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Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

We ended up going with Sons & Daughters and had a very nice, though not mind-blowing, experience. You can check out my trip report here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9828.... Enjoy!

Trip Report: Four Days in San Francisco

Hi again,

Thank you all for you planning help! Our eating tour of SF was largely successful. Here is the report:

Monday night:

We took the BART from the airport (not a problem) and then walked over to Aquitaine. Lovely atmosphere-- cozy, calm without being quiet. The waitstaff was very friendly and the wine selection (unsurprisingly for a wine bistro) was ample.

My husband started off with deviled eggs, which he proclaimed to be very good, and had the cassoulet for his main course. It had a nice duck confit leg in there and was generally a solid dish.

I started off with a salad special-- beets with butter lettuce, stone fruit, and a walnut vinaigrette. Mainly it was wet. The vinaigrette was mostly tasteless but very plentiful, so the salad components were swimming in a pool of liquid. For my entree I was torn between the chicken fricassee (a special, I think) and the mussels, and I went with the mussels. That was a mistake. They were overcooked and stringy, with two measly, hard pieces of garlic toast thrown in. Our waiter was very nice about bringing more bread for it, though.

Overall verdict: I think I ordered badly but would go back and try something different.

Tuesday:

As predicted, we skipped breakfast and were ravenous by lunch. My husband really wanted to go to a pub to watch the World Cup game that was on that day, and he found a couple of places where we could eat and watch (so much for my research). Unfortunately, they were packed. I pointed to the nearest restaurant that looked like we could sit down (Puccini & Pinetti) and we went there. It worked out because they had TVs on, so we were able to eat and watch after all.

They brought us our drinks and warm strips of focaccia with a tomato-based (I think) dipping mix-- absolute heaven when you are as hungry as we were. We ordered the marinated olives-- nice selection, with a LOT of fennel seeds thrown in the mix. Avoid those if you dislike fennel. We then both had prosciutto panini, made with fresh mozzarella and black pepper aioli and served on focaccia. Those were great. The surprise highlight were my husband's french fries. They were, by far, the most McDonald's-esque fries I have ever come across outside of McDonald's itself. Perfectly salty, thin without being crispy, just awesome (unlike the rest of McDonald's). I definitely regretted my salad.

We both liked Puccini & Pinetti. It was a fortuitous find. I was sorry we weren't there during their happy hour, since it looked like they had great specials. All told, with our food and a few drinks it was an $80 lunch.

Tuesday evening we met our friends at Mau on Valencia Street. The scent of Thai basil hit us as we walked into the restaurant. For appetizers, our friends had the five-spice quail (terrific) and the spring rolls. The spring rolls were very large, thicker than average. I think our friend intended to order a different roll dish, so she wasn't thrilled with what she got, though I'm not sure it was the fault of the dish itself. I got the vegetarian papaya salad, which was plentiful, well-balanced, and just the right amount of spicy.

Speaking of spicy, my husband ordered a drink that I believe combined cucumber, jalapeño, lemonade, Prosecco, and maybe tequila. It was definitely interesting-- refreshing but spicy at the same time.

For our main courses, one friend and I got pho bo, my husband got grilled lemongrass pork with vermicelli noodles, and the other friend got the pork chop. Successful dishes all around. The beef in the pho was cut very thinly and trimmed quite well, so we were not wrestling with large strips of gristle. I thought the broth was great as well, though I'm not a pho expert by any means.

Altogether, we really liked Mau. The restaurant felt bright and airy, the waiters were friendly, and it was buzzing without being outright loud. Plus, it was a bargain. We would definitely go back.

Wednesday:

We decided to go to Chinatown for dim sum. After all that back and forth on Chowhound, we opted for Great Eastern over Yank Sing. I had resolved to go to Yank Sing if we went on Tuesday, since it would be right near our first hotel, but since we had moved farther away and had a non-bargain meal the day before at P&P, we went for the less expensive option.

We didn't make a reservation, so we had to wait about 15 minutes. Literally as soon as we sat down one of the ladies brought over pork buns. I'm not sure if someone ordered them and decided not to take them after all or what, but we were hungry and they were there, so we took them. They weren't incredibly hot (not surprising), but they did the trick. Tea came quickly thereafter.

