Wednesday, August 28, 2013

BOHEMIC, the best bistro in Barcelona, if not the best food in the.......(8-24-13)

As is wont, we saved the best for last and for a good reason. Four and a half years ago, I had the best lunch of my life at BOHEMIC (
and I have recommended the spot to dozens and dozens of folks who have all come back RAVING. You can go back to my first rave at the blog and see why, but this review is all about last week.
This time I was so excited to take my husband and son back to my favorite dining spot in Spain, so I started e-mailing the chef/owner Francesc almost a year ago.
He told me that he was unsure of his August vacation schedule and to contact him back again in late spring. In April, I was e-mailing him again, explaining that we were only in
Barcelona for four nights and that we had to leave on Sunday morning August 25th (and be at the airport at 530AM!). He emailed me back and said that while he had previously planned to reopen
on Monday, but that he would indeed reopen on Saturday for us. Phew!
We arrived at 828pm and the door was locked, but that is because they open at 830pm. Francesc's mom, whom I had met on my first visit, saw us from inside and unlocked the door and in her cigarette-toned
voice said "ALAN!" and gave me a kiss on both cheeks, and did likewise to Sam & Will. We were home.
We sat down and after a bit, Francesc came out and introduced his cousin, Torrenz, who would be his server; this has always been a family operation. I asked him if his father was still helping and he said that he was upstairs taking care of his newborn nephew (or was it niece). In four plus years, Francesc has really improved his English, so now we knew exactly what we were eating, although I never had an issue
with that cause everything was fabulous. I asked Francesc why he signed his e-mails "Mandu" and he explained that often the locals use their mother's maiden names as nicknames. I never did find out his mom's name, but Torrenz is also a nickname as well.
Couples came in, but the place never did fill up (there are still only 8 tables seating no more than 20 people), although there were a number of additional seats outside which we did not notice were full.
My first visit was in January, and at lunch the place was jammed. Torrenz proffered two glasses of CANALS Y CANALS CAVA which was dry but fruit forward and a great start. Samuel had his several last Cokes in Spain for this trip and we settled in for a culinary journey which was accompanied by soft, jazzy or popish music that never interfered.
POTATOES arrived, but not just POTATOES. This recipe is so cherished that Mandu refuses even to give some of the ingredients other than what we can figure out. These were nubby pieces of French fries with TWO SAUCES, one brown and spicy and the other white and slightly creamy. We guessed that the dark was Sun-Dried Tomato and Chili, but Mandu would not even blink. It is a secret he will never reveal.
Samuel saw the sauces and immediately refused to try the dish; this despite our oohing and aahing with culinary orgasms over each forkful. He finally gave in and tried to catch up as he had missed the top layer!
When Mandu asked if we wanted another plate we respectfully declined as we knew there were going to be multiple "orgasms" to follow.
We had enjoyed Pa' TOMAT so much on this trip that we thought we had seen every version in Catalunya. WRONG!
Mandu makes his with crunch and a huge tomato infusion bursting with flavor. he then adds FOIE GRAS MOUSSE, CUCUMBER CREAM, CATALAN CHEESE, DRIED TUNA, Micro greens and even small edible flowers. This is a TOMATO BREAD that will go down in history! Even Samuel, who has loved the bread everywhere, but is not a fan of foie gras, said is was truly amazing. His eyes rolled in his head, and I think he would have eaten a horse head if Mandu brought it out next!
Next came ROAST BEEF with MUSTARD ICE CREAM. This was again a local dish with a modern turn that we saw the earlier in the week as a tartare with mustard ice cream. Here the beef was rare and sliced thin and rolled with Mustard Seeds, Caviar, Garlic, Roasted Scallions and tiny little jelled pearls of Jugos Iberico, as we were told, or Iberian juices....whatever that is. If this is deli food, I can eat it forever.
We switched from the Cava to VALL DOLINA XAREL-LO 2012. We knew this would be our last XAREL-LO before leaving its homeland, so I just keep thinking more and more about how much I was going to miss the food; and more and more of how I needed to get back on my diet as soon as I got home! It was sublime with more citrus that usual and ideal with what came next.
I had enjoyed the Bottafega Negra or BLACK SAUSAGE the previous day for lunch in a terrine with octopus. Even Will who does not care for this said it was great. Here, Mandu has recreated breakfast; SAUSAGE & EGGS gone CATALAN is what I call it. The black sausage has a slow low cooked egg on top which oozes as it is burst at the table. A sprinkling of crunchy sweet mullet makes the texture complete with chewy, oozy and crunchy. You won't find anything for breakfast (or any meal) like this anywhere on earth!
The 5th "course" or tapas was something Samuel would not touch (I guess I was wrong about the horse head--he didn't want the Bottafega Negra either).....
Head-on SHRIMP GRILLED tableside which had been seasoned and salted perfectly. It was a fun show for sure which even Samuel liked (we got it on video). These were paired with SHRIMP TAILS poached in ELDERFLOWER. Pairing the head and tail together made an amazing contrast and a perfect blend of two different aspects of the little guys.
I had praised Mandu on my first visit for the amazing CLAMS & PEAS, and especially for the visual drama and presentation of that dish. This night he brought us CLAM from GALICIA (we are going to miss them as well) in a SMOKED BBQ SUACE with a FENNEL & DILL EMULSION. The crustaceans were smoked just past raw so they were not chewy, yet still very tasty and the sauce was sublime.
We moved to an excellent red wine from 2006 called S'ALQUERIA which is a blend of Carignan, Llebre (Tempranillo), Grenache Noir (Granatxa Negra) and Macabeo Blanco. I guess this is the Spanish version of the Rhone blend, but it's much bigger. I doubt anyone could tell this big red blend has any white grape varietals in it. It was served slightly chilled which was really great as it was a warm night and we welcomed the 58degree cellar temp of the wine.
CHICKEN CANNELONI was a hit around the table, even if Samuel did not know at first that it had a FOIE GRAS and CHEESE SAUCE! OMG! This dish would make any pasta chef jealous.
CALAMARI arrived with PEAS, CORIANDER FLOWERS, EARS of JUDAS MUSHROOMS, in a SQUID INK SAUCE. The peas were actually formed into a slice of a disc with more fresh local peas scattered around. If I were a pea, I would die to be in this dish! Samuel said it was one of the best pasta dishes he had.
The last truly savory dish was a LAMB and POTATO dish with a sauce that did not overwhelm us, but was not bad at all. Sine we had such an amazing meal, I can't recall why I didn't like the sauce.
Our cheese course was a revelation. It came hot and consisted of CARROT & VANILLA CAKE with MELTED MIMOLETTE Cheese, which is an intensely strong French cheese that we do get here from time to time. The combination was amazing and it will stay in my mouth forever; I just hope I can get the real thing again without waiting 4-1/2 years.
Torrenz and Mandu's mom who had been so sweet and helpful all night brought over DOLC MATARO 2010 from Alella nicknamed "De Puta Madre." If you know what puta means you can guess that this is not a nice nickname. The wine is made from Verdelho Dolce and reminds me of the Italian Vin Santo (so much for the "mama prostitute" name, compared to the saintly wine of Italy). It was excellent with
the CREME CATALAN (aka flan--but of course, here flan is a whole new story). Main with Fried Pain Perdu, Pineapple and Sugared the dish has WHITE CHOCOLATE/LIME/FENNEL Ice Cream (yes, that's what I wrote), ALMOND CAKE, Pollen Cru (for crunch), lime and Brandy Glaze. I may have misconstrued some of the ingredients at this late time of night, or missed something in the translation, but the Ice Cream is spot on. Will's eyes rolled in his head and we declared this to be the best flan in existence, even if it really isn't flan.
Sam did not want flan, so Mandu asked if we knew CANT BO, a local Catalan cartoon, to which we replied no. Well, I guess he is something like Count Chocula, and  Mandu presented Sam with a plate of
Coke-coated Vanilla Ice Cream with a "BLOOD"-stained Strawberry Sauce which he gobbled up. It was fun for him and fun for us as well.
We took some photos with everyone and began to choke up as we left not knowing when we would be back to our favorite place in all of Spain, perhaps even the whole world.....
I couldn't stop and Will yanked me out the door knowing we had to be up at 415am; it was already past 11PM, but time did not matter on this most special of evenings.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SAUC has sublime cuisine, if the service isn't superb, it's still a Michelin star spot at the Ohla Hotel in Barcelona (8-23-13)

