Sunday, July 8, 2012

1/2Baked Paris Summer 2012: "Waiting on a Miracle"

My current wish list of food I want to eat in Paris in Summer 2012 while await the unattainable Yam T'Cha reservation (hence the reference to the Springsteen song title above, though I'm pretty sure the Boss wasn't thinking that scoring a Parisian hot reservation was so miraculous):
In the 7th:
LA TABLE D’AKI, 49 rue Vaneau, Paris 7. Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48. Métro: Vaneau. Open: Tuesday-Saturday. Closed  Sunday & Monday. Lunch & Dinner: A la carte 38-50€
--Here's what Patricia Wells had to say (and we love her):

"Akihiro Horikoshi brings new meaning to the phrase "one man show." His new, 16-seat restaurant has a single employee: Aki. He shops, he creates the menu, he cooks, he takes orders, he serves, he cleans up. And this is the way the Tokyo native wants it. He has been on his own at La Table d’Aki since January 10, having worked under the tutelage of Bernard Pacaud at the Michelin three-star L’Ambroisie since 1991. The spotless, tiny restaurant is bathed in light and white from head to toe, with a few flashes of red from the lamp cables that bring the room together in a quiet, festive way. His food, too – pure, simple, and sensational in an understated way  – is white. A giant. alabaster ravioli filled with sweet, fresh langoustines dotted with herbs arrives with a thin but potent meat sauce that makes the dish look like dessert (photo). A delicate, moist fricassée of chicken with carefully turned potatoes and baby onions tastes as though it was dropped from on high by the angels. The delicate lieu-jaune (Atlantic cod) is offset with the punch of a brunoise of celery root, all those precision-cut cubes, and a nice hit of capers. Dessert, all white again, arrives as silken crème brûlée, paired with an apple baked with a touch of cake inside, a pleasant surprise on the palate. At night, Aki cooks only fish. On the menu now, the freshest scallops from Brittany. The food has the Aki signature, as well as the echo of Pacauad’s sublime perfection. La Table d’Aki is a nice little new star in Paris’s ever-glistening sky."
Also, check out Paris by Mouth:

COUTUME CAFE: I'm looking for Coffee (really good coffee!) and light bites (salad to justify all that carb-loading I do in Paris) at the hot new place described here:
Address 47 rue de Babylone; 75007 Paris
by rue Vaneau
Neighbourhood 7th Arrondissement | See on map
Metro Saint-François-Xavier [M13], Vaneau [M10]
Telephone +33 1 45 51 50 47
Price EUR 10-15
Hours Tues-Fri 08-19. Sat-Sun 10-19

RESTAURANT LE CHARDENOUX DES PRES: This bistro in the 6th was dubbed among Gayot's top 10 new restaurants in Paris for 2012 and is open 7 days a week (and that means Sundays too).  It garners 14/20 from Gayot, which is pretty great praise, actually: and here's the Gayot link to the restaurant:

SATURNE: A moderately priced new find in the 2nd where a Passard alum (our beloved veggie 7th heaven, Arpege) and a good sommelier, have teamed up to garner 14/20 and make Gayot's top 10 new restos of 2012.  Front room is a no reservation bistro. Back room is more upscale and takes res.  Here's the Gayot review:  And this review makes it sound like the perfect place for a pretentious foodie like me:

GUY SAVOY: It's time...for years, I have toyed with the idea and kept wondering whether the hype had outlived the quality but seeing the 3 star rating again from Michelin and the top ranking in Gayot this year (18/20) means that the time has come to take the plunge: and here's the link to the restaurant itself: and here's what Michelin has to say:

CHEN SOLEIL d'EST: I admit that I am on the fence on this one...with 16/20 from Gayot and a nod for best Chinese in Paris, I am intrigued (especially since they said that it has a wine list that matches well...)

What about Spring? Check out the GQ coverage:

And there's more for me to explore: like some of those in this article:

Frenchie looks yummy and fairly priced:
These two women are causing a bit of a stir in the 18th:

We have friends in the 9th and there's a wine store nearby that i quite like, so...

