I have a few acquaintances who love the Michelin Star/Best Restaurants in the World kind of thing. And earlier today, one of them sent me this link, telling to look at #13....it was Maido, where we had just eaten last month. What I thought was a bit strange was that Maido was several notches above Azurmendi. Just goes to show you the fickle "sport" of ranking restaurants and also why, while I take all those things into consideration, in the end, I try to figure out the food, how the place suits us, both in cuisine and service (those restaurants where staff is constantly hovering is not for us), before making a decision. A few hours later, "SomTommy" who sometimes comments, sent me an email mentioning the same thing. I replied that I thought this was both interesting and surprising. He then asked me what my favorite restaurant in the world was. What really surprised me was how easy it was typing out my reply; it was Suzunari which we visited during our first trip to Tokyo. The place just suited us; Kaiseki, perfectly prepared, elegant, but not fussy, without pretense, in a casual atmosphere, the customers were all Japanese. Oh, and while it was basically a husband and wife team, with one assistant, this tiny shop had acquired one of those "star" thingies.
Funny thing was, we enjoyed our previous experience so much we returned the last time we were in Tokyo. So I thought I'd do a quick photo post, out of chronological order, but it seemed somewhat timely. We had our good friend Reiko make reservations for us before our last visit; we also insisted that she come along. Even though we knew the pacing of the meal, pretty much in line with traditional Kaiseki, it was still fabulous.
From the steady silent interactions of the chef, his wife, and the assistant. To the sincere service, we loved sitting at the bar, and watching the flawless execution.
The Hassun, just fantastic.
Reiko, a Tokyo native told us that this was the best meal she's ever had and we were so glad to have been able to share it with her.
I'll always remember overhearing some advice from a Japanese National who advised the young couple that if they really wanted a "true" experience, to bypass the multiple Michelin Star Kaiseki places and work a bit harder to find the places that Japanese would go to when they had a nice meal. This lead me to researching a bit and finding Suzunari. My favorite restaurant.
Suzunari 7-9 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Later during the morning I sent an email to Ed from Yuma and Cathy regarding the list. Ed's response was priceless: "Rereading the post you did, it is amazing that the place had so many little shortcomings. But you are picky." I really don't think I'm picky, but I do know what I like, and after all these years, I think I'm pretty good at mentioning those things I don't care for. Funny thing about places like Maido. These places take chances, are innovative, they have a vision, and move toward that vision. There might be items that aren't your cup of tea, but, at least for us, the highs are amazingly high.
Maido, or even Etxanobe perhaps. Suzunari? I'm pretty sure we'll be back.
But it's a big world and we've only been to 23 countries. The Missus has told me that the US can mostly wait until I'm old and decrepit. Which might be anytime now. And while all these places are great....even the occasional banquet or two.....
We always try to plan at least one "special" meal during our trips. Lima, being one of my favorite food cities has some difficult choices, but Maido, without a doubt was the one place I just wanted to experience. The chef Maido Mitsuharu puts forward a "Nikkei" menu....inspired by Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Mitsuharu has a pretty good resume, having attended Johnson & Wales and even trained for almost three years in a sushi restaurant in Osaka. You can read his bio here. Being a Sansei from Hawaii, where we have our own spin on Japanese cuisine, much of it based on the lack of many traditional Japanese ingredients, I've always been fascinated by Nikkei Cuisine. And was really excited about our dinner reservations at Maido.
Located on the corner of Calle Colon and Calle San Martin, Maido was quite easy to find. The building itself is quite distinctive. It was 10 minutes before opening and there were folks lining up. Considering all these folks had reservations, it seems that I wasn't the only one excited about eating here.
The interior of the restaurant is somewhat austere, with a sushi bar area and tables. The one really interesting feature are the ropes hanging from the ceiling.....kind of cool and yet kind of strange. I believe it also helps to absorb noise since most of the areas are quite hard.
We had ordered the "Nikkei Experience" when making reservations. This is a 15 course menu of dishes, none of which are revealed until you receive them. You don't even get a listing of the dishes until your meal is complete.
But first, some cocktails. The Missus, in a genius move, ordered the Pisco and Tonic, a wonderful balanced, grown up drink. It was my favorite cocktail of the trip. In fact, I ended up ordering another later on in the meal! At a loss for what to order, I went for the Sakura; a Pisco, Sake, Strawberry, and Camu Camu juice. It was light, clean, refreshing....but was more of a "chick drink".
Lucky for me, the Missus really liked this and we traded. She was especially taken with the flowers in the ice cubes.
Soon enough, dishes started arriving. Things were really paced well, our Server described the basic dish, and seemed pleased when I recognized tastes, flavors, and even knew some of the ingredients in the dish. Service was very professional with nice, friendly touches....."un-stuffy" and perfectly suited to our taste.
Things started off with an interesting "snack". The stuff in the cone was delicious pressed and fried chicken skin dusted with shichimi togarashi. It was so very nice and crisp, with that wonderful "unfowl" flavor of chicken skin.
The other part of the dish were sausages, which seemed like a cross between a bratwurst and chorizo, layered on plantain, senbei (no kidding - senbei) with a sachatomate (tamarillo) emulsion. Nice, but nothing to really get excited about.
What really got our attention was that sauce at the bottom of the photo above. We put some on the chicken skin and cracked up! Pachikay Sauce......it's scallion, ginger, soy.....this tasted like the dipping sauce for for Kwai Fei Chicken! Basically, the sauce for what we call "Cold Ginger Chicken" back home. This had a more complex flavor, the ginger seemed to have been blanched or cooked taking the edge off the flavor, some smokiness, it was also a bit on the salty side as well. Still, we really enjoyed the chicken skin.
The next dish was simply called "Churos"....no not churros, but churos, an Amazonian land snail. The snail had been simmered in a soy based broth, with perhaps some sake and mirin. It was enrobed with a very tasty foam made of dale dale root, which I believe is a type of arrowroot and garnished with "chalaca", a basic topping made of corn, tomato, and onion.
The snail was so tender and full of flavor and the foam really tempered any strong flavors and refreshed the palate.
