Monday, December 24, 2012

make it MICHY's in Miami's upper east side for mighty fine cuisine from Michelle Bernstein(12-23-12)

Our last night on land was spent with dear friends who live further north in Miami Beach, so we crossed the causeway and headed to uber-TV and locally famed chef Michelle
Bernstein's little spot in Miami called MISHY's ( It's a quaint small room with lots of dangling Capri shell chandeliers and simple decor.
Our charming and helpful server Rishhan brought Saint-Geron sparkling water, a new brand and quite nice and we ordered up a bottle of Verna's Estate VIOGNIER 2010 from
Melville, California that was a nice start. Samuel saw STEAK FRITES and out came the most beautifully cooked Flat Iron steak, but a couple of pieces were overly sinewy and he refused
to chew them for way too long. The steak comes with both Bearnaise and Au Poivre which Samuel chose not to use; he opted for ketchup on the fries.
I started with a spectacular dish of KOREAN FRIED SWEETBREADS with House Made KimChee and Lettuce Wraps. Samuel spotted the crispy treats and ended up eating about 1/4 of my tasty
sweetbreads, despite the spice from the kimchee! Only silly wax paper pieces at the bottom of the dish made it hard to get the lettuce wrapped up--I thought it was edible rice paper at first.
The TUNA TARTAR was declared excellent, but not as good as mine and the FISH CEVICHE with lemon, avocado, cilantro, chilies, radish and corn tortilla trip was okay. No raves.
We decided to split one order amongst the four of us of the FETTUCCINE CARBONARA made with Serrano Ham (instead of bacon), Peas, Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Poached Eggs in a Melting Saint Andre Cheese
Sauce that was indeed decadent and tasty.
The next wine was a big hit as Rishhan suggested the PRIOR "Scala dei" from Priorat, Spain 2008 that was rich, full bodied and went with so many dishes from the pasta to the fish to the steaks! It's a HIT.
Whole YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER with Malaysian Curry, Mango & Hearts of Palm was the least favorite and blandest of the main courses.
MUTTON SNAPPER was roasted with Celery Root Puree, Bay Scallops, Chanterelle Mushrooms in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce had more praise, as did another order of the STEAK FRITES.
My Young CHICKEN ROULADE Stuffed with Apple Chicken Sausage, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Green Apple Poultry Juice was excellent.
Desserts were nice with MICHY's BREAD PUDDING of raisins, cognac, chocolate chunks, orange rind and vanilla ice cream on top. Samuel tried the SPICY CHOCOLATE POT DE CREME
with Crispy CROQUANTS (cigar pastries) and Passion Fruit that most of us finished part of as he was not thrilled with the spice nor the yummy cigars.
My huge BAKED ALASKA was indeed the biggest winner with Pistachio Cake, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, a huge dome of browned Italian Meringue and Passion Fruit Salsa.
We all left very full and very happy save a few flaws.
Needless to say Chef Michelle was off on vacation for the holidays..and ours continues at sea tonight, so see you back in DC next year!

Miami Beach's BALAN's CAFE basic brunch (12-23-12)

A quickie Sunday morning brunch at BALAN's on Lincoln Road Mall was
fun for most of us, although Will's GRANOLA PANCAKES were more like
oatmeal cakes and quite heavy. Samuel wanted a plain omelet, but the
one of the menu was a three egg version for $10 or so with all the
additions and potatoes, etc. There was a $5 two scrambled egg dish on
the menu, so we asked our server Uros, if they could make it a plain
omelet. He said the kitchen doesn't take special orders, especially
when busy (the place was 1/2 full), so I begged him to ask. In the end
they did make it, but he came back saying they made a huge
much for customer satisfaction. Let's face it a two egg scramble vs. a
two egg omelet is about 10 seconds of extra work!
My CROISSANT was perfect. A huge tasty flaky one filled with scrambled
eggs and smoked salmon with a sour cream/chive dressing on the side,
plus a small citrus tossed greens salad that was very nice. It was the
perfectly made brunch dish. The Bloody Mary was also nice, but quite
small for it's $8 price tag.
Maybe we will try someplace different next time.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

You will "ole" for Miami Beach's OLA with it overly exciting fusion concept (12-22-12)

Last night was the top rated OLA ( just off Lincoln
Road in the Sanctuary Hotel. It was a top hit for all three of us from
the time we entered until we left in every aspect of the meal.
Our server, Tuba (she is from Turkey), was a gem, full of excitement
about the food and truly appreciating our questions and giving great
explanations about the involved menu of ceviches, starters and mains.
We asked for some of the interesting novel but not too sweet drinks
and Will ended up with the OLA MARGARITA made from Chabay Tequila,
Cointreau, Lime, Grapefruit Juice and Agave Nectar. My CUCUMBER CITRUS
MARTINI was huge (as it should be for $16) but worth every cent and
made with Crop Organic Vodka, Hendrick's Gin, Yuzu, Limoncello and
Celery Bitters. A huge center slab of cuccumber about 7 inches long
was rolled into the center of the glass making a highly alcoholic
refreshing veggie nosh after I finished!
Samuel got a Virgin Watermelon Mojito which he savored as well. When
we needed wine, Albert, the GM/Sommelier arrived and we talked for
ages about the wonderful wines, his concept and what he suggested and
ended up with a most novel 2008 GENIUM "Ximenes" from Priorat in Spain
made from the sherry grape, but bone dry and pairing with so many
dishes (as is needed here) due to its minerality and a slight

Samuel started with the MEATBALLS made of KOBE Beef which he declared
tender and juicy, but would have none of the Foie Gras Sherry Sauce,
Black Trumpets or Crispy Shallots--shame, it was decadent.

We had the HAMACHI NIKKEI Ceviche was a long plate of swashes of sauce
with small rolls of hamachi at the head of each paint swath. The
ingredients were yuzu, Thai basil, togarashi peppers (for a bit of
fire), cilantro, sweet soy glaze(swaths) and crushed seaweed with
sesame seeds. Fusion here became creation of something new and

I have not mentioned the decor which is classy with white leather
chairs, white crisp linens and an intimate space that sadly, like so
many dining spots in South Beach, is quite noisy.

Will and I moved on to the LOBSTER EMPANADA which is one large giant
crab shaped empanada made from quid ink dough and filled with Maine
Lobster. An avocado sauce and salsa rosa are on the side, but not
needed as this empanada is luscious on its own; so much so that Will
ordered another for his main course!

Tuba raved about the SMOKED MARLIN TACOS, so I gave in and ordered
another starter to share, but had to finish most of them as Will
thought the filling more like a tuna salad texture, than the cured
smoked marlin (without mayo base) we expected. They come in malanga
bat with pickled jalapenos on top for spice which was just right.

By this time three Russian botoxed b*tch*s had sad next to us,
removing furs as they sat (okay it was 55 degrees) and staring at the
three of us throughout the evening as if we were a sideshow. I guess
they have never seen two dads and their son!

I then ordered the SUGAR CANE TUNA which was adobo rubbed and seared
lightly (it was almost raw and cooked to perfection), served over a
malanga goat cheese fondue with spinach & shrimp escabeche. The adobe
rub was sea salt accented and on its own the tuna was sheer
perfection, althought the cheese and escabeche made wonderful
additions to vary the flavors of the excting dish.

For dessert, I took the 5th while Samuel ordered DA "BOMB" a semi-
sweet chocolate mousse in a domed chocolate shell with toasted
hazelnuts and caramel & Chocolate sauces. It came with a gelato like
coffee ice cream that he did not care for (he hasn't acquired coffee
tastes yet at 9), but I enjoyed a taste of. Will raved over the BANANA
TRES LECHES with Passion Fruit Sauce and Fresh Bananas and also some
marinated Prunes.

We left very full, but sorry to say goodbye to Tuba who was such a
I do know that when we next return to South Beach, OLA will always be
first on our list!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant still reliable in Miami Beach, FL (12-22-12)

For lunch today we met some dear friends we have not seen for several years who drove all the way across Florida from Naples to see us, and they chose
an old Miami favorite (now in its 100th year) JOE'S STONE CRAB Restaurant. We quickly agreed and were pretty happy we did so for the most part.
One goes to Joe's for one main thing and that's STONE CRAB CLAWS which are still the best anywhere even if they cost $27 for a plate of 7 medium size
claws! Will does not like shells, or taking things out of them, so he opted for a dozen Gulf oysters which were poorly shucked and when he asked for mignonette
instead of cocktail sauce or horseradish, three different servers seemed lost (in a seafood restaurant?).
Sam not being a seafood fan ordered the Shrimp FLATBREAD PIZZA with Spinach, SunDried Tomato, Red Onion, Asiago Cheese and Basil, but without the shrimp.
It was okay, but he did not like the pizza. He did gobble up the Marinated GRILLED ARTICHOKE with Lemon Boursin Dip and Melted Butter.
Sides of Creamed Spinach and Shoestring Fries were delish as was all the varied tasty bread.
The biggest disappointment was our server Charles, who excused himself like three times every time we kept trying to order. Whatever we asked him for,
we had to ask someone else for as well: water, bibs, ketchup. It was just a bit annoying, but we had a wonderful time seeing old friends and I did love those Stone
Crabs with their super dipping sauce.

lots of fun at FOGO de CHAO Brazilian Churrascaria in Miami Beach (12-21-12)

We were glad the Mayan apocalypse did not come last night because we were able to use a gift certificate we had won in DC for this wonderful fun and truly delicious steakhouse that is now a chain
covering so many places in the USA and growing.
FOGO de CHAO ( was about a 25 minute walk from our hotel in South Beach, and we were hungry for sure when we got there.
Immediately a basket of yummy cheese rolls were on the table and soon our bottle of PRIMUS 2010 Cab/Syrah/Carmeniere/Merlot blend arrived and we thought it would be a wonderful Chilean blend with the meats to come.
We were urged to indulge in the salad bar but be careful not to overdo it.
The salad bar is a dream and provides something for everyone from smoked salmon, salami, prosciutto-style ham to cheeses (fresh shaved Parmegiano Reggiano & Manchego), pasta salad, waldorf salad and then our favorites:
Samuel listed the parm, romaine, Caesar dressing, bacon and croutons as his making himself a wonderful salad.
The tomatoes were nice and large and fresh, but a disappointment after those amazing heirlooms we had in St. Barth's. The pickled beets were just that.
Will adored the hearts of palm, while I loved the mushroom salad and the string bean salad.
There was also chimichurri sauce which we used for the meat, although it was not necessary as the seasonings and taste of almost every meat dish was superb.
The price per person is about $48 and 1/2 price for kids for all you can eat; I haven't seen a deal like this anywhere.
Back at the table we received garlic mash potatoes, fried bananas and yummy fried polenta sticks dusted with parmesan. These kept being replaced, and we had to beg "STOP" or it would have been a waste.
The next phase was the parade of the guys in their gaucho pants and belts each with 3 foot long skewers from which they cut slabs of tasty beef, pork, chicken and lamb as we requested them. If you wanted a rest, you turned the small paper
disc on the table from the green side to the red side! Sometimes this did not work :-))
The LOMBO is a pork loin coated with parmesan crust which was divine, even if the pork was a but on the medium-well side (I think they have to be careful with that).
The LINGUICA Pork Sausage was a slightly spicy one and the COSTELA de PORCO (pork ribs) were a tasty hit with Will but again just a bit overcooked.
The CORDEIRO was a gorgeous pink leg of lamb (the whole lamb on the skewers) with superb crusty skin that I could not resist.
Steaks are king here and the filets, Beef Ancho Ribeye and Prime Sirloin crusted were all to die for. Samuel tasted and indulged as we all did, but there was no room for dessert for sure.

