Monday, November 25, 2013

Delicious DINO's in DC a fond farewell (11-24-13) -head there soon....

We heard several weeks ago that one of our favorite plces in DC was going to close so we booked DINO's ( for the three of us last night and by the time we ordered, the place was jammed.
Everyone has heard that friend and owner Dean Gold will be closing his doors in early January and last night, with the chill in the air of winter, the place was jammed with many
long-time diners trying to fit in another last supper. The place got so busy, the service did fall behind just a tad every now and then, but we had a great meal for sure.
Samuel enjoyed a White Peach Lemonade and Will had a yummy Strawberry Balsamico drink, these two were far superior to the Organic Grapefruit Refresher which was overly sweet and the Spicy Ginger Ale, which Samuel had some sparkling water added to as it was bit syrupy. These were indeed the only bad food/drink issues.
I started with a glass of Palama "Arcangelo" Negroamara 2011 from Puglia which was superb with our starters (Will & I shared everything):
Black Truffle Braised Matsutake Mushrooms with Savoy Cabbage, Young Ginger, Sesame Oil & Lime which indeed sound very Asian, but is an Italian twist for sure and not soy-based or salty at all. The huge mushrooms were earthy, the cabbage the perfect foil and the truffle just perfected the dish.
Santa Monica Farmer's Market Fried Baby Artichokes Roman Jewish Style are served with Dino's Silk Road Spice Rub, Lemon and Hawaiian Black Sea Salt that makes the dish just salty enough in each bite with a large grain of salt.
My second wine was a divine Sao Polo "Rubio" Sangiovese Toscano Rosso 2011 which was silky but with ever so slight tannins that matched our pasta courses to perfection.
We indulged in the RISOTTO BIANCO with TARTUFO BIANCO or the oh so well known White Truffle Risotto which Dean generously shaved with the precious funghus. DIVINE, and the season ends soon, so don't wait for this treat. Next came FUSILLI SICILIANA with local Romesco, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Anchovy, Caper, Rosemary, Garlic, lemon and olio. It was not puttanesca, but just shy of that with lots of flavor and little bite.
I am going to try and copy this sauce at home soon as I did some anchovy cooking last week and it really imbues huge taste into a sauce!  
Samuel enjoyed the FETTUCINE Pomodoro e Pesto with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Essence, a touch of cream, Roasted Garlic and Pesto Swirl that disappeared very fast.
I moved on to my final wine which was Sanguinetti "Nessun Dorma" (how can I ignore a wine named after such a great opera aria?) 2011 which is a smooth rich journey made from Sangiovese, Syrah and Merlot.
We split our main course of Grilled Truck Patch PORK CHOP with Tree & Leaf Tuscan Black Kale, Next Step Celery, Ginger and OJ (yes, orange juice!). It was a divine farm blend of celery and kale that made this dish over the top and from the local farmers that Dean has found and made so special in all his recipes.
Sam ate his intense CHOCOLATE TORTA of Valrhona Chocolate Ganache, Walnut Crumble and Vanilla Whipped Cream but was upset it was a hot molten chocolate (well, he should have asked!).
Will and I enjoyed three cheeses:
Capra Cremosa Tartufo -truffled goat
Castelmango-a raw sheep/cow that is crumbly and slightly blue
Erborinato Percorino Blu-sheep/cow raw blue that has an edge but not too intense.
These came with dried fruits/bread and tasty nuts.
For dessert we split a superb ASIAN PEAR & FIG CRUMBLE made from Heyer's Asian pears, Dates and Spiced Crumble and adorned with the most super Black Pepper Gelato.
We left full after hugs and goodbyes, but hope that Dean and his wife Kay are back in business ere long.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New York's DB MODERNE does luncheon beautifully (11-7-13)

