Monday, July 25, 2011

Bethesda Restaurant week is better at FOOD WINE & CO (7-24-11)

While officially Bethesda Restaurant week ended last night FOOD WINE & CO ( at 7272 Wisconsin Ave, NW has extended it through the end of July! The $30 three course menu is quite large with many options for mains from pizza to pasta to sandwiches as well as the standard meats and fish courses.
On arrival we were happy to see complimentary (validated) parking in the garage below and a welcome greeting at the door.
As I jotted about the decor (butcher block tables/lots of comfy booths/high ceilings and windows--adding a bit to the noise factor--but not awful), I told our server Shannon not to worry as I just had a food blog. She said she knew and had googled me up already and read some of my comments! WOW, that shocked me.
We started with a bottle of crisp SANCERRE Reserve Durand 2010 (the wine list is quite huge and diverse and reasonable). After asking, the tasty French bread arrived.
We decided to add on to the menu with a dozen oysters which were all superb East Coast plump and tasty with Blue Point(NY) and Rappahannock and Old Salts(VA) sharing the plate. Next came Will's divine (but a bit smallish on the portion size) TOMATO-WATERMELON GAZPACHO with Ricotta, Cucumber and Olive Oil. It was tasty and tangy (but smooth; Will likes it chunky) and nobody can have enough gazpacho in this heat!
My FRIED ARTICHOKES with Sauce Gribiche (a lemony remoulade with pieces of boiled eggwhites) was much larger and quite filling. They delicate hearts are ever so lightly battered and for this reason are crisp and delightful, not greasy or overbattered at all.
Will went the pizza route with a superb ROASTED MUSHROOM, TRUFFLE OIL, PANCETTA and Mozzarella and I took Shannon's suggestion for the RED CURRY MUSSELS with Toasted Coconut, Lime and Cilantro. This huge portion of plump mollusks is not sweet at all, indeed it has quite a spicy punch and one of the best sauces around town I have had. We switched to an Austrian ZWIEGELT from SATTLER 2007 in Burgenland that was perfect with the spice in the mussels and the pizza as well.

Thinking of the menu we decided this was a great place for kids, although on a Sunday evening it was completely devoid of any children!
We chose our desserts based on Shannon's suggestion. Will went with her #1 choice-PANNA COTTA with Strawberry, Guava, Basil, Kaffir Lime Marshmallow and he got the better. The BLACKBERRY CROSTATA with Lemon Syrup, Candied Ginger and Oatmeal Creme came to the table hot, but the crostata pastry itself was a bit dry and badly needed the sauce and cream to moisten it a bit. Otherwise it was a nice dish, I just left some of the pastry.

We enjoyed our meal deal and know that FOOD WINE & CO is a great place to go....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Southwest's STATION 4 is a new stop in DC (7-23-11)

Samuel and I attended a matinee of Oklahoma (not to be missed) at Arena Stage yesterday and had the pleasure of dining out with both female leads afterwards. As they were between shows, they suggested a new spot just a block away at 1101 4th St, SW in what used to be the Waterside Mall and has now been redeveloped.
STATION 4 ( is a beautiful, classy, chic and yes, trendy spot with a varied menu, nice drink list (vodka from Maryland!) and an exciting wine list too.
The manager, Antonio, kept checking to see if everything was okay and the staff is quite attentive (for some, they might be a bit over attentive). As soon as Samuel saw the pizza choices, there was no hoping he would go for the Duck Confit Spring Roll, so I agreed to the MARGHERITA which came with fresh basil and beautiful confit cherry tomatoes (that means peeled and cooked to perfection). He was happy with his Shirley Temple and we ordered (well, the ladies did not drink) a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio RUBRATO AGLIANICO 2007 which was a perfect red for a hot (am I understating-BLOODY HOT) day as we had ordered heavier meat courses. It had some nice body but was not overpowering or overly tannic. My friend ordered the SPICY PEPPERONI PIZZA and the wine was perfect with this as well as my BEEF SHORT RIB PAPPARDELLE with comes with Caramelized Shallots, Sweet Peas and a Black Truffle Essence. The toasted baguette on the side is a bit redundant with all that pasta! Speaking of bread, they serve tasty crunchy breadsticks which have olive tapenade baked onto them for extra yummy flavor. One of our guests also adored the Pappardelle and the other the CORVINA FISH Special which came with a divine green sauce that made this fish such a big hit we suggested it get on the daily menu! The veggie sides are nice too with tender buttery ASAPARAGUS and BRUSSELS SPROUTS with bacon served in a mini-cast iron pot.
The portions are large, so we were happy not to have an appetizer and were too full for dessert!
If you are headed to Arena, this is a great spot before or after as they are even open until midnight or later (now that's a treat in this neighborhood), but consider the short drive from almost anywhere in DC worth the trip!

We always want what's at (and wont for) WILLOW(Arlington,VA)-7/22/11

We were at the opening of WILLOW ( almost six years
ago celebrating the wedding of Chef Tracy O'Grady to Chef Brian
Wolken. We were so excited when they joined forced with Chef Kate
Jansen, and now they can boast one of the most successful and truly
best fine dining spots in Virginia.
When I say fine, I must note, that last Friday (in the 100+ heat)
folks were in shorts and loose dresses, and the formality is really
not what counts here. The decor is always nice, but the highlight is
the excellent service and the food. Parking is $2.50 in the lot below
(where can you get that these days?--I actually noticed one valet sign
in DC last week that said $10 prior to 10pm, and $20 after 10pm!!).

I have to admit that we had planned a light dinner before heading to
Wolf Trap (yes, crazy us in the heat), but it turned into a gourmet
treat as Tracy wanted to thank us and congratulate us on our recent
marriage. We were overwhelmed and yes, every bite was indeed
scrumptious; perhaps even moreso.

We ordered a bottle of the VERITAS VIOGNIER 2010 from Monticello,
Virginia which our server Russell said was super creamy and perfect
with our main course choices. We had both ordered the Soft Shell
Crabs, but I run ahead and digress...
The rolls and biscuits were nice, but it was the plate of CHEESE
GOUGERES piping hot with Black Truffle Butter Sauce that had us in
heaven. The sauce is not buttery as it sounds, but more of a mushroom
dipping sauce for a hint of earthy flavor.
I started with the TOMATO, ALMOND and BASIL GAZPACHO with Avocado
Mousse and Fried Yucca. It was the perfect choice for the hottest day
of the year as was Will's magnificent "tower: of Local HEIRLOOM TOMATO
Salad with Creamy Basil Mascarpone Mousse, Balsamic & 20 Year Old
Sherry Vinaigrette. I was worried when I read "mascarpone" but this is
not a rich creamy dressing, just infused with a slight bit of mousse
for body.

