As a bona fide foodie, I heard the word “omakase” many times. I had a vague idea that this is the term for the Japanese multi course meal, but that was all I knew about it.
During recent trip to Las Vegas, I stayed at the Caesars Palace, and had to walk every day past Japanese restaurant called Nobu. Nobu is a restaurant empire of the world renowned Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, so temptation was building – and I succumbed to it.
I had no reservation, of course (getting reservation for many Las Vegas restaurants is mission impossible), but as in most of the Japanese restaurants, you can often score seat in the sushi bar – exactly where I ended up.
In absolute majority of cases, I prefer to taste lots of different dishes at the restaurant instead of having a lot of one – thus going for the tasting menu was a natural choice. I decided on Nobu Signature Omakase, which consisted of the 8 different courses. And to make the experience complete, I also took the suggested sake pairing course, so every dish was accompanied by a different sake.
Now, there was a bit of a challenge for a foodie. As I was sitting at the sushi bar, all the dishes we handed over by the array of sushi chefs. Each dish had a long list of ingredients, and between the overall noise (high), the pronunciation and the fact that all those chefs were busy, I couldn’t possibly capture the names of the dishes, nor the ingredients. Practically same thing was happening with the sake – names and descriptions were given very quickly, and short of asking to spell out the names, there is a limit to how many times one can repeat “excuse me, what did you say is the name of it”?
As the result, I had to play an internet sleuth, looking for pictures and using my rough notes, trying to figure out what exactly I was eating and drinking. While doing this, I found an interesting reference for many Sake terms – here is the link. Below you will find an overview of my experience – mostly in pictures, with some slivers of the names of the dishes and some of my impressions. Here we go:
Very first dish, handed down to me very quickly, was Deep Fried Fish Salad, served with Onigoroshi sake, aged for 10 years with the sounds of classical music (supposedly helps sake to mellow out)- nice, crisp, very refreshing. Salad was tasty, however not amazing.
Next up was Sashimi Salad with Lettuce Handrolls, which was served with a bit of a sweeter sake (nope, no idea about the name) . Vegetable roll was a masterpiece of flavor, I would eat it at any time. Tiny fried shrimp – wow. Salmon – spectacular.
Next dish was Chef’s Sushi Assortment, which was served with with Hokusetsu Onigoroshi “Devil Killer” sake (with a bit of a spicy finish).
What I appreciated about the dish is that all the sushi pieces already had soy sauce and wasabi – exactly in the amount as Chef intended. Tuna was phenomenal. Picked ginger – wow. Great flavor on everything. Fried crunchy rice with caviar – delicious.
Next course was a Chef’s Sashimi Assortment, served with Hokusetsu Junmai sake. A pure wow dish, start to finish. Green ball you see in the picture is pickled Japanese peach – used to clean the palate, and it was delicious. Perfect sake. Toro Tartar with Wasabi Miso Sauce was divine – just give me a bowl and leave me alone. Yep, close the door, I said. All in all, one spectacular dish.
This was the end of the “appetizer” round, and the next two dishes were rather en entree style.
First, Black Cod Miso, which was served with Nobu ‘The Sake’ TK 40 sake from Nobu’s private stock. The sake was super complex and delicious. The cod was full of flavor and was melting in the mouth. Great dish.
Next dish was Beef Toban Yaki, with beef sautéed in sake in ceramic cooking vessel (Toban). It was an okay dish – large sprout-like mushroom was a bit difficult to chew. However, the meat meat was tender and tasty.
Last dish was Miso Soup, served in traditional Japanese style without a spoon. I was a bit surprised with the soup served in a standard black and purple plastic jar, commonly used at any simple Japanese restaurant. Soup was good, but again, nothing stood out about it. And yes, I didn’t think I should take a picture of it.
I was unable to capture the name of the dessert, nor the name of the dessert sake with fruit which was served together with it. Both were delicious, so the Omakase experience was finished on the high note.
There you go, my friends. A delicious, truly delicious experience, which I would be happy to repeat at any occasion. If you would have an opportunity to experience Omakase dining at Nobu, I can’t recommend it high enough. Cheers!
Nobu (at Caesars Palace)
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Ph: (702) 785-6628
Concept of “food” is multidimensional. At home, tasty food and family (and friends) around the table is usually all you need. Mix in a bit of ambiance and a glass of a good wine, and you got a great experience, right there.
When it comes to visiting the restaurant, you need a bit more than just food for the great and memorable experience – good service is important; another element which is near and dear to me is cost. This is not even the “cost” in the absolute terms – it is more the perceived value which matters, the infamous “price/performance” – an amazing burger for $20 might be a great experience, and tasteless, rubbery steak for $15 will not be the one.
As you can see in the title of this post, I want to talk about “off the chart” experience. The source of this exuberant designation was our recent visit at the Portside Tavern in Hyannis on Cape Cod (love weekend getaways, even with 5 hours in traffic). To go along the lines of a great experience in the restaurant, I was with the family, food was amazingly tasty, service was great, and the value was unbeatable – that’s all.