Next up, one of my favorite items of the evening; simply called Lapas Cebiche. Lapas are "limpets". So, the folks from Hawaii will understand; this is opihi! Really good opihi, served on what was described to me as aji-cilantro-lime juice frozen by liquid nitrogen.
Good lord, this was leche de tigre sorbet! I love leche de tigre.....when our Server heard me exclaim that, he came over, smiled, and said, "yes, it is frozen leche de tigre". Amazing flavors and textures.
Next up was the Paiche Sandwich. Paiche is the legendary Arapaima from the Amazon. It has a nice texture, delicate, yet slightly firm.
The bun, like a mantou was hard, crumbly, and not up to the task. The lulo criolla, strangely didn't register much flavor.
My friends know how much I love cuy (guinea pig)...but cuy gyoza? Well, that's a new one. The wrapper was decent, crisp, not gummy. The filling was interesting, like the filling for a croquette, very soft and mushy....give me this and tell me it's pork and I'd believe you. The sauce was delish.....soy sauce, probably rice vinegar...combined with the onions and chilies, this really tasted Chinese.....as did the Pachikay Sauce. It seems the strong Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine was in play as well.
Next up, well Sushi de Mar......An ika and hotate nigiri. Now, of course I'd never expect anything say...the level of Sushi Iwa or Urasawa....
But for me, the rice did this dish in. The gohan was hard, dry, and very cold. It really detracted from any enjoyment of the very nicely prepared seafood.
While the color of the dish screamed "bland" the "Amazonic Cebiche" was much better.
I loved the "Nikkei leche de tigre", which had some soy sauce in it. It tasted like revved up ponzu. I'm also a big fan of the shaved hearts of palm, which looked like noodles in this dish. That topping, which I was told was made of yucca flour was delish. I believe there was some garlic in here somewhere. There was also some very mild heat from aji charapita.
The next dish was also very good; Cancho con Yuca. This looked like compressed cubes of pork belly and yucca, wrapped up in some kind of dough based wrapper and topped with fried pork skin.
It was served with a "ramen reduction" which was quite salty.
Next up was another dish which just blew me away; Sacha Soba.
The noodles were made from sachapapa an Amazonian tuber. Flavor and color was added via the use of various chilies, and no, this wasn't spicy. But the texture of the soba was perfect; nice pull, that slight smokiness and mild spice from the chilies, balanced by the sweetness of the crab. My goodness, this was so delici-yoso!!!
We just had to have some drinks to celebrate! I got another Pisco and Tonic and the Missus gave in and had a Pisco Sour, which I thought was the most balanced, in terms of booze to sweetness to sour of what I had during the entire trip.
Next up were the Sushi Tierra (Earth). These fared much better than the seafood; possibly because the fat tempered the textures for me.
The A lo Pobre, a wonderfully beefy piece of meat torched, then topped with a quail egg. As a bonus, the quail egg had been injected with ponzu sauce, which added the nice salty-acid component which meant all the difference to this piece of nigiri. The mollejas (beef sweetbread) was nice and fatty which aided the texture, but this was a bit too tame in flavor compared to other piece.
The Missus really enjoyed the "Regional Beans", which had some nice flavor components, the quinoa crisps were very nutty and the Missus, who loves beans, also enjoyed them when mixed with the avocado cream.
So, the Missus has always preferred my misoyaki to everything She's ever had....even to pointing out the failings of what was served at Nobu's and Matsuhisa (!). Until tonight. On this evening, She proclaimed the Gindara to be the best She's ever had. Now I take a back seat.
I have to say, the flavor of the miso sauce/glaze was perfectly balanced; not too strong. the nuts; which I believe were cashews and bahuaja (Brazil nuts if I recall) just placed another layer of texture and flavor. I thought the potato cream was much too salty to enjoy.
The flavor and texture of the Wagyu Shortrib, which they said was cooked for 50 hours.....I'm pretty sure via sousvide, was amazingly tender and the flavor was a nice balance of salty to sweet.....and the egg yolk just added more richness (as if it were needed) to the dish. We both found the Cecina (cured pork) fried rice wrapped up like a spring roll to be kind of odd as it was on the mild side in regards to flavor.
The Missus really enjoyed both desserts. The Cacao; 70% pure, with yuzu and all the nuts.....
And I even enjoyed the "Maduro", which had the odd combination of an ice cream made with plantain and shoyu!
All that really nice tapioca balls, water jelly, and rice milk.....along with some Amazonian fruits like camu camu really made for a nice way to end the meal.
We really enjoyed our meal at Maido. In fact, the Missus told me that this is easily one of the most enjoyable meals of Her life. Me? Well, I can easily say that my favorite dining experience is Suzunari, which we actually returned to on our last visit to Tokyo (I know...I'm really behind). But this was an amazing experience in terms of food and flavors. And while certainly not on the level of Azurmendi, there was one thing they had in common. While not every dish worked to our enjoyment, the "highs" were extremely high. We could relate to the flavors....the combinations of which weren't frivolous.....the cuisine and thus the customer was respected....you could detect the "soul" of the cuisine here, it wasn't some meaningless mash-up. And while I wasn't able to wrangle a reservation at Central; we were both very happy to have the chance to dine at Maido.
Maido 399 Calle San Martin Lima, Peru
This was a wonderful meal. We'd have to get up at 430 the next morning and get our ride to the airport. Next up....Santiago, Chile...even if it was just for a single night we were looking forward to it!
Looks like Ed (from Yuma) is less busy today than Kirk or Cathy. That’s why you’re reading this post today.
In my last post about this restaurant, back in February, the focus was on breakfasts, but The Patio does a lot of things, most of them well.
Take for example appetizers. Recently at an event here, Tina and I really loved the crunchy deep-fried calamari and oysters Rockefeller, but I did not have my camera with me. So the only appetizer I have pictured is the pretty Quesadilla:
The red pepper flour tortilla surrounded creamy mellow cheese, shredded chicken, and chorizo. A step above most quesadillas.