You really won't want to miss one of the most amazing dishes in DC,
Gratin, Savory & Sherry Lobster Sauce. You all know I am not a fennel
fan, but this may be one of my favorite dishes around town FOREVER!
The pastry (Chef Kate) was amazing as was the ravioli and it was
decorated with limas, corn shoots and two gastrique-like slivers of
sauce. WOW!

The Crispy TEMPURA FRIED SOFT SHELL CRAB with Corn Pancake, English
Peas, Fresh & Roasted Corn, Snap Peas, (Watermelon) Radish and Corn
Shoots was a to-die for version of my favorite summer food. Even the
tastiest ASPARAGUS were on the side (not on the menu). The sauce was
light and flavorful, and while I do always prefer my softshells
sauteed, this is one of the best fried versions ever. The watermelon
radish ( a truly gorgeous veggie) is julienned and cooked so that it
is SOOOOOOOOO sweet. Russell was also right on with the wine as it
paired perfectly with both the lobster and the crab. A creamy treat
that Virginia wines don't always boast.
Will chose the PASSION FRUIT CHEESECAKE with Berries and Passion Fruit
Sauce for dessert and I went for the COOKIES & ICE CREAM plate, simply
because the desserts here (thanks to Chef Kate) are truly some of the
best in town. While the cheesecake was divine, I was happy with the
"lighter" (I am laughing as I write this) choice. A huge cup of
Blackberry Ice Cream came with Blackberry Sauce and there were
miniature cookies that would have delighted anyone:
Presidential Sweets are chocolate chip dusted with powdered sugar (a
bit sweet for me)
Bitter Chocolate Cookies really should just be called dark as they are
not bitter at all
Oatmeal sports dried cherries and small chocolate covered Rice
Krispies, which are superb
Don't miss the amazing macaroons (that put the ones we had in Belgium
and London recently to shame)
There is a simple sugar cookie too, but my fave is the NUTTER BUTTER,
a peanut butter cookie sandwich with creamy rich PB in the middle.
An insider note is that these treats, the cupcakes and more will soon
be available at a small "secret" bakery stand at Willow!! I dare you
to resist.

Samuel loves going to Willow and we promised Chef Tracy that we would
return soon with him as he adores their flatbreads and oh so much
more; so we need to go back REAL SOON!


Monday, July 11, 2011

the last London lunch- GastroPub grub with Tapas at the Norolk Arms (7-7-11)

As I readied to return to the US, we met Will's family near King's Cross Station at one of London's most adorable new "gastro" pubs specializing in tapas. The Norfolk Arms is a pubby as it gets, but the food her has gone gastro ( It was very hard to decide what to choose as we had a huge breakfast, but there were SO many choices. Samuel, alas, after the previous night's Michelin outing wanted only CHIPS or CRISPS. He barely touched the superbly seasoned PATATAS ALINADAS, although he did eat much of a plate of MANCHEGO Cheese drizzled with olive oil. The plates here run from about 2-9 pounds and the servings are much larger than we get at home.
There were superbly cream TARAMOSALATA served with tasty fresh pitta (they spell it with two "t"s in the UK and pronounce it with a short "i" like pit-uh) and tasty BABAGANOUSH. The ARTICHOKE HEARTS were cooked just right, seasoned just right and had a small tang too. The BOQUERONES were perfectly boned and marinated anchovies-almost a dozen of them!
At 3.50 (that's $5.65US today) the Scotch eggs are one of the best deals as they serve THREE monstrous egg halves coated and breaded and drizzled with whole grain mustard. YUM-the perfect English dish to say cheerio to the UK with.
They have a large beer menu and many wines as well. I had a glass of EL MURO BLANCO Macabeo which was most refreshing as the temperatures dropped and the rain plummeted. It was our first really cold and wet day on the entire trip. Little did I know that in 11 hours I would be in 95 degree DC!
Welcome home!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

London's The LEDBURY is as luscious as ever-Samuel's first Michelin meal!(7-6-11)

After my two previous visits to The Ledbury ( near
Notting Hill Gate and Portobello Road back in 2009 (when it had only
one Michelin star) and again last summer (just after it earned it's
second star), I had to return and this time was so happy that Will
would be in London with me to experience what I feel is the best food
in the UK, and indeed some of the best cooking in the world. We
thought about hiring a sitter for Samuel in the hotel, but the rates
that hotels charge is highway robbery, especially if it runs after
11pm, so we decided to bring Samuel with us as it would be cheaper. I
contacted the restaurant in advance and chef BRETT GRAHAM, whop said
he would be thrilled to "adjust" and create a children's tasting menu
for Samuel.

While the adult tasting menu is now priced at 95 pounds (just over
$150 at today's exchange) and is a steal at a two-star establishment,
Samuel was charged about 49 pounds, which was indeed, less than the
babysitter! We opted for the included wines bringing the total to
145pounds. A 12.5% service charge/gratuity is added but is optional,
and the staff here deserves much more anyway. So the adult bill per
person with wines and fees ends up at about $260 each (no including
the cheese course). I doubt anywhere else in the UK or Europe you
could eat (including wines) over 8 courses for this price. I have
always admired the staff, chef and indeed everyone at The Ledbury for
making each diner feel comfortable; there is no snootiness at all like
some other haute cuisine spots.

We started with Bereche et Fils Champagne which Ian, the sommelier
poured generously into the Riedel stemware. He took over from the last
sommelier (the adorable Johann) just after my visit last year. It
seems there is a major turnover in much of the staff here each year,
but Stephen the manager is still in charge and handles every need with
great panache.
Samuel was treated to a totally new drink when we asked for the
sommelier's version of a Shirley Temple (hew new favorite drink on the
cruise). A blue drink came made from some fizzy soda like Sprite mixed
with Elderflower juice; he was in heaven. The Amuse was a FOIE GRAS
Parfait topped with Gooseberry Puree in a small crunchy cone-like
holder. While we loved the "melt-in-your-mouth" feel and the crunch,
Samuel did take a small bite and left the rest. We began to worry that
this experiment was going to go sour.

Amuse number 2 (Samuel refused this one totally, but in a very adult
manner) was a medium-cooked QUAIL EGG topped with KATAFI (shredded
Turkish) pastry with Pea Puree, Bacon Bits and Cornflowers. I saw new
elements creeping into the chef's repertoire and was very excited
about what would come as this dish was a huge hit; even Will had
already begun to marvel.

