The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, CT., 11/4/22

entrance in light – 20 East Main Street, Mystic, CT., 06355

The Shipwright’s Daughter opened in 2020 in the Whaler’s Inn in the heart of Mystic.  Chef David Standridge changes the menu regularly to present highlights of the Connecticut coast.  They also offer a tasting menu with optional wine pairings, but it must be reserved in advance.  Wine Spectator magazine gave them an Award of Excellence for their wine selection and they also have a full bar.  They also were the second Connecticut restaurant to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation’s ‘Smart Catch’ program. They are open for breakfast, brunch on the weekends, and dinner.  It is a fairly large place with lowered lighting, music in the background, windows to the street, bare blond wood tables, and a large bar area.  We were there on a Friday night and were glad we had a reservation as it was very busy, which also contributed to the noise factor.  The lights are so low that many of the photos turned out grainy, so apologies in advance for that.  Service was attentive but sometimes rushed and not engaging and the food was mixed. Continue reading

Bistro de Margot, Burlington, 10/18/22

exterior – 126 College Street, Burlington, Vermont, 05401

Bistro de Margot is named for Chef Hervé Mahé’s grandmother.  He fondly remembers the aromas and flavors of her cooking, she being a foodie before it was fashionable.  Chef had over 30 years of experience before he opened this, his own place in 2015.  The 2 room place is decorated with black and white photos taken by a Burlington long time resident and physician while he was stationed overseas during the 1950s.  Windows to the street allow a bit more light in, music is in the background and white clothes cover the generously sized tables.  Bench seating is along 2 of the walls and the tables are well spaced.  The pandemic forced them to change the menu slightly and now they offer a fixed price menu of $73 for 3 courses.  The items are priced individually if you want to order just one or two courses.  Chef Hervé Mahé did visit the dining room after diners were served, to visit with his guests.  It’s not Paris but a really fun and real French meal in a little place like Burlington.

Set-up

exterior
sign by door
interior
interior
Frankie napped on the bench
menu
wine by the glass  list
wine front
wine side
wine side

 

Food

Bread and butter were slices of bread from a larger loaf served with a softened butter.  The bread had a good texture with large air pockets and a crisp crust.  It was easy to eat too much of this.

bread and butter
closer

 

The amuse bouche was cannellini beans that had been smoked, chilled and mixed with basil oil and tomatoes.  They had a wonderful texture and a great amount of flavor.

amuse bouche – beans

 

Tartare de Thon Rouge, Sauce Safran, Chips de Légumes, Herbettes du Jardin means Ahi tuna tartar, saffron sauce, vegetable chips and micro greens.  It was a good sized portion of raw tuna under some micro greens and sitting in a tasty saffron sauce.  The vegetable chips scattered around the plate added fun texture as did those greens on top.  It looked darker in the room’s lighting than I would have expected but with a quick inspection by that dreaded flashlight you could see the color was nicely pink.  Darker lighting is nice for ambiance but hell on food coloring.  Thank goodness for improved darkness photography but that doesn’t always work.  At any rate it was a good dish.

Tartare de Thon Rouge, Sauce Safran, chips de legumes, herbettes du Jardin
different lighting
Frankie enjoyed the candle

 

Filet de Loup de Mer Poêlé, La Ratte ad Poireaux au Beurre, Sauce Légere au Persil, Truffe Noire d’Alba translates to Pan seared “Bronzino” filet, buttered La Ratte potatoes and leek, light parsley cream sauce, and Alba black truffle shavings.  The fish was kept perfectly moist in the cooking process and wonderful with the foamy parsley sauce.  The truffles added more color and effect than flavor.  La Ratte potatoes refers to a type of potato rather than preparation.  They are a small potato with nutty, buttery flavor that are grown in France.  They were perfectly cooked and creamy.   The leeks were a star on the plate – really excellent.  Another fine dish that was very well executed.

Pan seared Bronzino filet
different angle

 

Paris-Brest Revisité is Revisited classic French pastry, that was created in 1910 in honor of the Paris-Brest bicycle race, with Chou pastry and pistachio cream.  This was a large portion and very tasty.  Not overly sweet but it was incredibly creamy and had a richness of flavor.  Chunks of pistachio gave more texture and added to the wonderful taste of pistachio.  A fine ending for a good meal.

Paris Brest
from the top

 

Last treats were a plate of small meringues.  They were sweet, light, airy and crisp.  I detected a hint of orange which added to the fun flavor.  Very good.

closing meringue
Chef Hervé Mahé and Frankie

Homewood (Rosenthal Dinner), Dallas, 10/11/22

exterior – 4002 Oak Lawn, Dallas, TX, 75219

Homewood has been visited by Frankie and me in previous posts but tonight they hosted a Wine Dinner featuring wines distributed by Rosenthal Wine Merchants matched with an 8-course menu designed by Chef Matt McCallister.  The food was designed to showcase fall flavors and offered the opportunity to taste 11 wine selections from around the world.  The doors opened at 6:30 with the dinner beginning promptly at 7:00.  Wines were for sale in addition if you wished.  A brief introduction preceded the first course but there were no further comments during the meal.  Each seat had a menu for the evening with the corresponding wine/s and on the back was a list of the wines for sale.  I couldn’t see an empty seat in the entire restaurant.  That made for a moderate wait between the courses.  Wines were brought first and no refills were offered. The wine rep and her distributor did stop by each table to chat and answer questions. The event lasted about 3.5 hours. Continue reading

Landmark Restaurant at Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield, WI., 10/1/22

exterior – 303 Rittenhouse Ave., Bayfield, WI., 54814

The Landmark Restaurant is in the Queen Anne Victorian home called the Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wisconsin.  Located on a hill, overlooking Lake Superior it provides a wonderful view of the water and quaint town.  The well-maintained brownstone also houses a bed and breakfast inn, there and in other buildings off-site.  Three rooms on the main floor make up the dining area, kitchen, and the beginning of the cherry staircase that leads to 12 guest rooms upstairs.  The 1890 house was purchased in 1973 by Mary and Jerry Phillips who began running the B & B.  It was expanded in 1985 to add more guestrooms upstairs.   Out back is a dedicated parking lot.  The menu is small and one special was featured the night we were there, but you do have the option of making it a 5 course tasting and choosing from the soup, salad, sorbet, entree, and dessert options, some of which have an upcharge.  Each small room has a different color scheme, with lots of windows to the outside, a fireplace, and various decorations.  The tables come in an assortment of shapes but most are large and are covered with white tablecloths.  They do not have a bar but your server can make cocktails.  The wine list is limited but there are some ‘special’ bottles in the cabinet out front you can additionally choose from.  Service was friendly and fairly efficient. Continue reading

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 1986, Hammondsport, NY, 9/23/22

house – 9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY, 14840

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery offers several tastings of their wines but the 1886 Food and Wine Experience is the most in-depth experience.  It is by reservation only and includes a seated educational wine flight paired with creative, small foods.  The visit also contains tours of some of the wine-making areas as well as some vineyards.  On the property, they also have a retail shop, seated tastings of 5 wines ($15), or Eugenia’s Garden (price varies with what you order) where you sample 3 wines with optional food for purchase.  The 1886 Experience is $75 and in retrospect, I don’t think it’s worth that.  It was a nice, small, informative tour and the paired foods for the different wines were attractive but not that good.  It was fun to see the different buildings and learn a lot about how sparkling wines are made, but I’d recommend one of the cheaper tours and if you really like the wine you can come back for the in-depth experience.  The Frank winery is significant because Konstantin is the one that elevated the Finger Lakes wine region of New York into a well-respected wine region. He planted the first vinifera vines from Europe in 1957 which forever changed the course of winemaking in New York. Continue reading

