Paris – 11/25/17 – Clamato, Little Red Door, and Balagan

Clamato

Septime’s little sister Clamato is another place where I could easily eat everyday.  Incredibly fresh fish, fantastic flavors and perhaps the best service that I had on this trip.

trout from banka, marinated vegetables & white cheese

cuttlefish, sesame and chili

baked scallops, lard and sauvignon

Little Red Door
Definitely go at opening to the Little Red Door.  What an incredibly cute bar and I absolutely loved the architecture based menu concept.

Balagan
With a fitting name meaning ‘beautiful mess’ in Hebrew, Balagan is certainly un-Parisian aside from being part of the Experimental Group.  While quite a scene, it is incredibly energetic and I couldn’t help but have an amazing time.  And the food was amazing…that pictured as well as a few extras that I didn’t photograph.

frenavon bread

beef tartare damascus, herbs, pepper coulis, tahini

beetroot salad, spinach, arugula, mangetout pea, peas, feta cheese

scallops

Paris – 11/24/17 – Buvette, Le Syndicat and Chez La Vieille

Buvette
I stopped at Buvette for some vegetables to offset the cheese I was eating for 3 meals per day.  They were delicious but the service was truly horrible to the point that I considered leaving before I had even ordered and again after I finished my glass of wine and couldn’t seem to get another.

Le Syndicat
I have had several disappointing experiences at places on the Worlds 50 Best Bars list but had a fantastic experience at Le Syndicat.  It looks like an abandoned storefront in a slightly sketchy neighborhood and you could easily walk by it.  Very cool menu, great drinks and service.  I can’t wait to return.


Biggie Smalls Door
Marc de Bourgogne, Cap Corse Mattei, liqueur de gentiane, et cordial de pamplemousse & d’aneth

Undergroni
Eau de vie de framboise, Cap Corse Mettei, vermouth rouge, et sucette maison au piton

Chez La Vieille
Thank you Daniel Rose for reopening this spot, staffing it with amazing people from Spring, and creating such a fantastic environment.  Perhaps the best time I have had at dinner while traveling and if I lived in Paris I would be here once a week.  I could easily eat poireaux vinaigrette every day of the week and this version was excellent.  But the chicken was quite possibly the best chicken I have had in my life.  Yes everything in Paris seems better, and the chickens are different, but I have thought about this so often since.

Poireaux vinaigrette

Poulet fermier et puree de pomme de terre

Comte

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!

Chicago – 9/15/16 – Au Cheval and Roister

Au Cheval
Of course now that United’s fares from EWR to ORD have been cut in half there is talk of Au Cheval coming to New York.  This burger was my reward for the dozens and dozens of trips I have made to Chicago, especially those early morning flights to be there by 11am when it opens for lunch.

Roister
A seat at the hearth at Roister may be my new favorite place in Chicago.  In a way the plating is deceiving as some of these dishes are dark and are not necessarily made for today’s instagram age.  And while looks can be deceiving, menu descriptions can be as well.  Oysters are one of the very few foods that I genuinely dislike.  I have been trying to train myself to like them for 2 years now but was set back by an unfortunate episode of food poisoning.  When Chef Brochu kindly sent out a gift of the smoked oysters my stomach sank.  I was dining with my mother, the only person I know who dislikes oysters more than I do, and who would be of no help in eating these.  I made her try one and she admitted it wasn’t bad at all (which is a very high compliment).   I happily ate the rest as they were completely delicious.  I love having my mind changed about an ingredient.  The fries I likely would not have ordered myself as bonito and tofu are not ingredients I particularly enjoy but a friend ordered them on a previous visit and I had to have them again. Then there is the chicken that I still think about.  The leftovers are the first thing I have ever taken in a doggie bag from any meal while traveling.  I cleaned out half of the hotel mini bar and we ate the rest for breakfast. It may have been even better.

Tomato bread – mayo, shallot, pecan oil

Aged cheddar rillettes – truffle, cauliflower, fry bread

Chow chow mein – aged cabbage, noodles, relish

Cucumber – melon, smoked creme fraiche

Smoked oysters – garlic butter, breadcrumbs

Yukon fries – soy dusted, bonito flakes, tofu mayo

Whole chicken & chamomile – braised, poached, fried with sunchokes

Hushpuppies – corn crema, sour corn, manchego

NYC – 7/2/16 – Nomad Bar, Olmsted and Grand Army

Nomad Bar
Of course there had to be pre-dinner snacks at Nomad Bar. For once I exhibited a bit of willpower and did not have the hotdog so I could chalk this up as a success or a failure.