The Ledbury is not a big place; I counted the tables and they don't
number more than 20. Most tables have two people, although there were
singles (a very nice man next to us from Florida), quads and one or
two larger groups. It is not noisy and the tables are comfortably
spaced. The decor is the same and you can tell after 3 times that the
goal here is to DINE and not be wowed by ostentatious chandeliers or

The first bread arrived in a loaf and was a spelt-sourdough which was
simple tasty and great for mopping things up later. In the past there
were many breads with lots of flavors and I worried that they had
dropped these, but within seconds two of the traditional's came - the
Bacon & Onion Rolls that look like Cinnamon Rolls, but are much
better, and small tower-like Crystallized Malt Muffins which Sam kept
asking for more of. I was suprised he did not like the Bacon & Onion
as he adores bacon so much.

The first course of the menu was a SALAD of HERITAGE (Heirloom)
TOMATOES with Dried Olives and Herbs for all three of us. One small
cherry tomato had its skin peeled back and somehow crunchified and
Chef's signature jelly pearls were in evidence as well. Samuel thought
it was salmon caviar, which he discovered in Norway on the cruise, but
was a bit upset it was not very salty. We all gobbled up the
magnificent tomatoes which were decorated with wildflowers as well.
All our plates had a FOIE GRAS pastry (akin to a Pepperidge Farm
pirouette cookie) and Samuel ate his without a blink. Ours was stuffed
with Goat Cheese making for a creamy divine and crunchy mix. The wine
was a 2009 KERNER from Manni Nossing in Alto Adige, Italy. Ian talked
about the Kerner and was surprised we had it in Belgium blended with
Chardonnay. It was a perfect pairing as he complained it is so hard to
pair wines with salads with vinaigrette; indeed each wine was the
ideal companion to the food.

FLAME GRILLED MACKEREL with Avocado, Celtic Mustard & Shiso was very
similar to last year's menu but no less enjoyable. It was decorated
with corn shoots, corn flowers and crispy onions and accompanied by
Pickled Cucumber disc as well as a small cylindric parcel of thin-
sheer cucumber wrapped around a tartare of mackerel. I saved this for
last and savored it well as it was the new part of the dish for me.
The wine was a 2009 RIESLING Spatlese Trocken QmP from OREA called
"AR." I am often not a German Riesling fan, but this Saar Valley wine
was afull of fruit and totally dry; a delight with the intense

The next course was for all of us and Samuel savored the CRISP GUINEA
FOWL but did not care for the "Risotto" of New Potatoes, Morels and
Summer Truffle. Despite his discovery of mushrooms the previous week,
he would not taste the morel either, so I quickly grabbed it off his
plate before he could change his mind. Of course we loved the entire
dish and the Domaine Olivier Pithon 2009 Vin de Pays des Cotes
Catalanes, Cuvee Lais (it is the name of the winemaker's Jersey plough
cow). Samuel was rewarded for devouring his second big course with
another specialty drink-this time a lemon-lime fizz (think Pimm's fizz
without the alcohol).
All the drinking (oh, I forgot the fabulous Speyside Glenlivet
Sparkling water) makes needs for trips downstairs to the loo, which is
simple, but elegant (AND always clean). Catherine should note that our
napkins were folded beautifully immediately after we left the table
(and yes, they were laid in our laps on arrival!).

Number 4 was a poached WILD SALMON with Watercress Puree, Cauliflower
with Romanescu sauce and Potted Shrimp butter. The shrimp were the
gray ones we had so many of in Belgium and had come to love their
sweetness. the dish itself offered up a just past rare piece of fish
that again melted in your mouth. It was fun to use the mild puree or
the slightly spicy sauce alternately. 2008 A.A. Badenhorst Family
Wines from South Africa was a blend of Chenin Blanc/Grenache Blanc/
Rousanne/Viognier/Verdelho and Chardonnay that would win ANYONE over
(I already have an inquiry in to see if it's available in the USA).
Samuel had a simple bowtie pasta course with broccoli (we had told the
chef he eats these) and smothered it with freshly grated parmesan; it
was gone in minutes.

Next came the PORK JOWL roasted with Spices, a carrot puree and
chicory reduction. The hit here was the crunchy skin atop the lean
meat paired sensationally with a 2006 NEBBIOLO d'ALBA "Valmaggiore"
from Luciano Sandrone in Piemonte, Italy (I am also trying to get this
one in the USA), a true 3star wine in the line up.

We asked for a nice rest (the entire meal took well over 4 hours) and
Samuel did so as well reading his new book from the Science Museum
called WOW EARTH. We had decided not to allow the DS, phones or
electronics at the table, and this new book was just the right thing
to keep his mind going and get him involved in the conversation and
showing us things.

The second meat course for us was LOIN & SHOULDER of LAMB with an
AUBERGINE Glazed with Black Sugar and Garlic & Miso. A spinach-spice
puree was on the side of the Crispy shoulder piece as well, as we
marveled at the amazing eggplant portion; I was in love with eggplant
and now must have it this way all the time! Our wine was a 2008 Vin de
Pays du Var "Les Aureliens" from Domaine de Triennes in Provence. The
cabernet/syrah blend was again an amazing touch to the tastes of the
plate which were so multi-leveled.
Samuel enjoyed a plate of BEEF SHORT RIBS with Crispy Potatoes and
shoots. We were so proud of him trying so many things, even if he
didn't finish them.

The cheese trolley arrived and we both knew this was going to be
special. We each chose five accompanied by biscuits, flatbread and
Will had the MONTGOMERY's 12 month CHEDDAR that was a bit dry, a
Corsican BRIN d'AMOUR, Poitiers CHAHICHOU (sp?) a hard cheese that
just needed something, a magnificent BANON Provence goat wrapped in
Chestnut leaves and the PERSIL de MARE Goat blue that was also a star.
My plate had a Valencay goat FOUILLIEU(sp?) de CHEVRE, L'AMI de
CHAMBERTIN, a gorgeous English WIGMORE (akin to camembert) and
STINKING BISHOP from Gloucester that everyone at the table could smell
and I adored as I chased it across the plate. Stephen (like the chef
is from Australia-Melbourne) was a great help in picking the cheeses
as there are so many. Samuel enjoyed a small plate of 5 year old
GOUDA, as he adores the intense hard cheese and those little crunchies
inside. He was a big fan of the Oude Brugge, a similar cheese made in
Bruges. Stephen asked us if we wished for port or wine or what and I
opted for a BLANDY's Malmsey 15 year old Madeira while will had
another glass of the AA Badenhorst white wine which we so adored.
Samuel was now up to his third cocktail concoction and was in awe of
his Virgin Vanilla Mojito.