The first time I ate lunch at the Patio, I chose the Reuben sandwich, which came with the house made chips:
Those chips are warm, thick, and crunchy and went well with the sandwich. The Reuben itself was marvelous:
The Rye bread was grilled perfectly and there was a generous amount of corned beef and sauerkraut. For my palate, this was a great sandwich and a great lunch.
Not quite as successful was this BLT, which I ordered with the french fries ($1.25 extra):
There was nothing really wrong with the sandwich though I should have added avocado to it for some extra creaminess. Those huge fries have a lot of potato taste, but not as much crispness as I like in french fries.
The burgers are uniformly excellent. Look at this close-up their standard burger patty topped with avocado:
What's not to love? Hand formed patty, char marks, juiciness. All those things add up to a first-class burger.
That even applies to the very basic Basic Burger:
Sure, the burger toppings (lettuce, onion, dill slices, tomato) are standard, but the patty was so good they were all that the burger needed. I left the mustard, mayo, and ketchup untouched.
I had requested the house “kale slaw” instead of chips that day because it's a crunchy, tangy, pretty salad with an excellent balsamic dressing.
I had discovered that wonderful thing when I tried the fish and chips:
The two fish filets were outstanding. The beer batter was good and the sea bass tasted moist, succulent, and fresh. The chips were okay, but less interesting than everything else on the plate.
Usually I don't like to include photos of things that I haven't eaten, but Evonne loved her Asian Short Rib Tacos, so here is a picture:
She swore they were as tasty as they look. They are topped with pickled cucumber, spicy mayo, and sliced red onion. They come with the same slaw, but the deep-fried things in the back are not chips, but chicharrones. Gotta have this on my next visit.
Tina and I have also had a couple of nice dinners at the Patio. When the weather is temperate, you can sit outside:
There's even a little fire going:
While the wine list is small (though featuring Bogle wines) The Patio has a full bar and specialty drinks like the Moscow Mule:
This old time favorite features primarily ginger beer and vodka, and Tina approves.
All of the dinner entrées come with your choice of salads, both excellent. Here is the wedge:
Old-school decadence. Iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch and topped with blue cheese, real bacon pieces, and diced tomato. The drizzle of reduced balsamic adds complexity.
Here's the garden salad:
The half a heart of romaine is topped with dried cranberries, pepitos, chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, shredded carrot, and roasted corn. The sweet tang of the dressing plays well with the other ingredients. Excellent salad in both taste and plating.
The entrées also come with soft dinner rolls and balls of butter:
So far, Tina and I have tried four entrées. Here's Italian sausage meatloaf, a thick slice wrapped with bacon and stuffed with mozzarella cheese:
It lay on a pile of mashed potato and was covered with gravy and topped with crispy fried onion strips. Tina loved the Italian sausage flavor of this rich and decadent meatloaf.
That same evening, I had short ribs:
Braised in stout, the large chunks of tender beef sat atop cheddared mashed potatoes and both were enhanced by the stout gravy. All surmounted by mini onion rings and a tangle of deep-fried carrot shreds that resemble Donald Trump's hair. Outstanding flavors, nonetheless. I'd order this again.
The next dinner we ate indoors, and Tina was looking for something healthier, so she selected the grilled zucchini lasagna:
This tasted much better than it looks in the picture. Basically, it's slices of seriously grilled zucchini covered with cheese and tomato sauce. This close-up may give you a better idea about the entrée:
I wanted lamb chops, which turned out to be two double boned chops slathered with chimichurri sauce and set atop mashed potatoes (and again bewigged like the Donald):
This was tasty. The mildly flavored lamb was tender and not overcooked. The sauce was green and garlicky. That little bowl sitting on the back of the plate was brimming with Mexican-style yellow corn, just like you'd find out on 8th Street:
Roasted corn kernels, charred from the grill, swimming in a rich combination of butter, crema, and Parmesan. Total yummy.
This last year has been good for us Yumans who like eating out. A lot of interesting and tasty new restaurants. The Patio, in particular, offers a great range of various foods in a nice setting. Service is first rate, and many of the dishes are out of the ordinary. That chef Alex's cuisine often reflects Yuma (like that street corn)is an added bonus.
Kirk kindly lets Cathy and even Ed (from Yuma) blog here, so today Ed wants to share a meal with you electronically that he shared with Tina actually.
To get to The Wine Vault, we went to the last block at the northwest end of India Street (just off Washington), looked just to the right of Saffron, the Thai roast chicken place, and climbed a bunch of steps that switch back and forth up to a nearly hidden loft. Finding it was worth the trouble.
On this evening, we were seated in the restaurant’s upper level with simple decor, plain white walls and good lighting:
As soon as we were seated, a large bottle of chilled water was placed on the table:
As well as a basket of fresh sliced salt bread:
Served with creamy unsalted butter and a small salt cellar, the bread had crunchy bits of coarse salt in its crust.
The cutlery, wrapped in a cloth napkin on the table, was perfect for a five course meal:
On this evening, the first course was halibut crudo with castelvetrano olives, deep-fried garbanzos, preserved lemon, garlic confit, and paprika oil:
The halibut tasted very fresh and was firm and mild – allowing the accent flavors of the other items to shine. The firm almost crunchy olives were a different and interesting companion to the fish. A good starter.
It was accompanied by a glass of Gerard Bertrand sparkling wine from Limoux, which is close to Carcassonne in the South of France. The wine, called Thomas Jefferson because Limoux sparklers were a special favorite of his, was dry, bubbly, and pale salmon color:
The next dish was amazingly good. It was centered on marscarpone topped creamy polenta with fresh spring peas, pea shoots, and fried shallot rings:
But there was more – wild mushroom strips and green garlic tops and bulb slices:
Amazingly complex and subtle layers of flavor and texture. Not like anything I can remember having before.
The wine pour was a Chiarlo Barbaresco, a northern Italian wine made from the same nebbiolo grape as Barolo:
Not a powerful wine like Barolo, but very smooth, so it went well with the flavors of the polenta.
The next course centered on Lebanese style chicken meatballs drizzled with piri piri sauce, accompanied by a mixed vegetable bulgur pilaf and a smear of smoked eggplant:
Here's a close-up:
The chicken balls were firm and meaty but certainly not rubbery. The Mediterranean spicing seemed fine and the bulgur pilaf was a nice touch.
