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Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Thanks pastahound, for the "anti-recommendation" for La Filoma. It looks like I may only plan one meal in Parma, so I made a dinner reservation at Ai due Platani. I was thinking breakfast at a salumeria the next day, and we'll have lunch on the way to Mantova; Stendhal is a good looking choice, but I also found Artegusto in Gazzuolo which looks interesting as well. They evidently have a pool that we can swim in after lunch (after waiting 30 minutes to digest, of course).

http://www.artegustosanpietro.it/inde...

Jen, a little miscommunication. I’m trying not to mention much about our non-food plans, but believe it or not, we have some! :-) At the moment I’m planning lunch on the lake at Alla Grotta in Lazise and overnighting in Malsecine (not Riva) with dinner at Al Pescatore. Early the next morning we’ll drive to Riva del Garda and bike to Lake Ledro and Pregasina, then a large late lunch before heading to Verona, where we'll grab sandwiches for the opera. A long day, yes, but I know Aida well enough to know when we can take a couple of catnaps. ;-

)

Sant'Allessandro looks great, thanks. It is a good fit with our current plans. I do not have the slow food app as I had technical difficulties downloading it, I’m doing the old fashioned way (well, the new old fashioned way of scrolling through the internet). I had been looking for a good place just above Tenno for a view and for a quick walk through Canale, and there may be a couple of choices: Agritur Calvola looks promising but it may have just bench-style seating which isn’t a good idea after biking all morning, and Acetaia del Balsamica Trentino. I had come across Maso Palu, which looks appealing but is a bit of a (perhaps unnecessary) detour.

http://www.acetaiadelbalsamico.it/#_=_

http://www.agriturcalvola.it/#_=_

Jun 15, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Thanks for the idea Jen, I did send them a text, but I’m thinking they may not receive it. I’ll ask our hotel in Parma to give them a call for us. I’ve got the Fred Plotkin book on order.

I’ve tweaked the itinerary and now have and now will be spending a night in Riva del Garda instead of Bassano del Grappa. Switched the night in Vigoleno for a night in Mantova, and will be staying in Padua the last night before flying out of Venice. I should be OK with the great recommendations I’ve found on Chowhound, except for a few bits:

I’m thinking of two weekend lunches on the lake: Alla Grotta in Lazise, and Osteria al Pescatore in Castelletto. Any opinions? Dinner anywhere within 10 miles or so of Riva del Garda (anything North?), maybe take a special atmosphere over special food in this case, unless there is a hidden secret place in the Riva del Garda area I have not come across.

Thursday on the drive from Parma to Mantova, a stop for lunch is in order. We can go to Ai due Platani or somewhere on the way, or even in Mantova. This is a pretty big area so obviously lots of options, and I’m hoping for a memorable destination-type meal somewhere along the road. If Locanda Mariella is open it will quite a detour but I’ll consider it unless there is a comparable option on the way to Mantova. (If Mariella is open, maybe Wednesday dinner could be squeezed in here, although we are overnighting in central Parma).

Any recommendations outside Mantova on the way to Padua that would trump a lunch in Mantova?

Thanks again.

Jun 13, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

I did reach Locanda Mariella, but it seems no one there speaks English. If anyone knows or can easily find out if they are open on Thursday August 13, I would be forever indebted and will tip a glass of wine in your honor should they be open.

Jun 10, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Thanks allende, but after a couple of calls, the nice woman who answered the phone (at least I think she was saying nice things as she talked an awful lot and I don't know a lick of Italian except, fortunatly, "dieci minuti") was able to get Luca on the phone who spoke excellent English. They are closed for summer holiday from near the end of July - the 21st or the 28th, I forgot which, sorry - reopening Wednesday August 12.

I could not reach Locanda Mariella by the phone number on Google etc. The line did not seem to connect. Any help here as to whether they are open for lunch on Wednesday August 12 would be much appreciated; if they are not we'll be driving in a different direction.

Jun 04, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Wonderful recommendations Parmasam, thanks for making my planning more difficult! My big issue besides it being mid-August is that this particular day is a Tuesday, and of your suggestions near Castell’Arquato, only Trattoria del Ponte is open (maybe!). Thank you for the many options.  I had looked at Bardi as a possibility between Rivalta and Vigoleno, but not between Vigoleno and Parma. That has possibilities but would make for a long day (a good thing!)

I think what will work for us on Monday, in the spirit of sampling as much as possible in the area, is that during the drive from Verona to Rivalta Trebbia stopping at La Buca Zibello for lunch, but there has no response to my emails about making a reservation for this Monday, August 10th. Does anybody know if La Buca plans on being open for lunch this day? (does someone at the restaurant speak English?) If not, would any of the other Zibello trattorias be worth the detour? If we can eat at La Buca for lunch on Monday, I’ve got:

Monday: La Buca, dinner Del Falco
Tuesday: Trattoria del Ponto(?), dinner somewhere in or near Vigoleno
Wednesday: Trattoria Mariella, dinner La Filoma(?) in Parma, for example
Thursday: Ai due Platani, Antica Corte Pallavicina
Friday: Mantua lunch, Vicenza or Padua dinner.