it doesnt get better than LE GAIAC at Le Toiny on St. Barths (12-20-12)

Our last night in St. Barth's was reserved for a visit to the secluded
Le Toiny Resort, a Relais et Chateau resort at the east end of the
island where award winning Chef Stephane Mazieres runs the show at
their romantic LE GAIAC Restaurant (name for a local tree on the
island there is one in front of Le Toiny). The outdoor setting is over
an infinity pool with craggy hills to one side, the Caribbean
stretching beyond and the lights of distant islands far off.
The linens are fine, the cutlery replaced every course, and only the
service was a bit lacking. We started with some snacks (mahi-mahi
tartelettes, pumpkin fritters and deep fried shrimp wrapped in
prosciutto) and drinks (Bellini, Margarita and a Season Cooler for
Samuel made of pineapple, grapefruit, Grenadine and Ginger Ale).
We had a hotel site inspection just as the sun set, so we finished our
treats around 630pm to be told the dining room opened at 7pm. At
710pm, the staff was still gathered around the bar as we waited at our
table to place a wine and dinner order. There was a long delay and it
was a bit frustrating. We did clearly tell two people in French &
English that we like to dine and need at least 20 minutes between
courses. After the mini-debacle the previous night, we thought we
could not have been more clear.
We were happy to see BADOIT replace the ever-present San Pellegrino
(well it is a French island) as this is our favorite sparkling water.
The wonderful rolls and grissini arrived (Sam adored these) with tasty
butters, one made from salty algae, the other from tasty yuzu.
Clearly, inventiveness was key here.

We started with a bottle of CHOREY LES BAUNES 2007 Domaine Millard
which was intense in flavor and luscious with all our starters and
The first amuse was made of three: Tomato Confit Tarte, Fig Macaroon
and a Foie Gras wrapped in dried beef. They were all fabulous, but
Samuel oohed and ahhed mostly over the fig and then the tomato.
Next came a salmon toast with corn mousse and smoked salmon--YUM

Will started with the GASPACHO de POMMES de TERRES RATTES which was a
cream-less vichyssoise-like of Fingerling Potatoes Gazpacho that was
poured tableside from a large "test tube" and then accompanied by
Granny Smith Apple puree and toast pieces with oysters and caviar.
My LANGUES d'OURSINS was an amazing creation of a SEA URCHIN Foam over
puree of also GRANNY SMITH APPLES with shaved ice of lemon balm. A
cream/foam of sea urchin was atop this and my toasts had sea urchin
tongues. This was a dish of love and great innovation of cuisine.

A palate cleanser of Peaches in Grenadine ices with coconut mousse and
lemon came next and we all indeed agreed it was a perfect palate
Sadly, the main course arrived less than 10 minutes in total time, and
only seconds after the ices. Our faces drooped, and we mentioned our
disappointment at the speed of service, but it did not seem to help;
communication, despite my pretty good French, was at a minimum.

The menu was enticing and it was hard to decide, but Samuel had chosen
the PORC NOIR de BIGORRE, a shoulder of "black" pork from the south of
France that is very famous, It came with confite and grilled garlic,
glazed vegetables and Cilantro. I have never seen him eat a dish so
entirely (it was huge) and so fast.
I have to say this was a brilliantly tasty dish and some of the best
pork on earth.
The same went for my Roasted VEAL CHOP with Thyme and a Tartine (it
was egg roll shaped, but crusty and flaky) filled with shitake
mushrooms and foie gras. A reduced veal jus was poured on top like
gravy, and only the two tiny potato dumpling like souffle pieces were
not up to the amazing levels of everything else.

Will had the BONITO which was pan seared with Curry Green Pea
Fricassee and Ginger. Another tasty dish, although Will said he could
not detect the curry (I did).

We told the server we would wait about 15 minutes before even looking
at the dessert menu and he finally understood the issue.

Samuel, in his choco mode, ordered the LYCHEE-MILK CHOCOLATE Faux
RAVIOLI with Rose Sorbet after we explained that faux meant fake and
they were made of chocolate. Needless, to say this gastronomic
creation was a huge hit. Will chose four of the ice creams (there are
7 house made ice creams and 7 sorbets to choose from) and loved the
first three:Banana,Cookies and Caramelized Apple Tatin. The Aged Rhum
(a local treat bottled on island, not made here) was not to his taste.
Within seconds our sommeilieuse brought us two complimentary snifters
of local aged Rhum; well, I drank mine!
My dessert was called POMME VERTE-YUZU et Caramel au Beurre Sale which
was a sorbet bombe of yuzu with a green apple coating/shell that fell
off (and was edible) when cracked like and egg. Two small apple stems
(real ones) were at the top making the two apple-shaped treats look
truly realistic. a nice salted caramel was on the side to dip here and

The dessert was followed by a Fresh ark BonBon with a burst of Lemon
Sorbet Inside
which was divine and another hit with Samuel.
Finally, the mignardises arrived in the form of Raspberry Macaroons
(held to the plate with a dab of caramel) which were the perfect
ending, and Samuel did end his meal here. The Banana-Chocolate Tartes
were also divine and finally a Financier of Chocolate and some fruit
(guajaba, maybe) that just did not come across in the French or
translation :-)).

It did not matter, save for the timing error, this was indeed our best
meal on the island such an innovative one, that we will send everyone
here, and return for sure!

VICTORIA's at Hotel Carl Gustaf for the views/the food and more(12-19-12)

The next night we headed into Gustavia to the Carl Gustaf hotel
perched just atop the village for a drink (Lime Daiquiris) with the
manager and a glorious view of a burning red sunset. After a site
visit of this wonderful 12-room property, we had dinner at Victoria's,
a tiny bistro in the hotel where sadly the smoke filters over from the
lounge nearby. I fear we shall never escape the smoke here!
We ordered a bottle of St VERAN Henry Fessy 2007 which had aged well
and really made it a tasty Chardonnay. A divine amuse of artichoke
foam, beef juice, sea scallop and hazelnut arrived.
Samuel ordered the Cheeseburger "made in France" without the cheese
and three adorable mini-burgers arrived shmeared with remoulade which
he quickly scraped off eating only the meat and no buns; not a big
deal as we have enjoyed all the fresh bread so much our carb counts
are through the roof.
Will ordered the Yellowfin TUNA TARTARE which had Coconut foam and
Lime (which he said he could not taste at all). On the other hand, my
TOMATO GAZPACHO which was an innovative modern take on the traditional
dish made with a mustard ice cream in the center (that you broke up to
spread the flavor) and cottage cheese foam atop with basil. A large
bruschetta slice was on the side with marinated red pepper and
mozzarella. This dish should win a prize.
Will ordered the SOLE MEUNIERE which must come from the UK or such at
42Euros (or $60) and it arrived right after the appetizer was cleared,
despite my explaining in two languages to the server that we like to
dine like the French and have a good break.
The manager took the dish away and we waited 20 minutes until it
returned again with great fanfare and was filleted (a bit un-daintily)
tableside. Will raved about his side of BLACK TRUFFLE MASHED POTATOES
(many places we have been to use the Perigord black truffles--even one
place with Truffle popcorn) and Samuel had a side of French fries.
My main course was simpler but tasty in the form of a LOBSTER CLUB
sandwich. There were 3 pieces of bread, so I just removed the middle
one separating the thick pieces of local lobster and the remoulade
with tomato. Oddly, the traditional bacon was missing, but this was a
superb club.
Samuel's dessert was entitled CHOCOLATE TEMPATION and was a molten
cake filled with vanilla creme brulee-OMG!! On the side was a caramel
ice cream with toffee crunch that I ate most of. Will had a LIME
CHEESECAKE with Raspberry Sauce that he raved over. The sauce came in
a plastic tube on top that was stuck in the cake, but it was not
explained nor clear what that was, so when Will bit into it, the
raspberry sauce exploded; need I say more.
Victoria's is a bistro, but they also do multi-course tasting menus
should you be in the mood (2,5,7 courses) and this allows the guests
to eat so many different items even in a many night's stay. Another
great island treat.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

taking us to TAIWANA for two lovely lunches and more, St. Barth's (12-19 & 20-12)

As you will recall from my last entry, I had an awful night of it
tummy-wise, so waking the next morning was not easy. We had some major
disasters at our hotel and ending up checking out within hours.
Luckliy, I had a hotel inspection that morning at the newly reopened
and managed TAIWANA on the gorgeous Anse des Flamands just 5 minutes
away from our hotel. The manager showed us a two bedroom suite with
private pool and cliffhanging views of the bay all the way to St.
We moved in seconds, but only after enjoying a superb lunch at the
TAIWANA Restaurant. At lunch it is simple cuisine and at dinner it
tunrs into PacRi, one of the island's more well known Italian dining
spots (which we won't get to).
Samuel had a beatiful huge CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD, WIll kept it simple
with the CAPRESE of magnificent quality tomatoes and mozzarella and I
ordered the BROCHETTE de CREVETTES, two skwers of tasty grilled shrimp
with magnificnet sides of Potatoes Dauphinois that had an
unreal crunch on top from the broiler, Onion Marmelade (for the
shrimp) and Leek Compote. My tummy was okay again and we were back in
eating mode.
We could not wait to return after packing up, as we knew TAIWANA would
be a dreamy hotel to be at. (and it is).

We have now been here a day and just had lunch with Samuel and Will
both devouring another CAPRESE with lush tomatoes and rich mozzarella.
I loved the simple yet well seasoned and large appetier of CEVICHE of
Mahii-Mahi (dorado or daurade, locally) and Samuel said the fries were
fab (they were).
Our last dinner tonight is at the famous Relais et Chateux hotel Le
Toiny in their top rated Le Gaiac Restaurant.