Sometimes chicken is difficult to pair with wine because a lot of reds are too tannic and powerful and overwhelm the chicken and some whites come across as sharp and sour. So the chicken course was matched perfectly by the Stolpman Combe Trousseau:
This extremely rare red wine varietal results in a dry wine that looks almost like a rosé or like the rhubarb wine your cousin makes, but it has a distinct cherry/fruity flavor with some depth, a silky finish and virtually no tannins. Who knew?
Arriving next were four thick slices of sous-vide hanger steak, poached in butter and flavored with chimichurri sauce. Two slices angled toward me, two slices angled away. They topped baby purple potatoes and halves of fire roasted yellow and red tomatoes:
I liked the presentation; I could see both meat and vegetables. And that hanger steak was cooked perfect – tender, buttery, and meaty:
The wine, a malbec/syrah blend by Tikal in Argentina, was full flavored and great with the steak:
Before our dessert course showed up, we were given a mojito cocktail with its sweet/tart flavors of white rum, lime juice and mint:
Followed by a deconstructed key lime tart:
I liked it a lot. The thick and crunchy graham cracker crust was the central focus, and who doesn't like graham cracker crust? The sweet/tart lime pudding matched the flavor range of the mojito and contrasted with the texture and tastes of the crust.
It had been a couple of years since we'd been at The Wine Vault, (and my 2010 post about our first visit is here), so we were delighted to find that the restaurant had not grown stale. Our palates were challenged and pleased. At $36 for the food and $20 for the beverages, our credit card was pleased, but not challenged.
It was our last evening in Madrid and we were feeling a bit, well, sad. The city was definitely much better the second time around. During our first pass through Madrid, we thought it, hot, loud, gritty, somewhat dirty....the second time around we took to the city, it seemed so vibrant, alive, for some reason it reminded me of China. Folks really seemed to have a good time and enjoy life. Perhaps it was the apartment right on Tirso de Molina, where we took such watching folks out socializing. At 630 in the evening, most folks weren't even thinking about eating.
Instead of having the obvious (tapas) for dinner, we decided to go with another recommendation from Emilio, a rather new (at the time), modern-fusion place named Metro Bistro. We even dropped by during lunch to make reservations for dinner.
They even started dinner service at the ungodly hour of 7pm! Our reservations were for 8pm and we were happy to not be the first customers of the evening.
The interior is quite modern, the staff, very nice, friendly, though some of the folks were somewhat eccentric and the service was a bit spotty as the pacing seemed a bit off.
Things started off quite nicely as we were brought a nice aperitif, a celery based cocktail that was like a celery mojito. Very nice, quite refreshing.
The menu itself was quite interesting, classic dishes with fusion-y touches. Braised butterfish with ponzu, Sweet and sour IberianPork, Salmorejo with Olive Oil "Ice Cream", stuff like that.
The bread was nice and made even better by the nice herb butters provided.
We started things off with Metro Bistro's take on the classic Catalan roasted vegetable dish, Escalibada (9,40 €). This version was topped with cold smoked eel, which added a nice savory-smokey flavor to the dish.
We were less impressed with the vegetables which were underseasoned and could have used a bit of color.....the vegetables were basically limp and flavorless.
The Steak Tartare (19 €) however, was excellent.
The wonderfully tender beef, which was rather lean was bolstered by having minced foie gras mixed in. The minced capers and more so the mustard seed gave the dish zest and a nice finish. The egg yolk added even more velvety texture, possibly overkill. The micro greens balanced out things with a touch of bitter and a nice crunchy texture. This was really, really, good.
What was delici-yoso was the wonderfully Roasted Mushroom topped with 65 Degree Egg (10,80 €).
Man, egg porn. The flavor of that egg was so pure, the yolk so rich and runny, you'd think it was the star of the dish. But for me, it was the intense, earthy flavors and meaty texture of the mushroom base and the crunchy and earthy fried trumpet mushrooms that really made this stand out for me. The Missus? Well, She's a big time egg lover.....'nuff said
The pseudo sousvidish Lamb Gigot (18€) was solid if not outstanding.
The truffle potatoes seemed a bit out of place in this dish and for some reason clashed with the gamey lamb. Still, eaten separately, each was tasty.
We had a nice Cava with dinner and the Missus destroyed the dessert.
In what ended up being the evening's entertainment, we watched one of the Server's struggle with opening a bottle of wine....first breaking the cork and then fiddling with whatever was left, pushing the cork into the bottle. He should have just quit and gotten a fresh bottle. It was somewhat painful watching him struggle.....I felt like standing up and grabbing the bottle away from him.....it was like passing that accident scene....you just can't help but looky-loo. Still, we enjoyed our dinner. When the flavors and textures "clicked" it was really good. We found the prices to be not too bad. It was nice finding a place like this around tourist Plaza Mayor. We'd gladly return.
Metro Bistro Calle Imperial 3 Madrid, Spain
We picked up a nice bottle of Crianza on the way back to the apartment. Popping it open, we opened the window and watched the action below.....this is Tirso de Molina at 1030pm. Notice the kids playing......
Some folks are just starting to eat dinner....this was a Thursday mind you.....
At midnight, folks were just starting to eat at the place further down the block!
Talk about really knowing how to enjoy life! Of course, at 8am the place looks like a ghost town.
The next morning we walked the mile or so down to Atocha Station and caught the airport express. Remember the Jamon we bought at Ferpal? It came in real handy. The international gates at Madrid-Barajas Airport is like a cattle pen. There's no place to buy snacks, coffee....just vending machines. That package of Jamon Bellotta Pata Negra was sweating away in my bag. Man, it was delicious. Just looking at the photo makes me want to head back to Spain.
We really only had one full day in Bruges. And in the end it worked out well for us. The place was beautiful in the morning and later evening, when day-trippers left, but it was still rather crowded, and like I mentioned in a earlier post, you pretty much needed reservations for the better dinner locales. Luckily, the wonderful owner of our B&B managed to get us reservations at one of the restaurants that she said were among her favorites in Bruges. A place named Rock Fort. The reservations were for two bar seats which was fine with us. We were just happy to find a place to have a nice dinner.