First, of course, was the wine. Don’t get me wrong – the restaurant also offers full bar with interesting cocktails, but my attention was on the wine list, which offers lots of great options, both by the glass (most of the wines priced in $7 – $12 range), and by the bottle (prices starting from $30 and some even for less). I couldn’t pass by the 2013 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Willamette Valley for $50 – talk about value – even if you can find this wine in retail, which is not easy, it will cost you at least $25, so I consider $50 at the restaurant to be a great value. After a bit of the breathing time, the wine was gorgeous, dense and powerful, with the signature Oregon aromatics of earth and cocoa.
Next, there was a pure indulgence from start to finish. Chowder (Local clams, new potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, cream) was not too heavy, not too thick, very well balanced in flavor.
Watermelon Gazpacho (Sweet basil drizzle, whipped feta) was different and refreshing – outstanding on any hot day, light, and again, very tasty.
One of my favorite ways to cook chicken wings is to slow roast them at a low temperature (say 215ºF or so) – they develop great flavor and then easily fall off the bone this way. I was happy to find the same style chicken wings at the restaurant – Confit Chicken Wings (Choice of harissa, rhubarb BBQ, or sweet basil sauce – we chose BBQ sauce) were super-tasty and the chicken wings were literally melting in the mouth. Continuing to deliver a great dining pleasure was Poutine (House cut fries, cheddar curds, foie gravy) – love this interpretation of French fries. This rendition was on par with best of the best I had in Quebec – flavor, texture, cheese, gravy – everything was just spot on. Finishing our divine appetizer experience was perfectly executed Mac & Cheese (Gemelli, local cheeses, buttered crumbs) – again, very tasty.
Our main course dishes were equally delicious. Chicken Risotto (Asparagus, prosciutto, baby tomatoes, balsamic reduction) was very well executed, great smokey flavor, nice contrast of balsamic, very tasty. Half-Pound Burger (Caramelized onions, bacon, garlic aioli, tomato jam, brioche) had an excellent fresh beef flavor, was cooked as requested and overall was very enjoyable.
Cuban (Braised pork, ham, Gruyere, dijon aioli, house-made pickle, grilled french bread) was done exactly as I like it – good amount of meat, flat pressed bread, great combination of flavors – one of the best Cuban sandwich experiences. It was also served with a side of Wedge salad (one of the available choices), which is one of my favorite salads any time I see one. Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza (Bacon, red onion, cheddar) was delicious, good crust and again, great flavor combination.
As you can imagine, we were absolutely full at this point. But considering how good all the food was, we had to try at least one dessert. After back and forth, we settled on Double Chocolate Cookie (Vanilla Ice Cream), which was more resembling a chocolate lava cake, and was instantly devoured with the help of four spoons.
72 North Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Our selection of the appetizers started from the Shrimp Skewers (old bay seasoning) – perfectly cooked, excellent flavor profile.
Coming right after was Seafood Tower (clams, shrimp, lobster, two types of local oysters) – presentation alone makes you salivate profusely.Lobster and shrimp had perfect texture, and oysters were delicious.
Our dining experience continued with Chopped Kale Salad (Tuscan and Baby Kale tossed in sesame vinaigrette, topped with oranges, avocado, fennel and cucumbers) – to say that it was one of the very best kale salads I ever had would be an understatement – perfect balance of flavors with crunchy texture; sesame vinaigrette was simply spot on. Next arrived Ahi Tuna (Ahi Tuna tossed in soy ginger sauce, served over avocado cream, topped with yuzu aioli, and served with wonton chips and wasabi) – again, excellent flavor, very tasty.
Two more appetizers were completing first part of our dinner. Lobster Minis (Claw, tail and knuckle meat, lightly mixed with mayo, lime, lemon, and blood orange) were texturally good, however, the flavor was lacking for my taste. Fish Tacos (Haddock fried in tempura batter, with pineapple, apple and pickled red onion) had nice crunch on the fish, and apples with pickled onions were providing nice refreshing component.
Not to be outdone, our main course followed, starting with Seafood Cavatelli (Little hollow pasta shells, tossed with Lobster, shrimp, chopped clams and capers in lobster cream sauce), which I can describe in one word – delicious.
Our next dish, 16 oz Bone-in Rib Eye (Grilled, served with caramelized onions, Parmesan steak fries, sauteed spinach, chickpeas, shallots and house steak sauce) was easily everyone’s favorite at the table. Here my description will be even shorter – wow. Perfectly executed steak, triple-fried (!!) potatoes were amazing, house steak sauce was perfect, so all together was simply a wow.
Our last main dish was Pan Seared Atlantic Sea Scallops (U-10 scallops served with vegetable orzo pasta salad, finished with a Blood orange beurre blanc) – it was perfectly executed both in presentation and the texture of the scallops, but what spoiled the dish for me was the amount of salt on top – just too much.
Along the way we also had a pleasure of listening to the Chef Brian Murphy who came to check on us a few times and use the moment to talk about our delicious experience:
And now, let me present to you the desserts! Remember I told you that today we are talking about concept of fun at the restaurant? So to make sure it is fun all the way, how about some adults desserts? Yep, you got that right – these would be the desserts which also have an addition of so called “adult beverages”. And I don’t know if any other place can do it better that the Sign of the Whale – even presentation of those adult beverages is an art form.