Thanks all.

Jun 03, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Emilia-Romagna (Modena and Zibello)

Sorry if I am being slow, but are you saying there were too many tourists in Emilia Romagna, or in Rome and Milan?

May 30, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Thank you for the great ideas. We will be in the Bassano area on Sat – Sun and from what I can tell the Capovilla distillery is only open on weekdays(?). I’ve been working on the details of our drive from Venice to Bassano and may turn it into a picnic lunch day with stops at Cittadella, Castelfranco, and two villas and winding down with cocktails at Cipriani’s and dinner in the area, Baggio looks like a solid recommendation. La Rosa looks very nice as well, but I wonder if I can find a “Sunday” type of lunch somewhere, even though I’m not quite sure what that entails.

For lunch on our way to Piacenza, Sirmione is something to consider. Lots of options for this day as we can stop for lunch anyplace between and including Verona and Piacenza! This may be the last day I wind up finalizing as it is so wide open, although being a Monday cuts the choices down considerably. Unfortunately. Hosteria 700 does not list their closing day just like so many restaurants in Italy, sigh. If planning was too easy it wouldn’t be as much fun, I guess.

I first noticed Locanda del Falco on the Slow travel forum in a post by a long time traveler, Pecepe, who recommended (in 2009) in the area Locanda Mariella, La Buca, and del Falco with del Falco topping the list. I guess we’ll see unless I get warned off of del Falco before our trip.

May 29, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Need recs for 7 day driving tour from Veneto to Emiglia Romagna

Hello everyone. This is sort of a “last minute” plan for me, as the airline changed our flight on us and made it impossible to fly into Munich as we had originally planned. Now we arrive and depart from Venice. If anyone needs a 10 day itinerary from Munch to Venice, let me know! :)

Thanks in large part to the great posters on this board, I think I’ve got the good bones of a trip on which to build the details around – the bones of course being the meals. We’re a couple in our mid 40’s, so travel pace and stomach size are not anticipated to be obstacles. The only obstacle is that we are going in early August, so many obvious choices are closed for the month (Giusti), and some I have not been able to contact may be closed as well for the holiday what with this part of the trip being August 8-14 (La Buca). The heat will not be an issue for us; it will still be cooler than Florida in August. (hopefully)

The idea is to eat dinner where we sleep if possible, but if not a drive of say 20 minutes would be OK. Strictly regional food and wine is preferred for all meals, unless we would suffer for it.

Below is our itinerary with some specific questions. Of course any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated! The plan as of now is, after Venice (We should be OK here, lots of stuff on the board for Venice!), we pick up a car in the AM and:

Day 1: Visit Asolo(?), overnight Bassano del Grappa for the grappa, and the cocktail bar Palazzo delle Misture looks like a great place to spend the night 

?------ any suggestions for a lunch and a dinner in this area? There are a few Michelin bibs around. Of course eating dinner closer to (or in) Bassano would make this night much happier.

Day 2: Sunday - Marostica large lunch or maybe a Sunday meal in Verona and a relatively quick or on-the-go snack as we walk around the old town pre-opera.

?------- Has anyone eaten at a destination restaurant in Marostica? A quick dinner in Verona? My first choice is to find a great Sunday afternoon restaurant in the countryside or in Verona.

Day 3: Verona Monday morning, then drive to lunch and either Brescia or Cremona, then on to Rivalta de Gazzola, south of Piacenza, to stay at the castle and eat at Locanda del Falco.

?-------Lunch will be somewhere with easyish access to the A4 or A21 or near Brescia or Cremona. Some of the board’s recommendations are closed on Mondays. Has anyone been to Locanda del Falco? It seems very highly rated in certain corners of the internet.

Day 4: Drive around, farms, cheese, Bobbio(?), Castell’Arquato, overnight at castle Vigoleno, southwest of Fidenza. Dinner at Bollicine & Torta Fritta (?) - a new restaurant adjacent to the castle that says the right things but leaves me trepidatious.

?------- Seems like a great opportunity for lunch in this area, somewhere between Bobbio and Castell’Arquato, maybe in Ponte dell’Olio? For dinner, has anyone eaten near Vigoleno?

Day 5: Lunch at Locanda Mariella, castle Torrechiara, Parma afternoon and overnight in the town center.

?-------- Cocchi and Ai due Platani are two popular choices in Parma, and if they are similar I would rather walk to Cocchi than make the short drive at night. I will be receptive to anyone telling me we must to to Ai due Platani (or elsewhere) or forever live a life of regret, mostly because we had a car.

Day 6: Cheesy things tour in the morning, Lunch at La Buca, then to Antica Corte Pallvicina to spend the rest of the day.

?------- No questions here, a perfect day!

Day 7: Day in Mantova, then head to Vicenza for dinner and overnight in preparation for flying out of Venice the next afternoon.