We headed out early, happy to meander along the side streets, watching the ducks waddling along the sidewalks.
We soon found ourselves back at the City Hall Building. And decided to take a rest as the slow drizzle had petered out.
I noticed something a bit odd and pointed out these four young ladies in various costumes standing in the square.
I wasn't quite sure what this was all about, but we just had to stay and watch. Out popped another young lady with a video recorder and they did several takes of the four of them doing sort of a choreographed strut toward the camera. After finally getting it right, they celebrated with a group hug! What the objective was, who knows.....perhaps only they do? I won't even try to explain this one. Sometimes you see the oddest things.
Rock Fort is located not quite in the center of things, but just across one of the canals; where Hoogstrat turns into Langenstraat.
The façade is subdued and unassuming.
But the interior looks quite hip and very bright white. We entered and the very nice host said that since we were the first customers of the evening, if we thought we'd be done in 2 hours, they'd like to give us a table. Very gracious, the servers hit that balance between not being too stiff, yet professional and amiable.
As the evening passed, we saw quite a few "beautiful people, on several tables there were college aged young men with older women......a middle aged gentleman, dressed to the nines arrived with an entourage, sans reservations, one of the chefs came out to greet them. Apparently they had no reservations. After a short discussion, or should I say negotiation, they ended up sitting at the bar.
As we often will do when confronted with Tasting Menus; we'd work with the staff to get both menu items and the tasting menu, which was no problem here. The Missus had some wine, while I went for a beer....as I went down the menu, looking for something suitable, the cheerful young lady would nod a slight "no"....apparently she did not approve! Finally, I asked "La Chouffe".....she smiled brightly and said; "good choice". I loved this place!
I did think the buttery popcorn that came along with the cheese and bread was fun and different.
Instead of going thru the entire dinner. I'll go over the highlights. It was actually two choices from the menu that were really outstanding.
The Entrecote of Flemish Beef - wet aged for a month, cured for a month, then dry aged for a month was outstanding.
Topped with pine nuts; this aged rib eye served raw was amazingly flavored, a deep, yet clean beef flavor. The pine nuts added a nutty and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
The Beef Tartar was also outstanding.
Loved the scallions in this, which added just the right pungency as did the roasted garlic, balancing the wonderful clean flavors. The watercress gave just the right amount of bitterness.
The Chef's menu was no slouch...I mean; there's foie gras, well prepared seafood, and pork belly.
And yes, touches of molecular gastronomy; foams, powders, and such, but nothing got in the way.
The presentation was nice....but nothing could top the two dishes ordered off the menu.
It was by far the best meal we had in Belgium.
Rock Fort Langestraat 15 Bruges, Belgium
As we took a stroll after dinner, we noticed groups of people making their way up one of the streets.
There was some kind of fair taking place.
After wandering about for a bit; we headed back to the warmth of our room at the B&B.
Our time in Bruges was coming to a close. While I'm not sure if we'll ever return; I can say that B&B B Guest was one of our favorite B&B's we've stayed at; just two rooms, close to everything, but with enough privacy, and a nice breakfast. We took away another thing from our trip. It seemed that just about every place we stayed at had a Nespresso machine. It was nice having a little pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. We ended up buying one when we got home. Yes, the Missus is a coffee snob, but sometimes She just needs a nice shot of espresso.
We headed off to sleep rather early. The next day, we'd be headed back to Brussels.
We did make one more stop in the late afternoon; Petaluma Creamery.
The focus of this shop is more geared toward ice cream and the café.
After our afternoon nap, we strolled back to downtown Petaluma, passing all those lovely Victorian houses.
Where D street meets 4th street is Walnut Park. We were visiting in October and from May thru November, Walnut Park hosts a Farmer's Market.
We had made the mile-and-a-half walk in record time....thanks to the ahem, the Missus's encouragement. So we took a nice break.
Would you believe that the Missus bought 2 pounds of apples? Which we brought back with us to San Diego?
We also saw what might be the cutest and most chubby, little pony.....
Petaluma Saturday Afternoon Farmer's Market Saturday from 2:00 pm-5:30 pm May though November Walnut Park Petaluma Blvd and D Street Petaluma, CA
We were still early for dinner, so we walked around Petaluma for a while.
Our dinner destination? A restaurant named Risibisi. I liked the menu, Italian with regional NoCal touches, which uses local ingredients.
We were seated in a cozy corner. The place filled up really quickly!
The service was polished and very professional, no complaints from us.
I sent Candice a text after ordering my Aperitif, joking that I must have been channeling her when I ordered a Negroni. The Missus had a Pinot Noir.
We started with the Tomato and Burrata.
The tomatoes were very good; nice acid, the flavor textbook perfect. The Burrata was creamy, slightly milky, walking arm in arm with the tomato and the flavor of the Olive Oil. The Missus actually preferred this version to what we had at Central Market the night before. She believed that the flavors were more on target and true to the ingredients. I was on the fence. The tomatoes in this dish had much more flavor, but I enjoyed the umph the anchovy and the peppery olive oil added to the dish at CM. Still, there's no denying, this was quite good.
The Watermelon Salad ($12) was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.
The Hazelnut Vinaigrette was mild, but added just blended in nicely into the symphony of flavors. Watermelon and arugula playing well together! If anything, I'd have enjoyed a bit more pecorino to add a bit more savory-milky-salty tones to the salad. But this was very enjoyable.
Sweet Corn Risotto ($18).
I'm still looking for "that" risotto.....the usual restaurant style par cooked version, that excels. This one really didn't have the texture I enjoy. The corn added a nice sweetness, the pancetta and pecorino adding the salty tones to balance things out.
The Gnocchi Wild Boar ($18) was delicious. While the risotto fell short in texture, this was so good. The gnocchi was just firm enough, waiting to be eaten to start melting into the ether.
The wild boar was tasty, adding a nice richness to the ragu, which seemed simple, but full of flavor. An excellent dish!