Tatsu, Dallas, 9/6/22

building – 3309 Elm Street, Ste. 120, Dallas, TX, 75226

Tatsu opened a couple of months ago in the Continental Gin Building near downtown.  The Sushi Omakase dinner included 15-18 courses made personally by Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi.  There is free parking out front and a comfortable waiting area inside as you wait for one of 2 seatings Tuesday through Sunday.  The wooden counter is set with comfortable chairs and bright lighting with music in the background.  An exposed brick wall backs up the counter and next door is a smaller room for 6 guests.  Service starts fairly promptly and lasts just under 2 hours (that depends on how many extra items are ordered at the end).  Each place has a menu card that also lists the origin of the day’s ingredients.  It is well thought out.  The sushi can be picked up with your fingers or chopsticks.  I prefer the former and they had a lovely little folded moist towel at your place where you can wipe the fingers before and after each bite.  When you go, and do put it on your list, don’t miss the elegant bathroom with bright fish roaming the walls and a fancy Toto toilet to use for the necessary.  It is a calming and beautiful meal, especially under the care of the delightful chef, who has worked with sushi for 27 years, and his wife. Continue reading

The Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach, OR., 7/30/22

hotel exterior, restaurant on second floor – 2740 S. Pacific, Cannon Beach, OR., 97110

The Stephanie Inn Dining Room is of course in the oceanfront Stephanie Inn.  Chef Aaron Bedard creates a 5-course prix fixe tasting menu that changes often and in which you have a choice of entrée.  They have a full bar but also offer wine pairings for the meal.  Built in 1993 the inn is a luxury coastal retreat in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.  They do 2 seatings in the evening at 5:30 and 8:00 in the second-story room overlooking the mountains and nearby homes.  The large tables are set with cream-colored cloths and brown napkins in a room with a vaulted wooden ceiling.  The room faces east so the glaring sun is not a problem for diners.  Music is in the background and there’s plenty of parking out front. Some tables are on the outside veranda but they didn’t seem to get used for the dinner service.  They didn’t open early, in fact they were a bit late, and so a number of the diners lined up at the door.  The problem with that is many people wanted a cocktail and the servers were trying to get out an amuse bouche and take dinner drink orders – and basically, it felt clunky and ill-planned for a fine dining experience (we waited 25 minutes to place a drink order).  It is hard when the diners are all served at the same time so the place can accommodate more people, but there must be a way to make it flow more smoothly.  That said, the service was friendly and finely caught up with demands to provide a lovely evening with pretty good food too. After the salad was served the chef came out to talk about the evening’s menu and the 2 choices for entrées. Continue reading

Smyth, Chicago, 7/14/22

exterior – 177 North Ada Street, Chicago, IL., 60607 – ground floor

Smyth was last visited by Frankie and me in Nov. of 2018.  The interior hasn’t changed much – the main difference this time was eating there in daylight, as the days are much longer in summer.  It does give the room a different feel with the floor-to-ceiling windows being open to the street activity.  The large open kitchen is divided into 2 parts, one serving as the dessert area.  The small bare dark wood tables are well spaced and some bench seating is along one wall.  Music is in the background but you also hear the kitchen calling out orders to one another.  I don’t remember that.  It still serves only a tasting menu with optional drink pairings but there is only one tasting menu (except for allergy substitutions).  The wine list is small and on the pricy side.  The diners seemed more casually dressed than I’d expect in a Michelin 2-star place.  Service was attentive and efficient but not as warm as on our last visit.  We decided to have a bottle of champagne to accompany our tasting.  No menu was provided but one was emailed about a week later. Continue reading

Oriole (update), Chicago, 7/13/22

exterior

We last visited Oriole in Nov. 2018.  Opening in 2016, Chef / Owner Noah Sandoval’s restaurant has 2 Michelin stars.  They still offer only a tasting menu of contemporary American cuisine but their site mentions an extended tasting also.  Optional wine pairings are available.  The first difference we noticed was the entrance – which is now through an open gate on the corner of the alley-like street.  You still stay in that admitting area for a drink before being taken through the sliding door to the restaurant.  Inside has changed a lot with a bar area now opened up where you have your first bites and a drink.  From there you proceed to the kitchen, which is now a huge open space. You have a counter there where you also have a bite and a glass of champagne.  After that, you are finally taken to your large, white cloth-covered table with music in the background.  I’m not a big fan of having to rove around while you’re eating, maybe because it’s hard to take notes and photos, but I like to get settled and soak in the experience.  The staff is first-rate with our main server, Celeste, being a wonderful part of our time there.  They do present you with a ‘menu’ when you’re finished. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant (update), Elk, CA, 7/7 & 8/22

exterior –5600 CA-1, Elk, 95432

Frankie and I have visited Harbor House Restaurant before and it is on this site numerous times.   Every time I go back I think I’ll just eat there and not do another write-up but the food is so good I really hate not to share the photos.  We were lucky enough to dine there 2 consecutive nights so Chef Matthew Kammerer was kind to vary the menu some but other courses just need to be repeated – and you don’t mind.  He continues to win awards for his culinary talents with the restaurant now having 2 Michelin stars.  Their ranch is also now producing some incredible produce which he includes in the dishes.  The wine program continues to evolve under the capable leadership of Wine and Beverage Director, John Miller.  Both nights he managed to delight us with interesting choices from the area.  The final component of the experience is the staff, which are all terrific.  Friendly and knowledgeable (many of our other dining choices came from their suggestions) they make a 2-star Michelin meal feel like you’re dining in a friend’s home.  The hotel it’s in, is a lovely place to stay, if you get the chance.  My highest recommendation here – I’ll go again and Frankie hopes to see you there too. Continue reading

Sushi Bar, Montecito, 6/27/22

exterior – 1295 Coast Village Rd., Santa Barbara, CA., 93108

Sushi By Scratch is part of the historic Montecito Inn and the concept of Chef Phillip Frankland Lee.  It is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the area and serves an Omakase 17 courses to 10 diners three times in the evening.  It is part of the Scratch Restaurant group with different concepts in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Austin. This dining experience starts 15 minutes prior in the hotel’s lobby with a welcome cocktail. (Parking is via hotel valet or they will direct you to the self-park lot).  With the meal you can order your own beverage or buy one of their pairing packages – house, sake, or wine – all $110.  We took the House pairing which served a combination of sake, cocktails and beer.   In hindsight, even though the pairings were well matched,  I would recommend getting your own bottle of something as the pairings felt over-priced.  Seating was comfortable and the 3 chefs preparing your bites were conversational and friendly.  The 16 items featured are on the wall in front and #17 is dessert.  Numbers by each entry are the price of each if there is time and you want another piece at the end of the meal.  The sushi is all outstanding and it is a fun experience that I recommend. Continue reading

Caruso’s, Montecito, CA, 6/26/22

hotel – 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Caruso’s is in the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel on the ocean front of Montecito serving Italian-inflected coastal cuisine.  It is the fine dining option at the hotel.  The facility was complete around 2019 and definitely delivers the pampered dining experience.  They offer a 4-course tasting menu with at least 4 choices in each category and also a 10-course Chef’s Tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Executive Chef Massimo Falsini was not there but the kitchen was in the most capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Shibani Mone.  We chose the 4-course menu and had our own wine after a well-made Negroni cocktail.  The large white cloth-covered tables are well spaced and are serenaded by the sound of the waves coming ashore.  There are lots of outdoor heaters for when the sun goes down.  When you pull up to the hotel the valet will park your car and then be prepared for a bit of walk down to the beach front.  You’ll have to cross an active railroad track and finally down a flight of stairs, but it’ll be worth the trek, I promise. Continue reading