We returned to the OHLA Hotel that evening and started off in Bar Ohla where our friend said the drinks were amazing. They were. But at 15Euros($20) a plop, they better be,
especially in a  city where you can have three courses for the same price!
I loved my SAVORY MARGARITA with Ocho Blanco Tequila, Jalapeno, Cactus Nectar, Lemon and a Smoked Salt Rim.
I was about to taste Will's PICNIC in JALISCO when Samuel sadly spilled his whole beautiful CHILL OUT all over the place. The little tables were so wobbly it was silly.
It took 10 minutes, but their drinks were replaced and I tasted Will's made from Tequila Reposado, Lemon Juice, Cointreau, Passion Fruit marmalade and was accompanied by a formal presentation of a sugared half of Passion Fruit which was caramelized by a small torch was a stellar presentation. Samuel's CHILL OUT was all red fruits with apple, pineapple, lemon, soda and vanilla syrup. No alcohol brought the price down to 9,50Eruos($12.65), but they could have given more juice and less ice!
We moved upstairs to SAUC and its warm subdues dining room with only 12 tables. There was one captain and two waiters and sometimes they were around the corner in the long L-shaped room; this created an issue if we needed something, which is not good for a Michelin-starred establishment, and they were only at half occupancy.
Will & I ordered the TAST Menu at 78Euros with 3 apps, 4 mains, cheese and 2 desserts--what a deal; we asked for accompanying wines which were very reasonable at about 25 euros extra for the entire meal!
Samuel ordered the FRISIAN BEED TENDERLOIN with Provencal Herbs and Roasted Veggies. It came with a spicy avocado and red pepper purees, but he thought the meat tasted very odd. I have to admit that Frisian Beef is quite a different taste from the other cows we know. We explained and the captain graciously ordered to replace it. so he ordered a gorgeous burger which came from the Tapas Bar downstairs we had eaten at two days prior. They charged us only for the burger. A+ there.
As we sipped the last of our drinks we were offered Green Italian Olives (I had learned that Italians use Spanish olives for much of their oil, so this seemed an anomaly) on toothpicks propped into a small stone.
Alongside these were black olive gels which were spectacular.
Pa Tomat that omnipresent Catalan favorite, tomato bread arrived, but here with an emulsion of coconut, curry and crunchy ham pieces.
Our first appetizer was PARMESAN CURD with HERRING Caviar, Galician CLAMS and what I thought was melon, but was actually a chemically altered kind of cucumber.
Our first wine was a bright "Agaliu" from the south of Barcelona in Costers del Segre made from Macabeu by L'Olivera which was great with these intensely flavorful dishes with lots of acidity as well.
It lasted through the second starter of Creamy Duck FOIE GRAS Pate on ONION BISCUIT, Lemon and small jellied dots of Moscatelle Wine. It was another superb dish and we began to repeatedly revel over each bite.
We ran out of wine and finally got our server's attention and they poured a new white TRASCAMPANAS VERDELHO which lasted thru the third appetizer:
Pompadour of CRAB in foam of Tupinamba (Artichoke)
Our first main course was paired with TAYAIMGUT Sauvignon Blanc from Saint Joan de Midiona and had that green apple, citrus feel and was ideal with the SMOKED EEL TARTAR, Green Apple and Herring Caviar. The Green Apple was in the form of a sorbet and the whole dish just went smokey in my mouth and head to the extreme; we loved it.
CANNELLONI of Roasted DUCK with Emulsion of FOIE GRAS, Pear and Pine Nuts and truffles needed a RED wine, but they kept pouring the Sauvignon Blanc. We were later told this was due to the next course being fish and I said, one can always change wine colors and go back, even though in olden days this was taboo.
Roasted TURBOT came with a Potato &Bacon Terrine that was crispy delish and a Roasted Beet Puree. We moved to an A COROA Godello from the Valdeorras region. The fish was supreme, but we were ready for red wine and the big climax.
Spit-roasted BABY GOAT with Salsify, Root Veggies, Marrow Sauce & Gremolata was indeed BIG, but thankfully the portions were not large and it was paired with a wine we had requested as the hotel's Sales Manager's father owns the winery: QUMRAN 2011 is a Tempranillo from Roble in Ribiera del Duero where red wines rule. It was a delightfully big wine, but needed a bigger glass than the same white wine glasses we had all evening.
Catalan farmhouse cheeses were next and were a treat as we hadn't had really local ones much:
Serrat del Tormo was sheep
Serrat del Triade was cow
Cleda was a sheep with a distinctive mint flavor
and Artelac a gorgeous creamy goat that was quite aged as well.
Orange maremlade and Quince paste appeared with small coiled rolls
Samuel ordered the (SURPRISE!) CHOCOLATE FONDANT and declared it excellent
while we enjoyed a Red Wine and Peach Sorbet with Mascarpone Shredded Wheat in a Bird's Nest shape with Peach Infusion that was oh so refreshing.
The "TEXTURED FRUIT" Dessert came next with Strawberry, Lychee, Mint, Melon, Mango, Pirouettes, HardBoiled Egg, White Coconut Meringue and when described sounded weird, but was indeed an inventive creation. Capcanes Pansal del Calas 2010 D.O.Montsant was a wonderful dessert wine from Granatxa and Samso, a grape we had also discovered we loved again at the Abadal winery that morning.
Macaroons with Coconut Cream, White Chocolate with Maracuja, Chocolate BonBons with Hazelnuts, Carquimolis-biscuits of almond, pistachio and nuts(think nutty biscotti with toffee) sent us home MORE than full.
Don't you just love Barcelona!!

get a good gourmet meal in GIRONA at CAL ROS, but cancel the croquettas (8-23-13)

We took a day excursion to GIRONA stopping at the ABADAL Winery on the way for an wonderful tour and great tasting. Now I just need to find their wines here in the USA!
Our lunch was at GIRONA's top place in the old town, CAL ROS ( which is just blocks from the cathedral on the Cort Reial 9.
It's a nice place for sure and while the prices are a bit high for rural Spain, we did not want to eat a lot and stuck to the appetizers, which turned out to be huge portions!
Samuel ordered his traditional CROQUETAS de JAMON, but I must agree with him that they were overloaded with Béchamel and way too creamy. Luckily, we had ordered a large plate of JAMON IBERICO on Tomato bread for the entire table to share and Samuel was quite happy with that.
Will had BURRATA CHEESE with Tomato and smoked SARDINES which was indeed excellent,
I had a glass of the house red, SINOLS NEGRE '12 from Empordalia that is made from Grenache and Carignane and was divine with my divine dish,
BOTTIFARA NEGRA, the Black Sausage of Catalan. This was made served with pine nuts and mustard greens in a beautiful Terrine layered with OCTOPUS.
I was a bit worried about the combination but it was indeed heavenly.
We knew a big dinner was ahead, so just café corto for after and off to touring....

LA TERRAZA at the Hotel CLARIS makes a truly tasty treat in Barcelona (8-22-13)