From the Tidal Wave Drinks menu, we had The Blue Whale (Smirnoff Vodka/Coconut Rum/Blue Curacao/Pineapple Juice/Sprite) and Old Man’s Orange Potion (Smirnoff Orange Vodka/Triple Sec/Orange Juice/Sprite) – tell me if you think those are not the fun to share:
More exciting desserts followed, like Ice Cream sandwiches, Adult Root Beer Floats and Seasonal sorbet. And for my ultimate happiness I can tell you that the regular coffee was excellent, which is more of a rarity nowadays.
You know what is also great at the Sign of the Whale? The outside seating on the roof deck! Here is what you can see if you will wait until it will get dark outside:
Sign Of The Whale
6 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Ph: (203) 883-8282
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I pride myself with having no favorite cuisine or a type of restaurants – when asked “which restaurant would you prefer for dinner”, my typical answer is “I eat everything”. It is true, of course, but may be not entirely. One example – Indian cuisine. This might be on the subconscious level, as one of my very first encounters with Indian food happened on the “Indian hot” spiciness level, which leaves some unforgettable scars on the uninitiated, but an Indian restaurant would not likely be my top choice given a list of possible dinner options.
But again, as a foodie, I feel almost obliged to work over my own limitations, and keep trying different cuisines. Thus when I was invited to visit Tawa Indian Cuisine restaurant in Stamford, I saw a great opportunity to deep dive into the Indian cuisine once again and see what I might be missing.
I loved the decor at Tawa – quaint and sophisticated, very tasteful. Nothing is really glaring at you that you are in an Asian restaurant, not even aromas in the air.
Once the dinner started of course there was no question of what kind of food is in front of us. I will give you a detailed account below, but to describe the experience as a whole, I have to mention the perfect balance. The food had brilliant colors, and none of the dishes where shy on flavor – this is why I called this post “dazzling flavors” – but all the spiciness was balanced, it was like a perfect dance, where you mesmerized by the perfection of movement and forget the time. This was also explained by the Chef Kausik Roy – his goal was to present the variety of flavors of the cuisine of the vast country without overwhelming – and this was clearly showing in the food we had an opportunity to taste.
This was my second encounter with Chef Roy, and I love the fact that I get to learn something interesting from him. Last time I was learning about curries, this time it was cilantro. It appears that cilantro is used in the 95 out 100 Indian dishes, so it is a very important herb. But what is interesting is how you use it. When I use cilantro, I would chop mostly just the leaves with a bit of the stems, and add them at the very end of cooking. But to extract the deep flavor, you need to use whole stems and simply cook with them from the beginning.
Okay, let’s talk about our dinner. We started with the cocktails (yep, in Indian restaurant), and they were tasty. I generally don’t like overly sweet cocktails, and from the description I was a bit concerned that they might be – but both Watermelon Ginger Margarita (Tequila, Ginger, Watermelon Syrup, Dekuyper Triple Sec, Lime Juice) and Tawa Madras-Tini (Ketel One Vodka, Mango Juice, Dekuyper Triple Sec) were just excellent, not very sweet; Watermelon Ginger Margarita had very nice level of spicy heat with it.
Tawa offers somewhat small, but well thought through wine list. We had 2013 Saint M Riesling Germany, which had a touch of sweetness and bright acidity, excellently complementing many dishes. We also wanted to have a red wine with the dinner, and I was very happy to find 2013 If You See Kay Red Blend Lazio IGT, Italy on the list – one of my perennial favorites, with great concentration of the dark fruit and good acidity, this was definitely an enjoyable wine.
We started our dinner with Tawa’s Signature Tropical Mango Salad (Tropical mango, baby greens, Mango onion seeds dressing), served with a crispy naan – fresh and light, good way to start the dinner. Next up was Mulligatawny Soup (Yellow lentil soup, finished with coconut cream and fresh lemon), made with the vegetable broth and finished with a touch of yogurt. Mulligatawny actually means “pepper water”, so it is supposed to be very spicy, but this is not how Chef Roy does it. Soup was delicious, and a double treat considering cold and rainy weather outside.
Next dish was Aloo Tikki Chaat (Indian spiced potato patties topped with garbanzo beans, tamarind chutney, raita & roti crisps) – great spices, delicious and then Coconut Pepper Shrimp (Lightly battered shrimp, smoky black pepper, chutney mayo), with that chutney mayo been pretty spectacular. Last one of our appetizers, Indo Chinese Lasuni Gobi (Crispy cauliflower florets tossed with tangy tomato garlic sauce and spring onion), not only had an amazing crunch, but also texturally was indistinguishable from nicely cooked meat. Wake me up at any time and offer me this dish – I would be super-happy.
Our dining extravaganza continued with selection of Naan, an Indian bread which is one of my absolute favorites (I have to always stop myself from devouring the whole “basket”), following by Kebab Platter. Grilled pieces of chicken, lamb and salmon were colorfully presented on the wooden board, and the taste was on par with the presentation – tender and flavorful.