MAYA's didn't make the mark in St. Barth's (12-18-12)

We wanted MAYA's located on the waterfront in Public just off Gustavia
Harbor, to be a special evening. I had considered it prior to our trip
and then had the pleasure of meeting Maya's son on the flight in. Of
course, he raved about his mom's place, bit so did everyone else we
We were warmly welcomed and got a prime spot overlooking the water
with it twinkling lights and monstrous yachts.
MAYA's is French/Creole style as she hails from Guadeloupe and this
would be a different style than the more elegant French food we had
been eating.

We ordered up a bottle of CHABLIS 1er Cru 2010 from Fourchaume and the
had a St. Aubin la Princee Hubert Lamy 2010, both exhibited great
flavor, terroir and minerality as all the wines we have had on the
island. The price points on wine seem to go up every night with the
starting bottle here around 42Euros ($55)., and many in the hundreds.
Will & Samuel both had the ASPERGES VINAIGRETTE which consisted of 5
asparagus and a nice salad, but at 24 Euros ($32+) this had to be the
most expensive salad of veggies I have ever seen (save maybe one with
white truffles!). I had the SOUPE de POISSONS made from a fish stock
of red and yellow snapper a la bouillabaise style with large croutons
on the side which could be topped with a basil cream and shredded
parmesan for extra flavor, which was quite nice. While I enjoyed the
soup, Will felt there was something wrong with it. Could this be the
reason I became quite ill hours later in the middle of the night?

Samuel's main course was a simple dish of pasta with butter and
parmesan as most of the dishes did not attract him.
Will had the DAURADE GRILLE, a standard a Maya's of mahi-mahi with a
Creole Sauce. He said it was okay. All the dishes come with sesame
seed haricots verts, carrots and a barley-type grain. These were
indeed excellent.
My WAHOO POELE a la Vodka et Gingembre(ginger) was a fabulous piece of
Red Snapper with a crust that was divine.

Samuel, of course, had his new found treat for dessert, the CHOCOLATE
CAKE, which was okay, but Will's COCONUT TARTE with Vanilla Ice Cream
was indeed the highlight of the meal.
We left a bit disappointed, but I must say that once again everyone
was super friendly and nice, especially our server-hunk, Julie (most
wait staff here don't give their names). Maya and her husband Randy
both sent us off making us feel that there is lots of love in this
quaint place, even if every dish is not what it used to be.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

surf on up to the SAND BAR by JEAN GEORGES at the enticing EDEN ROCK in St. Barths (12-18-12)

Today's lunch was a lesson in overpricing, but providing fabulous food
for your buck's (or euro's) bang as well.
The Relais et Chateau EDEN ROCK hotel has long been a standard for
this island and its previous chef is now the guy where we ate both
meals yesterday at L' Esprit de Salines. Recently, Eden Rock moved in
the world famous Jean-Georges Vongerechten at both their dining spots.
The elegant ON THE ROCKS at the top of a huge rock outcrop for which
the resort is famous is open only for dinner, while the SAND BAR below
is open for all meals and sits right on one of the best beaches on the
island with the softest sand, the calmest surf and superb service. So,
you do get what you pay for, and at 20-30 Euros for starters and main
courses in the 30's and up it can be alot. Samuel loved his pizza and
we adored our SALADES de LANGOUSTES PAYS, Avocat, Tomate et
Vinaigrette aux Champagnes.
The top notch greens were the best I have had in a salad in ages and
four huge chunks of local St Barths lobster are served in the corners
of the plate. The lobster is warm and covered with a rich champagne
cream sauce that would win any prize. Even the bread was superb, as it
has been everywhere (parmesan focaccia, seeded rolls and mini-
baguettes). Samuel had a housemade Lemon Thyme Soda and Will went for
the Lime Basil version while I intoxicated with a VODKA THYME
Indulge and enjoy, it is vacation.

L'ESPRIT de SALINES is truly the spirit of cuisine in St. Barths (12-17-12)

Yesterday we headed to the Caribbean side of the island to visit the
gorgeous Salines beach and hoping to grab lunch at a place that ended
up being closed.
Next door was L'ESPRIT de SALINES de Jean Claude Dufour, where we had
already booked dinner for the same evening, so we tried it for lunch.
It was a gem. At first Samuel did not like the choices, but gobbled up
his Chicken Salad in Coriander/White Soy Dressing with Soba Noodles.
Will and I both loved the GAZPACHO which was of course cold, but
served with warm grilled Squid in it! YUM. A glass of tasty Mas de
Pampellone Rose was my treat while Will had a highly alcoholic
margarita and Sam enjoyed a virgin colada.
Will and I split (Ok, I ate most) a Mahi Mahi Tartare with Scallion
and Cilantro with a side salad of the best Endive ever prepared with a
nice vinaigrette and shaved parmesan.
We knew that we would be back for a fab dinner later on!

The setting is outdoors, with a covered patio which allows smoking and
it seems that everyone smokes here, which we DO NOT like. A law
requiring no-smoking areas that is enforced would be nice...we shall
We try to spot the smokers and ask to be seated far away, but that
doesn't always work!

Dinner was an even more amazing experience as we ordered up a bottle
of Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc MONT REDON 2010 that was a wonderful
Rhone white blend at a great price. Samuel ordered the Pave de filet
de veau roti avec risotto de penne au parmesan which was an odd name
as it was a superb Roast of VEAL FILET with side dish or Parmesan
Penne (no risotto??). He gobbled it all up in minutes.
Will started with the Carpaccio of BEETS and Marinated MAHI MAHI that
was light as he wanted. I went for the to die for Gratin de COQUES,
Chou Chinois, Jus de coquillage au vinaigre balsamique which was a
divine plate full of tiny COCKELS Gratinee that were tender like
Manila clams, but smaller and of course, closer to escargots with
Chinese Cabbage and the cockel juice with balsamic.
Bread again was fresh and tasty, and the service impeccable.

For the mains, Will had the Pave de poisson which was a roasted local
COD with Artichokes and Snow Peas, while I went with the PIGEON ROTI
avec FOIE GRAS, a superb tasty bird from the south of France served
with braised celery and snow peas as well. An excellent SAVIGNY les
BAUNES 1er Cru "Clos de Guettes" 2009 from Marchand Freres was a
divine pairing, if a bit too big for the cod, but totally fruit
forward. I was offered a lime hot water dip after I ate the tiny bird
legs with my fingers.

Samuel ordered his new favorite dessert which here was a Tarte au
chocolat et caramel described in English as Chocolate Toffee Pie,
while I tried the TATIN MANGUE ET BANANE a superb flaky pastry of
crunchy wafer, banana, sauteed mangos and ice cream. Will had the
light CHIBOUST au CITRON VERT,a light chilled lime souffle. I wish we
had an extra night to return to L'Esprit, but we want to try many more
places in our short time here!


La Table de JULES (St Barth's F.W.I.) made us jealous of this island on our first night (12-16-12)

We arrived in St Barth's to find our hotel restaurant closed on
Sunday, so we headed down to road to the "village" of Lorient and
dined at LA TABLE de JULES. It's a quaint spot with nice decor, clean
linens and excellent service.
We discovered this to be the norm on this island of 8000 people and
100 restaurants, many of the highest caliber.
Samuel perused the menu and decided on the Filet de BOEUF aux Herbes
Demi-Glace au porto et datte, pommes sautees et oignons confits. Will
asked for this plain and he got a plain perfectly cooked filet with
the gorgeous potatoes. I then asked for the sauce which they brought
out promptly, Samuel adored and poured the entire gravy boat over the
It was a hit.
We started with a bottle of M. Chapoutier SAINT JOSEPH Rhone White
2008 which was wonderful in its mineral content and superb with the
Tartare de THON condiments a l'echalotte et gigembre, gressin. The
tuna tartare was huge and superb with wonderful flavors from the
shallots and ginger. My Feuillete d'ESCARGOTS en Meurette, Cepes, oeuf
mollet et mahi fume was a dream come true. The snails were arranged
atop a large rectangle of puff pastry with the superb red wine sauce
all around. The cepes mushrooms were in a duxelles under the pastry
and on the side as well with small pieces of smoked mahi-mahi
scattered around and a poached egg atop the cepes.
The bread arrived and it too was superb and we all used it to mop up
the sauces. You could tell it had been cooked fresh, as every
ingredient seemed to be. Since St. Barths is technically part of
France, the ingredients are indeed flown in from the motherland daily,
and it shows.

We moved on to a creamy rich and full-bodied POUILLY FUISSE Tete de
Crus 2010 from Chateau Fuisse that was perfect with our local fish
main courses:
Filet de BALISTE (a local firm whitefish also called Bourse) et
Brandade de Morue Parmentiere au Poireau, Endives Braisses. The fish
was simple and the Cod Brandade rich as is required with the leeks and
endive braised to perfection. My ST JACQUES Poelee, Chiffonade de
Legumes Croquants, Vinaigrette de Tiede Betterave en Balsamique was
also perfection. The huge sea scallops were cooked just right with a
nice crunchy sear on the top, the crunchy veggies were carrots and
zucchini cooked better than I have ever had anywhere, and the lukewarm
pickled beets were a nice foil, but don't get any raves.

The only bad thing about the place was that we did have to pour our
own wine a couple of times, but their timing on the food was
Samuel begged for the MOEULLUX de CHOCOLATE a molten cake that did
melt along with THE GLACE a la menthe ( a small glass of iced mint
tea) which he adored and Fraiche SORBET ORANGE Presse which he did not
like, but we gobbled up. Will and I split the TATIN des DEMOISELLES a
gorgeous version of the flaky tarte with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and
Grilled Marshmallows. Small pieces of sugar brittle came with
everything and the check arrived with more yummy marshmallows!
We knew this week was going to be special.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

KINKEAD's to close next week, still cooking at almost 20 (12-10-12)

Last night we headed to Foggy Bottom to say our farewells to KINKEAD's where we have been going for close to two decades. It is sad that they must close next week, but the good news is that a new space will open nearby shortly....keep your eyes peeled here!

We wanted to keep traditions and started with OYSTERS (Blue Point from Long Island, Malpeque from Prince Edward Is & Stellar Bay from BC--they were indeed STELLAR!) along with a bottle of POUILLY-FUISSE "Petite Chapelle" 2011 from Mathilde La Fleur which was a great partner for the mollusks.

The bread arrived and as tradition for me, I shmeared the horseradish cocktail sauce from the oysters on the yummy breads and went on to gobble up the cornbread and Irish soda cracker bread, all of which have again been a tradition here.

Samuel gobbled up his FISH & CHIPS, but would not even try the superb Cole Slaw which accompanied them; it was a slightly creamy, yet wonderfully vinegary combo sauce.

Our starters were two long time favorites: for Will the Yucatan TUNA SOUP with Tomatillos, Chiles, Lime, Sour Cream & Tortilla Strips and for me the Jumbo Lump CRAB CAKE with Mustard Creme Fraiche and a Corn Relish with Pickled Green Beans; always winners! The Salad of ROASTED PEAR stuffed with GORGONZOLA, Sherry Vinaigrette, Arugula, Buttery Walnuts, Endive and Aged Balsamic was thorough enjoyed by our guest.

