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

exterior

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

building

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

entrance

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

entrance

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

exterior

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

outside

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

exterior

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

exterior

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

building

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

exterior

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

exterior

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

exterior

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

exterior of building

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

building

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

building

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

exterior

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

entrance

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

exterior of building

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

exterior

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

entrance

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

exterior

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

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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.

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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.

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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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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

Restaurante La Farala, Granada, 1/24/20

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interior

Restaurante La Farala is on the second story of a building that has a Flamenco club on the first floor.   They have been open one and a half years.  Music is in the background and the lighting has a yellow tint to it.  The polished bare wood tables are set with a gray or black stone placemats and a contrasting white or black napkin. Bench seats are along the walls for some of the closely set tables and others are free standing with just chairs.  Several large square columns divide the room and one wall had some heavily draped windows overlooking the street.  The floor is a nice wood plank and the ceiling had some recessed portions.  The show downstairs was over so there was no noise from there but seating is available when the shows are on and in that case there is another way to enter the restaurant.  The menu offers a la carte items and 3 tastings of different sizes.  Optional wine pairings are available.  We ordered the middle size menu and our own wine.  The waiter said the longer menu would take over 3 hours and you should be really hungry with it. Continue reading

la Fábula, Granada, 1/23/20

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entrance

La Fábula was in the Hotel Villa Oniria and has had the same chef for 10 years.  The 10 large tables were widely spaced and draped with white clothes and set with napkins embroidered with the restaurant name.  There were lots of banquet seats opposite the well stuffed armless chairs.  Carpet and sound panels in the ceiling assured that conversations would be private and noise level would remain low, even with music in the background.  Cute decorations were on each table instead of the standard flower or candle.  Lighting was lowered but it was not dark.  Staff were super friendly, spoke great English and could easily talk about each dish.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as a tasting menu that had an optional addition of 4 more courses.  Wine pairings were available for both sizes of tasting.   We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wines.  The meal had good pacing and portion control. Continue reading

damasqueros Restaurante, Granada, Spain, 1/22/20

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Damasqueros has been open about 12 years and serves only a tasting menu.  They do offer wine pairings with 2 levels of choice.  We bought our own bottles of wine but I did see the pours for other tables and they looked fairly slight.  The 10 small tables in the room are draped with a shorter brown cloths over a longer ecru one with beige embossed napkins.  The light leather benches that are set along one wall are interesting in that they are individual for each table instead of being one long bench.  The wood walls go with the partial wood ceiling  and one wall that has wood cubes to store wine.  One wall is glass with a door to the street however that is not how you enter or exit.  The entrance brings you first into a long light bar.  A variety of music played in the background.  Pacing was good and portion control was on the generous side.  Service was friendly and helpful with fairly good English.   Continue reading

Essencia Restaurant, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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exterior

Essencia Restaurant just opened last May.  The building has a bar and kitchen downstairs and upstairs are a couple rooms for dining.  Window doors open to the outside and music is in the background.  The small tables are set with beige or white cloths on top of a contrasting floor length cloth.  Coordinated napkins and different colors of fabric on the chairs complete the stylish set up.  Bench seating was on one wall and the seats were pretty comfortable although the small tables are fairly close.  The walls are decorated with various pieces of art.  The menu offers a la carte selections and tastings of 4 or 5 courses.  I didn’t notice wine pairings being offered but the wine list was fairly reasonable.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and spoke great English.  We chose the 5 course tasting.  Pacing and portion control were both wonderful. Continue reading

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec, Paris, 12/7/19

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exterior

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec opened on October 9.  You enter on the street level and there is a stunning bar counter and a few tables.  To go to dinner you head down the stairs to the totally stylish dining room.  Banquette seating is along both of the long walls in the rectangular room.  One end of the room is the open kitchen  and opposite that are a couple free standing tables.  The tables are marble topped  and appointed with lovely linen napkins.  The walls of the room have curved wood pieces and lighted opaque glass between them. It is truly striking but very difficult to describe, so look at the pictures below.  The tables are on the small side and fairly closely set but each had lovely flowers in an unusual vase on them.  Music is in the background and the room is softly lit.  There are a couple seats at the kitchen counter and carpet is on the floor, so noise was not an issue.  Chef Le Quellec was in the kitchen and did come out to the room to visit with all the guests.  They offer several tasting menus (3, 4 or 7 courses and a truffle menu) and a la carte selections.  Since we were there they have been awarded 2 Michelin stars. Continue reading

