music is
like a din in the background. Once you get past this, the food is
Our server, also Sam (antha) thought our choices were great, and they
were. but feel free to ask for guidance as the servers know the dishes
well. Samuel ordered a kind on non-alcoholic Raspberry Mojito with
Mint & Lime which was quite tasty and luckliy lasted the whole meal
(at $7 a pop, it should have less ice and more juice!). We went for a
bottle of ATLANTIS ASSYRTIKO, a refreshing white wine from Santorini
that worked with every dish. We did move on to two types of red (we
shared these to taste each) at the end of the meal which were not
really great as the heat in Greece does not lend itself to great red
wines: DioFili Xinomavro from Siatista was an almost zin-like red with
some spice, but not lots of body. The Lykrakis Kotsifali from Crete
had even less body.
A plate of olives, olive oil and harissa (not very Greek, this spicy
Moroccan sauce!) came with warm pita and Samuel loves the olive oil
for dipping. For him, we ordered the Lemon Braised MEAT BALLS
(Avgolemono style) with herbs, which were actually rectangular shaped
and flattish. He looked at them as if to say, "these are not
meatballs," but once he tasted them, he begged for a second mezze
plate of the same. He also enjoyed the SPARRAGGIA, superbly grilled
asparagus in lemon vinaigrette (we asked for the yummy Dodonis feta on
the side). Oddly, Samuel has taken to eating the SPEARS and not the
tips (which of course, we gobbled down!).
We started with some of the best TARAMOSALATA in town-creamy, rich,
intense and a huge portion that seemed to have an endless bottom to
the ice cream shaped mound! The ROASTED YELLOW BEET Salad with
Manouri, Sea Salt, EVOO and Onions also had some purple beets and was
richly dressed (a bit too much along with the rich Tarama), but still
a great dish.
We chose three "main course" mezze, all of which were superb:
GRILLED BABY OCTOPUS was difficult to cut, but more tender in the
mouth, and cooked simply with light seasoning to perfection.
DISCO FRIES were hand cut and smothered with VEAL RAGOUT, Dodonis feta
and Kefalograviera. The fries on top were crunchy and tasty, but for
me, the ones underneath were a bit soggy from the spectacular ragout.
I suggested to Sam that in the future if they place the fries on top,
we can decide if we wish to eat them crunchy or mix them in. This dish
was like an intense VEAL CHILI FRIES with feta cheese, and while I
wasn't crazy about some soggy fries, Will RAVED and RAVED, as I did
The LOLLIPOP CHICKEN has three fried legs standing vertical on a bed
of Greek yogurt with walnuts and drizzled honey that you mop up with
each leg and each bite. YUM YUM!
We couldn't face the thought of dessert. Even Samuel was full after 2
full mezze and part of the asparagus, but he did say that he wanted to
come back for dinner again soon! We agree!