We moved on to a CHATEUNEUF du PAPE Blanc 2011 from La Bastide Saint-Dominique that was a little creamy and totally delish alone or with food, but I had to beg for a glass of the house MALBEC with my main course--the Grilled WHOLE CARIBBEAN RUM & SPICE Marinated RED SNAPPER (which was spicy and tasty indeed) in Banana Leaf with Red Beans, Coconut Rice Cake (a bit sweet), Banana Habanero Ketchup (I adored this) and Pineapple Mango Salsa.

Will went for the Walnut Crusted FLOUNDER with Creamy Horseradish Spinach, Roasted Baby Carrots, Cauliflower Flan and Sherry Beet Sauce. Our guest went very traditional for her farewell with the Pepita Crusted SALMON, Cilantro, Chiles, Crab, Shrimp & Corn Ragout. We enjoyed all our dishes, but were very sad to see them go.

I asked our server Logan which fruit dessert was best (pear,apple or lemon) and she sent me to the Tasting of APPLE with a very mealy Swedish Apple Cake with Almond Cream, Local Apple Cider with Cinnamon Cream and Mini Caramel Apples with Candied Peanuts. I left 90% of the cake, but enjoyed the rest. Will went with the tasty PECAN TART with Brown Sugar, Sour Ice Cream and Maple Creme Anglaise, while Samuel gobbled up the entire Molten CHOCOLATE CAKE with Chocolate Sauce, but would not even taste the fabulous SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM, which we all devoured.

It was a sad parting, but we look forward to a new stage in lives of Chef Bob Kinkead and his Executive Chef Jeff Gaetjen will be united again in great food.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WA JEAL is a deal for Sichuan on NYC's Upper East Side (11-24-12)

Heading out of NY to come home we were on the Upper East Side and the

best rated ethnic place we could find for Saturday lunch was WA JEAL

Sichuan Chili House ( at 1588 2nd Ave (82nd

St) which was a cute and simple and very reasonable spot.

Samuel insisted on the Pan Seared PORK DUMPLINGS which were very good.

The Veggie SPRING ROLLS were nice, but a bit greasy. We split two

entrees and they were both superb:

CRISPY WHITE MEAT CHICKEN with Citrus Lemon Sauce is a dead ringer for

Chinese-style chicken fingers in a sweet and sour style lemon sauce;

Sam loved them.

The STIR FRIED PORK with SPICY CAPSICUM and LEEKS was not that spicy

and has perfect heat that lasted a short while. The sauce was super

and it was comprised of both pork slices and bacon slices.

We went back to DC very happy with our choice after a wonderful

Thanksgiving weekend with the family and enjoying the big city!

superb SPIGOLO on NYC's Upper East Side(11-23-12)

It's not often I wander to Manhattan's Upper East Side, but the day

after Thanksgiving we were staying in the area and decided to try

SPIGOLO, which came on the recommendation of the Manager at

Mas(farmhouse) in NY where I had eaten several weeks before.

Spigolo ( is at 1561 Second Ave (at 81st St) and is

a teeny spot with about 10 tables holding no more than two dozen or so

folks. We arrived at 645pm and it was pretty empty, but by 730pm there

was not an empty seat. The room is simple with exposed brick and floor

to ceiling glass walls on the avenue and 81st St.

Sitting by the door, hence, can be a bit drafty!

Tasty olives, oil and bread arrived, but it was the whole wheat herb

encrusted bread sticks that had us hooked.

A bottle of Montepulicano Barba Vignafranca 2007 from Abruzzo which

was a medium red and oh so perfect for a chilly evening.

Samuel enjoyed the requisite Shirley Temple and ordered the GARGANELLI

with sweet Fennel Sausage Ragu and Parmigiano that he raved about and

gobbled up.

Will started with Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemons, Frisee and Giant

Corona Beans and it was just right, but I adored my Homemade VENISON

SAUSAGE with Wild Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Parsnips, Hazelnuts and Vin

Cotto that was tasty and warm - just what Jack Frost ordered.

We split a PAPPARDELLE with Duck Confit, Lemon, Fennel & Parmesan that

was some of the ebst pasta I have had in NY in a while, and moved on

to a NEBBIOLO Langhe "Perbacco" 2009 from Vietti in Piemonte which was

youngish, but superb with the food.

Will moved to Roasted VENISON LOIN with Butternut Squash Spaetzle,

Baby Brussels Sprouts in a Dried Cherry Port Sauce that was divine as

was my Fazio Farm DUCK BREAST with Butternut Squash Puree, Broccoli

Rabe in a Natural Sauce.

I do have to say that while everything was cooked to our liking, our

sever never asked how we wanted it done.

Dessert--well, it was the day after Thanksgiving, so we all indulged.

Samuel gobbled up and raved over the Warm CHOCOLATE TORTE with Dark

Chocolate Ganache, Amaretto Cream & Praline. Will said the STICKY

TOFFEE PUDDING was delish, but not Yorkshire style. It came with

Fernet Branca Butterscotch sauce, Brandied Spiked Raisins and Vanilla

Gelato, which I think was a clue to its Italian version.

My RICOTTA CHEESECAKE was mercifully light with Mascarpone, Honey

Gastrique and Citrus Compote.

There is so much to discover on the UES (Upper East Side), I may have

to revisit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

NYC does have a bummer of a BRGR (11-23-12)

On arrival in NYC for a quick visit, we all stopped at BRGR (1026 3rd Ave @61st - which has several locations where they

boast of grass-fed beef's virtues (as opposed to corn fed). Samuel had the plain single burger with ketchup, Will (not being hungry) had a yummy

Strawberry Milkshake (which with tax rings in at over $6) and I went for the RainForest Burger with Gruyere, Avocado, Herb Mayo, Lettuce & Tomato.

At over $11 with tax, it is a filling burger ad these come wrapped in brown paper, which is where you see the sin. The grease was unreal and totally

turned me off, although the burger was okay overall; no winner for sure.

I had to use the men's room and there was a flood near the door, due to an overflowing sink somewhere else, so I almost slipped; not good.

Samuel's Dr. Pepper from the self-vending system was warm and no ice came out, so they had to fix that as well.

Overall, a bummer of a burger experience.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall's Church, VA's Pizzeria ORSO is indeed the perfect pizza and much more (11-18-12)

Last week at the annual Karen Cathey CrabCake competition sponsored by the AIWF, we had the pleasure of meeting Chef Will Artley of Pizzeria ORSO in Falls Church, who had one of the best cakes in the bunch!

ORSO opened quietly and has been getting local crowds in is homey quiet street just off the main drag in downtown Falls Church (400 South Maple

The decor is simple with super accents on the opaque white blown glass chandeliers that are Chilouly-like but wonderfully squid-like! The open kitchen is highlighted by a huge wood-fired pizza oven called "Sophie" and she, with the aid of Chef Artley and his team, make indeed what we all decided were the best pizzas in the region!

When we arrived for Sunday lunch before a show nearby with Samuel, our server Edloe told us that it was "happy hour" and that the Colli Senesi "La Marronaia" Chianti that normally sells for $7/glass was marked down to $5. It was perfect for the pizza, but they also offer a happy hour price on white if you want. There are deals here regularly, so be sure to check the website; beware that they are closed on Mondays.

Several appetizers appeared and we were blown away by each and every one full of the intense flavors that we got to know from Chef Artley's crabcakes just two weeks before.

Seared SCALLOP with CousCous and Tomato Jam is a gorgeous presentation and does the mollusk great justice, but my tummy yearns for the Grilled OCTOPUS with White Beans and Artichokes. The tender tentacles are salted but when combined with the sauce it blends perfection in taste and seasoning.

If you like mussels head for the $8 (yes just $8!!!) starter of PEI MUSSELS in a divine rich Smoked Blue Cheese Broth. This neat change on the traditional will wow and fill you at the same time, and I guarantee those two huge slabs of perfectly frilled bread atop the dish will be savored with the amazing sauce.

Seeking a novel but tasty salad? Don't miss the PEAR & GORGONZOLA Salad with baby greens, candied pecans and a divine mustard vinaigrette.

Well, after all that. don't miss those pizzas. Samuel, as he is wont to do, went for the Bambino Pizza which is virtually an adult size full plate, six-piece portion and you can see each fresh ingredient down to the slabs of superb mozzarella which at $7 is a bargain. The regular pizzas start in the $12 zone and unquestionably include the freshest ingredients around. Will's CAPRICCIOSA came with piles of artichoke hearts, crimini mushrooms, ham, olives and basil while my CRUDO had a huge super-thin slice of prosciutto covering each piece of the pizza (so 6 huge slices in all) as well as Arugula, and shaved fresh Grana. Each bite was like a garden salad with that superb Parman prosciutto!

I have to say that Orso also has many salads, pastas and main courses so this is a place we will definitely head back to for a full sampling sometime soon!

Monday, November 12, 2012

NYC's MAS is indeed more than you could wish for (11-11-12)

After catching a Broadway show (Scandalous) and running up to Lincoln Center for the Richard Tucker Gala, I chose to forego the black tie, usually lots of fun, but not good food dinner and head back to Soho (actually Noho) where I was staying for a wonderful dinner at MAS (farmhouse) on teeny quiet Downing Street ( Mas has been around for almost a decade, but I have not been in this neighborhood for years. My grandparents used to live in the building directly across the street which fronts on Houston Street, but that was way before dining in this area became chic.
The space is small and cozy, but also cozy in the sense that the tables are less than 6 inches apart. Luckily I had some nice folks next to me who were very chatty until they left partway through my sojourn. I arrives at 920pm and stayed for 3 hours of sublime dining as I could not choose so Alphorns, my server, said, let chef take over and it's just $125 (instead of the 4 course menu for $78). Glasses of wine here tend to be pricey, at around $15-20 each, so the accompanying wine deal (not on the menu, you must ask) is the way to go for 6 or 7 wines at an additional $75.

A choice of three breads came with creamy butter; I chose the multigrain (the others were French roll and whole wheat) which had a salted crust like a pretzel that was superb. The sparkling water is Hildon from the UK which I always like and you don't see too often this side of the pond.

My first glass was a Marc Hebrart Rose Champagne which was crisp with lots of fine bubbles; I wanted a swizzle stick to reduce the gas, which made me think of my late mother, who used to carry one in her purse oh so many years ago. (I must diverge and say that the main reason for this trip to NYC was for the unveiling of my Mom's tombstone earlier the same morning; this was a fitting salute --indeed the entire day was!).
Amuse #1 was a Citrus marinated Lump Crab with Orange Creme Fraiche that was simple and pure giving our Maryland Crab great honor.
Amuse #2 was a Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese and Basil Pollen that was quite divine as well
I was told that the chef wanted to send out some extra courses (surprise!) and first came the Yellowfin TUNA a l'Occidentale, a signature dish of Mas (my neighbors clapped with joy as they had this earlier). The tuna is quickly seared and raw at the middle in a brown butter with citrus soy balsamic vinaigrette and covered with celestial Crispy Shallots.
This was served with a crispy yet slightly mineral 2010 Gerard Duplessis Chablis.