The main selection of our dinner (like what we already had was not enough, huh) consisted of the various Curry dishes – both traditional vegetarian and meat dishes were included in the selection. Everything was perfectly cooked, and all the sauces were absolutely delightful. My favorite meat dish was Signature Lamb Dampak (Tender lamb cube cooked in a sealed copper vessel), starting with the “opening ceremony”:
We also had Chicken Sahi Korma (A true Mughlai delight, lightly sweet and spicy with flavor of cardamom), Shrimp Madras (tomato coconut curry tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds) and Goat Roganjosh (Tender Bone in goat meat cooked in onion & tomato gravy flavored with spices), followed by equally traditional Sag Paneer, Crispy Okra (my absolute favorite!), Yellow lentils and Matter Paneer:
The trio of desserts nicely concluded our deep immersion into the Indian cuisine:
That’s all I have for you, my friends. This was a great journey into the world of Indian cuisine, and with the masterful execution by Chef Kausik Roy, I can’t recommend Tawa highly enough. Definitely a deviation from the every day food for many people here in the US, but I’m sure your taste buds would appreciate a different flavor, and you will enjoy the experience. And if you are already accustomed to the flavors of the Indian cuisine, come and taste what the Tawa has to offer. Cheers!
Tawa Indian Cuisine
487 Glenbrook Rd
Stamford, CT 06906
Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Four basic elements, which uphold humankind. Literally and figuratively.
“When we learned to cook, we became fully human”.
When it comes to social media, which at this point we learned we can’t live without, the typical experience may be best expressed with one word – bombardment. During the day (more often than not, even during the night, so we might as well speak about 24 hours) we are bombarded with [probably] thousands of snippets, bit and pieces of “important” (can you imagine: mere 12 years ago, there was no social media as we know it – horror!) information – read this, watch that, listen to this. It is amazing that our brain can extract any interesting information while been under such a constant attack.
Talking about interesting – few weeks ago, I came across (don’t ask me where and how, the brain will not give up its secrets) a little article (I think) which also pointed to the video. The video happened to be a trailer for Cooked, the original Netflix documentary:
Two minutes of the trailer was enough for me to say I. Must. Watch it. Note that in general, I’m not a big fan of documentaries. But this trailer promised the movie done so well that I literally wanted to drop everything I was doing and start watching it.
I managed to contain myself until the evening. I also avoided binge watching (despite strong desire), and extended the pleasure over a few evenings.
Cooked is a documentary consisting of 4 episodes, called Fire, Water, Air and Earth, where award-winning author, Michael Pollan, looks at the history of cooking, what it means to humankind, and where it is today. Each episode is dedicated to one of the basic cooking elements – what we cook with fire, which was historically the very first cooking method; how water changes the way we cook; where do you see air come to play (spoiler alert: this episode is mostly about the bread), and then the earth, which is all about fermentation – did you know that about 30% of the food we eat every day is fermented? By the way, a mini quiz for you – do you know how chocolate is related to fermentation?
This series is all about honest, get back to your roots cooking. It is also about respect. Respect to the people, respect to the food we eat and its basic ingredients, whether it is meat, grains, cheese or anything else (gluten included – watch Nathan Myhrvold talk about science of gluten). Photography is incredible, with stunning images, and the whole series is just something you want to watch. And then watch again, as it really appeals to your very basic senses.
I don’t want to tell you anything else about the movie, except to [strongly] suggest that you should to go and watch it. Find a comfy spot, pour yourself a glass of wine, and indulge in something which is masterfully done, beautiful and thought provoking. And then may be dig up some of your mom’s recipes – and get cooking.
No, “Bistronomie” is not defined in Merriam-Webster, not yet anyway, but I expect that you have no problems understanding its meaning – a Gastronomy experience in a Bistro setting, right? It also means that you can eat dessert when you want, but we will talk about it later. Before we continue, I have to give the usual warning – there are lots of food pictures ahead, proceed at your own risk (not sure if “risk” is a right word, but I’m sure you got my point).
Welcome to the recently opened Noir Restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut, which identifies itself as an American Bistronomie. The restaurant looks nice and cozy from the moment you enter, sporting dark quiet decor with interesting paintings on walls – your brain tells you “ha, that looks interesting”, putting you into the right mood, or rather anticipation, for the food to come.
We visited restaurant for Sunday brunch, so what do you typically start your brunch with? Let me rephrase this: when greeted with “what would you like to drink” as you get situated [during brunch], what is the first thing which comes to mind? You might be better than me, but my brain stops at a very pedestrian “mimosa!”. The mimosa was very tasty, but then I actually noticed the cocktail menu – small, but each item on the list looking very intriguing. I had an opportunity to try a number of cocktails and they we all very creative and delicious – and needless to say, visually appealing. I can’t even name a favorite cocktail – well, may be 3 favorites – The Jazzy Latina, The Cabo Mule and The Piscomatico – as I was going from “wow” to “excellent” and back to “wow”.
Our brunch started somewhat traditional with Devilled Eggs (caper aioli, bacon, pimentone) – I love devilled eggs, so I really had to contain myself to behave (meaning: not to move half of the serving dish into my plate), also this was just the beginning of the meal. The dish was very tasty, and as we eat with our eyes first, I can’t help not to commend the presentation.
Our brunch continued – first surprise – with Fresh Fruit with Yogurt. A peculiar side note: few days ago, I read an article suggesting that we eat our fruit all wrong at the end of the meal, which is not right for our digestive system, and instead, we should start our meal with the fresh fruit. I can’t really comment on that, but I can tell you that the fruit was nice, fresh, ripe and tasty.
