Monday, March 25, 2013

Boulud Sud gets bravos for some of the best Mediterranean mix in NYC (3-24-13)

Last night 2/3 of our family got together for dinner at BOULUD SUD
( across
from Lincoln Center, where I have been numerous times before both pre-
and post-performance. This time we decided to dine only and really
enjoy the fabulous food and wine.
Speaking of wine we started with a couple of bottles of Domaine de la
Crouze St. Veran 2011 "l'Or des Roches"  which was wonderfully rich
and creamy and terrific with the starters we chose especially the "to
share" plates of Housemade TARAMASALATA of smoked cod row with yummy
dill potato chips to dip and the excellent CRISPY ARTICHOKES Alla
Romana with a zingy dipping aioli and Nipatella.
I know Samuel loves artichokes at home, but for some silly reason he
seemed totally disinterested in the fabulous fried hearts with aioli?
The breads arrived in the form of a country crusty black olive and
focaccia as they poured olive oil into a rosemary, pepper, chili and
herb mix for dipping. Now, Samuel was in heaven. The bread was superb
and much better than the focaccia the night before.
We ordered various appetizers with Will enjoying one of my favorites
the OCTOPUS a la Plancha which is grilled and served in an arugula
salad with Marcona Almonds and Jerez Vinegar. The Moroccan Sweet
POTATO SOUP with orange, ginger and yogurt got the thumbs up from my
niece and Samuel gobbled up his 1/2 portion of Spring RABBIT
CACCIATORE which had the rabbit boned and stewed with tomatoes,
pioppini (mushrooms), tarragon and served over Orichiette pasta. The
only thing he didn't really like were the cooked grape tomatoes.

I decided to order the slightly over $20 portion of Lemon-Saffron
LINGUINI with Seppia, Shaved Bottarga and Dandelion, Our friendly
server, Eduardo, insisted it was the best, but I must disagree. While
it was tasty and good, it was not a standout, especially at such a
high price.

we moved on to a superb red suggested by the sommelier, Ronald: Adega
Alguiera Ribeira Sacra 2007 from Galicia made from 100% Mencia grapes.
The age of the wine was just right and after about 10 minutes it
opened up into a wonderful earthiness that paired with every main
course on the table from the tuna to the SICILIAN DUCK DUO which had a
hone glazed breast with spices atop (most felt there needed to be more
spice) and Crispy Duck Confit Raviolis all in a Marsala jus with
orange and pine nuts.

I ended up splitting the Duck with Will and then we also split the
NIMAN RANCH BEEF DUO with Parnsip Puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and
Sauce Bordelaise. The duo comprised of a rich marinated beef rib and a
divine rare and succulent reibeye filet.
Samuel tasted the latter and begged for his own (after eating two
bites of mine), so we ordered another filet only which he proceeded to
gobble up as well.
We all seemed to be having a great time and enjoying the food, save my
sister who thought everything was weird and too spicy; the duck was
actually too mild according to Will and my niece....I guess that's why
people like different things.

I told ROnald I was ordering the cheese and that the Cheese Menu had
various wines by the glass to pair with each cheese, but no prices! He
said these wines were gone anyway and suggested a Chateau PRADEUX
Bandol 2007 that was a huge red wine virtually undrinkable on its own,
but quite good with the cheeses:
Tomme de Savoie was the least exciting and was better with the tasty
honeycomb and marinated dried fruit mostarda.
Cremont from Vermont was indeed creamy and worthy of its name.
Verrano was an intense sheep from the Pyrenees that I liked alot, but
the winner was the
Middlebury Blue from Vermont I assume by the name that I could have
had seconds on.
Desserts around the table ranged from POMME CROUSTILLANT which is a
stuffed baked green apple with a sugar cap, Apple Cider Foam and
filled normally with Ginger Gelato. My niece switched hers to a superb
Medjool Date Gelato and Will opted for the Dolce (sweet cream) gelato.
The staff brought out two more extra desserts of an amazing GRAPEFRUIT
stuffed with Halvah Fluff (consistency of cotton candy) and
marshmallow. I wanted more, but know I can't eat grapefruit, so it was
passed around and enjoyed by all. The Mediterrean pastry plate was
less exciting with excellent Pistachio Baklava, Hazelnut Nougatine and
Chocolate Pan Forte (think harder than biscotti). Unless these are
your cup of tea, avoid them - and of you like them, I think the need a
cup of tea...or coffee.
We had a great time and I look forward to heading back to Boulud Sud
when near Lincoln Center.

make it MAREA for inventive Italian-American superb seafood in NYC (3-23-13)

