Monday, October 31, 2011

back to BAR BOULUD (NYC-10-28-11)

While at Lincoln Center this weekend I visited two of my fave spots
and the first was BAR BOULUD
I sat down and was quickly served those fab steaming cheese GOUGERES
which melted in my mouth.
I chose the prix fixe $45 which is a good deal, but was not thrilled
with my dessert choice.
I started with the TERRINE de PORC of Berkshire Pork with Figs (I
could not really taste the figs) and Esplette Peppers served with
their fab mustard, cornichons, a pickled onion and a dab of frisee.
It's a superb pate, although the portion is not huge. Next time I will
head for the Fish Soup!
The dish came with toasted French bread, but there is always the super
fresh version on the table with top-notch salted butter!
My main course was a superb dish -DAURADE-Sauteed SEA BREAM over Stone
Ground (creamy) Polenta with Wilted Spinach. The fish was served
crispy skin up and was excellent and it came with what the menu called
"funnel tomato confit." I adored these little grape tomatoes, but
discovered they were confit of tomato in fennel!
A glass of Domaine Triennes Viognier 2009 "Sainte Fleur" was not
perfumey and while floral had a tart acidity of honeydew with a hint
of smoke...perfect for the fish!
The dud dessert was COUPE FIGUES et PRUNES or a small round glass with
Honey Chilled Mousse over a cookie and Dried Fruit Cobbler of Fig &
My fab server Katie ended up not charging me for the wine, perhaps
because I panned the dessert!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

rapturous regional cuisine (Piemonte) at Casa Nonna (10-23-11)

This is the third month in a row we have headed to Casa Nonna near Dupont Circle ( and we are all still raving about the food and the deals.
Last month the Sunday family dinner region was Sicily. This month (Oct 30 remains) they have moved north to Piemonte, and at $28 per person for 4 courses, this is a deal you can't afford to miss.
Our ever so pleasant server Ryan took Samuel's order for a plain pizza with a drizzle of Pesto (if possible, and of course it was) which he gobbled up along with his Shirley Temple and the excellent seasoned/cheese filled bread squares.
There were some special wines for the Piemonte menu and we adored the 2009 "Osel" Ruche di Castagnole which had a slight perfume in the nose (Will said akin to a red Rhone), yet this yummy rare red is a full bodied treat and was nice on a chilly autumn evening. We moved on to the Nebbiolo d'Alba 2008 from Damilano on manager Adam's recommendation and it was also a superb choice. It is so nice to have wines for $30-50 that are truly impressive.
The dinner began with Antipasti of
Zuppa di Cavolfiore-a rich (not cream) CAULIFLOWER SOUP with roasted cauliflower, crouton and chive that is the perfect fall treat (perhaps only Chestnut Soup is my more favorite!).
TRIPPA alla PARMIGIANA would turn any TRIPE-fearer into a lover. The meat was braised in tomato sauce and covered with melted Parmesan that just gooey oozed all over the ramekin.
FRITTATA Alla Herbe was a simple rustic herb frtittata that was the least impressive of the three, but still very tasty.

The PRIMI were both top notch pasta dishes:
SPAGHETTU al Ragu di FUNGHI e ACCIGUE was tossed in a ragu of garlic, anchovy and tasty wild mushrooms--all so wonderfully evocative of the season
PAPPARDELLE all'AGLIATA was a huge wide egg yolk pasta in ribbons the size I have never seen before drenched in a super rich WALNUT PESTO with grated Parmesan

The SECONDI arrived and we were already quite full!
BRANZINO al PIEDMONTESE was seared Branzino with a yummy sweet and sour Sultana RAISIN Sauce
BEEF "CARBONNADE" was called "Coal Worker's Stew"....we called it Rosemary's Stew as the Beef, Potato and Onion Braised in Red Wine had lots of tasty rosemary (I have got to use that more as it's in my garden and I always forget!)
The side dishes (yes all this!!) were
CIPOLLINI AGRODOLCE-Braised Sweet & Sour Cipollini Onion
& POLENTA CONCIA-a simple yet excellent creamy polenta with butter and Parmesan

Dessert was thankfully just one plate of CRESPELLE al GIANDUJA, a slightly thicker than French-style crepe with a warm Gianduja Chocolate filling, Poached Pear, Caramel Sauce and Lemon Gelato (although it said Vanilla) - a yummy finish to a hugely satisfying and fun meal and evening!