Is she the real deal? Not sure, but this Argentine chef has been feeding Paris' star chefs of late: Le Baratin, 3 rue Jouye-Rouve (20th); +33-1-43-49-39-70.  What I save on food, I will spend on the cab -- because this is in the 20th, no really, the 20th: 0
Nearest transport: Pyrenées or Belleville (11)
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday
Reservations: Book a few days in advance
This is also touted in and here: (which mentions Edith Piaf's birthplace, right nearby)

1/2Baked Scotland

In furtherance of my goal of publishing half-baked notes aggregating the research I've done and guidance I've received on a given location so that, over time, I can get feedback and incorporate my own experiences to refine these notes, Here's what's cooking in Scotland.  We plan to visit in mid/late August for family vacation.  Any tips are greatly appreciated!

--Rhubarb, the Restaurant at Prestonfield -- this is supposed to have great food and won the AA award for best wine list in Scotland 2011(2012 edition).  see below for sibling restaurant, the Witchery by the Castle
--The Kitchin (Tom Kitchin) -- okay, I'm confused already -- who is better Kitchin or Kitching, both seem to be super hot chefs in Edinburgh(****)
--Restaurant Martin Wishart -- is this Scotland's finest restaurant? That's a claim I've heard and they have a hefty wine list too (****)
--21212/Paul Kitching -- this is the hot address in Edinburgh right now.  Can't wait to try it (and the wine list too)
--Witchery by the Castle - is this the better of the duo at Prestonfields?
--Balmoral -- this has the reputation of being Edinburgh's most prestigious hotel...the restaurant sounds intriguing, though is it stuffy? (Hadrian's is the less formal sibling)
--Hadrian's -- this modern scottish sibling to the high end Balmoral's primary restaurant is also noteworthy.  Is it heavy? May well be lower key though
--Norton House -- just outside Edinburgh and, apparently, amazing word on the wine list
--Cafe Royal -- winner of the 2011 Pub of the Year for Scotland
--Castle Terrace Restaurant (a *** run by a friend of Tom Kitchin's)
--Plumed Horse (another *** for which we won't have time, sadly)

--Blytheswood Square -- hotel of the year for Scotland 2012
Where else should we dine in Glasgow?  Kind of wish we had access to Edinburgh's hot resto scene from here, no?

--Culloden House in Inverness -- creative local cuisine ** in a great hotel, local produce and no jackets required! Book it Danno!
--Boath House in Nairn -- **** with local produce and their own organic produce and honey from hives and gardens on the property (not that I plan to eat honey...okay, a little I do plan to eat, but it portends great things, no?).  More than 125 bottles and I can handle the "No T shirts" dress code!
--Glenmoriston Town House Hotel in Inverness -- *** of refined European cuisine
--Inverlochy Castle in Fort Williams -- this looks pretty kicking with *** for food, more for lodging and a wine list too.  I might have to suck up the jacket+tie requirement and head over there for chow (why is Scotland currently in love with lemon grass?)
-Loch Ness Lodge -- serving large portions of filet of Nessy, I presume? (Maybe not) **
--The Cross at Kingussie in, where else, Kingussie! Female chef ***, 200+ bottles, serves only 20 people...sounds very worth checking out!  How far is this puppy from Inverness?
--The Torridon in, you guessed it, Torridon (and don't confuse it with the Torridon Inn in...Torridon).  Might be too far if staying Inverness. I do respect the "No jeans; no trainers" dress code and the *** rating.

--Kinloch Lodge -- *** & 200+bottles run by cookbook author Lady Claire MacDonald and her husband with an emphasis on local/seasonal and a kick-butt hotel too.  This baby also has a star from Michelin!  This is, in fact, the only Mich Star on the Isle.
--The Three Chimneys & the House Over-By ...herbs & veggies from their own gardens and more than 180 bottles on the list at this Colbost-based ***  Here's what the NYTIMES wrote in 2008 about this place:

"The Three Chimneys is the French Laundry of Scotland, luring food-loving pilgrims from near and far, a destination in its own right. And it was precisely the restaurant I was hoping for, one that can't be replicated outside Scotland."