We then over-ordered: shrimp dumplings, steamed chicken buns, steamed dumplings with taro and dried pork, rice noodles stuffed with beef, deep fried seaweed with fish, and string beans with XO sauce. Of those, the taro and dried pork dumplings were my favorite-- the skins were a nice consistency and the filling was a well-balanced mix of sweet and savory. My husband particularly liked the rice noodles with beef, which I found unappetizingly gluey.

We probably would order some different things next time, but we were happy with the experience. I'm sure we would have been happy with Yank Sing as well, though since we're not dim sum experts by any means, I think it's just as well that we didn't break the bank there.

Wednesday evening we went to Sons & Daughters. The restaurant itself was lovely, with dim lighting and soothing blue tones. It's a small restaurant, so I could see that a large table of loud diners nearby could be annoying, but we had no problems this go-round. The menus were printed with our names (or mine, since I made the reservation) and the date-- a nice touch. I'm guessing that if you're celebrating something they write "Happy birthday" or whatever on there, which I always like. We ordered the wine pairings to go with the tasting menu.

They started us off with a complimentary glass of blanc de blanc and a "chip"- some unidentifiable vegetable made into a chip and topped with two different toppings. Mine had a lime cream and a pickled vegetable on top and my husband's had creme fraiche and trout roe. I thought this was interesting-- I had requested beforehand not to have salmon during the meal, and I think they extrapolated from that that I didn't want any seafood. I didn't necessarily miss the trout roe, but found their interpretation of my no-salmon request intriguing.

Next we had a chilled soup made with nasturtium, assorted garden herbs, and whey. I liked this more than I expected to when I envisioned a chilled whey soup. The medley of flavors and textures worked beautifully and the wine pairing (a Loureiro) was spot on.

From there we had roasted beets with a bit of yogurt with Indian spices in it, paired with a Riesling. This was another very successful dish.

After that I had a fried squash blossom with avocado and zucchini, paired with a Semillon, while my husband had a salmon dish paired with Albarino. The blossom tasted a bit of oil, making me think the frying oil could have been a touch hotter so that the blossom absorbed less of it.

One nice touch here: The sommelier initially poured me the Albarino as well and started to tell me it would go nicely with my salmon. When I mentioned I wasn't having salmon, she poured the Semillon and let me keep the extra glass of wine. It's not like I expected her to snatch away the wine she had just poured by mistake, but she handled it especially gracefully. I'm glad she gave me the Semillon, since it was a much better match with the squash blossom.

Somewhere around here we were served warm slices of cornbread and freshly churned butter. Fantastic all around.

For the next course, we had braised fennel with chanterelles and cauliflower paired with Pinot Noir. I remember liking this one as well, though it wasn't a standout dish.

Around this point we were served warm brioche, another lovely bread.

The meat course was veal, including some sweetbreads, with apricots and leeks. Am I the only one who thinks that fried sweetbreads taste like Chinese takeout sweet and sour chicken (but in a good way)? The pairing here was Cabernet Franc.

The first dessert was a plum dish with yogurt and lemon. This was excellent-- really light and summery and a nice palate cleanser. No wine pairing.

The final dish was a blueberry polenta tart with lime basil, paired with demi-sec Champagne. This was also excellent. I thought it was interesting that they did two fruit desserts and didn't even broach chocolate.

The final food served was a tiny sesame seed muffin, just as a thank you nibble. This would have been a good opportunity to throw in a chocolate bite if they were so inclined.

They add an automatic 15% tip, which struck us as low, so we upped it. All told, we walked out for about $450. The whole experience was lovely, just the kind of special-ish, polished, well-executed tasting menu experience we had hoped for. I didn't walk away thinking it was an extraordinarily good value, though. For example, I was a little surprised that my salmon wasn't replaced by some other sort of animal protein. My only meat was a tiny nibble of veal. I personally am put off when restaurants charge the same for the vegetarian tasting as the non-veg one (Per Se, I'm looking at you), and it appears that that is S&D's MO as well. I did think the wine pairings were sufficiently generous. I'm sorry we weren't celebrating a particular occasion. They did ask when they called to confirm the reservation and I would have been interested to see what extras they throw in for that.