Bouchard Restaurant & Inn, Newport, 5/27/22

exterior – 505 Thames Street, Newport, RI, 02840

Bouchard Restaurant has been in business over 20 years and also has a few rooms/suites to stay in.  They have a parking area but you need to go into the restaurant and get a pass to place in your car before parking there.  They have a dress requirement that is on their website as well as reminded about when they call to confirm your reservation.  No jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, etc but I saw no enforcement of that whatsoever.  There were many casually dressed people in the dining room that were obviously regulars due to their rapport with the staff.  There were also ‘dressed-up’ people there but this was only the first odd bit of this place.  They have a full bar which is located adjacent to the check in desk.  Further inside is a medium to small dining area with small white cloth covered tables with full drape underneath.  Lighting is lowered, there is music in the background, carpet is on the floor and the ceiling is low.   They offer a tasting  menu which is 5 courses at the second seating.  Most courses have choices, some with an upcharge.  The food was average at best but the service was awful.  Slow and inattentive, it aggravated me and probably affected the way I perceived the food.  The captain spent little time with many tables and concentrated on the ones he knew.  It’s a fine line to walk, but it bothers me to see tables sit for 20 minutes with their menus still in their hands and staff carrying on conversations neglecting their job. Continue reading

Gracie’s, Providence, 5/26/22

exterior – 194 Washington Street, Providence, RI., 02903

Gracie’s is a medium sized place in downtown Providence with Matt Varga as chef.  There is no valet or assigned lot, so allow some extra time if you need to hunt for street parking.  In addition to the nice sized white cloth covered table they had a number of booth like seats around the perimeter.  Large windows to the street make up one wall of the dining room and they are heavily tinted which darkens the room quite a bit.  Patterned cut outs are on some of the windows and gauzy drapes hang between some of the perimeter tables.  There are a few tables outside.  The wood floor is opposite the high dark ceiling with hammered copper inserts in some of the wood columns and booth dividers.   The view out the window is of the street that is mostly filled with a bank building and its sign.  They offer an a la carte menu as well as 2 tasting menus of 5 or 7 courses.  Optional wine pairings are available and they have a full bar.  We had pre-ordered the 7 course tasting and ordered our own wine.  They promised to email and menu but never did.  It is a good place anyway. Continue reading

Au Courant Regional Kitchen, Omaha, 5/7/22

exterior – 6064 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104

Au Courant offers a 6-course chef’s tasting menu that changes weekly.  Chef/co-owner Benjamin Maides works with local producers to find and feature the freshest ingredients.  Maides partnered with local restauranteur Carlos Mendez to open Au Courant in Nov. 2016 and now “Chovy” Caniglia is the Chef de Cuisine with “Barnie” Barnard serving as Sous Chef.   They serve some really fine food.  It’s a long space with the front half taken up by a U-shaped bar surrounded with stools.  Art and mirrors decorate the unfinished walls on either side and lots of plants are everywhere.  The high tin ceiling has lighting that was pretty bright and then turned down midway through out meal.  The small tables are topped with marble and set on an old wood floor.  They have an a la carte menu at the bar whereas the dining room is offered the tasting with an optional addition of oysters on the halfshell.  They also offer wine pairings.  We got a half dozen of the oysters and our own wine.  One quirk was that you could buy a ’round’ for the kitchen and then they’d ring a bell in back. Continue reading

V. Mertz, Omaha, 5/6/22

exterior – 1022 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102

V. Mertz is in the Old Market Passageway of Omaha.  The space between two close buildings was covered with a roof and V. Mertz  came to be  44 years ago on the lower level, as a wedding gift.  The location allows the inside rooms to open to the ‘patio tables’ that are in the passageway.  There is no dedicated parking – it is either at street meters or paid lots.  The interior rooms are fairly dark with brick walls lined with wine bottles and the wall between rooms is filled with lit liquor bottles.  The small tables are cloth covered under a low tin ceiling and no music is in the background.  They presented us with the a la carte menu but when asked they brought out the tasting menu with optional pairings.  Menus change regularly, as both were dated. There is a large wine list and full bar.  We chose the tasting and ordered our own wine.  The food is fun, creative and tasty – go if you can. Continue reading

Charleston, Baltimore, 4/29/22

entrance – The Promenade at Harbor East, 1000 Lancaster St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Charleston was opened  by restaurateurs Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf in 1997 in the Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.  They now have at least 6 restaurants in the city.  Chef Wolf offers a constantly changing menu and even cooked lunch at this place for Julia Child in 1999.  Chef’s reputation is that she cooks at this, her flagship, most every night.  Unfortunately she was not there when we visited and I wonder if that’s why our meal was so unsatisfactory.  The food is a combination of French and Southern cuisines and she has been nominated 9 times for the James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award.  The fairly large place enters from a side street, which is not where Google Maps directs you to go.  The bar is to your right as we were led to a table that looked directly into the large open kitchen.  Table sizes varied but all were set with white cloths and napkins and well-spaced, no music was in the background and the lighting was lowered.  The menu offers prix fixe menu of 3-6 courses, which you pick from the entire menu, with optional wine pairings.  Desserts are complimentary with your meal and an optional cheese course is available. Continue reading

Shoyo, Dallas, 4/26/22

exterior – 1916 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206

Shoyo, opened in fall 2021 on lower Greenville Ave.  It is a 12 seat Omakase restaurant, meaning the chef choses your menu.  Chef/owner Jimmy Park worked with Sous Chef William Yoon behind the counter to provide our meal, Chef Shin Kondo was missing ( instead there was a soft-spoken chef not authorized to make sushi).  Together they have more than 50 years of restaurant experience.  Reservations for the following month are released on the first of the month and go quickly.  There are 2 seatings, Tues through Sat, at 5:45 and 8:15, with dinner lasting about 2 hours. There is parking behind the building or as you can find it on the street.  There is a small waiting area until you are escorted to your seat the counter.   While getting settled you can order sake, wine or beer to go with the meal if you chose.  They have halves as well as full sized bottles of sake.  There is also a list of extra courses you can order toward the end of the meal. Continue reading

Nicola’s Restaurant, Cincinnati, 4/22/22

exterior – 1420 Sycamore St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Nicola’s Restaurant is in the building that once was a barn for the city’s 19th century incline trollies.  It was established in 1996 by owner Nicola Pietoso and after 20 years his son Cristian now is in charge. He added some new second floor seating and expanded the wine cellar.  In addition to seating downstairs there is also a bar with seating.  The brick walls are punctuated by the structural beams and high ceilings.    Downstairs a giant chandelier hangs overheard and windows to the outside let in light and look out onto the patio tables.  White tablecloths and napkins are on all tables and music is in the background.  Valet parking is available out front.  The place is really popular so a reservation is a must and even with a reservation we still had to wait in the bar until out table was ready.  They serve Italian cuisine and offer a chef crafted 5 course tasting menu.  We happened to be there during restaurant week and so a 3 course menu was also available as well as the a la carte selections.  We ordered a la carte. Continue reading

The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC., 4/1/22

exterior – 230 Market St, Pittsboro, NC 27312

The Fearington House Restaurant is located in Fearington Village, just outside Chapel Hill in Pittsboro, NC.  They have been in operation over 40 years, with the restaurant being in the original farmhouse.  The couple that started it, R.B. and Jenny(she ran the kitchen) Fitch had a dream to turn the dairy farm into a community.  The property itself has an inn and homes for sale as well as stores and event space to rent.  The restaurant has several rooms in the building, one of which houses the bar.  The widely spaced tables are double clothed with matching napkins and armless chairs.  Lots of windows look out onto the property and the interior lights are lowered. They offer an a la carte menu as well as a Chef’s tasting with optional wine pairings.  We had the Chef’s tasting menu and the pacing was really slow and the portions were on the large side.  While service was trying to be friendly it was almost intrusive with the constant query of “what are your thoughts on this one?” It was a beautiful place to stay but the food would only rate okay – nothing made me want to lick the plate or wish I had more. Continue reading

Herons, Cary, 3/31/22

dining room entrance –The Umstead Hotel and Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Dr, Cary, NC 27513

