Friday, August 26, 2016

hail to Herbert Samuel at the Ritz-Carlton in Herzliya where haute cuisine can stil be casual (8-25-16)

Our last night in Israel was at the Ritz Carlton Hotel just north of Tel Aviv in Herzliya on the sea, so we decided to eat in their restaurant called Herbert Samuel after Israel's premier kosher fine dining chef. The setting was very simple and had a nice view out over the marina and the sea and the service was impeccable; they even poured the San Pellegrino which hadn't been done anywhere before.
We celebrated with cocktails before dinner with will having a Campari and tonic and me trying a Spicy Scotsman, which was a shot of Glenlivet with a cinnamon stick some lemon juice and a hint of vanilla which was indeed a slightly spicy and delicious drink.
I perused the fancy wine list which was installed on an iPad and chose a wine which our waitress Ron (pronounced Rone)said was not available; so much for updating an iPad.
She did however offer us the Yatir 2012 viognier for the lower price and we had had it before and loved it.
As soon as Samuel openef the menu he knew he was having the Beef Tartare with a Russian cornichon salad which turned out to be a pickle salad very heavy on the Russian dressing and mayonnaise along with some pickled radishes. It was an excellent Tartar and had an egg on top which I am usually doesn't like decided was acceptable in this case. Will joined him in the beef tartare and I chose the Peruvian Salmon Tartare with togarashi crispy bean noodles, chili sauce and cilantro which was out of this world.

We decided to order the Tomato Salad Herbert Samuel which came with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes both grilled and fresh, as well as some egg and olives and a healthy dose of zaatar with other herbs, onions and dressing that was perfection.
For main courses Samuel chose the lamb chops and Will opted for a superb Mediterranean Drumfish fillet which was grilled with potatoes, Swiss chard, saffron in a yellow tomato sauce. I love my sweet breads which came a la plancha with a fava bean puree as well as crunchy okra.
Our second wine was the only Pinot Noir we had had during the entire trip a 2012 Golan Heights Winery Yarden which was excellent full-bodied and delicious.
None of us could face dessert and we headed upstairs to bed.

Haifa's Fattoush, while not a failure, fumbles and falters...(8-24-16)

Our last night in Haifa was not as much of a success as the previous night. We headed to a middle eastern restaurant that is well-known locally but we kind of ended up describing it as more of a tourist spot with a lot of local young trendy people.

When we arrived at Fattoush they escorted us directly to an outside table without even asking us if we wanted to sit inside. It was a pleasant evening so I said okay but then realized my mistake when people started to smoke near us. Luckily that did not last very long and we really didn't have too much of an issue with it. We looked at the menu and ordered some drinks. Samuel got used to the response "no Coke, Pepsi"which always made me giggle from Saturday Night Live. There were actually only two Israeli wines, and maybe a half dozen others, on the menu both from Recanati and one was a white called Yasmin which was a nice Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend the other was a Cabernet Sauvignon red which I also had a glass of later on when will decided to order a beer.
Our server came over and gave us a completely clueless look as to what was going on. She seemed nice enough but got very confused trying to open the wine and broke the Cork and then completely tried to pull the cork out sideways. My first impression was that she had more piercings than brains, but that would be a rude thing to say. Her name was Aden and I understood that to mean Eden or Heaven in Arabic which was pretty cool but seriously this must have been her first night.
Will and I decided to split two appetizers one was a mixed Middle Eastern dish of Kubbe, meat filled fried torpedoes, Sfiha, a pastry with some minced meat on top and cheese fingers with tahini dip. While these were nice they would not win a prize, and the second appetizer of Ajami was fried cauliflower on eggplant with garlic tahini and Chili's that was served cold but tasted fabulous.
Samuel ordered a plain bowl of hummus with chickpeas which probably had at least a cup and a half of humus in it and clearly could be eaten by at least 5 or 6 people.
A small plate of vegetables and pickles arrived and Samuel decided he was very full and wanted only some more so they brought another plate which was about 10 times the size for him as a main course. He ended up eating 1/5th maybe.
Will and I decided to split the Fattoush Kebab which was a beef kabob with parsley onion vegetables arugula and Tahini and tomato sauce which didn't really win any prizes but was nice once we stuffed it into some pita with some hummus and tahina.
When our server arrived with Will's beer it was the wrong type and decided to make it up to us by bringing out some extra nuts however she spilled those all over the table; it was so embarrassing.
The out door setting was nice with funky furniture in trees with faces and lanterns and upside down chairs, but we had had enough got up paid the bill which seemed to take 30 minutes and headed back to our hotel not too thrilled.

Haifa's Hanamal 24 is tops for food, decor, setting and more (8-23-16)

Our first real meal in Haifa was an amazing experience from the second we arrived in the restaurant and walked up a flight of stairs that looked like we were entering into a rickety second-story run down flat.

We were warmly greeted by the staff in a beautiful room at the top of the stairs and quickly escorted to an amazing cave-like room at the rear of the restaurant which was bolted with bricks and had a small window with hanging sausages wine and cheeses.
Before we even had a second to look at the menu or the wine list a complimentary bottle of their own specially labeled wine Bilvad (which in Hebrew means "only for ") 24 arrived. It was a special Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Carignane  and Petite Sirah blend made by car with kitten in 2011 that was silky smooth and gutsy at the same time.
We were so excited about the room and the wine and our waiter whose name was Matan, which in Hebrew means gift, we only wish that he was a gift for us.
We perused the menu and decided to order a bottle of white wine to start and Matan was totally thrilled that we  chose the Dalton Reserve viognier 2014 from the Upper Galilee  Valley which was a wild yeast fermentation yielding  a creamy and mineral white wine that was awesome. 
And then news arrived which was a rich macchiato of corn soup with coconut cream. We knew this was going to be an amazing meal.
Rosemary grissini arrived with a very smoky smoked eggplant salsa as well as a tomato salsa but we resisted knowing there was a lot more to come.
You wouldn't believe that Samuel ordered the beef sirloin tartare with capers, black sesame tahini, shallots, chilies, and a dark toasted sweet brioche cube as well as creme fraiche.
Will and I decided that we would order two appetizers and two main courses and split them and since we knew that Samuel would not let us touch his sirloin tartare we had one of our own and had to agree it was superb.
We however started with citrus-scented gravlax stuffed salmon with spinach and cream cheese in a roulade that was delicious and truly made special by an olive crouton crumble. I should note that both of the starters came with delicious fresh radishes radishes as well as a roasted garlic with cream.
For main courses Will and I decided to split two items the first was a pappardelle pasta with prosciutto chunks, sun dried cherry tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus and baby mozzarella as well as melon to compliment the prosciutto. It was quite perfect and also went very well with the red wine which we had just started to drink. Speaking of wine. I should note that they use an Italian sparkling water that is extremely soft and that we really like called Ferrarelle.
Our second main course to split was the same one that Sam chose and again one of his favorite items to be had during the entire trip. A beef fillet with smoked goose, potato gnocchi, Chestnut Cream and Port sauce was definitely the best piece of meat we had had in all of our three weeks here.
Believe it or not they have a three-course menu for 179 Shekelam which included dessert. That's just over $47 at today's exchange rate. Can you beat that anywhere?
The dessert we chose was a layer of Chantilly cream and milk chocolate ganache with praline and bananas which came with a strawberry sorbet as well as grapes and a nut crunch in toffee sauce that was simply out of this world and one of the best desserts we had had during the entire trip. A second dessert of pistachio creme brulee was so aromatic and delicious with caramelized apple and vanilla crumble that was bruleed with a torch tableside by are absolutely magnificently gorgeous waiter Matan and was an exquisite version of the crunchy topped dessert.
We were thrilled to have this as our first meal in Haifa and had only hoped for more like it since we were nearing the end of our trip

