Monthly Archives: April 2012

Unforgettable Meals – Pt 2

This dinner ranks in my top three favorite fine dining experiences of all time in the world. In fact, just looking at these photos again makes me drool.

On Friday night, Bob and I headed to The Four Seasons hotel to dine at L’Atelier (Joel Robuchon).

I won’t state the obvious more than to say that the service, the ambiance, the food, the everything were outstanding – as expected for a Michelin two star restaurant. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed even a little bit.

Bob and I both love foie gras, so we were thrilled two types of foie gras starters were offered.

I chose the pressed foie gras, served cold, with date preserves. Unctuous and fabulous! I ate it all (okay, I let Bob have one small bite).

Bob had the seared foie gras with kumquat compote. I know he loved it. He generously offered me a bite, but knowing how much he loves foie gras (and let’s face it, my serving was hearty), I declined.

Our mains came soon after our starter plates were cleared.

Bob ordered the sliced Wagyu beef with wasabi spinach and peppers. He declared the beef perfectly done and delicious, however, he was a little put off by the strong taste of peppers. He still cleaned his plate. Bob never eats something he doesn’t think tastes great – so this was high praise from him.

When I ordered the steak tartare, the waiter informed me that Joel Robuchon himself personally orders this every time he visits this restaurant. He claims that the NY restaurant has the best tartare, even better than his Paris restaurant! I had to agree – it was the best tartare I’ve ever had. (The second best being the one I had at La Palette in Paris last year.) The seasoning was perfect and the beef amazingly delicious. Mmmmmm! The frites were good, too, but I saved my tummy room for the tartare!

Finally, dessert. It was hard to choose because the menu was so tantalizing with items that sounded so creative and scrumptious. When I pointed to the item I was considering, the waiter fully approved.

This is La Bulle de Sucre – Golden Sugar Bubble Filled With Elderflower Cream, Pineapple Thyme Sorbet And Lemon Jam.

It is as amazing as it sounds. The pastry chef uses a hand pump to blow a clear bubble of sugar – it looked like a Christmas ball. It was filled with the Elderflower cream and pineapple sorbet and the lemon jam. It was so beautiful that I almost didn’t want to break it. Almost. I had to hit it firmly with my spoon to crack the shell. OH! It was so heavenly! The crisp sugar shell, the sweet cream, the cold sorbet and the tart jam. All the flavors melding together fabulously. I am not positive what those pink flowers are on the side – I think the waiter said chiso flowers. When I ate those, I was filled with nostalgia for childhood Christmas. I can’t explain it – it was an amazing and magical experience.

Sorry, I’m not even going to bother talking about Bob’s dessert (mango mousse) that he quite enjoyed, because I want to end on this note – on the note and photo of that perfect sugar crystal ball of dessert.

Worth every pretty penny of this meal! Expensive? Yes! But totally worth it!

Categories: Good Eats, new york | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Unforgettable Meals – Pt 1

We love good food. It can be something as simple as a hot dog or a fabulous piece of fresh baked bread. We love dives and we love five star restaurants. There are a few dining experiences, however, that will forever be engraved in my memory. One of them is the first real “fine dining” experience I had when Bob took me to Jean-Georges for a birthday about ten years ago. I think my mouth hung open with awe whenever I wasn’t putting delicious food into it. Everything was just amazingly spectacular from the ambiance to the white-glove service to the food – oh the glorious food! When we moved to Shanghai we were thrilled to discover a Jean-Georges there! We dined there so often, the maitre de recognized us and always seated us at “our table” by the window, and served us complimentary champagne. It was there that we met Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself!

While walking in mid-town on Friday, searching for a place to have lunch, we stopped at a restaurant I saw when meeting up with my friend the previous day. I hadn’t looked closely at the menu but liked the look of it and the name of the restaurant, JoJo. We discovered with glee and surprise that it was a Jean-Georges restaurant. Not only that, but the maitre de informed us that it was the chef’s first location, 20 years ago! Of course we had lunch there!

We started with the most amazing pea soup ever! As was reminiscent of my first soup experience at Jean-Georges, the bowl came only with a pool of Parmesan foam with Parmesan croutons. The waiter then poured the soup from a silver pitcher into the bowl, causing the foam and the soup to meld. The soup was fresh and delicious, with the Parmesan foam adding a salty accompaniment. Truly the best pea soup I’ve ever had! (Although Bob was kind enough to say that mine was just as good.)

Our mains were just as delicious – I had oven roasted chicken and Bob had grilled shrimp with ramps and artichoke hearts. We cleaned our plates. And because we wanted to walk down memory lane, we ordered the molten chocolate cake. While many restaurants serve this, Jean-Georges version is incomparable. He “reinvented” this cake in 1987 by accident when he pulled out a chocolate sponge cake too early (according to an article in the outstanding food magazine Lucky Peach – and yes, of course we subscribe). I’d forgotten just how good his molten chocolate cake was – you think they all taste the same? They don’t. It’s the best and it’s a sensual experience. (You chocolate lovers know what I mean!) I didn’t take a picture – sorry. I was too busy eating!

