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About lekkerwijn

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  1. lekkerwijn

    South Africa

    Well, hopefully better than 2010... Our last trip was in January 2015. My best and biggest recommendation is that you visit Babylonstoren in Paarl. It is agro-tourism on steroids. They have an edible garden that is one of the most incredible things we have ever seen and a phenomenal produce-focused restaurant. We stayed in one of their guest houses, which I highly recommend for the all-you-can-pick-to-eat produce and because you get access to their spa, hiking trails and can have every meal in there. If you just want to visit for a day you can, but a reservation at Babel is a must. Restaurants -Generally we've had good food in South Africa, but it tended toward being overly plated - lots of gels, foams, etc which I find very annoying. Here's some standouts Grand Roche Hotel - Eat outside, beautiful view. Deep library of older South African wines. The Test Kitchen - Its a favorite of the Worlds 50 Best list; get the tea pairing La Colombe - Expensive and not particularly memorable Quartier Francais - Expensive and not particular memorable Wineries/Wine Stores - We also travel to wine country with Styrofoam wine shipping boxes that we can then check with our luggage. They're often difficult to track down locally and its far cheaper than trying to ship wine back. On this particular trip i think we brought three with us as our goal was to stock up on rare South African wines. Sadie Family - If you can find it, drink it or buy it. They're mostly known for their reds but their whites are phenomenal as well. The Wine Kollective - Tiny little shop in Swartland but worth the schlep. They specialize in local micro-production and natural wines. Hotels: Akademie Street Boutique Hotel, Franschoek - We have stayed there twice and really love their guest cottages and spectacular breakfasts. Kensington Place Boutique Hotel, Cape Town - Cute hotel in Cape Town. Nice bathrooms, pool and breakfast.
  2. lekkerwijn

    Michelin 3-Star Restaurants

    Ahhh... another person who didn't love Arzak! We were underwhelmed by the food but overjoyed by their extensive and ludicrously priced wine cellar. Their sommelier was a total asshole to us. He made one suggestion for a bottle of cava that was laughable and was almost offended by our very knowledgeable questions. He didn't want to discuss wine with us at all. We ended up texting photos of the list to a Spanish wine expert friend to help us with selections. It took an hour but we ended up with two amazing bottles of older Spanish reds and a white Bordeaux that were far more memorable than the meal. Elena Arzak actually sat with us and had a glass of the white, something I assume she doesn't do often unless the bottle is worth her time. She is a lovely person. We are planning to go back to San Sebastian this spring and plan to skip the food at Arzak and just order a couple bottles in their bar. Extebarri is always a crowed please and I think they punch far above their weight relative to their Michelin status. Their top ranking by Worlds 50 Best is one that is truly well deserved, unlike some others. We were at Disfrutar in April 2015 only a few months after they opened and already clearly on their way to world class status. There are many comparisons that we drew to our meal at El Bulli in 2009. But I think that the big difference was that El Bulli was inventing these techniques that others have now evolved and there was something more cutting edge about what they were doing. Tickets is probably more technically similar to El Bulli, but that makes sense given who the chef is.
  3. The only place to go right now is Scarr’s on the LES. That little write up doesn’t do it justice. Hands down the ultimate NYC pie. Also their subs and Caesar salad and natural wine list in a setting that is so throwback are perfection.
  4. lekkerwijn