Uri Buri in Akko, Israel is really one of the best dining experiences around (8-22-16)

About a half a year ago the Washington Post had a full page spread on Chef Uri Jeremias and his restaurant located on the Mediterranean in the Crusader town of Akko called Uri Buri. I had also heard a lot about this amazing chef from any other chefs in the United States and all around who rave about his amazing capabilities and boy everybody was correct.
We decided to have lunch here as we were not staying in town but arrived around 2 p.m. for a late lunch so we could pretty much fill up for the rest of the day. It was a bit disconcerting at first since nobody seemed to notice us, but within minutes our waiter Almog, came over and said he would be with us in a second. The setting is across the street from the Mediterranean, which you can see if you sit outside (in the 90 degree heat) which I am sure is amazing on a cooler day, and inside is about as basic as it gets.
Almog tried to get us to order a tasting menu, but we were not that hungry so we ordered a la carte. Within minutes Chef Uri himself arrived saying he was sending this and that and please don't worry about anything.
I ordered a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and was sad that they were out of it and settled for a Gamla Chardonnay which was very nice.
First to arrive with small pieces of watermelon that was sun-dried and stuffed with cheese. It had a dried meat and nut cheesy taste with a crunchy chew that was pretty much indescribable but sure tasted good.
I don't think I've ever had a Ceviche of Mediterranean Jackfish and this was truly a revelation that I don't think I could even recreate if I tried to. I think one of our favorite dishes was the third thing to come: caramelized tilapia which locally is called St. Peter's fish from the Sea of Galilee was served with beets. I have never been a huge fan of tilapia but the way this was prepared was amazing, the caramelization of the skin was beyond belief and made it truly one of the best fishes we have had on this trip.
You could probably never give me enough Sushi or sashimi and I have to say that Salmon Sashimi with a little bit of soy sauce doesn't sound very exciting, but all you need to do is put a cold scoop of Wasabi sorbet on top of it and you have truly one of the most amazing dishes ever created. The Wasabi was not that spicy and you needed about a half a teaspoon with each little bite of salmon to get just the right combination and Chef Uri was right there to make sure we did it exactly correct. Indeed he was constantly visiting the table to make sure we were happy even though we really hadn't ordered any of these dishes.
I did order the raw shrimp and have to say it was a brilliantly simple preparation of some shrimp sliced super thin with some jalapeno chilies and lemon on top. Yes it sounds simple and yes it was brilliant.
Next came small espresso cups of seafood soup with coconut milk made with basil and ginger and loaded with shrimp, crab and calamari. Our guide Amir was with us and he doesn't eat any fish or shellfish at all due to allergies so Chef brought out for him a mushroom version of the same.
I had ordered the artichoke shrimp for my main course which comes in a tumeric butter lemon sauce and is served with black rice noodles. It sounded amazing but on the plate it was even more unbelievable in a creamy and Rich lemon butter sauce with amazing noodles that you would have thought were made from something like squid ink, but Chef explained they were simply black rice formed into noodles.
Many of these courses are available to be seen on my Facebook page and you really have to look at them, while they're not magnificently gorgeous the simplicity and love that went into them really showed on the plate and in your mouth.

Scallops arrived next in a cream, ginger and white wine sauce with seaweed. There were huge sea scallops but what was amazing about this dish was the seaweed which chef called sea lettuce and was truly a local delicacy like I have never had before. I love seaweed but I doubt I'll ever be able to find anything like this at home for cooking.

Well since we had each ordered only two courses, this is been quite a surprise and we insisted we were full at this time as Chef Uri and repeatedly came out and asked us if we wanted anymore. He insisted we try his superb delicious spicy cardamom ice cream and then we left very full knowing that we would not be eating a very big dinner that night. 
It was indeed a supreme pleasure to meet Chef Uri, enjoy the thrilling tastes of his food and truly have a special experience to take home of Uri Buri.


Galillee's Magdalena will make you much more than a happy meal (8-21-16)

For our last night in the Galilee our tour guide, Amir, suggested we go to Magdalena in the small town of Migdal located just north of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. 0or Kinneret Lake.

When we arrived shortly after 7 one other table was occupied and the huge second floor space facing out to the lake seemed to be worse than dead. We need not worry as he had chosen what they call in Israel a Chef Restaurant, which means that the chef likes to play with food and make our experience very special; I guess we would call this fine dining back home.

I chose the sea fish Sashimi to start with which turned out to be a super raw tuna with goat cheese, Mediterranean spices, red Endive and fennel fronds that was absolutely magnificent not to mention beautiful. Remember that pictures are always available for you to view on my Facebook page. Will chose Zahara which was a fried cauliflower with tahini, Curry and tomato salsa with pickled mango. 

Samuel was feeling quite full and he chose simply the tabouleh salad which turned out to be a monstrous bowl of salad that was quite heavy on the parsley side. There's no way on earth that any person could have finished it by themselves.