Arpège (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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building

It’s been 3 years since we visited Alain Passard’s Arpège and while the interior hasn’t changed the prices have continued to creep up and the surprise tasting lunch now contains no major meat course, that is to be ordered separately off the a la carte menu.  It’s still cheaper than dinner but it’s definitely more expensive.  They also have more expensive tastings and the a la carte menu if you so chose.  We took the surprise tasting and added the roast guinea fowl (lunch took about 4 hours).   I was surprised to find so many dishes that were similar to our past visits.  Another change was when we arrived they tried to seat us downstairs.  Mind you it’s a nice room downstairs and it is on the same level as the bathroom but it feels a little like you’ve been banished to the non-French room.  We asked to sit upstairs and they had to deliberate a bit which considering that no one was seated there seemed off-putting.  Chef Passard was in the house and worked the room and was most gracious when he visited with us, but I felt for those others who meekly took the table they were guided to.   Another change was that vegetables no longer adorn the tables as decorations and instead new plates add color to the table. Continue reading

Le Pré Catelan, Paris, 12/5/19

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Le Pré Catelan is in a rental conference building that dates back to 1935.  It was a casino in the days before it became a restaurant that now holds a 3 Michelin star rating.  The elegant room is set with large tables covered first with a floor length beige satin cloth and then covered with a white linen one.  Music is in the background, heavy drapes are beside the windows that look out on the lighted landscaped grounds.  The green carpet makes a nice contrast with the white marble parts of the wall.  Lots of sculpted plaster adorns the walls with lowered lighting in the room and an huge chandelier hangs in the center of the room over the small service table.  Candlelight is from the long stemmed candles on each table.  A couple of the tables near the windows are set with rounded couches opposite the chairs but otherwise the tables are appointed with comfortable arm chairs.  The room exudes class and only holds 10 tables, but the service is nicely friendly and welcoming, not stiff or too formal.  Perhaps they detected my preference?  The menu is a la carte with one tasting menu option. Both pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Pierre Gagnaire (update), Paris 12/4/19

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It’s been 5 years since we ate at Pierre Gagnaire, a long standing Paris restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  While Chef Gagnaire moved his talents to Paris in 1996, he now has many restaurants but this one in the Hôtel Balzac is his flagship, where it has been there 15 years.  It has a separate entrance from the hotel and a small bar area where you enter.  It is a medium sized place spread over several rooms.  The main dining room was redone by Carolyn Quatermaine who used pages of books to cover the walls with recipes some of which were handwritten by Pierre Gagnaire’s father who was a cook.  The well spaced large tables are draped with double long white clothes and set with fine linen napkins.  The lighting is lowered and there is no music in the background.  Along with the carpet, many wood surfaces and padded chairs the noise level is low and because of the spacing conversations remained private.  The menu offers a la carte options, a tasting menu and the night we were there a truffle tasting menu.   Wine pairings are available for the tasting menu.  We opted to start with a cocktail, order our own wine and have the tasting menu.  Service and pacing were excellent and portion control generous.  They did bring the truffles by to tempt you to add them to something or order that menu.   Continue reading