While in NYC last week I took some dear clients to lunch and decided on DB Moderne (55 W 44th St - where Chef Daniel Boulud expanded his empire years ago to include this relaxed yet classy dining spot. It is the perfect place for a big or small lunch and one can enjoy the relaxed scene for an hour or even two or more as we did.
There are a la carte menus and a Menu du Marche prix fixe of $32 for two courses or $40 for three, which is a deal these days for this spot. We were treated to a glass of Pere Gimonnet Selection Belles Annees 1er Cru Champagne which was indeed nice (priced at $26/glass!) and then we went on to one of my favorite winemakers YVES CUILLERON from the Rhone Valley and his Saint-Pery "Les Potiers" 2011 a truly amazing wine that we adored so much we had a second bottle!
Tuna Tartare and chives was a nice amuse, but nothing that would bowl you over. The entrees and main courses however were truly spectacular starting with the ESCARGOTS Fricassee "Olivier Muller" named for the first executive chef of DB Moderne and still served as a special from time to time. The Escargots were sautéed to perfection in a divine sauce of parsley with hazelnuts and adorned with spaetzle making this quite a rich and heavy dish. The parsley sauce was rich and gutsy and several "Chicken Oysters" as they are called adorned the dish for extra spice. These were small oyster-size pieces of chicken breast seasoned and then breaded. I think they were baked and not fried, but whatever, they were amazing! The simple db Market Salad with cardoons, citrus and barigoule vinaigrette and ButterNut Squash Soup were also welcomed.
Some of us thought of the Original DB BURGER made with sirloin, braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle on parmesan bun with frites, but we resisted and chose the superb and meaty MAINE LOBSTER SALAD with Fried Artichokes, Grapefruit and Mascarpone. The COQ AU VIN was dressed with Bacon, Pearl Onions & Potato Confit. I opted for the DAURADE, a gorgeous piece of Dorado with Coco Beans, Celery and Oxtail Vinaigrette.
When it came time for dessert we were quite full and chose to share one Asiette de Fromage amongst the five of us:
The cheeses came with  both Walnut Raisin and Whole Wheat breads as well as Organic Honey from NY, Pear Pate a fruit, Apple Butter and Pecans.
The Fromage de Brebis was HUDSON FLOWER from Old Chatham, NY - sheep farm we have always loved -it had a very herby flavor and was superb
FOURME d'AMBERT from Auvergne, France is a mild sweetish blue that is rich and creamy and divine
St. NECTAIRE also from Auvergne has always been a special favorite of mine-but in the USA it comes pasturized and looses some of its ooziness
VELLA DRY JACK from Sonoma is a caramelly pecorino style cheese that our son would have adored
TOMME de CHVRE AYDIUS was the lone goat herby from the Pyrenees and just simply perfect.
This was indeed a worthy cheese plate and sent us home quite delighted especially after a plate of yummy homemade Madeleines arrived which we gobbled up.
I must mention that since this is indeed a busy business neighborhood when I sat down alone at just before noon waiting for my guests there was a woman at the next table with a Bluetooth earpiece on speaking on her mobile phone so loudly that I thought she would never shut up. Luckily the call ended about 10 minutes later just as my guests arrived! This is so rude.
Luckily I did not need to ask our superb servers to quiet her down!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jet over to JOANNE's when near NYC's Lincoln Center(11-6-13)

Last night we found a new spot that opened a couple of blocks from Lincoln Center about a year and a half ago; how did I miss
JOANNE's BISTRO ( at 70 West 68th St)?
It's simple with wooden tables and floors (was that a garden out back in the dark-I couldn't tell), a small bar up front, fresh flowers and great prices. Wednesday is Pappardelle night so any pasta dish can be changed to home made pappardelle for a total of $18 (which means that the pasta dishes are all under $18 usually). I chose the Penne with Broccoli-Rabe & Hot(u can also get sweet) Italian sausage and upgraded to Pappardelle. The sauce was a simple white wine and spice sauce and it was just right. My guest had the Salmon with a pumpkin sauce that she raved about. The 2012 bottle of Arboreto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was about $35 and is also a steal. It's a great place also for cappuccino as they make a frothy cup which is great. The only problem is that the rear room is a bit isolated and you may have to raise your hand a while to get some help as they are often running to the front where the kitchen entry is. I look forward to returning again to this simple and reasonably priced place. By the way, I saw the ribeye at the next table and it must have weighed well over a pound!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Baltimore's CINGHIALE is a good choice (11-3-13)