Dinner that evening was at LA TERRAZA in our lovely Hotel Claris(!en/restaurants/la-terraza-del-Claris) where you have an outdoor setting (it is partially covered) overlooking the roofs of Barcelona which can't be beat on a beautiful summer evening (temps in the 70's). The hotel manager has been a business associate of mine for many years, so when we arrived at the table, Maria Rosa had sent a complimentary bottle of JUVE I CAMPS Millesimee 2009 CAVA which is made from Chardonnay. The Cava grapes usually used don't include Chardonnay, so this was a nice and welcome change. Badoit isn't available here so we opted to skip the Vichy Catalan or Perrier and went for the still Viladrau, which is just perfect and has no saltiness at all like it's fizzy sister.The manager Jon was most helpful and guided us as the menu here is a la carte (not tapas) with a wide variety.
As we were about to order we smelled cigarettes from a table nearby, but Jon Assured us they guy was leaving, we were relieved as outdoor dining in Spain allows smoking and can be a real bummer when you are trying to smell, taste and eat a meal.
An amuse arrived of CODFISH CREAM with TOMATO. It looked like a yogurt cup with the red fruit at the bottom, but this was oh so much more. The Bacalao cream was rich and creamy and the tomato "confit" at the bottom was bursting with flavor to counter the creamy richness. The breads were tasty black olive, sunflower and ciabatta.
Will ordered the spectacular SEA BASS CEVICHE (Ceviche de Lubina) which was the best ceviche of sea bass I have ever tasted and sprinkled with gorgeous fresh local shoots. My WAGYU CARPACCIO with Mustard Sauce and Parmesan was sprinkled with Pine Nuts, Sea Salt & Greens as well. The meat was the most tender ever in a carpaccio and the flavor burst in my mouth.
We moved on to a bottle of TOBELOS 2008 TEMPRANILLO that Jon suggested and fell in love with its jammy at the end in the mouth flavor. It was a truly perfect pairing with my GUINEA FOWL with Asparagus & Preserved Tomato which came peeled and cooked but bursting with flavor, just like the tomato in the amuse. It's so nice to have tomatoes that taste like they should. Will opted for the CHIPIRONES, which is a smaller SQUID than Calamari and arrived with those oh so fabulous ST PAU BEANS we had for lunch the day prior. I think that's why he ordered the dish!
Samuel chose the VEAL TENDERLOIN cooked with Sage which was supposed to have Gnocchi, but Jon offered Samuel fries instead and that was a no-brainier.
At some point a couple arrived at a far away table, but the guy's cigar smoke magically seemed to waft right up to our table. Luckily the breeze was strong and it was not too bad. One day, I hope that all this smoke will stop and people who dine can enjoy their food outdoors as well.
A pre-dessert arrived in the form of a small CHOCOLATE MOUSSE with whipped cream and Gianduja nibs. Jon suggested P.A.R. a vinho naranja or orange wine from Bodega Igleasias in Condado Heulva. Will did not care for this orange flavored treat, but it was very Grand Marnier/Cointreau in style and I liked it, but not a ton. It is a bit cloying after a lot.
For dessert we all shared the WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUISSE with PASSION FRUIT which was a cookie-bottomed mousse with a fruit puree as well as fresh passion fruit and berries on the side with an almond tuille. YUMMY!
We rolled down the two flights to our room and to bed. These late dinners (830pm is when restaurants often open) were starting to take their toll.......

Barcelona's Hotel NERI Restaurant offers a refind setting, modern Catalan cuisine and superb service all in style (8-22-13)

Our next day in Barcelona we were invited to the intimate Relais et Chateaux Hotel NERI ( located in the old Gothic Quarter just blocks from the Cathedral. The hotel
could easily be missed (I have been by it twice before without noticing) as it is two old buildings modestly marked and clearly met to blend in with its surroundings. Inside, it's a different story with
modern décor and real flair. The dining room offers outdoor terrace eating on a small almost private square in the rear of the hotel on San Felipe Neri Square (Placa Sant Felip Neri in Catalan). Inside is a cozy, cushy setting elegant for fine dining or even our luscious lunch. The General Manager dined with us, but I saw everyone getting excellent service from the well trained staff. Our server, Moncie (short for the very common
Catalan name, Montserrat) was a gem and when we first mentioned that we disliked the local sparkling Vichy Catalan water, she immediately produced bottles of Badoit, our favorite; we were already happy.
Will went to the local beers and I tried the DESIG Xarel-lo which has some oak and would work for any meal on a hot day. Breads(sunflower and honey-roasted) arrived with a small tray with Arbequina Olive Oil, Himalayan Pink Salt. If you dipped the bread in the oil and then a touch of salt, the sulfur reaction made it taste like "a Spanish fried egg" according to our host; it was amazing. Tapas of olives with marinated anchovies arrived, which of course, Sam skipped as he enjoyed the bread, and we were off to a brilliant start,
Another "amuse" arrived in the form of a shot glass filled with a taste of a drink the hotel has coined as "Bloody Sherry." Just think Bloody Mary with sherry instead of vodka, and it's an Andalusian version of the traditional treat.
I should preface the fact that the NERI has a set price for this lunch of 22Euros ($29) which is beyond belief as it includes all the above, a monstrous plate of THREE starters, choice of main course and dessert.
A larger 37Euro menu is available should you wish to dine for hours!
The "starter" plate arrived and we were truly impressed; it was enough for a lunch at home easily. CUCUMBER & YOGURT SOUP was a green version of gazpacho that was cool and refreshing and the Salad was far from simple mixed with tuna and a hard boiled quail egg, but it was the VEAL TARTAR that blew us away. Sam was none too interested in these options so he begged for a pasta with tomato sauce.
The 22Euro menu offers a choice of Lamb with wheat risotto, vegetables and rosemary, which we did not have, or the CODFISH with SEAWEED BROTH which was tasty, flavorful and light, yet elevated by leeks and a local delicacy, SEA CUCUMBER (thing bigger than clam, but chewy a bit). Our host insisted we try two of the items that are served on this menu with a surcharge, but are on the 37Euro menu as well. The SCALLOPS with FOIE GRAS and SEAFOOD SOUP was divine. Just a small bit of the foie under a scallop in a broth bursting with flavor made this dish irresistible. However, the hit dish of the day which even Sam declared fabulous was the RABBIT RIBS with SHERRY, TRUFFLE and POTATO. Small delicate ribs with meat (think chicken wings) were a bit messy, but a bowl with a small dehydrated towel sponge appeared and Moncie ceremoniously poured a dab of hot water on it as it expanded into a full towelette to wipe off our messy dainty fingers. (Where was this the night before after the messy lobster paella?).
At this time I had moved on to a wonderful medium bodied FULANITO Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. I also learned that locally they call Tempranillo Tinta Finca; how confusing is that?
Dessert was a PASSION FRUIT MOUSSE with mint and Iced MOSCOBADO sugar, which really is best described as a layered mousse cake with a top film of gelled mint and a Moscobado(sweet grape) snow cone on the side. It was as refreshing as could be, even for me who is not a mint maven.
More came with coffee in the form of CARQUINYOLI, local almond biscuits, chocolate truffles, anise sticks (avoided these), small chocolates like M&M's with almond and hazelnut and just to fill you up that last extra bit for the road, Moscobado ShortCake, which was a thick chocolate-looking cake actually closer to a dark sweet grape honey cake.
Again I remind you that while we had two extra courses, this menu without the scallop or rabbit is 22 Euros, which are respectively a surcharge or 5 or 7Euros only!
Who wouldn't love this and in such a fine setting with such superb service.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Barcelona's CON MAJO can make food, but can't satisfy with service (8-21-13)

For our first dinner in Barcelona, we chose a well known seaside spot as their menu is very child-friendly and it is such a charming spot, everyone seems to love it there....except us. CAN MAJO (kahn mah-zho) ( has fabulous outdoor seating on the beach overlooking the Mediterranean with lots of fun street activity nearby. We had a small band, various entertainers (looking for tips), lots of rose-sellers, and even what seemed to be a non-ending big band dance-in right nearby, which was loads of fun to watch.
We ordered a selection of starters as we enjoyed a crisp MESTRES COQUET BRUT NATURE Cava, which of course, is the only sparkling wine one drinks in this region and fits so wonderfully with all the seafood.
Our server, Antonio recommended this and we were very happy. We also told him at the start, that unlike many tourists, we prefer to dine leisurely and will let him know when to fire up our main courses. Galician Style OCTOPUS arrived with the slices on top of potato slices sprinkled with paprika and a spice oil. One of the best pulpo dishes so far....will there be more?
Andalusian style DEEP FRIED ARTICHOKES were such a hit with Sam that I seemed to miss my last two slices as we enjoyed the Steamed GALICIAN COCKELS. Here they are called BIGAROS, and are larger than the ones we have had on the English seaside, which resemble snails more; these were like teeny weeny clams and just sprinkled with lemon they needed no other flavoring to mar the superb taste.
We asked Antonio to recommend a big white and he suggested a brilliant XAREL-LO 2011 from Finca Viladellops (the same as I had at lunch), but this was XARELLO XXX which is made from three reserve vineyards and gets 16months in oak. It was like a crisp white chardonnay wine with a hint of oak, but local and better.
At this time Antonio arrived to clear the plates and we said we wanted about 20 minutes between courses....well, he said that the food would arrive in 10 minutes and since we ordered a paella, it could not be kept warm. We were okay, but it appeared in less than a minute and I almost blew my top. The large pot with the CALDERO do BOGAVANTE a paella-bouillabaisse dish made with tones of lobster was a big problem for Will as the lobster was in shell and not easy to extract. Furthermore, there were tons of small shell bits in the fabulous rice/soup mixture which was a real pain.
Will went to the loo and mentioned our issue about the break to the manager who told him her should have told the waiter when we arrived; when he said he did, the manager shrugged him off.
At this same time, Antonio returned and I asked for "mas vino por favor," and he promptly turned on his heel and walked away. I had to get up to reach the bottle and interestingly enough, Antonio never returned all night.
The couple at the next table had ordered simple fish filets and got lemon water to wash their hands. We who had struggled with the messy shells, got nothing more than our one napkin. What gives?
We didn't want dessert as we were so upset, but gave in as Samuel wanted the (guess what) FONDANT au CHOCOLAT and we tried the TRES FLANS of Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry (which was actually just vanilla with a bit of strawberry puree). No hit here.
I do have to laugh at the translation of TARTE TATIN on the menu to "Cake Apple to French Style."
But all laugh aside, avoid Can Majo unless you really don't mind awful service. We left nothing for Antonio and gave the guy who served dessert only several Euros!