Monday, October 17, 2011

don't fall into the RIVERS when near the Kennedy Center (10-15-11)

After a performance at the Kennedy Center there are few places to head
late at night within walking distance for a bit to eat, and fewer with
worthwhile cuisine. For years across the street in the Watergate was a
mediocre, though reasonably price joint which recently was renovated
and reopened as RIVERS ( The name evoking the
Potomac just feet away.
I headed over there at 10:30pm on Saturday with some clients who had
just sung in the Concert Hall and the place was heaving. We would not
have gotten a table if we did not have an opera and Broadway star in
tow for sure. The staff was very courteous and asked to wait while
they made room, and it was indeed a very nice (and not noisy setting).
We perused the wine list which was quite short for a "fine dining
spot" and asked our server what year the various Cabernets were; he
had no clue. We ordered a delicious Freemark Abbey and he told us it
was 2008, but the bottle was the far superior 2007 when it arrived.
My $15 appetizer CHARCUTERIE Plate was as lame as it gets in the new
and wonderful world of charcuterie. There were two small squares
(about 1" square each) of some type of tasteless fish pate, a similar
sized piece of smooth tasty duck pate, a single piece of dried bland
bresaola and a small dollop of blue cheese. Two slices of oven-toasted
bread (room temp) accompanied this.
One of my guests ordered the $38 filet to find out they were all gone
and then chose the salmon which looked quite dry. His wife seemed to
enjoy the Caesar Salad but was repeatedly told there was gluten in
anything else she wanted. She opted for the steamed MUSSELS and ended
up getting sick that night. Need I say more. Our server was completely
lost with the gluten questions and insisted that certain dishes had
none when we tried to explain what gluten was to him.
Our Broadway person also enjoyed the Caesar and I tasted her FRIED
CALAMARI with Citrus Honey Dipping sauce which was pretty decent,
though it would win no prizes.
All told we left having had a great time chatting and hobnobbing with
the cast from Les Miz that closed the place with us around 1am...but I
really wish there was another option we could go to in this city
without driving after a KenCen performance!
PS- the name Rivers also alludes to a name of a river associated with
each main course. hence the Indian veggie dish is linked to the
Ganges...the filet to the Seine....the salmon (who knows)....a truly
lame attempt at what appeared to be a very overpriced menu for people
who are basically forced to head here after theater.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DINO's does double duty with March of Dimes auction item--a super fun night (10-9-11)

We still have seats left at our table for this years' March of Dimes SIGNATURE CHEFS on November 16th. The reason you should come is right here in this review.
Last year we purchased a wine tasting with hors d'oeuvres at DINO's where Chef DEAN GOLD is in charge and is also one of the most generous restaurateurs in town. We headed there on Sunday and were totally amazed at every dish and glass we had to savor in a very long evening.
We ordered a bottle of VIGNETI MASSA '09, a Piemontese wine made from Timorasso grapes that served as a super sipping aperitif. This home grown wine is really different and offers some really nice flavors on the palate, akin to a Viognier, but not quite.
There are lots of other reasons to go to DINO ( other than the fab food. Sundays and Mondays wines are 33-50% off and the kids menu will blow your mind. Samuel and his friend Joshua got a three course meal for $8.00 each. The price of the meal is the same as the child's age(up to 11). Samuel gobbled up his meatball starter while Joshua wolfed down the lean and tasty prosciutto. I tasted a small bite and this was some of the best PROSCIUTTO I have had in years--anywhere. They went on to have main courses of "pizza" which was really a bruschetta style bread with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Their desserts were Chocolate Sundaes made with Chocolate Gelato and not a bite was left in their bowls.

We started with two drinks-a BELLINI FRESCO made with Trevisol Prosecco and house made White Peach Liqueur (not only do they have great wines here, but the in-house drinks and home made liqueurs are fab!). This came with a BLUE in GREEN NEGRONI which was made with Blueberry Green Tea, Negroni (Cocchi Americano-a moscato-based vermouth akin to Lillet) and Dimmi (Apricot blossom) Liqueur. It packed a punch and went great with the two fish hors' d'oeuvres:
"FISH & CHIPS" -Pan fried Pollock with Crushed Gold Potatoes & Scallions served with a Lime Anchovy Aioli - while not a true British Fish & Chips, it might very well be the Italian version gone tasty and wild.

I must note that each set of pairings had a title and the above was Per Entree--a couple of fruits.
Obviously, Dean knows us well and we all giggled out the wazoo at these "titles."

Next came "A Pig from Head to Toe" featuring
TROTTER TOTS -porky potato croquettes
& TESTA (a magnificent aromatic and earthy pate of head cheese with arugula and chick pea salad
The wines went red to match the intensity of the food:
SESTI "Monteleccio" Rosso Toscano '08 from Montalcino was the softer version and the spicier was the
UCCELLIERRA 2008 Rosso di Montalcino (great with the Testa).

"Will nibbles on two balls" was next and I won't comment any further except that there was
VEAL MEATBALLS in Lemony Marsala Sauce
Duck Schmaltz Matzoh Ball Soup
Dean does matzo balls and the soup as good as any bubbie try it out.
The wines were a nicely intense DAL MAZO "Tai Rosso" 2009 from Veneto made from Grenache, something you don't see too often in Italy and
CRIVELLI Ruche 2008 a superb Piemontese wine.

