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About ScotteeM

  • Birthday 11/29/1953

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  • Interests
    Food, cooking, alternative health care, herbs (culinary & medicinal), dog behavior, dog feeding, holistic veterinary care
  • Location
    Burke, VA

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  1. Dan, thanks for your observations. You raise a good point! Decades ago, we enjoyed wandering around in towns and cities in Spain and Portugal, stopping to eat where the food smelled wonderful. I'm trying not to overthink our trip to Spain next year, but I have some "last chance jitters" and don't want to miss anything!
  2. I have read through all the threads I could find on Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Northern Spain, and decided to post here. Hope that’s OK! Bill and I are planning a trip to Northern Spain in May 2022. The centerpiece of the trip will be 8 days and 7 nights on a luxury train El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela (already confirmed). The train will travel through the Basque, Asturia, and Galicia regions, with some meals on the train and some in local restaurants along the way. I have read reviews that say the local meals tend to be at Michelin-rated restaurants or at least at restaurants connected to paradors. I expect we’ll mostly eat with the group, but we might be able to stray from the group if something more tempting arises. We’re planning to fly from Denver to Bilbao, and back to Denver from Bilbao. We’re also planning to fly from Santiago de Compostela back to Bilbao, rather than spend a day on a train. We will be using public transport throughout, rather than driving ourselves. We’ll arrive in Bilbao on a Tuesday at around 2 pm, hoping to stay at the Hotel Miro, near the Guggenheim, so we’ll have dinner in Bilbao that night. On Wednesday, we’ll take a bus to San Sebastian, either before or after lunch. I’m inclined to have lunch in Bilbao and then bus to San Sebastian. We’ll have Wednesday evening, and all of Thursday and Friday on our own in San Sebastian. Some of the really great-looking restaurants seem to be about a 30-min drive out of the city, and we wonder if we can do one or more of those by taxi, and if we should? Saturday starts the train trip, and we will be deposited in Santiago d Compostela the following Saturday, in time for lunch. On Sunday, we fly to Bilbao at 7:45 pm, arriving in time for dinner. We’ll have all day Monday in Bilbao, and depart early Tuesday morning for Denver. In sum, we’ll have 2 lunches and 3 dinners in Bilbao, 3 lunches and 3 dinners in San Sebastian, and 2 lunches and 1 dinner in Santiago de Compostela. (Plus all the meals on the train tour.) No pressure, but this is likely our one and only chance to experience the food of this part of the world. We want to enjoy as much as we can of the food of the high-end restaurants in the area, as well as more traditional dishes. What are the can’t miss places? Are there any places that we would want to avoid? Thanks in advance (and oh how I miss the dining scene in DC)!
  3. I'm planning 10 days in Ireland, in a few weeks. I'll file a full report, but has anyone been recently? Specifically, Dublin, Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, Galway, and Inish More. So far we're planning Beshoff Brothers for fish & chips (they have GF), Glover's Alley, Restaurant Patrick Gilbaud, and Aqua in Dublin. In Galway we're eyeing Oscar's Seafood Bistro and Loam, and on Inish More we've targeted Joe Watty's and Teach Nan Phaidi. We have a reservation at SOLE in Dublin, but might swap it for Chapter One or The Quays. Any suggestions would be gratefully considered!
  4. Last night we had dinner at Ototo ("little brother"), a Japanese grill restaurant on South Pearl in Washington Park. This unassuming little place was recently named best Japanese restaurant in Denver for 2018 by Westword. Ototo is one of three Japanese restaurants adjacent to the intersection of South Pearl and East Florida Avenues, all under the ownership of three Japanese brothers. Toishi and Yasu Kisaki manage the kitchens and overall operations of the three restaurants (Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, and Ototo), while younger brother Koichi Kisaki lives in southern Japan, going daily to the fish market to buy fish right off the boats, which then arrives in Denver within 24 hours. Each of the three restaurants has a somewhat different approach to Japanese cuisine, while they share signature dishes and the fresh fish from Japan and elsewhere. Ototo offers exquisitely fresh sashimi and carpaccio, and boasts a robata charcoal grill, turning out beautifully flavored cooked seafood, beef, pork, chicken and duck, all as small plates for sharing. They also have a variety of ramen and rice bowls on the menu, which could serve as an ample entree. We focused on the small plates, starting with the fresh catch of the day sashimi, two large slices of four different fish (including yellowtail, hamachi and salmon--I'm blanking on the fourth fish) for $20. The flavors of the fish were so fresh and delicate that they were much better with a drop of lemon juice, and were obliterated by even a little soy sauce. We then shared Tuna Carpaccio (Sautéed Maitake mushrooms wrapped with sliced wild caught tuna and topped with shallots, blue cheese crumbles and micro greens with a Soy Truffle Yuzu sauce and balsamic reduction, $16). Wow! The flavors in the combination were amazing together. The mushrooms added a little more sense of "meatiness" to contrast with the tuna. The sauces were just enough to add a little spark without overpowering the fish. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. We then transitioned to cooked dishes, starting with a miso-honey glazed fried eggplant ($7) that was nicely balanced--not too sweet or too salty, allowing the eggplant to shine. I wish that we had received our other hot dishes at the same time, but the eggplant (with shishito pepper) was great on its own. Grilled whole squid ($14) is a "spear squid" marinated in soy/sake/mirin and grilled over mesquite coals on the robata grill. It was perfectly cooked and tender when it arrived at the table, but I noticed that when I stopped eating and went back to it a few minutes later it had gotten a little chewy--from continuing to cook on the plate. This is not a flaw in my mind, but a reminder that the food should be eaten as soon as possible after it is served. This was a lot of squid for two of us, but would be a great amount shared by three or four diners. While we were still enjoying the squid, the miso-marinated black cod hit the table ($16 for 4 oz). This is one of their signature dishes and with good reason. It was delicate and creamy inside, with crispy grilled skin and nice smoke flavor all over. We didn't want to miss out on trying the land-based dishes, so we ordered a skewer of grilled duck breast with Tokyo onions and a skewer of grilled American Wagyu beef filet mignon. Both were delicious, with deft marinating and perfect grilling to impart the smoke flavor without overcooking the meat. For dessert, we each enjoyed a scoop of strawberry sorbet sitting on goat kefir with basil oil. It was the perfect ending--not too sweet but quite satisfying. Denver may be a land-locked city, but seafood and sushi in particular are very popular here. Hence the ability of three Japanese "seafood" restaurants to thrive side by side. Ototo's sister restaurants have also won many accolades from the local press and diners, and I look forward to trying them. In this market, with competition from more Japanese and sushi restaurants than I can count, including Nobu Matsuhisa, being named best Japanese is no small feat. My first impression is that the honor is well-deserved, but I have a long list of its competitors to try, to be sure of this. I recommend reservations. Free valet parking (but you should still tip) is available across the street in front of Sushi Den. The restaurant validates parking in the garage across the street ($2), and if you don't mind walking a block or two, street parking (free) can be found if you're lucky. Sunday lunch is very popular here, but parking is more of a problem because Pearl is closed for a massive farmers market, which blocks access to the garage.
  5. Tried Potager, at 11th & Ogden, last night for an early dinner. Service was friendly and efficient, and the kitchen seemed to keep up, even when the dining room was full. The appetizers we tried were all delicious: Lamb tartare ($10), with cured egg yolk, purple mustard, red onion and fried capers struck all the right notes, although my husband felt the fennel crisps overpowered the tartare. I couldn't try the crisps (gluten) but I found even the plain gluten-free table crackers I brought with me tended to blunt the bright flavors. Best idea: Eat the tartare itself on a fork or spoon. Grilled squid with smoked fingerling potatoes ($15), olives, sundried tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette had great flavors, but contained about twice as many Kalamata olive halves as pieces of squid. The squid itself was delicious, but the plate itself was really out of balance, in my opinion. Steamed mussels ($15), in an etouffee broth with garlic aioli and cornbread croutons was about 1/2 lb of plump, perfectly steamed mussels in a flavorful, not-too-spicy broth. It was one of our two favorite dishes (tartare was the other), although the croutons were oddly sweet, according to my husband. We both agreed that the appetizers were better than the entrees. Sauteed scallops ($29) with lemon-fennel risotto, fried sage, and fried caper brown-butter sauce was just OK. The scallops were crisply fried on one side, so they weren't overcooked, but they were pretty small. I didn't get much lemon or fennel flavor from the risotto, which was gummy and lost my interest after a few bites. The brown butter cast a ring of butterfat around the plate. The elements just didn't come together, and I left almost half the risotto on my plate. Lamb sugo with tagliatelli ($23), shiitake mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, mint and feta cheese had good flavor, according to my husband, but not very much sugo relative to the pasta. We'll keep an eye on the menu, and try it again in the spring.
  6. My husband and I returned to La Merise, sans dog, last week for lunch while shopping in Cherry Creek. Husband had a Croque-Monsieur with frites and I had an omelet with goat cheese and grape tomatoes from the daily specials menu. Both dishes were perfectly cooked, and both were very reasonably priced. Service once again was attentive, efficient, and well-informed. I'm becoming a real fan!