The pre-dessert was EWE's MILK YOGURT with Strawberry Sorbet and
Strawberries and then the adults moved on to the Warm MANGO TART with
Elderflower Wine Ice Cream accompanied by a glass of 2005 CHATEAU
LAFAURIE-PEYRAGUEY 1er Cru Classe, SAUTERNES which was nice but a bit
high in acidity due to its youth. I have some of the 2003 vintage in
our cellar and plan not to touch it until it is at least 10-15 years
Samuel has taken to the chocolate brownie desserts lately and he was
presented with a Fudgey CHOCOLATE CAKE with BANANA Ice Cream. As kids
are wont to, Samuel goes in and out of food phases. He stopped eating
bananas about two years ago, but said the ice cream was different. I
won't argue.

We added all of Sam's courses and they came to 7...ours something like
11. Stephen packed up our mignardises (fruit jellies, chocolates and
cookies) which we enjoyed the next day as a reminder of what will go
down in history as one of our greatest meals as a family.

back to Bruges-Patrick Devo's amuses are not amusing! (7-1-11) addition to prev post

I found my notes on the amuses from our disappointing meal at Patrick
Devos 10 days ago and wanted to let you know about them as they are
clearly a sign of what was to come, and that was NOT good.
The first tray had three selections:
1-Rice with apple, rose radish and crispy biscuit that had all the
excitement of a plain gummy rice at at bad Chinese restaurant
2-Tartare of Cod fish with mousse (that was really soup) of lettuce at
least had some flavor from the tiny piece of fish, but none from the
lettuce (who would make a lettuce mousse the centerpiece of anything?)
3-Sourdough with Eggplant puree and sprouts-this only made me think of
the recent German e coli outbreak attributed (even if wrongly) to
sprouts, and you all know I am not an eggplant fan, especially when it
has little flavor

The second amuse was Cold Asparagus in Oil with Tomato tartare and a
Dublin Bay Prawn. Again, seasoning (even salt and pepper) were lacking
or not even included in the veggie portion and only the tiny prawn had
some flavor.
The champagne we started with was a yummy Husson Joliet N/V and again
paired well here, but then anything pairs with BLAND food.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

GIRAFFE goes good for modern twist on food in London (7-4-11)

Our second night in London, we met a friend of Will's who is a
vegetarian and she suggested GIRAFFE (11 Frith Street in Soho, which has a huge menu and some pretty good grub.
It is modern and open to the street and it was a beautiful night so
this was okay, but again the music and noise levels were extremely
high. We had to almost yell at times.
Samuel settled in with his PENNE TOMATO Sauce and giant heart shaped
garlic bread baguette and was quite happy. We ordered up some MELON
MARGARITAs which were way too sweet.
The starters included a tasty EDAMAME dish smothered in soy, mirin and
chillis and they were a bit oversalted, but ever so good (maybe to get
you to drink more). We also had the LIME & CORIANDER TIGER PRAWN
Skewers which numbered three large ones, but at a reasonable
5.50pounds(less than $9). Our friend liked the Roast PUMPKIN &
BEETROOT Salad with Feta, but some of the beets were not cooked well
enough. She went on to the SWEET POTATO FELAFEL Burger with Grilled
Peppers, Humus, Beetroot, Rocket (Arugula), Halloumi Cheese, Tzatziki
and Harissa...quite a bundle of things in a huge bruger bun; almost
enough for two.
Will chose the GIRAFFE BURGER a tasty simpler beef burger with dry
cured bacon and mature cheddar, while I went for the Hot "THAI" DUCK
STIR FRY which was BBQ duck with bok choy, Thai basil, mushrooms,
peppers, noodles (more akin to spaghetti), bean sprouts, chilli jam,
crispy shallots, leeks, carrots and red peppers. It was delish and
went well with the ALAMOS MENDOZA Pinot Noir 2009 we had chosen upon
the recommendation of our helpful server Dai (it's a Welsh name).
Will wanted a dessert and could not finish the huge TOFFEE APPLE
CRUMBLE with Vanilla Ice Cream which was good, but just the thought of
more food made me ill. Samuel devoured a BROWNIE CAKE with Ice Cream
and it seems he wanted a second, but none of us wanted to be up all

when in London's Chelsea, you might get a bite at BUMPKIN (7/3/11)

On our arrival in London we had a playdate arranged for Samuel at my
clients' home (well, of course, we wanted to see them as well) and
headed to dinner just two blocks away at BUMPKIN, a new organic/local/
sustainable fun type bistro ( at 102 Old Brompton Rd
(5 blocks from the South Kensington tube station).
While we were a bit shocked at the prices (wow, Belgium seemed really
cheap now), we were grateful for Sam's children's menu. He chose the
burger and chips and our server Katja (from Sweden) suggested we try
the REDWOOD PASS Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand 2010, which was
nice, but quite acidic rather than citrusy. Samuel enjoyed the Mum's
lemonade with cranberry and grenadine, and even devoured a thick rich
chocolate cake for dessert with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce!
(he rarely east sweets)
Will and I split starters. His was the Potted SALMON with Pickled
Cucumber which was a poached salmon in a small jair with a peppery
punch and some broad beans on the side. Mine was a Pressed HAMHOCK
Terrine with the most amazing GREEN TOMATO CHUTNEY on earth made with
local green heritage (aka heirloom) Tiger tomatoes.
Will's main was the STEAK & ALE PIE made with West Country Beef, root
vegetables, ale and thyme gravy in a short-crust pastry, which Will
declared not to be flaky enough; it was more like a pot pie, but the
ingredients got raves. My Cornish SCALLOPS and Grilled PLAICE was
super with Cherry (they call them cherry wine) tomatoes, red chard and
beetroot salad was perfect and a bit lighter for a change as well.
Bumpkin has a pub-like feel with wooden tables and the music is a bit
too loud but has a comfy old world feel to it as well. The kids meal
(without drinks) is 7.95pounds (about $13) and the adult food is quite
We opted for two desserts and Will chose the EATON's MESS a huge mix
of strawberries, meringue and cream and stuff which I thought too
sweet. I was thrilled with my Artisan's Cheese which came with celery
and crackers(biscuits) as well as warm apricots and prunes:
DEVONSHIRE BLUE a mild and creamy blue
OXFORD ISIS-a nice cow that has lots of flavor
CORNISH YARG-indeed one of my favorites, this one being quite a stinky
version of the intense earthy cheese

Le CHEF et MOI take two in Bruges is as good or better (7-2-11)