?------ One great lunch in Mantova is needed, I think there are good options already talked about here, and then to finish up I need an epic dinner on the way to or in Vicenza. I can be talked into Padua if necessary for dinner, but as we’d like to walk around the next day until about noon or so Vicenza seemed like it would fit our needs better, maybe not?

Thanks for any thoughts guys!

May 27, 2015
walker42 in Italy

Guzina Oaxaca in Mexico City - opinions?

I apologize for paraphrasing you inaccurately Cristina. You were speaking about another restaurant in Oaxaca being “head and shoulders above” Casa Oaxaca, and perhaps you were speaking of in terms of traditional cuisine and not in quality. As a weekend visitor who has only one shot at my meals and who has plenty of both time and inclination for research, “only the best will do” for me, so even if Guzina Oaxaca is exceptional I will not risk being the one to find out! Your not hearing any buzz about Guzina Oaxaca actually speaks volumes.

I have been looking at your amazing blog (the start of a long habit I am sure!) and noticed you also think very highly of El Bajia and their mole de Xico. Is it a relatively sweet mole? The food I ate for several years as a child living in the DF (more than 30 years since I have been back!) was relatively sweet compared to the typical Northern Mexican I find in the US. I have always imagined our cook was from Veracruz. If you have any suggestions for different regional moles, I think it may be worth my effort to track them down as I have taken up the frustrating hobby (in the US at least) of making mole, and should probably taste some varieties to see what I am missing. :-) This may become easier as migrants move in – in Central Florida there is actually an American farmer producing huitlacoche, so who knows if regional peppers are next?

And I see you are not a fan of Pujol. I was interested in tasting their mole “madre.” If there is another place I could get something comparable, I am more than willing to seek that out.

Thanks for the reply, I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

Aug 28, 2014
walker42 in Mexico

Guzina Oaxaca in Mexico City - opinions?

We're spending 3 nights in DF in October. I've read through the board and have had most of my questions answered, but have not seen Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco mentioned. Any opinions? I would be trying the black mole, among other dishes. I'm also looking to eat at Nicos, Pujol, Azul Historico, Contramar, Limosneros(?). Thanks.

edit - I note in another thread cristina feels that the chef's place in Oaxaca does not fare well against the local competition, but how about in DF?

Aug 27, 2014
walker42 in Mexico

A weekend with conservatives

OK I've managed to add a Friday evening to the trip, and I am comfortable with Annisa and Betony or similar for Sat/Sun.

Two other places I have been mulling over for Friday are Carbone and NoMad. My friends have told me they would love to return to Minetta; does Carbone compare for atmosphere or food? Would I be doing myself a disservice (never mind them for a moment) by choosing Carbone over NoMad?

Aug 22, 2014
walker42 in Manhattan

Steel Magnolias - Valdosta GA

Thanks, we found ourselves in Valdosta for the night and made a reservation on your recommendation. We were late in arriving from NC due to bad weather and the restaurant accommodated us on a busy Friday night.

Very highly recommended for the deceptively simple preparations of typical southern dishes. We were wrapping up a 10 day vacation of eating at great Orlando and Asheville restaurants and the menu at Steel Magnolia's impressed us! We all thought it worked better than The Admiral in Asheville and the Ravenous Pig in Orlando, without trying to impress as much. Some of the best pork belly I have had anywhere. The shrimp and grit were ridiculously rich, but what my wife could not eat, my 16 year old devoured. No frou-frou preparations, but compelling updates of Southern classics. Unlike many places we've tried recently, the chef lets the ingredients speak for themselves. I am eager to return.

Aug 09, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

Thanks, exactly what I needed to know. Nothing a 10 minute drive won't fix then!

Jul 22, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

A weekend with conservatives

Thanks for the suggestions guys. Point taken TT, but I was imaging a snack between Bouley and Annisa, at least for me if not the ladies! (Only half joking here, but is the meal at Bouley that filling that we will still be full 5 hours later?) I’m counting on a good 4 hours of shopping in SoHo between the meals, god help me.

Villainx, I was hoping to ease them into a tasting menu which has a choice for each course, and Bouley has such a low price-point I was thinking they should feel more comfortable trying it even if they are not wowed. Annisa will be ala carte with sharing, and from looking at the menu, Anita Lo seems to have some untroublesome choices, if it comes to that.

Gramercy and Gotham are excellent suggestions and I am absolutely sure our friends would love either of them as would I, never having been to either but having prepared plenty of meals from Portale’s cookbook, but with only two dinners I am in a pickle. I am hoping Perla and Del Posto will settle them down if there is too much froo-froo, but if I had to replace Annisa or Betony with Gramercy, which would you suggest?

I have a feeling Del Posto will fit right in our friends wheelhouse, but will we need reservations for a Monday lunch in October at either Del Posto, Jean-George or any similar place, or can we leave that decision for day–of?