Verdict: I enjoyed it at the time and don't regret it now, but I do suspect (as some here said) that there are better values out there.

Thursday:

For lunch we headed to the Mission for tacos at La Taqueria. What a fun place! It was such a wonderful mix of people, from college students with their parents to neighborhood residents. A strolling singer came in for a while and everyone seemed happy and cheerful and in taco heaven. We went for chips and salsa and chicken tacos and loved every bite. The fresh tortillas just make it. Definite thumbs up!

Thursday night we went to Perbacco. We were running a couple of minutes late and they were very gracious, both when I called to let them know we would be late, and when we got there. The whole restaurant struck me as graceful, with a very well-trained waitstaff. The wine list is huge, with a very large Barolo section and a few bargain bottles thrown in the mix.

I started with the minestrone. I think they forgot to add pasta to my portion; there wasn't any, not like I really missed it. My husband had... something. Let's say it was a salad and he liked it. We both stuck with pastas, as advised here. He had the tajarin, which was described as tagliatelle but was so finely cut that it looked like ramen. It had a pork and porcini mushroom sauce. I think he was thrown off that the pasta was narrower than expected and initially said he wished he had ordered something else, but ended up being happy with it.

I had the pappardelle with a lamb and artichoke sauce with lemon zest. Man, was that lemony! Too lemony. It didn't kill the dish, but it didn't end up being my favorite.

They brought some complimentary sweets at the end, just a bite of something chocolate and some torrone. It was a nice touch and it reinforced my vision of Perbacco as a gracious place.

Verdict: I think we would both go back. I would still be curious to try Barbacco on another trip.

On a general note, the comments on these boards seem to indicate that SF isn't known for its service-- that waitstaffs tend to be laid back at best, and that service might be a weak point in the SF dining experience. From our trip, I would say that is not so-- not once throughout the trip did we have a disappointing service experience, and as you can see from my comments, most often we were impressed by some quality or another of the service. So well done, SF.

And there you have it! Thank you for all the help, SF Chowhounders!

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Can anyone who has been to both weigh in on Sons & Daughters vs. AQ? I know AQ has both the four-course option and the tasting menu, and S&D has just the tasting menu. I'm assuming we would go for the tasting menu at AQ, but I'm happy to hear your thoughts on that vs. the four-course menu.

I'm specifically interested in a comparison of their:

- Food execution, ingredient quality, overall enjoyability (subjective, I know)

- Service/hospitality

- Atmosphere

- Wine pairings (we will almost certainly opt for these)

- Anything else that would be the deciding factor for you.

Since their price points are very close (AQ: $92 + $58 for wine; S&D: $98 + $68 for wine) and they both have their fans and detractors on the boards, I would love your thoughts on a head-to-head comparison.

Thanks again!

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

bbulkow, would you not consider Sons & Daughters to be Californian? Our goal was to make our high-end dinner Californian cuisine and to spend other meals eating things we can't get where we are living now, hence all the ethnic options. But please educate me if S&D isn't a good example of what you mean by a Californian restaurant.

And thank you for the other suggestions. I think we will keep Italian for one of our dinners because it is a favorite of ours and we can't get the kind of high quality Italian food that SF has where we live. But we will keep the other places you suggest in mind for a lunch or Monday's dinner. We won't be in town over the weekend, so we wont' get a chance to test out the various brunch options that have been suggested.

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Getting to BART just takes a ride on the AirTrain, no? We have a lot of practice on JFK's AirTrain to connect to the subway, so we are undaunted by that (or at least I am). More money to devote to food and beverage! :) (But if it's a really rough day, we'll take a cab.)

Robert, a one-two punch of Aquitaine and Rickhouse sounds fantastic. You may have just solved Monday for me. Would we need a reservation at Aquitaine on a Monday evening?

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Monday we will be spending several hours at JFK before flying to SFO (long story), where we will land around 6. We're planning to take BART from the airport, so by the time we get to the Hyatt it will be late (our time) and we will be travel-weary. Barbacco might be the right thing for those circumstances-- comforting and good is probably more important than transcendent for that night.