In NYC for two nights with Samuel heading to a couple of Broadway
shows, we decided to try MAREA ( where uber-chef
Michael White opened on Central Park South in the fairly small space
previously occupied by the ill-fated San Domenico.
His seven years in Italy paid off for sure and you get a wonderful
flavor using local ingredients and the highest quality seafood. There
are meat dishes for sure and you could completely skip all the fish,
but what for when the place is called MAREA (Mare being "sea" in
I adore the gorgeous silver gilt place setting plates and china by
Ginori and began to fear the prices, but when the menu arrived I was
thrilled to see a 4-course menu (you choose what you want) for $99.00,
and the wine list offers many rare treats at wonderful prices for this
NYC Relais et Chateaux spot, most of which have few wines under
Samuel decided on the PANSOTTI, a ricotta filed ravioli in a smooth
rich Basil Pesto sauce and gobbled it up with many swipes of the yummy
crusty white bread. The focaccia was less impressive with nice olives,
but a bit oily.
Our server Charles, who was very helpful and negotiating us through
the large menu offered a sprite, juice, fun drink for Samuel, I called
it non-alcoholic Long Island Ice Tea as it seemed to have everything
in it.
We ordered a bottle of Verdicchio di Castilli di Jesi 2009 Sao Paolo
PIEVALTA which was two years in steel with a soft mineral finish and a
great flavor to go with the superb seafood.
Amuses arrived in the form of a Celery Root Panna Cotta topped with
Calamari, Chilis and Grapefruit. It was hard to pick up the wobbly
gelee square with the fork provided; a spoon would have been better,
but it was tasty and fun.
We ordered the PANZEROTTI from the listings called "to share" and
adored the Smoked Eggplant Fritters, but even though Sam adored
fritters the week before, he would have none of this eggplant one. The
dipping sauce was a rich ricotta with bottarga and was the consistency
of whipped yogurt.

We now entered our $99 menu choices and this allows you to start with
a crudo, oysters or appetizer. The crudos looked amazing but between
these and the oysters the novelty of the appetizers entranced us:
Will's TARTALETTA was a flaky pastry crust filled with Periwinkles,
caramelized onion, Marsala wine, Cherry Mostarda and Capers. It came
room temperature, which we were later informed was proper, but the
server failed to offer us both clean knives at first (they eventually
did) which we found odd.
My ASTICE is one of the signature dishes and I can clearly see why.
Chock full of Nova Scotia LOBSTER with creamy rich BURRATA smeared all
over the plate in a half moon then topped with small rectangles of
pickled eggplant al funghetto there are also wonderful green basil
seeds which appear like the inside of a green tomato jelly throughout
the dish for bright color contrast.

We moved on to the pasta course (you can then choose meat or fish and
then dessert) and did superbly well with our suggestions from Charles.
Some of the dishes (like the Astice and the Casoncelli) do have
surcharges on the $99, but are well worth the splurge. Will had (again
sadly a bit too room temperature) the CASONCELLI which are bacccala
(cod) ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms, baby leeks, black truffle
jus and an amazing smothering of shaved black truffles covering the
entire plate! My FUSILLI came with red wine braised Octopus and bone
marrow for intense flavor. Even Samuel thought the sauce and the pasta
were superb, although he was not interested in tasting the octopus.

We moved on to a superb bottle of red suggested by one of the roving
sommeliers. Francesco was most helpful and guided us to Le MURAGLIE
from EZIO VOYAT in Val d'Aosta which was oddly bottled in a tall
fluted bottle and simply labled as Vino de tavolo.....this was an
intense earthy red which worked wonderfully with both our intense and
huge portions of fish dishes that followed:
ROMBO was a beautiful Holland Turbot filet with a superb sauce of red
wine sugo loaded with tasty savoy cabbage, hedgehog mushrooms and
several sour cherries as well as a potato puree.
SPIGOLA NERA is local black sea bass with a divine fregola sarda,
cipollini onions, broccoli rabe, roasted carrots and balsamic.
Both dishes sported the crunchiest of fish skin that were truly
divine, the turbot almost like a crispy duck with a thin layer of fish
fat underneath. The preparations and sides were superb and the fish
excellent. Paired with that earthy wine, this was a treat.
We enjoyed this wine for some while and then decided to review the
dessert options.
Samuel was immediately attracted to BUDINO di MANDORLA which was
described as
White Chocolate, Almond crema, orange blossom, lemon curd and blood
orange. When I told him it was a white chocolate "sausage" he changed
his mind and I then explained how it was a play on words, like his
"chocolate ravioli" in St. Barths. He said ok, and I ordered the
CROSTATA di MIRTILLI based on Charles' recommendation (even over the
cheeses) as it was a tart of huckleberries with ricotta cream
underneath, candied squash squares and a slash of Sicilian pistachio
serving as a glue for the tart to the plate; atop was a luscious scoop
of lemon sorbet.
Will opted for the STRATI di CIOCCOLATO which was the lightest of the
three with a Dark Chocolate Crema, Salted Caramel Mousse, Coffee
Crumble all assembled into a beautiful layered cake-bar with gold leaf
on top and a scoop of Fior di Latte Gelato.

Samuel bit into his "budino" which looked more like a slab of pure
white chocolate than a slice of sausage and it was way too sweet and
rich for any of us. I had a bite of each and then let him finish my
diving huckleberry tart as he said it was the best. I ate the yummy
orange blossom and blood orange with the lemon curd, but other then
the fruit, this dish was just too intense. Will's treat was just right
and we all ended up happy in the end, especially when they brought out
an extra dessert--the BOMBOLINI, fried donuts with chocolate sauce and
spice honey sauce, both of which were great, the latter reminding me
oh so much of Sopaipillas!