Ohla Hotel GastroBar in Barcelona gets big bravos (8-21-13)

On arriving in Barcelona we headed to the OHLA Hotel where I had a site inspection and followed it up with a spectacular tapas lunch in the Ohla GastroBar(, a refined hotel establishment in a sunken room below street level so you can observe what's up on the busy pedestrian walk outside. There are wooden tables, black chairs and an open tapas/bar on the inside should you wish to sit with others perhaps when alone.
Francesc, the manager was a gem and we told him our likes and dislikes and he suggested away. Will had a local Estrella Damm beer, which he has become fond of and I went right for the famous local white varietal Xarel-lo, here a 2012 vintage from Viladellops in Catalunya, but specifically from the D.O.Penedes region I love so much.
We also ordered bottled sparkling water and I had forgotten that the local favorite, Vichy Catalan, is intensely salty, so from here on in we searched for other options when available. "SUKE" Salmon was a marinated salmon in ginger and citrus that was a divine start, this followed by the voluptuous EGGS poached at 62degreesC and marinated potatoes with Iberian chorizo. We were in heaven again, and Will finally understood why I love Barcelona and its food so much.
Samuel enjoyed the small tasty Croquetas de Jamon Iberico, but went wild for his Meat CANNELLONI with Truffle Butter; he only did not care for the crispy parmesan chips with the dish (they were great). It was rich and he now declares he can eat anything with truffles.
RAZOR CLAMS Marinara are the long narrow clams that are so famous here and actually a bit chewier than the small ones we get. These were tender and tasty in a great sauce. Red PIQUILLO PEPPERS from Santurce were sublime, but the White BEANS from SANTA PAU (Judias de Santa Pau alinadas) was one of the best bean dishes ever on earth.
STEAK TARTARE here is not to be missed as it is perfectly prepared and served with a cold sweet mustard ice cream which is a brilliant fit for the dish.
An extra dish we had not asked for arrived from Francesc and we loved the teeny weeny MEJILLONES a la Brasa or mussels which were delicious but sadly overpowered by the intense tomato, fried garlic and crunchy onion topping.
I moved on to a glass of MARMELLANS red made from Samso (a grape we discovered is only grown in the Catalunya region), tempranillo and granache(garnatxa) which comes from Cellar Capcens in the D.O. Montsant. It was excellent with our last dish which was so rich we could not finish it. LAMB's NECK FILLET is really a confit preparation and has some greens on top to cut the richness, but be sure to order less and save it for last lest you be overwhelmed as we were.
Samuel insisted on the GIANDUJA COULANT with Passion Fruit Toffee; he has become an expert on this fondant oozy delight and we tasted a bit as well as it was indeed superb.
What was great about OHLA is that they also have the 1 Michelin star restaurant SAUC (pronounced Sah-ooc), meaning sauce, which we had already planned to return to for dinner later in the week! We couldn't wait.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

when in Sevilla, Spain hed right to LAS LAPAS for terrific tapas(8-17-13)

Our first stop back in Spain was Cadiz, and we hired a guide to take seven of us from the ship on the 80 minute drive to Sevilla (Seville) for a full day of intense walking, touring, sightseeing and yes, eating.
Alvaro suggested an adorable, if empty spot in the old told called LAS LAPAS at Calle San Gregorio 6 and it was a super hit will all of us, even the hard to please Samuel, and one of us who is allergic to all fish.
We asked Alvaro for his suggestions and all were superb and we shared everything and many enjoyed local beers while I tried both the white (Rueda Verdejo) and red (Alcorta Crianza 2009) by the glass.
We saw the huge hoofed pig leg near us and had to try the infamous JAMON BELLOTA which is rated 5 stars locally and was really flavorful and spectacular. For those of you who don't know these black pigs are fed only acorns to make their "prosicutto" style sliced ham so great.
Another hit was the SALMOREJO, a local thick cold gazpacho soup that has jamon and egg sprinkled on top. On a 100 degree day as it was, this was a big pleaser.
CARNE MECHADA is simple sliced cold veal loin seasoned with sea salt for flavor, and another great hot day dish.
Samuel and Zach (our non-fish eater) tried the Montadito Juvenil, a superb chicken breast sandwich with an aioli mayo.
CHIPIRON a la PLANCHA were tasty grilled squids in a terrific garlic seasoned butter sauce with carrots, peas, and potatoes. The grilling made these perfectly crunchy for even more fun.
LANGOSTINOS con BACON were small slices of huge langostinos wrapped in tasty bacon....hor's d'oevres gone wild.
We also had olives which were gone in minutes as they are all local and so flavorful, as well as wonderful bread from the oven and cute little packages of crispy pointy crackers called picos. Think mini-breadsticks, but better.
ESPINACAS con GARBANZOS was such a flavorful spinach and chick pea dish that we ordered a second plate, this was a no brainer.
Finally SALOMILLO al WHISKY was a hot plate of sirloin steak having been marinated in whiskey, then sliced rare and served simply with french fries.
Sam loved this, as we al did, and discovered the new flavors of the Jamon Bellota as well to his liking.
A great lunch finished with super coffees and back on tour.

Lisbon's BICA DO SAPATO goes from weak to winning in one night (8-15-13)

We thought that Bica do Sapato was about a 1/4 mile down the quay from our ship, so off we walked and then wandered aimlessly for 20 minutes until hopping in a cab.
5 Euros and 4 minutes later, the driver dropped us one block in the opposite direction of our ship facing the Ryndam's dining room where Bica do Sapato stood, unmarked, on the quay.
Well known local chef Manuel Ries has partnered with often Lisbon resident, John Malkovich to create a trendy yet not noisy or overbearing scene here on the Tagus River. Our first server seemed a bit confused but we eventually got the adorable Alex (Alexandre) who helped us choose both food and wine.
Olives, breads, butter and liver pate arrived. I was happy as we ordered a bottle of FAGOTE 2001 Riserva from the Douro region (yes, we could not resist the name) made from Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho (okay, more new varietals). Crisp, melon, dry and fresh with a steely no-oak taste it was great with CLAMS "Bulhao Pato" a bowl of tiny razor clams in garlic-wine sauce, CODFISH TARTARE with Pennyroyal (???) which was a bit too bland for our tastes and very nice croquettes of VEAL called VEAL SOFT PIES made with veal, chorizo and bacon.
We were not thrilled with these, but then the two main courses arrived:
Grilled OCTOPUS with crushed potatoes and turnip tops is one of the best octopus preparations on earth. Three 7-inch long tentacles are pyramided on top of the potatoes and tasty turnip greens for a brilliant flavor match.
DUCK PIE sounds simple but is a perfect blend of duck confit with rich bechamel ina divine crust. It comes with a small salad to cut the richness.
We moved on to the FAGOTE red 2008 Riserva which is made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga France and Tinta Barroca. More new varietals blended like a Rhone with an aromatic perfume, yet strong tannins for flavor and spice. WOW!
Dessert was also a huge hit here with my FIG TARTE TATIN made from fresh local figs with a White Chocolate and Lime Mousse and Strawberry Sorbet. YUM. The only thing that made it better was the Sandeman 2007 Late Bottled Vintage Port I had.
Will's PASSION FRUIT PIE came with Mulberry Sorbet & White Chocolate. His Taylor's 20 Year Tawny was like golden raisin infused nectar and oh so intense.
It was our last taste of Portugal, but one we shall remember.

Off to Spain....and Gibraltar.