The Missus had Her new favorite dessert; an Affogato. She asked if they would replace the vanilla ice cream with hazelnut ice cream which they gladly did. I had a Tawny Port, which proved to be a nice digestif. Man, we got get back to Porto one of these days.
We had a very nice meal at Risibisi. In fact, the Missus said that while the best dish of the trip was the Pork Confit from Central Market, She thought that our meal at Risibisi was better overall. It's a nice dilemma to have and one I'd gladly like to repeat again....have a dinner at Central Market, then at Risibisi....
Risibisi Restaurant 154 Petaluma Blvd N Petaluma, CA 94952
We really enjoyed our time in Petaluma and I'm sure we'll return someday...especially when the Missus is itching for some cheese! I do have one more post from this trip coming up....I'll try to get it done soon.
Kirk is recuperating and readjusting to San Diego. Cathy (who is already well adjusted) is just recuperating. That means this post about travels through the vineyards of Oregon was written by Ed (from Yuma) with some photos by Tina.
Tina snapped that picture of my camera and stemware sitting on a wine cask table, the window showing a fringe of vineyards and the beautiful Oregon countryside beyond. Seems like a good place to start this post of our adventures in the heart of the Oregon wine country. I promise it’ll focus mostly on beautiful scenery and food, and I hope you enjoy reading it and looking at the pictures.
Proximity to the best Oregon wine regions was one reason Tina and I stayed in Hillsboro for part of our Oregon vacation. While most of the state’s wineries are located in the large area called the "Willamette Valley," most of the best wineries in that valley, the ones that make the best pinot noirs, are actually located in rolling hills west and south from Portland.
So we drove past hilly vineyards amidst forests:
And viewed hilltop wineries:
From the Raptor Ridge parking lot, the juxtaposition of vineyards and countryside was quite nice:
The tasting room looked fairly ordinary from a distance:
but this view from the deck is far from ordinary:
At every tasting room we went to, we were handed a tasting list, so we would know what wines were being tasted and how much the tasting would cost:
After that tasting, we were hungry so we sought out the Red Hills Market in nearby Dundee. It had a nice selection of sandwiches or pizzas (and of course wine or coffee etc.). You just go up and order at the counter:
Since the weather was nice, we sat outside on the deck, not far from the condiments and water dispenser:
Tina had the olive tapenade and cheese sandwich, which was served onan artisan baguette with abundant fresh baby lettuces:
Wonderful, savory Mediterranean flavors.
And look at my basic Carlton ham and Gruyere sandwich:
Simple, focused, flavorful, and crunchy. Yum.
And Red Hills Market also had a deli case for food to go:
So that night we stayed put in the motel room and feasted on part of our purchases from the market:
The baguette was perfect with a crispy crust and a fresh firm crumb. We loved the pheasant pâté, which disappeared that evening. We only opened one of the Olympia Provisions salamis, but they all were good and distinctive. While the Oregon Gouda was just okay, the Mt. Townsend Creamery Haystack was a perfect soft ripened cheese – rich mild dairy flavors and all gooey inside.
Of course the dinner couldn't be complete without a bottle of Raptor Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir:
If you look carefully at that picture, you will also see a small marionberry pie that we purchased along with some salad at a Whole Foods in the area. The sort of alfresco dinner that we just can't throw together back in Yuma for sure.
The next day, my Auntie Marilyn and her charming beau, Ron, came by in the afternoon to take us out wine tasting. We had a good time talking and driving around and we made it to a couple of different wineries, our favorite being Blakeslee, where we tasted several wines (all of them good) and then bought glasses of our favorites and took them out to the beautiful patio area, a great place to sip, chat, and relax:
Since Blakeslee is located at the Eastern edge of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, we could look across the lovely grounds and vineyards and see Mt. Hood in the distance:
Beautiful, but also kind of sad to see Mt. Hood without most of its snow-covered cap.
That day concluded nicely when Ron and Marilyn took us out to a tasty dinner at the Rock Creek Tavern, one of the many interesting McMenamins’ locations. When I went to their first brewpub in Portland back in 1983, I had no idea that I was witnessing the humble birth of a beverage/dining/lodging empire.
A couple of days later, Steve and Helen joined us for a leisurely day of eating, talking, and wine tasting as we drove around enjoying the wonderful scenery:
Our first stop was one of my favorites, Elk Cove Vineyards, which has been making good wine in the Yamhill Carlton AVA since the late 1970s at a strikingly beautiful location:
Very flavorful Pinot Noirs:
Here's a photo of some relaxed guests enjoying the beautiful weather out on the patio:
Since we were in no hurry, we walked out to Elk Cove’s beautiful garden area:
which includes exotic plants:
and provides some striking views of the surrounding vineyards:
All that tasting and talking left Steve and Helen and Tina and I very hungry, so we headed into Carlton for lunch at Horse Radish:
We all decided to have one of the half sandwich/salad combinations. Tina opted for the BLT, but this version of that classic sandwich was clearly something special:
An abundance of fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and Carlton Farms bacon, all tucked inside of extremely good bread.
And this, believe it or not, is the half salad that came with each sandwich:
The house made balsamic fig dressing, dried cranberries, and local goat cheese all sat atop wondrously fresh organic mixed greens.
Steve and I ordered the half sandwich with roast beef:
Just look at that real roasted beef. Each sandwich also had pickled onions, a blue cheese spread, and horseradish mayo. Wonderfully good bread again. Great sandwich overall.
Refreshed, we headed off to another beautiful winery location, Anne Amie. Situated at the top of a south facing hillside, the winery offered some outstanding views from its deck: It also had a nice garden with some unusual vegetation:
and the best label we saw on the trip, which I believe shows the winery’s owners clad in Victorian costume at the edge of vast vineyards stretching out to the horizon:
Ordinary building on Highway 99 in Dundee – easy to miss with no scenic view:
But excellent tasting Pinots.
Then we continued northeast on Highway 99 into Newburg where we found Subterra restaurant:
It was not easy to locate because most of it is literally underground.
