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Caribbean Island Recommendation - Food & Scuba IMP! Mid January

Can't speak to scuba, but for food and beaches you will be hard pressed to find a better island than the French side of St. Martin. The snorkeling is great so I have to figure the scuba is halfway decent. Note - AVOID THE DUTCH SIDE unless you like all the touristy stuff and crowds and not being totally sure what strip mall you are in. The French side beaches are spectacular+ and the food in Grand Case is excellent. Even the beach food is good, where the beach is big enough to have a restaurant (Friar's Bay!). Orient Beach is the enormous commercialized and crowded beach which has some commendable things about it, but with all of the other beaches on the island you can easily dodge crowds and have a very, very, peaceful experience in paradise.

Nov 15, 2012
gbandu in Latin America & Caribbean

Favorite places for 1

I had a solo dining experience at Amis a few weeks ago and posted here on Chow about it under "Amis-An Honest Kitchen". Had a great experience and as you say, the Chef's table/bar overlooking the kitchen was a fun spot. Highly recommended for party of one.

Oct 07, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

NYC coming to PHILLY

Thanks for the great tip on Sendak at the Rosenbach.

Oct 07, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Amis - An Honest Kitchen

Thanks for the followup. Ugh, can't believe it was the pasta that was the negative - the one thing that should be the "gimme". Ah well. The chef-rejected steak is definitely consistent with my observation of the kitchen and while aggravating for your guest, a big plus to me to see that they are consistently serious about quality at that level. I am looking forward to getting back there for the fall menu and will post an update as well.

Sep 27, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Is loud the new normal?

Great point.

Sep 23, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Is loud the new normal?

Well before I make myself feel really old and start blaming this seemingly agreed upon national phenomenon on a generational dining style differences or culture shift, lets start with a couple uh, scientific issues, that are at least part of the issue-

a) A definite move over the last many years in what I'll call "good food dining" rather than "fine dining" to physically smaller restaurants. That is in my opinion on account of a lot more good food out there thanks to record numbers of culinary school graduates, spread out into a lot more, much smaller venues. And secondly on account of economic issues - whether large, formal traditional fine-dining restaurants can survive outside of big tourist areas may be a real question of economic viability these days.

b) Bigger dining parties - a lot more special occasion group dining, and a lot less one-on-one dining (ok, this is speculation based on non-scientific observation) and perhaps a generational issue and cultural shift due to job or work schedules of the new family economic structure.

I do want to add here that I think the BYOB and generally implied "everybody is drinking so much they are getting louder" theory is not necessarily the case although may be accurate is some particular areas with the tie in to economics as barryg points out above, but is open to debate....probably another generational issue.

Sep 23, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Is loud the new normal?

I agree it is not exclusive to Philly. I travel quite a bit and every "scene" restaurant I've been to from Napa to Boston has been pretty um, "energetic" as they like to call it.

Sep 23, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Amis - An Honest Kitchen

Thanks. It sounds like it was especially "lively" on your visit!

Looks like they shift menus for Fall in a week so my food specific comments probably won't be very useful to anyone for very long....

Sep 22, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Amis - An Honest Kitchen

Read a lot of back and forth about Amis on here especially after Bourdain's visit. Had a layover of my own in Philly this week and wanted to share my delightful experience at Amis.

The Service:

Dining solo I was seated (my choice) at the chef's bar overlooking the open kitchen and the inspiration for the title of this review. When you're solo you can spend a lot of time watching the kitchen and I can tell you they take their work very, very seriously at Amis, and the proof is in the pudding, or in the pasta, in this case.

This was a dinner visit and I arrived towards the end of prime time and was surprised to get such great service for a 'table of 1', and when the dining room was still quite packed. Attentive, knowledgeable, no egos or attitudes about food or wine, and over the course of the meal I was assisted by three different people who all knew their stuff and could discuss it plainly, not counting the maitre d' who seated me or the busboy.

The food:

Sampled a couple of appetizers - the salami di giorno was a fennel flavor served with a sweet red onion marmalade. Top notch and at least the equal to Batali charcuterie I have enjoyed in the past. Should also mention the focaccia was unbelievably flavorful and true to tradition with no gobs of herbs all over the place - just an airy, plain country bread with a deep brown, delicate, delicious crust.

Second, the pork belly with fried peppers and shaved sharp provolone. To say this was a disappointment wouldn't be fair, because it was very nicely prepared, tasty and with a quality provolone. However, I thought it was ordinary in that they could have done a whole lot more jazz with the peppers, especially in Philly, the home of the "long hots".

Both appetizers were quite generous portions and good for two people to share - definitely a great value, like the entire meal was, contrary to some comments I've seen here that this restaurant is "overpriced".