    Restaurants near MoMA Thanksgiving Weekend with Two Children

    This is a fun thread...Working my way through the back and forth from top to bottom: For high end Italian Marea, Maialini and Lupo are our running favorites. Marea is by far the most formal of the group but Maialino has the better wine list. Lupo's pasta tasting menu is really fun. Via Carota is open for breakfast and IMHO that is the best time to go. No waiting for a table. No insane crowds of Japanese tourists like Buvette. Le Coucou is so over-rated. I"m over it. But if you really want to go, tables can be booked online for lunch exactly 4 weeks in advance. Something about Frenchette rubs me the wrong way. But I think that Batard, which is on the same block, would be the perfect choice for you - they take reservations and you can chose 2-5 courses. Food is excellent. You should consider Atla for lunch or breakfast. Its never that hard to get a table during that time and the food is excellent. I think superior to Cosme, which should only be reserved for brunch. Dinner is insanely over-priced - ($25 mole with 4 tortillas... wtf) Agree that you cannot go wrong with Union Square Cafe or Gramercy Tavern but Le Coq Rico and Nur on the same block are both excellent choices as well. Eleven Madison Park sounds like it is off the table but FWIW, you CAN get seats in the bar if you go right when they open without a reservation at either lunch or dinner. If you want the EMP food without the EMP price tag, Nomad and Nomad Bar are both great as is their fast casual outlet Made Nice. Not exactly Midtown, but I am a massive fan of Gloria in Hell's Kitchen. You'll get this fantastic cross of seafood from someone trained at Le Bernardin with natural wine via Contra/Wildair Take your kids for pizza at LES Scarr's. Best traditional NYC pizza in the city right now but made with house milled flour. Chinatown - great New York Noodletown is my hands down favorite right now.
  5. lekkerwijn

    Dining in Paris

    Don't I know it. We purchase it in France and bring it back to the US. We've found that restaurants in Europe and Asia can have bottles that are reasonably priced in comparison to what we'd pay for the same bottle at retail stateside. He couldn't have found a more perfect way to insult us to our faces. What we should have said is that 2006 Comtes is "airplane" bubbles. At the time Qatar Airways was serving it in business class. A couple months later we had a good laugh about it while polishing off at least two bottles on the three hour flight between Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires.
  6. lekkerwijn

    Dining in Paris

    Don - you can move this to rants about 3-Michelin Star restaurants thread if you'd like. Two trips-ago to Paris we went on a Michelin binge, eating at Epicure (lunch), Alain Ducasse (dinner) and Ledoyen (lunch) in the span of three days. As noted previously, Epicure was totally unmemorable. I had to dig back into my Instagram to remember what we ate and even then it didn't really ring a bell. Alain Ducasse ... It was a totally memorable meal but for all of the wrong reasons. We arrived at the restaurant and they brought around the Champagne cart with, as Mark notes, 6 or 7 different luxe choices including some by magnum. We may be unusual in this preference, but we like to drink Champagne like wine, with a meal. And we prefer grower Champagne. So we declined the cart and asked to see the wine list. A rather surly, older Somm showed up at our table clutching a huge wine list tightly against his chest. In haughty French accent-inflected English he says, "I understand you wish to drink Champagne by the bottle..." and then proceeds to rattle off what was in the cart as if we didn't hear it the first time. We explain, that yes, we want a bottle. I think he assumed we were being cheap Americans, so then he asks what kind of Champagne we are "familiar with". We explain that we prefer grower Champagne and in particular like Selosse, Prevost and Laval. He sneered. Cleared his throat and said, "A meal like this requires something a bit more, errr, refined." Then he recommended Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Ledoyen ... They had a lot of Selosse on their wine list and were more than happy to sell us whatever we wanted by the bottle. Also the food was a lot better than Alain Ducasse and far more memorable than Epicure. Our meal at Guy Savoy in late September began with something of a repeat performance by their younger, slimmer Somm of what we experienced at Alain Ducasse. This time at least he let us review their wine list. After explaining our preference for grower Champagne, we asked for suggestions from their list. He offered us two - one at 180€ the other around 900€. When we asked him to describe the difference between the two, both were NV brut, he rolled his eyes and said "the maker". Grrrr.... Ultimately he did recommend a rose champagne that was actually really nice and something we would drink again. It was only 200€, marked up 400%. So moving forward we will just conduct the Selosse test - our new proxy indicator for a restaurant that will understand our POV on wine and life.
  7. lekkerwijn

