While it might seem silly to down four doughnuts just before dinner, it was necessary for survival in Chicago, where no reservation policies are the norm at the most popular spots in town.
Case in point: we arrived at Avec at half past seven on Saturday night and were finally seated near 10 PM at one of the cramped communal tables. Such is the life of a foodist in the Second City. #FirstWorldProblems.
Opened in 2003, Avec serves a Midwestern interpretation of Mediterranean classics in small plates fashion. “Taking its cue from the regions of Southern France, Italy, Portugal, and the coast of Spain, Avec’s cuisine reflects the aromas, flavors and colors of the Mediterranean,” according the the restaurant’s website.
Chef Koren Grieveson helped open the restaurant in 2003, earning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2010. In 2013, Perry Hendrix, took over the kitchen.
To start, an order of Avec’s famous chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon in a piquillo pepper-tomato sauce ($12). These meaty mouthfuls were sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once. Beautiful stuff, and maybe even worth a two hour wait. Maybe.
Continue reading ‘Avec – Chicago’
Unless you’ve given up social media for Lent, chances are that you’ve heard a little somethin’ somethin’ about Downtown’s newly opened Faith & Flower.
There’s a great chef in the kitchen (Michael Hung of San Francisco’s La Folie) and a talented bar man too (Michael Lay of Vegas’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie), but what really drew me here was my friend Stephane Bombet, one of the restaurant’s managing partners. This is his first project since parting with Chef Ricardo Zarate‘s Peruvian empire (Mo-Chica, Picca, Paiche, and Blue Tavern).
Whereas most of Downtown’s popular spots are minimally appointed and distinctly urban, Faith & Flower feels downright sumptuous, complete with crystal chandeliers, fancy cutlery and chargers, and plush banquettes. To keep the done-up room from feeling formal or stuffy, the energy, music, and service all hit the perfect upbeat yet casual note.
To start, we tried two of Michael Lay’s creations. I chose the intense and smoky “Olvera” ($14) made with Nuestra Soledad mezcal, Cherry Heering, Zirbenz Stone Pine, Royal Combier, housemade orange bitters, and lapsang souchong vapor, while The Astronomer selected the “Angels Flight” ($12) with Denizen rum, yuzu, palm sugar, and kaffir lime leaf.
Continue reading ‘Faith & Flower – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
Lien insisted that I dine at Two Boroughs Larder while in Charleston. She visited the city a few months earlier and fell hard for this restaurant slash marketplace. In fact, she was so smitten that she came in twice—a sure sign of a very special place.
Husband and wife team Josh and Heather Keeler opened Two Boroughs Larder in August 2011 in a part of town known as Cannonborough-Elliotborough. Hence the name, Two Boroughs.
The walk to the restaurant, located a short distance from Charleston’s tourist hot-spots, offered The Astronomer and me a glimpse of life away from the hubbub of carriage rides and gargantuan properties. The neighborhood’s mellow and quiet vibe was welcomed.
The New American menu spans the globe but remains grounded in Southern ingredients from regional farms and waters.
Even though it was just The Astronomer and me this afternoon, we ordered two “smaller plates,” a charcuterie board meant for four, a side dish, and dessert, too. The menu was just too enticing to resist.
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I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately, but Los Angeles’ fine dining scene is appealing to me more than ever before. Maybe Chef Ludo spiked my champagne when I dined at Trois Mec a few weeks back? Really though, what’s not to love about pretty plates, perfectly paced? Just feelin’ fancy…that’s all.
My most recent fine dining explorations took me to Chef Josef Centeno‘s Orsa & Winston, which is “named after two little dogs” according the the restaurant’s website. My date this evening, the lovely D Takes a B, and I settled in for a five-course menu comprised of Crudo, Soup, Grain, Meat, and Sweet for $60.
The 20-course Super Omakase for $195 will have to wait for an occasion when I’m feelin’ fancy and flush.
To start, a refined cheesy broccoli situation consisting of taleggio, broccoli panna cotta, and crispy bits of rye bread. This amuse bouche certainly amused.
Continue reading ‘Orsa & Winston – Los Angeles (Downtown)’