The star of the show was the bucatini amatriciana, the result of a great internal struggle on my part to decide on an entree. It was a good pick! The moment it arrived the aroma took me right back to Rome - clearly the result of real deal guanciale. Perfect pasta (as expected) and perfect measure of sauce. The "Jersey tomatoes" which were part of the menu description put this over the top in flavor, probably because my palate leans towards the northeastern tomatoes I grew up with. This was flat out the equivalent of eating good food in Italy but with better tomatoes (ha!) and much closer to home!

Unfortunately since I had to stop myself from asking for more focaccia or licking the plate, this last course meant I could not possibly fit in the melon and cucumber salad with ricotta salata which I had my eye on from the beginning. Another of the disadvantages of dining alone. So, I ended up with the melon granita which I watched the chef demand be made a second time because it wasn't prepped right the first time -- I know, come on, its just a green honeydew granita with diced cantaloupe, but they insisted on it coming out the "right way" and it was indeed very nice and refreshing with a glass of Prosecco, and yes, thanks Chef, it looked very pretty.

In addition to the Prosecco, I had a couple glasses of different reds, both suggested by servers at my inquiry, paired well, and both of which I thought reasonably priced.

I look forward to another visit soon and highly recommend you give it a shot.

Do note it is a very high energy (i.e. loud), young crowd, restaurant so if you are looking for an intimate dining experience, this is probably not your place. On the other hand, if you're like me and have a tough time finding quality dining with a small child, I think I could bring my very um, active, 8 year old in here for dinner and no one would notice.

Sep 20, 2012
gbandu in Philadelphia

Charleston Report 7/27-29

Wow thanks for a great trip report! I can't wait to try these on my next trip. I had an innate genetic and Northeasterner reaction to your claim that a Charleston restaurant could be the "Best Italian restaurant in the US", however reading on, I am very intrigued - a must visit. Amongst all the amazing descriptions you provided, the "best pickled vegetables" provided some *serious* Italian credibility and the ring of culinary truth......I am looking forward to it. Thanks again and when I get back to Charleston I will post a followup on this thread.

Jul 31, 2012
gbandu in Southeast

Statesville NC recommendations?

Keep driving!

(Sorry.)

Apr 21, 2012
gbandu in Southeast

Raleigh area Pancakes

Ditto on Ed's at City Market - a not to be missed pancake. Have not been to Pams.

Feb 12, 2012
gbandu in Southeast

NYKers Charleston to Myrtle Beach please help with Myrtle Beach suggestions

Umberto's at Barefoot Landing solid northeast style Italian-American. Minus the bread of course which cannot be duplicated for some reason throughout the South until you get all the way down to South Florida.

Jan 28, 2012
gbandu in Southeast

Greenville, SC, dining scene

I'm heading to GVL next week for a few days - will post American Grocery and High Cotton reviews. (I peeked at the AG menu - it looks amazing....)

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American Grocery Restaurant
732 S. Main St., Greenville, SC 29601

Oct 21, 2011
gbandu in Southeast

eggplant or chicken parmigiana sandwich in Chapel Hill area?

I agree in principle, but for some reason the parm sandwich is a totally different category of comfort food than its underlying entree form!

And, the type/quality of the bread is a big, big part of the package......

Aug 04, 2011
gbandu in Southeast

eggplant or chicken parmigiana sandwich in Chapel Hill area?

I was just going to suggest the original author here suck it up and make their parm sandwiches at home since after 10 years down here I haven't found one worth buying out. Will be relying on your stated NY credentials and give this IP III place a shot - I am cautiously optimistic! Thanks for the tip.

Aug 03, 2011
gbandu in Southeast

Greenville, SC, dining scene

Just had a friend come back from American Grocery and give me an earful - have to try it next time, sounds amazing. High Cotton - Greenville outpost, has always been a solid value to me.

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American Grocery Restaurant
732 S. Main St., Greenville, SC 29601

Aug 03, 2011
gbandu in Southeast

Looking For The Best Steak on Crystal Coast/Emerald Isle Area?

Second that. Watermark is the place you are looking for, hands down.

Aug 03, 2011
gbandu in Southeast

Good quick eats off 81 in Virginia?

Berky's Restaurant at the Lee Hi Truck stop, exit 195 at Lexington. I was going to say White's Truck stop with awesome "private" trucker dining room 10 miles north at Raphine but apparently it was recently sold and there is much uncertainty as to what's going to happen quality and atmosphere wise. Sad news.

Aug 02, 2011
gbandu in Mid-Atlantic

inner harbor- little italy

kuku - that sounds like the perfect venue for aYankees fan and if Chazz can cook like he can act the food might be decent! Thanks for the lead - I will check it out next trip up for sure.

