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Il Gabbiano Miami - Fabulous!

Went to Il Gabbiano for lunch yesterday... sat outside on the patio, right on the water... with a great view of Miami. The owners show their Il Mulino pedigree here... fantastic chow, nice wine list, great service, nice ambiance. The pasta I had, ravioli's stuffed with veal in a truffle sauce was one of the best pasta's I've had in a long time. Guess they brought the guy who's made pastas for them for years down here with them... great move!! This place is an excellent and welcome addition to the dining scene.

How's the Stone Crab this year?

All I can say is that I was at Joe's Stone Crab a few days ago and it was as fantastic as ever... and the weather all week was glorious.

Feb 24, 2009
WineTravel in Florida

Dining Around New Orleans [Long]

Wow. I felt your pain as I read the account of your “meal from hell” at the Windsor Court. We've all been in a position where you just can't believe the actions of a restaurant, but this was just a complete and total never-ending disaster... like a bad dream. I have to rank it as the worst account of a meal that I’ve ever heard. For me, the only meal that I can think comes close was a meal I once had at I Ricchi in DC about 10 years ago... as bad as that was, yours takes the cake.

That said, I dined at the Grill Room post Katrina as I was staying in the hotel, and it was very good… food was straight forward, the room was beautiful, service good, nice wine list… an excellent relaxing hotel dining experience. They advised that they were happy to “clean house” acknowledging that the prior management at the restaurant left a lot to be desired. I enjoy staying there, and you can take breakfast (included when you book thru Amex Fine Hotel Program) in the Grill Room, which is a nice way to enjoy the room.

Was in New Orleans last week and stopped by Crabby Jacks for the first time. I loved the place… went mid aft (around 245pm) so was not crowded… but still a steady flow of customers. Had been advised by some locals to have the duck po-boy and the pork po-boy… tried those as well as shrimp w/fried green tomato po-poy, the gumbo… and the fried chicken just for the heck of it. The pork and the shrimp were my favs… the duck and the chicken were also good, but didn’t favor them as much as the others. Really enjoyed it… perfect for lunch.

Nov 21, 2008
WineTravel in New Orleans

Need help - 6 teenagers for dinner on Saturday

Open Table shows a table for 6 at Olives at 530pm. If you can make that work, I'd take it.

Fiscally Responsible Dining - What's Your Pick?

For those that haven't been... they have a large lot adjacent to the restaurant. When you drive up typically you are met by the valet who asks if you are going to the restaurant. You can have the valet take the car, or you can tell them you'd rather park the car yourself. In either case, it's free.

Personal Sommelier Service

You're right. As I stated earlier, I believe the majority of shops that sell wine are terrible... It's rare to find a good one. Most have very limited wine knowledge, just clerks... and often storage conditions are not ideal. There are some good ones, but you either have to be lucky to live near one or search them out. Yes, the internet helps, but that mostly helps those who already know what they're looking for. The avg consumer is left hanging... It's tough for them to learn. Wines like 2BC don't help either. BTW, your OP is a good case in point of how lame that Sommelier service is.

Nov 18, 2008
WineTravel in Wine

Personal Sommelier Service

Exactly.... just saying there aren't many good options for people who need guidance.

Nov 18, 2008
WineTravel in Wine

Personal Sommelier Service

Exactly my thought. The problem with the majority of wine shops is that the staff is generally useless. Most have no wine knowledge, just clerks. You're lucky if you have a place that has a nice selection of wine and is informed about what they sell.

Nov 18, 2008
WineTravel in Wine

Fiscally Responsible Dining - What's Your Pick?

E Standard is a good suggestion. What first came to mind for me was Rocca... and they have free valet parking to boot!

craigie on main, shabu square

Thanks for the report. As a long time admirer of Chef Maws (from the early days when he was in the kitchen at Clio) it's a great sign that he is already in stride at his new digs. What he was producing at the old place was arguably Boston's best high-end chow, so very exciting that he's now in a place where he can have more room to work in the kitchen, as well as round out the dining experience with a nicer atmosphere, a little more expanded wine list, etc... which was sorely lacking in the old location. Gotta get there asap!

L'Espalier - Who's Been?

I agree. Whereas L'Espalier's old space was a jewelbox, it wasn't a comfortable place to dine and the kitchen was too tiny for the chef to fully express himself (or at least comfortably). I prefer the new place... the room/s are fine, they look great. The new location is a blessing for both the diner and the staff. Now let's see what the chef can do with all his new gadgets and space to spread his wings. Will report on the experience when I get a chance to get in there for a full meal. This and the newly relocated Craigie St (now open) are on the top of my high end todo list

No. 9 Park recently?

Agreed. Sel de la Terre is mediocre at best. I know it has a lot of fans on CH, but really don't understand why. I put it in the same category as PF Changs & The Cheesecake Factory. Mass produced, mass market food with no soul... and pricey for what it is.

Favorite Tasting Menu?