Yay for the YEATMAN in Porto, Portugal where the food is perfect (8-14-13)

We arrived in Porto for the first visit ever there and fell in love immediately.
We were invited for an amazing port tasting (many bottled will come home with us!) and the on to lunch at the new 5-star luxury Relais et Chateaux hotel, The Yeatman.
The hotel is built above the port houses facing the city on the south side of the Douro river, and before we even began to eat lunch we had decided to return next year!
After tasting, something refreshing was in order and a PortTonic is my new dream drink made from lesser cost CHIP DRY white port and tonic with a splash of lemon. In the 90 degree heat, this is the new cooler. Breads arrived and Samuel could not decide between white, cereal, olive, raisin and we all tried several. The butter was creamy and olive oil also arrived. The first amuses were a crunchy corn cone filled with guacamole, crab mousse and caviar in a cute cork container (remember that most cork comes from Portugal!). By its side was a slate slab with 3 amuses: rice crunchy cracker with quail egg, bruschetta (a flat bread) with sardine and fried tomato and cheese, and a fish tartare with lobster and micro greens over a chex-like cracker with caviar and yuzu.
Tapada do Chaves 2010 white from the southern region of Alentejo was a dream white. Each wine we had tasted all day sent us to heaven and we were so sad to only have two days in Portugal to experience all the amazing food and wine; hence the return plane next summer.
Express Lunch as it is called at this Michelin starred establishment is nothing like express. It isn't 6-10 courses, just four, but it's amazing.
After the amuses we moved on to TUNA & CRAB which was Crab cannelloni, cured tuna, molecular mozzarella and green tomato broth. I am not sure what the molecular was as the cheese tasted authentic, but the flavors in the dish were sublime.
The main courses were BLACK CODFISH roasted with shrimp, brandade and bivalves. Need I say more as cod is the national dish and here it was served brilliantly.My main was the BLACK PORK which I had heretofore thought only came from the south of France. WRONG! Black Pork is the famous pig that generates all the wonderful Jamon Iberico...but here it was Confit of Cheek, Roasted Tenderloin, Cured ham,Pearl Barley and Pisto. It was coarsely salted a bit too much for my taste, but what amazing meat it was. A Quinta da Cassa Reserve 2007 from the Douro region (where port is made just upriver and we will visit further next year for sure) was made from the amazing local varietals of Touriga Nacional, Tourriga Franca and Tinta Roriz.
You need to go back to wine school to learn the hundreds of grape varietals there are in Portugal!
Dessert was a blow your mind yet oh so simple CHEERY CLAFOUTI with Cherry Confit, Rum/Raisin Ice Cream (haagen dasz eat your heart out) and Vanilla & Honey Soup. Coffee was superb---we needed it to continue our tour, and then Raspberry filled Chocolate Macaroons, White Chocolate Passion Fruit Filled treats and tuilles with Chocolate Truffles all arrived to our delight. Not one was left!
The YEATMAN is a place where you can go for lunch or dinner or to the hotel for an amazing experience which we intend to do next year. All my clients will be directed here without any doubt they will be totally satisfied as we were.

A Cesta Tenda-A taberno do Bispo in Santiago de Compostela is terrific for Tapas (8-13-13)

Our first lunch offshore was in the gorgeous pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. As the capital of Galicia it is called the tapas capital of the world and rightfully so. Located in the heart of the old town at Rua Franco no. 52 Bajo ( was a hit with the whole family.
I enjoyed Ribeiro de la Casa, the house white for under 2euros per glass and it was superb. Will had Estrella Galicia, the local beer.
We all enjoyed the rich Croqutas de Jamon (ham croquettes), the egg-based
Tortilla de Queso oozing the cheese from its center, the local bread with tomato and olive oil and a plate of fried oiled and salted local peppers of which about a dozen of the three dozen peppers were really hot. Samuel kept trying to find the non-spicy ones and did a dance each time he got all hot spice in his mouth.
Anchoas en vinaigre were fresh local anchovies and the PULPO was the richest octopus dusted with cayenne and served with scalloped potatoes with mayonnaise.
We really did not need the plate of tasty BACALAO local cod sauteed with rice and veggies.
The local cheeses included a brie-like plain simple cream as well as Sant Simon, Tetilla (named as it is shaped like a tit), Manchego and Azzura local blue. All were great but this meal was oh so huge we shall have to be more careful when ordering ashore!


Brighton's Bistro du Vin show bright spots (8-9-13)

Our last night in the UK before setting sail for Brugge, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar was at our Brighton Hotel du Vin with Will's brother and brother-in-law.
The drinks here are fun from Hibiscus Old Fashioned (very sweet) to Pomegranate Lime Fizz (with vodka) and El Chupa Cabra with Reposada Tequila, Lime, agave, ginger ale and blackberry liquer.
The sommeileuse Martina was from Poland and suggested a bright and brilliant Vignadi Gabri Contessa Estellina 2011 made from Donnafugata varietal that had a creamy citrus essence.
Samuel declared his Rack of Lamb with Watercress and Confit Tomato too fatty, but nobody on the staff seemed to care. Not a good sign.
The Caprese Salads exhibited superb local Heritage Tomatoes, Laverstoke Farm Buffalo Mozzarella and aged Balsamic, although we had to ask for more as it seemed to be missing when the salads arrived.
Salad Nicoise came with red King Edward Heritage Potatoes.
The Roast Goosnargh Duck Breast here was another hit with Picked Red Cabbage and Caramelised Apples & Pears, perhaps a bit heavy for summer, but still superb.
Grilled Sea Bream was fresh and light and the Tortellini with White Cheddar and Onions a veggie dish with flair. Sides of Wilted Spinach, Buttered Potatoes and Carrots were nice.
Rose Veal Schnitzel was another nice and simple dish.
Matthias was a treat and so were the cheeses he brought including:
Oxford Isis
LittleWallop-a goat with chestnut leave rind
Blackstock(sp?) English Blue
Fourne d'Ambert(Matthias wanted me to compare the UK & French blues)
Gratte Paille
A glass of Warre's 1996 Cavadinha Port was perfect.
The dessert folks enjoyed Apple Tarte Tatin with Creme Normande
Pineapple Carpaccio with Melon Sorbet & Coconut Sabayon and
Samuel gobbled up yet another Hot Chocolate Fondant with Hazelnut Ice Cream.
Overall it was not bad, we were just upset with the failure to fix the fatty lamb.

CRESCENT ROAD CAFE will take you away in Worthing, UK (8-8-13)

We headed back east to Sussex and a small seaside town next to Brighton where Will's brother lives. They have a favorite neighborhood haunt called Crescent Road Cafe Restaurant ( which really blew us all away. The spot is small and unassuming and probably can't fit more than 2 dozen diners in a cinch, but boy were we happy that they had reserved ahead for us a full up Thursday evening.
Our adorable server Millie whose red locks could have made her Orphan Annie 10 years later was as sweet as could be and brought a bottle of quenching Picpoul de Pinet from Cotes to Languedoc to start us off. We met Nicole who, along with her chef husband, Zack, run the place with little help. What a job!
The starters were varied from their rake on the traditional English "Ham, Eggs & Chips" with Beetroot Ketchup to a superb MACKEREL FISH CAKE with Tartare of TROUT which came wrapped in cucumber with adorable little jellies, Chervil and flower petals.
Samuel went for the 24Hours Slow Cooked BUTLER's STEAK with Gratin Potatoes, Artichoke, Broad Beans and Silver Skin Onions. He gobbled up the meat and skipped to the amazing TRIPLE COOKED CHIPS but we all oohed and aahed over the side of TRUFFLE POTATO PUREE.
Mains included Roast HAKE with Spicy Heirloom Tomato Salad, Capers & Pea Shoots.
Goosnargh Duck with BBQ Pineapple, Burnt Milk & Honey and Foraged Greens (Zack actually gets them himself) which tasted even better than the previous night. This duck is truly the most tender ever.
Roasted Lobster came with Chips and Aoili and was as yummy as the one several nights earlier in Cornwall; a close second for sure.  
We moved on to a Peter Schweiger Gruner Veltliner from Kamptal.
Cheeses were fab with Brie de Meaux & Livarot from France and local Katy's Lavender and Cornish Yarg. We got those amazing flat carroway crackers again as well as fig compote.
Samuel reveled in the Chocolate Fondant with Curry Ice Cream, Coconut, Ginger and Golden Raisins. Mango and Pine Bavois came with Wild Pepper Ice Cream BBQ Peach and Passion Fruit. A superb Isabella Stone Paddock Late Harvest Semillon 2009 from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand was a treat as chef managed to glean one of the less than 186 cases made!
It was a night we shall all remember very fondly with good food, good wine and family as well.

there's nothing like THE NARE in Cornwall for class and cuisine (8-6-13)

