When you wake up the morning after an extravagant dinner and call the restaurant to ask them around what time dinner may have ended so that you can estimate about what time you went to bed, you're probably not fit to write a review about said restaurant. I'll take it even further. If the details of how you ended up in bed are hazy, you're probably not even fit to write a non-judgmental description of your dining experience, or for that matter, any course after roughly the first or second. So, while I had hoped to write a meaningful, thoughtful article about my dinner at Meadowood, prepared by Chef Kostow on the last night of their 12 days of Christmas series, I simply can't. But, I have pictures!...Continue Reading
First of all, let me say that my last trip to New York City happened at the end of May 2010, so this post is sadly a bit outdated. But, it has been sitting as a draft in my files for the last 8 months, which means this article was written when the meal was still fresh in my mind. Although some tweaks may have been made to the menu, 3 of the 4 items that I ordered last May are actually still on the menu, and since I haven't revisited the restaurant, my initial opinion has stuck with me. So, rather than let a completed article (and a couple of nice photos) go to waste, I'm sharing it now.
For many people, an ideal vacation may only need to consist of a hot sun, a relaxing beach, and a limitless number of naps. Others like to spend those precious few days exploring distant, unfamiliar countries. But if you're like me, nothing says “vacation” quite like cramped subways, hectic daily schedules, little sleep, and constantly eating incredible food. Hello New York!
Prior to arriving in New York City, my fourth visit in 4 years, I had done a significant amount of research on what new restaurants were catching headlines and had already made reservations at all of my top picks. Although Marea wasn’t one of them, after only one day in Manhattan I realized that I'd had made a big mistake - everyone, and I mean everyone, was talking about Marea. With only two days notice and one incredibly lucky phone call, I found myself with a lunch reservation at New York’s hottest restaurant...Continue Reading
What better way to follow up an extravagant meal at Meadowood than with an extravagant brunch at Redd?! Although going on a Michelin-starred restaurant spree wasn't in the plan, I was in Napa with nothing but time and wasn't going to settle for scrambled eggs. And, since I didn't have a backup reserve of Knead with me, I figured I'd settle on a couple of pastries from Nicole Plue, the Beard winner for best pastries in the country...Continue Reading
10) Dungeness Crab Salad, One Market
At long last, we’ve come to the end of this captivating culinary journey. And what a better way to end this best-of list than with the last dish that wowed me in 2010: One Market’s Dungeness Crab Salad. What I love about One Market is how the menu reads fairly plain: Hand-picked Dungeness Crab, fuyu persimmon, pomegranate, hearts of palm. At first glance, there’s not much about this description that’s particularly exciting, but what’s placed in front of you is nothing short of a beautifully presented, technically advanced dish indicative of a one star Michelin-rated restaurant. It’s a classic shock and awe maneuver, and it works...Continue Reading
9) Whole-Roasted Poularde, Saison
2010 also marked the year that I was introduced to the high-end chicken dish. No more of those traditional marinated, grilled, or fried preparations that I’d been used to – no, no. Instead, “poularde” replaced the common “chicken” on upscale menus, and techniques like “slow-cooked” or “Hung for 3 days to intensify flavor” started popping up. In just one year this mild, overlooked, household meat transformed into a tender, moist, must-order entrée, and nobody did it better than Saison. In 8 extraordinary dishes, it was the Whole-Roasted Poularde with berbere spices, smoked date milk, and roasting juices, paired with a chard leaf rolled with foie gras mousse, that stood out...Continue Reading
4) Spring out of Winter, Eleven Madison Park
The best meal of my life, the best dish of the meal: “Spring out of Winter” was the ultimate expression of contrast and balance in every aspect of the plate. Variations of asparagus were served alongside delicate pea shoots and baby peas, Jamon Iberico, shards of dehydrated almond milk, and creme fraiche ice cream (frozen by liquid nitrogen). The concept of creating a dish that embodies the differences of Winter and Spring was executed through the plays on contrast: simple, fresh flavors highlighted through complicated technique, warm and cold elements, plays on creamy and crunchy textures, and salty, savory flavors combined with the slight sweetness of ice cream. Imaginative, seasonally appropriate, technically challenging, beautiful, and delicious, this was truly a masterpiece of a dish. To read more about that dinner, check out my full account of that night at Eleven Madison Park.
3) Monkfish Liver Torchon, Benu
You know those rare moments where every element in a dish brings out nuances of the main component that would otherwise go unnoticed? You know those even rarer moments when the wine also brings out a flavor in the dish that would be lost without it? Where the primary component, the set, and the wine form a culinary trifecta? That was my experience with this dish. The battle that plays out in your mouth between salty and sweet, rich and refreshing, and creamy and crisp is epic and so compelling that after a 15 course tasting menu, I went back the next night to order that same dish a la carte. In a single bite I was transformed from someone who had never even heard of monkfish liver, to a monkfish liver fanatic with uncontrollable cravings. To read more about that dinner, check out my full account of my night at Benu.
1) Chilled Eggplant Purée, Coi
For a couple of months it seemed like the only thing I wanted to talk about was Daniel Patterson’s Chilled Eggplant Purée (made from puréed eggplant, fresh pole and shelling beans, preserved lemon, cilantro, and tomato water gelée). I was honestly bringing it up in conversations with people who had absolutely no interest in the subject and could only respond by smiling and nodding. But I didn’t care, I wanted the world to know how incredible cold eggplant could taste. And I didn’t just talk about it, I chased it down as much as possible knowing that eggplant and tomato would soon be out of season and I’d be left with a void in my soul. Even after eating it 3 times in only 3 weeks, I was still blown away and craving more. You can read a full description of the dish here, but for me, this dish exemplified sophistication through simplicity and balance.
I really wasn’t expecting much the first time I walked into Benu for dinner. I mean, really what would there be to expect? Sure Corey Lee spent eight years at the French Laundry, four of which were spent as chef de cuisine, and yeah maybe he won a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. But I guess I’m just not really impressed by, you know, things like experience and public recognition. And c’mon, only fifteen courses on the tasting menu? I’m sorry but if there aren’t at least 19 courses, I’m generally not satisfied...Continue Reading
When asking fellow foodies how they would describe the dining experience at Benu, a friend of mine, well-versed in the art of fine dining, described it simply as, “The Asian Laundry.” However, after dining there on several occasions, I found this label to be a bit unfair as I wasn’t drawing parallels, but rather, I was noticing the glaring differences: the atmosphere and table settings at Benu are stark and more austere than the welcoming, cottage feel of the Laundry; the tasting menu is made of 15 courses which express Chef Lee’s Korean heritage, rather than 9 courses that communicate the restaurant’s sense of place; a feeling of grandeur is created by openly displaying Benu’s impressive, imposing kitchen, versus the quaint mystery hidden behind the closed doors at the Laundry...Continue Reading