Last night we were in Baltimore for dinner and chose CINGHIALE( for numerous reasons:
1)It's a product of Cindy Wolf & Tony Foreman of Charleston, Petit Louis,Pazo and more
2)They offer complimentary valet parking in the very busy Fell's Point area
3)The food is Italian, but top class, and we knew Sam could always get a pasta
4)It was only 6 minutes from the opera house where had seen a matinee of TOSCA!
We arrived at 6:15pm and the place was deserted. We were told that Sundays in football season are indeed dead!
It did fill up a bit through the evening, but we never complained as it was quiet and calm and the service was very good.
Paprika-Pumpkin Focaccia and Sourdough arrived with EVOO and Sam was happy with that. He quickly ordered the
CASUNSEI which are ravioli stuffed with sausage here served in Sage/Butter Sauce with Fresh Parmesan. It was gone quite fast. We tasted and they were excellent.
You can order a la carte or choose the small or larger prix fixe and we went for the $62 per person  which includes one each from salumi or antipasti, small portion primi, secondi & dolci.
It was a very good deal. We ordered a bottle of 2010 Barbera d'Alba Pelisseru "Piani" recommended by our server, Nicole, and it was a great choice as a lighter red with our starters:
Will chose the simple CARNE CRUDA of Veal Tenderloin with Robiola & Quail Egg which was gorgeous tartare but needed fresh pepper (which was not offered, we asked). I like my tartare with a bite and this was a bit lame. My Butternut SQUASH SOUP with Sweet Potato, Snails and Matsutake Mushrooms was divine, even Samuel raved about the soup (not the snails!). It was perfect for that first cold autumn day which yesterday was.
Our dream of a server Nicole brought out a complimentary plate for us of the dreamy rich Torchione of FOIE GRAS with a dash of sea salt, Local Poached Pear, Win Santo and Mustard Seed on chopped Quince which was a novel condiment, but it worked. EVOO soaked crostini were on the side.
Next came the 1/2 pasta portions which for Will was a superb Straw Smoked Potato GNOCCHI with Venison Goulash. My CHESTNUT TAGLIATELLE with Matsutake & Parmesan was less exciting. I was expecting a Chestnut Sauce and not a chestnut-flavored pasta, which really had little exceptional nut flavor to it. It was a decent pasta, for sure, but not what I was wanting.

We moved on to a divine VILL e PRATA 2004 Brunello di Montalcino that was earthy and opened up after a while (we had it decanted early on which was a good move) that was an amazing $87 on the menu for this fabulous vintage and just ready to drink now wine.
By the time our mains arrived, the wine was divine:
Will had a superb Grilled MAGRET of DUCK with Chestnut Puree, Chanterelles, Bosc Pears, Cider Reduction & Mustard (which Sam loved), and I adored my huge portion of Grilled Pennsylvania VENISON with Braised Red Cabbage, Huckleberries, Matsutake Mushrooms (yes, again) and Juniper Reduction. It was so huge I took home two of the five (or was it six) medallions! Despite the fact that Sam loves my bambi(venison) Bolognese at home, he doesn't seem to care for the loin!
Will & I decided on the cheese for dessert as we saw the trolley when we arrived. We chose 5 and they were all on the harder and not too exciting side:
Spresseta di Capra (rich tangy goat from Piemonte)
Fiore Sardo (nutty sheep from Sardinia)
Tallegio (which could have been riper-cow from Lombardy)
Mastorazio (aged pecorino from Campania) which Sam loved as it's similar to Parmesan
and the rich strong Gorgonzola Piccante aged 200 days (from Lombardy)

These came with some crostini, but needed something else to make the plate a bit more interesting.

We had a good meal and went home full for sure. Cinghiale is good choice though despite the few small flaws. Next time we will be more careful in our choices and skip the cheese for the dolci instead!