Our dinner in Cornwall was at the secluded, serene and oh so English resort called The NARE. It overlooks Nare Head and its south coast beach with beautiful gardens running from the hotel down the hillside. I am sorry we didn't have more time to spend here, but am glad we made it to this remote (only small one lane roads covered by arched grassy foliage lead in and out) yet classy spot.
There are two restaurants and we chose the set menu classier one and enjoyed every bite. I mentioned to the sommelier that we really liked the English white dry Bacchus and he said he had a Cornwall Bacchus 2011 from Camel Valley right nearby, it was an instant hit.
We chose the appetizer trolley (how old fashioned is that) which allowed us to try oh so many different items which included, but are not limited to, Chicken Salad, Asparagus, Sundried Tomatoes, Celeriac Salad, Portloe Crab(caught right offshore)--which actually mixed with the celeriac was a big hit--Pickled Herring Roll Mops, Anchovies, and buttery Scallop Ceviche. The breads were simple and tasty: seeded white and brown, but the butter, as always, was rich, local and worth the indulgence.
The next course was what I liked to call the "inter" course, excuse my terminology.It was a MACKEREL FILLET with Curried Mussel Broth, Coriander and Cress, The small plate was another great taste of local fish and produce.
Samuel adored the Escalope of VEAL which came with Sweetbreads, but since each dish is served tableside, you can pick and choose what items you want more and less of! He chose the scallops rather than the sweetbreads and skipped the Broad Beans in favor of the Potato Galette.
Will had a superb HALIBUT with Sauteed Potatoes, Spinach & Asparagus in Bearnaise Sauce while I went whole hog for the amazing local Grilled PORTLOE Lobster, caught offshore just that day by a young intern at the hotel we met earlier!
The lobster can come cold, Americaine, Newburg or Thermador, but this simple seasoned and grilled version needed nothing else, not even the seasoned garlic butter.
The sommelier suggested a South African chardonnay that we forgot the name of because it was so intensely cloying of oak that I was taken back to the days of early California oak splintered chard.
The dishes also come with vegetable bundles of asparagus, carrots and green beans each wrapped in a slice of zucchini that were simply adorable. Other sides served family style included Braised Chicory and Buttered Cornish Potatoes.
Samuel thought about ice cream but when the dessert trolley arrived went right for the CHOCOLATE BROWNIE DELICE GATEAU, which Will joined him in.
I had fresh local Raspberries, Strawberries and Peaches with Cornwall Clotted Cream, as I knew this would be my last chance for the amazing treat we had with our cream tea earlier that afternoon in the hotel.
As if the clotted cream was not enough, we went on to the cheese which here was served with a yummy chutney for a change and we revisited some of our new friends:
Sharpham Elmhirst triple cream
but also made new friends with
Sue's Celtic Gold which is an intense cow curdwashed with cider
White Nancy-a nice soft goat
Montgomery Cheddar
Cornish Crumbly which is a creamy treat from Whalesborough and
of course Cornish Blue.
Again we enjoyed a Noble Late Harvest Riesling from South Africa but this from 2007, even better.

Summer Lodge for something lovely in Dorset dining (8-7-13)

We headed east back to Dorset to a lovely country house that belongs to Relais et Chateaux, which we always know will be a treat. SUMMER LODGE ( has a beautiful dining room and another gorgeous country garden setting. We enjoyed a triple amuse to start of Mushroom Foam (not for Sam), Spinach & Ricotta Arancini (fried risotto balls) with Dill Creme and a Ham Boudin with Sultana Puree.
Back in Dorset, Samuel could not resist returning to his favorite Roast Loin of DORSET LAB here with a Braised Shoulder prepared a la "Shepherd's Pie," Savoy Cabbage & Rosemary Jus. The pie was amazing and rich like a lamb bourgogne coated with buttery mashed potatoes. Sam did not care for that part much, so Will and I gave in and devoured it.
Will started with the TARTAR of same said Dorset LAMB Fillet with Soft Boiled Quail's Egg, Micro Greens and Worcestershire Reduction. It was a nice preparation but quite salty for my taste. I had the Local WOOD PIDEGEON with Globe Artichokes, Parsley Lemon Puree, Rape Seed Gremolata, & Cornish Coppa. This is a dream dish in every bite and taste as there are so many flavors that work together sublimely, and every taste is local. Even the crispy bacon-like coppa is from Cornwall.
We enjoyed an amazing Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot 2007 Gevrey-Charmbertin that worked with all our dishes thanks to the sommelier.
Breads arrived and were irresistible from the Onion Rolls to the Cheese Rolls to the Granary as well as the Apricot & Rosemary White! The butters were coarse Cornwall sea-salted and a cute tomato-shaped unsalted.
For our mains, Will had the Line Caught SEA BASS with Coriander Spiced Fondant, Cauliflower Puree, Caper Berries & Balsamic. While a fish dish, it was big and stood up brilliantly to the gorgeous Burgundy. 
My Creedy Carver DUCK BREAST came rare and wins the prize for best tasting duck breed I can ever recall. It was served with Warm Nectarine & Ginger Chutney, Fine Beans, Mustard Cress and a Nectarine Butter Sauce.
We were very full, so we moved to dessert (yes, we skipped the cheese), which was preceded by Vanilla Panna Cotta and Blackberry/Orange Compote as a pre-dessert.
We decided to split the dessert assortment which was humongous and came with English Strawberries, Jelly & Ice Cream, Pavlova, Shotcake & Sorbet in one corner;
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream, Apricot Compote, Caramel Sauce and Apricot Sorbet in the next corner; "Peach Melba" with Peach Souffle and Raspberry Espuma with Vanilla Ice Cream in the third corner;
lastly came the Raspberry Macaroon, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Confit and Milk Chocolate Sorbet.
These were all very good, very sweet and way too much for two people.
Samuel wanted his own Macaroon/Mousse/Sorbet from the plate so he ordered a separate dessert. The macaroon on his full portion was the size of a HAMBURGER BUN!
We needed some silverware to cut up the portions, but the dining room had emptied out and only one maitre d' was left. Sadly he was cornered by a food critic who was telling him how to earn a Michelin star. I finally had to burst out at the "critic" to let the guy help the clientele (us) so that indeed they might get on with earning that star!
We finished up and left a bit upset from the silly man, but having had a truly Michelin-star-worthy meal.

St. Ives seaside lunch is lovely at Porthminster Beach Cafe in Cornwall (8-6-13)

Our trip to Cornwall took us along the north coast and we planned to stop in St. Ives for lunch so we reserved (and it's necessary) a table at the Porthminster Beach Cafe ( on the recommendation of a local. It was a good choice, but little did we know there is no place to park anywhere in St. Ives except the large car parks located about 15minutes walk down a steep hill (and ultimately back up) to this beautiful beach overlooking the cliffs and coastline of North Cornwall.

The setting was worth it and the food was just right.

Samuel had the Napoli & Basil Pasta with tomato, chilli, garlic and parmesan while Will enjoyed the special WHITE FISH CHOWDER with local Cornish Crab and mussels that was rich, but needed some ground pepper for spice.

My Steamed FOWEY MUSSELS (from a town we visited the next day on the south coast) were plump and tasty and served in Thai broth with lemongrass, chilli, coriander, bok choy, toasted lotus and a chunk of toasted bread to mop it all up with.


I also relished the Elderflower 75 a mix of proscecco, lime and elderflower as I deserved it after driving down the one lane two-way 25%grade drive to drop Sam and Will and then back up to the main lot with its long hike back down.


It was fun, but St. Ives is such a zoo, we headed out to the countryside where were enjoyed the scenery and local flavor even more.