Maison, Paris, 12/4/19

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building

Maison opened in September run by Chef Sota Atsumi who rose to fame working at the Clown Bar.  The place is interesting in that the ground floor only has lounge furniture and the bathroom, all the dining is on the second story that is open to the area below.  Most of the diners sit at one long table in the middle of the room.  There are a couple tables next to the edge and 7 seats at the bar looking into the long open kitchen.  Chef Atsumi was in the kitchen cooking and looking over plates but never came out to visit with guests.  The restaurant serves only a tasting menu chosen by the chef and it changes regularly.  At lunch it was a 5 course tasting and there was a supplemental cheese course offered.   There is a large skylight above the area so in the daytime between that and the windows from below that open to the street, there is plenty of light.  I do wonder what the temperature variations might be, though.  The tables are bare wood set with a white cloth napkin and comfortable chairs and music is in the background.  The walls and floor are tile and the kitchen has a wood burning oven.   Continue reading

Hugo’s Restaurant, Portland, ME., 11/30/19

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exterior

Hugo’s opened in 1988 and had a major rennovation in 2012.  There are booths along a brick wall, a couple tables by the windows to the street and lots of seats at a curved counter that wraps around the open kitchen.  The lights are quite low (spots highlight each table and the bar) with lots of wood and dark leather upholstery make up the interior.  The tin ceiling, music in the background and decorations made of local organic material finish out the stylish and striking design of the interior.  In fact they strived to make all the interior from materials found in Maine.   The red bricks are from Moose Head Lake, the slate plates from Monson, and a huge painting at the end of the room is by local artist Eric Hopkins. They offer an a la carte menu and also a chef’s tasting of about 10 courses.  The tasting offers items not on the menu and the whole table must participate.  For the tasting they have wine pairings available.  We chose the tasting but ordered our own wine after a cocktail and they did give me a list of what we had after the meal. Continue reading

Geronimo, Santa Fe, 11/1/19

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building

Geronimo is a large place in an old building spread over several rooms.  The tables are fairly close and set with white cloths and napkins.  The lighting is lowered, music is in the background, candles are on the tables and in the old fireplaces, art and mirrors decorate the walls and bench seating is on some walls.  There is a room with a bar at the front of the place with a couple tables and bar seating, but it was quite crowded when we got there.  They offer an a la carte menu or a vegetarian tasting, that has optional wine pairings.   They also had some nightly specials.  Service was helpful, extremely friendly and well paced. Continue reading

Canlis, Seattle, 11/9/19

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entrance

Canlis is a large place on a hill overlooking Seattle.  The interior and view from the windows is spectacular.  The interior is filled with stone and wood with windows along many sides to enjoy the view.  The tables are on different levels so all can look out.  The well spaced good sized tables are covered with white clothes and matching napkins.  Lighting is lowered and live piano music is in the background.  The piano is in the bar which is the first part of the building and short barriers provide privacy as well as good sound dampening, but the lovely sounds surrounds all.  The menu is a fixed price for 4 course with a 20% service charge added to all bills.  Each of the 4 courses has 5 choices.  Service was excellent, attentive without being intrusive and the meal pacing was good – not too fast or too slow.  Portion control was also good. Continue reading

Willows Inn (update), Lummi Island, 11/8/19

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dining room

It’s been about 2 years since we visited Willows Inn and this time it was late fall as opposed to summer.  The physical place hasn’t changed but the fall means shorter days and disrupts the view from the dining room.  It also means you can’t have the starter courses outside on the porch and instead everyone piled into the area by a large fireplace with seating being very varied.   Some were on benches, some sat at the bar on stools and there were a couple of sets of chairs by small tables, which I preferred.  The lighting was much darker as the room only was lit by candles and the fire – and that also made it quite warm.  Otherwise the system is pretty much the same.  You start with a series of snacks and then move into seafood and then protein to dessert.  It seemed like a lighter menu this time.   The dining room had just 12 tables with a painted wood  ceiling, narrow planked wood floor, music in the background with a sliding door to the kitchen at one end of the room.  In an adjacent room was a larger table for 6. Continue reading