I was then informed that the tasting menu had begun and was served a plate of two perfectly filleted Grilled Portuguese Sardines with Candied Chestnuts, Chestnut Foam, Butternut Squash Confit and Mizuna. The preparation was perfection and all it made me do was want to hurry to Portugal and Spain, but that will have to wait until our trip there next August!
A Montlouis Surlow 2008 Clos Anherl Chenin Blanc was the ideal pairing, and I have to say, while not a big fan of Chenin Blanc, this was one of the best I have ever had.

St. Aubin 1er Cru was next "Les Perrieres" 2008 from Prudhon which had great minerality and was unreal with the SHRIMP & Spaghetti Squash, Marcona Almonds, Mache & Baby Cress, Horseradish Dressing (there was a gastrique, or what I forget) and some parmesan. This was one of my favorite dishes because of the flavors and the horsereadish giving just a light bite.

Terrebrune 2011 Rose from Bandol was served with another gem: Soy dusted MONKFISH with Butter Carrot Puree, Bok Choy & Chanterelles. Need I say more?

We moved to the St. Aubin Pinot Noir 2009 "Le Ban" from Catherine & Dominique Derain, and I thought it wimpy. It was paired with SWEETBREADS cooked just right, Baby Beets, Brussels Sprouts & Bacon.
The wine could not stand up to the rich organs nor the bacon, but the dish was divine.

Gigondas 2007 from Domaine de Gour de Chaute was much better and I noticed as course #5 came that a couple was seated in the far corner at 11:15pm; now that's late dining for a Sunday! Long Island DUCKLING rendered in its own fat came with Mustard Greens, Sunchoke Puree and Roasted Sunchokes. The meat was superb and I adore sunchokes as they are so in season now (at every farmer's market).

At one point during the meal a dish came and was placed down by someone other than Alphonso and the word "fennel puree" was said. Alphonso had specifically asked me my dislikes, and immediately whisked the dish away. I didn't even get to taste it. The folks at the next table said they would have eaten it :-)).
Anyway, Alphonso announced there would be extras to make up for that, not that I needed more.
A 2011 Braucol from Gaillac (a region I never heard of before) was poured and it was a big red made from Mourvedre and Grenache that was paired with Roasted Rack of Lamb, more Sunchoke Puree and Braised Cider Cabbage, which was one of the few things I did not care for all night--the cabbage that is. The lamb was again cooked just past rare and excellent.

Green apple sorbet with Seckel Pear and Milled Cider Granita was one of the most refreshing palate cleansers on record.

J. Lassalle Blanc de Blanc Champagne was poured and dessert was announced. QUINCE Confit & Quince Mascarpone Semifreddo (on a hazelnut financier crust). When cheese courses come with quince paste, I usually avoid it. This preparation was perfect (Alphonso had asked me if I wanted fruity or chocolate-y dessert) and light yet the decadent rich semifreddo was bliss.

A small plate came with a Caramel & Milk Chocolate Tart that was salted (yum) and a Mint Marshmallow that even I who am not a mint nut found refreshing.

I walked the six or so blocks back to my hotel oh so happy that I had found MAS and luckily had not indulged in too mas!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wes Morton makes miracles with heart at ART & SOUL (11-9-12)

I had tried to get to Art & Soul on Capitol Hill

( for ages and something always happened

(traffic, weather, emergency or such). Bumping into Chef Wes Morton at

last weeks fabulous Karen Cathey Annual Crabcake Competition forced my

decision and I made it there last night for a stupendous meal and

wonderful quiet evening out on my own!

Art & Soul is the brainchild of Chef Art Smith, who while he owns the

restaurant, has moved on to many other ventures and lots of TV

appearances (notably on several of the TopChef runs). He hired Chef

Wes Mortin who hails from Louisiana and brings just as much heart,

art, soul and love to the kitchen.

Located in the Liaison Hotel on New Jersey Ave, NW there is a buzz as

the hotel lobby is open to the bar and restaurant. The bar was a bit

too noisy for me, but I got one of the fabulous off-white snakeskin

covered booths that are set into the rear wall and offer lots of quiet

and privacy for one, two or three people.

House filtered water was poured and two types of break (a nut/fruit

slice and Parker House roll) arrived with soft butter. My server

Michael was a gem and helped me with all my choices from wine to


I started with a glass of White Hall Viognier 2011 from Virginia and

asked him what was the best starter. he said that most people like the

Shrimp & Grits. Well, I would too, but I told him I was not "most

people" and like trying new dishes. "Would he suggest the Boudin Blanc

or the Soft Scotch Egg?" He said the latter was amazing and would be

perfect with the Viognier. He was spot on and the dish came with soft

halved eggs sitting in Spicy Sausage "bowls" that were crisp on the

bottom over a bed of Frisee with Grain Mustard. The greens were

delightful, the mustard just the right touch, the egg yolks just soft

as I adore them and a splattering of pickled red onion were divine.

I asked Michael about the Alain Normand Macon La Roche-Vineuse 2011

Chardonnay and he said "oaky." I was not familiar with the wine and he

proffered a taste; it was intensely oaky for a French chard and he

suggested the Albarino 2010 Zarate Balado from Rias Biaxas which was

loaded with citrus and minerality. It paired beautifully with the

SALMON HOECAKE which is really a large corn blini with a superb house

cured salmon "salad" bound with dill creme friache with more pickled

onion, caperberries. fresh tarragon and flat leaf parsley. This is

almost like a full salmon salad sandwich and could easily be a lunch

dish; boy, had I overordered, but I wanted to. I loved the salty

caperberries and enjoyed each bite with a different piece of either

caperberry, tarragon, parsley or onion for varied fun.

I moved on to a huge long legged currant intense with coffee hints

2006 MERLOT from DEYO Castillo de Monjardin. I know Spain is not

famous for Merlot and this didn't even taste like one, but what a

brilliant wine.

My main course was the Air Chilled PEKIN DUCK which was a perfectly

roasted (and I might add huge) breast with Dirty Duck Rice, Duck Fat

Turnips, Turnip Greens and a decadent Madeira Jus. Chef Morton knows

the meaning of crispiness as he exhibited in the Scotch Egg Sausage,

but here the duck skin was divine and the fate almost all rendered out

during the cooking, the way I do it at home. It was one of the best

duck courses I have had in ages.

I was surprised that the kitchen sent out two complimentary sides, but

not at all surprised that they knew me and chose the two I would have

selected. The Mac and Cheese had that Chef Morton crunchy crust and

creamy rich inside that was oh so classic yet tasty. The BRUSSELS

SPROUTS came also crisped on the outside and cooked just right with

large pieces of crispy bacon and super seasoning for taste. This again

showed that "crispy" fancy I am in love with.

I asked Michael after a long rest which dessert he would choose and he

immediately hit on my first choice, FRIED FIG PIE. Little did I know I

would receive three crispy sweet fried empanadas with powdered sugar

filled with fig, almond cream and a side of burnt honey ice cream on a

bed of port reduction. I tried to finish, but could not; I got thru 2

and a half.

Next time I plan to head to ART & SOUL, I will make sure I don't get


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Island Destinations gets it all done up for lunch at 2941 RESTAURANT in Falls Church,VA(10-24-12)

Here I go again saying that it's been YEARS since I went somewhere;

this is more than years.

We used to go to 2941 in Falls Church ( regularly, but

stopped when Chef Jonathan parted ways with them. I have watched them

over the years and today provided the perfect opportunity for me to

observe the

cuisine, service and more. There is nothing harder to do in MY

business than a decent luncheon or dinner, and many hoteliers and

vendors often fail. We have been lucky over the years to have some

wonderful vendors provide luncheons at Citronelle, Marcel's and such,

but today's lunch out in the serene setting by the waterfall at 2941

was one of the best.

It was courtesy of ISLAND DESTINATIONS which is one of our best luxury

top end providers when it comes to sunny vacation spots and they

pulled out all the stops with excellent wine, wonderful service and a

superb meal.

BEET SALAD came with a tasty Pear Marmalade, Goat Cheese, Crisp

elongated Endive and Caramelized Pecans. One of the other people at my

table said the ROMAIN & BIBB Salad with Sahved Pecorino Cheese,

Grilled Red Inion and Balsamic was also great.

She was very impressed with her main course of BUTTERNUT SQUASH

RAVIOLI with chestnuts, roasted squash and sage brown butter. The CEO

and President of the company sat next to me and adored his ROASTED

BEEF TENDERLOIN with Pomme Puree, Sauteed and Fried Kale and a Green

peppercorn sauce; it was divinely pink at the center. My PAN SEARED

SALMON was perfect with tasty Parsnip Puree, Crisp Savoy Cabbage,

Squash, Celery Root and an omigod SYRAH SAUCE....that begged for red

wine with this fish (the Pinot Noir was perfect).

There were two desserts and I ate a bite of my WARM CHOCLATE CAKE

which came with a spiced ganache crumble, Gingerbread Ice Cream, a

thin Shortbread Cookie and Creme Anglaise. The molten center flowed

out and it was an explosion of flavor. Nobody at our table had the

Caramel Apple Cheesecake, but I am sure it was great as well as every

dish was indeed so perfectly created for our group.

Kudos to all at 2941!

and thanks so muh to ISLAND DESTINATIONS....

PS- they only work with travel agents, but you can always book their

AMAZING deals thru me!

Monday, October 15, 2012

we all say ooh la la for A LA LUCIA (10-14-12)

I always find myself saying that it has "been too long since we visited this place or that," and I must repeat that again as we re-visited A LA LUCIA (, Alexandria's bastion of traditional Italian value food located just off the river north of Old Town.

Six of us moseyed in with Samuel in tow last night and I was thrilled to note that there is a 3 course menu regularly for $33.95 PLUS a 25% discount on some wines on Sundays to boot! We started with a small plate of bruschetta, which Samuel kept saying "no" to, but when the plate came round to him at the end with one piece left, he gobbled it up and his eyes rolled with pleasure at the fresh marinated tomatoes and small chunks of mozzarella.

We started with a bottle of FALANGHINA from Terradova di Paolo 2011 that was refreshing and tasty, so much so we had another. It was perfect with the MUSSELS in SPICY WHITE WINE sauce, which is not that spicy, but still has to be mopped up with the tasty focaccia bread. Other starters that were divine were the Grilled SHRIMP with GREEN BEANS, Cherry Tomatoes in Limoncello Dressing. the shrimp are breaded and grilled and juicy as can be. BURRATA with Beets is also great if you adore that irresistible creamy cheese!

