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Five of the Best Italian in NYC (per the Financial Times)

anyone try Fabio Cucina Italiana?

May 14, 2014
shanshan in Manhattan

Best Italian in midtown east or upper east side?

Need to pay back a favor and take a buddy out to some steller food. Thinking italian. Unfortunately, I don't know which of these places in this particular neighborhood is great!

I'm looking for the best FOOD - that's it. Tomato sauce that doesn't have water pooling on the sides - made fresh over hours with a healthy dollop of olive oil!

Thank you

Apr 14, 2014
shanshan in Manhattan

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

It just wasn't the "wow" experience. Service impeccable. A few courses were amazing. A few others less memorable. One round was left unfinished by the table! (not I, as I was one of those paying!)

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

TFL review for another time, when it will be less controversial!

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

We ended up doing 3 wineries + FL. This was too much! 2 wineries + FL was the right amount. Basically, we did one winery... found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands (plans changed), and so did an impromptu winery... and then ended on sparkling.

The issue is less the tasting themselves, but the extra pours when folks realized we are buying. So you do the tasting, and suddenly the special bottles come out of the wine library.. and you can't spit it out! Slowly, but surely, you start to realize you've had a lot to drink over a long period of time (or rather, continuous imbibing over a period of time) and there is no solution for this!

I would definitely recommend ending on sparkling as well.

Despite everything I just said.. 3 wineries was doable for us. I drank A LOT of water and by the time of our seating I was in good shape. Not the tippy top shape, but reasonable.

My recommendation is 2 wineries.. end on sparkling.. drink lots of water...we should have done a 2PM Schrambsburg tour vs. 3PM Domaine Carneros tour/tasting as well.. would have been more interesting and would have given us more time before FL

Which napa winery? Have to pick one!

Thank you for the tips.

I'm leaning towards Chimney Rock for their vineyard luncheon. I like the Round Pond option as well, but not sure if I will like the wines as much. Kenzo veto'd by another member of our group. Vine Creek and Hess are options, but lack the "package" we are looking for. Frog's Leap does not have any picnic tables (no permit), although I really like the idea of doing a tasting while walking through vineyards.

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

I shall

Which napa winery? Have to pick one!

We will be going to Napa for basically two full days. Day 2 is chock-full of smaller wineries such as Pina Cellars, Paraduxx, etc. Day one we only have room for 1 winery. We are trying to decide which winery to go to for day 1, on Labor Day weekend.

This is our first time to Napa and will be our only time for many years. We are trying to find the best "experience" for this winery; e.g. a tour, tasting as well as potentially a very light vineyard picnic (ideally). The timing would also have to call for a 11am-1PM tour start, as we hope to do a sparkling tasting later in the day, before 6PM dinner reservations.

I think we are down to deciding between Kenzo Estate, Vine Creek, Hess, Chimney Rock or Frog's Leap. For Frog's Leap we wouldn't be able to have a light picnic (they do not have a permit), and Chimney Rock is unclear at this time.

We enjoy good wines, but are more novices than experts. I like the idea of going to a Chimney Rock or Frog's Leap, where we will see the wines on wine lists down the road (e.g., back East). I like the idea of the Kenzo experience as well. I also like the service/relaxation of Vine Creek as well.

Ideally we would taste both reds and whites... medium/full reds and more agnostic on the whites.

Any suggestions between these four wineries? Or is there another winery we should have considered? Our friends have managed to get invitations to St. Helena winery -- is this a tasting not to be missed, even if it screws up our sparkling wine tour/tasting? We could visit a place like Honig which has its own picnic tables and bring our own food... or visit a winery like Round Pond which I am unfamiliar with and has a a modest food pairing.

thank you

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

What I am thinking of doing now is either Vine Creek or Kenzo Estate tour/tasting with light picnic, drive back to hotel, and then bike to a 1PM or 3PM tasting/tour at Domaine Carneros, back to hotel. Light break, and then French Laundry, where we will start the meal with another glass of brut...

We have another couple who invited us to a tasting at St. Helena, but we won't be able to do that as well with this itinerary. That tasting would be at 2PM, which would make it tough to end with a champagne tour/tasting. But its another potion to the itinerary..

Thank you everyone for your tips and advice

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

Understood. Thank you.

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

What if we just stopped by Redd for a carrot soup and a half order of meatballs (for one person)? or a single shrimp salad? and did so at 11:45AM. I imagine that would be enough time before TFL (6 hours) and not that much food?