--Toravaig House Hotel doesn't have a huge wine list but does do modern, local/seasonal food worthy of ** and might be worth a visit.
--Duisdale House may well have the same notes as Toravaig House Hotel...wonder if anyone could settle that coin toss?
--Ullinish Country Lodge is another *** doing modern French in a farmhouse which once housed Samuel Johnson and Boswell.  Not sure the menu sounds like it directly hits my sweetspot, but I'm open minded if time permits.  65 bottle list gets high marks, though it does make me wonder whether that's an ample enough list for my snooty tastes! (Self knowledge can be cruel but admitting I have a problem is, well, pretty easy for me).
--Hotel Eileen Iarmain is on the water, gets ** for traditional Scottish food and has a small wine list.

Moray - Perth & Kinrich
Not sure we will visit this area, but if we do, sounds like we should hit:
--Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles **** cooking from a local who trained under Michel Guerard and boasts 300+bottles.  Apparently this dude picked up the deuce from Michelin too!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

1/2Baked Stuff Others Told Me To Do In...(Piedmont)

Years ago I spoke to a very bright, articulate and well traveled guy who worked at a wine shop in California.  When it came time for my magical second trip to Paris, I asked him for some recommendations and he obliged with a wonderful list.  I followed it, longed to have the sophistication and familiarity with Paris that his list evidenced and felt deeply in his debt (I never repaid that debt, sadly).  Since then, I've obsessively made my own lists and asked many others for their recommendations and lists.  I started blogging, in part, to remember my own darn likes and, perhaps more importantly, dislikes (because I'll be damned if I ever let any friend of mine eat at the treacherous and malevolent Chez L'Ami Louis in Paris...okay, I won't forget that place because my reaction to how they treated us is so deeply burned into my brain, but I might forget the allegedly wonderful Thai place in the 6th arrondissement in Paris where roaches literally crawled out of our Phad Thai like passengers deboarding the Love Boat after a satisfying cruise).

In light of all this, my goal is to create some MVP (minimum viable product) blogposts that enable me to aggregate recommendations for a given spot, not refine or comment on the data, collect other reactions and data and then refine and edit over time. A "catch and release" for data on some great spots.  I hope people will comment on these 1/2Baked works in progress and enable me to refine, preferably before a trip and certainly after!

So here is what a smattering of wine geeks (mostly professional winemakers and some retailers and importers) have told me about Piedmont -- IN UNEDITED FORM -- SO I AM PARTICULARLY EAGER TO GET YOUR FEEDBACK AND SPECIFIC COMMENTS IF YOU'VE VISITED PLACES:

From my friend Dan, a great wine maker and Italy-lover:
A restaurant (and albergo/hotel) to consider in Monforte d'Alba - la Felicin.  I stayed there and ate there many years ago (2006).
Also, download the iPhone app - enogea. It is a great appellation breakdown of Piedmonte. The maps are by Alessandro Masnaghetti. The maps are distributed by Rare Wine Co.

From a fellow music lover who had just returned from Piedmont:
my best two meals in alba and surrounding region (from the 6 I had) were at

1. Piazza Duomo in downtown Alba (best to reserve esp. in high season - two star michelin)

make sure to order what they call Essenza di Finanziera (the finanziera i was explained is a local dish made with whatever meat scraps and discarded organs, the components vary from home to home).  Theirs was made of duck tongues and rabbit kidneys but served in a liver sauce.  You eat it with a spoon like baby food (for the rich and spoiled bambini).
Had one of their large tasting menus, their advertised 5/6 courses turned into 10 or 11 courses (the first four of which were hand-eaten). I ordered the wines selections tailored to the meal (something I usually do not like, I much prefer concentrating on a single bottle), but they opened some absolutely delicious, lesser-known things, including two or 3 whites from the region that were revelations.  You will like the closer by the way (if you like grappa).

2.  Vecchio Tre Stelle, Tre Stelle, Barbaresco (actually between alba and Barbaresco proper)
I had a few delicious things at this  restaurant in Barbaresco.  A remarkable cheese tray, a splendid quail/mushroom/black truffle/green salad, etc.  I was the only client there that lunch (mid week, off season, etc.), never a great feeling, and yet the food had a most charming, honest, fresh quality.  Not too heavy, which in that region is not so easily found.