Inside, the decor was understated and the ambience comfortable:
It was also a little dim, so my photos from Subterra are unfortunately subpar. The dinner, however, was not. We began with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms atop a mound of cheesy polenta:
We were all impressed. The mushrooms had a mild woodsy flavor and a firm texture. The soft polenta matched perfectly.
A bread basket of lightly toasted rustic breads showed up next:
accompanied with two different spreads:
All entrées include both soup and salad. Tina chose the spicy black bean soup:
To be honest, I thought it was pretty ordinary.
As was my Thai Curry chicken soup:
The salads, on the other hand, were (imho) magnificent: What's not to love here? Incredible fresh greens. Plump blueberries. Crumbled goat cheese. And I can't remember ever having better tasting hazelnuts. The whole thing lightly touched with a clean tasting, extra-virgin dressing.
For once, the four of us had a range of different dishes. Helen opted for the rich short rib:
The meat was melt in your mouth tender and the mashed potatoes underneath had flavors of garlic and goat cheese with a hint of truffle. I believe those are braised greens at the back of the plate.
Steve chose the pistachio crusted scallops:
There were enough nuts on each of the scallops so that both flavors came through in every bite. The large hillock on the left was sort of like a charred brussels sprout risotto with bits of other veggies and wild rice added for flavor and color.
Tina wanted the seafood zarzuela, a stew of clams, shrimp, fish, and scallops in a complex saffron/almond flavored sofrito:
My picture does not do the dish justice. Tina loved the mix of seafood and enjoyed the rounds of sausage, slices of peppers, and chunks of fennel. The accompanying bread slices were slightly burnt, but she happily dipped them into the sauce and wolfed them down.
I was also delighted with my duck confit:
The honey drizzled confit tasted great and I appreciated the sweet/sour red cabbage and the fresh broccolini, both visible in this picture, and roasted baby potato wedges that were hiding behind the duck.
We'd had a good time that day, and Tina and I loved all of our excursions out into some of the best AVAs in Oregon. But we have only begun to sample what the area has to offer. I guess it's a good sign – leaving somewhere and already hoping for a return trip.
While Tina contributed a lot of photos, today's post was written by Ed (from Yuma) about explorating parts of Portland with some old friends. Tomorrow's post will be from Kirk or Cathy. Now you know.
We were looking forward to a couple of days with Steve and Helen, friends who live in Monterey CA. They had been visiting Steve's sister in Vancouver WA, so we picked them up and descended on downtown Portland.
It was lunchtime, and we were looking for interesting and inexpensive food. The food carts around SW10th Ave and Alder fit the bill:
All kinds of choices:
Tina, Helen, and I decided on Eurodish – street cart Polish food:
The Polish sausage (on a bun) was grilled only after it was ordered, placed on a nice large bun, and (since Tina asked for everything on it) looked like this:
Seriously, there is a Polish sausage hiding under the profusion of condiments. Much yumminess. What a hot dog aspires to become when it grows up.
I chose combination #2, a cabbage roll and dumplings:
The dumplings had a soft chew and were cheesy, creamy, and pleasantly bland; the onion and red pepper slices a nice contrast. The cabbage roll was a pretty good rendition. The tomato sauce was pretty straightforward, but there was a nice picante touch. The beefy rice filling was flavorful, and I loved the triple layers of cabbage – the roll tasted like cabbage:
Steve, being a Philly boy, had to have a cheese steak which came with curly fries. He pronounced it very good, considering it was Portland Oregon and not South Philly:
One advantage/disadvantage of the carts is that there is no seating provided, so we and a lot of other folks found impromptu spots to set ourselves and eat around the fountains in Director Park at Ninth and Yamhill.
After lunch, we started strolling south by southwest through the South Park Blocks. This picture shows the basic layout – a small park area flanked by two city streets:
But that small park area extends for 14 blocks. It is a beautiful walk with a variety of people – tourists, students, and the homeless:
Canopies of leaves above people hurrying somewhere or just sitting on a bench and talking:
A guitar and accordion duet:
There is also some old-school statuary. A classical water bearer, probably a Naiad:
A pensive Abraham Lincoln:
In the distance, an equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in the beautiful park setting:
And here is good ol’ Teddy, ready to charge up San Juan Hill:
The Portland Art Museum, adjacent to the park, has some public statuary of its own, such as this beautiful intertwined couple:
Or this striking female who perfectly matches her surroundings:
Most of the time we were walking slightly uphill as the Park comes closer to the hills that flank the west side of Portland:
The southwestern end of the linear park extends into Portland State University. In that area there is a nice rose garden:
So Tina stopped to photograph one of the roses:
Then the elongated park transforms into a campus: A very pleasant walk, but we had to turn around and walk 14 blocks back in the direction of our car. As we approached the northeast end of the Park, we were all feeling a bit peckish, and I for one was looking for somewhere I could sit down for a while. I looked over my restaurant list to see if anything was nearby. I mentioned Veritable Quandary at 1220 SW 1st, and Steve said, "Oh, that's close – only eight or nine blocks away." So off we marched.
We sat down at the bar and each ordered a glass of wine. I had Elk Cove Pinot Gris, but I'm not sure about the others. We liked the atmosphere and the menu was sufficiently interesting, but when we asked about dinner, they told us that the dining room was booked up until 8:30 that night. By then, I would have starved, I'm afraid, or drunk myself to complete silliness. Fortunately our helpful server suggested that we eat in the bar area; in fact, she said, that she would put together two small tables at the window for us. Wow, sure, yeah, thanks!
While there was a television with some game on, no one would confuse this place with a sports bar:
Considering we were stuck at the end of the bar area, the service was outstanding throughout the meal, so here's a shout out for Sasha who was a perfect server (and she does not look this fuzzy in person):
The bread that was placed on the table was probably the most impressive I had on the trip. The dark rustic crust and the firm flavorful crumb reminded me of the breads of central Europe:
Sasha also helped us choose a wine, a reasonably priced Pinot Blanc from Elk Cove. Usually a glass of wine looks pretty much like any other glass, but for me, this glass weirdly reflects the ambience of the evening:
Or maybe it's just a bad photo.