Herons is the signature restaurant in the Umstead Hotel and Spa.  The 98 seat restaurant features a view of the kitchen as well as the landscaped grounds and art on the walls.  The large, white cloth covered tables are appointed with chairs and couches with pillows.  The room is decorated in earthtones with lots of wood, lowered lighting and no music.  The elegant place takes itself seriously in that they have a dress code asking you not to wear jeans, shorts, sandals or tattered clothing. The menu changes seasonally and tries to feature local produce and proteins.  It is divided into 4 categories which each have about 5 choices for you to pick from  Some choices do have a supplemental charge.  Beverage pairings are available in addition to a huge wine list.  Service was first rate and the pacing and portion control were spot on.  The food was very good and they threw in lots of little things in between courses. Continue reading

Commander’s Palace (update), New Orleans, 3/21/22

exterior – 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been to Commander’s Palace.  The last meal was so disappointing I haven’t wanted to go back but enter Chef Megan “Meg” Bickford, who has worked in the kitchen since 2008 but in Oct. 2020 became Executive Chef, following the 18 year reign of Tory McPhail.  She has livened it up and tonight’s meal was the best I’ve ever had at Commander’s.   It has been in the Garden District since 1893 and is still owned by members of the Brennan family.  Chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse have worked there to present leading-edge haute creole cuisine.  The large building has a patio/bar area in back which is overlooked by the upstairs Garden Room.  Downstairs is a more traditionally elegant room.  Service was great, attentive and friendly – something its struggled with in my past visits. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant (second visit), Elk, 3/13/22

exterior – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Harbor House Restaurant had made a couple changes since our visit last summer.   Most importantly the wine list has really ramped up to include lots of French and Italian along with the large selection of Califorinia ones.   It’s an exciting list and Beverage director John Miller will lend wonderful help if you need it.  They also have added a pack of information cards to the table for you to take with you  and learn about the details of the place.  They cover the philosphy of the meal from Chef Matt Kammerer, a little history on the inn where it’s housed, about their new garden and ranch, their sustainability, cooking techniques and plateware and ceramics.  For their efforts to sustainability they’ve been awarded a Michelin Green Clover designation.  I can’t urge you enough to visit and enjoy a meal here! Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 3/12/22

Harbor House building – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Frankie and I last visited the Harbor House Restaurant in Aug of 2021 and they were as pleased to welcome us back as we were to be there.  The 2 star Michelin Restaurant is run by Chef Matthew Kammerer in an inn built in 1916 by the Goodyear Lumber Company, to showcase their redwood empire.  They offer a tasting menu only that is determined by what is seasonally and sustainably available.  They have started a ranch/garden from which that bounty is now adding to their quality offerings.  Courses are thought out in detail but not overwrought with tweezer and squirt bottle decorating.  Many of their serving pieces are made by local artisans that add plenty of visual enhancements.  Service is top quality as is the view of the coast from the dining room.  This place is surely destined for a third star so book your reservation while you can still get in and if you can splurge for a room at the inn.  The breakfast the kitchen puts out for you the morning after is icing on the cake. We were lucky enough to get 2 nights there, so look for another array of lovely dishes from Chef Kammerer in a few days. Continue reading

Valette, Healdsburg, 3/12/22

building – 344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Valette is a medium-sized restaurant in Healdsburg, CA in Sonoma County.  It was the dream of two local brothers to create a dining experience featuring local farmers, winemakers and artisans.  They craft the menu around these local items along with sustainably raised meats.  Chef Dustin Valette is the kitchen partner and Aaron Garzini is the wine partner.  They have also opened a huge, more casual venue in town but their father often makes the ’rounds’ of dinner guests at Valette.  It offers Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ tasting menu, with a minimum of 5 courses at $18 each (a 5 course is required if you have a party greater than 7) and optional wine pairings offered.  There is a corkage fee ($25-45) if you want to bring your own wine. Continue reading

Moody Tongue, Chicago, 2/23/22

Exterior

Moody Tongue expanded their brewery to include The Bar, a casual restarant with snacks and drinks, and The Dining Room, a fine dining option which is paired with beer at the highest caliber, striving to unite beer and cuisine in an unprecedented, interactive way.  Chef Jared Wentworth was recruited by Moody’s President and Brewmaster Jared Rouben when they expanded their operation to include fine dining in 2019.   The small 28 seat dining room offers only a 15 course tasting menu alongside specialty beer pairings.  The Dining Room has recieved a 2 Michelin star rating.  It’s a dark room with dark wood walls, black tables and chairs and low lighting.  Music is in the background and some windows looks out to the street but they are covered with blinds.  They offer 2 seatings (5:30 & 8:30) each evening that start promptly and have a tough cancellation policy, so be sure before you book.  Everyone seemed to get the beer pairings with their tasting and they are a bargain at just $45pp.  It was a younger, more casual crowd but the service people felt programmed with their introductions of the dishes and often picked up the plates while you were still chewing.  The plates were often lost with so many ingredients. Continue reading

Ever, Chicago, 2/22/22

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Ever is the newest venture for Chef Curtis Duffy and his business partner Michael Muser, opening in 2020.  Duffy and Muser had previously collaborated at Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel and Grace.  Ever offers an 8-10 course tasting menu and has already received 2 Michelin stars, being on a rocket trajectory toward 3.  The exterior has an exterior sign that blends well into the wall and inside the gray  tones blend well with the shiny black tables and light wood dividers.  The large bare tables are well spaced and sound dampening in the ceiling keeps the noise level low with light music playing in the background.  Lights are lowered in the very tasteful room.  Tons of service personnel work to bring out dishes in unison and be on top of any needs.  Wine and non-alcoholic pairings are available for the menu but we chose to order our own wines from the large list. The menu is a surprise but they gift you with a copy of the night’s menu as you leave.  The pacing and portion control were both excellent, no lags and no rush.  The food is all beautifully presented. Continue reading

Corvino Tasting Room, Kansas City, 12/10/21

entrance

Corvino Tasting Room is under the roof of the Corvino Supper Club, all run by Chef Michael Corvino, who has won numerous awards.  The Tasting Room is open Thursday to Sunday for one seating at 7:00 pm and offers only a 10+ course surprise tasting menu.  Optional beverage pairings are available. (We opted for a glass of sparkler and then a bottle of wine).  You enter in the Supper Club, where live music was playing and then are escorted into the small room with a large window into the kitchen, that cooks for you and the main club.  The tasting menu takes about 2.5 hours.  While they can make some adaptations with advance notice and they do offer a vegetarian menu they cannot accommodate  vegan or gluten-free menus.  It was refreshing that there were no options for upcharge items.  There are 4 tables for 2-4 and 2 seats are at the plating counter, that separates the dining area from the kitchen window. Lighting is dim in the room but spots help for each table and the kitchen window adds light.  Portioning is light and pacing is prompt.  No dedicated parking is available so allow time to search if you go.  They do give you a copy of the menu when you leave.  It is worth a visit. Continue reading

EsterEv, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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EsterEv is a small dining room inside the DanDan Restaurant that serves a tasting menu only.  Named for the great-grandmothers, Evelyn and Ester, of the owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, whose passion for cooking inspired a place for celebrating around a table with friends.  In 2015 the 2 Dan’s opened the Chinese food with midwestern sensibility, DanDan and not long thereafter their fine dining option EsterEv.  The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available as are cocktails in the small room off the kitchen that looks to seat about 20 persons at individual tables.  Music from the surrounding restaurant bleeds in and the lights are lowered.  Many of the serving dishes are made by Dan Jacob’s wife, a ceramic artist.   The pacing is great and the portions are on the small side. Continue reading

Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

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Sanford was opened by Sandy D’Amato and his wife Angie in 1989 in the building that formerly housed the grocery store his family operated for nearly 80 years. In 2012 the D’Amato pair sold the place to longtime Chef De Cuisine Justin Aprahmian and his wife Sarah who continue to run the place in the tradition in which it was started.  They want to use the best quality ingredients from local farms if possible with seasonal fluctuations. They want guests to feel as if they’ve been invited into their home for dinner.  The white cloth covered tables vary in size and are accompanied by music in the background, lowered lighting and parking on the street or $10 valet.  The menu is a 4 course (you chose out of choices) or 7 course surprise tasting with optional pairings and there is a full bar.  Service was friendly and attentive.  Pacing and portioning of the tasting were good. Continue reading