"Duck, Duck Goose" was last with
BACI (scallop wrapped with duck liver and dates in pancetta)--WOW!
& DUCK NECK (house pate stuffed in a Duck Neck)

We gobbled up everything in sight as we drank DECONCILIUS "Donnaluna" 2008 from Campania made from Aglianico and HILBERG 2008 Barbera d'Alba.

I must mention that we all gobbled up the unbelievably crusty bread with the oil, salt and pepper at the table and kept asking for more for the sauces. Our server Gregory was a (very handsome) gem and put up with all our needs in seconds and really had fun with us as well.

The event did not include we persevered on and ordered one of each of the cheeses as they are all divine:
Guffanti Vera Paglietina--tangy yum yum
Guffanti Robiola Nostrana
Guffanti Sciumdin -one of my favorites
Guffanti Castelmagno
Ithatca "Erboro Bianco"
Gruffanti Provolone "Mandarone"-another gem
Gruffanti Blue di Lanzo
these came with candied walnuts, pickled ginger and of course crostini

Desserts chosen and devoured were
Torte di Cioccolato--a choco-walnut torte with spiced crumble crust
Torta di Mela- Apple "pancake" with Cinnamon gelato
Cappuccinno du Nutella-Nutella and Mascarpone -- bourbon soaked cherries, whipped cream and cocoa

We managed to polish off a bottle of SMITH WOODHOUSE 10 yr old TAWNY port to boot and it's amazing we all got home and did not burst.
Some auction items are okay, some are great. This was one of the best ever!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PS 7's always a trip to the heavens (Washington, DC -10-6-11)

Our anniversary was last week and we took a trip downtown to PS 7's
( where Chef Peter Smith runs a wonderful
kitchen that always pleases our palates.
We arrived to a hopping spot as they had a special Italian dinner
night saluting Peter's grandmother and her recipes; we had the choice
of the wonderful Italian menu and wines as well as the regular menu.
What a treat!

As you enter PS7's you are likely to encounter uber-bartender/
sommellieuse Gina Chersevani, a truly bubbly (no pun intended) person
who exudes cheer. She and Chef had flutes of Gruet Sparkling sent to
our table for the celebration and we went on to order some special
The MEXICAN SWITCHBLADE is Partida Silver Tequila with Cilantro,
Coriander & Lime, while the CHILE FLIP is Stoli Pomegranate with
Leomon & Kashmiri Chiles. It has a soft foamy cappuccino-like top for
We moved on to G.D. VAJRA Langhe Rosso 2009 on Gina's recommendation
which is made from Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Gina described this
Piemontese treat as "bitchy in the middle with a smooth edge..." and
it was just that.
Will started with the BASIL SNAILS with Mushroom Hash, Parmesan Puff
and Herb Salad (atop the hash) which was a dream starter dish. My BANH
MINI was filled with superbly tasty Roasted Pork Belly, Cucumber
Jalapeno Relish and Hoisin Sauce with Picked Carrot and Radish. The
only fallback on this dish is that the tasty bread is too much and you
can't taste the ingredients as much as you should.
Speaking of bread, this night offered up Italian bread as well as the
regular PS 7's treats of heavenly biscuits, mini rolls and lavash. Oh,
and the water is now house filtered VIVREAU system (sparkling or
flat)....and there are lots of GLUTEN FREE options on the main menu
for those in need.

Our next course was the LINGUINI CARBONARA from Nana's menu with
Pancetta & Black Pepper. I love Carbonara (but avoid it as a WAY over-
indulgence), and have to admit the best was in Rome 5 years ago; this
was a divine preparation and probably as good as it gets outside of
We moved on to an amazing 2005 LeCoste BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO with our
main course that opened up quickly enough (I would love to come back
to it in several years!).
Will gobbled up his VEAL LOIN with Chick Pea Mofongo, Radish Cucumber,
Herb Oil, & Veal Braise. My perfectly Seared DUCK BREAST came with
tasty farro "dirty rice," snap peas, spiced plum jus, watercress and
pine nuts was another wonderful creation that I could not leave one
bite of remaining.

Our server Adam was a gem as well and the service here is always
gracious, courteous and helpful. We chose our desserts
SQUITCH SQUASH-a butternut squash pie with figs, butterscotch pudding
and creme fraiche ice cream that was superb. My LEMON ICE BOX was
Blueberry Jam on Biscuit Crackers with LIMONCELLO Gelee, Lemon Custard
and a foam with tiny sugar crusted fresh blueberries.
We went home happy, but Will left the Italian breakfast treats they
delivered to our table to take home!
Reason for divorce...nah! We'll just have to go back for more.