Jul 22, 2014
walker42 in Manhattan

A weekend with conservatives

I’m returning to Manhattan in October Sat-Mon, with our good friends (friendly enough to share all our plates), a couple who are not foodies per se but are Italian which makes them natural proto-foodies but on the conservative side, and not too enamored of Asian food. Funny that I consider them conservative even though they are quite liberal in their politics! Last October they relied on me to book with just a few days notice the restaurants, and we wound up at Babbo, Minetta, Maialino, and Hearth (no one liked Hearth). Their favorite restaurant in NY is Palma, and their favorite meal from the short list above was Miailino’s pasta, so this trip I’d like to get them a little bit out of their comfort zone without forcing them to come up with excuses as to why they aren't finishing their dishes.

This is primarily a food weekend. Thinking about:

Sat Lunch at 12: Bouley?
Sat Dinner at 7: Annisa

Sun Brunch: Perla
Sun Dinner: Betony, Jean Georges, or Le Bernadin, other? (I think EMP may be a bridge too far for them).

Monday Lunch: Del Posto

All comments warmly welcomed.

Jul 21, 2014
walker42 in Manhattan

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

Thanks. I've made reservations for Sat at Limones, Sunday Supper at Rhubarb (do any other places have a communal supper concept? I love them on vacations) and Thursday at The Admiral. I'm hoping I can play it by ear on Monday-Wednesday dinners between places like Curate, Chai Pani, Ben's Tune Up, Seven Sows King James and the other board favorites. Do you think any of these need a reservation Mon-Wed?

Btw, Luellas web site says they open at noon on Sunday. Too late for us.

Jul 12, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

Good tips Helind. Although the Pisgah Inn was beautiful when I went a few years back, there were a few things we ordered that were, if not inedible then worthy of ridicule. Looking back at my photo album I have a cute picture of our friends poking comically at their food. It ranks about in the middle of the National Park concessionaire meals I've experienced, (the best being at Mesa Verde and the worst by a long shot being at the Ahwahnee Dining Room in Yosemite). Besides, I would never inflict the odor of a day hiking on the poor patrons of a restaurant before first cleaning up at our hotel! :-)

Waitress - oddly enough I saw a photo of the steak tartar on The Admiral's website and decided then that I will have to try it just based on the apparent texture. For some reason it is a very hard dish to find in the Fort Lauderdale area (you can find it, but you don't necessarily want to eat it unless you like mush).

Also, you mention Limones, which I will definitely try. Another coincidence becasue as I am typing this I am simultaneously texting my hiking-buddy brother, an airline pilot (in San Francisco at the moment) after having directed him to Nopalito's for a solo dinner, one of my favorite Cali-Mex restaurants. He is now texting me back pictures of his dinner. This is how geeky we are!

So Waitress you may be the one to ask - we're staying at a motel just across from Papas and Beer. Is that a good "safety" restaurant if we find we're just too tired to drive the 10 minutes to downtown after a day hike? Is it something totally different than Limones or is it also Cali-Mex except with less fancy ingredients? In my opinion, some of the best Mexican restaurants in the east are near me in Homestead, but I always love to try new places if they are worthwhile. If it is Cali-Mex I'll stick with Limones. I'll be trying Manrique's Mexican Store in Clayton, GA on the way back to Florida.

Breakfast may become the powdered eggs and frozen sausage links at the hotel which I just booked. A compromise for sure but it will help get us on the road earlier. We'll still have at least two good breakfasts including Sunday. Any special places (BBQ?) for Sunday breakfast/brunch?

Jul 11, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

Thanks for the great info guys. By "rare" beer I mean infrequently brewed, like a triple IPA or barley wine. I agree that local is always best and will be trying as many Asheville brews as I can, and only on tap regardless. I may stop by a bottle shop on our last day though and pick up a case or five of stuff that doesn't easily make it's way to Florida. I'm not worried about the beer because in my experience the first night at a local pub usually leads to new friends willing to share the local secrets.

And thanks Tom, I'll have to hit Wedge too. Your definition of a "stellar" beer list sounds about right! At a restaurant I have no problem with Blue Moon on the menu as long as the cocktails can compensate, but thankfully I am finding that this mentality is coming to an end and I take it in stride kinda like I do with my racist uncle at Thanksgiving - a relic.

Biscuit Head and Homegrown for sure, thanks miss piggy. I chuckled when I saw the prices on the menu - literally half the price I pay in Ft Lauderdale for a good breakfast! I hope the owners aren't reading this. Seven Sows does indeed look like a good place to me, the kind of place that probably has beer-cocktails on the menu. Love it.

It looks like I'll be in Asheville for 6 nights - 4 with just my brother and 2 with our families, eight people altogether. I made reservations for Thursday at The Admiral for 8 people (Saturday in August was a no-go even for just 4), but the others I saw look more sane as far as reservations go and will give me time to think about things some more. I'll be sure to write a trip report and let you know how an outsider feels about Asheville. On paper it looks promising.

I've spent many summers in NC but have always focused on regional and coastal cuisine (which is what I always look forward to). It is exciting to think about what Asheville may offer.