Next came the after-desserts with each of us getting a Blood Orange
Gelee, Passion Fruit Cream Puff, Coffee Chocolate Ganache
Tart(intense) and a divine Dark Chocolate Caramel, which we had to get
an extra for Samuel as he adored these so much.

I can't stress how amazing a deal this is at $99.00 per person(adult 4
course menu) and we will definitely return to MAREA again to savor the
many flavors of the sea.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Find yourself at FIREFLY at Dupont Circle for fine food (3-17-13)

After our whirlwind tour to Chicago we headed home and took Samuel to
fun matinee of XANADU one of his favorite musicals. Afterwards, we
headed up to Dupont Circle and the MADERA Hotel where I was for the
hotel opening as well as many wonderful events including the opening
of FIREFLY Restaurant ( where we have had so many
wonderful meals. Well, the hotel has undergone a wonderful renovation
and so has the restaurant with a new lounge/bar, yet still retaining
is rustic feel with the huge "tree" in the middle.
Chef Todd Wiss has taken over and keeps many of the traditional
dishes, but there are new ones for fun to be sure.
Drinks are more fun now as well as Will tried the GIMLET with Stoli
vodka, housemade lime cordial while I marveled at the frothy Byrrh
Cassis Fizz with Bryrrh Quinquinoes, Cassis, lemon, egg white and club
soda. It's a  tasty fun drink, especially in the spring as we almost
had for a while last week. Samuel enjoyed an alcoholic-free COSMO with
Fee Bros. Cranberry bitters, orange flower water and lime....I think
he may grow to like the alcoholic version eventually. Who doesn't?
They yummy hot parker house rolls arrived with big grains of salt and
we tried to refrain as we sipped some US sparkling wine sent out for
our arrival....I think it was Kenwood Brut "Yulupa"--a nice change.
Deviled Eggs arrived creamy and divine with smoked paprika, caper
powder and garlic chips...OMG
A big treat for Sam was the PIMENTO CHEESE FRITTERS (he was upset
there were only three!) with Green Tomato Jam and Bacon
Marmalade...both condiments added great flavor to these decadent
SHRIMP & GRITS were treated with great care with medium size sweet
Texas shrimp, little tomatoes, rosemary and Anson Mill Grits....any
southerner would love these...I guess, as I'm a die-hard northerner.
We moved on to a bottle of Murietta's Well "Spur" a superb blend of
48% Cab, 24% Petit Verdot, 23% Malbec and 5%Petit Sirah from
Livermore, California that our very handsome server Matt double
checked on with the bartender before he suggested it. It was a
wonderful blend only marred a tiny bit as it arrived slightly chilly.

Next came a plate of BEEF TARTARE with Quail egg, black pepper and sea
salt potato chips. Sam tried this and while he did not want more, he
did disdain the superb and pure preparation. Grilled RED WINE OCTOPUS
is poached in Clam Juice and served with avocado, olive aioli and
roasted olive gremolata and is another superb starter.....was there
room for more?
Samuel ordered the Corned PORK TENDERLOIN without the Caramelized
Brussels sprouts, but loved the Butternut Squash Dumplings and the
Rutabaga Puree that he just could not get enough of. He asked for
extra for his fries and completely left all the ketchup! Roasted
ROMANESCO CAULIFLOWER was a superb side with lots of flavor and simply
done as well.
Will had the exact same as Samuel but WITH the sprouts and I opted for
the ever-since-opening standard MINI POT ROAST with Yukon Gold Potato
Puree,  and Roasted Shallot's a super winter Sunday night
dish for anyone seeking to be in "family style." Well, you can do it
any night for sure.

Desserts were superb with Honey Crisp APPLE COBBLER, Oatmeal Streusel
and Cranberry Ice Cream almost making you wish for winter not to
end...ALMOST, I said!
I went for the cheese plate and loves the diagram with cheese
descriptions that arrived with it so I knew exactly which each was--
but one was backwards and I noticed. OOPS! Apple Cardamom puree went
great with the King's Creamery Morning Frost from Penna which was the
least exciting. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from VT. was sharp and tasty,
but the winners were the Cherry Glen Goat Farm Monocacy Ash from MD, a
goat that anyone would die for and the superb rich ROGUE Creamery
SMOKEY BLUE from Oregon.
We had a certificate we had purchased at a charity auction for dinner
for two which really made is head back in to Firefly, and I must admit
that sometimes I need to force myself to return as these are places we
don't visit often enough!

Chicago's last lunch at LAO SZE CHUAN is a bit wan (3-16-13)

We were visiting our friends uptown and headed to wonderful new
Chinese spot nearby called LAO SZE CHAUN and rated one of the top ten
Chinese restaurants in the country by a Chinese newspaper (does the
owner perhaps own the paper?). At any rate the dark décor at 4832 N.
Broadway St is okay with lots of lacquer looks and Chinese décor. The
tables and chairs are simple wooden and nothing is fancy, especially
the men's room!
A plate of super spicy but fabulous SZECHUAN CABBAGE appeared and the
three adults gobbled it up.