We had the Yatir Vineyard  viognier  a week before in Jerusalem and comes from the Negev Desert near the town of a Arad, so we chose their Rose a which was also superb. Delicious bread arrived  which had a tomato and nut spread which was also irresistible.

For the main course our guide chose a lamb Shawarma with hummus caramelized onions and pine nuts which he declared to be one of the best he has ever had. I had an extremely rich scallop risotto with fresh peas and topped with a crayfish foam with slices of black truffle that was so intense I could not finish all of the delicious arborio rice.

Will's portion of lamb stew with couscous and chickpeas had to be bigger than his entire head I think it was like an osso bucco gone bananas.

We got a kick out of this sign on the men's room where it said "men to the left because women are always right."

It was a delicious meal and boy am I glad that we had our driver to take us up the Steep hairpin curves on the Mountainside back to our hotel.

Muscat at Mitzpe HaYamim makes a perfect meal in the Galilee(8-19-16)

Heading north to the Galilee we arrived at the beautiful Mitzpe  Hayamim Resort hanging high above the Hula Valley with magnificent views down to the Sea of Galilee or as we prefer to call it the Kinneret Lake.
Our first night we decided to eat in the meat restaurant which is not technically a part of the hotel but is located attached to it and is called Muscat.
It was a wise choice and an amazing meal with a gorgeous Terrace looking over the Galilee and Golan Heights.
I started with the veal tongue in a raisin almond and onion sauce with baby arugula and walnut oil that was out of this world.
Will chose the sea fish Ceviche with radish from their garden which was amazing to begin with as well as chili lemon and baby coriander leaves and extra virgin olive oil.(they also have a goat farm to make cheese, cows for the milk, and more)
Samuel in his quest to keep away from carbs chose the absolutely amazing mushroom risotto.
Our guide Amir insisted on the salad because he's trying to cut carbs and keep away from anything but meat and vegetables, but in Israel a salad is always amazing.
We ordered a Rose from Gamla in the Golan Heights 2014 that we had tasted earlier in the day at the winery itself and was made from Syrah grapes and totally dry and out of this world.
For main courses the veal fillet was an amazing winner aged and charcoal grilled in a sauce of beef consomme with mash potatoes and interesting enough a small miniature corn on the cob with tomatoes. Will chose the organic duck with thigh confit roasted breast, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes and an orange caramel duck broth.
Yummy Focaccia arrived that look more like giant dinosaur bones and we gobbled it up with a balsamic sun-dried tomato paste that came with it.
Our wine was a blow your mind Domaine du Castel Grande Vin 2013 from the Judean Hills made of Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and petit verdot which could easily last another 10 to 15 years.
While our dinner included three courses none of us could really think about dessert but could not resist it as well so we chose the Goat cheese and Kadaif pastry with caramelized pistachio and sugar cane liquid that was absolutely divine as well as a supreme biscuit with meringue salted toffee and rum raisin ice cream with vanilla cream.
It was an amazing start to three nights at this spectacular hotel and we must thank our server Avtal for really giving us excellent service above and beyond the call of normal duty as we kept telling her we wanted more time or less time etc etc.
Our breakfasts over the next three days for both days that would blow anybody's mind not to mention the dinner buffet on Saturday night. This is a truly excellent high-quality Resort where everything is organic and comes from pretty much on the grounds of their several acre estate.

Jersualem's 1868 offers a kosher setting with local cuisine and much more, but doesn't follow through (8-18-16)

Well we may have done that a 1868 which is a beautiful 150 year old building in Jerusalem only a couple of doors down from the Waldorf Astoria the special event this night was meeting my best friend from childhood Adina Singer who I had not seen in 40 years,  since I was a student at the Hebrew University in my junior year abroad when her father was the Dean of Foreign students. Indeed Adina and her family lived across the street from us when I was a little boy and her father was out rabbi.

She came with her husband and son who is now 29 years old, what a shock is that for me. It was a wonderful reunion and a moving evening and the 6 of us had a wonderful dinner.

Please remember that photos are always available on my Facebook page and can be most enjoyable especially the beautiful tree that arrived with olives spiced cookies salted Marzipan meringue and so much more.

 we had an amazing white wine to start that was called Lagat Lavan (that's white In Hebrew) on that was 70% Marsanne  and 30% Viognier,  and it was such a hit we had to order more.

I started with a tuna tartar which had.lome, seared watermelon basil and ponzu that was out of this world. 

Will have a starter of green and white asparagus with Apple hollandaise, duck prosciutto and quail egg. Samuel gobbled up his veal tortellini starter and then I went on to main courses of duck breast with Asian eggplant plum cream, Shitake Mushroom broth and more for me and burgers for Will and Sam.

 Sadly Will's burger didn't seem to arrive for about 20 minutes and then when it did it was row so we actually got it for free but it was a real pain in the neck. It was a mild floor but it really wreck the meal. Our wine was Bat shlomo Betty's Cuvee 2013 which was an amazing spectacular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc and petite verdot.

Desserts work coconut milk vanilla and rum Magnum with pineapple, lemon verbena and black sesame cake which we could not resist as well as forest of fruit cake which was walnut and plum

Jerusalem's MONA makes for a memorable dining experience (8-17-16)

Our next night in Jerusalem brought us to what was probably our favorite dining spot in town. Mona is a wonderful chef restaurant started by the chefs of Mahneyuda  and now it has a wonderful chef in charge but he was not in residence that evening, Chef Ro'i did an amazing job and we were thoroughly impressed from beginning to end. Will started with a St. Germain des Pres drink made of Saint Germain, Bombay East, egg white cucumber and chili that was out of this world.
My Chipotle margarita was just as tasty.
Since Samuel had a monopoly on beef tartar the three of us decided to have the special offering of an appetizer that night here with a Chipotle aioli, capers  mustard and an adorable Asado meat ball  which was wrapped in a beer batter and deep fried, all with parmesan tuile and potato crisps. It was a delicious portion with the capers and mustard making it superbly traditional but the Chipotle raising into a spicy heavenly flavor with that Asado Ball!
A wonderful complimentary salad arrived of red and regular endive, romaine, pistachios, plums, and Parmesan shavings.
We ordered a bottle of Recanati white reserve which is a combination of Rousanne and Marsanne 2012 in the finest of Rhone variety blending, creamy, rich and flavorful. 
The bread also arrived which came with garlic extra virgin olive oil, olives, sew salt and pepper which we mixed all together to have an amazing spread.
For his main course Samuel chose please the Pappardelle with lamb ragu rosemary and capers which seemed to disappear instantaneously. Will and I both chose the superb crispy skin Sea Bream which had a Tom Yam broth and came with mussels, kale, bok choy and okra. The broth was not spicy like a Thai   version but it was delicate and delicious.
We all decided to split the cheesecake with goat milk yogurt sour cream and Szechuan sherbert which was a perfect and delicious ending to an amazing meal in a quiet and serene setting.