    Dining in Paris

    This brief review will include the restaurants visited on our two most recent trips to Paris. Now that Don is asking for detailed reviews of 3-Mich restaurants, I will start to add more "color" there. If you want to get treated like a fine-dining troglodyte then these are the places to go. Having had meals in the past 4 years at Guy Savoy, Arpege, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee, Epicure, Ledoyen, and Astrance the only one that I would happily pay my own money to eat at again is Ledoyen. My vehement POV at this point is that 3-star experiences in Paris are not my preferred way to spend my dining dollars anymore. By far the best meals we have had in Paris recently were at more casual places. Pastry Jacques Genin - We always visit there on our trips to Paris and their tea room in the Marais is a long time favorite. Don't miss the caramels (they are 100% worth the €120/kg price tag), tarte citron and mocha. Pain de Sucre Patisserie - They specialize in savory pastry which is a nice change of pace from the sweet stuff. Cedric Grolet - The hottest new pastry shop in Paris. Products are stunningly beautiful, but I wouldn't make a return visit. Gateaux D'Emotions - BEST Canele de Bordeaux that I have ever had. At the corner of Varenne and Rue Bac, its a great addition to the already insane pastry crawl in that neighborhood. More Casual Dining Restaurant Champeaux - Good example of a casual French brasserie. Without a doubt, do not miss the souffles. L' Assiette Paris XIV - Laid back French brasserie with classic preparations. Warm and friendly service. Frenchie To Go - We went for breakfast. Great coffee and pastry along with heartier options which is somewhat unique in Paris. Frenchie Wine Bar - Fun and buzzy. Great wine list and fresh, produce forward preparations. Les Enfants du Marche - We spent an afternoon there eating and drinking while it poured. We tried half the menu and really loved everything. The food isn't light but its modern. Curated but high quality natural wine selection. A must go on all future trips to Paris. Le Rigamarole - When Americans make Japanese style food in France and magic happens... Also a great natural wine list. Service is warm and friendly. La Bourse et La Vie - We went for lunch. Food is good but not otherwise memorable. Best part of the meal was the young American on a trip with his girlfriend at the table next to us. He mistook the bowl of brown sugar cubes for cookies and ate two of them while she sat in horror. L'Avant Comptoir De La Mer - No reservations, standing room only seafood. Menu is famously on the wall and hanging from the ceiling. Food was great, but we didn't think they were very helpful when it came to selecting wine by the glass. Would just order a bottle of something familiar next time - they have a great selection that is fairly priced. Breizh Cafe - Modern, high end crepes. We sat outside under blanket and heat lamp for dessert. Very enjoyable. La Regalade Saint Honore - Classic French brasserie. You really can't go wrong with anything on their menu except the souffle which had so much grand marnier in it that it was almost inedible. Seating there is both tight and awkward so if that will bug you, not a good choice. Love their all you can eat pate. Mokonuts - By far our favorite meal on our most recent trip to Paris. We had the entire menu (only 5 items) and a gorgeous bottle of Pet Nat. Only open for breakfast and lunch. Their sweet-savory cookies are phenomenal as well. Restaurant Baieta - Newly opened with a seafood focused menu. Highlights were the octopus and savory poultry. They also recommended a red Sancere that was surprising and really delicious. Fine Dining Restaurant Kei - We love Kei. Its not on any cool list. Their price fix 52€ 5 course lunch is the best deal in town. Also they pour insanely good champagne by the glass. Alain Ducasse at Hotel Plaza Athenee - NEVER AGAIN... Maybe I should have been impressed by the bowl of steamed haricot vert, but I wasn't. The somm was as offended by our preference for Laval (edited) as we were by his recommendation of Comtes. But these are stories for another thread Ledoyen - We had a really lovely meal there and enjoyed everything we tried. Service was attentive but not cloying and even a little casual, which we liked. The famous caviar tart is not to be missed. Restaurant Epicure - Totally unmemorable meal. Guy Savoy - We ordered the tasting menu and should have ordered a la carte. Service was dismissive. The famous chestnut and truffle soup is the only thing I'd want to eat from that meal again. Also, we were served variations of potato chips with two courses. They were the second best part of the meal.
  8. I'd like to get your thoughts on two hot topics in the restaurant industry right now: the impact of the #MeToo movement and concerns about diversity and inclusion. There has been a heated debate about how journalists, traditional/digital media should approach these issues and its impact on their coverage or assessment of restaurants, chefs and restaurateurs. Despite some pressure, Michelin, Worlds 50 Best, OAD and the newly launched World Restaurant Awards are not responding to the under representation of women and people of color (token best female chef awards notwithstanding) nor have they addressed #MeToo. On both points, James Beard has arguably taken the most significant leadership position on these challenges through their programming and awards. Very little has been written about the role of opinion leaders and social media influencers. This is interesting since the combined interest of these stakeholders drove significant changes in the sustainability, nutrition and sourcing practices of the industry over the past 15 years and they have heavily rewarded leadership in these areas. What is the role of opinion influencers in tackling these systemic industry challenges? Do opinion influencers have a duty to discuss #MeToo and diversity and inclusion as it relates to dining with their readers and followers? How, if at all, should these issues be taken into account when considering what restaurants to promote, dine at or review? Should opinion influencers be demanding better leadership practices, diversity and inclusion? Should awards and rankings ask their evaluators to take these issues into consideration or include them in their evaluation processes? Please do not interpret these questions as being critical of your writing or social media presence. As a talented and experienced, albeit amateur, eater, who has been involved with several awards/rankings programs, I grapple with how to approach these issues myself.
  9. Aldo Sohm isn't my style either. And I completely see what you are saying about the wine list, service and decor. I also recognize that for people looking for a wine bar and heavy nibbles near the theater district there are not a lot of choices. FWIW... my preference close-ish to the theater district for excellent seafood and natural wine at much more approachable prices and a more relaxed atmosphere is Gloria at W53rd and 9th. Another good alternative for a wine bar more similar to Aldo Sohm, but still in that neck of the woods, is Morrell near Rockefeller Center.
  10. lekkerwijn