We were cold from the snow flurries, so the three adults ordered tea
and it came barely lukewarm. We sent it back and it took almost 20
minutes for a hot pot to reappear. Oddly, the Vegetarian SPRING ROLLS
came with ice cold centers. I was beginning to wonder if the heat in
the kitchen was broken!
We sent them back and new ones appear, scalding hot, of course, and we
were not charged for them either...which was nice. I do have to say
thought that the grease on the plate was intense on both the rolls and
the PORK POT STICKERS. I wish they would place them on a towel to
absorb some of the grease before placing them on a paper doily that
just enhances the oily features.

The hit appetizer was the SPICY STING BEANS with BLACK BEAN SAUCE that
features what I was sure was crispy tofu and mushrooms. It was superb
dish that we all raved about.
For the main course our friend ordered a monstrous bowl of NOODLE SOUP
with VEGETABLES that was as big as my head and full of tasty noodles
and veggies. It did require a bit of chili sauce for spice as it was
pretty plain. The big hit for the main course was the GARLIC PEAPOD
LEAVES which are the leaves of the pea pods sautéed with garlic. These
leaves are apparently very expensive and considered a delicacy...we
loved them.
The Chef's SPECIAL CHILI Chicken has a "very spicy" warning, so we
asked them to tone it down a bit. It was small chunks of fried chicken
in a slightly greasy red chili sauce laden with whole chilis....tasty,
but again, where is that paper towel when you need it? The DOUBLE
FRIED SLICED DUCK was a tasty dish with lean duck slices and tasty
veggies, but I hit two small bone shards which turned me off so fast.
Rather than fortune cookies or fruit we got tasty little mango sucking
The decision we made was that one needs to stick to non-greasy, non-
fried and especially vegetarian dishes here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chicago's GREEN ZEBRA gives top notch zings in the gourmet veggie dept. (3-15-13)

Our second and last dinner in Chicago was with Samuel's friend Joel and his dads at GREEN ZEBRA where we had gone several years before with just the adults.
The kids now joined us, and since one of the dads went veggie, this was the perfect choice as one of the top rated vegetarian restaurants in the USA and one of Chicago's best!
Green Zebra ( is a mixed neighborhood near the freeway on West Chicago and is small and simple with wooden décor, mats (that are to be replaced soon) on the tables
and a cozy neighborhood feel. Our server Sarah was a gem and helped us with the not too large menu, but difficult to choose from selections. Liz, the GM even came over many times with an extra dish here and there, checking to see all was fine. It was BETTER
THAN FINE...everything was even more amazing than on our last visit.
We started with a bottle of LETH 2011 GRUNER VELTLINER which Sarah said went with many of the dishes...which all come in small plate version and range from $8-13.00.
Things came out in no specific order, so it wasn't easy to pair at first and Sarah was pretty on the spot with this choice.
The amuse was a Kohlrabi with Yellow Bell Pepper Puree and Bourbon Gastrique which all loved, but Sam wanted more of!
The PinkPeppercorn Thyme Soda got raves, while the Bitter Lemon was not as big a hit. The boys were not too interested in our food and had pretty plain pasta.
We enjoyed ROASTED GOLDEN BEET SALAD, shaved watermelon radish, basil goat cheese, almond dressing
ZINGERMAN's BURRATA, parsnip puree (and crispy parsnip chips), fine herbs, Page Orange, Crabapple and aged balsamic which made one of the best veggie burrata dishes ever.
Nichols Farm 6 BEAN SOUP with salsa verde, grilled jalapeno, Haas avocado was a nice soup for a wet cold night for sure.
CRISPY RUTABAGA DUMPLINGS were a big hit with Winter Herbs & Curly Endive, a Smoked Leek Puree for dipping was fun too.
Roasted SWEET POTATO CREPES , Saigon cinnamon, seared Halloumi cheese, parsley and brown butter is less sweet than one might expect. 
Toasted SESAME NOODLES with Housemade Kimchi, Braised Lotus Root & Chinese mustard was another rteuly great combination and gave us many ideas for noodles with kimchi!
Italian WHITE CORN POLENTA CAKE had oyster mushrooms, blue cheese for a punch, spinach and Pine Nut Puree
while the SMOKED SALSIFY RISOTTO came with grilled Treviso, Orange Supreme & Fresh Dill.
The two biggest hits we did save for last and these were accompanied by a 2006 ORATOIRE St. MARTIN CAIRANNE which is a Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre that has aged perfectly.
SPICED CRIMSON LENTILS with Curried Cauliflower, tamarind glazed Onions, Almonds and Raita is divine and if you need protein hit the
CULVER DUCK FARM Duck EGG which is a huge poached egg served on top of Smoked Potato Puree with two huge slabs of Crunchy grilled Country Sourdough to mop up the "mess." This is one of Green Zebra's signature
dishes and I am so glad we had it yet again!
We also ordered two superb sides
Foraged MAITAKE MUSHROOMS with Housemade Kimchi--another wonder use of kimchi and
Sautéed Werp Farm Baby BOK CHOY with ginger ponzu and Toasted Cashews.
There was nothing we did not like all night!
By dessert we were full but had to choose some:
Sarah recommended the Sweet & Sour CHERRY COMPOTE, White Chocolate BRULEE, Pistachio Praline Crust with Spiced Port Reduction and this was indeed the winner.
The boys loved the Dark Chocolate MOUSSE for TWO with Pomegranate Gelee, Vanilla Chiffon and Pistachio (oops can't read that last word!).
Banana Gateaux with Bruleed Banana, Cocoa Nib Tuile and Banana Bourbon Ice Cream was the least favorite and needed something else
and the Roasted Pear Tart with Hazelnut Sable, Spiced Reduction and Cocoa Nib Ice Cream kind of came in the middle....
I can't rave enough about the fun and food at Green Zebra and this was mid-winter; imagine what it is like in SUMMER!