Ha-Eucalyptus in Jerusalem brings you back to Bagdad of old when Jews were allowed to cook and live there (8-16-16)

We decided to eat at Eucalyptus in a Cellar like setting just opposite Jaffa gate so we could attend the sound and light performance nearby later in the evening.
It was pretty quiet when we arrived and the music with Simon & Garfunkel or Peter Paul and Mary but it was nice.We all got an amuse of the superb Jerusalem artichoke soup to start. Sam insisted on the Kube-niya Syrian style beef tartare with mint, red onion, lemon zest and Nablusia fries which turned out to be couscous and made up a good majority of the tartar making him not as happy as he had been with others on previous nights.
I had an amazing starter of figs stuffed with chicken in a sweet and sour Tamarind sauce with pomegranate seeds that was out of this world. Our server Naomi explained that many of the dishes were strong sauces since Chef Moshe Basson hailed from Iraq and had moved here decades ago as a young child when his country was suddenly infested with radicals forcing all Jews to leave very quickly.

The bread arrived with a garlic aioli baba ganoush in a red pepper puree and we absolutely loved the long Arabic style bread with tomato and garlic on top.

Four main courses Samuel chose the beef fillet in a porcini sauce with potato puree and roasted butternut squash. No surprises here but it delicious piece of meat.
Will chose Ingeria beef and eggplant stew in a sweet and sour Tamarind sauce  (from my mother's kitchen) which was a novelty and unexpected welcome change from our standard food.
I went a similar course with Jerusalem Siniya or minced lamb and beef slow roasted vegetables covered with har bracha tahini cooked on a bed of roasted potatoes and pita; it was truly a spectacular and exciting dish.
Our wine was a Wadi Katlav red  2012 Nes Harim blend that was out of this world, making me very happy that I had bought some of their Wines in Jerusalem just that day.

We chose one dessert to split called Ice from Paradise and this being a kosher restaurant it was a non-dairy almond cream flan called Bazbuza with hibiscus syrup and sorbet that was very refreshing.
It was heavy food and a big change from what we have been eating, I welcome and exciting change in a different look into a completely different end of Israeli cuisine.
It was also a great pleasure to meet the chef himself who came out to check on us a couple of times; how nice is that?

Jerusalem's Mahneyuda is magnificent (8-15-16)

On Monday night we hauled ourselves over to the famous Mahane Yehuda which is one of the great markets of the entire world, where a trio of chefs of set up one of the top restaurants in the Middle East called Mahneyuda. None of the Superstar chefs were in view, but it didn't matter because we had a superb night. We have been warned that the noise here was beyond belief, but when we arrived we were escorted to a table in the extreme rear corner where it was much quieter and we kind of like some of the music that was going on, especially when Samuel started voguing to Meghan Trainor.
At first we were moved around from server to server but we ultimetaly ended up with a super handsome Emanuel who was really wonderful. I should note that the tables are ,the setting more simpler and you have knives and forks wrapped in terry cloth red and white towels. Along the walls of the other room are three rows of huge bins of vegetables looking like a market shelf with superb produce.
I ordered a Gayla's Margarita with tequila Agave lemon and Mescal spelled maskal; One comes to Love Israeli spelling of English words like a Chinese restaurant menu.
Simple white bread arrived with a dense and intense tahina spread. Samuel order the beef tartare with Plum, okra, herbs and lamb yogurt and that must have been his third tartar in like four nights, while Will and I decided to split a couple of starters; we chose first the "Get ready with the bikini" summer style wild sea bass fish tartare which came with watermelon and cashew nuts and truly was a spectacular super Light Summer winner. Our second choice was the eight-legged Mexican Carpaccio of octopus with mojito vinaigrette lime and onion which also arrived with chili, radish, caviar and sour cream and also stole our tongues and made me fall in love.
Polenta came in a gorgeous jar with mushrooms parmesan and truffle oil and then they also sent out a complimentary order of Shikshukit or tahini and yogurt with ground lamb kebab that the three of us could not resist.
Our wine choice was an Avalon Clos de Gat blend of Merlot Cabernet and Petit V erdot 2010 Judean Hills from kibbutz Harel that I immediately ran out and bought the next day. It was smooth and elegant in the glass and really amazing on the tongue.
Will and I chose the filet mignon with red cabbage,  lamb sweetbreads and mashed potatoes and Black Pasta with Swiss chard, asparagus, courgette, mussels, calamari,  scallops and feta to split and we were completely full by the end of these two dishes. Samuel had fettucini with sage butter, artichokes and sun-dried cherry tomatoes that seemed to disappear in three bites.

We really didn't want dessert but couldn't resist the Persian lemon tart from Tehran with fig and meringue which I ordered and then they insisted on sending out as well the Bavarian cream from Ramle with toffee cream from Lod which Will and Sam gobbled up immediately.
During dinner they offered us shots;Sam got lemonade, I got tequila and Will got Vodka; we were very happy campers.
The music does get louder and louder as the evening progressed and yes we had been warned about this, but I must admit that we had brought earplugs and they were not necessary. This was truly one of our most amazing dinners in Israel and an experience not to be missed.

Jerusalem's American Colony Hotel conjures up some cool cuisine(8-14-16)

On Sunday night we had a very beautiful evening on the patio garden of the American Colony Hotel. A beautiful freshly grilled Focaccia with sun-dried tomato arrived and we were all very happy.
Will went light with a huge artichoke and asparagus salad with broccoli bell peppers cherry tomatoes and Tahini. Samuel chose the unbelievable Addas soup made of red lentils. I started with truly one of the best carpaccios ever of sea scallops in a rich creamy sauce of brandade of cod with a jus of white truffle oil and citrus as well as ,sea salt, fennel fronds and spices.