Also: Is there a recommended place for good packed lunches early in the morning? If not, of course trail mix is the meal of choice.

Jul 08, 2014
walker42 in Southeast
1

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

I did see that thread on King James, which is why I am on the fence about it. The second link is great for breakfast ideas and dinner ideas. Thanks! Biscuit Head should provide the calories we need!

Jul 07, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

Asheville Dayhikes and Beer all set, just need Good Food

Hello Asheville Chowies, I'm getting ready for my favorite kind of vacation, involving exclusively hiking, food, and beer. I've read through the board a bit but know nothing and would love some feedback and ideas.

My brother and I, late 40's, will be arriving on a Sunday afternoon and day hiking in the area Monday-Wednesday 12-18 miles/day. Both of us are foodies, but also home-brewers and backyard BBQers and need to find a happy mix of our vices on this trip. Thinking of a dinner first (as long as the beer selection is good), and then a pub or two. We'll probably hit Wicked Weed at least Sunday night after dinner, but the ideal for the evenings after a day of hiking would be a chef-driven restaurant with a thoughtful beer selection (aged?) where we could get a couple or three beers with dinner, and if needed we could hit a pub afterwards for a rare beer or two.

We need one nice meal for Sunday night (like The Admiral or Bull and Beggar), and then for our hiking days anything goes from comfort food to more fine-ish dining (in jeans) as long as the restaurant is run by a chef or a pit-master. I looked at Curate but beer seems to be completely neglected, so unless we can not get food nearly as good somewhere else, we will pass on Curate this trip.

We'll get to hit 12 bones on Thursday lunch before we head out of town, but we'll otherwise be hiking during the days. If there is an exceptional BBQ joint for dinner I will also be eager to try it - exceptional being defined as better than mine :-) .

A place like King James looks perfect on paper, very trendy, but how is the food underneath the fashion? Are there any places in Asheville you could imagine receiving a Michelin Star?

Lastly, breakfast may be in order depending on how early we get started. Are there any innovative but calorie-rich breakfast places that can be recommended?

Thanks a million!

Jul 07, 2014
walker42 in Southeast

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Thanks everyone. For some reason from what I had read, I thought Hearth was a destination place. Some people really seem to be fans.

For me, Hearth would fit well into an East Village food crawl to sample the gnocchi and grab a glass of beer or wine (they have a small but decent selection of beer too). Keep with the potato theme and hit Pomme Frites after. :-)

Oct 12, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Maialino Brunch.

Bread Basket (partially eaten)
Toffee Brioche (too slow again) :)
Tomato Risotto Croquettes & Mozzarella
Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe
Malfatti with Braised Suckling Pig & Arugula
Garganelli with Braised Oxtail
Porchetta
Panna Cotta with Berries
Olive Oil Cake

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Death & Co. and Hearth.

Death & Co. drinks
Charcuterie with foie gras
Gnocchi
Hen of the Woods
Lamb Three Ways
Hanger Steak
Roasted Cod with Smoked Mussels and Baccalà Mantecato
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Pear Spice Cake
Valrhona Chocolate Cake

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Minetta Tavern brunch.

Panier
Latkess
Omelet with Red Peppers
Brioche French Toast
Duck Hash
Coconut Cake
Assorted chocolates from Jacques Torres
Hmm, where's that burger picture? Oh well.

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Desserts at Babbo.

Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti
Biscotti and Cookies
Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo
Caramel Cheesecake with coconut

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Pastas and sweetbreads at Babbo.

Mint Love Letters (split portion)
Gnocchi with Braised Oxtail (split portion)
Goose Liver Ravioli
Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati”
Bucatini all’Amatriciana
Pappardelle Bolognese
Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan

Last minute weekend trip report - Babbo, Minetta Tavern, Hearth, Maialino

Our close friends invited my wife and I to join them for a celebratory weekend in Manhattan. When I asked them what their plans were (other than an event on Saturday afternoon), they replied “we’ll leave that up to you,” which to me means: “let’s eat!” We’re in our early 40’s and friends in late 50’s.

Our friends had never been to Babbo or Minetta Tavern, so I was happy to land a last minute reservation at Babbo for Friday night, and easily got a table to Saturday brunch at Minetta Tavern. New places for me were Hearth dinner and Maialino brunch.

A little story first. After going for a morning jog in Central Park I finished up at 5th and 60th and headed for a food cart there to get a bottle of water. Wha . . .? It was the Wafels & Dinges cart! Despite an 11 am brunch reservation at Minetta Tavern, I indulged in a waffle with ice cream. What’s the point of jogging for if I can’t have two breakfasts? Last summer I had to hunt down the this cart, and after visiting Belgium a few months ago and tasting many waffles, I'm happy to say these are right up with the best and may even be my favorite.

Babbo.

Last minute planning was frustrating, but I scored a same day 6:15 at Babbo for Friday so changed our 5:30 reservation for Minetta Tavern to brunch there the next day. We were looking for an early dinner to fit with our plans for the evening, so we showed up at Babbo at 5:45 and were seated immediately in the front corner booth, prime real estate. If there was no table available for us downstairs we were prepared go elsewhere as we were celebrating and the upstairs dining room would have sucked the fun out of us. Downstairs next to the bar and prep-table is a fantastic atmosphere.

