Monday, December 16, 2013

Bertrand at Mister A's is only okay in San Diego(12-15-13)

As we prepare to board a ship for a 30-day South Pacific cruise we chose a well-known haunt here in San Diego for the one night we had here. Bertrand at Mister A's ( sits atop an office building with wonderful views over the city and the Pacific. The service is pretty good, although I had to pour our wine once; which is not something you expect at a fine dining, linen, crystal and silverware type place.
Samuel declared the Strawberry Lemonade better than the one had that afternoon at our hotel and we liked the Frank Family Vineyard(Napa) 2010 Chardonnay which had hints of citrus and oak. They seem to have lots of French wine here, but we were in California.
An amuse of butternut squash soup was nice and we all liked it; this puree thick soup seemed to appear on many plates throughout the evening :-))

Will's Seared Grade A Ahi Tuna with Avocado and fresh Hawaiian palm was nice; I always keep telling him my tartare is better.
My Maine Lobster Strudel with Cognac Lobster Sauce and Forest Mushrooms was the hit dish of the night. Not too rich, just right, loaded with lobster and super tasty.
Samuel had the Oven Roasted Baby Rack of Lamb with Rosemary scented red and yellow peppers, very blasé potato puffs and a fab side of their famous Truffled Fries with Parmesan. The meat was superb and that squash puree was there again.
It was also on my plate of Maine sautéed Scallops with Caviar beurre blanc and very gooey olive and lime risotto and crispy broccolini. The scallops were fishy and overall the dish only impressed on the garlicky broccolini.
A glass of Trinitas Estate Chardonnay was nice with this and Will had the Tantara Cuvee Bertrand Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara with his Duck Breast accompanied by Turnips and Turnip Puree(the highlight) and a dry confit.
We were full and tired so skipped dessert and headed back to our hotel to crash early.
Time changes always mess me up.
It will be a while until we report again as we are at sea, but I may squeeze in a dinner or lunch report from Hawaii or Tahiti on the way.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Raoul's rates high in NYC's Greenwich Village (12-7-13)

I was joined by my niece and nephew in NY for dinner last night and we tried a new find for us all, yet a NY standard well known.
RAOUL's (180 Prince St, NY) is on a quiet street in Greenwich Village which was a welcome sight having just been in the hectic mid-town of holiday shoppers and tourists. The place was quiet when we arrived at 5:30pm, but heaving when we left just over 2 hours later.
Raoul's reeks of French bistro with a bar up front, tine ceilings and walls(!!) and comfy booths. Our server Javier was helpful and excellent and adorable as well!
I asked about the Steak Tartare and he said it was the best; he was near to correct, if not spot on. It was tasty with mustard in the mix, a small raw quail egg still in its shell (cracked open at the top to pour it out) on top and a small tasty frisee on the side with Sherry Vinaigrette. The same vinaigrette adorned the Mesclun Salad my nephew had. My niece had the extremely hot but superb Soupe de Courge avec Hommard or Butternut Squash Soup with chunks of Lobster.
My nephew tried a tart and slightly sweet Cranberry, Blood Orange, Vodka and Black Pepper cocktail that was yummy, but then we all enjoyed a superb Santenaay 1er Cru "Beauregard" from Domaine Roger Belland 2010 that was drinking smoothly and full of flavor. It went with everything!
The bread was delish as well with yummy but simple butter.
Main courses were FUSILLI with Organic Tomato Sauce, Shitake Mushrooms and Chevre which my nephew said was delish. Noix de St. Jacques avec Puree de Camemberge was a divine Scallop dish with Maitake Mushrooms, Kale Chips and Cranberry Puree.
My ONGLET GRILLE was a simple medium rare(rare in the center) grilled hangar steak served with Carrot Puree, Spinach & Shoots. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, it was one of the best around in a long time.
For dessert my nephew had the Banana Coconut Bread Pudding with Banana Crème Fraiche which was nice and my niece and I split the yummy Sticky Fig Cake with Salted Toffee Sauce, Figs and Vanilla Ice Cream.
We were just about to finish up and the manager offered us free drinks if we went to the bar; they needed the table really bad! What luck for us and what a wonderful evening had by all!

NYC's Seasonal is a superb stop for top Austrian fare with a modern take (12-6-13)

I ran up to NYC for several days and managed to squeeze in some great dining. I first returned to the Austrian restaurant and winebar SEASONAL ( located behind my hotel at 132 W. 58th Street. I loved it the last time, and it's still a great midtown dining spot.

I surveyed the menu and decided on the small Seasonal Tasting menu for $68 (accompanying wines were an extra $60). The place is small, narrow and long and there can be a draft near the front, so ask to sit near the rear. There is a long bar on one side of the middle section. It's cozy and warm with subdued lighting, nice music and I got the best service from Katarina all evening who hailed from the Czech Republic.

The amuse of Baby Octopus with Tomato Gel (in the shape of a cherry tomato) & CHive Oil was excellent as were the rustic breads which came with two cream-cheese based spreads:Paprika-Chive & Pumpkin Seed Oil. I could not resist.

First came the Kurbiscremesuppe a thick Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seeds and a small pouch or purse of Sour Cream that I thought at first was a ravioli, but it was a chemical-type gel pouch which opened and gave the soup a special treat.

A Liegenfelder Gruner Veltliner 2012 from Burgenland had notes of Pink Lady Apples & Honeydew melon. My only complaint was that with such wonderful Austrian wines, the crystal is not so great (I did get Riedel with the dessert wine!)

The last time I was at Seasonal I had the Pochiertes Ei which I was so happy to find on the tasting menu. It's crispy seasoned Pumpernickel bread shredded on the base with chunks of Lobster, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, a soft poached egg and a Mushroom Foam. This dish deserves an award and while it is very rich I kind of liked the also rich Unplugged Chardonnay 2012 from Hannes Reeh which came with it.

Schweinebauch was a crispy meaty and nearly fatless Pork Belly with Cumin Glaze, Cauliflower Puree, Pickled Cauliflower and Pork Skin Chips(which I could have eaten all night--think meaty phyllo dough consistency with tons of flavor). The Hellinger Pinot Noir 2011 opened up after a bit and I enjoyed it more after about 20 minutes in the glass. The dish even came on a gorgeous black plate with concentric elliptical circles.


Ente was a breast and confit of Long Island Duck with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Mousse, Orange Sauce and Rutabaga Puree. I was in love and the 2012 Andau Zweigelt was a spicy on the tongue treat which had hints of white pepper. The duck breast was slightly salted on the skin for flavor and micro greens adorned the plate.


Dessert was a triple hit with Topfenpalatschinken of Quark(cheese) filled crepes, figs and Vanilla Ice Cream served on finely ground Cookie Crumbs with a Caramel Sauce. YUM. The Heinz Eifel Eiswein from Rheinhessen in Germany was not too unctuous and just the right pairing for the rich dish. It was slightly tart with kumquat and apricot flavors.

Powdered horn cookies, chocolate dipped cookies and a chocolate biscuit arrived which I enjoyed with some tea.

What a superb meal it was!