We moved on to a DOLCETTO d'ALBA from Marchesi di Gresy "Monte Aribaldo" 2009 that has a hint of residual spice and lots of big fruit. It was perfect with our pasta dish (we ordered this as an extra course over the fixed price, but it can also be part of it) of MUSHROOM RAVIOLI in Truffle Oil and Sage &; Butter Sauce.....divine. Indeed, the pastas at A LA LUCIA are some of the best you will find in this entire area.

We have known our server Debbie from the UK for many years going way back to Galileo where she worked for many years and then came here when Galileo's manager Michael opened A LA LUCIA. The team his is great and the service is impeccable. Our every need was handled and the meal was paced to perfection.

We moved on to a BARBARESCO 2005 Riserva Rio Sordo from Produttori di Barbaresca that breathed for a while and was absolutely smooth and tasty. It was great with most of the main courses, save for perhaps the superb ROCKFISH with Sauteed Fennel in Beurre Blanc (that is on the lighter side). Filet of BEEF in Red Wine Sauce comes with A La Lucia Potatoes and Spinach and I thought this portion was huge until my Grilled VEAL with Parmesan Gratinee, Sage Wine Sauce and Green Beans arrived basically covered the entire oversized plate!

The veal was tender and tasty and it has been also too long since I have had veal as well!

Samuel loved his Spaghetti with Meat Balls &; Meat Sauce.

For desserts we tried the TIRAMISU, PUMPKIN CHEESE CAKE, and the CHOCOLATE CAKE with Ice Cream.

I refrained and went my way for the simple cheese plate of
SOTTOCENERE, MANCHEGO &; GORGONZOLA DOLCE with slices of poached pear.

A sparkling sweet STREVI was a nice touch. Samuel went even lighter simply munching on the mint leaves from one of the plates!

We all went home full promising not to wait so long for our next visit!

Friday, October 05, 2012

FUEGO in Arlington(VA) will light your fire (10-2-12)

Earlier this week we were invited to the "mock service" at Arlington's newest dining hotspot, FUEGO Cocina y Tequileria ( in Clarendon at 2800 Clarendon Blvd. served up by that wonderful PassionFood Hospitality Group (DC Coast, Ceiba, Acadiana, District Commons, etc..).

The dining room is upstairs with a large bar area downstairs as well, all with tall ceilings and very open airy space. There is a large private dining area behind a see through steel beaded curtain and the kitchen is open as well separated by long "rope" pillars from the dining area. As the name FUEGO is "fire" one small wall of the dining room has a flaming glass-enclosed fire in it!

As we perused the huge menu Samuel declared he would like the non-alcoholic "Queen of the Pacific" made from agave, lemon-lime, mint and strawberry puree. It was a hit, but a bit pricey for a small kid's non-alcoholic drink. The "Mala Suerte" was habanero-infused tequila with triple sec grapefruit, lime and a sugar rim, but came with no habanero, sugar rim, and I felt tequila as well. A second one arrived after a while for a replacement and had a peppered rim as requested (sugar seemed to much for me). Will went for the high end "El Perfecto" Margarita of Tres Generaciones Plata Tequila, Patron Citronage, Lime, Agave Nectar and a salt rim; it was nice, but I think the plain ones would be just as fine. There are dozens and dozens of tequila by the glass (also many by flights of 3 for a fabulous $13!) and over two dozen each of red and white wines as well by the glass. We were bowled over by the earthy intensity of a 16% alcohol EARTHQUAKE 2010 ZINFANDEL with a berry hint and coffee finish from Lodi that works brilliantly with many of the spicy salsas.

Superb chips arrive with a tomatillo salsa (milder) and a rojo that has a kick, but Samuel declared the GUACAMOLE with serrano and lime some of the best around; I must agree. He went on to an order of Chicken TACOS...there are many taco options and two to an order allow you to share and taste many. They come with small soft tortilla shells and loaded with meat. There are 3 salsas on each plate: habanero(very hot), tomatillo and rojo. Mixing these can give you different flavors as well. We tried the BIRRIA TACOS of Jalisco style roasted Goat which were superb; next time I must go for the LENGUA, as I adore tongue!

COCTEL de MARISCOS is a nice starter but intense on the spicy tomato cocktail sauce. Shrimp, tender Octopus, Tilapia and Salmon abound with the salsa and avocado.

Choosing dishes was hard, so we went with our trusty server Seth's suggestions. For main courses we chose the ENCHILADA de MARISCO a lighter version of the usually heavily sauced Mexican dish here full of shrimp, crab and a 1/2 lobster tail to boot on the plate all with a Salsa Chile de Arbol. This is a top notch dish and won't send you home overly full as well. The CARNITAS come in a miniature copper pot and the slow fried pork is divine. You can wrap it in the small housemade corn tortillas and again choose from the multiple salsas on the side. Side dishes here are not to be ignored although the Hongos, sauteed seasonal mushrooms, could have used some extra seasoning. The Platanos Machos are tequila glazed plantains with a dash of Latin Crema and are decadent and rich, while the YUCA FRITA with Chile Garlic Mayo dip will beat any good fry in town!

Desserts here are tasty and varied with a yummy Fresh Lime & Coconut Tart with Passion Fruit Caramel or should you need more carbs go for the excellent Sopaipillas with a Canela Caramel Agave Nectar dipping suace, decadence at its best!

We all had a great time and know we will go back to FUEGO to enjoy the oh so many wonderful dishes and wines!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chef Rock rocks with huge benefit meal to celebrate MARCH of DIMES (9-22-12)

Last week we attended the charity dinner we purchased at last years March of Dimes SIGNATURE CHEFS...another reason for you to join us this year on November 14th--seats still remain!

Chef ROCK (aka Rahman Harper) who we had the pleasure of meeting many years ago when he headed up the kitchen a B. Smith's is now heading the running the show at the DC Central Kitchen. You may remember Chef Rock as the first winner of HELL's KITCHEN, that reality show by some famous British chef.

Well, he is back in the DC area and really cooking up a storm here and there as well as being a truly generous and giving guy by recently taking the helm at the DC Central Kitchen feeding people in need.

We are so happy to know him and have him as a part of the DC foodie community and also are most grateful for his great support of the March of Dimes!

Anyway, we entered the dining room and were feted with many hor's d'oevres from Deviled Eggs with Italian marinated tuna, an antipasto of cheeses including Gorgonzola drizzled with honey and peppered salumi.

The Gougeres melted in our mouths and there was also a plate of perfectly cooked pork loin with two sauces of Fig Preserve as well as a Strawberry/Rhubarb Preserve. I warned folks of what might come as we had already finished some Mumm's Cuvee Napa on the ride over and now we expected many courses to come....

Multiple butters arrived at the table with honey drizzled on one, black Hawaiian sea salt on another, Rosemary and Herbs on a third plus a play on Southern Pepper Jelly here with a Cippolini Onion & Tomato Jam atop the cream cheese. Warm steaming southern biscuits were divine and again we had to really caution restraint! I set my limit at two.

CRAB CHOWDER was a thick rich and slightly spicy delight with Andouille, Applewood Bacon and Crab Ceviche that beckoned those biscuits so we got every last drop. Yalumba 2001 Viognier"The Y Series" from Australia was a perfect foil to the cream, rich and spice which all flowed together in Chef Rock's southern heritage so melodiously.

BRAISED BACON (from Neuskie's in Wisconsin) & SPINACH SALAD did indeed star the acon as Chef Rock had told me in advance. The smoked, scored and seared slices were divine and we all remarked that this bacon could indeed NOT be beat. Apple Croutons and a superb Roasted Pineapple Vinaigrette made from agua de pina reduction, candied ginger, sherry vinaigrette and pineapple puree completed the plate to a perfect melding of the ingredients. I was lucky in my choice of wine pairings choosing a Red Newt Cellars 2010 Dry Riesling Reserve from the Finger Lakes that we had just picked up a month prior. It was truly lucky that the Riesling was dry with pineapple hints to boot and I really had no clue what this dish was going to be like.

SPICED SCALLOPS were sliced discs, blackened and caramelized with maple, citrus and vanilla and came with Sweet Potato Puree, Fried Quail Egg (sunnyside up) and Micro Greens. The sauce was made from a deglazed chardonnay (the wine I brought!) with EVOO. We slowly savored this delightful dish and the excellent MONTAGNY Premier Cru 2010 "La Grande Roche" from Louis Latour that again was a miraculous pairing.

The big rest came with a Lemon Granita with Basil Syrup & Red Hawaiian Salt that was gobbled up by all not only as refreshing but as such a wonderful combination of flavors.

The next course was a take on the traditional FROGMORE STEW (from Frogmore, SC) where Chef Rock gave us a court-bouillon with whole Butter Poached Canadian Lobster Tails/Fresh Texas Gulf Shrimp/Andouille Sausage/Crab and a Shellfish Nage topped off with Char-Grilled Fresh Corn & Fingerling Potato slices. As light as the broth was this was a seafood treat to perfection and quite filling. LEMELSON VINEYARDS 2003 "Thea's Selection" Pinot Noir from Oregon had aged and the forward fruit was gone making this a wonderful wine, despite being red, with the stew.

BRAISED SHORT RIBS scared me on the menu after such a huge start, but the portions were just right and completed with Parsnip Puree, Roasted Baby Carrots, Pearl Onions, Potato and to die for Japanese Beer Battered Onion Rings. A red wine demi-glace reduction was perfect and paired wonderfully with the FRIAS FAMILY VINEYARD 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain District in Napa. It had aged to perfection. Not so with he Graham Beck 2006 magnum of Gamekeeper's Reserve Cabernet from South Africa that was a bit too powerful and either needed more aging or just was over the top.

A light fluffy CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BOMBE was constructed of mousse, praline, hazelnut cookie with a Blood Orange Gelato and Basil paint. Credit here goes to pastry chef Jana Bates who gave us the perfect finish which many of us totally gobbled up.

A 1991 COCKBURNS Vintage PORT was a raisin heaven delight as we wobbled back into the van to take us home!

I am hoping we can buy this delight again this year??

Friday, August 31, 2012

News bulletin:Chef Cesare Lanfranconi lands at LIA's in Chevy Chase, MD (8-30-12)

The other day some friends rang us up and asked if we would like to meet them at LIA's in Chevy Chase ( just outside the DC line off Wisconsin Ave. We agreed, as it's been some time since our last visit there and we also wanted to see our friends!

It was quite busy outside on the patio, but inside it was quieter and more akin to my style of dining. I am well aware that Lia's has always produced good pasta, but our friend's son, the same age as Samuel, would not stop raving about their Spaghetti & Meatballs from the second we arrived. He gobbled up his order with no restrain, as Samuel did his hamburger (we had had pasta the night before at home, so he was not allowed to indulge again!).