Restaurant Bel Etage, Basel, 10/26/19

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exterior of hotel

Bel Etage is the one Michelin Star restaurant on the second floor of the Der Teufelhof Hotel.   It is made up of several rooms of well spaced tables covered with ecru cloths and coordinating striped napkins.  Windows to the street were in the room which had a lovely old wood floor and crystal chandeliers.  No music is in the background and the rooms are mostly quiet except for the creaking of the old floors.  Lots of art adorns the walls.  Service was not polished but mostly friendly and English was limited.  They never re-offered the bread tray and didn’t pick up some dropped flatware that was on the floor. They offered 3 different tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu.  Wine pairings are available as well a a liquor of the month.  We thought the smallest tasting sounded best and so chose it and our own bottle of wine. Continue reading

Restaurant Stucki – Tanja Grandits, Basel, 10/25/19

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building

Tanja Grandits or as it was called Stucki is spread over several rooms in a large mansion in a residential neighborhood of Basel.  The restaurant was named for Hans Stuki who opened it in the 1960s and ran it until passing away in 1998.  Chef Tanja Grandits took over in 2008 and has since obtained a 2 Michelin Star rating.  It is a modern looking place inside with gray walls and carpet.  The good sized tables are well spaced and set with white clothes and napkins.  There were votive candles and small flowers on the table but both had broken blooms included.  The lighting was slightly softened and the windows to the outside were covered with drapes.  There was no music in the background and the room had a small center service table.  They serve only a tasting menu of 8 or 12 courses and offer wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic pairings.   We got the longer tasting and ordered our own wines.  Pacing was awful, starting really slow, speeding up and then moving to painfully slow but portion control was good. Continue reading

Restaurant Le Cheval Blanc, Basel, 10/24/19

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hotel exterior

Le Cheval Blanc is the other restaurant in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois but this one has 3 Michelin Stars.  It is a large elegant room with a candelabra or single candle on each double clothed well spaced table set with huge linen napkins.  The ten tables vary in size and the smaller ones have a little service table adjacent to them to hold wine or whatever.  Purse stools are available, the lighting is lowered, there is no music (but the piano playing in the lobby did bleed into the room), there is a patio, windows look out onto the water and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling with the largest being over the center marble service table.  They offer a tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.  The larger version of the tasting menu comes with 4 starters whereas a slightly smaller tasting comes with just 2.  The prices include service and VAT.  Service was friendly and efficient and the staff spoke great English.  Chef Peter Knogl came out toward the end of service to greet and talk with his guests.  He has been with this restaurant 12 years.  You also could see him in the kitchen through the window in the hall that you pass on the way to the bathroom.  His awards line one of the windows.  Before service begins they brought around a warm moist cloth to wipe your hands, always a nice touch. Continue reading

Restaurant Les Quatre Saisons, Basel, 10/23/19

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outside entrance

Les Quatre Saisons is a one Michelin star restaurant in the Pullman Hotel.  The hotel is lovely as is the restaurant dining room.  The large room is filled with well spaced, good sized tables that are covered with nice cloths and large well starched matching napkins and set with comfortable stuffed chairs.  Brown wood cabinets are along some of the perimeter and from the ceiling hang many large chandeliers covered with concentric circles of strung beads that provide a nice amount of light.  There are less than 15 tables, faint music is in the background (in fact it was really quiet), some of the floor has carpet but tile is around the edge and the walls are decorated with mirrors.   The menu offers a la carte options and vegetarian and degustation tastings.  The staff spoke great English.  We chose the degustation menu and the pacing was very slow but portion was control good, that tended toward large.   Continue reading