We have a very high tolerance for Italian food, so it's not out of the realm of possibility for us to eat at Barbacco Monday and then Perbacco Thursday. I know they are sister restaurants and that would take away a chance to experience something else that SF has to offer, but you never know what you're going to feel like after a transcontinental flight.

That said, the goal for Monday is to go somewhere not too fancy (would be wasted on us at that point), not too expensive (entrees under $25), convenient to the Hyatt (walkable-- within a mile or so-- is preferable), and at least "quite good." That might be all we're up to. Then again, my husband is a night owl and may just be hitting his stride by the time we're done with dinner, so he could be looking for post-dinner drink options.

Dive, was there a particular restaurant across the Embarcadero that you would suggest?

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

We will be there during the time that La Ciccia is closed, so that takes the option off the table. Cotogna's available reservations aren't terribly convenient, though something earlier than 10 might pop up. It sounds like Perbacco is a solid choice and I have a table booked there for now for Thursday's dinner. Oh, how I've missed living in a place with food worth arguing about! ;)

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Robert, your review was one of the reasons why I had originally picked YS. :)

Did you find the cart people to be as pushy as other people did? My husband is really off-put by pushy salesmen (used car lots and NYC's diamond district are pretty much his nightmare), hence the thought that a menu-only place might be good. But Yank Sing's XLB do sound awesome.

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Thanks for the tip on Sapphire Asian, soupçon! That might be a good option for lunch before we check out and switch hotels.

And good to know that Great Eastern is menu-only, c oliver. My husband may prefer that.

sugartoof, TBD looks like it could be great if you like that day's menu, but there's not much option if you don't. I'll keep that in mind; thanks.

Offalo, Pad Thai is going to be a deal breaker for hubby. :)

So now we have:

- Monday: Sens (lazy option) or something else (need to do more research on suggestions you guys have given)

- Tuesday: Mau

- Wednesday: S&D (more feedback from those who have gone would be great)

- Thursday: Perbacco (for now)

-Lunches: La Taqueria, Lers Ros, Yank Sing (convenience) or Great Eastern (menu only), Saigon Sandwich, Sapphire Asian Cuisine.

I need to look up the places near the Hyatt you recommended for Monday dinner and generally do my research on Turkish/Persian/Middle Eastern/etc. so I can ask you fine folks informed questions.

Thank you for the help!

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Thanks, everyone!

- You've got me pretty convinced that I should replace Barbacco. I had written off Perbacco as too high-end, but having taken another look at the menu, it's actually pretty reasonable. Cotogna also looks good. Actually, I just checked Open Table and there's nothing available there before 10pm that night, though that might not be a deal-killer. NYC trained us well. :) I was considering A16, though it sounds like reviews are mixed on that and it's really loud. I also keep going back to La Ciccia, though I think it will end up being more seafood-focused that we are looking for. So... still unsure on Italian.

- I'm pretty comfortable scrapping both Burmese and Poc Chuc.

- Zare at Fly Trap looks great, though the mains are a bit above my range. Aziza is in the same boat. I need to do more research on Middle Eastern/Turkish/Greek before pestering you with other options.

- Saigon Sandwich was on my list until our friends suggested Vietnamese at Mau. Not sure if we'll want to go Vietnamese twice-- though then again, Banh Mi is a whole different animal, so no reason to cross that off the lunch list.

- As for Thai, I'll admit we're going to be less discriminating here than with Italian places. The one crucial criterion is that the place have Pad Thai, since that is my husband's absolute favorite. Kin Khao's website said the menu selections there were just a small sampling of what's available. Can I count on Pad Thai there? I had read some good things on these boards about Thai House Express/House of Thai as well. Thoughts?

- Lastly, dim sum. I think I starred Yank Sing because they have a location near the Westin. I had also written down City View, Koi Palace, and Great Eastern, based on the boards. We are by no means dim sum experts (probably goes for all Asian cuisines-- we like them all but aren't experts on any), but it sounds like convenience may have gotten the best of me. Should I keep any of the others on my list?