Aug 02, 2011
gbandu in Washington DC & Baltimore

inner harbor- little italy

I've been to a couple in little italy in baltimore, not impressed. Especially if you are a Yankees fan coming from NY like me....ha ha. There are some good inner harbor threads here if you dig around....for mine, this is my fave when I'm in town for lunch:

http://www.attmansdeli.com/

Aug 01, 2011
gbandu in Washington DC & Baltimore

Bensi - Hampton VA - Peninsula Town Center

Ok, I realize this is a chain place, which I ordinarily despise, but this was an unusally good value meal and worth a post....

Here on business and wandered in mostly on account of convenient location and a scouting mission inside - seemed clean, comfortable with upscale service.

Run of the mill, extensive Italian/Italian American menu of all the usual suspects. Was having a hard time picking my poison and ready to go for an old standby "new restuarant test entree," when offered specials by a very professional server. Lobster Fra Diavlo with clams and mussels on linguine, described as lobster body and tail meat with half a dozen of each shellfish........had many many concerns, least amongst them .- would the pasta be cooked right? Would the fra diavlo be ketchup and texas pete? Not to mention the quality and safety of the shellfish, although I felt mostly ok that with the upscale chain thing at least the safety threshold would be met.

What a pleasant surprise. Service was attentive and timely - bread and included salad course and entree all spaced nicely. The entree was plated very nicelly especially considering we are talking about $23 here - appropriate size portion of pasta - actually al dente for real which is hard to believe, maybe a little heavy on the sauce but not overly much - couple of garlic toasts edging a large platter with a dozen shellfish arranged artfully and lobster tail and body in the center over linguine - plentiful portion of lobste with all meat already out which is a nice touch, especially for someone as lazy as me. Sauce was very good, much to my surprise, with the right amount of heat and the clams and mussels were not killed with overcooking. Probably local Littlenecks here on the Peninsula which helps a lot.

Anyway, can't speak for the regular menu, but this was a real pleasant surprise from a very experienced diner and hobby italian home chef. A real value at $20 something bucks. I may try another tomorrow night!

Aug 01, 2011
gbandu in Mid-Atlantic

Charleston, SC - fine dining for birthday

What's happened to 82 Queen? Maybe it's been a year - but it was always solid when I was there more regularly.

Jul 10, 2009
gbandu in Southeast

NO's Top 50 for Triangle area - what's yours...

Thank you both - Phewww!!!!

Jul 10, 2009
gbandu in Southeast

Pigeon Forge for a week - HELP!

I was trapped there for 3 days for a business convention. Not be negative, but it was pretty gloomy. I noticed the thread folks neglected to mention that is a partially dry county or something and you can get beer and wine in some places, not all, and no cocktails at all. Also it semed like the whole place closed up at 10 pm.

The Bullfish place was decent but no better than your run of the mill chain type family restaurant or steakhouse. I think the highlight of my trip on the food front was the wing place that had an extensive beer menu.

Good luck!

Jul 09, 2009
gbandu in Kentucky & Tennessee

Bham area - Let's talk barbecue

I am a northern transplant with ten years of East and West North Carolina BBQ eating experience and I have to say that Dreamland's BBQ really blew me away and supposedly they are more known for their ribs. Ribs were good but not as good as some Ive had in NC (see www.thepit-raleigh.com and ask Bobby Flay, ha ha).

Last biz trip out to Bham several natives recommended Full Moon so I will be giving that a shot next month.

Jul 09, 2009
gbandu in Central South

NO's Top 50 for Triangle area - what's yours...

I am shocked to hear that about Guglhupf.....I havent been in a couple months maybe. What's changed? Lunch was always fantastic and the custom cakes and holiday special order stufff is always top notch.

You should check out Le Farm. My beef with them is the 'sourdough' base to all the french breads - maybe that has changed by now.

Jul 09, 2009
gbandu in Southeast

NO's Top 50 for Triangle area - what's yours...

Hahaha, yeah exactly!

Jul 09, 2009
gbandu in Southeast

NO's Top 50 for Triangle area - what's yours...

Just flipped through that yesterday. I thought it was really light on Raleigh stuff, big CH focus. Notably missing from Raleigh were top notch: Fins, Jibarra and Second Empire. Also disppointed to see the oft-headlined Lillys pizza on the top of the pizza list. I'm a transplant and really can't embrace the bizarre near pastry crust, but I guess it is a Triangle institution so it made this top 50 deal. They put Le Farm bakery and Guglehopf on split page with Le Farm getting top billing - I would have given Gugle a page of their own - if you havent been out there it is a must - great bakery and excellent lunch.

Enjoy.

Jul 09, 2009
gbandu in Southeast

Charleston, SC - fine dining for birthday

I don't know about waterfront either. But for the real Charleston low country deal, it is hard to go wrong in the historic district with:

82 Queen:

http://www.82queen.com/

High Cotton or SNOB:

http://www.mavericksouthernkitchens.c...

Enjoy!

Jul 08, 2009
gbandu in Southeast