The main courses were also delicious but sadly we suffered from the Monstrous over gigantic Texas sized portions. Will and I had  Shushbarak  or meat dumplings simmered in goat cheese sauce with sauteed crispy garlic, cashew nuts and saffron rice.  These were amazing tortellini filled with a delicious meat but there had to be at least two dozen of them which no human being could possibly ever finish in a rich creamy sauce to boot.
Samuel had the herb crusted lamb cutlet which actually turned out to be a rack of lamb with rosemary roasti potatoes that was not of the best quality, especially after the amazing one he had had on Friday at Rama's Kitchen.
We chose the Chanson Blanc Judean Hills white to start with and then the Chanson Rougevof Cabernet Syrah and Mourvedre which was less exciting.
The setting is a winner in the 1870s Pasha palace with huge canopy of trees covering us and a fountain with ceramic tables and excellent service.
The Mousse passion or passion fruit mousse was not a winner of a  dessert. 


What's up with the Waldorf-Astoria Palace Dining Room in Jerusalem? Not much (8-13-16)

Our week long stay at the Waldorf-Astoria in Jerusalem got off to a rocky start with a misled check-in and really didn't get much better, especially when it came to Shabbat lunch on Saturday which we decided to eat there as most places are closed. We only found out afterwards(when the bill arrived at checkout) that the cost for the (quite huge) lunch buffet was over $100 per person!! Okay, so this includes all soft drinks and waters, but $100+++??!!!
Most of the food was so overcooked from sitting in the chafing dishes, as on Shabbat cooking is prohibited, and while there were some nice items, they sure were not worth the sticker price.
Several minutes into our eating the first course of salads and such, Will discovered a black hair at least a foot long in his food, showed it to the staff, who apologized, and went on their way. Within minutes he was sick to his stomach and left, so that was one meal we would not pay for.
The Saturday evening non-eat buffet which I had(Will & Sam went out) was not much better and also cost a pretty penny. Warning--when staying at hotels in Israel, always ask the price of Sabbath (Shabbat) buffets before you reserve!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Raves for Rama's Kitchen in Nataf hanging outside Jerusalem in the Judea Hills (8-12-16)

On our way from the airport to Jerusalem we specifically made plans for wine tasting and for lunch; this was my choice and I'm sorry to my family if they did not enjoy it.

It was a wonderful afternoon starting with a superb wine tasting at kibbutz Tzora where we really fell in love with their white Judean Hills blend,  you can be sure some will be in our luggage on the way home. They also make an amazing very high sugar content dessert wine from gewurztraminer that is called Or meaning light in Hebrew.

We proceeded to the town of Nataf which is a small community located right on the original Green Line what many people call the border with the West Bank and it had a gorgeous view with terraces overlooking vineyards and hills. The only thing located in this town of note is Rama's kitchen which gets amazing ratings and is jam-packed whenever they are open, which is not a lot.
The menu is varied and extensive using local ingredients many of which are grown in their own gardens right on the site. As we sat down Chef Tomer Niv was manning the Taboon, large Brick Oven that cooks local flatbread somewhat akin to a pizza oven. Unfortunately creator chef and owner Rama Ben Tzvi was nowhere to be seen.

Will and I started with the Raw wild fish Ceviche which had Sabra fruit also known as prickly pear and it was a spectacular bright exciting and light dish.
Samuel chose one of the flat breads with
G'ibna cheese sun-dried tomato and garlic confit which was delicious, but he said he had to pull off much of the cheese as it was salty like feta cheese and he expected mozzarella.
Will and I decided to split two of the flat breads. His choice was Siniya with ground lamb, green tahini, eggplant and yogurt sauce that was quite delicious, but I felt my choice of the duck confit, arugula and tomato chutney was a much better creation. What was fascinating about it was the small leaved, thick stalked arugula that was nowhere akin to what we have in Europe or the United States.
Samuel's main course was a grilled lamb chops with pine nut cream and vegetable freekeh that had a rack of lamb four ribs thick that he gobbled up in minutes. I did get to eat the meat between the rack bones and they were delicious, seasoning and sauce and all.
Our guide Amir who seems to be on a perennial diet had the fakus cucumber and grape leaves salad with goat cheese from the local Zeltzer Farm.

On the menu was a chicken liver pate with kadaif, chili jam, dried pears and raspberries that I could not resist. They were small balls of the softest chopped chicken liver that you ever had wrapped delicately in the shredded wheat like pasta kadaif, which were simply amazing when you dip them in the chili jam.
I also had a superb glass of red wine from Flam, just miles away, 2013 Classico, a blend of for grapes that was quite nice, and we'll have a beer that came from just miles away in the other direction on the West Bank.

It was a great experience and they made it even better in the heat by having multiple fans and spritzed water mist all around us; what a wonderful afternoon and wait to start our week in Jerusalem.

WHALE in Eilat, Israel is a wonderful whale of a meal whether you call it Whale or Leviathan (8-11-16)

We came back from Petra after a full day trip completely exhausted. We had purposely chosen the restaurant Coldwell which was located in our hotel as we understood it. Nobody seems to know where it was and we find discovered that it was a separate restaurant located at a private entrance on the side of the hotel because it was not kosher like the hotel. We were happy once we found it though and escape the heat and our server Tal brought us two Campari and tonics to cool us off. He was probably the best server we have had so far all the most of them have been charming and helpful throughout our entire visit.
The menu was fascinating and we asked him for suggestions and Samuel decided to have a bib lettuce with parmesan panko bacon and aioli that was really a fabulous Caesar style salad.  Will and I decided to split the appetizer of stone bass ceviche which was in a chilled cucumber soup with yogurt that was more like a gazpacho and topped with salmon roe, radish, tomato, smoked paprika, olive oil and shoots.  The fish was super quality sushi and the entire dish was really so refreshing we were grateful. The other starter that we split was suggested by our server and was an octopus tentacle confit in olive oil that was deep fried with a roast pepper "nero" sauce, toasted almond, Spanish paprika, lime and parsley that really was amazing.
We ordered a bottle of Shvo Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from the upper Galilee  that went perfectly with the fish dishes we ordered. 
Will chose the salmon with tapioca, pistou (pesto) vinaigrette, artichokes, kale, asparagus, zucchini and a butter sauce and I had the grouper in a red pepper salsa with almonds, parsley, lemon, garlic, and tons of crab sprinkled on top. Both dishes were really amazing and delicious but we could not possibly eat anymore.
Samuel went the meat route as he won't eat seafood anymore with a filet of veal and garlic and herb mashed potatoes crispy shallots on top and veal jus that seem to disappear faster than you could snap your fingers.
 We were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet chef Leor Rafael who came out to welcome us at the end of the meal and also give me an email contact for a food critic in Tel Aviv that might make some other suggestions for our future dining. 
As we left the place was filling up a bit but we couldn't help feeling horrible that tourism here is so low even though it's 105 degrees everyday and the beaches are crammed the restaurants do seem empty at night.
If you have to come to Eilat make sure you put this on your itinerary as it's a whale of a spot whether you call it Whale restaurant or Leviathan,  which is actually the Hebrew word for whale.