Thank you again!

Four Days in San Francisco-- Please Critique (apologies for the long intro)

Hi, everyone,

My husband and I are taking a four-day trip to San Francisco in a couple of weeks and I would love your thoughts on our food choices. A little bit of background: We are former New Yorkers currently living in Ohio, so we both (1) have experience with a top-notch food scene and (2) desperately miss that food scene. We are staying on points, so the first night we are at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and the rest of the time we are at the Westin Market Street (which I know is on Third Street). We won't have a car but are very comfortable with public transportation and can take cabs to fill in the gaps (so bonus points for places reachable by public transportation).

The goal for the trip is to eat well but not overly expensively, probably one higher-end, California cuisine, tasting menu dinner and entrees under $25 for the rest. Italian is our go-to, but we like everything. We'd particularly like to eat things that SF does better than (or at least as well as) NY, and things that we can't get where we currently live (which includes most ethnic foods). Good service and hospitality are more important than a "scene" to us, but food trumps all. For reference, in NYC our favorites were Gramercy Tavern (mine) and Babbo (his), we were not blown away by Per Se (way more expensive and overall less enjoyable than our favorites), and we never got excited enough about seafood to make it to Le Bernardin.

My husband likes to dine out as much as I do but has zero interest in planning where we're going to eat (or talking about my plans), so I'm trying to build in a lot of flexibility by having multiple options for lunches and going wherever we happen to feel like on a particular day. We're not really breakfast people, so I think we'll just grab whatever is convenient for that.

With that said, here are my current thoughts. Advice and comments greatly appreciated.

-Monday dinner:

We arrive in the evening and are coming from eastern time, so we might want to stick close to home base. Currently thinking small plates at Sens (same building as our hotel) or Barbacco if we feel up to it. Other ideas?

-Tuesday dinner with local friends:

Mau (their suggestion, so this one is pretty firm)

-Wednesday tasting menu dinner:

Sons & Daughters-- I read a lot of the threads on tasting menus and looked at a lot of menus, trying to find the best cost/value ratio. We will definitely have the wine pairings, so that factors into it. And we're not celebrating a milestone event, so I nixed some of the places at the highest end of the range. I picked S&D over Atelier Crenn (too experimental to count on loving), La Folie (too straight-up French), AQ (not as "special" feeling as S&D(??)), Saison (too expensive) and Quince (more expensive than S&D). Since we wanted California cuisine I didn't even get into the Cal-Ital places. Did I make the right call on S&D?

-Thursday dinner:

Barbacco, unless we end up there Monday. Maybe one of the lunch places as a back-up plan, though a Middle Eastern, Turkish, or Greek place would also be good.

Lunch options:

- Dim sum (on my list of must-dos): Yank Sing

- Mexican: La Taqueria

- Burmese: Burmese Kitchen (closer than Mandalay or Burma SS)

- Thai: Lers Ros Thai

- Yucatan: Poc Chuc

Thanks for the help!

Labor Day weekend in Louisville-- please critique

Thanks very much! I think it's going to look like this:

Friday dinner: Reservation at Harvest or walk into Doc Crow's/Milkwood/Hammerheads

Saturday:

Lunch: Still open; walk into Lily's/Havana Rumba/Hillbilly Tea

Dinner: 610 Magnolia

Sunday:

Lunch: Likely on a distillery tour

Dinner: Garage Bar or Milkwood

Monday:

Lunch: Mayan Cafe

I appreciate the help!

Labor Day weekend in Louisville-- please critique

Hi! My husband and I are making our first trip to Louisville over Labor Day weekend. We will be driving in from Columbus, OH on Friday night and leaving Monday afternoon. We will have a car but would probably just as soon take the trolley or cabs so we can enjoy some adult beverages worry-free. We are staying at the Galt House.

A little about us: We recently moved from NYC to a small town outside of Columbus. Of everything we miss about New York, we miss the restaurants the most. We've been lucky enough to go to a bunch of the fancy/expensive NYC places (Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, Babbo, etc.), so we have pretty high expectations when it comes to restaurants where you rack up a big tab. Good service is very important to us, as is feeling like we got good value for the price-- we're happy to spend a lot when it's worth it, but we're not likely to believe that it was worth it just because we spent a lot. We're in our 30s and we like places that aren't museum-quiet, but where you don't have to scream, either.