I am a beer and spirits “connoisseur,” but in NY I prefer to drink cocktails as they are usually of very high quality at good restaurants, more so than in Fort Lauderdale. My wife and friends are wine drinkers but they surprised me by ordering cocktails through dinner at Babbo as well (it was an early dinner). The bar at Babbo is limited, but we enjoyed excellent Manhattans, Bellinis. and my wife especially enjoyed a blood-orange Cosmo which tempered her enjoyment of the speakeasies we went to the following evening.

We are close enough with our friends that picking off each other’s plates is not only acceptable but encouraged – “eat! eat! come on I know you want it!” – so I wanted the meal to be as family style as possible. I tried everything; the others tried whatever they chose to. Working with our fantastic waiter (whose name I’ve forgotten unfortunately) we arranged for the food to be brought in four courses. 4 Antipasti, followed by 2 Primi (split between four plates), then 4 Primi and 1 Secondi, then 4 desserts. This way I enjoyed 15 dishes, not bad!

For a table of four:

1st
Salumi
Grilled Octopus
Lamb’s Tongue Vinaigrette with Mushrooms
Pig Foot “Milanese”

2nd
Gnocchi with Braised Oxtail
Mint Love Letters

3rd
Bucatini all’Amatriciana
Pappardelle Bolognese
Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati”
Goose Liver Ravioli

Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads

4th
Caramel Cheesecake with coconut
Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo
Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti
Biscotti and Cookies

Once again the service we enjoyed at Babbo has maintained a standard. Interacting with the staff was a pleasure, even the dour maitre d'. By the way, the maitre d' did give a slight smile and a brief nod in reply to my compliment as we were leaving. I have read complaints about him on this board but I think he is a perfect and professional maitre d' and a welcome contrast to many these days, who seem to be overly animated but vapid. Also, he gave us a great table. :)

A few brief notes. The Salumi was slight split four ways, but memorable. Highly recommended. Both mushroom dishes (Lamb’s Tongue and Garganelli) were relatively flavorless. I believe the Lamb’s Tounge used Brown Beech mushrooms and the Garganelli may have used the same ones, judging by their equal lack of flavor. These two dishes and the Pappardelle Bolognese which was relatively bland fell below the level of all the others in their failure to impress, although they were good in an inoffensive way. (On our prior visit the mushrooms in the Garganelli were a highlight). I ate almost all the Mint Love Letter by myself. After one bite everyone including me thought the mint was overpowering. Not wanting to give up so easily, I discovered the heavy mint flavor recedes after a few bites and I quite enjoyed them.

This time what would tempt me back to Babbo would be the memories of the Salumi, the Goose Liver Ravioli and the Sweetbreads. All I thought were extremely sophisticated. Oddly enough, as I normally enjoy more “impressive” desserts, after this elaborate tasting menu the assorted gelati and sorbetti will be the dessert I’ll most remember. An excellent blend of flavors, and served at a perfect temperature. The cookies were also well above what I was expecting, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order them again. The cheesecake was voted by the table as the best of the desserts and would be at home in a more expensive restaurant. Not to leave out the semifreddo, which was also excellent as was almost everything. A great mellow evening of club/bar hopping ensued.

Minetta Tavern

I loved this restaurant for dinner and was happy that the high standards carry over to brunch. One of my favorites for atmosphere and service. I had a waffle and ice cream about an hour before we arrived so I passed on the oysters and sausage appetizer, which I am still looking forward to eating someday. Pleased to see a cask ale being served, something hard to find in Florida. It is somewhat easy to find an excellent brunch in Fort Lauderdale, (and probably most cities), but Minetta was able to compete. We went with mostly breakfast foods which to me was a mistake, but the quality was consistently great.

We started with the Panier with an assortment of pastries from Balthazar which was tasty, our favorites being the pumpkin donut and chocolate bread. The Black label Burger seems more of a brunch food to me than a dinner food, and it worked better here than I remembered at dinner. It was ordered medium and was still exceptionally tasty. My wife ordered the perfectly serviceable omelet notable for the smoothness of the egg layer. I’ll have to learn how to do that! My Latkes were excellent, but really shouldn’t I be ordering a steak? The rib-eye wasn’t on the menu, but a had thought that was an option for some reason. The Brioche French Toast is also outstanding for a breakfast food. The Duck Hash is delicious, but the others at the table caught on to its richness and I was forced to eat most of it myself. :)

Now I am not a cake person at all, but the Coconut Cake is unbelievable here. This is only the second time I remember having a cake that I would go out of my way for, the other being the Carrot Cake at Palm. I would highly recommend the Coconut Cake, and will order it next time even over the excellent soufflé, normally my go-to desert at any good restaurant. We also tried the assorted chocolates from Jacques Torres, a perfect way to squeeze in one more taste of New York with our limited time, and a great touch to have on the menu.