We chose the rabbit pâté for our appetizer:
Fortunately Tina took a much better shot of the appetizer:
The pâté itself, wrapped in bacon, was smooth, savory, and rich. The brioche was light and crunchy, and we liked it so much that Sasha brought us extra.
While the two different mustards were nothing special, the prune jam was an unusual sweet complement, the watercress added a green and mildly bitter touch, and I nearly swooned over the pickled pear.
For their main courses, Steve and Helen decided to share, so Helen ordered the Caesar salad:
It certainly looked nice – an attractive pile of romaine lettuce fancied up with Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and a Caesar dressing.
Tina chose the house made brie ravioli:
The two giant pasta pouches lay atop wedges of roasted hubbard squash, the whole thing covered with grated cheese (Pecorino?) and fresh frisee. In a way, a really unusual pasta salad. The firm autumnal squash so different in texture and flavors to the richly melty cheesy ravioli and both set off by the crunchy lettuce and slightly tart, oil based dressing.
Steve and I had decided on the same thing, the fish special of the evening, something called Blackened Hawaiian Walu:
The large fish steaks that perched on roasted sweet potato wedges were accompanied by radicchio, micro greens, and a tangy sauce.
And the fish tasted very good. It was extremely rich and had a distinctive almost waxy texture. The blackening added a spicy note, and both Steve and I appreciated that the fish had not been over cooked:
Luckily, none of us had a bad digestive reaction to the fish, which we have since learned is more commonly called escolar and is banned in Japan, a country that happily devours fugu and chicken sashimi. It’s good to be lucky sometimes.
For dessert, we shared two items. First, a scoop of house made vanilla bean ice cream:
It was decent and the cookie added a contrastive crunch.
The chocolate soufflé was the highlight of the desserts:
Warm and puffy chocolate pillow with gooey chocolate sauce. More proof that the best thing you can eat with chocolate is more chocolate.
For the quality of the meal and service overall, the bill seemed reasonable:
As we walked another 10 blocks back to the car through the pleasantly cool evening, we all thought it'd been a pretty good day adventuring in Portland, though I'm sure Steve and Helen felt we hadn't walked quite enough.
Call it unfinished business. You know how that goes....we really need to close that circle; like returning to Istanbul twice to get things right. After our meal at Little Bird Bistro, the Missus really wanted to return to Portland. Which is how we ended up on the Red Line to Downtown PDX watching this couple and their ferret. He, smelling like he'd been knocking back a few....as if to confirm this, taking a "48" out of his bag and having a couple of swigs. She meanwhile, was going goo-goo and gaa-gaa over the little guy. As soon as they told the person sitting across the way from them how sweet the little fellow was, he dropped a huge load on her bag. Life is funny that way.
Anyway, we had caught the late afternoon flight to Portland, took the Red Line...a bargain at $2.50 a person downtown and to our hotel; the Paramount. I'd made late reservations at Le Pigeon....late enough that the Missus decided that we should walk the mile and a half or so to the restaurant.
Which was actually a pretty nice walk, in spite of having to pass all the street folks along the way. It was also quite warm.....and it would get much hotter, though not quite as bad as it was in San Diego at the time.
Since it was late in the evening, Le Pigeon wasn't too crowded and we got in a bit early.
The staff were very professional though I'm not a big fan of the communal seating. Call me anti-social, but we can really do without the fake cheer and really don't want to know your business, whether it's your prostate problem, or how you're getting sued by your patients and can't find a job on the West Coast anymore....and even more so all of your food allergies. The long suffering young lady put on a cheerful front when the guy sitting next to us insisted upon getting the tasting menu...then went down the list of all his allergies...tomatoes, avocados, carrots, garlic, this type of milk product, that type of milk product, gluten, blah, blah, blah.....I really, really don't want to know that the only thing in the world you can consume is breast milk. Why in the world are you getting the tasting menu when you can't eat anything except cardboard?
Meanwhile, our meal was excellent.
From the Foie Gras "Hot Brown" ($25), a wonderful piece of nicely seared foie gras that just melted in your mouth. The turkey, which tasted smoked was full of flavor as was the bacon.....
The egg was a wonderful runny joy, we loved the acid from the tomatoes, and the toast was light and quite crisp. Tell you what....I'll take a slice of foie gras over Mornay sauce on my Hot Brown any day of the week.
And while the Ricotta Gnocchi ($16) was a bit too "squeaky" for our tastes, the cheese and the sauce were wonderful.
Perfect garlic, salt, milky flavors in harmony....the wonderfully beefy beef tongue in the dish just topped things off.
The best overall dish of our trip (not necessarily the best bite...more on that later) in my opinion was the Grilled Short Rib ($29).
The short rib was amazing. Ever had medium rare, thick cut short rib that wasn't on the tough side? This was just toothful enough, nicely seared, beefy, and yes, medium rare. I'm thinking sous vide? And yet, my favorite component was the wonderful mashed potatoes....it had a mild sweetness and I swear, there was a familiar umami flavor to it. We were told that sweet corn and miso was pureed with the potatoes. The smoked corn and tomato salad with soy braised oxtail was excellent. I'd go back to Le Pigeon just for those potatoes.
Our least favorite dish of the night was the Beef Cheek Bourguinon ($28).
While the texture of the braised beef cheek was just perfect; fork tender without being mushy. The sauce was just plain overkill; much too sour and bitter for our taste. The risotto, made with that wonderful, ripe, epoisses cheese, would seem to be just up our alley, but the rice was on the tough side with a hard core and that sauce just killed any other flavors.
While I considered ordering the signature foie gras profiteroles, there was just no way I could put away anything more after all this rich food. We went with the Cucumber-Watermelon sorbet ($6) instead, which was still way too much for us to finish.
The service was friendly, professional, and the timing excellent.
I'm thinking Le Pigeon will be a regular stop on future visits to Portland.
Le Pigeon 738 E Burnside St Portland, OR 97214
We enjoyed a nice walk back to the hotel after dinner down "colorful" Burnside. It was a warm evening. We'd had a wonderful dinner and this was just our first evening in Portland!