The kid's menu pasta is a deal and comes with two side dishes amongst a large choice of veggies, fruits and more.

I ordered the Red Pepper Soup with Crab cake Special to start and Will chose the Burratta with Focaccia and Lemon Truffle Arugula. We sipped a very intense grapefruit/citrus FIRE ROAD Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand and settled in. Will's starter arrived and I was surprised that the "focaccia" was a huge pizza-like piece with the salad and Burratta inside it. It's a carb-intense dish and if you seek the cheese, you might wish to choose the other option from the Cheese Menu of Burratta alone.

All of a sudden Chef Geoff Tracy himself popped out and we said a friendly hello and introduced our friends. He was busy, but we chatted a bit and discovered he is opening in Rockville soon (I probably knew this, but my mind can't retain everything!)

We waited some time, and before I knew it the main courses had arrived. No sign of my soup? I asked the guy who delivered the entrees (he was not our waiter Joshua) and he sent the manager over who apologized profusely. At this point, I simply told them to forget it and please send a bottle of MONFERATTO ROSSO, "Mompertone" 2007 from Prunotto in Piemonte as quickly as possible to enjoy with our main courses, which were ALL superb:

Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Salad was piled high with greens and sported a twist with an eggplant tapenade.

Branzino Balsamico came with sauteed spinach, pine nuts, raisins and a tasty reduced balsamic glaze.

My superb Bacon Wrapped QUAIL was accompanied by a super Saffron Risotto Cake, more of that yummy sauteed Baby Spinach and Crispy Shallots.

Our wine finally arrived as I was 80% done with my food and even the delay on the refills for the boys' lemonade was odd. We thought that the outside may have been so busy, things were getting a bit delayed.

Since I missed my starter, I decided some cheese was in order and Will wanted dessert. He chose the excellent NUTELLA Chocolate Tart with macadamia Nuts, Roasted White Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream and Fried Banana (Plantain). I asked Joshua if there was a cheese plate and was told only each cheese by itself. There is a wide selection of cheeses, and I wanted 3 or 4, but the price point and size of a single order made this silly and overindulgent. I chose two which came with some crisp bread and fig puree:

GRAYSON from Meadow Creek in Virginia which was nice, but not as exciting as some of the other Graysons I have had from other producers; it lacked taste and excitement and pungency.

On the other hand the TRUFFLE TREMOR that Joshua suggested was a California Goat that oozed flavor and was aging beautifully as the edges were soft and slightly runny under the light rind-YUM YUM.

It was perfect with the remains of the amazing Prunotto, a superb well known winemaker, but this is the first time I have ever had the Mompertone!

Seconds later we were surprised to have a plate "sent from the kitchen with the chef's compliments" placed before us. It was an odd choice at the end of the meal being crispy sublime Deep Fried Zucchini Flowers. We tried them to our delight, but were full by now. Within a minute a figure well known to us for decades popped out and I was shocked to see Chef Cesare Lanfranconi who is oh so well known in the Italian cucina circuit here in DC. He had left town, apparently for the Bahamas for a year or so, and I thought he had never returned. Well, he is back, and what a pleasure to have him back in DC; now we have to return to Lia's, though I hope they will get my whole order filled next time and maybe they will come up with a multi-cheese platter option for those of use who like tastes :-)).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Georgetown's BANDOLERO boasts tasty tapas and too much noise! (8-28-12)

We had planned to visit Mike Isabella's new Georgetown hotspot just 2 miles from our house several weeks ago and I was quite shocked to see Tom Sietsema's scathing review in Sunday's Washington Post!

He was kind to most of the food but called the place a black dungeon sounding like a power mower.

Well, he was truly unkind in the decor description. The bar is kind of cute with Georgia O'Keefe cow skulls and matching skull storage bottles for some of the liquor, but isn't the black hole he describes. The tables are dark wood and the decor is indeed dark, but the lighting is fine and reading is not a pain, as it can be in some places.

On the other hand, as Mr. Sietsema says, talking is nary impossible. We arrived for an early dinner at 6:30pm and the place was reasonably quiet, so we could easily hear our delightful server, Holly's, spiel. Within an hour the place was heaving and we declared, "The Georgetown crowd has taken over the city!" There are too many noisy places these days, and this might be the worst. Add the cackling ladies at the next table with high voices and we were unable to converse after 830pm.

That said, we did listen to Mr. Sietsema's suggestions and even more to Holly, who is truly a food fanatic and knows her dining 'round the world quite well!

The drinks here are fun and I started with the CASA EN FUEGO Margarita made from habanero infused tequila, Patron Citronage, strawberry and lime; cool, but very hot & spicy. Will said he had never had a PISCO SOUR, and declared he really does not like them, although it was very well made with a superb egg white foam and lime.

We moved on and Will tried the ZAMBADA GARCIA Margarita of Cabo Wabo Silver, Patron Citronage, Lime & Fidencio Mezcal Float which was nice, but pricey at $13.00. I loved my EL CAPO with Fidenzio Mezcal, Campari, Carpano Antica and 2 dashes Laphroig, but again at $14.00 it's gone fast and a bit overpriced.

We enjoyed these as we munched the roasted corn nuts (no bread here) and ordered the first salsa called SIKIL PAK. This is a must signature dish here made from pumpkin seed, jalapeno and orange; call it a pumpkin orange tapenade with a twist. It is served with tasty corn chips (you can actually taste the corn!), but last night the chicharones that are supposed to come with it were missing and Holly declared the chef felt they were not up to par that night- a true shame. I asked the guy who brought the dish what "sikil pak" meant and he said it's an ancient Mayan pumpkin seed dip; I pressed for more asking for a literal translation, but he came back empty handed from the kitchen. Smart phones are great as mine told me that "sikil" is pumpkin and " pak" is orange in Mayan, so he was pretty correct, but now all the staff knew the literal translation. Whatever, you do, ORDER THIS!

We ordered each set of dishes as the evening progressed, trying not to overindulge and also not wanting everything to come out fast, so often an issue in these "tapas" type places. First was the TAQUITOS, one of tuna, toasted sesame seeds & sweet potato (which was negligible in the overall taste) and the sublime BLUE CRAB with coconut, red chili & purple potato. These were both imbued with Indonesian sambal, a very spicy condiment that I happen to adore. In the crab taquito it allowed the crab to come through with a huge explosion followed by a nice spice--divine!

We finished our drinks and moved on to a bottle of MALBEC 2009 Vista Alba Blend B from Argentina that is 75% Malbec and 25% Cab; it works very well with the spices. We had a quick taste of the wimpy TANNAT (Cata Mayor 2010) from Uruguay and moved on to what Holly suggested; good idea.

We split the TOMATILLO & AVOCADO GAZPACHO which had Mezcal marinated watermelon and orange with an overal salty, sweet and tart taste that vied at our mouths and really was a pleasure.

The soft tortilla type TACOS are also great here and come with many fillings. The Roasted ASPARAGUS with Spinach & Beet Salsa is a nice veggie option but needs something more to bind it like an aioli or spicy mayo; just a tad would have done the trick. The SKIRT STEAK with refried beans, avocado, salsa (with a kick) & crsipy onions was a juicy treat and full of all the flavors we expected.

The EMPANADA here is another veggie treat made with corn, potato, jack cheese & poblano escabche. The cheese gives it a slight richness and the marinated peppers are in a sauce on the plate to dip and fork up. The crust is the hit here and the dough is flaky and tender; lots of love in this batter!

SOPES are topped with Lamb picadillo, chipotle goat cheese and a slice each of jalapeno and fresco chili. They have a bite, but not intense, only the sopes was a bit hard and very difficult should you decide to split the dish between two people (there are three sopes per portion).

There are several side veggies and we chose the CRAZY CORN which is indeed CRAZY. The Roasted Corn cob (there are three portion about 3 inches long each) is on a stick and encrusted with Corn Nuts and Chile Cheese. Holly suggested we squeeze the lime provided on each cob to (a) keep the crust on and (b) give it a bit more flavor. She was oh so right and the dish was fun, but next time I might try something else.

Two shot glasses of complimentary Corralejo Anejo Tequila followed and sipped the warm smooth and flavorful liquor. We could not even think of dessert, and headed home more than time we order less for sure. Will there be a next time. I am sure, but perhaps we will wait until a snowstorm hits DC and we know the place will be quieter!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PRINT is proof that's in The INK (NY's newest Hell's Kitchen hot spot-8/24/12)

Our second night in the city was at pre-theater dinner with Samuel and friends, so we tried PRINT in the new INK Hotel ( at 653 11th Avenue @48th St. It's a fun spot with nice decor and lots of windows looking onto 48th Street. It's also only a 10 minute walk from Times Square theaters.

There was corn bread, focaccia, and sourdough as we ordered and sipped on a dry tasty Cesani 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Appetizers were all quite large and satisfying from a monstrous Quail stuffed Prosciutto (it should read the other way) with Sage, Leek, Potato, Mushroom & Truffle Jus to the smaller Red Snapper Ceviche with Hot Peppers which were not that hot. Shallots, Radish, Olive Oil and Lime-Orange rounded out the sauce, but it was odd to find cooked potatoes in a ceviche as it just seemed like filler and took taste away from the fish.

Grilled Octopus with Potato (they like them here), Olives, Chorizo, Herb Puree & Lemon was one of the big hits for sure and the Local Heirloom Tomato Salad boasted gorgeous fruit with Opal Basil, Feta & Champagne Vinaigrette.

Samuel loved his Grilled Sirloin Steak but thought the Corn Flan was weird. I have to admit it was a bit too sweet and mealy for my taste. Spring Onion, Roasted Carrots these were amazing-purple and orange both), Pea Shoots (spelled Pas shoots on the menu!) and a yummy Bordelaise.

Our mains were all large and tasty from Grilled Red Snapper for me with Choice Littleneck Clams, cranberry Beans, Chanterelles, Basil, Tomato and Coriander in a brothy sauce that was just right and light for me, after the previous night, I needed a rest!

Seared Swordfish came with Smashed Potatoes (present in all dishes but mine--oh yes, Sam got the flan, but would have gladly traded for potatoes), Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes in a Lemon-Caper Sauce.

The chicken breast entree was also huge with more potatoes and the Braised Grass Fed Beef was tender prime meats with mashed potatoes, those great roasted carrots, radish, green beans and a Horseradish Gremolata.

We could not resist our handsome server Joshua (from Memphis, though the accent was lost) who is a tall aspiring actor (well, aren't most servers in NY?) when it came to dessert. He suggested the Roasted Plum in Cognac with Yogurt Parfait, Shortcake, Candied Pistachios, Oatmeal Ice Cream and Butter Maple Snap Crumble; well who could not resist that. Samuel loved his Chocolate Brownie and one of us popped for the Tri-Star Strawberries with Creme Fraiche Chantilly, Shortcake and Tarragon Granita, an interesting combo.