Ardent, Milwaukee, 12/1/21

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Ardent is a small place that serves only a 12 course tasting menu from Chef Justin Carlisle on Wed. through Sat.  Set below street level, music is in the background and the blond-wood counter only has a few seats.  Opening in Oct. of  2013, chef stopped by the kitchen but was not there to cook.  Three others handled the evening’s menu (along with dishwashing, polishing and making coffees) and 3 other staff serviced the floor and counter which could  accommodate about 15 guests.   Service was excellent and interactive.  Wine pairings were available as well as bottles of wine and this time we enjoyed the pairings with the good menu of food.  They were a bunch of quality choices.  It’s a cozy, relaxed setting that’s fun to eat in. Continue reading

Jônt, Washington D.C., 11/21/21

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Jônt is located on the upper floor of Bresca and has a counter for just 14 persons and offers a surprise tasting menu only.  They have 2 seatings each evening and are closed on Mon and Tues.  Chef Ryan Ratino recently received his second Michelin star for the place that opened in Sept. of 2020 and is trying to take the diner on a culinary journey (Jônt).  Where Bresca and the small stairway up are dimly lit the tasting counter room is bright with a light concrete counter and lots of stainless steel in the kitchen.  Music is in the background and minimal art is on the walls but the place has lots of staff.  They offer levels of wine pairings for the meal and had to email the menu to me as it is not printed to give out. They also offered a white truffle option for a $300 upcharge (which we passed on).
Continue reading

Lazy Betty, Atlanta, 11/10/21

Lazy Betty delivers a world-class menu prepared by Chefs Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips.  Chef Hsu formally was with Le Bernardin as the Executive Sous Chef and then Creative Director, but ultimately is the product of a family all about food, particularly his mother Betty.  He and Phillips opened Lazy Betty in October of 2019, offering only a tasting menu. The interior is designed to relax the diner, to feel lazy and comfortable.  It is a fairly large space beginning with a good sized porch area attached to the larger dining area by an open kitchen with bar stools and tables across for it.  If you are able to go try and get one of the counter seats where you can interact with the staff and watch your meal being made.  Lowered lighting, music and lots of liquor choices all add to the experience.  There is ample parking out front and they offer only a 6 or 8 course tasting menu with optional wine pairings.  The 2 tastings have some different dishes as well as a few overlaps.  This place comes with my highest recommendation to give it a try. Continue reading

Demi, Minneapolis, 10/8/21

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Demi serves only a tasting menu that concentrates on local ingredients and rare/special ingredients from around the world.  They are open Wed. to Sun. by reservation only.  They  offer wines by the bottle or have 2 levels of wine pairings as well as an alcohol-free option.  They charge a 21% hospitality charge on each check which is to provide a living wage for all team members. The 20 seat dining area is a large U-shaped walnut counter around a center prep area and a cooking area at the top of the ‘U’.  Lights are lowered on diners but bright in the center. Art is on the walls and music is in the background.  Chef/Owner Gavin Kaysen opened it in Feb. 2019.  Pacing and portion control are both very good and all the staff were friendly and helpful.  It is worth a visit but overall my impression was that the food had more design than flavor. Continue reading

The Cooks’ House, Traverse City, 9/29/21

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The Cooks’ House was opened 13 years ago by Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee who  worked together in Las Vegas and wanted to open a small restaurant focused on locally grown and foraged foods.  There are about 8 marble topped tables inside on a wooden floor in a room decorated with art and cookbooks.  A small bar is in the corner but it is only for making drinks not sitting at.  They offer tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses with the smaller ones having some choices and wine pairings available for each.   Menus are only online and change with ingredient availability.  Music is in the background, the place is well lit, benchs are along the walls for seating and street parking supplements the small attached lot.  It is casual with flatware in a box on the table as well as a bottle of chilled water and very friendly service.  We chose the 7 course tasting and got the wine pairings. Continue reading

Carte Blanche (update),Dallas, 10/12/21

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Now that they’ve been open several months we wanted to re-visit Carte Blanche and see how it’s evolved, and I’m happy to say they’ve made some positive changes to the place and menu.   It’s more subdued inside with lights from the kitchen being dampened by a partial shield and curtains added for the front windows. Parking out back is now well marked, there are way more people in the kitchen, the wine list has greatly expanded, flatware is delivered by servers (instead of the roll up) mellow music is in the background and the interior bar has lost the rail and hanging baskets.  It’s a lot of little things but they all add up to a more elegant and softer ambiance all while providing excellent service and delicious and beautiful food.  Put it on your list to visit Carte Blanche and enjoy the tasting menu of Chef Casey La Rue’s dishes. Continue reading

Twenty Seven, Chef DAT, Dallas, 9/11/21

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Twenty Seven is the private event space and catering company that Chef DAT (David Anthony Temple) is now using to host his dinner events.  There are 27 seats  in the same space that also houses the open kitchen and the varying table set ups.  They are using as many local vendors as possible for the meals and you can bring your own wine.  Proof of vaccination is required to attend.  To get on the Dallas dining email list send your information to <theparishgrocerie@gmail.com> or you can sign up through his website <chefdat.com> and he will notify you of upcoming events here and elsewhere.  This one was a 6 course menu and was $95/person + gratuity.  Chef DAT underground dinners started in 2009 with several years operating out of a home on Swiss Ave.  Being from New Orleans his cooking style shows definite influences from his roots, but he also spent time in Belize (2018) which has provided new seasoning options.  Our latest dinner was nicely intimate and fun, with Chef presenting each dish and its influences and ingredients. Continue reading

Aragosta, Deer Isle, ME., 8/29/21

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Aragosta is Devin Finigan’s fine dining restaurant on Goose Cove in Deer Isle, Maine. They opened in 2012 in Stonington but bought a 22 acre waterfront resort in January 2019 to be able to offer lodging as well as dining. A team of craftsmen transformed the property and now the dining room is a large open space with painted wood walls and ceiling. They also have outdoor seating overlooking the water but it gets pretty cool in the evening for that. Lighting is lowered and music is in the background. The place is noisy with so many hard surfaces but it was made worse as we were given a large table right next to the swinging doors to the kitchen. Up one step were more tables and a lounge area near the bar, in front of the fire place. Plenty of parking is close by but the walk to the restaurant is poorly lit. They offer only a tasting menu and also offer wine pairings if you don’t want to order your own bottle. Pacing was eratic, service was an issue for us and the food was mixed so I can’t give a solid recommendation for the place.  Continue reading

The Hichborn, Stockton Springs, ME., 8/27/21

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The Hichborn is in a large historic house with bare wood tables, faint music in the background, lots of art on the walls (for sale), numerous plants, sound dampening panels on the ceiling and lowered lighting.  The house is named for Nathan Hichborn a prolific boat builder who was also a politician.   Owner Kirk Linder manages the front while his partner Charlie Zorich serves as chef in back.  They offer only a printed tasting menu (with a couple extras thrown in) with optional wine pairings for a capacity of about 30.  There is a full bar for cocktails as well as a wine by the glass or bottle menu.  We chose the pairings and while they were well matched with the courses they were small pours and not topped off, especially when they were meant to go with extra courses. Both the owner and chef did come by and introduce themselves, which was very nice. Continue reading

Harbor House Inn Restaurant (update), Elk, CA., 7/22 & 23/21

exterior (5600 CA-1, Elk, CA, 95432 / (707)-877-3203)