Stay tuned for part 2 because it was not only the best meal we had in NYC, it will be forever in our minds as one of our favorites (including my first Jean-Georges experience)!

Categories: Good Eats, new york | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

New York, I Love You

Thursday was perfect! The weather was gorgeous!

In the morning, I met with a dear friend who is also a writer. She met me in the lobby and we caught up on life and talked about writing. The time sped by too quickly! We made plans to see each other again!  At 1, I walked over to Alice’s Tea Cup to meet another very good friend (also a writer). It was almost a year since we’d seen each other last (we have a vow to see each other at least once a year). She introduced me to the best scones ever! Friendly staff, prompt service, delicious food, fabulous tea (I loved Anna’s Earl Grey), and like I said, the best scones ever! We split the chocolate chip scone. We strolled over to Central Park and she took me on her favorite walk – so pretty! People were out and about, lounging on benches and rocks, walking, laughing, talking. Then we took the F Train to SoHo and did a little shopping. She introduced me to Uni Qlo – and I ended up buying Bob a shirt. We walked around a bit. I lusted after Michael Kors purses. Then, we walked to Do Hwa for the seriously best Korean food I’ve ever had! I ordered the Kimchi Bokum Bop (fried rice with beef, kimchi, and a fried egg). YUMMM! Everything was lovely! It was a truly perfect day!

Categories: Good Eats | Tags: | 3 Comments

Stumbling into Risotto

One of our favorite things to do while traveling, along with booking reservations at top restaurants, is wandering around until we stumble upon a restaurant we want to try. We did that last night after we arrived in NY and found this place:

FYI: I love love love risotto!!!! The restaurant was nestled among other small restaurants – and located just above Jukai where Bob had enjoyed a fabulous dinner with customers his last visit here.  Back to Radicchio – we immediately loved the atmosphere. Tiny place with maybe six wood tables, very cozy and intimate and welcoming. We started with a sausage appetizer – sausage and spinach. The sausage was juicy and delicious, but the spinach was amazing! I can’t believe I’m saying that! 😉 It was cooked in pork fat, I think. Very delicious!

But by far, the star of the meal was the risotto. I ordered the special – risotto with Bolognese and topped with Asiago cheese.

Best. Risotto. Ever! (And I’ve been to Italy.) I wanted to eat it all, and I almost did. Too bad I got full! Every bite was amazing – full of flavor, sweet with tomatoes and full of spices (but not spicy)! YUMMMMM!!

Bob had the sausage risotto and he loved his as well.

I had a bite and yes, it was good, but I loved mine better. 🙂  The risotto was cooked to perfection – not mushy, not undercooked, just right!  It was an amazing meal – a perfect way to start my NY trip!

Categories: Good Eats, new york | Tags: , | Leave a comment

One of My Favorite Cities

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It’s been 7 years since I lived in Upstate NY and used to drive or take the train into this glorious city. I’m baaaaack (for a short visit)!!!!!

Stat tuned for my adventures!!

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Hipstamatic and Me at the Farmer’s Market

Thanks to Urbanarchiver for inspiring me with amazing photos from around the world and for recommending the iPhone photo app Hipstamatic. It’s a fun app with multiple lenses, flashes, and “films” that takes interesting photos – not ever quite what you focused on nor expect. I had a blast on Sunday taking photos while Bob and I shopped at our local farmer’s market.

Artichokes are one of my favorite veggies to eat – steamed and drizzled with Brianna’s Zesty French Dressing.

Bob grilled these onions for dinner – they were sweet and delicious!

We didn’t buy any carrots. We’re growing our own (Kyoto carrots) in our garden.

I could have snapped photos of the fruits and veggies all day!

I love orchids. My sister gave me one once, but I couldn’t keep it alive for long. Sigh.

Fun topiary plants!

We sampled our way through the market. We bought some delicious local cheese. (I was too distracted nibbling on samples to take photos, unfortunately.)

Till next week when we shop again!

Categories: hometown tourist, photo, shopping | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

From The Car

Bob snapped this photo from the car as we were driving to downtown Wilmington our last day there. I cropped it and added the sepia tone.

Categories: North Carolina, photo | 6 Comments

Strolling on Carolina Beach

Like I mentioned in a previous post, my first time on Carolina Beach was in 1998, when Bob and I visited his parents and stayed at their beach house. It was my first time experiencing a beach in the south. I grew up in Los Angeles and spent many, many summer days on Santa Monica Beach – freezing in the cold Pacific. The first time I stepped into the the Atlantic ocean I was shocked at how incredibly warm the water was. Like bathwater! I was also amazed at how close the ocean was to the beach (I had to trek quite a long way on the beach to reach the ocean in Santa Monica). And I loved how I could find shells, shark teeth, and sea glass on the beach.