Don't joke about YOLK when in Chicago for Brunch (3-15-13)

We were taken to a fabulous breakfast/lunch/brunch on Friday by one of
our Chicago theater friends and it was a truly fun and rewarding
experience. YOLK has several locations ( and we were
in Streeterville just east of Michigan Ave at 355 E. Ohio St. It's a
large location but upon arrival at 10:45am Friday it was jammed. We
waited only 10 minutes or less for a table, though. Samuel went for
Pancakes with Fruit on the Kid's menu, which was still an adult
portion. The adult portions were even more adult.
CARNITA EGG SANDWICH was called "pulled pork" but it was really cubed
and served with a yummy Pineapple-Mango Salsa, melted Goat Cheese and
a Fried Egg that oozed all over the yummy Pretzel Bread Roll.
CROWUE MADAME here has grilled Ham and Turkey between two slices of
their Challa French Toast with Melted Swiss Cheese and Dijon Mustard
topped with a Sunnyside Up Egg! Everything comes with potatoes or
fresh fruit. The eggs, bacon, turkey sausage and other dishes were
also huge and satisfying.
Yolk had been recommended to us by the team at our hotel, The Trump
International, and they hit it right on the nail with this choice.


Chicago is always cooking; tops is TOPOLOBAMPO (3-14-13)

Every time we head to Chicago it is so hard to choose where to dine
from the many fine establishments.
For close to three decades Chef Rick Bayless and his tip top tem have
held court at his twin dining spots Frontera and TOPOLOBAMPO,
both located at 445 North Clark. As you enter you are confronted by a
huge wall of noise which is the less casual, less expensive and loaded
with families,
Frontera Grill. The five of us headed to the quiet back room of
intimacy and finer dining known as TOPOLOBAMPO; it is well worth the
extra bucks!
We started with Margaritas, the TOPOLO CLASSIC is made with Sauza
Commemmorativo, Orange Torres Liqueur and housemade Limonada, all
are hand shaken and poured tableside; it may seem silly, but they are
better this way. The BLUE AGAVE has to be the driest margarita on
earth; think sucking on dry lime.
It is made with Cazadores Blanco, Cointreau and yes, lime. Our  amuses
arrived in the form of TOSATADOS with Cilantro Smoked STRIPED BASS,
Onion, Tomato and Serrano Chiles.
This was only a mere taste of the two tasting menus we had decided to
order with each of us then having the opportunity to try a part of
each plate from each menu. The two menus are called
TOPOLO CLASSICS for $105 and WINTER BEACH VACATION for $95. Well worth
the experience these monstrous 5 course menus offer a great variety
and show off the chefs as well.
Samuel ordered the Guacamole which was very spicy and not that much
his cup of tea, although he liked the fact that it came with cucumber
slices to dip. There were no chips, but instead a flimsy flatbread
cracker was useless against the thick mixture.
We received amuses of Tostados with Cilantro SMOKED STRIPED BASS,
Onion, Tomato & Serrano Chiles sprinkled with Queso from Oaxaca.
We has lots of time between courses during our 4-1/2 hour sojourn here
so we decided to order the wine pairings ($65 and $60 extra
respectively) as well as extra bottles of wine from Mexico that
were not in the tasting:
PEDRA DEL SOL BLANCO from Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe 2011
was a superb unoaked Chardonnay which we enjoyed as we dallied
between courses as the first several were in need of major thirst
quenching due to intense spice.
The Classic Menu offered an OCTOPUS & SQUID AGUACHILE (lime, cilantro,
serrano) with cucmber, Squid ink squiggles, Galapagos tomato pearls
and was strong, but not intense on the spice but worked brilliantly
with the 2011 Terradorra Di Paolo FIANO di AVELLINO from Campani in
On the Beach Menu the Fresh ABALONE & VIKING VILLAGE SCALLOP "express'
CEVICHE came with lime, soy and aromatic chiles with a Mezcal-gelled
Sea of Cortez Shrimp embedded in the cube of jelly with a "pico de
gallo" tostada. This was a blow your mind tasty dish and brilliantly
paired again with the 2011 A Coroa GODELLO from Valdeorras Spain.