Fauna 2.0, Dallas, 1/4/20

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hotel exterior

This entry is coming out of chronological order and in Dallas not Basel, but that’s because I don’t know how long you have the opportunity to try out Fauna 2.0 and its innovative and tasty food.   Stephen Pyles decided to close Flora/Fauna just after the first of the year where Chef Peter Barlow had been in charge of the Fauna space that offered only a tasting menu on Friday and Saturday nights.  He wanted to honor all those who had made reservations and here’s where you can now get in on it.  The old venue was not available so in about 36 hours Barlow and his crew made arrangements to have the meals offered at the new (opened in December) Hall Arts Hotel on 1717 Leonard St. in the Dallas Arts District.  It’s not far from the old location but it’s a fabulous opportunity to see this new modern and stylish hotel.  Couple details still to work out, but the drink service is presently provided by Ellie’s the restaurant in the Hall Arts Hotel.  They came up with some fun off the menu bottles of wine that were reasonably priced or offered a selection of wines by the glass or of course there is water, tea, etc.  This portion of the meal can be paid by credit card, however because of the quick transition Fauna 2.0 was only taking cash but it was the first night in business.  Valet parking is available at the hotel and it is complimentary if you are having dinner there.  There is also a fun bar where you can enjoy a cocktail while you wait to be ushered into the dining room.  The 10 course tasting menu is $150 per person with tax included but not service and the menu is not printed (thus I tried to get the best description written down, but with many ingredients I may not have them all or have mis-interpreted my scribbled notes).  This system is through the end of February because in the spring Barlow and his team are going to Copenhagen to work and get new inspirations.  The large dining room had 3 good sized white clothed tables set next to each other with 4 diners at each table.  Lighting was lowered, music was in the background and art was on the walls.  Chef Barlow came out to explain each course and helped serve.  Pacing was good as was portion control.  To make a reservation call 214-454-4915 or email <taylor.adams@niteshadecc.com>. Continue reading

Rezdôra, New York City, 10/16/19

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entrance

Rezdôra is a small, really crowded place with bare wood closely set small tables.  Music is in the background, lighting is really low and the noise level is high.  Walls are brick and the wood cross-hatched ceiling is lowered.  A few dried flowers make up the decorations.  Even with a reservation we had to wait 45 minutes for our table and there were no seats at the bar.  They did give us a glass of Lambrusco but it was a long time to wait, standing with little space to be in.  They are a hot ticket right now but if they don’t manage it better, they won’t be for long.  There is one dining room on the entry level that has the bar counter on one side and bench seating on the opposite wall fitted with lots of small tables.  Up a few stairs there was another really small room with tables in it.  The menu offers Italian food and a regional pasta tasting (5 pastas) with optional wine pairings and a couple nightly specials.  While that was a tempting option we chose to order our own choices and bottles of wine.  Portions are small and the pacing of the meal was really rushed (so why the long wait?). Continue reading

Gramercy Tavern (update), New York City, 10/16/19

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exterior

It’s been 5 years since we ate at Gramercy Tavern Dining Room, a large 2 room place fronted by the Gramercy Bar.  The dining room offers a tasting menu as well as a la carte and takes reservations whereas the bar is snacks and no reservations.  It is far more relaxed in the one Michelin star elegant dining room with lots of seasonal flowers decorating the white cloth covered tables set with large white napkins, lowered lighting and soft jazz music in the background.  Lots of art is in the room as well as nicely padded seating and wide plank wood floors.  Excellent friendly service attends the customers and they were willing to make some changes to the tasting menu which was our choice for the lunch.  Pacing of the tasting was spot on and portion control was great.  The food is wonderful as was the total experience there.  Don’t know why I waited so long to go back.  I recommend it. Continue reading

Atomix, New York City 10/15/19

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entrance

Atomix is a tasting menu only for 14 people at a lower level u-shaped counter.  It has only been open one year and was recently elevated to a 2 Michelin star rating.  The lighting is lowered in the room and small spots shine on the granite counter and light wood ceiling and walls.  The bar is upstairs where you enter and then down the stairs is a small lounge area.  Modern music plays in the background.  Each course is presented with a corresponding card that talks about the dish and has an illustration associated with it.  The dishes have a Korean influence and wine pairings are available.  The menu changes 4 times a year.  Without knowing what was to be served we opted to try the pairings for the meal.  The service was pleasant (there seemed to be more staff than guests), portioning light and pacing moved along nicely but I never got a commrodery at the counter.  Explanations are more from the cards than the staff and while I found the dishes artistic, precise and thoughtful they were mostly on the bland side of things but with very clean tastes. Continue reading