Agreed. While I recommended Clio, Troquet and L'Espalier as restaurants that do a good job with tasting menus... I rarely order a tasting menu at these places and agree that a la carte is a better route. Why? 2 main reasons. My taste in dining has changed... generally, I don't want to sit through a 3-4 hour meal like I used to... and if I do, I do that in places that deliver more of a "grande dining experience", like the great places in Europe or a place like Per Se in NYC....that's a whole different ball game.

Favorite Tasting Menu?

Wow, that's quite a memory! He's had a wine by the glass list from the beginning but I have to agree that the wine program has always been a sore spot there. There's a new guy there now doing the wines and I think things are beginning a turn for the better. The menu changes, but he does rotate dishes that he's done for years, so you could see some familiar things... and of course that Tomato water martini still pops up a little too much for my taste... enjoyed it the first time but not much of a surprise now after 10 years.. and not wine friendly. Still a great spot to dine and one of Boston's brightest stars... Certainly one of the top degustation menus in town.

Favorite Tasting Menu?

I do like 9Park in general, but when I go I prefer to order a la carte. I've had reasonably good tasting menu's there, but always seems a little out of sync... either timing, service, etc. for it to be truly memorable. LIked it better before the Barbara Empire.

L'Espalier - Who's Been?

MCSlim...Sorry about the confusion. Missed that you dined there, thinking that you were making more general observations about the room, service, dress. When I used the phrase "enjoyed a meal" I just meant that I hadn't seen a review of a meal... ie. that hadn't seen that someone had dined there yet. Now, re-visiting your comments above, you mentioned that the food and service were as good as ever... and only specifically mentioned the ravioli dessert dish. Care to elaborate further on the meal? Curious how you think L'Espalier stacks up on the food/wine front vs. other places in town, for the moment taking ambiance out of it. I will try to find time to get over there in the next few weeks to see for myself... and will post my thoughts.

Favorite Tasting Menu?

When Im thinking tasting menu in Boston, this is what I think ot... In no particular order...

> Clio... always reliable... Im sure you've been there already
> Troquet... excellent chow, more relaxed casual atmosphere, not as high end as Clio and L'Espalier but the food is almost as ambitious and some dishes can surpass (mainly specials)... and better wine program. For foodies not looking to impress.
> L'Espalier... new location makes it doable for me now, didn't like the cramped nature of the old space... will be trying soon but seems promising. You'll have to swallow hard on the wine pricing though (as opposed to Troquet... and choices not as good).
> Craigie on Main... some of the best chow in town... very casual, very limited wine list and no sommelier... just moved to new space... still in Cambridge and will open any day now. Very psyched to check out the new space when it opens.

L'Espalier - Who's Been?

Unless I missed it, not one review yet from someone who's enjoyed a meal at the new version of L'Espalier. I would have expected it at this point. I know the economy is off, but still surprised based on all the buzz from longtime admirers. So, Joanie... looking forward to your comments.

Emeril's revisited

Emeril's is what it is... he's not trying to re-invent anything there. My take is... you could always count on a nice, festive atmosphere (although sometimes too loud), good to excellent service.... good to excellent, for the most part straight forward but kicked-up food with a cajun flair, and an excellent wine list (once they bumped it up from the early years... in the first few years they had a very limited list... which then grew to a great Wine Spectator Grand Award winning list and a pretty decent Sommelier). I've dined there perhaps 25 times since he first opened. He opened strong and got stronger... slipped a bit during the early TV fame and massive hoards of people (busy turned into a rediculous "crush" of people... I avoided the place for the most part then). and then settled back in the groove in the few years prior to Katrina... But even then, was never quite up to the level it once was when Emeril was around more... still vg though... sometimes excellent. After Katrina, like everywhere, things took a long time to rebound. Labor is a big problem for all the restaurants (and to some extent it still is). Emeril had more of his staff return than most, but it still slowed them down. My last visit to Emerils was about 6 mos ago and I had a solid meal. Again, not as good as the old days but I was happy. I've always loved that Pork Chop and ALWAYS have the bbq shrimp with the rosemary bisquits... for me, the shrimp alone is worth going to his places for. The wine list is getting back to form (they lost a lot of bottles when Katrina hit). I still enjoy Emerils... it's like an old glove. It will never be what it once was, perhaps like New Orleans itself, but will always deliver a solid restaurant experience.

Nov 11, 2008
WineTravel in New Orleans

Anybody been to Barbara Lynch's new place, Sportello?

Haven't stopped by 9 Park in a while. They're not serving a bar menu any more? So what do they offer for food in the bar area?

Should I drink this tonight?

Since you're thinking about it, open it... should be drinking fine now. I just had a 1990 Figeac a couple of days ago that was excellent. Enjoy

Nov 04, 2008
WineTravel in Wine

Clio, White Truffles and Explaining Dishes

It's common practice, and expected, to have the server explain each dish when presented... and is always done at Clio. Obviously, on the night you were at Clio, there must have been a staffing issue and the server wasn't comfortable with her understanding of what was coming out of the kitchen.