The second courses were as varied as could be with the Classics menu
loosing this contest by a mile. Indeed the Aged BEEF TENDERLOIN TASAJO
(with black beans), Classic CHORIZO (Oaxacan pasilla salsa, quail egg)
and Red Chile PORK LOIN CECNINA (avocado-tomatillo salsa, pickled
tomatillos) served on homemade corn tortillas was almost a flop. Only
the chorizo mix was worthwhile and the others quite bland and boring.
A 2009 Leopardi BRUT ROSE (Cava) from Penedes in Spain was sparkly for
sure, but did nothing for the mini-tacos.
On the Beach Menu side was Rich CHILPACHOLE a shellfish broth with
Foie Gras, Morita Chile, Epazote,Tomato, Alaskan King Crab, Meyer
Lemon Red poblano "crema" and calabcitas and this was as spicy as it
gets, but a true winner of a dish. Paired with a Garganega, "2009
Monte del Fra "Ca del Magro" Custoza Superiore from Veneto the
refreshing, yet light wine had a flavor that cut through the spice

At this time Samuel was enjoying his Homemade  CHICKEN tacos which
came with more of the guacamole that he was not to fond of! He even
tried some of our dishes but not more than a couple.

Pan-roasted LONG ISLAND STRIPED BASS with MAINE LOBSTER "torchon" was
on the Classics side next with green pipian of toasted sesame and 3
herbs (hoja santa, cilantro,epazote), Snug Haven Spinach, roasted
local sweet potato and braised black sesame. I adored this dish and
the 2010 J. Palacios MENCIA "Petalos" red from Bierzo Spain that was
brilliant with it. On the Beach came Ember-roasted, wild caught
COLUMBIA RIVER WHITE STURGEON with 3-chile adobo & garlic mayo, arroz
creamos (bolack & white rice, banana leaf, crema, fish essence), green
salsa "jus" and pickled guero chile. Okay-this fish was even better
and its pairing was 2008 AU BON CLIMAT PINOT NOIR "La Bauge Au-dessus"
from Sta. Maria Valley in California (you know I prefer bigger Pinots,
but this suited the fish to a tee).

We ordered another bottle of Mexican wine--Estacion Porvenir CARIGNANE
2008 from Union de Productores in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja which was a
thick heavy red called TXTURA 3 on the rear label. Confusing perhaps,
but divine as we waited for our main meat courses...we requested a 30-
minute break as things were getting intense,

The next courses were as varied as one can imagine with Classics
sporting a Wood-Grilled 28-day-aged PRIME RIBEYE and Seared FOIE GRAS
in classic Oaxacan black MOLE (chilhuacle chiles and 28 other
ingredients), corn husk-steamed chipil tamal, unctuous black beans and
smoky green beans, probably one of the best courses all night paired
with 2006 BENEGAS LYNCH MERITAGE "Libertad Vineyards" from Mendoza and
on the Beach menu was GUNTHORP SUCKLING PIG, slow-roasted overnight
(achiote marinade, banana leaf wrapping), fava-kohlrabi mash, City
Farm mache and pickled red onion jewels. The melt in your mouth meat
was divine and I adored the 2004 LA RIOJA ALTA "Vina Ardanza" Reserva
from Rioja Alta in Spain, which was as divine as the rest of the
TXTURA which we finished off as well.

Desserts are included on both menus and are a real treat here as we
began to feel the effects of all the food and drink, but we were still
loving the company. Samuel had fallen sleep almost 90 minutes prior
(the time change and busy day for sure!) and did not wish to even
taste our treats:
MEYER LEMON CAKE on the classic side with Meyer Lemon curd, gooey
meringue, "Mantequilla" Ice Cream, and lemon-infused gelatinas versus
the Winter menu Five Favorite FACES of COCONUT: coconut-rum moose,
creamy sorbet, coconut water crystals, tender young pieces, rich
sticky pudding with cracked Chocolate Shell, Beck Grove Lime and
Kaffir Lime Pearls. Both desserts were worthy and the former came with
a 2008 Dartling Rieslaner Beerenauslese "Durkheimer Nonnengarten" from
Pfalz, Germany that would win my heart any day, while the latter
paired with a less exciting 2012 Vietti Moscato d'Asti from Piemonte.

Many kudos go to amazing team that served us headed by Patricia from
Veracruz who was a true gem and especially Jill for her excellent wine
We made the 3 block walk home okay and totally crashed....but wow, I
can't wait to be back in Chicago again for these amazing meals!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

he hottest chef in DC cooks for me--or dinner at URBANA with Chef John Critchley (3-10-13)

At an auction last year we purchased this dinner and it had us back at

URBANA in the Palomar Hotel near Dupont Circle where we had been so

many times when it was Gabriel under Greg Hill. We had been to Urbana

before, but Chef John Critchley has made a huge makeover there only to

announce he leaves this week and heads to Bourbon Steak at the Four


He and manager/sommelier Sean did a great job pairing some rare wines

and we all had a ball.

Amuse-thin slices of yellowfin TUNA with Passion Fruit, Yuzu &

Jalapeno...the latter ingredient being quiet apparent. This was served

with a Montelliana Prosecco, and lots of sparkling water!

PICKLED PUMPKIN was a superb salad of Bibb Lettuce, Great Hill Blue

Cheese (Mass.), Pomegranate Seeds, Pickled Acorn Squash with Maple

Vinaigrette; truly one of the best salads ever and the 2011 Botani

Moscato Seco from Malaga Spain was an ingenious pairing.

ROCKFISH TAGINE was one of our favorite dishes for its ingenuity and

the pairing as well.