3.  Avoid ANTINE in Barbaresco.  Dreadful meal. Michelin gave it a star.

From my friend J (winemaker):
Schiavenza has a great restaurant as well, called Schiavenza.  Very traditional wines and very good- worth checking out.  You should stay in La Morra or Barolo.  Everything is 15 minutes away from the next village, so it is easy to get around.
Another great restaurant that is in Barbaresco is Trattoria Antica Torre.  Small restaurant that our friend L... really liked.

From an importer:

Lunch – I had a great lunch at Borgo Antico (fancy) last November, or Trattoria dell Arco (Simple, classic) in Cissone is near your hotel and still has some older gems on the list. There’s also a fun wine bar up the hill from Monforte’s square called Casa del Saracca. The mains are week, but charcuterie is excellent and the wine list is deep (if young).

From the friend of a friend (wine importer)
a Serralunga 
•    Trattoria Schiavenza 0173 613115 chiuso ma
•    Ristorante Antico Podere TOTA VIRGINIA 0173 613026 chiuso ma
•    Il Boscareto Resort & SPA – Ristorante “La Rei”  0173 613036 chiuso la DO
•    Ristorante Trattoria del Castello. - Frazione Baudana, 16 Tel. 0173.61.33.75 chiuso me
Nei dintorni 
Serravalle: Trattoria la Coccinella 0173 748220 Chiuso il martedì e mercoledì a pranzo
Cravanzana Ristorante da Maurizio 0173 855019  Chiuso il mercoledì e giovedì a pranzo
Monforte :Il Giardino di Felicin 0173 78225 chiuso lu
        La Salita via marconi 2/a tel 0173787196 chiuso lu
La Morra :Ristorante Bovio via Alba 17 bis-017359303 chiuso lu
                    Osteria More e Macine via XX settembre 9 –tel 0173500395 chiuso ma
Cherasco : Osteria la Torre 0172 488458 Chiuso il lunedì
                   Trattoria Vineria Pane e Vino Reg. Moglia 12 0172 48910048 Chiuso il lunedì
Monchiero Bancobar loc borgonuovo 105 0173792312 chiuso domenica
Roddino :Agriturismo Iride Loc. Chiabotto, 1 tel 0173 794122
Treiso: Profumo di vino viale rimembranza 1 tel 0173638017 chiuso ma
Alba : Rist dell’Arco P.zza Savona tel. 0173 
           Rist. La Libera Via Pertinace, 24/A tel 0173 293155 Chiuso la do e lu a pranzo
           Arco s.a.s. di Enrico Crippa p.zza Risorgimento 4  tel. 0173366167 chiuso lu
Treiso : La Ciau del Tornavento P.zza Baracco, 7 tel 0173 638333 Chiuso me e gi a pranzo
Barolo :  Locanda nel Borgo Antico, loc: Boschetti 4, 12050 
Bergolo :Ristorante Il Bunet tel. 0173 87013 chiuso il martedì
Castiglione Falletto : Ristorante Le Torri tel. 0173 62849 chiuso il ma ed il me a pranzo
Guarene Osteria La Madernassa Loc. Lora, 2 Castelrotto di tel. 0173 611716 Chiuso il lunedì
Cervere: L’Antica Corona Reale da Renzo Via Fossano, 13 tel. 0172 474132 Chiuso me e ma sera
Dronero: Rosso Rubino p.zza Marconi 2 12025 tel 0171905678 chiuso lu
Robilante: Ristorante il Leon d’Oro P.zza Oliveto, 10 tel. 0171.78679 
Saluzzo: L’Ostu dij Baloss Via S.Bernardino 19, tel.0175 248292 Chiuso il lunedì
Carrù: Osteria del Borgo Via Garibaldi, 19 tel. 0173 759184 Chiuso mercoledì e martedì sera
             Hd da Ivan strada bordino 4 frazione frave tel. 0173759089 chiuso martedì
Briaglia :Trattoria Marsupino via roma 20 cn 0174563888 chiuso ME E GIO a pranzo