Beef and tuna tartares

Olmsted
I followed Olmsted pre-opening as I tend to do every time a chef who has spent time at Alinea opens their own place.  A very solid market driven menu and I assume that by now the menu has changed several times over.  My favorites were the fried fiddleheads and the snap pea sushi (and no I have never met a pea dish that I didn’t love).  If I had one small complaint it would be the 5 pieces of the pretzel puffs for a party of 3.  I understand if the serving cannot be adjusted based on the amount of food prepped but if possible I wish we could have the option of paying more to even out the serving size when dishes are pretty much impossible to split up.  Well that and that I never saw the awesome Santimetre studio glasses that Chef Achatz had a day later, although other items were fantastic.  I’m very much looking forward to a return visit and it takes a lot for me to go to certain neighborhoods.  Congrats on all of the recent great press.  Extremely well deserved!

Charcuterie Pretzel Puffs

Fried Fiddlehead Ferns

Snap Pea Sushi

Crawfish Boil Crackers

Thai Beet Salad

Grilled Hake, Rhubarb, Brown Butter, Bok Choy

Harbison “Fondue”

Old School Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Creme Fraiche

Grand Army

I have been meaning to get to Grand Army since it opened and happy to now have another reason to get back to this part of Brooklyn.

Charleston, SC – 6/9/16 – Artisan Meat Share, the Darling Oyster Bar and the Gin Joint

Artisan Meat Share
I am not sure that there could have been a more perfect birthday lunch.  I could eat pickles, peas and any sort of charcuterie every day and it would never get old and these versions were fantastic. Midway through dinner I was kicking myself for not just coming back here!

Charcuterie

Pea and peanut salad, green goddess dressing
Bread and butter pickles

Darling Oyster Bar
I should have known better than to pick a relatively new spot for my birthday dinner.  I think Darling Oyster Bar has potential and I can’t say that we disliked anything.  However the tuna poke was completely devoid of any flavor and the grapes a strange component.  But one of my biggest pet peeves transpired when the majority of these dishes were brought at one time and wouldn’t fit on our small 2-top table.  I did not care at all in what order these items arrived.  However there is no excuse for a server not being able to course them out.  I shouldn’t have to juggle plates and inhale last bites just to make room on the table.
 

Shrimp cocktail

Hush Puppies – Geechie Boy corn meal, sorghum butter

Tuna Poke – white grapes, shoyu, sesame seed

Shrimp & Grits – cheddar grits, crispy brussels, country ham, fennel

Snapper Ceviche – fennel, Cara Cara orange, lime, coriander

The Gin Joint
Certainly this was a must-do stop in the middle of Negroni week!

White negroni and birthday desserts!

London – 5/29/16 – Pidgin, Happiness Forgets, Nightjar and Chiltern Firehouse

Pidgin
It is difficult to find places in London, as in most European cities, open on a Sunday.  So in a way I ended up at Pidgin by default but I am so glad that I did.  Somewhat tucked out of the way in a residential neighborhood yet a very quick trip on the commuter rail line.  Great service and an unexpectedly fantastic and refined menu.  And how have I never had brown butter butter until now???
 
G&T – ELLC Batch No. 1 gin, Pidgin tonic, grapefruit, black pepper



Broad bean – goat curd, chilli crisp, grapefruit, lardo


 Mussels – fries, brewer’s yeast, hops, fennel, sea vegetables 

Chicken – miso, asparagus, burnt bread sauce, radish

 Sweet cicely – strawberries, pine nut, sorrel

Happiness Forgets
I tried to come here my last trip in London but later in the evening it becomes very crowded.  Early evening is the best time to come for a completely different neighborhood bar vibe but with drinks better than at any neighborhood bar. 
 

Nightjar
I finally planned far enough ahead to make a reservation at Nightjar.  A very cool space and drink menu.  The reservation came with a time limit but when I was seated I was told that I could stay significantly longer before the next reservation.  Unfortunately I planned dinner based on the originally quoted time.  And while I certainly had time for at least two drinks my server disappeared.
 
Charlie Chaplin

Chiltern Firehouse
I liked Chiltern Firehouse much more than I was expecting mainly because places better known for celebrity clientele than a celebrity chef are typically mediocre. I wasn’t seated at the chef’s counter as requested but a corner of the regular bar which was actually fine. Service started out incredibly attentive but toward the tail end of dinner I sat without a drink for at least 30 minutes and despite my best efforts could not even make eye contact with a server to order another.  The snacks were extremely tasty and it was a nice touch that they were brought out on the house for myself and for a couple beside me who were waiting at the bar for a while past their reservation time.  I loved the smoky tartare, a twist that I’m surprised I haven’t seen before.  Unfortunately I don’t remember what the desserts were but they were light and perfect for spring.  Being made to exit out a back door into an alley was incredibly strange and inconvenient especially as I was in a hotel and my Uber was in front.  Although perhaps I was supposed to feel like a celebrity!
 
Red Riding Crop – gin, Poire Williams, Pimms, cider, pink pepper & rosemary reduction

 Mackerel tartare, squid ink cracker

Carrot blunts – smoked yoghurt, coriander

Steak tartare – pine nuts, chipotle & firehouse hot sauce

Maple glazed salmon – lovage, barbecued kohlrabi