Devon's GIDLEIGH PARK gives you the greatest local Michelin fare (8-5-13)

On our second night in Devon we traveled just several miles over the Dartmoor to the nearby two-Michelin starred Gidleigh Park ( where a Tudoresque manor awaits with gorgeous gardens and a babbling brook.
As we arrived in the sitting area for our drinks, the maitre d' explained that everyone must take the same menu (there were two set menus and the a la carte option). I explained that while our child is adventurous, he would not care for a number of items on the tasting menus and preferred to have two a la carte dishes or so while we like tasting menus. There was a frown, a hesitation and he departed to "check on this."
We began to worry that this very adult and formal setting might be too much for anyone with a child of any age (and there were none around save Samuel), but the gentleman returned and said all would be fine. Breathe a sigh.
We enjoyed our Pierre Gimmonet et fils 1er Cru Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay Champagne while Samuel enjoyed a "Sicilian effect: made from cranberry lemon, raspberry and Sicilain lemonade. Small amuses arrived in the sitting area with our drinks in the form of Tomato Gazpacho, Roast Monkfish with Saffron Sauce and a Beef Fillet with Onion Puree and red wine sauce on a crunchy round piece of bread.
Samuel tasted the monkfish, but again all fish seems to allude him these days. All three were delish and got us excited about the food.
We proceeded to one of the three intimate dining rooms (each has no more than half a dozen tables) and started our "Signature Tasting Menu." Breads arrived in the form of Pain de Compagne, Honey Burnt Bran and a yummy Sundried Tomato with Black Olive along with Cornish Sea Salt and the always amazing local Devon butter.
Samuel's next drink arrived which was a "Cinderella" made from Pineapple, Orange, Lemon, English lemonade and Grenadine. We asked for the wine pairings and started with Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvee Faustine 2011 from Ajaccio, Corsica which SImone, our sommeileuse, explained was Fermentino grapes from Old Vines (Vieilles Vignes) and really excited our palate. This was paired with Warm Salad of NATIVE LOBSTER, Cardamom Gelee, Lime and Mango Vinaigrette and a light Shellfish Curry all topped with Caviar. Go ahead-MAKE MY DAY! Here the chef has taken local lobster to new heights.
Next came Terrine of FOIE GRAS with Madeira Jelly, Truffled Green Bean Salad, Micro Greens and Baby Mushrooms served with toasted Pain de Campagne seasoned with truffle and chives. The truffles on the dish were Italian summer. The wine was the same we had at The Ledbury with Foie Gras two nights earlier: Johannes Josef Prum 2011 Riesling Kabinett from Mosel which was even better with this complex dish.
CORNISH SALT COD was steamed and served with miniature French beans, Beesands CRAB, CHORIZO, SAMPHIRE (which is local seaweed), tarragon and a lemon puree. Another superb mix of these divine local ingredients all from less than 50 or so miles away! The Chiaroscuro (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling blend) 2009 from Marlborough in New Zealand is a find not only as a red blend but a perfect barrel fermented organic meritage with only 1200 bottles (100 cases) produced. How did they get this divine nectar?
CORNISH DUCK also comes from right in the neighborhood and was braised with cabbage, smoked bacon, roast garlic, turnips and spice jus. The duck had a superbly crunchy skin and the I adored the gorgeous fruit forward Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2010 from Planeta in Sicily which Simone explained was a blend of Frappata and Nero di Avolo grapes (Will did not care for this wine).
The next course was a small portion for us but a full portion for Samuel which he promptly devoured what must have been half a DARTMOOR LAMB with a beautifully layered Boulangere Potato and Confit Shoulder that was a genius of creation in itself. The dish had a mild delicious fennel puree and tapenade jus (always a hit with Sam since he discovered tapenade two years ago). Domaine Henri Milan Le Clos 2005 from Les Baux de Provence had a naked lady with grapes on the label and combined 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Cab for a superb blend with a hint of acidity.
SOUTHWEST CHEESES were next and it was a treat for them to ALL be local (well almost) with a triple creme SHARPHAM ELMHIRST from the isle of Jersey, WEST COUNTRY CHEDDAR from Quicks Farm, LITTLE STINKY which was a brined cow from Bude in Cornwall, and the Nottinghamshire BEAUVALE BLUE (the only non local) all being really exciting and novel as well. SOMERSET POMONA is a 20% alcohol Apple cider brandy form the region that is barrel fermented for 15 months yet is lighter and refreshing than port and really makes a fine change.
The EXOTIC FRUIT SALAD included Passion Fruit Sorbet and Crystalline of Pineapple and was the perfect palate cleanser.
"Plate of APRICOT" was the dessert on the menu and I loved this Apricot with Almond Nougatine Parfait, Apricot Mousse and Sorbet, but Will asked to switch to the TRIO of CHOCOLATE, which Samuel also enjoyed. It was a Hazelnut & Milk Chocolate Parfait think decadent Belgian chocolate in a cup), Dark Chocolate Mousse on Chocolate Sable Biscuit and White Chocolate Ice Cream. My fruit filled treat came with Mulderbosch Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blacn 2009 from Stellenbosch in South Africa and was again a perfect pairing while Will the California Elysium Muscat.
Raspberry mousse was followed by yet another trio of treats: Vanilla Panna Cotta, Milk Chocolate Parfait and Passionfruit Mousse with Lime Foam. That was it and we taxied back to Bovey Castle sated and thrilled.
While the meal was a true treat in every way, we were a bit set off at the start, but that was quickly remedied. Indeed, my only complaint was that the men's room had no tissues! 


elegance exudes at the Edwardian Grille at Bovey Castle, Devon, UK (8-4-13)

We left London rather quickly this trip to head to the SouthWest and discovered a region of England that we quickly fell in love with from the people to the scenery to the food!
We spent our first night at Bovey Castle ( which seemed aboyt as fare from anywhere as one can get in the UK, yet still live in elegance. The castle was built by the now famous bookstore chain owner WH Smith with magnificent views over the North Dartmoor (the gorgeous hills or moors of Devon) and is now a superb hotel with friendly staff and a warm welcome. Dinner at their Edwardian Grill was virtually perfect starting with the GIN CURED MACKEREL with Salcombe CRAB (in a salad and soft shell), sliced daikon, Crushed Hazelnut Puree and Cucumber Puree. These were our first tastes of local top quality ingredients from Devon and they were indeed supreme. Or superb server "Bob" explained that his name was a shortened version of his last name as at home was known as Zbyzyko Bobinski. Our sommerlier, Ahmed, made magic with wine starting with a Moulin de Gassac, Selection Guibert 2011 from Languedoc made from Viognier, Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc. While this is not a common blend, it was a genius combination and ideal with the tantalizing starter. Another starter was ASPARAGUS & DUCK EGG which was just that--a soft duck egg (the kind cooked slowly for hours) with Asparagus Bavarois and Summer Truffle. OMG!
The breads were just as good with Sea Salt & Oatmeal as well as White with Poppy Seeds and the local butter was as if it came from the cow next door.
Samuel enjoyed the DEVON FILET while we had our starters and we knew our amins would be a treat as he raved.
We switched to a CHATEAU de FONSALETTER 2003 Reserve Cotes du Rhone from Chateauneuf du Papes from Chateau Rayas of Grenache Noir that Ahmed suggested and he was spot on with this aged red that was divine with the 8oz. crusty Devon Fillet with Triple Cooked Chips, Portobello Mushroom, Micro Greens, Fine Beans wrapped in bacon and Bearnaise Sauce. Move aside American steakhouses.
The Short Ribs and Veal Sweetbreads (also from local livestock) came with Cepes, Pickled Onion, and a Rich Red Wine Sauce with Parsnip Puree. The Sweetbreads actually were inside the tortellini and the whole dish was amaaaazing.
The cheese arrived with the handsome Maxime at the cart and we choose almost everything as he said whatever you desire:
Trois Lait-hence three cheese, a rich runny
Devon Blue-not to be missed when in the region
which we compared to Blue de Gex (from Aix) and Blue d'Auvergne....all three were divine.
Lancashire Bomb is a cheddar that is filled inside a plastic "bomb" yet super rich and creamy.
We had a contest between the Stinking Bishop and Vacheron and it was very tough to decide which was stinkier :-))
Petit Livarot and Crotin de Chavignol (goat) were nice but the Tete de Meurice -a rich creamy blue was a new and novel hit forme.
Sharpham is a local cow we also loved and these all came with date bread, almond fruit pate, crackers, apples, celery and quince paste.
It was all so amazing we never got to dessert! But what a night!


everything is always lovely and luscious at The LEDBURY in London (8-3-13)