We like all different cuisines and try to eat whatever is best wherever we are. If everything were equally great, we would tend toward Italian and contemporary American, but otherwise we would go for the local stand-outs.

The goal is to have one dinner that's more high-end and the others more moderate (I still think in NYC prices, so "moderate" could still include entrees in the $20 range, though certainly doesn't have to). We would be open to the idea of a fancy lunch and a more casual dinner, but we're probably more likely to keep lunch casual.

We would like to drive out to some distilleries (likely Maker's Mark-- my husband's favorite, though I know their production will be down for the season-- and Jim Beam, but I'm definitely open to suggestions) on one of the days. It's looking like Sunday right now because from what I can tell, the distilleries are open but a lot of the local favorite restaurants are closed. Monday we would probably check out of the hotel, eat lunch, and drive home.

With that, here are my initial thoughts. I would love your feedback/edits/additions!

Friday: Since we will be driving, I'm inclined to have a reservation in hand but be prepared to cancel if we get stuck in traffic, so I would need somewhere we can walk in. Probably not the right night for our high-end dinner.

Current thoughts:

Reservation at Harvest; potentially walk into Doc Crow's (Can you walk in on a Friday night? If not, where would you plan to walk into?)

Saturday: We'll probably just tour around the city-- no major plans. Probably a more casual lunch and the nice dinner

Lunch: Lily's, Havana Rumba, or Hillbilly Tea

Dinner: 610 Magnolia (I was able to book a table), Harvest, Doc Crow's (if we decide we don't feel like high-end), or Jack Fry's

Is 610 Magnolia worth it? Would you do that over Jack Fry's?

Sunday: Likely a distillery tour, so probably a more casual dinner

Lunch (if we're not on a tour): Havana Rumba, Proof on Main, or Hillbilly Tea

Dinner: Havana Rumba or Proof on Main (What other favorites are open?)

Monday: Tricky; I haven't found much that's open on holiday Mondays

Lunch: Mayan Cafe (less desirable if we've already been to Havana Rumba)

I'm sure we'll be hitting up the bar scene before and/or after dinner, so if there are any great happy hours-- or just great bars-- we shouldn't miss, I'd love to hear about them.

Thanks so much, Louisville experts! Everything I've read tells me Louisville is a hidden food gem, and I'm excited to experience it!

Help with an Anniversary Dinner

Unfortunately not, since August only does lunch Monday through Friday. But thank you for the reassurance about Commander's!

Sep 21, 2011
Cuisinescene in New Orleans

Help with an Anniversary Dinner

Hi, CHers,

My husband and I are headed to NOLA this weekend for our one-year anniversary. Right now we have dinner reservations at both Commander's and August. Commander's was the first place that occurred to me, since I had a birthday dinner at Commander's several years ago and remember that it was superb, both the food and service. I have been reading through the posts and see that some people feel that it has gone downhill in the past years, but that August is a favorite these days.

My husband and I are New Yorkers and appreciate excellent restaurants. To give you an idea, Gramercy Tavern is a favorite, as much for the service as for the food. In other words, we are looking less for trendy/minimalist and more for classic/elegant.

The question now is are we going to be disappointed if we go to Commander's? They certainly pulled out all the stops for my birthday dinner (albeit a long time ago)- would they do the same for an anniversary? Honestly, for this occasion, we might we willing to trade a little bit in the food category for a superior atmosphere and experience.

Should we stick with Commander's or go to August? I would appreciate all your thoughts!

Sep 21, 2011
Cuisinescene in New Orleans

Rehearsal Dinner Near Rye Brook-- Italian Restaurant Needed

We went during the Nor'easter weekend to look at restaurants, so a number of places were closed. Marianacci's didn't have power, but we got the catering menu. We ended up eating at Il Sogno, which my future father-in-law was quite taken with. Has anyone done a large party there?

I also got a recommendation for Alba's in Port Chester. Does anyone have group dining experiences there?

Thanks!

