Sunday, January 27, 2013

all aboard for ALOBAR at the James Beard House (1-27-13)

As you know I am a member of the James Beard Foundation which allows

me to sign up for many of their fabulous in house events. Today, I

attended my first Sunday brunch ever there and, as always, it was a

treat and lots of fun.


Restaurant in Long Island City were in charge and they did an

admirable and in many cases brilliant job.

The arrival drink was a SPICED BELLINI with Prosecco, White Peach,

Jalapeno & mint simple syrup and a splash of St. Germain. The spice

was mild and I was sad when I went to the bar for a refill to find out

that we were about to be seated for brunch.

The passed hor's d'oevres were a mixed bag and the kitchen seemed

unable to churn them out as fast as we could gobble them up. When I

attend dinners, the cocktail hour is almost an hour, but at brunch

it's 30 minutes, so for some reason I never did see the DUCK CONFIT

SLOPPY JOES. The winner, in its absence, was the CRAB BLT with a

spiced Fried Green Tomato. The Mini Poached Quail Egg and Porchetta de

Testa (head cheese) Eggs Benedict was okay and the Cinnamon Sugared

Donuts were a bloody mess to handle as they were "glued" to the plate

on a dab of messy chocolate sauce and the donuts were sandwiched with

a Coffee Gelee that slid out. OMG!

We sat down and a WARM LOBSTER SALAD with Frisee (I do wish it was

field greens), Fingerling Potatoes, Bacon Lardons and Smoked Shallot

Vinaigrette appeared. With the NYC temps hovering at 20 degrees, I was

thankful for the "warm" salad and it was indeed tasty. Laurent Miquel

2010 VIOGNIER from Languedoc was anice pairing.

I was excited to see the next wine on the menu as we had visited and

loved Red Newt this summer; one of their wines was also served at the

Inauguration last week. RIESLING 2010 Red Newt from the Finger Lakes

was a perfect wine with the Roasted WILD MUSHROOMS, Smoked Ricotta,

Red Wine Gastric and Grilled Red Wine Bread, Purple Pickled Cabbage

with Sunny Side Up Duck Egg. There was a bit too much bread, but the

wine made it great and the overall dish was gobbled up by all oh so


The next course was again too bread-centric with FOIE GRAS(a tad),

DUCK CONFIT CROQUE MADAME, Fried Egg and Maple Syrup Gastric. The

gastric had figs for a bit more sweetness and was nice, but I was over

all the bread and eggs (I guess that's brunch!). The Micro Greens were

fab with pepper and licorice (must have been fennel green) hints, and

since it was a croque madame, there was an added slab of ham.

The CALINA Carmenere 2010 from Maule Chile was a yummy pairing.

The final drink was the winner:

LEMON MERINGUE COCKTAIL with Limoncello, Domain de Canton, lemon juice

and frothed egg whites. These disappeared before dessert arrived in

the form of one of the best ever CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDINGs with Salted

Caramel and Ginger Ice Cream.

I left happy knowing that the diet must re-start again tomorrow!


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "The Phyllis List" group.

To post to this group, send email to

To unsubscribe from this group, send email to

Visit this group at

For more options, visit

NATSUMI is your natural choice for sushi in NY's Times Square (1-26-13)

For years, I returned over and over to NATSUMI (226 West 50th-off Bway and always enjoyed the food, service and ambiance.
Last night, I arrived pre-opera at 5:30pm and despite the below 20degree chill in NYC, the place was jammed. I guess it has caught on, although all the folks sitting with me at the sushi bar all seemed to be from out of town!
You don't get much conversation from the three sushi chefs at the bar as they are all Japanese and converse amongst themselves in their native tongue. Every now and then you can ask a question and get a one word or maybe two word answer, which is often difficult to decipher, especially when asking what's in that!
Many sushi places (especially in Florida) have Latino sushi chefs these days leading to a huge Latino-Japanese fusion cuisine that is wondrous. Here, NATSUMI has taken a twist that really works well: Italo-Japanese fusion.

It is Restaurant Weeks in NYC (thru Feb 8) and many spots are offfering up 3-course menus for $38, and while most restaurants do not do not offer this option on Saturday nights (but their "week" is two weeks long!), Natsumi was happy to say they were doing it despite the Saturday.

I started with a SPICY MARGARITA made with Japaleno-infused "Riazul" and orange liqueur. It was spicy, but a bit on the small side.