    Basque Country

    After nine years, we returned to San Sebastian. I seriously question our sanity in waiting so long to return. If you love food, wine and beaches it is paradise on earth. As always, more detailed photos and info on wine available on my Instagram. Fine Dining: Nerua, Guggenheim Bilbao - This meal was just weird. Despite a "seasonal" menu, every dish was a mushy ball in some sort of broth. It was a strangely monochromatic (mostly brown and white) menu with the sole truly fresh seasonal dish consisting of tomatoes. We drank their last bottle of Prevost - no joke, their Somm made a big fuss about it. Service was slow and inattentive. Arzak - We wanted to love this meal, but didn't. The issue wasn't the food. We generally really enjoyed it, although some dishes for the same course varied very differently in quality. That said they have the most incredible wine list that is so bizarrely and cheaply priced that it took us 45 minutes to make a selection. Their senior somm was not working the night we were there. The somm who was on service that night had nominal interest in engaging us in a conversation about their deep cellar of older Spanish bottles. The bottles he did recommend were all pretty pedestrian and marked up 300%. If we ever went back it would be to sit in their bar and drink wine. Etxebarri - This was our second visit, actually 9 years to day from our first visit. We loved it on our first visit and its still excellent. But its become much more polished over the past nine years and has lost some of its more rustic charm. Be sure to tack on the caviar and percebes additions. Make a request at the start of your meal for the warm cheese flan. Note, they have two wine list - one that is more pedestrian and another that has some older, more rare vintages. Also, on Sundays they serve pintxos in their downstairs tavern on Sundays from 11-2. They're offal focused prepared by a junior somm (no joke), but it sounds fascinating and someone needs to try this. Azurmendi - This meal was absolute perfection. By far our favorite in the region. You can order off of two menus - one classic and one more experimental. We went with the classic menu. We also ordered some gorgeous bottles of wine and their somm is delightful to work with. I can't speak highly enough of this meal and if you go for one splurge this should be it. Rekondo - We went for the wine to be honest. Their cellar is one of the biggest in the world and the wine is exceptionally well priced. We were very pleasantly surprised by the food. The seafood is really excellent - we really loved the white shrimp in particular. They will also make you a beautiful plate of cheese and jamon iberico. We didn't get desserts but they looked excellent. Pintxos, San Sebastian: La Cuchara de San Telmo (open Monday, website says they arent) - Excellent seafood options. We enjoyed the razor clams, foie gras (huge chunk for cheap), octopus Bar Martinez - More options on the bar, including an awesome tuna stuffed pepper Ganbara Bar - If you go to one place for Pintxos, this should be it. Order off the menu rather than choosing from the bar (though the Jamon Iberico on medialunas is excellent). We loved the confit tuna collar with onions, percebes, and mixed mushrooms with raw egg yolk. Note they also have a downstairs bistro. Atari Gastroteka (open Sunday/Monday) - We went here twice, again order off the menu rather than the bocadillos on the bar. Excellent options included - lightly cured salmon with fresh cheese and salmon roe, platter of tuna with olives and pickled peppers, octopus, patatas bravas Bar Bergara (open Sunday/Monday) - They have some of the prettiest bocadillos in the city. Bar Restaurante Hidalgo 56 - We ordered lots of stuff off their menu including the tuna tataki, mushrooms and black pudding volcano Bar Antonio (open Sunday/Monday) - We ordered a ton of stuff both bocadillos and off their menu. We weren't super impressed with their kobe burger (it was gristly) but their seafood offers were excellent. Note they also have a lovely downstairs bistro that some say is better than Ibai. Tips: 1- Many pintxos bars are closed on Sunday and Monday. Plan accordingly. 2- If you go and you are a wine drinker, plan around visits to Rekondo, Arzak, Elkano and Kaia-Kaipe. Make a stop at Goni Ardoteka, which is an excellent wine shop. 3- If someone offers you percebes, order them! Goose barnacles are a local delicacy and can't be found anywhere else in the world. 4- Coffee sucks in this town. We found one acceptable place called Old Town Coffee. Others say Sakona is excellent, we disagree.
  11. lekkerwijn