Petra and the Beast (update), Dallas, 9/28/19

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Frankie checked the herb in the cocktail

It’s been a year since we tried the tasting menu offered only on Saturday nights. The rest of the week they serve off a chalkboard menu.  Reservations for the tasting are hard to come by, there is a waiting list for most every one of them, since the little restaurant and Chef Misti Norris have been getting lots of critical acclaim and notice in national publications.  The interior has added more tables and seats.  The little alcove that was the cocktail stand now contains tables too.  This is good for the public but it does create a lot more noise in the interior that makes conversation difficult and hard to hear any presentation by the server.  Water is still provided but if you want wine or other flavored beverage with your meal you need to bring your own.  They have opened up a few more parking spaces in an adjacent lot but a lot of guests appeared to be dropped off by a car service.  In general my impression was that the food had less intense flavor than the last visit but everything was good it just didn’t cross over to the great that I had first sensed.  I got more of that intensity when visiting other nights but the service is far less refined with most dishes being presented in plastic coated cardboard boxes.  They asked if I’d share their website, which is <https://www.restaurantji.com/tx/dallas/petra-and-the-beast-/&gt;. Continue reading

Restaurant Haerlin, Hamburg, 9/21/19

 

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entrance from hotel

Haerlin is one large dining room right off the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in Hamburg. Ecru floor length cloths drape the good sized tables that are set with matching napkins and stuffed armchairs.  Music is in the background of this elegant room.  Windows overlook the street outside on one end of the room.  While the setting was nice the service was stiff and cold.  (They were most upset when we poured our own wine but they continually passed the table and left our glasses empty.  They actually took away one of the empty glasses with the bottle still half full.)  Even with a 2 star Michelin rating it was not a particularly comfortable atmosphere unless you wanted to pose.  They offered 2 tasting menus and wine pairings are available for each, but do not pair wine with each course.  We chose the “Big Palate Party” and ordered out own wines.  Pacing was on the slower side but portion control was good.  Overall the food was on the bland side even with a lot of ingredients on the plate and the dishes chosen often proved to be distracting/clashing to the food presented.  On the table was a card holder where they would place a written description of what you are having.  It was a nice touch. Continue reading

Louis C. Jacob Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/20/19

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building

Louis C. Jacob Restaurant is in the hotel of the same name.  It is an elegant large room overlooking the water in the small boutique hotel and has a rating of 2 Michelin stars.  The building dates to the 1700’s with the last major renovation in 1990’s.  The restaurant had one star by 1995 and its second in 1997.  The building has always been a restaurant or bar.  The beautiful hard wood floor is set off by two massive crystal chandeliers overhead.  Sage green velvet arm chairs are at the white cloth covered tables and gray plush velvet chairs are at the bare polished wood tables.  All the large tables are nicely spaced and set with well starched large cloth napkins. Service was excellent and most of the staff were very conversant in English.  Music is in the background.  They offer two tasting menus, 4 or 6 courses, with pairings offered and a la carte. Most of the a la carte dishes were available to substitute on the tasting but there could be a surcharge.  We chose the longer tasting and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

The Table Kevin Fehling, Hamburg, 9/19/19

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building

The Table Kevin Fehling can accomodate a couple dozen people whose arrival times are slightly staggered.  Inside the non-descript brick building is a modern interior with a serpentine bar for seating and high ceilings.  There is a small balcony that overlooks the dining room where guests can have cocktails prior to being seated.  Shades of gray dominate the room with colored pieces curling off the ceiling that are not only striking but also provide sound dampening. Spot lighting keeps each seat well lit while the room lights are dimmed.  The walls are concrete and the open kitchen is the focal point.  Art and flowers provide some softness for the interior.  They serve only a tasting menu and all guests have the same thing, except where allergies don’t permit.  The menu changes one course every 3 months.  Wine pairings (pours looked generous) are available.  The pacing of the meal was great as was the portion control.   They present you with a copy of the menu at the end to take with you.  The staff all spoke great English and were quite friendly.  The restaurant has been awarded a 3 Michelin star rating. Continue reading