I immediately was drawn to the starter of GREEN TEA GNOCCHI made with spinach in a dark, yet creamy mushroom-green tea sauce with capers and asparagus. It was rich and heavy and quite a huge portion, so I was happy that I had chosen the CHEF OMAKASE Platter for my main course.
The first platter passed across the sushi bar from one of the chefs to me was a small one of four slices of SALMON CARPACCIO in a Citrus/Lemon Dressing with Capers. The fish was some of the best ever and the chef told me it came from Scotland. Simple with respect for the fish, yet a pithy sauce that you could take just a dribble of, or a big dip if you wanted more lemon.

Next came the Malaise featuring a Six piece roll of WHITE TUNA SUSHI with Cucumber and Peperonicini. Here is where the Italian fusion melds (well, it did of course with the gnocchi as well) perfectly making a wonderful new flavor in the top notch sushi. The plate was filled out with five pieces of SASHIMI:
Salmon Toro (even better than the amazing appetizer)
Yellowtail Toro
Big Eye Tuna Toro
and White Tuna
All were as tender as I have had in any great sushi place, here the tuna and salmon both melted in my mouth and were truly epicurean pleasures.

A glass of Pear Sake was offered which was nice, but a bit sweet for me. I prefer the traditional Junmai Gingo.

Dessert was Natsumi's signature TEMPURA CHEESECAKE which comes with raspberry coulis and fresh mango cubes. I could eat only part of it as it is so rich and while I adore it, a half portion is my maximum.

Natsumi is really a great place for everyone as there is something for everyone from pasta to steaks to fish!

Friday, January 25, 2013

totally taken by TOSCA (1-24-13)

As we entered TOSCA ( last night, we mentioned that it had been many years since our last visit. The hostess reminded me that it was indeed 5 years! Oops.

Well, there is a reason for our long delay and was due to the disappointing departure of our friend, Chef Cesare Lanfranconi. Time heals, and we returned with friends to discover the fine Italian dining establishment still running smoothly with excellent cuisine and as always, a wonderful staff.

It was hard to decide whether to order a tasting menu or a la carte, so we mused over the options while quaffing a superb DOLCETTO d'ALBA "Casa Vinola" 2011 from Bruno Giacosa. Ultimately, three of us choose the shorter fish tasting menu and our other friend went for the Insalata Radicchio (with Bartlett Pears, Gorgonzola Terrine and Toasted Walnuts), the FETTUCCINE (with Rosemary & Thyme in a Roasted Leg of Wild Boar Ragu with olives and Salsify) and the VEAL CHOP with Baby Chard and Artichokes all of which got high grades.

Before we started a gorgeous amuse of a head-on PRAWN with Fennel Sauce (really puree) & Brussels Sprouts. The fennel was as mild as could be and the seasoning on the prawn was superb, so much so that I had to suck all that delish flavor out of the yummy head! Miniature Tomato Bruschetta with shaved Ubriaco also arrived as did the tasty breads (focaccia and country style).

The tasting menu can be ordered with wines and we decided to do that which was an excellent choice for the 4 wines were $45 total. First came INSALATA d'ASTICE, a salad chock full of LOBSTER with Heirloom CAULIFLOWER, Burrata with Caviar and a Diavola Sauce. This dish was chilled and frankly divine, but I couldn't help wishing for something warmer on one of the coldest nights of the year. I think the lobster would be a perfect warm-weather dish. The wine was a perfect FEUDI di SAN GREGORIO 2010 Fiano d'Arelinno, which is always a great choice in any Italian restaurant.

The pasta course was PANSATI, small ravioli filled with CRAB & ARTICHOKE with yummy Black Trumpet Mushrroms in a delish White Wine and Mussel Sauce. It was rich, but just the right size not to be too filling. SOAVE CLASSICO was from Suavia (a new winery for me) 2009 "Monte Carbonare," and the creamy wine was again perfect with the dish.

Our main coarse was the highlight of the meal and the perfectly cooked MERLUZZO (COD) was roasted in a HAZELNUT Crust and served over a bed of Black Truffle CABBAGE with Rainbow Marble POTATOES with Capers and a Brown Butter Sauce. The crust was perfect and the cabbage was a new take with the truffle infusion. BARBERA d'ALBA "Costerno Fantino" 2009 from Vignota was a heavier red than the Dolcetto and a brilliant choice for this huge fish dish that begged for red wine rather than the too-often-assumed white. Our excellent server Atilo was even nice enough to give an extra pour of the superb wine.