As I mentioned previously we loved LE CHEF et MOI so much we returned
there on our final night ( and had the same
canalside table with such great service it was a real treat.
We told Caroline that her lobster was superior to Devos, and overall
the food had better flavor as well. She was very happy.
Samuel and us as well, devoured more excellent French bread and
tapenades and butter; Caroline even gave us another jar to take home.
Sam must have had 12 or more pieces of bread.
He also ate an entire adult order of STEAK FRITES which was cooked to
perfection; and they had ketchup!
Will and I chose the set menu again of 35Euros, but Caroline and Chef
Stefaan had changed it since they were still offering everyone else
the Lobster/Skate menu we had two days before.
Ours started with ARTICHOKE Salad with CARPACCIO of BEEF and it was a
super salad with little specks of coarse salt and some superb confit
of lemon adding the greatest flavors.
We could not decide on red or white--so ordered one of each and went
back and forth.
SANCERRE Grand Reserve H. BOURGEOIS 2009 was crispy and tasty and
ALENTEJO from EA, tinto (red) from Caruxa, Portugal 2009 was a great
medium to full red for like 23 Euros was amazing.
We opted to order an extra course as we loved everything so much and
we did enjoy the spectacular GAMBAS with MANGO Salsa that had a great
ginger spice and the fresh coriander gave a wonderful bite as well.
The main course on the fixed menu for us was TURBOT Fillet with
Vegetables and Vermicelli Pasta. The veggies were green beans,
broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini and the only not up to par thing
again was the pasta (we felt awful-but the dish was so good, we were
full and left most of the plain vermicelli). The sauce was superb and
filled with those divine little gray shrimps that are so sweet and
delicate that we came to love from our first day in Belgium.
Samuel adored the strawberry sorbet for dessert and Will took the
CREME BRULEE which he declared top notch, while I loved the freshness
of the PANNA COTTA with Strawberries.
We were sad to leave but had the chance to meet the chef before we did
and declare that Bruges best place for us is LE CHEF et MOI!


when in Bruges, Belgium-please desist from PATRICK DEVOS (7-1-11)

We had thought of hitting the Michelin-starred place in Bruges, but
when we discovered the menus started at 200 Euros, we decided to head
to the city's avant-garde uber chef PATRICK DEVOS
( just two blocks from our hotel.
The beautiful 15th century facade welcomes you into a narrow hall, and
I have to admit I felt odd as we passed the WC and there seemed to be
nobody around. Another couple was right in front of us and we all
ultimately emerged into a large art nouveau room which was quite
pretty. Another deco room adjoined this and a large serene garden was
our back. We decided to skip the garden for aperitifs as folks were
smoking up a storm out there. We chose the ALLIANCE menu which comes
in 5,6 or 8 courses and went for the full shebang with paired wines at
120Euros, we added a glass of house champagne to start which was
really a great start.
The first amuse came and while I seem to have lost the info on both
amuses, we recall clearly that they lacked flavor and invention
The first course of the menu was MACKEREL marinated in Olive Oil with
Saffron & Parsley Jelly with Green Herb Sauce, Roll of Celeriac and
Cucumber Mousse. The presentation was superb, so good I took a photo.
The jelly was flat and in a long rectangle in the middle of the huge
plate. The fish itself was tasty, but both of use had two extremely
tough pieces out of the three on the plate. It was a bit of a sloppy
mess. The wine was a Gruner Veltlinter ENTRE DEUX COUERS 2009 from
Muller-Grossmann in Kremstal Austria, and we got regular refills. So
for the wine, we were in heaven.
The next course was Local RIVER-EEL cooked sous-vide with Tarragon &
Chervil, Asapargus & Shitakes in a milky sauce which had a slightly
licorice taste (chervil foam?). Again the eel was TOUGH and I actually
almost lost a piece trying to cut it (it messed up Will's shirt with a
splash from across the table) and then it was loaded with bones. A
TOTAL DUD. The superb wine was another Gruner from the same winemaker,
this called GROSSER SATZ with lots of green apple hues and intense
mineral flavor. It's a shame they pair the wines so well and can't
seem to get the food right...and it was all VERY BLAND. The deep bowls
also caused you to lose your utensils in the sauce if you stopped
LOBSTER from Oosterschelde (nearby coast) with compote of Tomato &
Avocado, roll of Chard and Curry Sauce, a chemical powder and Olive
Oil of Lobster was next. There was some odd rice on the plate with no
taste at all and the lobster tail was broiled a bit too much and was
slighlty tough...nothing like the perfect ones the night before at Le
Chef et Moi. A RIESLING POINY 2008 from Hoch Emmerich in Austria was
again a delight.
We finally got some flavor with the Grilled MONKFISH and Mousse of
Three Peppers, Ices of Red Wine and Anchovies, Compote of Beans,
Olives & Apple Capers. The Compote was like a tapenade and quite
tasty, but the hit here was the ices which combined red wine and
anchovy falvors to perfection. The BLAUFRANKISCH CLASSIC 2008 from
Bauer Poltl kept the wines in the Austrian nation up to this point and
was a light red with flavor working well with the rich monkfish.
At this point, I yearned for a second piece of bread. We had three
choices at the start with some olive oil ( a disappointment after the
fab local salted butter) and I was told only the white rolls remained.
When I broke it open, it was so stale it splattered across the table
in crumbs.
The main course was a superb FRIED PIGEON with Crispy Pidgeon
Croquette in a divine sauce of MORELS, Puree of Peas, Vegetables(Snap
peas & Beans) with Lettuce, and Coulis of Young Onions and Parsley
with Rosti Potatoes. The red was a full bodied South African 2006
DORNIER Cabernet Sauvignon.
Will had stepped out to the WC at this point and giggled that he had
tried to get the fly in the urinal, but it was PAINTED ON! Oh well.
Dessert was a "Creme Brulee" really SPONGY CAKE with SPECULOOS (local
intense spices used for ice creams and desserts), Poached Rhubarb,
Rose Blossom Foam--it was nice but won no awards and the CUVEE AUSLESE
2009 from my favorite dessert winemaker in Austria (KRACHER) was too
young and quite acidic.
Mignardises came and we noshed on the Coconut macaroons, French style
macaroons, Cherries marinated in chocolate and mini chocolate ice
cream thing.
We left feeling that there were some nice courses, but somehow it took
forever to get to them and I wanted more for what I was paying. No
stars here.

Bruges lunch deals are terrific at 't Niew Walnutje (7-1-11)

It was very hard trying to decide where to grab lynch on our first day
in Bruges (Brugge) where we were on the Walplein just minutes from the
city center but in a quiet square with lots of nice outdoor dining
spots. Samuel seemed inclined to have roasted chicken so we chose 't
Niew Walnutje and it was indeed a good choice.
If you have been reading Will's travelougues you will know that it is
cheaper to order a 3 course lunch for 16euros than a once course for
18. Go figure.
Sam had the yummy Vegetable soup loaded with leeks and went on to the
crispy skinned rotisserie chicken with frites and salad. He opted out
of dessert, but it was a great deal for 16 euros. Will chose the 18
euro menu with Cheese croquette, Carbonnade a la Flamande (the very
traditional hearty beef stew made with beer) and dessert for 18 euros.
We were happy when they allowed "dessert" to be coffee.
My 23 euro meal started with a slightly spicy Fish Soup that was hcok
full of local sweet grey shrimo, mussels, fish and more and went on to
to Lapin a la Grandmere...a superb rabbit stew with a brown sauce with
prunes. Amazing potato croquettes made this even better with a salad
as well.
We were all impressed with everything and will even liked the Bruge
zot blond beer made right across the square!
The setting was calm and sweet and the weather perfect. Indeed,
another perfect day in our new favorite place.