OLLA in Eilat, Israel is just ok (8-10-16)

We had two nights in Eilat and choose what we thought was a tapas bar called Olla very close to the beach and hotel zone. On arrival we were greeted warmly seated at a very nice table and Will and I both received a shot of some kind of liquor that had a wonderful cinnamon herby flavor.

The men you seem to be more meat based and less stop us but we were happy with the choices.

The fried  crunchy cauliflower appetizer came with grilled tomato salsa that was nice and a lemon tahina that was out of this world.  Samuel chose a nice focaccia which had a salsa as well as a garlic aioli that he loved. The fish ceviche was also excellent and came on a crostini with salsa chili and a beetroot cream as well as avocado.

The red wine we chose was a Barkan 2011 Assemblage that was really amazing.

It was perfect with my beef fillet on a bed of potatoes with truffle parade in a red wine beef stock which had candied jalapeno marmalade and mustard on the side.

Will fared a little less well with a poultry scallopini that have potato truffle puree,  and while Samuel loved his pappardelle with beef ragu and portabella mushrooms some of the meat was a bit grisly.

We weren't thrilled but we weren't disappointed and headed off without dessert as we had a full day planned going to Petra in Jordan the next day.

CLARO in Tel Aviv clearly has cool cuisine(8-7-16) & Green Felafel in Beersheva

Our last night in Tel Aviv took us to the nearby Sarona Market where the evening scene was busy and Claro is cooking up some pretty cool cuisine. It's a large open space with stucco walls that seems cavernous, but is oddly not that noisy. Wooden tables, open kitchen, a long bar and separated section offers up a nice setting for a good meal.
Will & I ordered the LUNA drinks which were superb: Ketel 1 Vodka, Passion Fruit, Lemon Juice & Ginger Ale that was not sweet at all from the delicious fruit, but almost a bit funky from some Coriander, fruity and bubbly; just perfect. A bottle of Judean Hills Blanc from Tzora 2014 which was a blend of Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc that gave us another great wine from this vineyard I like a lot.
Whole Wheat Frana bread is a starter that offers up a huge loaf of hot out of the oven bread with a knife and many sides and spreads: Labneh (that omnipresent yogurt/sour cream combo that is sprinkled with za'atar for spice), Eggplant Salad, Olives, Pickles and more. We were filled up too much and could not resist finishing every bite.
Starters were Roasted Octopus with Giant white beans, roasted cherry tomatoes (did you know these were invented in Israel?), garlic, jalapeno, chorizo, onion and smoked paprika which was a treat as well as the Raw Mediterranean fish (yellowtail) with freekah (green wheat), jalapeno for spice, tabouleh, green purslaine, yogurt & tomato that was truly superb top sushi quality.

For his main course Samuel had the Beef Tartare (surprise!) with spinach labneh (that he would not touch and was spectacular), sumac, baby radish, Kadosh (which means HOLY in Hebrew??!!) Cheese and bruschetta, which disappeared super fast again.

For the main courses Will ordered a Seafood Bucatini with shrimp, calamari, octopus win white wine, with arugula, tomato and parsley while I loved my Delicated smoked Dan River Trout with potato salad, green beans and horseradish. The dish was not expensive, but again that Texan size portion of fish laid atop a sea of superb potato salad that was not too creamy or rich at all, but impossible to finish.
We could not eat dessert but our superb and kind server Maya brought us a complimentary plate of fruit salad and sorbets that was quite refreshing.

We headed south the next day and had some of the best falafel ever at Felafel Ha-Yarok or Green Felafel in Beersheva as we entered the Negev desert where we shall be for several days, so no exciting dining reports here as we stay 2 nights at the Beresheet Hotel where food is good and filling and lots of buffets Texas (Israeli) style....

Sunday, August 07, 2016

CATIT is haute cuisine, fine dining and more in Tel Aviv(8-6-16)

On our third night in Israel we went next door to Mizlala from the night before, where Chef Meir Adoni has his fine dining CATIT, that shares the same kitchen, but produces food of a totally different style with only about 8 tables  total in a very refined setting with white linens, softer 70's-80's music and a very elegant feel indeed, something very different for Israel and indeed Tel Aviv.
Our server Noam explained the menu here is 7 courses only for 437 NIS (about $115) which is quite steep in this country, but indeed a rare experience. Samuel gave his "food issues" and she said not to worry and we proceeded with Cosmos and Grey Goose Martinis of quite large sizes to peruse the menu and wine list.
Each course had a title and "Israeli Summer in Siam Fragrance" came first which was Yuzu yogurt, smoked and salted granola, meringue clouds dusted with Kfir Lime, Apple, Green Curry Cream, whipped frozen buttermilk (actually frozen with liquid nitrogen) and Thai basil. It came with a miso tulle flatbread with dried shrimp (Sam got a piece without shrimp as he asked for no seafood or fish) which I loved, but Will was not crazy about. The most intriguing aspect of the dish for me was the smoked granola as it had the most original and exciting flavor.
We ordered a bottle of Garage de Papa 2013 Chardonnay from Lewinsohn in the Upper Gallilee which Noam explained was an expat-French winemaker now in Israel and the wine showed its French heritage beautifully.
We did get the same breads from the night before: white sourdough with cilantro seeds and rye with raisins as well as the butter, which was much better here and the red pepper aioli was spicier, as Noam says it changes all the time depending on who is n the kitchen!
You may recall that Sam ordered the Kobniih or Veal Tartare the night before and indeed this was our second course, but this dish was completely different from what was next door as it was indeed even better quality Veal Fillet Tartare with smoked wheat cream, harissa, aubergine cream, tomato vinaigrette, yogurt yuzu, yogurt powder, Persian lemon, roasted pine nuts, smoked wheat puff, Fakos (somewhere between a cucumber and zucchini), Shaklish (goat) cheese, Lia (lamb fat), soot onion and sorrel soup. The soup was actually a green sorrel and soot onion shooter that came on the side along with the most amazing huge piece of hot Druzian spiced pita fresh out of the oven...we were blown away (again, more photos on FB).