This tasting menu comes with the modernized TIRAMISU in a martini glass created by Chef Cesare when it opened 11 years ago (Tosca is actually named for his daughter) and is still excellent. We tried several different desserts as well:

Bichhiere al PECAN is a Pecan Sundae with Vanilla Gelato with both Chocolate & Bourbon Caramel Sauces

with Cranberry Compote

Tartella al Pomopelmo is a Pink GRAPEFRUIT tart with Grapefruit curd, sweet Mascarpone, almond macaron, basil gelee, Campari syrup and crispy meringue --sadly I can't do the grapefruit thing!

Tortino al Cioccolato-WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE with vanilla gelato, poached kumquats and Sicilian pistachios was mine and got raves from those who tasted for the molten chocolate cake (Sam would have adored this) and the genius addition of the salted Pistachios!

MALVASIA Della Lipari 2007 was a perfect dessert wine with these very sweet tastes, which were followed by a small plate of chocolate cookies and even better, salted oatmeal spice cookies!!!

Now that we have been back, we promise not to take so long to return to TOSCA.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wow what a wine dinner at Restaurant EVE with luscious LINDEN and R.d.V. reds(1-23-13)

Last night, I was one of twenty very lucky people to dine at one of the region's top restaurants, Alexandria's RESTAURANT EVE, and even better, I was seated at the table with both winemaker's, Jim Law of Linden and Rutger deVink of R.d.V., two of Virginia's most esteemed vignerons.

As we arrived Linden ROSE, Bordeaux Blend 2011 was being poured. While it was a bitter cold night, and this wine is truly a summer wine, we could appreciate the Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc blend that is bone dry and pairs so well with so many things, such as the multiple passed hor's d'oevres:

Salmon Mousse

Foie Gras

Deviled Quail Egg

Pulled Head Cheese

Now these are vague descriptions as they were not printed on our menus tableside, so I must try and recall from memory. All were amazing and it was hard to resist having seconds or thirds (I had to have two of the eggs!). Credit goes to the chef, though, as these were indeed tiny smaller than bite-size portions and not the type of treats one could overdose on in the 20-30 minutes or so before we sat down (well, I guess you could if you really pigged out!).

What was so special about last night, other than the superb company, food and wine, was the fact that the ingredients on the divine Tasting menu, and the wines as well, were all locally sourced from farms and markets in our region.

Amuses arrived with a tiny miniature cast iron pot topped with a Rutabaga Chip with Chevre Panna Cotta and Fuji Apples. Next came a small spoon of Grapefruit Sorbet with Fennel Pollen, which I skipped in that my statin intake would be marred by the grapefruit.

The first course was SASHIMI of Winter FLOUNDER with Butternut Squash Coulis, Crispy Lentils and Avenius Vinaigrette paired with Linden "Avenius Vineyard" 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Mr. Law explained that this vintage when bottled had huge acidity and that while he "likes his SB to be a nervous wine" that it did temper with time.The intensity of the wine was amazing with the light fish as there was definitely a strong spice ( we never did find out) in the coulis (paprika, chili, cumin, or something that worked) that was an amazing pairing. The small rolls of sashimi were truly of the best quality and had such amazing flavor; I was tempted to ask for more.

Next came Pan Roasted MAINE DIVER SCALLOP with Wild Mushrooms, Sunchoke Cream, Smoked Buttermilk & Young Chives. Here the wine was the luscious LINDEN "Hardscrabble Vineyard" 2009 Chardonnay that we discovered is now sold out at the vineyard. Lucky for us, there was an opportunity to buy some locally at the end of the meal! Old oak features in this wine which is truly a landmark varietal for Linden and indeed all of Virginia.

Beaver Creek Farm's QUAIL with Creamed Parsnips, Dried Cherry Relish and Foie-Gras Quail Emulsion was divine. I loved the fact that there were many whole cherries in the tasty relish which was less relish or compote as it was not sweet or tart (other than the cherries' natural tartness). Our last Linden wine was the "Hardscrabble" 2008 Bordeaux Blend made from Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc & Petit Verdot and featured wide arced legs in the glass with huge flavor in the mouth. These are the kinds of wines that could win "the Judgement of Paris."

We were then introduced to winemaker Rutger deVink whose first vintage of R.d.V. came in 2008. That year he made the wines at Linden, but now has his own winery in Delaplane. These wines have hit the market fiercely indeed and his two reds (he only makes two wines) go for $86 and $79 respectively (the most expensive wine sold in Virginia)!