    Copenhagen, Denmark

    Just got back from a 5 day food and wine binge in Copenhagen . Pics are on Instagram including specifics on wine. Higher End: Noma: This was our 6th Noma meal (1 in the old space, 3 pop-ups, 1 Justin Timberlake party) but the first in their new space. The new space is stunning. The all vegetable meal was exquisite, and may well have been our favorite of all of our past meals. We didn't miss the meat or seafood. I'm aware that having been so many times we get a little extra attention, but the choreography of their meals is something to behold. Wine pairing was catered to our tastes and included our favorite white Tschida. Amass: Very fun meal - really enjoyed their roast chicken 3 ways that included a chicken salad made of offal. Slow cooked tongue was also delicious. We ended up going back the next afternoon for their 5th birthday party where they were serving hot fried chicken on croissants. Restaurant Barr: Least favorite meal in CPH. We had basically their entire menu. Their mains are much better than the starters - schnitzel and roast chicken are excellent as was the smoked mackerel. 108: A visually stunning tasting menu. Very vegetable forward, fresh local ingredients. Excellent natural wine list. Second favorite meal after Noma. Stylistically very similar. Palaegade: Famous smorrebrod. Definitely get the shrimp. Relae: This was our second trip to Relae. Their summer menu is not as enjoyable as the one we had in winter. Note their Prevost champagne is very well priced. Casual: Gasoline Grill: They make a seriously excellent burger and fries. We preferred the cheese burger over the butter burger. DOP - Den Okologiske polsemand: Best hot dogs we have ever had. The whole wheat buns add real heft. Snappy casings and interesting toppings. The Corner at 108 - We ended up having breakfast there with Rene Redzepi who had also stopped in for an espresso on his way to the office. Pastries are excellent as is the Tim Wendelboe coffee. My favorite meal item was the coddled egg with caviar. We also went back to buy wine to sit and sip while dangling our feet in the river. They have an excellent selection of high end natural wines. Hija de Sanchez - People go nuts over these $8 tacos. But we felt that it was good but not excellent in comparison to the quality of tacos we can get in the US. The cocktails on tap are so fun. 10 Ved Stranden - Our favorite wine bar anywhere on planet earth. We made it a daily stop. They have an excellent natural wine selection and serve really delicious food as well. Lovely setting with outdoor seating. Alice, CPH - Excellent ice cream. Homemade cones. Try the raspberry and pistachio. Coffee Collective - Famous CPH coffee. Their coffee softserve affogato is the thing of dreams. They also make kombucha now, which is very refreshing on a hot day. Den Vendrette - another well known natural wine bar. We weren't super impressed.
  12. Pineapple and Pearls was very new when we moved away from DC in early 2016. Despite the accolades to motivate us and regular trips back to the area for both work and pleasure since then, we had our first meal there over the weekend. For obvious reasons when we are back in town we usually hit up our nostalgic favorites but we were able to get relatively last minute 9:30 pm seats at the bar. We found the most memorable aspect of the meal to be how unsatisfying it was. I don't think it lived up to the hype. It would be entirely fair to @ me because we were seated at the bar and that isn't the same thing. But I am someone who believes the bar experience and quality should be as good than the dining even with a slightly different or truncated menu. A bar menu should make you want to go back for the full dining room experience. This is especially true of you are still paying high end tasting menu prices. I left the dinner thinking the food was a lot of overwrought gimmick not backed up with flavor. To be clear nothing was bad or offensive. The technical execution was there. I just didn't love the meal.
  13. We had lunch in the newly remodeled EMP a couple weeks ago. It was our third visit in four years; we have now been for dinner, lunch and dinner in the bar. As it is in the neighborhood, we have also popped in for their uber-excellent cocktails on special occasions. The food and service was impeccable, but for intangible reasons that I can't fully articulate it wasn't quite as enjoyable as our past meals. At this point our firm recommendation is to go for the bar menu rather than the full tasting menu. The price point to quality ratio is much stronger and while the experience isn't quite the same as the dining room, it is still very enjoyable and a bit more relaxed. Note to those who might consider this option. You can book (and thus prepay) the bar menu in advance. BUT they keep seats available for walk-ins and the bar is now open for lunch. The bar was basically empty when we were there. So, if you show up at 11:45 when they open you are highly likely to get a seat/s. Similarly we were told after 9 pm it opens up as well, particularly on a week night.
  14. Possibly because we live across the street, Cosme is a place we go fairly regularly. It is definitely not the best value for the price point if you go for dinner. BUT brunch prices are much more reasonable with a similar menu. I also strongly recommend their cocktails. Another option would be to visit their sister restaurant Atla. To be honest, I prefer Atla which has an all day menu, tons of outdoor seating and a more relaxed atmosphere. The menu is stylistically similar but much less expensive.
  15. lekkerwijn