"Sea of Asian orchard" was an Amberjack fish tartar with roasted peanuts, kohlrabi yuzu & mandarin vinaigrette, dashi stock and on the side a Tempura Eel Bahn Mi sandwich with Asian pickles(including jalapeno) and Ban mee sauce. Sam's fish was replaced with watermelon & tomato versions, but we were thrilled with ours and while the weal Kobniih was a revelation on the plate, this dish was a close second.
The palate cleanser was "Gordon Beach Mojito" or yogurt, melon, cucumber, tapioca pearls, coriander, whitened almonds, lime, olive il, mojito & habanero granite and mint crunch. I am not a mint fan but loved the crunch, even though the overall dish was our least favorite.

I have to mention that there was a small moveable wall panel just behind me to the other restaurant where the bar was and the drinks were passed through. Every time it opened I turned around and joked with the person passing the drinks through that they must be for me!

Will and I had a glass of eed each and I loved the Shoresh Tzora 2014 from the night before so much I stuck with that while Will had the Catit house blend red from Tulip 2014 Upper Galilee. Both were ideal with "Sacred Cows in New Delhi" which was Seared Veal Tenderloin in Indian Arabica (Espresso & Cacao with flowers), Japanese pumpkin Panna Cotta in Soot Onions, Uzbekian Apricot with Cardamom Crème Fraiche, Dried Black Grapes with Tamarind, Yogurt & Rose Water with a Crumble of Malt, Flower seeds....need I say more.
Lots of thought went into these very complex dishes and it was fun to try eating some of the parts alone, but when combined it was truly amazingly delicious.

Desserts started with smaller pre-dessert called "Paris, Tehran, Bangkok" or Bouchet (goat cheese) Cream, Persian Lemon & White Chocolate Crumble, Roasted red plum, tangerines with olive oil, lychee sorbet, Saffron, Kfir Lime, Lemon grass syrup &B Thai basil.
The fun continued with "East and West Chocolate" with Cocoa biscuit, chocolate Guanaja parfait, coconut chips, chocolate pages, Cremo Managari (French chocolate cream), berries, candied ginger (licorice was omitted for us) & hazelnut espresso, yuzu yogurt, mango salsa, Twill pineapple, mango marzipan & lemon grass. The "Twill" from the menu was actually a tulle....and it also had wildberry powder which was all out of this world. A glass of the house Grappa from Galilee came and we waddled home knowing that fine dining might not get much more exciting than this in Israel, but hoping that the food excitement keeps on coming each and every night like this one.


Mizlala in Tel Aviv is where Chef Meri Adoni makes amazing magic (8-5-16)

We had heard wonderful things about Chef Meir Adoni and his mini-empire here in Tel Aviv and chose to dine at Ha-Mizlala or Mizlala (which means the eatery) his small and casual spot just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. The menu is good sized with many choices and we decided to start with cocktails and bread. I went for the refreshing Absolutely Cilantro with Findlandia, Sauza Silver Tequila, Cucumber, Lime and some chilis for spice. Sam chose the White Sourdough bread with Cilantro seeds and Rye Bread with raisins which came with butter and an awesome thick red pepper aioli.
We perused the menus for dishes and wines and settled on a rose and red (suggested by our excellent server Anna) for the meals: Gri de Merselani Rose 2015 from Recanati in the Emek Chefer (Chefer Valley) and the superb smooth yet slightly spicy Shoresh Tzora 2014 from the Judean Hills, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Petit Verdot.

Will started with the Artichoke Caesar which was loaded with chokes and a huge salad indeed also with red onions, pickled egg and huge croutons. Indeed many of the dishes were large here as we discovered. Sam headed right for the Kobniih or Veal Fillet Tartare with bulgur, smoked arisa, white aubergine cream, cauliflower and peanuts but asked them to hold the yuzu yogurt and it was a superb tartare for sure loaded with spice and flavors as well. My dish was called Sicilia and were charcoal grilled Sweetbreads, root veggies(carrots,beans ant with more) in a spicy stew with herbs, lemon zest, big parsley and Parmesan on top which was super yummy and flavorful as well.

As we headed to the mains after a nice rest the dishes seemed to get huge with Samuel going to Streets of Bombay-lamb breast, green curry, Thai aubergine okra, garam masala, red onions, liah, cauliflower and rice. My Jericho chicken was citrus grilled with baharat, pickled lemons, liah, fareek stew, aubergine cream, yogurt, tomato salsa and Tahini and I got to split this halfway with Will who chose the excellent, tender and tasty Veal Fillet with green garlic cream, onion filled with veal, bulgur & herbs and more of that wonderful aubergine cream, as well as natural almond and a pepper sauce.

We were all thrilled with every bit and even the desserts
Sweet Emotion was Chocolate & caramel cremo and hazelnuts, cardamom, dark chocolate mousse with pistachio cream eclairs which we called awesomeness on a spoon.
New Middle East was semolina & bharat cream with yogurt crumble, nectarine, apricot sorbet, hyssop oil and other yummy stuff but not as awesome as the mousse.
Grappa from Galil came from the house and we went home super super happy looking forward to heading to another of Chef Meir's places tonight.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Tel Aviv's M25 is meat, meat, more meat and modern Middle Eastern miracles(8/4/16)