Thank you for the advice. All very helpful. Original couple we were traveling with made a reservation at Farmstead.. I nixed it...

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

wow, thank you everyone for such great advice. Very very helpful.

So now for TLFD ("the french laundry day") I will plan on reds tasting to start, maybe sneak in a 2nd reds tasting accompanied by light picnic, and end with a sparkling. I was looking forward to Luncheon at Chimney Rock, but they say its a full lunch and they themselves recommend against it for TFLD.

Schramsburg already booked out unfortunately for all 3 days for the tour! (Labor day weekend). Makes me sad! But a high class problem :)

Preparing for French Laundry! Napa Winery advice!

Hello all! We were lucky enough to be invited by friends for the French Laundry on a Friday 6PM reservation. We plan to fly into Napa Thursday (arriving into Napa ~4PM), and then leave Monday morning.

My question is: how many wineries is too much for the day of French Laundry? We haven't been to napa before and haven't done a wine tour like this... ever. Additionally -- how much lunch is too much for the main event?

Would hitting a champagne house followed by 3 wineries be too much ahead of French Laundry? How about champagne house at 10:30AM, a 12PM lunch at a winery, and then 2 more wineries? Or how about champagne house at 11AM, 12PM lunch at Redd, and then 2 more wineries, finishing off at Mumm, before going to French Laundry?

Or maybe you do 12PM lunch, 2 wineries, mumm for champagne, and then head to hotel or French Laundry?

Will our taste buds and minds be too seared by that point?

We have limited time~! But don't want to screw up French Laundry by being asleep at the switch!

Thank you in advance for any advice!

authentic mexican in Orange County - but not too divey!

Thank you. We are totally cool with not having fancy linen napkins etc. Just trying to avoid the $2 taco tuesday draw or garden plastic chairs in the dining room. Want it to be great food, but not "divey". Wine glasses not required by any means at all.

Casa Oaxaca would have been great giving the location, but lack of vegarian options is an issue. Seasfood is not an option for the vegetarians as well.

Realizign there may not be that "perfect" place -- what do you think the best option is in Santa Ana? I'm thinking Casa Oaxaca may be it. Having the wife call and her family can cope with the vegarian options there.

Mar 29, 2012
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

authentic mexican in Orange County - but not too divey!

Thank you for that link. I spent a good deal of time yesterday reading it! My quesiton is, of the restaurants mentioned which are the fanciest? a lot of yelp reviews of those restaurants suggest they are more casual/fast foody, vs. "nice" sit down. Doesn't have to be fancy, but has to be comfortable enough to not feel like a fast food/divey. Taco Tuesday shouldn't be the best selling point!

Mar 29, 2012
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

authentic mexican in Orange County - but not too divey!

Thank you for all of the responses! I will pass on Avilas and Taco Rosa. I don't find either of them particularly good to be honest (I went to Taco Rosa once on recommendation and found the food to be honestly very bland.. my wife who is not a foodie found it to be the same and was upset that i dragged her "all the way there".. which isn't that far).. and it I imagine the food isn't so authentic vs. what someone could easily find on the East Coast (where the in-laws are traveling from).

Mar 29, 2012
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

authentic mexican in Orange County - but not too divey!

Hi Folks.. a different spin on the "authentic mexican" question. I work in Newport beach. Father-in-law is in town and asking me to take him to authentic mexican place tomorrow evening with some other family folks. To define authentic for us.. .really a low bar.. we are asian... never been to mexico.. although like spicey food and know that most tex-mex is americanized up the wazoo. So no preference for regions or knowledge of regions.. but enjjoy great sales.. moles.. the wife's side of the family is vegetarian.. my side is not.

We will be based in Newport Beach.. and can drive to say Santa Ana or to Tustin or Laguna... but probably any further is problematic. On flip side, I'm not gong to Sol Cucina or Javiers!

Based on searches in this board there are many options in Santa Ana. However, it seems many of these options are cheap options vs. good sit-down options for a family with 2-3 kids. I'm not saying cheap = bad.. but I think will need a modicum of ambience for this crowd. [i however am salivating at some of these options mentioned for Santa Ana!!!]

Thank you for any suggestions.