First we had the higher priced RdV "Lost Mountain Vineyard" 2009 Bordeaux Blend which is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a huge wine and needs cellaring for sure, but I could not get a "good to drink" year from Mr. deVink as he said the wine needs to be tasted each year and then we can figure out, as it is so new. Well, I guess I will do that with my three bottles! The wine was brilliantly paired with LOIN of Chapel Hill Farm's (in Berryville, VA) Randall Lineback with Crisp SWEETBREAD, Salsify Puree & Black Pepper Braised Shallots.

The "cheese" course, which is always a novelty and pleasure at EVE was truly conceived by love: Oregon CAVEMAN BLUE with Caramelized ONION TART, Smoked Maple BACON and Red-Eye Gravy. This was way more than a cheese course; it was an experience. It was served with the R.d.V. 2009 Rendezvous Red Bordeaux Blend (but mostly Merlot) which blew everyone away, especially with the pairing.

Roasted QUINCE with SAFFRON RICOTTA and CAJETA Ice Cream was last and served with one of my all-time favorites (we had just opened a bottle last week at home) of Linden "Late Harvest" VIDAL BLANC 2006 that is again one of Virginia's best dessert wines.

As if this was not enough, huge plates laden with ESPRESSO MACAROONS (I had to have two), WHITE CHOCOLATE LOLLIPOPS (with nuts and caramel; yes, I had to have two!), COGNAC TRUFFLES and a COCOA-NIB salty yummy crunchy concoction that I forgot to get a name for. I wanted to pack them up as there were so many left, but I knew I would gobble them all up myself!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

we found fine food, fine dining and friends at THE FEDERALIST (1-12-13)

We rarely go out on Saturday night, but it was such a quiet weekend, we chose THE FEDERALIST in the Madison Hotel downtown ( where Chef Harper McClure has found a home fixing some of the freshest farm ingredients around. When we arrived the place was near empty and while several other tables arrived, it never was crowded for a DC Saturday night. The quiet was welcome and the atmosphere was divine.

There are several separated rooms, most with wood floors, raised big cozy booths, light wood walls with glass partitions and a classy, yet casual feel. You can come here in a suit or jeans and feel good. We did.

Our server Josh was a gem and welcomed us with Hildon Sparkling Water from the UK, which we always like and then we tried the Darcie Kent GRUNER VELTLINER "Rava's Black Jack Vineyards" from Monterey 2009 which was a wonderful GruVe made in the USA for a change. I think it is the first I have ever had from California for sure, while we have enjoyed those from Washington & New York.

COD FRITTERS with Soffrito arrived steaming hot and with a hint of pepper as well as coarse salt in the batter. These were not the overly rich creamy type, but closer to a top-notch fish cake. We tried desperately to tell Sam they were like elite fish fingers, but he would have none! More for us. The tomato-based sauce was a perfect foil and dip.

As it is a hotel, there is a children's menu, so we allowed Samuel to have the CHICKEN TENDERS and French Fries, which I have to say looked perfect; he did not let us try his this time around.

The House CHARCUTERIE Board appeared with Artisanal Accoutrements (and these were much more than accoutrements) that was one of the best we have had. The LOMO first sweet, then salty, and literally melted in your mouth. DUCK HAM is always a hit with me as I like anything that quacks. LARDO requires a but more of a palate, especially when one is trying not to eat pure fat, but the flavor was superb. PORK RILETTES were perfect and I smothered the tasty spread on the baguette provided (there was also home made corn bread). Three pate's included CAMPAGNE, CHICKEN LIVER and a rich creamy divine GOOSE & DUCK; all were excellent. The accoutrements were announced as Quince (I later actually thought this was a pickled beet and ate it whole; so did Will!) Paste, Mustard, Onion Jam and Apple Butter. These were all fun to mix with the various meats and try for different flavor combos. There were also many different superb pickled veggies:mushrooms, carrots, red and Cuban peppers(mild), onion and my favorite-celery.

A surprise dish of Grilled JUDITH POINT CALAMARI, seared POTATO GNOCCHI, Roasted GARLIC Puree, Pearl Onions and Scallions arrived and I must say this is an ideal preparation of this version of the Rhode Island squid.

It was, thankfully, without batter, and perfectly grilled, especially those yummy tentacles and the garlic puree was enticing.

We moved to our red which was recommended by Chef Harper himself. Dozens of years ago, perhaps decades, we used to drink BONNY DOON by the glass, or more regularly, half bottle, as it was one of the few reds available by half bottle. LE CIGARE VOLANT 2007 is an amazing year for this age old wine that now has smokiness and full red body worthy of pairing with so many meats.