  7. To celebrate our arrival in Denver, my husband's brother and SIL took us out to dinner last night. We're still in a hotel, so couldn't leave Logan, our 11-year-old Doberman alone in the room. Our hosts selected a restaurant in Cherry Creek that would allow Logan to be on the patio with us: La Merise at 2700 E. Third Ave. Logan settled on his blanket with his water bowl and after a while he went to sleep. The restaurant is lovely, inside and out. Service was friendly, helpful and efficient. Our server was happy to help me select gluten-free options (not marked on the menu). I had a Gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts, sliced pears, diced apples, and greens ($6.95), and then a seared Ahi tuna salad niçoise ($22.95). Both dishes were very good. My husband had the soup of the day, which was cream of asparagus ($5.00) and beef Bourguinon ($25.95), both of which looked wonderful (I couldn't taste). He liked them both very much but felt the Beef could have used more salt (there was salt and pepper on the table). Our hosts also had the soup of the day, and then shared trout Grenobloise ($23.95), which was 2 trout filets, and a generous amount of vegetables and rice--their plates looked like full portions, so it is a hearty dish. We all shared a couple of bottles of Raeburn Russian River Chardonnay 2014 ($52/bottle, $13/glass). I'm eager to go back (without Logan) and explore more of their menu.
  8. This has been a standby for me for several years, when I want a meal out that I know will be safe for me (celiac disease). It's always been pretty good food in a historic building, with fairly casual service. Recently the restaurant has changed hands, with Shawn retiring, and it is transitioning to its new name, Hamrock's, for its new owner, Bill Hamrock (formerly of Portabello's). There's new paint on the walls, nicer napkins, and a different style of service (a bit more attentive). Gone are the laminated red placards that say "gluten free" and the red plates for gluten-free dishes, although I'm assured that the separate kitchen is being maintained to prevent cross-contamination. The standby dishes like GF fried chicken (a pounded breast dipped in GF batter and fried) with mashed potatoes and honey-buttered carrots, the Reuben sandwich, and the curried chicken salad remain, but Chef Hamrock is developing a more upscale menu. This is a great place for diners with food sensitivities and allergies, but it's also a nice, local non-chain place to enjoy good food. Check the Facebook page for new additions to the menu.
  9. This is still my favorite lunch place! I love the tamales, and the tacos, and any time posole is on the specials menu I order it, with the flautas. I asked Wesley once if he uses frozen or canned hominy. The answer is: None of the above. He buys dried hominy, reconstitutes or soaks it, peels off the skin, and cooks it. I'm not really clear on the whole process, but it sounds extremely labor-intensive. I'd rather eat his posole than try to make it that way myself. Suffice to say, the posole is made with lots of TLC. My husband loves the steak mojo sub, and does enjoy the shrimp and chips from time to time. He also likes the fish and chips. I have lots of photos, but here are the most recent:
  10. It had been a couple of years since my husband and I last enjoyed dinner at Taberna del Alabardero, so we decided to return on July 1, as part of our “Farewell DC” tour. We had the chef’s tasting menu, and enjoyed it so much that we returned on July 29 for the July paella special (selected paellas for $22 pp). The wine list is long and varied, and does contain its share of wines in the three-digit price range, as well as a good selection of very enjoyable wines at $50 or less per bottle. Our five-course tasting menu ($65, $35 for wine pairings) started off with a lovely glass of gazpacho, bright and flavorful (and no breadcrumbs!). Octopus, grilled and carpaccio, served with new potatoes, provided flavorful contrasts of perfectly cooked octopus. Grilled tuna on rice was perhaps a bit more well-done than at some other restaurants, but the flavor and texture were wonderful. My husband's grilled sirloin was served with a mushroom cake and truffled potatoes, mine was accompanied by grilled vegetables (to be gluten-free). We both loved the dish very much! Dessert was rice pudding, in deference to my need to be gluten-free. It was simple but perfectly cooked and flavorful, not too sweet. The wines were all Spanish, and each complemented the accompanying dish quite nicely. IIRC, we had a lovely dry sherry with the gazpacho. Sadly I don't remember the rest of the wines. Our second dinner comprised 3 tapas and paella for two, with delicious sangria to wash it down. We enjoyed the grilled octopus with potatoes, salt and paprika ($16), marinated seafood "salad" ($12.95), and black-ink baby squid over creamy rice ($16.95), and then the paella with asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and sliced grilled duck breast ($22 pp). It was a very satisfying and filling meal, for around $45 per person, and the pitcher of red sangria, my favorite of those I've tried lately (Jaleo and Arroz), was around $29. To be fair, the marinated seafood “salad” was the weakest dish, needing a little tweak like a few grains of sea salt, but we really enjoyed everything else tremendously. I honestly don’t know why Taberna doesn’t get more love, especially here. We enjoyed both of our dinners here much more than similar meals at Jaleo, SER, or even the new darling of Mediterranean restaurants, Arroz. The food and wine are great, with reasonably priced choices for both. Service is as attentive as ever, with the staff keeping a close but unobtrusive eye on every table. And, especially if you eat early in the evening, the dining room is mercifully quiet. You can enjoy live Spanish music on weekends, later in the evening. Edited to add: Free parking!!! Park in the garage just to the right of the entrance, and have your parking ticket validated in the restaurant. It's not self-serve, so you'll want to tip the attendant, so almost free! Photos to follow, still figuring that out. [Scottee, see my PM. Rocks]
  11. We had takeout from Aabshaar Restaurant last night and it was amazing! Pakora came off the steam table of the buffet, but was delicious and crispy nonetheless. Keema was the best version I've tried (out of 3). Daal Mahani was full of wonderful flavors. Tandoori chicken was moist and flavorful, although some pieces were more bone than meat. This is really good cooking and we are so glad we tried it!