It has become a tradition for me to head to The Ledbury in London as soon as I arrive there, and this trip was no different. I waited for Will & Samuel to arrive the day after I did and we took off for our tasting menus, which have now become legendary.
The decor has changed a bit since the riots two years ago when protesters destroyed the entire glass front, but the intimacy remains and the service, now under the new manager, Darren, is still impeccable.
On Fridays and Saturdays only the 105 pound tasting menu is now available (wines are an extra 70 pounds per person, and well worth the expense as they are new finds, rare treats and perfects pairings for every course.
Samuel stills gets his 49 pound multi-course menu and now at 10-years old, he really has come to appreciate that every course is geared specifically to his tastes.
The Foie Gras in tuille with Apricot Meade was delish and Sam even tried this although
he admitted the liver texture is not his thing. He was brought a Cucumber Cocktail with Elderflower which he liked at first, but said it got a bit sour after his first course pairing. This was a RISOTTO of New Potatoes, Celeriac & Wine Mushrooms with Shaved Black Truffles. We discovered immediately that Samuel now adores truffles!!
The Bacon & Onion Rolls arrived and these are not to be missed, yet they look like sweet cinnamon buns. Crystalized Malt Rolls are also super tasty.
Our Amuse was Chilled Courgette (Zucchini/Squash) Soup with Lobster & Parmesan. Once again this place never fails to impress your palate warming it up for a roller coaster ride of fab flavors. The BERECHE et FILS CHAMPAGNE from Montague de Rheims was a great treat with this small soup taste.
Ceviche of hand dived SCALLOPS with Tokyo(from Berkshire) Turnips, Seaweed Oil and Frozen Horseradish is a dish that Chef always has on the menu but comes in variations, as his frozen horseradish is a signature ingredient. This came with small apple jelly pearls resembling caviar for fun. A simple PICPOUL de PINET Domaines Felines Jourdain 2012 stood up to the acidity.
When its hot in the summer (and it was in London), lighter fare on a huge menu is always welcome and even moreso when it includes local farm products. Salad of GREEN BEANS with Fresh ALMONDS, Peach and Grated Foie Gras was a hit for all three of us. Samuel, thought the grated foie was parmesan at first and declared he can easily eat it in this form! He got a PEACH & CRANBERRY Cooler to pair here and enjoyed Johannes Josef Prum 2011 Riesling Kabinett from Mosel which has a tiny bit of sweetness to play on the peach and foie gras.
Flame Grilled MACKEREL & Tartare with Pickled Cucumber, Celtic Mustard and Shiso is a dish we had two years prior and Darren says it will never leave the menu, lest a riot ensue. It's a fab dish with the tartare and avocado wrapped in a thin rice-paper-like roll, but it must be a vegetable base for sure. Of course the grilled fish with mustard can't be beat. ASSYRTIKO 2012 from GAIA in Greece is wild fermented and has a yeasty but crisp flavor matching the difficult combinations of tastes in the complex fish presentation.
At this point Samuel received a CRISP CHICKEN over Sweet Corn Veloute and I know at some point his drink changed to Kiwi-Pineapple Ginger Ale!
We proceeded to the WiLD SALMON with Tomatoes Cooked in Lobster Oil with Crayfish and Lemon Verbena. The wine was COLLIO FRIULANO 2011 from Toros, which I have never been a fan of, but must admit the wine paired again brilliantly with the lemon and other ingredients.
My first time at The Ledbury introduced me to the signature preparation of CELERIAC Baked in Juniper with Hazelnuts and Black Truffle. Well, that is the variation we have today ad the celeriac is ceremoniously brought to the table before it is baked and then presented again in its burnt cooked salted crust before being plated tableside. It is a fun dish as well as an amazing tantalizing taste. Samuel was enjoying the truffles, I had to ask and discovered these are from Australia which explains why they are so flavorful, as they are not lighter summer truffles from there at this time. Domaine Ostertag 2009 Zellburg Pinot Gris from Alsace is a superb wine from a winery I always adore and it was delightful with the mix of flavors here.
Our main "meat" course was Loin of Hampshire ROE BUCK with its sausage and Red Leaves, Vegetables, Salted Cherry Blossom and Bone Marrow. There were beets and a sour cherry chutney as well for sublime flavor. We finally moved to a red, Jean-Luc Colombo 2007 Syrah "Les Ruchets" and Samuel was treated to Lamb with Young Carrots and Potatoes, only to move on to a Filet of Beef with Potato Galette, and a small portion of the celeriac in juniper. He also got some smoked marrow, but said it was not to his liking. We were so amazed at all the new things he was tasting. It was really a journey.
The pre-dessert was Black Currant Crumble with Yogurt, almost like a parfait with tiny beignets. Sam liked the donuts, but not the parfait, which we both loved.
Next came Thinly sliced BLACK FIGS with White Heather Honey, Olive Oil & Caramelised Sourdough. The sourdough was more like a crisp for crunch and the honey-like mousse sat on top. BANYULS 1952 fro  Pietri Geruad was actually just released in 2009 and is indeed present vintage. WOW, what a treat.
A trip to The Ledbury without cheese, is indeed like a day without sunshine, so we indulged. We had so many I decided not to take note of each name. Instead I will say that each and everyone was a treat.
Black Currant Leaf Ice Cream came last and since Samuel was not crazy about this they brought him a selection of Mango, Strawberry and Apricot Sorbets.
Dark Chocolate and Juniper Biscuits, Caramel Ganache Biscuits and Jellys arrived in a coconut shell filled with cocoa nubs. I discovered that Samuel had a big bag of Chocolate Truffles for Take-Away when we finally got back to the hotel.
We did not feel full or overburdened by this long and tasty meal; it was indeed simply perfect.
The Ledbury will be missed until we have the chance to return again.

Quilon will quench your thirst for Indian food in London, UK(8-2-13)

My first night in London was the guest of the intimate 51 Buckhingham Suites just around the corner from the palace. There are several dining options in the complex, but as I adore Indian food, and QUILON (meaning "place" is also a Michelin-starred gem that I knew I would adore.
Lots of modern art is mixed in with the dark wooden panels with a Middle Eastern feel. Light wall panels made of blond sand dollars were novel. The music was definitely Indian in feel, but quiet and soothing, making for a very "Zen" setting indeed.
Puree of coconut-coriander and a tomato-onion sauce arrived with small mini-papadams as well as bowls of lemon pickles (these had a fab spice mix making them irresistible) , garlic & peppers pickles, and something else also were spread in front of me. When I go to Indian restaurants, I am always in a quandary as to how to use these excellent condiments, but I mixed them around and made the best of it, as the food here is SouthWestern Indian and already loaded with sublime spices.
Wine is also a big problem when spice is involved, but the manager suggested an English Bacchus grape from FLINT HILL, Chapel Down in Kent that had a floral nose, citrus, but was very dry with a white pepper aftertaste mixed with green apple. It was perfect with the first dish, a seafood plate with SCALLOP in MANGO CHILI and a CRABCAKE with Mustard Sauce. Micro greens in a slightly spicy vinaigrette sat between the two. I immediately asked where the local crab came from and was told they only use Scottish or Devon crab; whichever it was very flavorful, moist and meaty.
The second course arrived and was a delightful mix of seas and land. BLACK COD was gazed and mildly spiced to allow the excellent fleshy fish to shine. Greens again appeared separating the cod from a shredded LAMB in tomato sauce and spices on a banana leaf. The lamb was quite spicy but this dish was accompanied by a plate with Malabar Paratha, a na'an like bread but here made from refined butter and flour from South India that is thinner than na'an and much crispier. It was the perfect mix with bits of the bread to calm the lamb. Fred Loimer GRUNER VELTLINER 2012 "Lois" had a bit of a fizz and was a nice foil, but worked best with he cod and not was well with the lamb.
A "palate cleanser" of Warm Spicy LENTIL SOUP appeared in a glass and I promptly deemed it "Indian chicken soup." This is what I want the next time I have the flu. It was thinner than a tomato soup, or lentil soup, but rich with spices and flavors with a little sediment of lentil as the bottom as well.
MANGALOREAN CHICKEN CURRY was rich as could be and the large cast pot that arrived was way to big for one person. Crispy OKRA was sliced long and deep fried in rice flour and tumeric making it the best okra I can ever recall. This needs to replace the ominipresent french fry! LEMON RICE is also flavored with tumeric, lentil peas and mustard seed making it ever so exciting. I finally discovered that the small leaves as garnish were curry leaves, although in their fresh form they have a very unexciting flavor. 2010 La Reserve GROVER Cabernet/Shiraz is from Bangalore in India and was my first Indian wine ever; it was and excellent pairing.
The restaurant was quiet, but I was quite shocked to see a Japanese family arrive all in shorts and t-shirts (at a fine dining Michelin establishment).
Next came a true palate cleanser of creamy GINGER SORBET and then I chose the BIBINCA & DODHOL with Vanilla Ice Cream which is a traditional Goan dessert that I found fascinating. One is a thick coconut pancake with layers of melted chocolate sauce and the other  a dark "chocolate" looking wedge made from palm jaggery (molasses) with condensed sugar giving it taste of a divine honey cake yet soft and moist, not dry like we so often get at our Jewish holidays. The vanillaice cream was infused with rose petals.
White cardamom chocolate and Rose milk chocolate wafers arrived and I took a small ite of each, but they were quite sweet, so I proceeded back to my hotel after a truly fab experience.