Roasted MOULARDE DUCK Leg was indeed a great partner for the wine with its intensely rich TRUFFLE HONEY GLAZED Baby TURNIPS, Potato Puree and Natural Jus. It was crunchy on the outside and confit-like inside to boot. The Cocoa-Rubbed VENSION LEG was even better with its rich CHESNUT-BARLEY RISOTTO, Glazed Beets and Red Wine Jus. The meat was cooked just perfectly to before medium rare and we gobbled every bite, especially that crunchy end piece with extra cocoa!

Dessert was an ever harder decision, save for Samuel who went right for and devoured the VALRHONA CHOCOLATE COULANT that was the essence of the bitter chocolate. He loved it, while I always prefer lighter or milk! This was a chocolate lover's dream. It comes with a PORTER (Beer)-Buttermilk Ice Cream Float which Will declared as perfect; sorry, I don't care for beer. We debated which dessert to choose and went with chef's suggestion of the SYLLABUB with Caramelized Banana and Gingerbread Crumble. It is a very old style traditional dessert and a bit too heavy on the whipped cream for me. Next time we try the Tangerine Bavarian with Slow Baked Meringue, Creme Fraiche and Candid Zest which our sever Josh recommended.

Which ever way you go, The FEDERALIST has many options and choices and is indeed a pleasant place to be on most any night.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

NYC's KIN SHOP is soooo cool with tantalizing Thai cuisine too (1-6-13)

My recent trip to NYC ended with a visit to Kin Shop ( at 469 6th Ave (11th St) in an unassuming spot where Chef Harold Dieterle of Top Chef fame offers up amazing dishes at amazingly low prices (for a Top Chef winner, especially from Season One!). When I arrived early, manager Craig said it was no problem (any other stuffy place that a hot/top chef owns in NYC would have said there was no room) and asked where I wanted to sit. I bypassed the tables and headed for the "Chef's Counter" which is 4 seats facing the kitchen, which is a bit larger than a postage stamp and had four people working in it. I can tell you it was smaller than the bathroom in our suite on our recent cruise!

Craig got me some bottled water and I settled in for hours of fun (I was the last to leave at almost 1130pm after arriving at 730pm). He suggested the TYPHOON (he said that if I didn't like it, he would drink it!) from the drink menu which was a refreshing Mekhong Thai Rum with Catamansi (tangerine-lime juice), Aperol, Thai Basil and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. It was just like being in the islands I had recently left, but here it was the islands of the Andaman Sea!

It was hard to decide what to eat and my helpful and friendly server Jessica offered up many ideas. I spent most of the evening speaking with Bryce, the line chef opposite me who was born in Maryland, but grew up in Maine. He was a real sweetheart and explained everything at length when I was lost. He explained that "kin" in that means "to eat."

At Jessica's suggestion I had the Schellman "Ossi" 2010 Gruner Veltliner that was crisp and refreshing and ideal with the spicy dishes.

My first plate was the FRIED PORK & CRISPY OYSTER SALAD that was a dream come true. Made with many ingredients including celery, peanuts, some mint, a pungent chili-lime vinagrette, sprouts, celery greens and pickled red onions this was a salad, but the two main ingredients were arranged like several royal thrones in a row. Each square of crispy pork was topped with a plump fried (Washington State) oyster on top. It was large and filling, but Bryce said the Duck Salad (my other choice amongst many) was even larger!

Next came a single (you could order them by the piece) GRILLED PRAWN with Fresh Lime & "Phuket Style" Black Pepper Sauce. I could have dipped the tasty roti coming off the stove into this sauce forever, but did not order the roti so as to allow more room for less carbs and more tastes. The hrimp was large and juicy and I wanted more....but, the FRIED BRUSSELS SPORUTS & CHINESE SAUSAGE arrived. This "vegetable" side had crispy slices of sausage, young coconut, gooseberry chutney and fermented apple vinegar. It was superb, tasty and flavorful, if only a slight bit too sweet.

My main course was called RED and was roasted DUCK breast with that crispy roti I mentioned earlier (I had to have it somehow), Green Mango, Fresh Herbs & Tamarind Water. The roti are affectionately termed "Thai-tillas" by Drew, one of the other chefs. This bread should be packaged! The duck was just past rare and cooked perfectly and the dish was a sensation in taste and flavor. Jessica said the Fritsch ZEIGELT "Red Soil" 2009 from Wagram in Austria would work with the duck, although many fokls don't know the varietal. I insisted I adore Zweigelt and it was a perfect pairing.