Drinks: Raines Law Room and Death and Company

After our event on Saturday afternoon, we split from our friends and my wife and I headed out for some drinks at Raines Law Room before our 7pm dinner reservations at Hearth, arriving right at the 5pm opening. Great atmosphere, cannot speak to the service as we were so early, but very professional. We had planned on several drinks but ordered just one round before leaving. My wife’s raspberry tequila concoction was OK but one-note, my spicy whatever it was (no reason to remember) was watery and as we watched the bartender make it, it got an “assist” from our server(!) who dashed in 5 or 6 or some random number of drops of Cholula hot sauce since I said I liked a very spicy drink. It was now 5:45 and I figured we could catch a cab to Death and Company and be there by the time it opened at 6, and then walk to Hearth nearby.

Best decision of the day, because Eryn Reece at Death and Company mixed up some real cocktails for us and gave me a proper NY cocktail fix.

We arrived just at 6 behind about 8 other folks, and after a couple of minutes were ushered inside to find the bar seating full. I would have loved to watch Eryn work but that will wait till next time as we will be back. Our server came over and after explaining to her that we had 45 minutes to spare and no time to peruse the menu, she proceeded to “consult” with us on what we wanted, and recommended the three that we had. My wife had an off-menu tequila pineapple pomegranate mix that was perfectly balanced, but a little strong for her (how that can be a complaint I’ll never know).  I had a great spicy rum drink that was wonderfully complex but just a little too sweet for me. Our server then steered me to the “Terrible Love,” (Mezcal, Suze, St. Germain and orange bitters). A fantastic cocktail. Very sweet, Very bitter, perfectly balanced.

Hearth

Not recommended. There is not a lot of info here on Chowhound, but what there is generally seems positive. Well just for the record I would say the food and service are lacking compared to many other excellent restaurants in the same price range. Overall the four of us had the same opinion of Hearth – “good.” Atmosphere was nice, possibly sit at the bar and order some small plates? Food was hit and miss. I enjoy reading about food and researching restaurants before travel, and Hearth is now in the very small category of “disappointments” in NY (the other being a meal at Lamb’s Club just after it opened). Not to say that it was bad by any means, just that it was no better than good, which is not what the New York dining scene is for a Chowhounder. I’ve taken risks that paid off on mixed-review restaurants before (Sea Grill, see below for Maialino) so I approached Hearth with the highest hopes. We went here instead of Acme, so I’m probably thinking about the greener grass and all.

Service: Three, as in three separate apologies for the delay in our food arriving. Once before we had anything, then twice before the mains came out. 3:15 total meal time. When the charcuterie came some thick-cut toast was brought out that was blackened on the edges, which may have been OK on it’s own but certainly not with delicate spreads. I asked if I could please have some very lightly toasted pieces brought out. A few minutes later another plate of toast appeared that was even more and extremely blackened! We returned to the first set of toast, which after further consideration was very lightly toasted compared to the second set, and pulled the insides away from the crust to eat with the charcuterie. When we were nearly done, our server showed up and saw a huge pile of blackened crusts and asked apologetically if we would still like some lightly toasted bread. No thanks. So, an off day okay I get it. My favorite neighborhood joint I’ve been eating at for years had an off day once, but the 75 times I’ve had attentive service let me overlook that day.

Also, the server seemed to know the ingredients of the dishes but not anything more. I asked how the hanger steak was sliced and she had no idea. That is not such a problem, but later when my friend asked if the steak was OK to order medium instead of medium rare, she did not hesitate to say that would be fine even though I was wincing inside. I didn’t want to be rude by butting-in at this point, but indeed when the steak arrived it was cooked medium and was quite tough.

Food: We started with the Charcuterie plus foie gras and the Lettuce and Vegetables salad. The salad was good, and the foie gras was unusual and sweet, and also “good.” On the charcuterie platter the cured duck breast, duck rillette, and (rabbit?) liver pate were exceptionally good, while the rabbit ballotine and pig’s head terrine were surprisingly mild and uninteresting to me.” Next we paused with a side of gnocchi and hen of the woods. The gnocchi was fantastic and the rest of the table loved the hen of the woods mushrooms, but I thought they were too salty, although I have never had this crispy style before.

For the mains, two of us ordered the cod with muscles, which along with the gnocchi was the highlight and quite interesting and delicious. The other two mains included a hanger steak tough as noted, with an accompaniment of Autumn Vegetable Contadina that tasted for all the world exactly like the home-fries hash I get at my local diner from breakfast. I am not saying this to be mean, I am saying in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. (I love the home fries with an omelet by the way). I ordered the Colorado Lamb three ways – filet of roasted loin, a small smoked rib, and lamb sausage with a chickpea curry feta and corn. The flavors were fine but boring, and the filet was a little tough and had me looking for sauce, which I found by dipping into my friend’s bagna cauda which accompanied his steak. The rib was excellent and flavorful but was just two small bites. The lamb sausage seemed lost on the plate and went uneaten after a taste.