Bob’s parents sold the beach house years ago, but I have fond memories. It was on a very warm Thursday morning that Bob and I drove down to Carolina Beach, parked by the old beach house, and took a long walk along the beach.

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We also saw a dolphin fairly close to shore. Not sure you can see it in the photo above. It always makes me smile to see dolphins. We also watched clams dig their way back into the sand, and Bob found a skate egg case. We might have stayed longer, but by 11 AM the temps had warmed to the point where I was uncomfortably hot. Still, it was a perfect morning on the beach.

Categories: North Carolina | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Southport, NC

On Tuesday, Bob’s brother David drove out from Raleigh with his adorable dog Suzie to hang out with all of us. We took the ferry from Fort Fisher over to Southport for the afternoon.

Suzie

Bob, Dad, & David on the ferry

The ferry ride was perfect – very little wind (I get seasick) and clear skies. I enjoyed watching the Bonaparte gulls flying along side the ferry and landing precariously on the railing. I marveled at their accurate landings (if I were a gull, I’d have slipped and fallen).

Once over on Southport, we headed to Fishy Fishy Cafe on the water. I did not take pictures, I’m very sorry to say because my soft crab sandwich was outstanding! From there, we went to the North Carolina Maritime Museum where a docent shared some fascinating facts. My favorite tidbit was that not all pirates were men! I bought a book that had a bit about the women pirates. I’m thinking I may have to write about girl pirates in a story someday! The only disappointment was not being able to peruse this book –

How To Abandon Ship by Phil Richards and John J. Banigan. It was a book that had enough pages to make me wonder, what were the rules? What steps did one have to take to abandon ship? Maybe I can find it in a library somewhere….!

All in all it was a perfectly lovely day. The ride back was much cooler, but I was just as happy to be coasting along the waves on a perfect afternoon.

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North Carolina Barbecue

(Disclaimer: I am not a food blogger/reviewer. I just love eating good food and sharing pictures and my impressions.)

To this California girl, barbecue was barbecue – ribs basted with a tomato-based sauce. Since marrying Bob (14 years ago), I’ve learned that this is not so at all. There are regional differences when it comes to barbeque. Tennessee barbecue is dry rub pork.  Texas barbecue is tomato-based sauce on beef ribs. South Carolina barbecue is mustard-based pulled pork. And finally, North Carolina barbecue is vinegar based pulled pork and Oh! I do love it! We’ve tried many barbecue joints in the Wilmington area. This time we tried a new place that Bob’s dad recommended – Jackson’s Big Oak Barbecue in Wilmington, NC.

The first thing we ordered were drinks, and as I learned during my first visit to NC in 1998, if I ask for iced tea, it’s going to be very very VERY sweet. I prefer my tea unsweetened, and so I ordered “unsweetened iced tea.” Mmmmm! The South definitely makes the best iced tea! The kind and very friendly waitress brought us a basket of hush puppies, which I absolutely love! What are hush puppies? Deep fried corn meal “fingers”. Mmmmmm!

Slathered with honey butter, they are amazingly delicious. Crisp on the outside, soft and corn-bready on the inside.

Next, the waitress brought us something I’d never had before: corn sticks. Bob’s dad doesn’t love them and I could understand why, because Bob’s dad loves sweets. Corn sticks are a much blander version of hush puppies and much crunchier. They were okay.

Next came our meals. This is what I ordered:

A small plate of barbecue, collard greens and fries. I loved the barbecue. I do love vinegar. While in NC, I was on a hot sauce kick and ended up slathering the barbecue with hot sauce, too. The collard greens were fabulous – tender and flavorful and I’m sure, cooked in pork fat. Mmmmm! The fries were fine, but I ended up saving my tummy room for the barbecue and collard greens. I also ate more than my share of hush puppies.

Bob ordered this:

The barbecue with fried chicken and sides of baked beans and potato salad. He thoroughly enjoyed all of it, but as we discovered with potato salad in NC, it tends to be on the sweet side, which neither of us greatly cared for. The fried chicken (I was able to sneak a little nibble) was perfectly crisp on the outside and tender and moist on the inside, with no overly greasy residue. Outstanding!

All in all a fantastic barbecue lunch!

Here’s Bob with his Tasty Salted Pig Parts Boccalone shirt (Chris Cosentino and Mark Pastore’s Oakland-based company).  Interesting factoid about Bob – he has a very large collection of pork-related t-shirts. 😉

Here I am standing in front of the “big oak” from the name of the restaurant.

Categories: Good Eats, North Carolina | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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