Next up – Biscuits and Gravy (Homemade buttermilk biscuits, savory sausage gravy). I don’t know even how this works – I don’t have strong cultural connection to the South, where this would be a typical dish – but I love fresh biscuits and savory gravy – this dish was superb. The dish which followed was Pastelon (sweet plantains, seasoned beef, mascarpone cheese), and it even prompted me to do a little research – it appears that “Pastelón is a sweet and salty Puerto Rican version of lasagna or casserole”. I can easily see the similarity with lasagna – the dish had nice layers. I have to also say that it was not overly sweet.
At this point we are in a middle of our meal, and the next up is … remember what I told you before about the Bistronomie? Well, it is not that it is mandatory feature, but yes, we arrived at the dessert in a middle of our meal! First we had Monica’s French Toast (caramelized challah bread, Grand Marnier, browned butter), which was delicious, and it was followed by Banana Foster Griddle Cakes (spiced pancakes, caramelized bananas, praline pecans) which was “please give me a big spoon and everybody leave the room”.
Done with dessert, back to savory! Eggs Benedict, anyone? Isn’t it a classic brunch dish? Yes, I think so. And topped with a little crab? Yes, I know I’m now talking. Crab Eggs Benedict (jumbo lump crab, toast English muffin, hollandaise) – outstanding.
Following an American classic (I always think of Eggs Benedict as a French dish, but it was actually created in the USA) was another Southern specialty – Crispy Chicken and Waffles (home fried crispy chicken, jalapeño maple syrup). I have to tell you that chicken was crispy and tender, and jalapeño maple syrup was simply a stand out. Then we were served Short Rib Hash (slow braised short rib, home fries, fried egg) – isn’t fried egg makes everything look and taste better? I think it does. Overall, this was very tasty dish with one little gripe – the short rib itself was too salty – for sure for my personal taste.
Finishing up on the high note was one last dish, yet another Southern classic – Shrimp and Grits (Cajun Herbed shrimp, creamy grits). While shrimp were perfectly cooked and very tasty, the creamy grits were simply out of this world.
All in all, this was a spectacular meal, and I can’t recommend Noir Bistronomie high enough as location for your next dinner, brunch or simply a place to have a drink at. And before we part, I also would like to thank Chef Francisco Ciciliano who came to speak to us for a few minutes at the end of our food journey.
And of course I have to acknowledge and thank the staff at Noir Stamford for all the wonderful drinks and for taking great care of our group.
So, what do you think about the Bistronomie? Are you going to ask for it now by name? Cheers!
225 Summer Street
Stamford CT 06901
Tuesday thru Thursday 5PM – 10PM
Friday & Saturday 5PM – 11PM
Sunday Brunch 11:30AM – 3PM
City of Stamford (that is in Connecticut, not in England) sports vibrant “wining and dining” scene, with more than 300 restaurants (321, according to TripAdvisor – not bad for a city of about 126,000). City of Stamford also is well known for its business culture and as one of the biggest financial hubs outside of New York city, with Stamford Chamber of Commerce always hard at work to have all the businesses and people well connected. To showcase the love of good tasty food and wines, Chamber of Commerce organizes annual event called Taste of Stamford, which brings together purveyors of the fine food and willing patrons of the same, now in 23rd reincarnation.
I had a pleasure of attending the Taste of Stamford event, which took place last Thursday, and sample offerings of many Stamford’s fine restaurants. Even as portions were perfectly sized, it was literally impossible to taste everything – yes, “too much of a good thing” is real. I tried my best, but yes, failed. There were also good number of wines, beers and even some scotch – I limited myself to the wine only, and there were few nice discoveries there. So what I have for you here is [a very long] collection of pictures from the event – yes, most of them are about food, so if you are hungry, proceed at your own risk.
I also want to share an interesting observation – it seems that Southern Cuisine is a king (a queen?) in Stamford – the amount of pulled pork and grits in various reincarnations coming from many different restaurants was staggering – not something you would see even 5 years ago. Or may be pulled pork is the easiest tasty dish to make in the mass quantities – don’t know, but this is an interesting fact any way you want to look at it.
In no particular order, here are some of my highlights from the Taste of Stamford 2016 event:
Brown Dog Fancy Mustards – a very interesting collection of mustard, available in the number of locations in Stamford or over mail order ( free shipping). Horseradish was good, and Honey Dijon was particularly distinct, with expressive taste of honey clearly coming through.
Amore Cucina & Bar – tasty pork belly with polenta:
Sign of the Whale – were serving tasty Ahi Tuna Tacos and oyster shooters:
Judy’s Bar & Kitchen – very tasty pulled pork and Mac’n’Cheese:
David’s Soundview Catering – shrimp and grits, pulled pork and grits – delicious!
The Capital Grille – serving their famous Lobster Mac’n’Cheese and Kona crusted Filet Mignon (tasty!!):
Franklin Street Works offered a nice selection of the bite size appetizers:
Kona Grill – tasty sushi rolls, excellent presentation:
Columbus Park Trattoria – Italian all the way!