I was full and Bryce and Craig both insisted I have dessert, so I chose the CALAMANSI Sorbet, the same juice of tangerine and lime from my opening Typhoon. It was the perfect refreshing end to an amazing dinner with the wonderful team at Kin Shop which made me want to try all of Chef Dieterle's dining spots in NYC, not to mention a return visit to Kin Shop.

I did not want to leave, but I knew I had an early flight home to DC.....after a lot of eating that weekend.

Empellon Taqueria is rela value in the Village for a best brunch (NYC-1-6-13)

Last Sunday morning I wandered across a listing for a taco-style brunch at EMPELLON TACQUERIA just blocks from my hotel in West Greenwich Village (230 West 4th and hit the jackpot.

Except for some loud music the place seemed deserted when I arrived at 11:45am (which is when they open).

The music never really got too subtle, but it wasn't blasting. The room has a long bar on one side, exposed brick on the other and is simple with some high tables in the middle. It was a chilly morning, and I warmed up with some cappuccino to start.

I was thrilled to see a variety of salsas including our recently discovered Sikil Pak (pumpkin seed Mayan) and was tempted to try the 7 salsas with chips as they are only $3 each or a steal for the bunch.

Instead I ordered up a JAPANESE MAGURO CEVICHE starter of white tuna, potato in a sea urchin-chipotle salsa that had a beautiful bite. The sauce was slightly creamy like a light slaw with thin radish slices on top.

My main course was LAMB BARBACOA Tacos-two soft tortillas layered with tender barbecued lamb, Salsa Borracha (pasilla Oaxaquena-cheese, orange juice, mezcal, onion, lots of cilantro and olives) as well as cucumbers. Here the kitchen knows how to treat heat with respect. The seasonings were hot, but subsided fast and were totally flavorful and enjoyable.

I was surprised when my server, Sam (for Samantha), brought over a complimentary dessert that wowed me over the top. I was stuffed, but had to eat the PASSION FRUIT TART made with creamy custard, fresh oranges and yummy whipped meringue dots that were mezcal infused and then quickly flamed brown. A splash of mezcal was on top to boot. YUM YUM!

I'll be back for more and if not here, to their sister spot COCINA Empellon in the East Village.

What is most interesting is that the chef and his wife, who is the pastry chef, both hail from Massachusetts! Nothing Latin in their blood!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

NYC's DANIEL does it deliciously with grand flair (1-5-13)

The new year started off very well dining-wise last night with my first visit to Restaurant DANIEL in NYC ( the gastronomic templedom of Chef Daniel Boulud. I had been to Daniel before in its first NY location uptown and had a pretty bad experience, this return was indeed totally satisfying. The grander, larger location at Park & 65th is truly elegant and oozes warmth along with the elegant flair of the sophisticated staff.

I happened to be dining with a business associate of Chef Daniel and I even mentioned to her as we sat down how surprised I was that the boss himself was on hand and hovering over several tables. Within minutes, he was at our table discussing business, news and the dining options we had. WOW!
Those of you in DC will remember that Chef Daniel started in the USA in DC back in 1980, but soon departed for NYC. Well, a little known secret is that he is on the verge of signing a deal to return to DC in 2014 to open a bistro!

I loved the house sparkling water which had a bit more fizz than most homemade versions. Complimentary champagne appeared as well.

Our first amuse was BEETS 3 WAYS, one with sable fish, one with salmon and mustard cream, and one was a small bowl of puree that actually looked like ketchup!
The next amuse was two small portions one of GEODUCK with Pineapple and Green Apple that was simply divine, the second was a succulent OYSTER with Lime Veloute.
The breads arrived and I wanted them all but tried only the Black Olive and later the Sweet Garlic Focaccia. The Multigrain Three Seed and Sourdough were my guest's choices. We gobbled them up and I loved the amazing butter with coarse sea salt on top.

For our main dinner tasting, all the courses were different for the both of us and I did not taste all of the other dishes....but I will list them anyway:

MOSAIC of SQUAB Breast with Pickled Shitake was a wonderfully gamey pate made with Foie Gras, Confit Grapes, Muscat Gelee, Purple Watercress, Pistachio Oil & Young Vegetables. It was indeed a superb blending of tastes and while the grapes had sweetness, it was an ideal foil.
Capon-Foie Gras & Black Truffle Mosaic with Artichoke Barigoule, Celery-Mustard Coulis & Toasted Hazelnut was across the table, and I did have a bite of this dish as well. The capon (poularde) was less intense, so I really liked mine more, even though this was great. The wine was a semi-dry Freiherr Von Heddesdorff RIESLING "Winninger Uhlen Kabinett" 2008 from Mosel, Germany that paired brilliantly, especially with my gamier mosaic pate.