A Moroccan inspired fish tagine (and the fish tasted more like chicken

indeed) with fregola sarda, chermoula and preserved lemon that had a

fun crunch. Micro greens and shoots of daikon and cilantro were a

presentational whim and the 2009 WILLM Alsace Grand Cru Riesling 2009

Kircherg de Barr was a gem.

FOIE GRAS TART deserves a prize as well. It was a shell of foie gras

made from confit of duck liver filled with fig and rhubarb gelees with

sauternes and a Spruce Greek yogurt. Ginger crumble adorned the dish

and was so yummy some asked for little take away packages to put on

ice cream at home! 2005 MACULAN from Torcolato in the Veneto region of

Italy was another gem of a slightly sweet wine that did not invade but

blended with the foie gras.

ROAST LAMB LEG was a tender leg in small roulades over a risotto

Milanese made with saffron and white wine. The sauce was a simple jus

reduction and quite rich but definitely award winning. A 2007 E.

GUIGAL Crozes-Hermitage was our only red for the night, but it was a

warm evening and we were quite happy with all our wines.

CHOCOLATE was composed of Salted (Malden Sea Salt)Milk Chocolate

Bavarois with Dolche de Leche Ice Cream. It was a cylinder of dark

thin and intense but the rich milk center was a gem. A 2007 COPPO

"Passione" Brachetto d'Aqui is indeed a sparkling red from Piemonte

and pairs divinely with all chocolate!

What a wonderful and HOT meal!

Pizzeria ORSO in Falls Church for pizza and MORE-so (3-10-13)

When we head to Fall's Church we always head to PIZZERIA ORSO these

days where we grabbed a quick lunch with Sam a friend of his who both

gobbled up a PIZZA MARGHERITA. Will's CHICKEN CLUB was on focaccia

with wonderful chuncky meat and tasty sauce. My ITALIAN SALAD was

suggested by our server Frank as a new lunch item and it was

STUPENDOUS with lots of Romaine, Field Greens, Artichokes, Salami,

Caramelized Grilled Onions, Mozzarella chunks, Olives, Pepperoni,

Peppers, Parmesan and was the perfect Sunday lunch for me.

I still promise we will head back to ORSO for a wonderful evening soon

and will report becuase Chef Will Artley is really a wonderful

supporter of Fresh and local produce!

Pizzeria Orso is at 400 South Maple Avenue

Falls Church, VA22046

DC's ZENGO still has lots of zip (3-5-13)

Last week we returned to ZENGO (a local Richard Sandoval spot) in DC's

Penn Quarter after the theater (

index.php) and it was a brilliant scheme.

We had been to Zengo before and it was a zoo, despite the excellent

food. On this pre-snowstorm night (which never came anyway), at 845pm

the place was on the verge of being empty.

We had great service from our server Rudy with many wonderful


Drinks started the 3 of us off with a Margarita Tradicional for me

with El Jimador Tequila, Agave Syrup & Lime.

Will's Midnight Karma was tasty and not sweet with Tanqueray,

Blueberry Puree, Lime & Sour

The Mojito do Oro was a spiffy mojito with Pyrat Rum, Brown Sugar and

Mint Soda.

DUCK CONFIT -DAIKON TACOS are a big winner here where there is no

"taco" shell, but a thin slice of daikon radish used to wrap up the

superb meat with Yellow Curry Duck Apple, Orange & Coriander Sauce.

OXTAIL HUMITAS are Argentine tamales with a super sauce made from

Peanuts, Tamarind & a hint of Coconut Milk but not sweet at all.

If you like empanadas you will adore the THAI CHICKEN version here

just for the Chile Poblano Sauce made with Oaxaca Cheese, Mango &

Curry for a punch.

We moved on to an earthy chalky bottle of superb JUBILEO ZAPATA

ZINFANDEL 2009 from Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California Norte. I am

so happy they have Mexican wines on the menu as some, like this one,

are indeed superb.

Our main courses were all superb:

Chinese Braised Beef SHORT RIBS with Queso Manchego Potato Puree, Wok

Sauteed Mushrooms and Dragon Sauce with Huitlacoche was only a bit dry

in the center.

The Chipotle Miso Glazed BLACK COD was moist and flaky with Daikon,

Asparagus, Steamed Jasmine Rice and a Kabayaki-Lemon Togorashi

Aioli...this was a huge hit.

The Tagalog Style Churrasco Steak was tender and tasty with Calamansi

Citrus-Soy Marinade, Grilled Onions, Lemongrass Mojo and a divine

Green Herb Chimichurri with Sweet Potatoes and Tostones on the side.

We all wanted dessert and agreed to split one ASIAN PEAR EMPANADA; it

was a wise choice as the WARM dish arrived in the form of a cajeta

(empanada) with Dulce de Leche Ice Cram and sesame...very refreshing,

but two bites for each of us was indeed enough. Rudy came over with

some complimentary glasses of Churchill 13year old port and we went

home in perfect weather from a quiet and filling evening.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

NYC's new NoMad is not mad, but magnificent (2-26-13)

This past week I was in NYC overnight and had the pleasure of staying

at the less than one year old hotel the NoMad located at Broadway and

28th Street. It was fun to return to the Garment District, where my

father had his over for well over 1/2 a century and I visited often,

but never to such a wonderful restaurant.