The  Harbor House Restaurant is the Michelin starred restaurant in the Harbor House Inn in Elk, CA (Mendocino County).  Super talented Chef Matt Kammerer and his excellent staff continue to turn out innovative and delicious tasting menus and thus Frankie chose to re-visit.  The Inn is still lovely and they are now able to seat guests inside as well as outside, all over-looking the beautiful coast line.  We were lucky to eat there 2 consecutive nights and Chef Kammerer was kind enough to make changes for the second night’s dining.  They have a small kitchen so some dishes were repeated but there were a number of different dishes.  I’ll present the two night’s meals but may omit photos for repeats, depending on which night I got the better photo.  Frankie and I highly recommend visiting and if you can even stay at the Inn.  The staff will make you feel very welcome and do allow several hours for the meal. Continue reading

Carte Blanche, Dallas, 6/29/21

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Carte Blanche opened in mid-June in the space previously occupied by Mudsmith Coffee on lower Greenville Ave.  In the evening it offers a fine dining tasting menu and in the day it sells baked goods and coffee.  The 4 or 12 course tasting menus are offered Tues – Sat.  Husband and wife, Casey and Amy La Rue are the co-owners and chef and pastry chef, respectively.  The tasting menu features native Texas ingredients and wine pairings are available.  One interesting fact is that he doesn’t serve beef, focusing instead on smaller animals but the menu does stress seasonal items and will change regularly.  Inside the large area are well spaced fairly large bare wood tables divided into 2 sides by a huge bar, which holds the pastries in the morning.  Exposed ductwork runs across the high ceiling, art decorates the walls and music is in the background.  The tables are set with a nice cloth napkin and a wrap of flatware that you chose from during the meal.  We had the 12 course tasting and wine pairings however should I go back I would order my own wine.  Portion control was good as was pacing, however the meal was over 2 and a half hours. Continue reading

Restaurant Beck (update), Depoe Bay, OR., 6/24-26/21

sign at the inn

We visited Restaurant Beck and stayed at the beautiful Whale Cove Inn about one year ago.  The facility hasn’t changed but the town of Depoe Bay has revitalized with the dispersal of a vaccine for Covid.  Since there are the previous entries on this lovely place I thought I’d make one post of the 3 dinners we had there.  They still offer three and five course tastings as well as an a la carte menu (wine pairings are available). The first night we enjoyed the 5 course tasting menu, but last year we realized that with their small menu, changing what we get every night is not possible.  So the second two nights we ordered a la carte.  I will post pictures of the items but not repeat pictures if we had the same item another night.  They still have a limited bar as well as bottles of wine.  It is a beautiful and tasty place to stay and/or eat. Continue reading

Tasting Counter, Somerville, MA, 6/12/21

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Tasting Counter is a dining room/kitchen experience for the diner.  A 9 course tasting menu is offered to all diners with optional wine pairings and vegetarian options.  Choices are made when you book your reservation, offered Thursday through Sunday at 5:00 and 7:30 pm.   The pre-paid tickets include the menu, beverages, service and tax.  The menu is a surprise but guests receive a copy with their Parting Morsels.  Chef Peter Ungár opened the restaurant in 2015 and is in the kitchen and makes all the explanations of the courses.  The restaurant is located in a building that houses a large brewery.  We sat at some of their extra tables while we waited for the doors to open.   Inside there were 12 of us at the counter but I read they can seat up to 20, so I suspect they were still trying to keep people spaced for Covid-19.  Inside it is fairly bright, music was in the background and the walls are decorated with preserving foods and wine bottles.   Pacing was excellent and portion control was great. Continue reading

Stages at One Washington, Dover, N.H., 6/11/21

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Stages at One Washington is in the small town of Dover, NH on the third floor of an historic mill building.  Chef Evan Hennessey offers just 6 seats for his fixed price tasting menu Thursday thru Saturday evenings.  There are 2 seatings each night but he recently added “the Living Room” which is not only a place to wait for your seating but also where you can get some of his fabulous food and drinks in a no-reservations setting resembling a living room.  It is in the room adjacent to the kitchen where for nine years the lucky few are seated at a counter and can casually converse with the chef while he prepares your food and/or pours your wine.  Pairings are available as are a number of cocktails and bottles of wine.  The meal is 8-10 courses and no menu is provided as he often changes as he goes along with a menu that features local farms and foraged ingredients. (I wrote as fast as I could but apologies if I didn’t get all the ingredients or preparations written down.)  It is full of interesting combinations and lots of flavors in the foods.  Definitely off the beaten path, but if you have a chance to eat with this native chef of Dover, I suggest you jump on it. Continue reading

Vetri Cucina (update), Philadelphia, 5/22/21

mural on the outside of the building

Vetri Cucina opened in 1998 through the collaboration of Chef Marc Vetri and business partner Jeff Benjamin.  In 2005 Chef Vetri was named Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Awards.  Frankie last visited here in 2014 and although the menu has changed the format is still the same and the giant mural of Chef and others is still on the side of the building. The 3 story building has the Vetri dining room on the first floor with private parties, classes and events taking up the higher 2 floors.  The lights are lowered, music is in the background, old wood floors are opposite Italian chandeliers with the glasses on the table also being Italian. They offer all diners a 4 course fixed price menu where you choose from several options.  You can add an add several supplements for a fee.  Wine pairings are available but the sommelier was able to help us pick a great bottle to go with our meal.   Service is fabulous with great pacing and portion control.  I highly recommend this place. Continue reading

Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

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Friday Saturday Sunday is a small restaurant that is actually open Thurs. through Sat. evenings.  Chef Chad Williams offers only an 8 course tasting menu and 5:00 and 8:00 seating times.  He and his wife Hanna took over the Rittenhouse Square restaurant in 2017.  Covid has restricted dining to the second level (no elevator) of well spaced tables and the bar on the first floor only makes drinks.  The couple tables outside are for cocktails.  Benches line the walls of the second floor and face the tables set with armless chairs. Fairly loud music is in the background and there are dampening panels on the ceiling.  One wall holds a number of large paintings of lush scenery with a large metal palm tree in the middle while the opposite wall has windows and mirrors.  No wine pairings were offered so we ordered our own bottles of wine.  The meal had good portion control and pacing. Continue reading

Laurel, Philadelphia, 5/19/21

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Laurel is an American restaurant with French influences. They have 2 rooms, one of which housed a large bar and the other the well-spaced tables and opening to the kitchen. There was also patio dining available. The bare wood tables are set with armless chairs in a room with lowered lighting and wood floors. Assorted rock music is in the background but sound panels on the ceiling help keep the noise level down. They offer only a surprise tasting menu and had one addition offered that evening- a 3oz Japanese A5 Wagyu beef for $75 designed to be split. The wine list was limited but they do offer pairings and limited bar service. We added the supplement and opted for the pairings (which turned out to be pretty small pours). Portion control and pacing of the menu were great. Chef de Cuisine that evening was Alex Beninato and the menu changes seasonally. Continue reading

Le Bernardin, New York City, 4/12/21

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It’s been several years since Frankie visited Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant.  It’s an elegant interior with lots of wood, windows, flowers and a massive wave art piece at one end.  In the daytime, light flows in through the windows but at night the lights are lowered and windows are shaded.  Now plexiglas partitions are between the tables and servers are masked.  Every table was full and turned by regulars and those celebrating something, but it was still easy to talk at the table.  Heavy white linens drape the smallish tables and service is excellent.  The menu offers 2 longer tastings, one seafood and one vegetarian, or a 4 course fixed price where you choose from a large selection in each section with an optional addition of a cheese course.  Wine pairings are available for the tasting.  In the front part of the restaurant is the Lounge with a limited menu. We decided on the Chef’s tasting menu and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City, 5/11/21