Olio Restaurant, Cantina Southwest Grill & Tequila Bar and Tawa all had tasty dishes (curry chicken from Tawa was spectacular):
One of the biggest surprises for me was the display from the local chain of supermarkets, ShopRite. We like ShopRite bakery very much, this is where we get most of the birthday cakes for various family occasions. It appears that ShopRite also offers great selection of the party platters. And the sushi which they were making right there at the event were outstanding:
BevMax, one of the biggest wine stores in Stamford, provided most of the wines at the event. I tasted a number of wines, and most of them were quite good. There were a few of Cabernet Sauvignon wines presented at the event – 2014 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, 2013 Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and 2014 Iron Side Cabernet Sauvignon California – all very tasty, with good classic profile. My favorite wine was 2013 Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black Limited Edition California, “A dark red blend inspired by the field blends made popular during Prohibition.” – while powerfully boasting 15% ABV, the wine was smooth, polished and perfectly balanced.
And last but not least – dessert! Di Mare Pastry Shop stand had Cannoli 10 ways (okay, may be not 10, but lots of them in any case), and lots of other pastries – if you like cannoli, this was a cannoli paradise:
That is all I have for you, my friends – definitely was one tasty evening. Cheers!
For the first time ever, my business took me to China. Not only China, but it was also my first visit to Asia, so definitely a new experience. Of course I read and heard many China food-related stories from people, but as we all know, there is a big difference between the two – “virtual” and “real-life” experiences are vastly different, especially when it comes to something which you put into your mouth.
During the week in Beijing, I had an opportunity to try many different dishes and visit a number of restaurants. One challenge is that for the most of the restaurants I visited, I don’t have their English names or addresses, so what I will share with you will be mostly a collection of impressions, primarily in the pictures, without much useful references for you in case you will be visiting China any time soon. But I hope at least you will get an idea for what to expect, especially if you grew up on mostly European food. I also plan another post which will be just about the “tourist” experiences, for things outside of the food per se.
First restaurant I visited was a “Noodle House” type if I’m not mistaken, and it was located right around the corner from the Sheraton Great Wall hotel where I was staying.
The main dish at Noodle House was of course, the noodles, but before we got to them we also had lots of appetizers. Pork belly with roasted garlic and Quail eggs was particularly tasty, and it became only better with time, as it had its own heat and garlic continued cooking. Noodles were good, but hard to finish after all the food prior. Chicken with peanuts (as opposed to traditional cashew nuts in US) were also very tasty.
Now, I have to mention the first one experience (well, the actual “first” was undrinkable wine at the reception, but that we will skip). When I poured myself a glass of Chinese Chardonnay (at a happy hour), I had no expectations – just curiosity. First sip, and – wow – not bad at all! 1421 Gold Chardonnay Xinjiang China had a characteristic nose of Chardonnay, with touch of vanilla. The palate had touch of golden apples, vanilla, good acidity – overall, very enjoyable. I like the brand’s description on the 1421 web site: “1421….the year Admiral Zheng He, leading one of the largest fleets ever seen, sailed to many, many parts of the world. Wine much like travel, has served as a link between different cultures, people and countries. Today at the beginning of the 21st century, 1421 follows the same mission as Admiral Zheng He, sharing his spirit for a better world.” – the Chardonnay I had was definitely the wine worth sharing.
My next experience was a first encounter with the traditional Peking Duck, a whole duck seasoned and roasted in the special oven, with its crispy skin been the most sought-after delicacy. The place we went to, Dadong Roasted Duck Restaurant, defines itself as an Artistic Concept Food, and it does it – “Artistic Concept” – very successfully – in ambiance, food presentation, service – all the elements are there, definitely a world-class restaurant.
Of course my encounter with the restaurant started from the wine list, which was something to look at. The list was very substantial, with the wide range of offerings, adequately priced for the “concept restaurant”. I don’t remember which exact Bordeaux wine was that, but it was priced at a measly ¥28,000 (the ¥ symbol depicts Chinese Yuan, often also called RMB), which would translate into roughly $4,800. You could also have Penfolds Grange for only ¥7,200, which would be roughly $1,200 – which is almost reasonable (hope it was not a young vintage).
So after hopelessly scanning the wine list for a few minutes, I finally discovered what I was looking for – a small section of Chinese wines. Luckily, I already was given the name of one of the best wines in China (according to the local sources, of course) – the wine called Changyu, and there it was on the list. There was no vintage listed, but there were three wines offered with different “age” – 1, 3 and 5 years. I’m not sure what it means, but one year old looked as good to me as all others, and at ¥196 ($33) I felt very comfortable with my choice, whether the wine would be good or bad.
Turns out that Changyu was the oldest commercial winery in China, started in 1892, then of course significantly destroyed in 1949 and now getting back to their roots. The only thing I was able to figure out from the label was that the wine was made out of the grape called Cabernet Gernischt, which, according to the article by Jancis Robinson, is actually a Carmenere. I couldn’t figure out the vintage or any other details, but I can tell you that this Changyu Red Wine Blend Ningxia, China was simply outstanding – delicious nose of black currant with touch of mint, and perfectly balanced body of the classic Bordeaux blend which is ready to drink – nothing green, just cassis, eucalyptus, firm, good structure, welcoming pinch of tannins, good acidity and perfect balance. I got 2 bottles of Changyu at duty free, so probably there will be another post on the subject.