Michel Bras

Have been to Bras a half dozen times because it's one of the world's great restaurants. As was stated, you MUST stay at the property.... keep in mind reservations are VERY tough. Also, the bar area, awash in glass, affords wonderful views in every direction... the perfect spot for a glass or champagne before dinner. Souphie's comments are right on (as usual). In addition, the wine service is excellent and the list, while not huge, is well chosen with superb wines from excellent producers. On one memorable visit, it snowed all night and apparently only at Bras... almost a foot! When we left the next day... we drove down the drive to the main road and there was not a flake of snow? Perhaps another clue as to the magic created there.

Oct 31, 2008
WineTravel in France

L'Espalier - Who's Been?

I agree with you. I've always felt that Boston's "high-end" was always a tier below the great restaurants in the US and Europe. As far as L'Espalier goes, I was also never a huge fan of the "old" L'Espalier. Sure the building had character (esp. the beautiful door)... but for me I always felt the table spacing of the dining room was terrible... so cramped. I can't enjoy my meal (no matter how wonderful the food is) if my chair backs up against the diner at the table behind me. I never felt the food was so special there that I would endure the cramped nature of the place... and there was also the wildly overpriced wine list. But I always admired the building every time I drove by.

Now, the new place. I took a tour of the restaurant and I definitely prefer it. Why? Because of the reasons I just mentioned I haven't considered the old place in years. Since here I can sit in a comfortable room... at least there's a chance of enjoying a fine meal here. When I stopped by I sat in the salon and enjoyed a bottle of champagne while looking over the wine list and menus. I'll be back soon for dinner. As was stated by MC Slim JB, there are still some tables that fit that "cramped" category that permeated the old place, but now there a number of excellent tables. While the ambiance is modern and has less charm than the old... I see it as a huge improvement. Let the "nondescript" ambiance (compared to the old place) serve as a backdrop to the food. Let the chef do the speaking with what's on the plate... the servers with their service... the wines, etc.

For me, the new place is a breath of fresh air. I wish them well and hope they can deliver.

L'Espalier - Who's Been?

Surprised that we haven't seen any reviews yet on the new L'Espalier "attached" to (not technically part of) the Mandarin Hotel. Hard to believe really...

a,b,or c?

Great suggestion. Avec's a very hip place with a nice small menu. So it's clear to all, both Avec and Blackbird are owned by the same people.

Aug 14, 2008
WineTravel in Chicago Area

a,b,or c?

Alinea... high end, inventive, more of a show than a restaurant you can relax in . Food is excellent but gimicky. Example... they describe a piece of cured bacon that's attached on a wire... sort of a trapeze like setup. It's tasty but a little too contrived for me. VERY expensive. Good to try for real foodie types who are well heeled. Excellent, well chosen wine list with a lot of treasures at high but fair prices. I went once, that was enough for me.

Blackbird is the most down to earth of the three. Excellent chow, more straightfowardly presented. Less coin too. Cool atmosphere, but very cramped space... long and narrow main floor with a series of tables that are very close together. Most modest wine list, but nice selection. I love this place and go often. Most casual.

Charlie Trotters's... Going strong after 21 years. This is the most "complete" high end experience of the 3 for me. Great service, chow, and wine list (Spectator Grand Award... everything you might want). Very inventive dishes but not gimicky like at Alinea. A place I enjoy and go a couple of times a year. Very expensive, but seems a tad lower than Alinea. Of course, the wine is what can blow up any bill.

To the OP... you basically can't go wrong with either of these 3... but they are quite different. So, hopefully you've got enough of a feel for these places from the board and can pick the place that most fits your needs.

Aug 14, 2008
WineTravel in Chicago Area

Charlie Trotter's

Certainly not characteristic of Charlie Trotters. I've had many meals there over the years and they've been nothing but excellent on every level... food, service, wines, etc. I'd drop a note to the restaurant and let them know they dropped the ball.

Jul 15, 2008
WineTravel in Chicago Area

L'Espalier - Mandarin deal off?

I thought that L'Espalier was moving to the Mandarin Hotel. When I just checked the Mandarin's web site it lists a different restaurant as their signature place... a place called Asana with chef Nicolas Boutin. It states, "At Asana, our signature restaurant, there are scores of perfect pairs to please the palette – from artisan cheeses paired with exclusive wines, to the creative menu, which features both refined American cuisine and authentic Asian dishes. One can even choose between two seating areas – the elegant main dining room or Asana’s exclusive Chef’s Table." What up? I've done some searching and can't find anything about the deal falling apart. Did I miss something? Anyone know what's going on.

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/hotel...

Cellar question

Always look at the reviewer's comments based upon the time they are writing the article. So, drink in the next 5-7 years is 5-7 years from when they tasted the wine.
As mentioned previously, a good writer will indicate the actual years for drinking to avoid confusion. Keep in mind that this drinking "window" will differ based upon the reviewer and is only an educated guess (that reviewer's opinion). Other reviewers may have different thoughts. I like to see what the reviewer's say and then compare their comments to my own impressions once I taste the wine. By comparing your thinking to those you read you can get a good idea which wine reviewers you trust more than others (that is, those who's opinions are closest to yours). Also realize that even the same reviewer often updates their thinking as they continue to re-taste the wine down the road. Good luck with your cellar.

Apr 24, 2008
WineTravel in Wine