We arrived at our hotel exhausted at 7pm after a long journey, but our first diner was going to be a special surprise just a 10-minute walk away at M25 in the Carmel Market, where Chef Jonathan Borowitz holds court over a truly simple affair of exposed pipes and walls, benches outside, simple tables and chairs and a huge glass fronted butcher-store style fridge filled with all kinds of meats for sale. There were no menus to pass out, just a blackboard on one wall with everything written in Hebrew (which I struggled through with no vowels!), but Chef greeted us, seated us and along with our server, Noor, began to explain it all. It was not a lot, but we were overwhelmed and he agreed to just send out a selection. There is no wine list and three bottles (1 white & 2 reds) stood on the meat fridge and I immediately chose the Masi 2012 Campofiorin which came to the table sweating from the chiller making me worry it was too cold. Wrong! It was about 60degrees and perfct for the 80degree muggy evening and the meats loaded with flavors.
First came three large kebabs grilled on metal skewers: Skirt steak, Onglet (hanger steak) and Lamb(shoulder), which each one of us had a favorite. Samuel had been saying he was going to try and be vegetarian on this trip; that lasted about 5 minutes. A small bag was delivered filled with miniature pita "pies" stuffed with minced lamb and spices which were also grilled (I think everything was) and bursting with flavor. Photos are on my FB page and must be seen to be believed as we had just seen Sweeney Todd this week at Glimmerglass opera and these indeed were the true incarnation of the meat pie-Israeli style. Sweeney Todd--we ate your heart out!
Salads came and these were truly awesome with a Greek Salad of gorgeous greens, sliced thin kohlrabi and more in a superb lemony vinaigrette, every leaf looking like it was just picked minutes before. The "Israeli" salad comes in many shapes, sizes and combinations and here was tomato, cucumber and jalapeno slices and more over a bed of tahini sauce which was superb with those pita pies. The kick from the chili was just right.
Samuel received a plate of gorgeous grilled eggplant, zucchini, radish and kohlrabi and more and loved it all save for the latter, but then hit the meat and shared his veggies with us.
Grilled tongue with sea salt arrived with mustard and chazeret, which is one of the items on the annual Passover Seder Plate and here was simply grated  fresh horseradish which was excellent with the soft subtle meat, but not needed as this was indeed the best tongue I have ever had anywhere. Will tried a small bite, thinking he would hate it, then finished half the plate which also came wit a small salad of scallions.
We were stuffed and tired but could not resist dessert in the form of Crack Pie, which was an out crust similar to graham crackers and a sweet filling with runny whipped cream on the side that was delicious beyond belief, and we had to all fight over the last bites. Chef arrived with a plate of three small spoons filled with Chocolate Mousse that disappeared even faster, with Will declaring it the best chocolate mousse ever.
What a great way to start our first meal in this 3+ week journey through Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel and eternal homeland of the Jewish people, now a top dining destination on earth!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Alex's Bistro in Cooperstown, NY still creates great cuisine (7-31-16)

Our last night just had the five of us taking it easy at our regular downtown spot previously know as Alex & Ika and now recreated as Alex's Bistro. The menu is largely the same, although the wine list is severely curtailed and the drinks changed.
I was upset not to see my Swedish Martini, but loved the Alex Lychee Martini which is as dry as can be with vodka and vermouth soaked lychee-kefir lime leaf and lime. Lukas Monster Margarita is still on the menu and was a hit as well.
We were upstairs and our server Christian worked hard running up and down to our crowded little room with old wooden tables and lots of mirrors on the wall; they were arranged oddly so he had trouble getting to the large party behind us!
I failed to mention that the day before at lunch the napkins at Mel's@22 were more like a paper towel, actually a teeny it was insane. Here they are a bit better, but if someone would pay for Vanity Fair dinner size napkins at these better dining spots, I think it would be worth the extra 10 cents!
We started with an unexciting Carmenet California Chardonnay and we loved the Flash Fried Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt & Lemon (I need to remember the lemon when I make these at home!).
Sam started with an order of Fingerling Potatoes and Aioli and begged for more of the latter. I had the superb Potato Leek Habanero Corn Chowder with Scallions on top which was just the right amount of spice calmed by the corn soup, which was pure corn with no cream and so tasty. Wild Shrimp Rice Noodle Fritters with Habanero Cream Cheese Stuffing and Mango Lime salsa seemed to be good, but had little shrimp flavor. While the Leeky Alsatian Bacon Tart with Pernod Creamed Leeks and Bacon on a Flaky Pastry Crust was indeed delicious although not Alsatian as the crust was puffier and higher and not flat.
We moved to a decent Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha from Calatayud in Spain 2013 and we sometimes heard the odd and loudish at times music (Layla??) which seemed not to fit.
Tipsy Potted Pig was Chipotle Pulled Pork with Calvados Chestnut Hash and Creamy Penne Pasta Alfredo & Arugula was a monster dish (well the main courses all were) and extremely rich, but superb. Salmon Sesame Noodles was seared Alaskan Coho with sweet tamari and sesame udon noodles, arugula, cucumber, fried shallots and pickled ginger and probably one of the lighter dishes, but still plenty left to take home.
My Tandoori Ribs were awesome was a madras Curry dry rub on the baby pork ribs as well as an amazing Tamarind Glaze a bit of the Mango Lime Salas on the side and a huge pile of tasty steamed Yucca. I took a good deal of these home and finished them yesterday!
We did not anticipate the huge portions and skipped dessert leaving us very full o our last wonderful night in Cooperstown.

Rose & Kettle in Cherry Valley(near Cooperstown), NY still kills all the competition (7-30-16)

Last year we started a tradition of having a client/friends dinner at the Rose & Kettle and this year it worked out wonderfully where some 17 of us got together with mostly Young Artists from both Glimmerglass Festival and the Washington national Opera as well as several Glimmerglass principals this summer for a superb evening out. Photos of the event and my meal are on my FB page as well as a superb Happy Birthday rendition that rocked the restaurant for our dear friend Mel who will be 60 next week!
Our server Miriam did an awesome job considering the size of our group and the fact that it was  very busy Saturday night with the place fully committed. We had numerous wines including a crisp Wachau Gruner Veltliner, a tasty Chateau de Campuget Rose and two yummy reds: Farnese Montepulciano d'Abruzzo & Jean Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2013 Cotes du Rhone.
Drinks here are fun too and the tasty Rosebud Margarita was very popular with Cointreau, Pomegranate Juice and El Jimador Reposada Tequila.
I am wary of crabcakes away from the DC area and this starter was HUGE with Sauteed Spinach and a superb Lemon Caper Aioli. I would have gladly had a smaller cake and less filler, but then, this is not DC and the cakes tend to be less pure; even so it was most tasty.
I would say that 2/3 of the table went with the Steak Au Poivre which is a NY Strip Grilled with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Spinach and an amazing Bourbon Peppercorn Cream sauce (think gravy) and crispy Fried Red Onions on top.
Desserts were a tasty Strawberry Rhubarb Tart as well as Cheesecake with Blueberries as was indeed National Cheesecake Day (who knew?).
A terrific time and meal was had by all!