Orlando – 3/4/17 – Ravenous Pig

So happy to find another excellent stop on the pre-conceived culinary wasteland of Orlando.  A great salad and one of the best steak frites I have had in recent memory.

Farmer salad – baby kale, house bacon, brioche croutons, Parmesan, soft boiled egg, Caesar vinaigrette

Steak frites – porcini marinated ny strip, truffle fries, a2 steak sauce

Orlando – 3/3/17 – the Rusty Spoon & Hanson’s Shoe Repair

The Rusty Spoon
Going to Orlando for a convention may be my worst nightmare. While there are chains that are passable in a pinch near the convention center, I just couldn’t do it for more than just lunch. While downtown Orlando is a bit young and clubby at night, there are great finds such as the Rusty Spoon. I did have to chuckle when our server asked if we knew the carpaccio was raw. Perhaps a bit ahead of its time for the Orlando market!

carpaccio – pepper crusted tenderloin of beef, prezzemolo, crispy capers, pickled things & greens

charred squid and octopus – hammock hollow romanesco, sweet potato, arugula, preserved lemon, oil-cured olives & crispy chorizo

a special

handcutt fettuccine nero – charred squid steak alla diavola with local fresno chili, sweet peppers, broccolini & light tomato ragu

Hanson’s Shoe Repair
I am a sucker for a bar with a hidden entrance and a password is even better. We may have walked the block a time or two looking for the address then finally ducked into a bar to ask where Hanson’s was. We were in the right place and after heading upstairs and giving the password to the doorman went back to the downstairs bar to await entry. Drinks at both bars were fantastic and I only regretted not taking Uber there!

Favorite dishes of 2016

I started with more than 60 and have narrowed it down as much as possible. In no particular order here are my top dishes of 2016, whatever ‘top’ means on any such lists. Largely these dishes are not representative of my favorite meals of 2016 and many are from what I would consider casual restaurants. They may not all be the best dishes technically but are the dishes that I could eat every day and often have cravings for. In the interest of fairness of I have disqualified the Au Cheval burger, the Humm Dog, Black Truffle Explosion, and Oysters & Pearls as well as all bread courses.

balsamic, truffle, artichoke
Luskus with Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs
New York

osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
Alinea
Miami

elvis tartine
Eating House
Miami

beef crudo
Momofuku Nishi
New York

farm egg baked in celery cream
Miller Union
Atlanta

foie gras and truffle macaroon
Osteria Francescana
Modena

sheep’s milk gnocchi
Jockey Hollow
Morristown, NJ

passionfruit semifreddo
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
New York

carolina gold rice
Roister
Chicago

okonomiyaki
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Charleston

snap pea sushi
Olmsted
New York
pike quenelle

nam tok beans
Kin Khao
San Francisco

spicy tuna toast
Wildair
New York

ko egg
Momofuku Ko
New York

general tso fried chicken
Chaan Teng
New York

Sarasota, FL – 4/2/16 – Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar

Such an unexpectedly great dinner at Pomona Bistro in downtown Sarasota.  I certainly see why some of my family visits regularly.  In certain cities I just don’t expect to find excellent food or service but this meal certainly had both.  And of course the added bonus of my first time having antelope.  I’m not sure why it is not more popular and I don’t think I’ve even seen it on a menu before or I would have ordered it.  A definite treat!

Sea Scallops – Tatsoi-Mizuna salad, blood oranges, avocado

Romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, sunny side up quail eggs surrounded by brioche

Broken Arrow Ranch sous vide antelope, sherry-date sauce, local vegetables

Tart

Miami – 2/21/16 – Eating House

If only brunch everywhere could be this good.  The elvis tartine was spectacular and I have to wonder why everybody isn’t doing this?  Great ceviche, how can you go wrong with candied bacon and even the quiche, which isn’t typically my thing, was really really good.  And there were quite a few other things on the menu I wish I had the room to order.  I was looking forward to a return trip for dinner, but then I would miss the tartine so maybe I will stick to brunch!

ceviche – poached shrimp, coconut milk leche de tigre, cucumber, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro

candied applewood smoked bacon, brown sugar
 ‘elvis’ tartine – nut & seed butter, bananas, pepitas, whole wheat bread, vanilla bean salt
vegetable quiche – caramelized onions, poblano peppers, cotija, creme fraiche, green lettuces
 ‘calentado’ – braised pork shoulder, rice & beans, sweet plantains, chimmi churri, sunny up eggs

Miami – 2/20/16 – Blackbrick Chinese & Alinea Miami

Blackbrick Chinese
I loved this place so much on my first visit and couldn’t wait to come back.  For once I did not have to do any of the ordering which was completely amazing as it is always my role.  Because of that I have no idea really what any of these dishes are.  Perhaps I knew a month ago but now I haven’t a clue (well except for the beans which I insisted upon and which I could eat every single day).