I opted for the cheeses which came with Aronia Berry Compote, a nice hunk (no, not Joshua) of Dark Chocolate Cake and Black Walnut Galettes with Chocolate. The three cheeses were Dante's Sheep from Wisconsin, Cumin Cow from Wisconsin and the winner, Thin Red Line Goat from Vermont.

We left quite full and ready for a night with Samuel at Mamma Mia!

Eleven Madison Park is elegance, magnificence and perfection in delicious dining in NYC (8-23-12)

As if we had not eaten enough during our trip to upstate NY, we had to run up to NY for an event last weekend and I arranged for our third Relais et Chateaux experience

last week at the uber-gourmet ELEVEN MADISON PARK ( where Will and I agree, we had the best meal we have ever eaten in NYC.

We entered the huge high ceilinged hall and at first I worried about noise levels, but we settled in and stared at the interesting menu with 20 words (each a main ingredient) on it.

We had no one real server, here the three Michelin star team work as a whole guaranteeing flawless and seamless service; nothing was missed.

Eleven Madison Park may not get a "29" for food from Zagat, but it does rate 28/28/28 making the decor and service combine to create a level of fine dining one can rarely experience

as a whole elsewhere!

We pondered the menu with its four leaves at the top (one looking a bit like a rearend with an serrate edge!) and were told these are the four leaves that appear in the trees in the park across

the street. There is an option for 4 courses for $125 or a tasting menu of 8 courses for $195. Accompanying wine pairings for all courses are $95 and $125 respectively). well that was a no brainer and

we ordered a glass of champagne each:

Will chose the Ledru Cuvee du Goutte Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru 2007 with huge yeast tones from its aging and vintage and I went with the more brut Bereche et Fils Brut Resevre N/V.

The water is filtered in house and the sparkling was soft and subtle-great for digestion.

Each course shall be noted with an all-CAPS heading which is the ingredient name from the menu.

Amuse #1 -arrived as Nicole brought us a box tied with a ribbon and explained it was a savory take on the traditional Black & White Iced cookie of the past, but here the cookies were more biscuit like with a parmesan

cream filling. The black and white icings being truffle flavored. OK, we were in heaven and from here it just got even better!

Amuse #2 -TOMATO-was a Parmesan Lavosh that came in its own vertical holder. Poured at table from an elaborate pot was Tomato Tea over Lemon Thyme with a "bouquet garni" style tied twig of Raffia (sp?), some type of hay.

The tea was a tasty, salty consomme with lots of tomato flavor that got our palates in a tingly tizz.

Amuse #3 -MACKEREL & SCALLOP-was a paired arrangement wtih Mackerel on Horseradish Chip with Lemon Gel, Mustard Citrus Vinaigrette, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Grated Horseredish and leaves of Lamb's Quarter (a local herb from Brooklyn!) AND

Scallop Chip (think shrimp chip from Chinese restaurant) with Sesame Puree, Sashimi Scallop, Lemon Yuzu Gel, Pickled Daikon and Maki Rainbow Sorrel. This was probably my favorite amuse as the textures were

all so different and melded into one mouthful of flavor explosion.

Amuse #4 -YOGURT & CHICKPEA-(you might wonder when these would end?)-Again a pair of items : Chickpea Panisse which was deep fried (like a kibbe) with yogurt dill and orange AND

a Frozen Greek Yogurt Lollipop with fried lentils and curry. The pops stood upright in a vase filled with lentils to keep them from falling over--INGENIOUS. The yogurt tasted like frozen salted butter

as the curry invaded the yogurt.

Amuse #5 -TROUT ROE-was a Marinated Trout Roe with Dashi, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, pickled Zucchini with Zucchini Bavaroise (think mousse made from heavy cream and gelatin), Watermelon Snow and Yogurt-Yuzu Snow which were

in dried powder form atop.

You might wonder what we were drinking through all these "amuse"-ments, and the fact is that Cedric, the super sommelier, kept filling our champagne glasses; never did we have an empty wine glass, making the experience even better.

For the first course of the tasting menu Cedric asked if we liked beer, so Will volunteered to have the Ithaca "ALPHALPHA" Ale from upstate NY which he said was super yeasty in taste but intensely fruity in the nose. I adored the Patrick Piuze Vaucoupin Chablis Premier Cru

2009 from Burgundy. I should note that each wine was carefully poured in the Riedel Crystal in advance of each course, so we could taste and savor it a bit prior to combining it with the food. Of course, if our glass neared empty, an extra pour was always

seconds away.

#1-CLAM- was an homage to the clambake and a major presentation in itself. A large ironclad bowl full of hot stones came with an hibachi-like grill in the center, an iron teapot atop this. A bowl of Clam Succotash with Seabeans, Corn, Chorizo and Tomato Snow

was presented first along with a piece of Zucchini Bread wrapped in a corn husk "tamale" style. Hot sea water and kelp was poured on the stones which steamed and sizzled and heated the pot atop which contained a divine Corn & Tomato chowder which followed.

We knew if the presentations continued like this we might be here until 3am, but it was FUN with great care and love for the ingredients as well as the show.

Swirl buns (looking like a cinnamon roll) made from Cayuga (where we had just been in Upstate NY) flour were flaky and tasty-think Pillsbury flaky biscuits improved 1000% were served with Goat's milk OR Cow's butter and a small dish of Long Island Seas Salt which was really tasty but not needed.

#2-COUSCOUS-came with smoked tomato, Various leaf herbs(basil, dill, etc), Compressed Watermelon, Greek Yogurt in a mozarella-form ball (Labneh) with dehydrated olive. Again flavors reigned supreme and we marveled nonstop.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2011 from Provence made from Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault was a perfect foil to the acidity from the tomato and watermelon!

#3-FOIE GRAS-I asked Cedric why he chose a Pichler-Kreutzler Gruner Veltliner Loibner Klostersatz from Wachau in Austria for this dish. We have enjoyed sweet wines and even heavy reds with Foie Gras, sometimes a semi-sweet Riesling. He said the blackberry compote

needed something dry, but this was the only place on the entire menu where I disagreed with him. The Foie Gras was superb and marinated in Nepitella (an Italian "mint-oregano" herb) with a blackberry compote, Nepitella Mousse & Blackberry Meringue. Yes, lots going on here and the dish was sublime indeed. Lately many folks have gone off Foie Gras; this would bring anyone back!

We laughed as one of the guys cleared the crumbs from our table and he affectionately called himself the "crumber." Everyone here has a purpose and does their job well, everyone is friendly and indeed we always felt welcome.

#4-CORN-Here was where the wine was a dream come true. We told Cedric that we like Rieslings bone dry and he came through with the Trimbach, Cuvee Frederic Emile 2005 Alsace. Will is not a Riesling lover, although our recent Finger Lakes/Niagara foray has

opened up his taste buds. Well, we both asked for big seconds on this fantastic 7 year old white that drinks like creamy (yet dry) nectar. Roasted & Smoked Corn compromised this plate with roasted Chanterelles, Pickled Chanterelles, Chanterelle Puree a Greek Lime Yogurt with Dried Lime Zest. The menu we have says blueberries (but I don't recall those) and a broth of Lapsong Souchang Tea to bind the dish. As you can imagine this bone dry Reisling was indeed perfect with this miraculous dish.

#5-LOBSTER-I adore lobster and the tail poached in butter was cooked just to rare in a with grilled Avocado, a crust of Amaranth and a hint of mint, but finished with a Lemon Verbena Emulsion. It was one of the best lobster dishes I can remember in decades.

Add to this the Maison Deux Montille, Vireuil MERSAULT 2008 and you have perfection. Indeed, if there were not more, I would have asked for a second portion!

#6-VEAL-came in many forms: Roasted with Summer Beans Violet Mustard & Savory, Sous-Vide Tongue was sublime with the mustard. Sweetbreads were caramlezied and almost candied textured and t was all finished with a Bordelaise & Bone Marrow Sauce.

This dish used so many different aspects of the name, that it could have been five or six dishes! Paired with an earthy (needed the food for sure) Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino 2005 from Tuscany that begged for the heavy ingredients.

Our "crumber" returned this time with an antique iron travel iron that had been heated and proceeded to iron out the creases in our tablecloth; OK, I was impressed, but could not suppress a giggle.

#7-CHEVRE-a tart Domaine aux Moines Roche aux Moines Savennieres 2010 from the Loire was a tart Chenin Blanc that worked with the Meridian Chevre Rainbow Ridge from Bedford Hills, NY just north of NYC.

The soft goat has an ash rind and is aged only several weeks. It was served with green garlic puree, wild Tri-Cities Strawberries, (some of which were pickled) and a Pistachio & Summer Greens Salad. This was a cheese course

to remember, and all from within miles of NYC.

The end was nearing but a pre-dessert was in order as a team approached with a large cart to prepare their version of the EGG CREAM, one of NY's historic drinks. This was an orange version with cocoa nibs & Bronx Seltzer

#8-CHEESECAKE was made from Goat's Milk Cheese with Chamomile & Raspberry with Dehydrated Coconut....need you ask more?

#9-CHOCOLATE...yes they added extras (SURPRISE!) and the Milk Chocolate (we had specifically said we prefer milk to dark chocolate!) & Caramel Ganache came with Apricot Srobet & Foam as well as a crunchy cinnamon-y granola-like

topping with an adorable marshmallow and more of those cocoa nibs. The 1998 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes was 14 years old and should have retained less acidity, but perhaps it was not the best of vintages. It's beautiful rust color

made me yearn for a bit more sweet and less acid, but we still enjoyed our last "wine" as all the mignardises arrived:

First a box of Black & White cookies as a frame for the evening in the same box as the savory ones arrived in the start. They were QUITE sweet and I liked the Raspberry Filling, but they were not a touch on the Truffle ones from the start :-))

Chocolate BonBons, Popcorn & Peanut Brittle were more to my taste showing off the all-American flavors to their best.

We were then invited to see the kitchen, and I was quite shocked (I guess we owe you a big THANK YOU, Brenda?) as they took us in and showed us around. We were placed behind a small raised table and a sous chef approached with a huge vat of liquid nitrogen

and many ingredients only to explain that she would now prepare their take on the "Colony" a gin drink from the early 20th century made popular at the Colony in NYC. It was comprised of gin & cherries, but the twist here was the egg white was infused with gin and frozen into mergingue with the nitrogen. Pop rocks served as the sugar in the drink and the explosion of cold, sweet, gin and cherries in the mouth was a wonderful end to the evening, which in itself was a true explosion of local ingredients, great wines, super service and indeed the very best meal NYC surely has to offer anyone!