  12. Stuck in Springfield while our house is being shown (30 appointments this weekend!), we got takeout from El Paso Mexican Restaurant on Commerce for lunch. I had the Migas from the brunch menu, and my husband had the two for $5.99 deal from the lunch menu. He got a beef enchilada and a chicken quesadilla. All of the food was really delicious, and there was plenty to eat. The flavors were clean and clear, and this is clearly fresh-made food. At just under $15 for the two of us (before tip), we thought it was a great bargain, and it left us wanting to return to try even more of their dishes in the near future.
  13. We went to Mirabelle for the first time on Saturday (7/15), and we look forward to another visit. The space is lovely, and the service was excellent. The wine list offers a broad range of choices, including bottles priced at less than $40. We ordered a red—Domaine de Bel Air, Cabernet Franc, ‘La Fosse Aux Loups’ at $40—and a white—Chinon 2011 and Bernard Defaix, Aligoté, Bourgogne Aligoté NV at $26— to accompany our meal. Others before me have mentioned the rabbit terrine, but I will, too. It was excellent—possibly one of the best dishes of the evening. So many terrines and pates are bland. Not this one! It was nicely seasoned and spiced, and was accompanied by a mustard and a green salad that added punches of flavor and acid that complimented the terrine. Nuggets of rabbit, mushroom, and foie gras delighted us in turns. Beef tartare had a nice, beefy flavor and was enhanced by its dressing. We enjoyed every bite, and this is now my favorite tartare of the ones I’ve tried. Foie gras poached in consommé was a new preparation for us, and we loved every single luxurious spoonful! All in all, the appetizers we tried were delicious, special, and ones we’d order again and again. I ordered the Angus strip loin, which was accompanied by Dauphin potatoes and beef tongue. The tongue was not a dominant flavor in the potatoes, rather it seemed to provide depth and richness to the crispy potato cake. My husband had the veal “Oskar” with lump crabmeat. He seemed to enjoy it, although he felt the sauce/preparation kind of drowned out the flavor of the crab. That’s more a stylistic criticism than a quality criticism. Our overall impression of the food was extremely positive. Flavors were balanced. This is not quick or easy food to make. Terrines and consommés take time and care and skill to make. The ingredients used are very high quality. Someone upthread commented on the butter, and my husband did say that it was the best butter he’s ever tasted. I can’t speak to the issue of the ham sandwich, as we were there for dinner, and I wouldn’t be able to try it anyway. But my husband and I both felt that the prices for dinner were competitive with other restaurants in the same category. I never had a Palena burger or the roast chicken. We dined at Palena several times, only once in the front room and even then we ordered from the back-room menu, which we always loved. I understand that some people miss that front-room neighborhood place from Cleveland Park, but it wasn’t a sustainable business model there, and it probably wouldn’t be here on 16th Street by the White House. This is a different restaurant, in a different area—not really a neighborhood. It is a place where “power players” will go, and they will get a good meal for their dollars. Many years ago, when we first moved to the area, we read about Jean-Louis at the Watergate, and knew it was a very special place, but it seemed too expensive and we never went. To this day I regret not saving up the money for that special dinner. I don’t know if Frank Ruta compares favorably to Jean-Louis Palladin, but I think that a dinner at Mirabelle is well worth saving up for, if it is beyond one’s normal dining budget. I have celiac disease, and I ate here safely. My choices were limited, but what I could eat (listed above) was wonderful! Everyone connected to our service was aware of the issue and took great care to ensure my safety. As always, YMMV. Angus Strip Loin: Veal Oskar: Tartare: Foie Gras: Terrine:
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