Rehearsal Dinner Near Rye Brook-- Italian Restaurant Needed

Thanks; I had heard of that place but didn't know they were closed for renovations. That's good to know-- we were thinking of checking it out this weekend! I guess that won't work. :) We'll keep it on the list, though.

Rehearsal Dinner Near Rye Brook-- Italian Restaurant Needed

Hi, CHers!

I am getting married in September and am in search of a moderately priced Italian restaurant near Rye Brook for a rehearsal dinner for 20-30 people. I assume with that many people, everywhere would be offering a fixed menu, so I'm not entirely sure what "moderately" priced would be. Perhaps around $40pp, not including drinks and tip? We can certainly go under that, but I'm not sure how high my in-laws would want to go.

As close to the Hilton in Rye Brook as possible would be great. Thanks in advance, everyone!

NYC Attorney Returning to Cambridge for Recruiting Dinner

Well, I got a reservation at Craigie Street after all, but then the partner hijacked my table so that he could woo a candidate in a smaller group. Now I'm supposed to take out another candidate somewhere else.

The good news is that this means I can venture into Boston. It's going to be me, the law student, and our recruiting coordinator (a young-in-spirit 40s woman). I think I've narrowed my choices down to Mistral or Clio.

Any thoughts? I think Clio may have the food edge, but I'm afraid the atmosphere will be too formal. Or is there somewhere else I should definitely go? (I've been to No. 9 already and am looking to branch out.)

Thanks again!

NYC Attorney Returning to Cambridge for Recruiting Dinner

Hi!

I'm a Harvard Law grad now working as an attorney in NYC, and I'm coming up to Cambridge next week for a recruiting dinner (about 5 people, including 2 law students and the recruiting partner). I remember from my HLS days all the typical recruiting restaurants: Sandrine's, Rialto, Upstairs on the Square, Harvest, etc. Craigie Street Bistrot was a favorite of mine (though I hear it moved locations), but I can't get a table for 5 the night I need it.

The partner has asked me to pick the restaurant. Where should I go, CHers? Price is not an object-- it should actually be on the more upscale side. Oleana is out-- the food needs to be a bit more "mainstream" (new American, French, Italian, steak, seafood), much as I would be up for a culinary adventure. Given the mix of attendees, nothing too hip, loud, or where the partner is going to feel out of place and really old.

Any thoughts on Salts or Rendezvous? TW Food? Rendezvous had just opened when I was in Cambridge, and I think I went once, but I'm not sure if it's up to par these days. I haven't been to the other two. EVOO? Other suggestions that I haven't thought of?

It's going to be a Sunday night and we are restricted to CAMBRIDGE. A place that takes reservations is a must. I'm looking for something besides the "usual suspects" that the law students are already bored of (i.e., where all the other firms take them).

Thanks so much for all your help, CHers!

Coconut Extract-- HELP!!

Update:

Thanks for saving my fudge, everyone! I ended up finding coconut flavoring at Westerly after striking out at the Food Emporium and Williams-Sonoma. I did call Kalustyan, and they said they had it, too. I'm looking forward to checking out both Kalustyan and New York Cake and Baking!

May 08, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Coconut Extract-- HELP!!

Hi, CHers!

I am making a Mother's Day brunch for my boyfriend's parents (whom I will be meeting for the first time this weekend, so the pressure is on) and on the menu is my signature coconut fudge. I was all prepared to make it, and then found out that I am out of coconut extract-- an essential ingredient. I tried Associated, Gristedes, the Gourmet Garage, and Fairway; none of them had it. If Food Emporium doesn't carry it, I'm at a loss for where else to look. Does anyone know where to find coconut extract? I think ordering it online is too risky at this point, given the timing. Any Manhattan grocery store, gourmet shop, or baking supplies purveyor suggestions would be very welcome (and even better if they're on the UES).

Thank you so much for your help!

(And my apologies if this is not an appropriate place to post this question. I'll be happy to post elsewhere if you direct me to the right board).

May 07, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Dinner in midtown east.....any ideas??

Cibo is nearby (2nd at 41st) and has a nice prix fixe menu.