Bruges, Belgium-always begin with classic cuisine at LE CHEF ET MOI (6/30/11)

Our first night in Bruges (or the Flemish Brugge is more appropriate),
we walked to a nearby spot recommended by the hotel which turned out
to be the treat of the vacation so far.
LE CHEF ET MOI ( is owned and run by manager/
waitress Caroline Seays and chef Stefaan Cardinael. On weekdays(closed
Sundays-Mondays), the manage this 30+ seat eatery and rear garden ALL
It is a charming old house with droopy chandeliers, thick curtains on
the windows over the canals, and simply the best deal around for
The fixed menus are available daily and cost 35Euros at dinner ($50-
always keep in mind this includes tax & service and that a tip of
5-10% is considered generous!). We ordered a bottle of SAINT VERAN "En
faux vieilles vignes" 2008 and the wine prices here are also quite
reasonable from say 25Euros up. The byummy fresh bread arrived with
two large bowls of tapenades:Sun Dried Tomato and Olive. These were
divine and Samuel devoured them both voraciously; we later bought some
to take home and also have out our "picnic" planned here. Sam ordered
the LAMB LOIN which came with couscous and mushrooms, he skipped the
tomato/plum sauce which was on the side. We opted for the menu and
started with 1/2 BABY LOBSTER which was no baby at all. It was broiled
with fines herbes and a light butter sauce, no dipping in butter here
as the meat was so fresh from just miles away in the North Sea. We
moved on to a RHONE VILAGES 2008 from Domaine Remejeanne "Les
Eglantiers" which went superbly with our excellent main course of
SKATE with Sorrel and the now ever so famous and so sweet tiny local
gray SHRIMP. Only the pasta on the side was not at the level of the
rest of the meal, but we were so happy it didn't matter.
Dessert was a BAVAROIS of Caramel and Pear or one of PASSIONFRUIT.we
loved them both. Caroline told us the chef did not like to make
desserts, but these were creamy rich top notch pastries with fresh
raspberries and blueberries.
We all left and decided to cancel our plans for two nights later so we
could return to LE CHEF et MOI one more time as we were in love.

Brussels' COMME CHEZ SOI is not comme chez moi and is not worth it as well (6-29-11)

Our last night was to be a grand Michelin star outing at Brussels'
famed COMME CHEZ SOI (, but alas it turned out to
be a nice night at dinner with little excitement and quite a large
bill. The cheapest tasting menu (which is way less than a la carte)
rings in at 87 euros (about $125) which I am quite okay with when the
food is excellent. We pushed the door open and it continued to open
magically on it's own into a small hall and up into a narrow entryway.
We were led to a cramped table around the corner in small room that
while beautifully decorated and with a great grand view through a huge
glass window in the kitchen, was quite uncomfortable with several loud
Japanese guys on one side and another couple on the other. I would say
this room hold no more than 30 and there is one small room as well as
a kitchen table, meaning a maximum number of 50 for sure at this hot
spot that had not a single empty space.
We ordered a bottle of 2007 Crozes Hermitages from GRAILLOT Clos ST.
Jean 1er Cru and we both thought it tasted a bit odd, but were not
ready for a we drank it.
Amuse #1 came in the form of a mille feuille tartare of beef and an
small anchovy-like long narrow crostini. Both were quite good and
three more amuses arrived on one plate with a Consomme, Salmon Tartare
and radish sandwich and Matjes Herring. The presentation was clearly
important here, but little love went in to the bread (at least the
butter was superb).
The menu was simple and served to perfection:

Madagascar bio shrimps with sage, herb salad, smoked eel, capers and
Espelette pepper.
The herb salad again had no love in the heavy vinaigrette. I loved the
fried Tarragon leaves in the eel.
A deep fried crayfish was also there and I felt it could have come
from a place serving seafood at any beach resort.

Duet of roasted and marinated salmon, vegetables with chorizo,
watercress coulis with Noilly Prat
This dish worked well, but the marinated raw salmon was only a small
spoonful. The coulis was divine and they returned with extra partway
though which was great.
We had switched to one of the highlights of the evening-2006 CHASSAGNE
MONTRACHET from Bernard Morey that was one of the best medium weight
Burgundy Pinots I have ever had.

Cockerel with templar pepper, ricotta with tarragon
came with ricotta quinoa and again a super sauce. This dish-meat,
veggies, quinoa and all was excellent but no revelation for sure.

At break time I noticed nobody folded the napkins when I
left....indeed this seems to be the norm in Belgium (that's for you

We opted to add the cheeses and boy were we happy. Will and I each
chose 5 and they were all quite divine:
ST MARCELLIN-one of our favorites on earth-creamy and runny
HERVE-a smelly Belgian runny delight (think Belgian Epoisses) that we
bought more of later in our stay
ST PERAY du BERRY Blanc a very nice goat cheese
MUROL-another tasty Belgian treat, but firmer and nuttier
TRAPPE d'ECHOURGNOL de DORDOGNE was like a Gourmandise with guts
DOREE de LATHUY was an earthy cow
FOURME d'AMBERT which as a blue Will liked and I was in shock

Crispy biscuit with lemon, raspberry ice cream and a Divine CHOCOLATE
LOLLIPOP made for a great dessert and a nice finish...but we were not
really thrilled or wowed, even after the Chef, PIERRE WYNANT's wife,
LAURENCE gave us a tour of the kitchen while we waited for our taxi.
We took most of the Mignardises home in a doggie bag and Samuel loved
the tasty macaroons, white chocolate, fudgy chocolate, jellies and

Le CHOU de BRUXELLES sure fits the bill for moules (6-27-11)

For our second dinner in Brussels we headed near the hotel to LE CHOU
de BRUXELLES ( at 26, rue Florence. They have 30
different mussels by the kilo and it was hard to choose. Sam, of
course, had the hamburger with frites. It was a great kid-size burger
and cooked perfectly, if I have to say.
I started with the Matjes raw herring, now that I am a fan of the
Dutch dish and Will had a super carpaccio. He fell in love with
Westmalle Triple Blonde beer and I very much liked the Belgian wine
called DOMAINE BOSCHBERG which is a chardonnay-kerner blend and has
lots of fruit and works brilliantly with mussels.
Will chose the MADERE with Madeira and vegetables (aka onions/celery)
which ended up being quite spicy. I went for MOUTARDE a l'ANCIENNE
with Moutarde de Meaux grainy mustard, white wine and a bit of cream.
The frites were pretty god to, bu still not as good as the stands here
in town (FRITS FLAGEY on our arrival day at Place Flagey were great,
but the oine was 45minutes long!).
We had the 3 course menu for like 31 Euros so will had the Glace au
Speculoos, a biscuit spice ice cream and I chose the DAME BLANCHE,
vanilla ice cream with gooey rich hot melted Belgian chocolate sauce
and whipped cream, which I normall don't care for, but this was a
It was 90 degrees so we opted to sit indoors as there were several
smokers in the garden; a big issue when dining outside here. It was a
good move and the family run place was a great choice.