Mar 28, 2012
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

Quick Rio Review

Thank you for such a comprehensive reply! I wish I read your suggestions before going to Rio. If the restaurants in Leblon/Ipanema are Times Square, indeed there are many terrible reviews out there (Sushi Leblon, Zuka, Cafe Jobi, Quadrucci, and so many other often cited/reviewed restaurants all being in Leblon for example)!

In terms of Zuka, that was the destination restaurant we went to. The general reviews on Zuka are quite positive (e.g. on tripadvisor), although many say "they don't get the hype" (for all online reviews, I like to read the 5-star reviews as much as the 1-star reviews). So I was unsure if place could live up to the hype. Indeed, put me in the latter camp (indeed, I would go worse). My wife and I did not finish many of our dishes.. we felt the quality of ingredients to be very high.. but execution better on paper than on plate! And for very high prices. To say the least.. wish one of us ordered the Tuna instead. Perhaps we went on a bad day

P.S. I did write my review very quickly and perhaps should have taken care to note that street churros are not for the divine.. but a tasty street-food snack experience. Same for Pizza Guanabara.. just noting what I found there vs. seeking it out. Very much a late night scene. I went there to see what pizza the locals seemed to eat.. I think it is unfair to call this place the Sbarro of Rio... but you seem to be local so I will defer to you.

P.P.S. is Leblon really equivalent to Times Square, and not to say Soho? Not saying Soho is a bastion of culinary excellence, but if I went to some of the highest price restaurants in NY they would not be in Times Square?

Quick Rio Review

Was in Rio for 4 days.. wanted to share quick notes before I forget (trip is now 2 months ago). Wasn't a culinary experience, but some nice memories.

1) Avoid avoid avoid Zuka. Much better options on the same street. Zuka was terribly overpriced. The food had great ingredients, but prepared very poorly. Lemon risotto looked and tasted like sour curd (shocking bad). Breaded shrimp were overbreaded shrimp that could have been made at the olive garden. The bait and switch on wines is appalling -- twice sent bottle back because it was a different year than advertised on the menu. Food was the main event and felt like I paid $200 for nosebleeds at Yankee stadium on a Tuesday night and the other team failed to show up. Can't stress how overhyped this restaurant is! Please avoid.

2) Had a GREAT meal next door at Quadrucci. Warmed up with a drink at a bar (great) and food was great. Great lamp chops. Great risottos (we tried 2, a malbec and an arthichoke). Tapioca cream desert was so good my wife wouldn't let me finish it all (sometimes she lets me take it all down). I wish I went to this restaurant a second time. Oh yes, the mushroom puffs.. I ordered those twice. I'm not a mushroom guy but those mushroom tarts were so mushroomy.. the caprese ones were eh (wife ate those).

3) Had a quick lunch at an italian place called Prima. I had very low expecations, but the food was solid. Was not a fancy italian meal that would knock your socks off. But pasta perfectly cooked in well executed, not too fancy sauces... hit the spot

4) I think I had sorbet a place liked ?Vero?. Please order the lavander pink lemonade on my behalf. Amaaazing.

5) Went to Venga. A popular tapas place it seemed.. huge crowd. Food was disappointing, although the locals seemed to love it. One sausage dish felt like diced hot dog on a toothpick.

6) memory now stretching. We did a buffet on New Years (only think available). Was actually a pretty good experience. It was definitely premium pricing, but I thought it was fun to see all of the different salads, desserts, meats etc. Maybe there is a high-end one somewhere.. but the fun isn't to do it in a high end hotel, but with locals!

7) in St. Theresa we went to Bar do Mineiro. We hired a guide and he took us there for lunch as his go-to spot for Feijoda (spelling?). That stew just isn't my thing.. so I can't opine. What i do know is that we got there a little early and 1 hour later there was a line of 15 people waiting to go in. And my taxi driver was loving his food. My wife is vegetarian and ordered a salad.. that was just lettuce and avocado and heart of palm.. no dressing not good for her. For meat stew this seems like the popular place to go. Its not a place folks say you should go to though, so its a little off the map, which I liked. I forget the name of the 2 other places in St. Theresa we did not go to.. 1 is up a windy hill and fancy restaurant.. folks we spoke to said food sort of average at best so not worth it.. and there was another local-type spot in st. theresa (?sabor?), our taxi told us it was more expensive and not as good. St. Theresa looks like a touristy area anyway to me so many they are all tourist traps.

8) Churro from street vendor. Fantastic.