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Cibo
767 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Apr 03, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Romantic, dark, semiformal, French restaurant

JoJo is OK. It's not exactly dark and intimate-- at least on the lower floor. I haven't been upstairs, so I can't comment on that.

Mar 27, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Relatively Inexpensive Italian for a Triple Date

Reporting Back!

Thanks for all the great suggestions, CHers! We ended up at Da Andrea, and had a great experience, so I figured I should report back.

First off, the group dropped down from 6 to 4, and we were 20 minutes late for our reservation. I called when I knew we were going to be late, and they were wonderful about giving us a later reservation time and a smaller table-- even more impressive when I saw the line of people waiting out the door and on the sidewalk to get in.

The menu was just what I had been looking for: plenty of options, and amazingly inexpensive. Most of the bottles of wine were under $30, which was a welcome surprise.

I asked our waitress about the Tigelle Modenesi (which I had never encountered in my time in Italy) to find out whether there was any cheese involved in the dish, explaining that I had given up dairy for Lent. Not only did she assure me that the parmigiano that is served with the buns and prosciutto is on the side, but she also told me that all dishes are prepared to order and that any dish I wanted customized to be dairy-free could be done. We were off to an excellent start.

We selected a bottle of dolcetto d'alba, after going back and forth between that and a nero d'avola. At those prices, we figured, we could get the nero d'avola after polishing off the dolcetto, which is what we did. Both were lovely, unfussy wines.

For appetizers, we had an order of the tigelle, the steamed mussles, and a spinach salad with sundried tomato vinaigrette. Everything was just as it should be.

For our mains, two people had the veal and spinach ravioli in cream sauce, which they said were terrific. Another had the pappardelle with sausage ragout, and both she and her boyfriend were picking at it long after they were full. It was too good to leave. I had a braised lamb shank with cannellini beans and mixed vegetables, and it was just as a lamb shank should be: homey, hearty, fall off the bone tender, and with a delicious sauce that I couldn't stop sopping up with the bread left on the table.

We were too full to order dessert, so we stopped there. The desserts sounded just like the rest of the restaurant: unpretentious and just right. I couldn't help but laugh at the translation/description of tiramisu`, though, which was described as "Italian tiramisu`"-- not much help for anyone who doesn't know what tiramisu` is!

I should also mention that the wait staff was extremely friendly and attentive. Our water glasses never went empty, and they never cleared dishes before the whole table was through with any particular course, which I'm pretty sensitive about. The warmth that everyone who works at Da Andrea exudes is really a testament to the fact that this is a family owned and operated place.

All told, with two bottles of wine, tax, and tip, we walked out of there for $180 for the four of us. Even better, we all agreed that we really enjoyed everything we ate and would gladly come back.

So thanks for the recommendation! I'm looking forward to my next trip!

Mar 17, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

French Culinary Institute

I second Lucia. L'Ecole's service was terrible and the food was nothing I'd go back for. They must have been teaching the students about citrus that day, since all six dishes that my friend and I ate had dominant citrus notes. Not that there's anything wrong with citrus, but the meal as a whole was uninventive.

Mar 12, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Which should I ditch?

If you managed to get a reservation at Babbo, don't let that one go. That's like gold. I haven't been to Sushi Yasuda, but I hear it's absolutely ethereal. I think that one's a keeper, too.

Mar 04, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Relatively Inexpensive Italian for a Triple Date

Thanks for the input. I think I'll stick with Da Andrea, and I'll definitely report back!

Mar 03, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Relatively Inexpensive Italian for a Triple Date

Thanks for the suggestions so far, gang! I have a provisional reservation at Da Andrea. I have an Italian last name and the man taking the reservation didn't need me to spell it for him, which I take as a good sign.

How does everyone feel about Da Andrea? Is there a compelling reason against it or in favor of somewhere else?

And to clarify, we'll definitely be drinking wine. We have a couple of grad students in the mix, but we're all years past the legal age. :)

Feb 29, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan

Frustration Booking Babbo!

Everyone has to confirm reservations the day before, so that's when most cancellations happen. But by all means, keep calling and see what happens.

Feb 29, 2008
Cuisinescene in Manhattan