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We were last at The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in May of 2019 and not much has changed in the physical place but Covid 19 has made spacing between guests larger (50% capacity).  Brooklyn Fare is the grocery that is the front of the building and the Chef’s Table is in the rear.  Chef César Ramirez was in the kitchen and doing much of the plating of courses.  It is a tasting menu only with seats around a large C-shaped wood counter and booth seating around the perimeter.  The open kitchen is the center of the well lit room with older rock music in the background.  Wine pairings are available or bottles can be individually purchased.  There are a lot of staff and all are very friendly with guests but Ramirez is more about cooking than visiting with diners.  The beautifully presented luxury foods are filled with flavor and texture, but many of the courses were quite similar to what we had 2 years ago. Continue reading

Bastion, Nashville, 4/16/21

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Bastion is a little different during Covid.  They are a 24 seat restaurant with dining Wed through Sat and a special small bar for restaurant guests however that is currently not open so dining is in the well spaced big bar and there is no chef counter.  I suspect that the set up will change as Covid becomes more under control.  Either way it is a comfortable place to sit and eat tasty food while listening to actual records being played.  Chef Josh Habiger serves a selection of seasonal, creative dishes in a casual atmosphere.  The ‘big bar’ area has a long bar counter and some tables, all well spaced.  Exposed duct work, brick walls, hanging lights and lots of art make it a visually interesting place to be.  The staff all worked together to give a fun and interactional dinner. We chose to have their wine pairings with the tasting. Continue reading

Catbird Seat, Nashville, 4/15/21

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We last visited the Catbird Seat in Sept of 2017 and they have changed teams since.  Chef Brian Baxter now leads the u-shaped kitchen of 22 lucky people who scored a seat at the serving bar.  His last cooking positions were at Husk and Bastion.  A ‘chef’s table’ has been added which is a booth for a party of 3-4 in the back corner of the room, but the counter does not get all 22 seats filled due to Covid restrictions.  When you arrive you see a wood door next to the Catbird sign but it is locked.  You can not enter until it is the exact time of your reservation.  Up the short flight of stairs is a ‘speak-easy’ bar that is a fun place to have a cocktail while you wait. Staff will come for you and then you can enter that door and ride in the elevator, complete with a bench, to the large room that houses the restaurant.  All diners are served a 10-12 course tasting and when you make your reservation you can request an extended tasting.  Pairings are available but you don’t have to decide on beverages until you arrive. We ordered the extended tasting and bought our own bottle of red wine and a glass of white to begin with.  Older rock music played in the background. Continue reading

The Inn at Little Washington; Washington,VA.; 4/2/21

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The Inn at Little Washington is a 42 year old restaurant about 70 miles east of Washington DC.  It is the only restaurant in the area to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars and the chef, Patrick O’Connell received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to American food.  The town with a population around 200 and the oldest of the 28 cities in the U.S. with that name, got the nickname Little Washington due to its proximity to DC.  The Inn/Restaurant had to overcome some resistance in the town but now most of the town seems to revolve around it.  The main inn has 18 bedrooms and suites and now there are a number of buildings in town that it also has rooms in, with one under construction across the street that will be a casual restaurant. Continue reading

Addison Restaurant, San Diego, 3/24/21

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Addison, San Diego’s only Michelin starred (one) restaurant, has been on the property of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar for 15 years.  Chef William Bradley is in charge of the kitchen where they offer 5 and 10 course tastings featuring California gastronomy.  Wine pairings are available but there is a huge wine list also.  Due to Covid the recently renovated indoor area is closed but there is seating on the large heated outdoor terrace.  It you stay at the Fairmont it is a bit of a hike to get up the hill so the hotel graciously provides car service up for you and the staff call for a pick up when you are finished.  It’s little touches like this that make it a lovely experience.  The staff anticipate your needs – like bringing a glass of ice for my water or a stool for my purse -and yet it never feels stuffy, and there is the beautiful back drop of the hotel’s golf course with bubbling streams.  We chose the 10 course menu and got bottles of red and white to pair with courses as we chose.  In addition, it is a surprise menu but they were kind enough to email a copy of what we had that actually did have the courses detailed.  There was only one supplement offered that night and that was to substitute A5 Wagyu for Barbecued Squab.  I chose the supplement and my husband had the pigeon. Continue reading

Coquette (update), New Orleans, 3/19/21

sign outside

Frankie last wrote up Coquette in Sept of 2015 and it remains a favorite of hers.   The lovely corner building has 2 floors for dining, with well spaced small wood tables, lots of dark wood, fun tile floors, lowered lighting and high ceilings.  Downstairs has mirrors on many walls, music in the background and a large bar that is used just for storage now.  The evening menu offers a la carte options as well as a 5 course surprise tasting menu -composed of things not on the menu.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose to do the tasting and pairings and were very happy with the choice.  The staff who brought the food out from the kitchen were knowledgable about the food and happy to share information.  Servers were masked and also very friendly and efficient. Continue reading

Mosquito Supper Club, New Orleans, 3/18/21

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Mosquito Supper Club is a cajun restaurant that wanted to celebrate all the bounty of local fishermen and farmers.  Starting as a family style place at large farmhouse tables, Covid has had them shift to single party, well-spaced tables with a fixed price 5 course menu for all diners. They are open Thursday to Sunday with 2 seatings and offer wine pairings to go with the meal.  After our cocktail we chose to try their wine pairings with the meal.  They were nice and appropriate pairings but no refills were offered.  Located in an older house, there are many rooms where dining service takes place with wood floors, plaster walls and high ceilings.  A bar is in the first room where there are stools if your table isn’t ready.  Rock music plays in the background and lighting is lowered.  Diners are pre-paid with reservations but cocktails and wine can be paid for at the restaurant.  If you pre-buy the wine pairings you will also pay the 25% gratuity added to your meal charge whereas at the restaurant you can determine your own.  Staff was friendly but not overly. Continue reading

Lucia at Macellaio (re-visit), Dallas, 11/21/20

We visited and wrote this one up just a couple weeks ago but were fortunate to get back and try again.  In Dallas we finally have the perfect weather to eat outside and the Lucia folks do such a nice job of distancing and masking that it feels almost like a bit of normal in what has been a crazy restaurant blogging year.   Tasting menus are not for all but I sincerely urge all to give this one a chance, especially because during pre-Covid times you could hardly get a reservation to Lucia.  This is the opportunity to eat the fabulous Lucia food only on the patio of their sister restaurant Macellaio.  The menu really changes weekly as you’ll see below but the portions are generous and tasty.  I even enjoyed the wine pairings.  Frankie slept through the meal but urges her followers to check this one out.

menu

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Macellaio/Lucia (update), Dallas, 10/31/20

Borrowed this pic from Macellaio page. Thanks!

Covid 19 has caused restaurants to adapt if they want to survive.  Frankie has previously visited both of these fine restaurants, co-owned by Chef David and Sommelier Jennifer Uygur, but now the options for getting their good food have changed.  Lucia is not offering dine-in service but is doing take out only with a weekly changing menu on Thursday through Sunday with 24 hours advance notice.  Dinner for 4 is just $100 and includes bread, salad, choice of entree and dessert.   They are located at 408 W. Eighth St., #101 with a phone of 214-948-4998.  Trust me, it will be a great meal.  Their sister restaurant is Macellaio, just around the corner at 287 N. Bishop Ave.  A much larger place, it also has a patio that wraps around the indoor dining room.  While indoor is not open they are taking advantage of the nice weather in Dallas to offer “Pasta on the Patio” featuring Lucia’s pastas.  Seating is distanced and patio heaters are near every table.  It is a fixed price of $100 per person for 5 courses plus their delicious bread and butter.  You can make reservations on their website <macellaiodallas.com>.  This is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss if you are in the Dallas area.  Jennifer has chosen wines for pairings at $50 pp or there is a list of bottles and by the glass or you can describe your tastes and she’ll find something for you.

Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 8/13/20

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Harbor House Restaurant had a 25 seat dining room but now offers seating on its back deck overlooking the Pacific coastline.  The Inn is in a 1916 logger’s retreat that has 9 rooms which were restored in 2018 by a 5 year remodeling.  Chef Matthew Kammerer uses exceptional local products based on the season to produce a seafood based tasting menu that is cooked with fire and steam.  The restaurant has one Michelin star and Chef Kammerer was named as a Best New Chef in 2019 Food & Wine Magazine.  They serve only a tasting menu of 9 savory and 2 sweet courses, with wine pairings available.  It is a pre-paid menu and not available on Tuesday and Wednesday.  There is plenty of parking out front and a selection of accommodations if you wish to stay there also.  The view is as magnificent as the food and they have a couple large awnings to provide some shade when the sun is up.  Later in the evening they roll those back and turn on the lights that are strung above and the portable heaters.   Staff were all friendly, helpful, masked and gloved and I noticed even during prep time in the kitchen the staff all wore masks.  Chef Kammerer does come out to serve some of the courses and visit with guests.  It appeared to have only one seating and the pacing was good but plan to spend about 4 hours, although it never lagged it was a nice relaxed pace.  Portion control was good.

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Aubergine (update), Carmel, 7/30/20

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L’Auberge Hotel

We visited Aubergine one year ago but currently California does not permit indoor dining.  Luckily Carmel has great weather for this change and the L’Auberge Hotel has a beautiful courtyard to move the restaurant guests to.   The polished wood tables are well spaced from each other and set with placemats and large linen napkins.  The patio has a brick floor, lots of plants and is punctuated with various lighting sources and heat lamps.  It is a lovely place to sit in the lighted hours as well as after the sun sets.  Various benches and chairs on the perimeter are used by people who ordered a separate drink from the bar.  All staff wore masks and were extraordinarily welcoming (as are all the staff at the hotel), especially Chef Justin Cogley who served some of the courses and visited with guests.  They now offer just one tasting menu to all and wine pairings are available.  You can view the wine list on your smart phone with the link provided.  Portion control was good and pacing was leisurely but never lagged.  It started quicker and then slowed slightly.  It still has one Michelin star but I see this place moving to 2 stars soon.  Put it on your list of places to go. Continue reading

Restaurant Beck (re-visit), Depoe Bay, OR., 6/26/20

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reception area

Our third visit to Restaurant Beck we were a few minutes early and so had some time to explore old photos of the hotel, Whale Cove Inn, that has been its home for the 11 years it has been open.  The Inn has just 8 suites but all are spacious and have private balconies overlooking the Whale Cove.   We were lucky to secure one of the suites and that made it an even more fun experience to just walk down to dinner.  We were given a different table that changed the view slightly, but there is not a bad table in the place.  While looking over the menu and listening to the 70-80’s music in the background we got to talk with the wonderful server.  We wanted to do another 5 course tasting but wanted to make sure and have different things than we’d had the previous nights.   The previous night Stormee Wills had suggested another wine to try so we were not going to partake of the wine pairing options.  As with every night, portion control was on the generous side and pacing was well done – no lapses or rush. Continue reading

Restaurant Beck, Depoe Bay, OR.,6/24/20

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entrance

Chef Justin Wills and his wife Stormee operate Restaurant Beck at the Whale Cove Inn on the coast of Oregon.  The restaurant, named for their son Becker, has been open 11 years.     Chef Wills has been a James Beard nominee twice and recognized in Food & Wine magazine and Best Chefs in America.  Stormee runs the front of the restaurant and manages the wine service.  Depoe Bay is about 2-3 hours from Portland but worth the trip for the beautiful scenery.  The boutique hotel, with just 8 rooms, sits above a small cove where whales (mostly gray) love to visit and the dining room has windows on 3 sides overlooking this magnificent view. White cloth covered tables were well spaced, music was in the background, the natural light was supplemented by candles, servers were friendly and wore masks and tables were disinfected and re-clothed between seatings.  The menu changes slightly each day based on what is fresh (Oregon, Washington and Idaho suppliers) with a la carte options as well as 3 and 5 ($95) course tastings.  Optional wine pairings ($35 for 5 course) are available but the wine list was interesting and well priced.  Cocktails and liquor are offered. We got the 5 course tasting and chose our own wine.  Portions are generous and pacing was at a good rate, but then Covid was mandating that they stop service by 10:00 pm. Continue reading

Coque (update), Madrid, 3/7/20

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exterior

We visited Coque a little over 3 years ago and 2 years and 7 months ago they moved to a new location.  It still has a similar format to the older place in that you move to different locations in the building to eat and drink various offerings.  This 2 star Michelin restaurant serves everyone the same tasting menu.  It is a modern, stylish set up but it does not allow you to make personal connections with staff or other diners.  There are lots of bites on the menu but it is not a stuffing meal, despite that.  I also found the timing to be off with some rooms lingering too long while others were sped through.  They offer drink pairings for purchase and then some courses come with a beverage.  We selected our own wine which you do while in the large wine room.  They have a large list but not much help in selection.  It would have been nice to have the list while in the bar area where we spent a good amount of time with just one bite and  a cocktail.  In this new location they have changed the dining room chairs I objected to in the original place, which is a huge plus in my opinion.  One of the most memorable parts of the place is it’s amazing collection of plates and serving dishes. Continue reading

Euskalduna Studio, Porto, 3/6/20

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exterior

Euskalduna Studio opened in 2016.  It was a small place with a couple tables in the front for groups of 4 and the rest of the guests were on the 10 high wood chairs with arms in front of a stone counter across from the open kitchen.  On the wall above the cooking area was a display of knives.  Behind was a wall of light wood, shelves for glassware and above, an interesting acoustical ceiling.  It felt very stylish yet casual.  Music was in the background and the lights were lowered.  Everyone in attendance is served a tasting menu but what is on your menu varies.  Each time you return the chef, Vasco Coelho Santos, will design you a new menu of dishes inspired by many cultures (particularly Japanese) but with a Portuguese twist.   We were lucky to sit next to their Number 1 fan who has been once a month and is now a real challenge for chef Santos to find new surprises to prepare for her.  With each tasting menu they do offer wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic options.  Wines are also available by the bottle and glass.  Pacing and portion control were just right.  I would put this on your list to get to if you can. Continue reading

O Paparico Restaurante, Porto, 3/5/20

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exterior

O Paparico can seat about 36 people in a couple rooms and has been open for 11 years.  The large white cloth covered tables have an ecru floor drape and are nicely spread apart and accompanied by small service tables.  After you knock on the door, the Butler lets you in and there is a small comfortable entry room with a bar counter and leather furniture for you to wait for your table.  Lights are lowered and the low wood ceiling works well with the stone walls and tile floor.  Soft music plays in the background and lots of candles and photos on the walls add to the cozy atmosphere.  Noise is not an issue for conversations.  The menu is presented in an envelope you must open to study the 3 tasting menu choices.  All are surprise menus so you chose between vegetarian, Portuguese or regional themes and they also offer optional wine pairings and a cheese course supplement.  All the menus change every couple weeks.  Originally they offered a la carte options but abandoned that choice several years ago. Pacing and portion control were both good and the staff spoke excellent English. Continue reading

Restaurante Pedro Lemos, Porto, 3/4/20

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exterior

Pedro Lemos, located on a really narrow little street, opened in 2009.  The downstairs level had wine storage, the bathroom and a large dining table for big groups.  In 2015 they did a major renovation and made the upstairs a room with more widely spaced  tables and took out a bar area and fireplace to make this additional space between tables.  The nice sized tables were set with white clothes, napkins, purse stools and armless padded chairs.  There were windows to the outside on 2 walls and a beautiful old wood floor.  A decoration of swallows crossed the ceiling and on to the upper part of the dark walls.  Music was in the background and the lighting was lowered.  They offered two tasting menus of 8 or 10 courses and optional wine pairings.  We chose the 10 course tasting.  Portions were on the large side and pacing was good.  The staff were quite friendly and spoke great English.  It has one Michelin star. Continue reading