ORANGE-YUZU Marinated SEA SCALLOP with Kushi Oyster, Pickled Buddha's Hand Lemon(the server said it was Kaffir Lime), Shiso Oil, Sea Lettuce and Chayote had razor thin ceviche of tasty succulent scallops served inside a small bowl with a huge rim that had dozens and dozens of adorable holes in the plate rim.
Next to me was Trio of COHO SALMON: Poached with Finger Lime & Mint
Tartare with Meyer Lemon and Sansho Pepper Tuile
Hot Smoked with Celery Remoulade
The wine was a bone dry Salomon Undhof GRUNER VELTLINER "Hochterassen" 2011 from Kremstal Austria.

As I am not a fan of fennel I was happy not to get the FENNEL RAVIOLI with Scottish LANGOUSTINES, Sauteed Cuttlefish, Sicilian Green Olive, Artichoke & Saffron Cream. Instead, before me was a magnificent presentation of Slow Baked JADE TIGER ABALONE with Cauliflower, Red Cedar Juniper Berries, Northern Lights Caviar in Vodka Beurre Blanc. The dish looked like it was an avocado, but that was actually the huge abalone shell filled with its meat and the divinely rich vodka sauce with caviar that I almost liked the shell clean! On the side was an adorable crispy thyme ravioli. Domaine Drouhin CHABLIS 1er Cru 2009 was the perfect Burgundy Chardonnay with wonderful mild apple and melon overtones.

Next was my Slow Baked European WILD TURBOT with Hawaiian Hearts of Palm, King Crab Legs, Wild Black Rice, Saute Americaine which was a superb fish bisque sauce. The fish was firm, tasty and the flavors were intense and brilliant. I did not taste the Cedar Wood Wrapped KAMPACHI with Braised Celery, Caramelized Salsify, Cipollni Onion, Mustard-Seed Bourbon Sauce, but it sure sounded great for a tuna hamachi dish. The wine was a Domaine Lapierre Morgon, Burgundy 2011; the perfect light red for these big fish dishes. My only complaint of the entire night was that the two red wines were served slightly chilled and on a cold night, I prefer them ever so slightly warmer.

Roasted Liberty Farm DUCK BREAST was sliced razor thin and came with Hazelnut-Spinach Subric, Confit Turnip, Poached Quince, Garganelli Pasta, Winter Black Truffle and Sauce Civet. I did taste the duck and it was simply perfect as was the black truffle sauce. My Duo of QUEBEC SUCKLING PIG was just as good with a Roasted Chop with Smoked Paprika and Daikon Radish Sauerkraut (very Alsatian) and a yummy and meaty Crispy Pork Belly with Pee-Wee Potatoes, Honeycrisp Apple Confit and Ommegang Beer Jus. Not being a beer fan, I was wary when the dish arrived, but the sauce was amazing and the entire combination reminded me of a feast in Strasbourg years ago. The Proprieta Sperino "UVAGGIO" 2008 from Coste Della Sesia, Piedmont was our biggest red and satisfying it was, cleansing the palate after each bite and different flavor.

VACHERIN MONT d"OR was the cheese course presented as a surprise gift from the chef, and I can't recall a more satisfying, yet so simple dish. The creamy rich triple cream cheese was presented warm tableside and scooped onto our plates and then smothered (and I mean that) with shavings of Fresh WHITE TRUFFLES from Alba. White truffle baguettes were provided as the bread to shmear the divine dish on. OMIGOD!! Lopez de Heredia "VINA TONDONIA" 1996 Rioja Reserva white was the most fascinating of wines that had the biggest legs of a white wine I have ever seen. It was nutty and earthy and intense and indeed, could not be tasted on its own. With the cheese, the earthiness melded into an amazing partner.

DUO of FRUITS & CHOCOLATE Desserts came next with a Huckleberry Vacherin, Milk Chocolate Dacquoise, Hazelnut Biscuit & Chocolate-Lime Sorbet. The tastes were small, and we gobbled them all up instantly. Chateau Pajzos 5 Puttonyos Aszu Tokai 2003 was rich, intense, viscous and superb with the treats and then a port-like Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambre, 1996 from Roussillon followed, and while excellent, I preferred the former.

Mignardises came and my guest allowed me to gobble up the ones I liked...the macaroon was bliss. Following this was a plate of four different housemade flavored dark chocolates: Raspberry, Praline with Rum, Passionfruit & Caramel--each no more than 1/8th inch square, but bursting with flavor.