  

Alinea Miami at the Faena Hotel
Perhaps it has taken me so long to complete this post because I haven’t been able to sort out what to even write.  I was prepared to be completely disappointed by this dinner as when Alinea popped up at EMP in NYC I was completely thrown by having Alinea food in a different space.  Until then I had not realized how much the physical space was a part of the experience.  Also looking at some pictures from the pop up a month prior in Madrid many of the dishes were ones I had already had. But I do often say that its best to have low expectations so that you can only be pleasantly surprised.  Then of course there is the Faena hotel which is completely over-the-top in every way.  And I must digress for a second to note that the service is truly fantastic.  Before beginning dinner I visited the hotel ladies room which had a multitude of stalls and every garbage can was empty and all toilet paper folded into perfect points.  Alinea standards and suddenly it somehow all made sense.  I love how the dining room light fixture reflects in the majority of my photos as it perfectly sums up the experience and in a way was good preparation for Alinea 2.0.  I was completely surprised by how local parts of this menu felt as I simply didn’t think there was time to reinvent too much.  Of particular note, of the many versions of this menu’s beef dish that I have had, this was far and away my favorite.  I truly hope this wasn’t my last BTE or hot potato/cold potato, but if so they went out in style. Very much looking forward to the next chapter.

Hot Dog – welcome to Chicago

Osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
 ​Guiso De Maiz – chorizo, tomato, pumpkin seed

Snapper – bouillabaisse, miro june 2, 1973

Moqueca – tiger’s milk, coconut, citrus vapor
 Crab – cucumber, vanilla, green curry
Pig Ear – tamarind, watermelon, szechuan
Siam Sunray – lemongrass, chili, soda
 ​
 ​ ​Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter
 ​Duck – ginger, yogurt, gold
Rose – on roses
 ​Beef – chimichurri, lettuce cores, red onion

Black Truffle – explosion, parmesan, cabbage
 Bacon – butterscotch, apple, thyme
 Balloon – helium, green apple
   Chocolate – banana, fernet branca, dulce de leche (Photo truly not representative of how this looked when plated but we got to talking and parts started to melt before I was able to take a picture)

Miami – 2/19/16 – Michaels Genuine, Broken Shaker and Alter

Michaels Genuine Food & Drink

I don’t think I have ever visited Miami and not dined at Michael’s Genuine.  I’m not quite sure how it became my go-to place but I suppose that years ago it completely stood out as one of the best places in the city.  Every time I come back its just crazy to see how much the Design District has changed.  Consistently solid and I always love their off the street outdoor dining.


falafel – tahini sauce & pickled red onions
 ​golden tilefish ceviche – tangerine, crispy hominy, cucumber, red onion, avocado, cilantro
 ​yellowfin tuna tartare – green tomato, shallots, smoked olive oil, mete lemon aioli, potato chips
 ​roasted broccoli salad – shaved vegetables, quinoa, preserved meyer lemon, tahini dressing
 ​caramelized onion pizza – cave aged gruyere, mozzarella, tomato sauce, thyme, chili flakes

Broken Shaker
Perhaps its just because I prefer to be drinking and dining outdoors, but I love the original Broken Shaker much more than its Chicago version even though they did manage to achieve a similar vibe in completely different settings.  However when I tried to order off menu, I ended up with the drink I was debating just minus one ingredient.  It was one of those times that an actual conversation with the bartender would have been useful as I really just wanted something ‘like’ one of the drinks on the menu.
  

Alter
First a congratulations to Chef Kilgore on being one of this year’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs, an honor which has prompted me to finally finish this post.  Overall this was a really great dinner and I think Alter has an immense amount of promise.  It was too bad that we visited just before the outdoor bar opened as this is a very small space and there was nowhere to wait but on the sidewalk when earlier reservations ran late.  This visit was also slightly after the James Beard semi-finalist nominations came out so perhaps it was busier than usual.  But after being seated very late we waited quite a while for a server to appear at all.  It was very dark so unfortunately these are not the best photographs.  The soft egg was absolutely fantastic and I think on a return visit I would absolutely order two.  I’m missing a description of the strawberry dessert but loved it (and the first course as well).  I’m looking forward to seeing how this place evolves over the next year.


shaved cobia – vetrano olive snow, rice masago, green mustard oil, garlic dashi
 soft egg – sea scallop espuma, chive, truffle pearls, gruyere, caviar
 udon noodle – porcini sabayon, rabbit confit, blistered scallion, shiitake

grouper cheeks – black rice, shoyu hollandaise, sea lettuces

glazed short rib – grits, red onion caramel, wild garlic oil, smoked peanuts
 strawberry ??
 ​meringue