    I'm currently in Amsterdam for business meetings, but in the name of controlling travel costs flew in 24 hours early, sacrificing some personal time for a day of "workcation". Been eating very well... Rijks - The weather was stunning (70 and sunny) and we were able to sit outside. They have a price fixe option €47 for four courses which was a perfect way to experience their menu paired with their excellent cocktails it was a fantastic lunch. The first course was a green gazpacho with crudite, avocado and burrata that was a pretty huge portion for a lunch tasting menu. Second course was steamed chicken with a light curry sauce. Cheese course was an ice cream made of Gorgonzola paired with different preparations of cherries. The dessert course was made with coconut, basil seeds and mango. Guts & Glory - They don't publish a menu and offer five, six or seven course menus. They're currently celebrating their third anniversary with a "best of" their various chapters or menu themes since they opened. The meal started with an amuse including more green gazpacho, first course was ceviche, second was asparagus, third fish in a saffron sauce, fourth ramen, fifth lamb, a pre-dessert made with eggplant and chocolate, and the dessert was a play on lemon meringue pie. Each course was very different but all were excellent. Scandinavian Embassy - Its a tiny coffeeshop that serves an excellent all day breakfast menu. Their beans come from various Scandinavian roasters including Koffee Kollective. I was with a colleague and we shared a large pour over that was very delicately extracted - almost tea like. For breakfast we shared their graved lox with poached egg and lots of lovely vegetables and the mushroom pancake. Both items were STUNNING. Sprudge wrote that this could be the first Michelin starred coffee shop and I can completely see what they're saying. The coffee reminded of what we had at Fuglen in Tokyo the food was as good or better than what we had at coffee shops in Sydney or Melbourne. Van Wonderen Stroopwafels - They make them fresh in front of you with different interesting toppings. A warm, fresh stroopwafel is a divine thing.