9) Academy of Cachacha for drinks. Not very fancy for such a fancy name! 1 block away from a super market and sort of divey feeling. But not a bad place to tell your friends you went to. Strong, albeit quite sour, drinks for us.

10) Late night pizza guanabara. Wow. Look at that cheese. Is there even tomato sauce!? Just cheese and bread. And packed late night. hung over was great.

11) Quick bite at a cafe ?now i can't remember? Simple place with great salads and light sandwiches. I got a chicken paillard and the chicken tasted like real chicken (not purdue)

I hope this helps. Spent vast majority of our time in Leblon/Ipanema. Don't see why would spend any time anywhere else really. Not sure if Rio is the city for us.

Best Sandwhich in Orange County?

I don't think Harry's is that expensive, but agree its more expensive than a Subway etc. (because of the ingredients.. the ribeye uses real ribeye etc)

Jun 02, 2011
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

Best Sandwhich in Orange County?

Chicken Di Gorgio is FANTASTIC.
Pulled Pork is SOLID.
Ribeye is a fine option.
Friend had the pastrami and thought it was very good.
For me, I'd try the chicken di gorgio and the pulled pork. Im' getting hungry now.

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Harry's Deli
17881 Sky Park Cir, Irvine, CA 92862

Jun 02, 2011
shanshan in Los Angeles Area

Best dishes in San Francisco with an egg on top?

Savory.. I would recommend the weiner schnitzel at Canteen. I don't normally like runny eggs running all over the place.. but that dish was great/satisfying/comfort food (I enjoy a good weiner schnitzel anyway). I would order it again.

Ninja New York?

I remember it being pretty bad food for price -- this was ~2 years ago. Fun theme indeed.. the "ninjas" scared us a few times and was super cool.

Foodwise the steaks were a debacle. Over cooked and the sauce they poured all over it was despicable. I would suggest going a la carte sushi and not getting the dinner meals (unless the steaks have been changed) which will be cheaper and on average better.

"You have no interest of my experiences four years ago" but perhaps others will...

Jun 15, 2010
shanshan in Manhattan

San Francisco Trip Review (Quince, Dosa, Canteen)

A quick trip to San Francisco and wanted to share my thoughts:

Quince:
-------------
Vegetarian tasting menu was essentially selection of dishes from the regular menu and could have been assembled a la carte for cheaper than the tasting menu price. Overall was very good, but ended on a flat note:

Artichoke Veloute: very good/great
Zucchini Alla Carbonara: very good/great (feels like just missing something slight)
One other pasta dish (?pasta/asparagus/farm egg): very good (I only got a little to try)
Tortelloni con due ricotta: I found to be bland, especially after prior dishes

Traditional tasting menu (also ending on a flat note)
maine lobster (corn, english pea and lemon verbena essence): superb
pasta alla chitarra (sardine, eggplant and basil): very good (has potential to be great)
tajarin with lamb and zucchini: OK (has potential to be very good, but missed for me)
squab & foie gras (cabbage, chanterelle): inedibly salty

Net net, I thought it was a very good meal, but perhaps not worth the $ for a tasting menu, and going a la carte is a better avenue. Unlikey I would be back unless I was in SF for a longer period of time and could spread out the restaurants. On a side note, decore and service were very good. If I lived locally I would most likely come back at least once.
Somes dishes were great, a few missed, but most were good/slightly different enough to keep it interesting.

Canteen:
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Went for lunch. Had the cream of corn soup and the schnitzel w/ cabbage and egg. Corn soup was very good.. very light and luscious.. could be construed as "milky" but did not bother me.. I would have put in dabble of some other flavor on top (similar to the basil oil you see on tomato soup) but that is personal preference. The schntizel was not what I expected: deep fried schnitzel that looked oily with a poached egg and cabbage slaw on top in a mustard/paprika type sauce -- and I don't really like poached eggs vs. better cooked peers. However, it was delicious comfort food. Crispy, meaty with a egg running around with a nice cut from the sauce/slaw. I would order the schnitzel again for sure.

Dosa
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Yes it is overpriced vs. its peers, however it was very good. Paid $38 for a lunch that my favorite spot in NY would cost $28. I do prefer my favorite spot more, that said Dosa did pretty well. Ordered the pani-poori as appetizer.. thought the mint water was a bit strong and could have been diluted a bit, but still was was good. Ordered a mint chuntney dosa and a mini-uttapam plate. Enjoyed the mini-uttapam variety (what a great idea!) and really enjoyed the dosa. Sambar was rich and flavorful (albeit a hair big on spice, similar to the mint water).. and I thought worked very well with their particular style of tomato and cocunut chutney (helped cut the spice). I had no gripes at all paying more for a quality south indian meal and would be back if I lived in the area (and I imagine a regular depending on the other offerings in the area).