While I was working through the wine list, my host was navigating through much bigger book – here is the look of the menu at Dadong restaurant:
I can only say “kudos to my host” for been able to select anything from the book of that size – I would probably spend half a day flipping through the pages. Anyway, we started our dinner with a couple of exotic appetizers. Both were vegetables, one had sweet sauce and was crunchy, may be some sort of squash, but cooked very lightly? The second one was somewhat reminiscent of pickled mushrooms in texture, but didn’t have pickled taste. Both of course had a beautiful presentation. Then the duck arrived, was quickly presented to us (yes, I forgot to take a picture) and then it was sliced table-side. The only part which made it to the table was duck breast, with maximum skin exposure, as this is the most prized part. I was explained that proper way to eat duck is to take the top part which is mostly skin, dip in the sweet crunchy beans (more reminiscent of a sugar), then sweet soy-based sauce, and then put it in your mouth, where it literally melts – it seriously disappears without much chewing effort. The second way is to take a paper-thin pancake, and assemble a tiny taco if you will, by combining few slices of duck with thinly sliced vegetables and addition of the sauce – and this is how it is mostly consumed.
Once we were done with the main course, first the branch with tiny mandarins appeared, beautifully presented on top of a bowl with ice – when it showed up, it looked like the smoke was coming from the plate. For my dessert, I decided to try a pastry filled with cream made with the fruit called Durian. Durian is known to have the taste which is extremely polarizing to the people – only love/hate with nothing in between. Imagine the taste of raw onion, rather intense pungency of the shallot, mixed with strawberry cream – that would give you an approximation of the taste of that dessert. I personally liked it, but I can easily see how lots of people wouldn’t even touch it.
I’m not planning on give you the daily report on our eating, but I still want to include a a few pictures for probably the best lunch we had – two different dim sum and then a simple shrimp dish:
Next traditional cooking style we experienced was so called Hot Pot. The idea is that you have a special cooking vessel, which looks like a sombrero hat, if you will, with the channel filled with aromatic broth, and the middle section containing burning charcoal, which quickly brings broth to a boil. Technically, the channel is split into two parts, so you can have spicy and non-spicy broth separately – however, no matter what, by the end of the evening it becomes all the same.
You can order very thinly sliced meat (pork, beef, lamb), vegetables and noodles. You cook it all in the broth, and then you have a choice of dipping sauce. To be entirely honest, hot pot is not my thing – the meat, which is cooked for 10-15 seconds, has no flavor and simply becomes the vessel to eat the dipping sauce. Vegetables should be dumped in for the longer time, and then it is really hard to find them in the boiling murky liquid. This is not the worst food I ever had, but still – I had to have it twice, and only marginally enjoyed it both times.
I’m almost done with my China food stories. We experienced one more Roasted Duck restaurant, called Xile Village Roasted Duck Restaurant, located in the brand spanking new shopping mall.
Here the duck was sliced in 3 different ways – just the skin, top of the breast with skin and meat, and mostly meat pieces. At this restaurant, mustard was also served as a condiment for the duck breast, which was quite tasty. There were lots of dishes before the roasted duck arrived, as it takes 50 minutes for it to cook. My highlights here were delicious shrimp and very very tasty eggplant (one of the best vegetable dishes I had in China). Also, once all the meat was carefully cut off the duck, the carcass was chopped up and deep fried – nothing goes to waste
Okay, I hope I didn’t bore you to death – but I’m finally done. There you have it, my friends – my Chinese food and wines escapades. I plan to share some traveling advice regarding China in the next post. If any of these pictures triggered any thoughts – you know where the comment section is. Cheers!
a rich soup typically containing fish, clams, or corn with potatoes and onions
Cup of chowder, anyone? As I happen to live in the area of the United States called New England, the soup, most often known as New England Clam Chowder, can be seen on the menu of many restaurants. In most of the cases, it is called Clam Chowder, as it contains clams; two most popular versions are called New England Clam Chowder (milk/heavy cream based) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (red tomato based).
As Chowder is a type of soup, the question might be “what makes Chowder different from the Soup”. This is why I started this blog post with the definition of Chowder, which is a very good one. I would, however, make one small improvement, based on this interesting article – the chowder should have small chunks of [clams, vegetables, etc], which would perfectly distinguish it from the “cream of” soups , such as Cream of Asparagus, for instance. So the better definition of Chowder can be “a rich soup typically containing small chunks of fish, clams, or corn with potatoes and onions”.
Anyway, why all of a sudden studious exercise in the “science” of soups? On Sunday, I attended 7th annual Chowder Festival, which took place at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut. It was really a Chowder deep immersion – 39 competitors from 12 different states brought their best Chowder offerings to be sampled during 4 hours. There were lots of other things to try – juices, Dunkin Donuts munchkins, Cabot cheese, The Farmer’s Cow ice cream – in the other words, lots of fun for all ages.