What a night!

The TERRACE at COBBLER's COVE in BARBADOS gets huge bravos (12-29-12)

Our third lunch was another grand treat as we dined at the Relais et Chateaux gem of Barbados, Cobbler's Cove. Chef Michael Harrison is a local and recently took over the kitchen, making him one of the few island chefs of at his level in any top Caribbean restaurant. I marveled at the dinner menu and wished we could jump ship to stay here and eat for several days, but alas, we had to return to the mediocre "cruisine" of Royal Caribbean.

Before lunch we enjoyed wonderful Strawberry Daiquiris (virgin and non-virgin) and Planter's Punch poolside. The staff here again gets credits for such wonderful service with a smile.

An amuse arrived of Coconut Crusted Fried Shrimp with Guava Sauce, Avocado, Micro Greens and Seaweed. Local ingredients with masterful tastes, and the guava was amazingly not too sweet.

Samuel ordered a magnificent Char-Grilled Angus Burger with Aged Cheddar and Fries; he raved. The lemonade was only declared a bit too sweet.

Will had the Mozzarella & Tomato Salad with BLACKENED SHRIMP that was another perfect lunch dish in the heat. While I quaffed a tasty glass of 2011 Baily Cotes de Provence Rose, I could not resist the BLACKENED BARRACUDA Special that was a perfect size of perfectly cooked and seasoned fish with an Avocado Salsa and a Cobbler's Organic Salad on the side that had piles of amazing fresh greens.

This was our third Relais et Chateaux stop on our vacation and boy do we always welcome these very special meals, especially when the "cruisine" is, as I said, below par.

Next Relais et Chateaux stop is DANIEL in New York City right after the New Year.

Friday, January 04, 2013

lunching in St. Lucia at the LANDINGS BEACH GRILL (12/28/12)

Our second island visit this cruise found us in St. Lucia where we had

a lovely lunch at the LANDINGS Resort at the Beach Grill overlooking

Rodney Bay with a smiling staff, many kudos going to our lovely

server, Tamar.

Samuel decided to return to the kid's menu and ordered a HOT DOG and

Fries, but this dog came right from a grill on the beach nearby served

in what was clearly a homemade bun. Mango Juice was the drink for him.

I imbibed on a fabulous Planter's Punch and both Will and I marveled

at the tasty rare CALYPSO BLACKENED TUNA SALAD which had Salsa

Vinaigrette, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peppers, pineapple and the

oddest large breadstick like plantain "crouton."

It was a perfect lunch for a hot day and the prices were quite low (in

the low teens for almost every salad, burger, or other main course--

kid's menu was half that!), so high marks for quality as well as


Caribbean cooking and lunch with the lovely Janice Ryan at St. Kitt's NIRVANA (12-26-12)

Our first port on this year's winter cruise was St. Kitt's and I chose

to sign up for a cooking class shore excursion. It was brilliant and I

can't wait to try out the recipes back home.

The class was held at Fairview Manor Museum which houses the NIRVANA

Restaurant. The chef in residence is a 20-something year resident on

the island from Britain by the name of Janice Ryan. She has done her

share of big time "chef"ing most famously at the now Relais et

Chateaux Montpelier Plantation on neighboring Nevis.

Our class and ensuing lunch consisted of GROUPER in CREOLE Tomato

Broth which basically cooks the sauce in the pan then steams the fish

on top while the flame is off. It was divine. Since green bananas were

out of stock due to the holiday, our ESCOVITCH (or escabeche) was made

from PUMPKIN which works perfectly. Limes too were scarce, so the

local sour orange (a Seville orange type that is indeed very sour).

Our Lemonade with lunch was also made from the delicious sour orange.

JERK PORK Loin was perfectly cooked and crusted with a mild jerk

seasoning and there was homemade hot sauce made from Scotch Bonnet

peppers if you wanted more bit. On the side was the traditional dish


We had started with some homemade BREADFRUIT chips (or crisps if you

are from the UK) with homemade BANANA KETCHUP for taste. I managed to

find a locally made Banana Ketchup on St. Lucia the next day and hope

it is as tasty!

Our meal ended with the most divine and lightest of COCONUT BREAD

PUDDINGS I have ever had with a Rum and Brown Sugar Glaze; this dish I

really look forward to re-creating as I am not a great fan or maker of

desserts and this was a winner.

They were all winners. What fun the 7 of us from the ship had; I only

wish Chef Janice could be here on board to improve the mediocre

cuisine we are getting!