Brussel's La BELLE MARAICHERE for sure for seafood (6-26-11)

We have left the unreal prices of Scandanavia and are thrilled by the
(relative) bargains here in Brussels. I recall on my last visit some
37 years ago prices were the most expensive in Europe, and I can
assure you that is a thng of the past. LA BELLE MARAICHERE means the
pretty market woman as the restaurant sits on the Place Sainte
Catherine where markets are indeed still held
( We met friends of mine performing here in
the opera and had a superb meal with Samuel that really started off
our land trip in the best possibly way (especially after the train
travel day from hell-those who read the travel journals will hear of
that soon!).
A bottle of Jaboulet Aine LE CHEVALIER de la STERIMBERG 2008 was a
treat as this creamy yummy white Rhone HERMITAGE is not easily found
in the USA. Instead of an amuse a small bowl of crevettes (heads and
tail on) were brought to the table with finger bowls. While the
Belgians seem to gobble them whole, I did have to remove the heads,
and they were sweet and yummy.
Appetizers consisted of Lobster Bisque with Armagnac that got raves
and was not too rich. SHRIMP CROQUETTES and the most divine SKATE &
Samuel gobbled down his fresh grilled SCOTTISH SALMON and of course
the requisites frites. He even ate the veggies.
My WATERZOOI, the traditional Belgian fish stew was a dream with tons
of leeks, salmon, sole, cod, catfish, potato, a small crayfish and
mussels in a light creamy soup. The Grilled LOBSTER for two was a
treat and the SKATE Fish with Capers and Butter was also fabulous. It
was seafood in perfection. We had switched to a ST AUBIN 2008 "Le
Fontenotte" from Marc Colin that was more mineral than the cream in
the Hermitages, but it paired well with all the food as well.

Desserts were PAIN PERDU a la FLAMANDE, a kind of French toast/bread
pudding Flemish style with Vanilla Ice Cream, SOUFFLE GLACE au
CHOCOLAT with MANDERINE NAPOLEAN GLACE which was one scoop of rich
Belgian chocolate whipped with egg whites frozen and the other with
mandarin orange. A glass of Chateau LA TOUR BLANCHE 1998 Sauternes 1er
Cru sent us home, all ready for bed after a very long day.

Noshing in Norway-from Oslo to the Arctic Circle (June 2011)

Our two week cruise through the Norwegian fjords and to the top of
Europe (the North Cape) has allowed us a taste of Norway and while
yummy indeed, the costs are truly prohibitive with a simple snack of
lunch often costing more than $50 for three people.
On Samuel's birthday in Oslo we promised him Norwegian pizza so we
headed for the famous chain DOLLY DIMPLES. The cost of a personal
small pizza here is about 140 kroner (about $26)!! We discovered the
all you can eat option is the way to go (about $18) and you can chose
from about 4 different types in 30 minutes at lunch time. They were
all good, but it's not a place I would go out of the way for unless
you are in Norway and need pizza.

In Kristiansand, we discovered the art nouveau-style SNADDERKIOSKEN, a
fast food dream come true where the locals run for meatballs and
potatoes. Samuel wanted pizza again and we lunched on the Norwegian
polse (a type of long hot dog) that comes in many variations. The ones
wrapped in bacon are superb and you can also have them stuffed with
cheese and chilies.

Bergen is a fishmonger's delight with the historic waterfront and the
Torget Fish market right on the harbor. Try any of the dozens of
kiosks and have them make up a plate to order if you like. We went for
the salmon and shrimp sandwiches served with egg, lettuce and mayo,
but the winner here was the grilled whale steaks which were seasoned
to perfection and grilled right in front of us. I can only describe it
as a cross between tuna and bison; firm, slightly fishy but amazingly
meaty and lean.

If you happen to be at the North Cape, be sure to head over to Captain
Roald's place in nearby Gjesvaer (pronounced "guess vhere") population
130 where you can take the bird safari with his company Stappen
Sjoproduktor to see the puffin colony of 360,000 as well as tons more
birds. The crab safari can be done separately or as a combo and is
loads of fun as you pull up the traps and then cook the crabs. We
found two king crabs and two troll crabs (North Atlantic Stone Crabs)
and had the legs pulled off and in the pot within 20 minutes. Minutes
later they were served to us and they were the best crabs ever (not to
belittle our Maryland crabs which are super); this meat is divine
eaten PLAIN with no butter or anything...even lemon. They are cooked
plain with some salt and a dash of sugar and will blow your taste buds
away. The king was meatier, the troll for me even tastier, but the
legs are smaller. At the restaurant in his fish drying plant and boat
trip center you can also eat the crabs (for about $100 a portion), but
it's much more fun to go out on the safari and collect them. There is
also reindeer stew (not tasted) and yummy bacalao (cod) stew which is
the native dish of Norway made with the famous dried cod that is a
staple of the local diet.

Heading back south you won't want to miss the charming town of Alesund
which has so much to offer to any tourist. LYST (I think it means
"lust") is a simple spot ( at Kongensgate 12) right in
the center and has a wonderfully huge "creamy shellfish sandwich" made
from shrimp and lobster as well as veggies and mayo. I had the
"marinated shellfish salad" which features superbly seasoned local
shrimp with asparagus, parmesan, lettuce, peas, string beans and other

Our best lunch by far, save for the fresh crabs at the North Cape was
in Stavanger on our last day in Norway at N.B. Sorenson's
Dampsskibexpedition located right on the waterfront at Skagen 26
( where Samuel settled in with a kid's
menu (yes, the only one we found in Norway except for Dolly Dimples
pizza!) hamburger and fries which still priced in at $12 (65kroner)
but was a tasty 1/2 burger with spicy fries and ketchup which he
gobbled up. Our SHELLFISH PASTA with light cream sauce had the same
spices around the dish rim so you could make the dish as spicy as you
pleased. Besides the penne there were mussels, cherry tomatoes,
shrimp, cod and superb haddock. Will loved the local beer on tap and I
adored a glass of dry Riesling. These main courses were the least
expensive we had seen in all Norway at 189 kroner (about $34.50 each)
as the lunch menu here is not a full dinner menu and has special
prices. You might get a bit more sticker shock with the glass of wine
and beer ringing in at $14.50 and $13.00 respectively, but it was all
quite tasty.
We loved much of the food we had on land, the ship (Holland America's
Ryndam) also did much better than our recent cruises, but we are so
looking forward to really dining in Belgium and London in the next