Seven Seas Gourmet Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/18/19

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exterior

Seven Seas Restaurant is in the Süllberg Hotel on top of a hill by the water.  It is a small elegant room with ten large, well spaced tables set with lovely linens and large napkins.  Faint music is in the background and the lighting is lowered.  The colors are gold and beige with heavy pulled back drapes.  The restaurant is named Seven Seas because they are at the harbor where all the ships arrive on their way to Hamburg.  The windows around the dining room allow you to watch all the ships and small craft that do pass by.  It was a lovely view even after the sun went down.  The round room has a center column that is decorated to look like a compass.  The room was re-done in 2002 when Chef Karlheinz Hauser took over.  They offer 3 tasting menu options with wine pairings available.  One tasting is vegetarian.   Servers were friendly, but kept their distance, with good English but the pacing of the meal was slow. Continue reading

Tordesilhas, São Paulo, 9/14/19

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entrance

Tordesilhas is a large place inside with an additional covered patio.  The closely spaced small tables were set with white tablecloths and paper napkins.  Lots of photos cover the walls as well as mirrors.  A slightly vaulted wood ceiling and dark wood floor accented the off white walls.  A bar area is on the main level that seemed to offer communal dining for small parties.  No music was in the background but the setting felt very tasteful.  They serve pretty traditional, homestyle food and do offer a tasting menu at night.  At lunch it is all a la carte.  Our server was friendly and helpful but had limited English. The crowd indicated that it’s a popular place and I saw a real variety of age groups in attendance. Continue reading

Restaurante Tuju, São Paulo, 9/13/19

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exterior

Restaurant Tuju is a good sized modern looking place.  The large bare wood tables are well spaced on a tile floor with a wood ceiling overhead.  They are set with padded arms chairs and lovely cloth napkins.  Soft lighting is in the room and music is in the background.  An open kitchen is on one end of the room and opposite is a bar.  Spanning the two are a glass wall behind which is the plant covered wall opposite to a wall with mirrors.  It has a 2 Michelin star rating, has been open 5 years and offers 2 different tastings for 5 or 12 courses.  The menu changes every several months.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose the longer tasting and ordered our own wines.  The staff were efficient, friendly and spoke good English. Continue reading

DOM, São Paulo,9/12/19

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exterior

DOM is a small place with about 7 tables, one some being upstairs.  There is little marking of the place outside but the valet stand indicates something fancy is inside.  The front door is huge – maybe 10 feet tall.  It has been awarded 2 Michelin stars, has low lighting, music in the background and a center serving table under a decorative chandelier.  Some of the closely spaced large tables were a polished wood with linen placemats and others were cloth covered and some had bench seating while others had stuffed chairs.  The kitchen is in one corner of the room but mostly closed off from the dining room except for a small window.  They offered several different tasting menus, no a la carte, with one being vegetarian.  The menu stresses Brazil’s indigenous foods and flavors.  Wine pairing are available with the tastings.  The food has quality ingredients but mostly was underflavored for me.  This was their 20th anniversary of being in business. Service was attentive and the staff spoke good English.  Pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Maní Manioca, São Paulo, 9/11/19

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exterior

Maní Manioca has a one star Michelin rating.  It is a long fairly large place with a good sized enclosed patio in the back.  Upon entering there is a long hallway for waiting that has benches on either side.  The small tables are nicely spaced and set with white clothes and napkins, however they were too small to hold the dishes if you had the breads.  The stucco walls are decorated with mirrors and art.  Music plays in the background and lighting is lowered with lots of short candles in the rooms. They offered 3 tasting menus.  The 3 course allowed you to pick courses from the a la carte menu.  Wine pairings were available with the largest tasting.  Service was friendly and helpful with passable English.  Portions were generous but pacing was a tad variable.  We ordered the largest tasting menu which was by Chef Helena Rizzo, who was named Best Female Chef of the Year by Restaurant Magazine in 2014. Continue reading