We ordered three deserts, the Apple Cider Doughnuts, a Pear Spice Cake and the Valrhona Chocolate Cake. The donut had the benefit of being warm but otherwise was wholly unremarkable to us. The chocolate cake also failed to leave an impression and drew comparisons to a Starbucks product, although never having been to Starbucks I hope that is not being too harsh. The Pear Spice Cake was the only “bad” thing we ate all weekend and was unpalatably dry. Each of us had one bite out of curiosity and the rest was left untouched.

Chef Canora was not in the kitchen, if that would have made a difference.

Maialino

After Hearth, we almost changed our plans for Maialino and went to Public for brunch, as I had also read mixed reviews for Maialino. Well, I happy to say Maialino was a great success, and the one our friends most want to return to.

Service was excellent as expected. We started with the pastry basket and added a couple of toffee brioche buns on to that. All were very close to excellence, maybe they achieved it. Hard to compare to Balthazar’s as they were very different – Maialino’s tended to the sweet, but I thought they were a step up in execution. I enjoyed the chocolate croissant as much as any I’ve had in France, although it is less buttery and more crispy, which I think is a benefit in a filled croissant. The rest of the table swooned over the toffee brioche, but those were too in-your-face sweet for me. The Tomato Risotto Croquettes & Mozzarella were good for fried mozzarella, probably as good as you can get for such a thing.

I think we were all thinking that it would be better to order off the “lunch” side of the menu this time, and we order the Porchetta, the Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe, Garganelli with Braised Oxtail, and the Malfatti with Braised Suckling Pig & Arugula. All three pasta dishes were truly excellent, we all enjoyed them immensely. Did I mention our friends are Italian? They enjoyed these pastas more than Babbo I guess because they are more akin to what they are used to, and it is hard to disagree. I thought the Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe was too rich (but delicious nonetheless), but they disagreed. This was fine because they filled up on that and left more of the Garganelli with Braised Oxtail for me. My favorite (maybe?) was the Malfatti with Braised Suckling Pig & Arugula. The flavor was so intense and the pasta so delicious that I would have just as well done without the actual chunks of pork. Oh by the way the Porchetta was a sandwich, so there’s that.

Deserts were the Panna Cotta with Berries and the Olive Oil Cake. The cake was very good, it could almost have joined the pastry basket but I mean that in a good way – it was not too sweet. The mascarpone cream accompanying it though put it over the top, absolutely delicious. The panna cotta I think was my favorite dessert of the weekend. I hope the recipe is the same one in the Union Square Café cookbook because I would love to be able to recreate that somehow, although the perfectly balanced fresh berry sauce had a lot to do with the success of the dish.

Well, we had a great weekend and were enjoyably stuffed!

These are the antipasti at Babbo.

Pig Foot “Milanese”
Grilled Octopus
Salumi
Lamb’s Tongue Vinaigrette with Mushrooms and Egg

Oct 07, 2013
walker42 in Manhattan
1

One day in Paris to impress my teens (lunch or dinner)

Thanks for the recs, I will check those out!

May 23, 2013
walker42 in France

One day in Paris to impress my teens (lunch or dinner)

Hi, we're spending three weeks in late July visiting Belgium, France and Germany, with just one day set aside for Paris (July 23). My boys, already foodies, are 13 and 15.

I was thinking along the lines of pastries/breads for breakfast, the main meal at lunch, and a creperie for a late meal. If there is some reason to have the main meal at dinner, that is fine too. We'll be walking all day in the usual tourist spots, so something central to that would be preferred, but not required. Limit for the Lunch is €300 all included with wine (obviously wine for only 2) but I will be more than happy to spend much less as long as the Parisian experience, even if not the food, is equal.

We'll be eating at many "intimate" restaurants during the three weeks, so I think something like Le Train Bleu is the kind of thing I'm looking for even though the food and service may not be on par with other choices, it seems it will be a memorable meal. I was also planning on a lunch later during the trip in Nancy at L'Excelsior, so maybe we don't need another Brasserie?

Any ideas are welcome, and since I'm overwhelmed by the choices in Paris, if I don't get any alternatives, I'm sure we'll be happy at Le Train Bleu.

Thanks!

May 22, 2013
walker42 in France

Trip report - a week eating (mostly) in the West Village

Interlude:

We happened to walk by Little Owl several times during our stay and no matter the time of day, there was always someone taking a picture of the place from accross the street. Huh?

One day we saw the scene below with this huge crowd taking pictures and it clicked that this restaurant must have been in Sex in the City. I thought that it was kind of funny, or something. I'm not sure. I got it in Boston seeing all the people arriving by tour bus to Cheers because I recognized the iconic (for folks my age) sign and stairway. Was Little Owl featured that prominently in Sex in the City? Weird seeing everybody getting all excited over a little corner restaurant. Wouldn't it be nice if they were excited about the good food instead?

Jul 19, 2012
walker42 in Manhattan