Late night San Francisco Burrito
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Went to El Farrolito at 1AM. As of now, I don't understand the San Francisco burrito hype. Will have go back again sometime and try another place. The burrito I had had tough meet (carne asada) and too much sour cream.. was indeed a fast food burrito and not memorable at all. Terrible way to end a night.

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

They are willing to put together a vegetarian tasting menu, if given notice, which I assume means today but could be tomorrow perhaps (although unlikely).

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

Thank you you the response. [My understanding is there are 2 different, fixed, tasting menus to pick from each night (vs. "devising it yourself")]

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

Thanks again

Curious why you say go for half bottles vs. full bottles. Also, are there enough vegetarian items on the menu a la cart? I got a sample menu emailed to me. The way I see it there are 2 vegetarian appetizers, 2 primi and 0 vegetarian entrees. Which maybe is enough.. definitely cheaper :)

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

Thank you. There is a spot for 2 at 10PM.. and I am willing to dine that late/make a "night" out of it although it is definitely less-than-ideal.

Would you saw go with tasting menu or a la carte? My girlfriend is vegetarian and so if I go with tasting menu I believe i need to let them know today if they are to make a vegetarian tasting menu for her. It kills me to go tasting menu without wine pairs.. but I don't want to spend $400 on dinner..

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

Flying in from SoCal, recently moved from NY -- only have time for one "good" dinner in San Francisco. I had a reservation at Chez Panisse made weeks ago, but I canceled after reading underwhelming reviews.. I guess it just seemed too "classic" and I didn't want to miss on my only night in SF (i.e., risk being in the 50% that don't appreciate it)! I will be doing Slanted Door for lunch the following day.

Have narrowed it down to either SQPR or Quince (a la carte or tasting menu) - but must make a reservation ASAP! I don't want to spend $400 on this dinner (not a special occasion dinner), so in the case of tasting menu, I would not be getting the recommended wine pairings (unless highly recommended). My date is vegetarian, so a vegetarian tasting menu would be much appreciated by her for the experience (Savoy in NY did a great one for us on Valentines Day.. her meal was better than mine!).. that said I feel Quince's a la carte menu to be quite strong as it is.

Ideally meal would be $200 all-in, but I am fine with $250-350. Tasting menu + wine pairings would be $320 before tax-tip.. so basically $400 for 2. Figure a-la carte + wine (Quince again) to be $200-250 before tax-tip. And figure SQPR to be cheaper.

So SQPR or Quince, and Quince tasting menu or a la carte? Many folks of past spoke highly of Quince, but perhaps the new offering is less strong? Is SQPR the new king? I'm surprised not to find an extensive review of the two in comparison, online.

Other restaurants considered and nixed:
==============================
Classic italian -- wanted something uniquely SF
Firefly -- seems like a good option, but not respected as others.. tofu chile relleno also seemed too casual to be a "great" restaurant
Coi -- too $
Canteen -- limited menu selections and current "Week #" on website did not appeal. No lunch/brunch menu available
Jardiniere - I figured Quince was more the cult SF favorite..
Le Folie - Could not get website to work
Chez Panisse - seems risky... and reservation gone now anyway...
Zuni -- I forget why honestly..
Gary Danko -- I assumed very formal, did not look into it
Boulevard -- lack of vegetarian options. Upon calling, restaurant said they could do a plate of "seasonal vegetables". For such a well-regarded restaurant, its a shame they don't more for vegetarians than your local Applebees!

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Slanted Door
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Gary Danko
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Artisinal brunch

Artisinal to be more low key than the "fascination/scenes" you are probably used to. Its a good one to have in your backpocket in the area, in IMHO. I have walked in there a few times without a wait, vs. the "cooler" places with the 1 hour waits etc. you talk about.

That said, last time I have gone was a while ago and I can't comment to the food there too much. I remember French Onion soup and mac'cheese being very good. I also remember being able to order a side of different cheeses with my meal.. e.g. I would ask for $5 worth of a sharp cheddar etc. and they would happily oblige. I liked that a lot.

Oct 14, 2009
shanshan in Manhattan