The competition was conducted in 4 different categories – Classic New England Clam Chowder, Traditional Chowder, Creative Chowder and Soup/Bisque. Focusing just on clam chowders, it appears that there are 4 of them (surprised?). The Classic New England is the chowder which is white in color because of the use of heavy cream or milk. Traditional Chowder includes two different types – Manhattan, which is tomato based, and Rhode Island, which is “clear”. Rhode Island clam chowder is something I discovered earlier this year for the first time – it simply looks like a thick, rich soup with clams etc, but without milk or tomatoes. At the Chowder Fest I learned that there is a newly popular style – Long Island Clam Chowder, which also can be called “half and half” – it is a mix of Traditional New England with Manhattan. There was one chowder of that type at the festival, served by Parallel Post from Trumbull, Connecticut – it was very tasty.
As I mentioned, 39 chowders and soups were presented at the competition. I didn’t try all 39 (wonder if someone did), but I did try at least 30. Just to explain how competition works: as you enter through the gates, you are given a ballot and a pencil. The ballot contains the list of all the chowders present at the festival – as you taste, if you happen to like the chowder, you give it a rating from 7 up to 10. The ballots are tabulated later on, and voila – the champion and two runner ups are declared in each category.It seems that Festival’s organization is quite efficient – the winners are already announced, right on the next day. Care to guess from what state was the winner of the Chowder Fest 2015 in the Traditional New England Chowder category? Pike Place from (drum roll, please) Seattle, Washington. This was not the first time they are crowned as “Chowder Champions” – their whole counter was covered with the 1st place medals:
I tasted Pike Place chowder and it was one of my top favorites, with “just enough” of everything – I’m glad to see that this was crowd’s opinion too. If you are interested, here you can find the list of all winners, current and the past.
I’m glad that I was able to attend the event – learned something new and tasted lots of delicious chowders. I plan to make it my annual tradition from now on – and may be you should join too? I have to finish with the question though – do you like clam chowder? If you do, what is your favorite style? Don’t be shy here… Cheers!
Do you like restaurants with charm? In a lot of cases, people go to the restaurant for the good food and good service. Don’t get me wrong – these are my priorities too. But for me, experiencing a pleasure of just “being inside” is a great bonus too. You walk in, just glance around and say “ahh, I like it here” – this is what I mean by “charm”. You are at the restaurant, waiting for your dining companions to arrive, then you are walking to your table, get seated and situated, and all that time you are thoroughly pleased with surroundings and the atmosphere – I hope you get what I’m talking about here.
If you happened to be in the Washington DC, and would like to visit a restaurant with the charm, I got a recommendation for you – Tabard Inn Restaurant in the area known as Dupont Circle. The restaurant is located inside of the actual hotel (I would designate it more as a B&B) under the same name – Tabard Inn, with the rooms available throughout the three adjacent townhouses – but as I didn’t have a pleasure staying there, we are, of course, will be talking only about the restaurant.
I’m assuming you got my point about the atmosphere and ambiance (relaxing, pleasant, “old glove” comfortable), so let’s talk about food and wine – starting with the wine of course. I really liked the wine list at Tabard Inn – lots of good selections with reasonable prices. The wine list was well rounded internationally, so we managed to make two very interesting ( and highly successful!) choices. For the white, we had 2013 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece (14% ABV, 100% Assyriko, $55 at the restaurant). The group I was dining with typically prefers red wines. However, after trying this wine, the waiter had a hard time to keep the open bottle on the table – the wine was disappearing very quickly. Delicious nose of the white fruit, same white fruit on the palate, crisp, refreshing, medium-bodied, perfectly round – this was one excellent wine (Drinkability: 8).
I managed to surprise myself with the choice of red. It is seldom that I would consciously choose Bordeaux at the restaurant, don’t ask me why. Somehow this wine caught my eye – 2006 Bordeaux for $52. 2006 was a good year in Bordeaux, so why not? When the wine arrived, there was a nice surprise – it was from even a better vintage, one of the best from the 2000 decade – 2005. 2005 Chateau La Croix St André, Lalande-de-Pomerol (13% ABV, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc), was at the peak of maturity. Stunning depth of dark fruit with spices, black currant, eucalyptus, classic, concentrated and delicious (Drinkability: 8+).
While Tabard Inn restaurant is not necessarily advertised as “farm-to-table”, the menu is focused on the seasonal ingredients and changes all the time. As the group, we usually like to share some appetizers, but somehow this time around, everybody were really focused on conversation (and the wine ), so pretty much no food sharing took place. That simply means that I can only tell you about the dishes I selected for my dinner.
For the appetizer I had Tuna Tartar – very tasty, served with the sesame crisps. My main dish was Gumbo (Andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken confit, swordfish, fried oysters) – overall it was tasty, but when I hear “Gumbo”, my first thought is “Louisiana Gumbo” – the dish I had was lacking spicy heat for my personal preference (try to guess if I left anything on the plate because of that).
I had dessert in both standard and liquid forms. I’m a sucker for a bread pudding in any form, so when I heard that dish mentioned by our waiter, I had no choice – and it was very tasty. For the liquid dessert we shared a bottle of 2014 Elio Perrone Sourgal Moscato d’Asti Piedmont DOCG, which was perfectly balanced, not overly sweet, with fine bubbles and nicely refreshing, just a right finish for an excellent dinner.
Looking for the restaurant with the ambiance, charm, great wine list and delicious, seasonally-appropriate food in Washington, DC? I think I just told where to find it. Cheers!
1739 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036