The NoMad Restaurant( in the

hotel is owned and run by the same team just several blocks south

(hence the name) at Eleven Madison park (probably our favorite fine

dining spot in NY).

Swiss Chef Daniel Humm moves between the two locations and was

actually sitting at a table near me for much of the time I was there!

The space is made up of several rooms with one large central room

under the large glass ceiling built to cover the courtyard in the

center of the hotel, a historic building beautifully restored. It is

comfy, but a bit noisy, and while I arrived for dinner at 9pm, the

noise never really abated (I left at midnight). The side rooms are

quieter and the one with the fireplace is where I would love to return

to next time I visit.

The service here is supreme, and while it is not the 3-star ten-people-

waiting-on-you-constantly style of Eleven Madison Park, my 6 foot 5

inch Lurch-sized server Lucas and the sommelieuse Nicole, were both

there whenever I seemed to need them.

There is house filtered sparkling water which I always like and an

amazing wine and cocktail list as well. I started with a 1/2 bottle of

Billuad-Simon Montee de Tonnere 1er Cru 2009 Chablis upon Nicole's

suggestion. She said it would pair with my first courses well and that

we could move on from there.

I had many problems trying to pick and choose from the many options,

but had just come from the Relais et Chateaux annual NY hotelier

showcase and two people there had instructed me on what to order: "a

special seafood platter" and the duck. Well, I tend to stay away from

those seafood platters and they are more ice than interesting, but I

listened to Lucas and changed my mind very fast.

"Le Grand Plateau Fruits de Mer" is a small tray-bowl filled with

shaved ice came with six separate amuse like dishes within. At $24,

this comes to $4 per amuse; a pretty reasonable price I think:

Oyster with mignonette (nice, tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary)

Scallop Ceviche with Pistachio & Cilantro served in the scallop shell

(ok, we are getting better here)

Alaskan King Crab with Avocado Mousse served in an open-sided crab leg

shell--now we are talking!

Lobster & Jalapeno aioli was tasty and fun

Himachi with Fresh Grated Horseradish was intense, but I like

horseradish and this was like a Passover treat!

The winner was the Sea Urchin Panna Cotta with apple which I was happy

was the largest of them all and gave me time to enjoy bites at the

start, middle and end.

Since I told Lucas I adored sweetbreads he suggested the SWEETBREADS

Croustillant with Parsley which was listed under the "snack" column

rather than appetizer. Lucas was dead on. It was a portion of four

miniature scalding hot egg rolls stuffed with sweetbreads. Once I let

them cool a bit they were crunchy and divine.

While these were two dishes, Lucas was right when he said they were

wonderful, but not filling. I was then torn between several appetizers

and went with his ideal suggestion of the PRAWN poached with CLAM,

POTATO & BACON. This was like a foamish chowder...not too thick or

heavy, but not too empty like some of those awful chemical foams chefs

can make these days. Crisp bacon and cripy potato, tiny clams and

perfectly poached shrimp made up the guts of the ethereal dish with a

dash of dill.

Somewhere in this time frame a mini-loaf of Onion Fingerling Potato

Dill Bread arrived which melted in my mouth. I wanted to finish it

all, but knew it would destroy me; so I asked to have the remaining

3/4 packed up for breakfast in my room the next day.

I had already decided on the Roasted DUCK with Braised Salsify, Orange

and Red Watercress which I asked Lucas to hold for 30 minutes while I

chose a wine and rested. Nicole and I hemmed and hawed for a while and

decided on a bottle of Olga Raffault "Les Picasses" 1990 Chinon

(Cabernet Franc) which was green, minerally and earthy at 23 years

old. It seemed more logical to enjoy this fantastic rare wine at some

higher price than 3 glasses at some $20 each! While I sipped my wine

I noticed oh so many aromas floating by as the space is small and one

tends to see and smell just about every dish that comes out of the

kitchen. Indeed, the Asian couple to one side of me enjoyed their food

quite fast and spent their whole meal on their smart phones. The

Swedish couple on my other side were wonderful and we chatted about

food, wine and more as we shared our wines.

By the way, NoMad uses Riedel Crystal, but also a modernish one called

Zalto which is very nice.

The Long Island Peking Duck arrived and it came in three roulades with

wonderfully crispy skin

on a puree of blood orange with puree of same and salsify chips along

with the braised. Orange salt was tasty, but perhaps a bit too intense

for all the flavors on the plate, which I would order again in a


I knew that the Swiss chef adored his native cheeses and could not

resist the platter of 5 Swiss cheeses:

Tomme Vaudoise-raw cow that was creamy and brie-like but milder from


Mont Vully-raw cow from Cressier that was tasty and sharp

Emmentaler-super earthy raw cow

Petit Vaccarinus-raw cow from La Chaux that put me in creamy gooey


Buffalo Blue from Liechtenstein that was another rare treat!

These came with Apple Butter Compote that was unexciting, but the

cheeses are not to be missed; perhaps next time I will go for the

Chocolate Malted Ganache, Chocolate Fondant and Malted Ice Cream I saw

at a nearby table!

There are indeed no amuses, no mignardises and no extras, and while

the prices are high here, they are oh so worthy of the top quality

food, service and experience one expects from the Eleven Madison Park