HEMELSE MODDER Amsterdam's answer to fun fine dining (6-11-11)

Our second and last night in Amsterdam took us just across the canal
from our hotel to an adorable local spot recommended by our friends
who happened to live just feet away. HEMELSE MODDER
( at Oude Waal 11) literally means "heavenly mud"
and refers to their signature chocolate mousse dessert. We never got
to that dish, but did agree the food was not only heavenly, it was
quite reasonable if you choose the fixe priced options. There are two
three course menus at 29,50Euros and 33,50 and you can make one a four
course meal for just 4 Euros more at 37,50. Wines can be paired as
well at a very good price, but we chose to start with a 1/2 litre of
the house white, Vins Pays du Var-Cotes de Provence from Domaine de
Pinchinat 2009. A number of wines are available by the glass and half
litre which allows for more variety as well.
Nice bread and butter arrived, but it was not as good as the previous
night. Olives and pickled garlic cloves in small bowl were brought as
all three of us gobbled them up. Samuel was actually trying tastes
again. He ordered the simple filet with spinach and frites, and I have
to admit it was the perfect small size steak that we asked for,
although they did charge for the adult portion. The spinach was a bit
bland, but Samuel immediately took to dipping his frites (if
sparingly) in the accompanying Hollandaise sauce.
Will and I both started with the DUTCH HERRING and BEETROOT Salad
which had four gorgeous filets dappled with a mayo-remoulade sauce,
shredded beets and field greens. The herring was the star here and
indeed was like butter; you could cut it with a spoon, so fresh and
My "extra" 4 Euro course was called Bisque of NORWEGIAN PRAWNS & Lemon
Cream but was more like a bouillabaise consistency and very tasty with
tiny swirls of the lemon "cream" yet not thick or rich or creamy; it
was just right.
We moved on to a tasty bottle SOLABAL Rioja 2007 from Rioja Alta in
Spain that was smooth and quite full bodied. It paired nicely with
Will's PASTY with Ragout of Baby ARTICHOKES, FENNEL & ONION with Warm
LENTIL SALAD. This veggie option was really a vol au vent pastry as
opposed to the British "pasty" with delicious flaky pastry and a super
was actually a tender filet with an olive-tomato based squid sauce
that was akin to a Puttanesca and indeed quite spicy. The spinach was
good, fresh, but lacked flavor and the potatoes were a creamy divine
concoction with a fried crispy potato "shell" that indeed was
Will went for the LEMON MERINGUE TART while I marveled at the Fresh
DUTCH STRAWBERRIES with Homemade Yogurt Ice Cream which was light and
simple, yet some of the best strawberries ever (perhaps only the
Scottish Wild ones are better). Even Samuel loved them.
We all left happy but still tired after another long day in Amsterdam
where we had visited our favorite pancake house (see August 2010)
PANCAKES AMSTERDAM for lunch (the day before we went to our favorite
FRITES stand (see August 2010), and headed to bed to ready for our
cruise to the North Cape and Fjords or Norway on Sunday.

Amsterdam's BLAUW aan de wal will bring you wondrous food (6-10-11)

This year we start off our European adventures in Amsterdam and had a
superb evening with our dear friends at BLAUW AAN DE WAL, even if the
service got a bit spotty here and there, (Oz. Achterburgwal 99, tel
One approaches this red light district dining spot in a very old
building through a narrow graffiti filled lane and all of a sudden a
small garden appears outside the lower level. We climbed the narrow
curving staircase (be careful coming down if you drink a lot!) to the
roomier top floor that is quite bland with white walls and some silver-
panted bare light bulbs in the wall. A bit of art might be welcome,
but then we did come for the food.
We all were intrigued by the PINOT ROSE BRUT aperitif 2009 from
Winterling in the Pfalz region of Germany as I have rarely had a
cremant that was German, yet bone dry. The sparkling water is the
British Hildon and then came the "bagna cauda" dip of anchovy spread
with crostini, sweet radishes and other tasty veggies. The bread was
simple and the French fleur de sel butter divine.
We moved to a Domaine Corsin Vieilles Vignes 2008 SAINT VERAN Cru de
Bourgogne that was deliciously dry and went superbly with some FIN DE
CLAIRE French Oysters as well as the starter of YELLOWFIN TUNA (raw,
but fresh from Panama) with field greens and an anchovy, egg and caper
spread that was between the tasty thin slices of fish. Green herb oil
was on the plate with artichoke hearts and several tasty fried
anchovies. We had all chosen this dish and was thrilled when it
(finally) arrived as it seemed to take forever. We mentioned he delay
and our sever kind of tried to make excuses. We noticed the table near
us had also complained and got free drinks. We opened our months and
got another bottle of the Saint Veran (40 euros) on the house; we were
placated. I have to admit I found ourselves often pouring the wine and
water, so we have to say the service was indeed a bit lacking.
Our red was a superb yet not too intense Pinot Noir HAUTES-COTES de
BEAUNE "Sous La Muree" 2008 from Domaine Arnoux pere et fils. It was
another perfect pairing wit the Crispy seared DUCK BREAST with Spring
Cabbage in a disc along with Beet Disc and Carrot disc (the veggies
here were super), Potato Puree al in a superb ALBUFERA Sauce that we
could not resist mopping up with the bread. The other main course was
a Filet of BRILL in RIESLING Sauce with Spinach, LOBSTER RAVIOLI and
Green Peas. The ravioli were a bit salty for my tastes, but the dish
overall a winner.

We could not resist cheese and chose one of each of the cheese options
to share amongst the four of us which was a smart move, leaving room
for dessert.
One cheese platter was Fresh Parmigiana with salt crystals, Poached
Pear & Black Pepper which was a flavorful and novel combination. The
other were three cheeses with Fig Chutney:
THIERRY ROBERT which was a creamy rich decadent style and
BLUE d'ECOSSE a medium blue that is rich and creamy as well

The desserts were both superb (each course here has only TWO Choices):
PANNA COTTA with Strawberries, Blueberries and Basil
and a divine NECTARINE CRUMBLE with Creme Suisse and Frozen Yogurt
A glass of FEILER ARTINGER 2009 Beerenauslese from Austria was the
perfect final taste of the night.
We all had a great time and I think we would return for the food, if
not the service.