Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's on Your Top 10 List?

A fellow foodie friend forwarded me an emailed newsletter from TomBlackWine.com titled “2008 Top Ten Meals” – pasted below - which I wanted to share.
To say that Tom Black is passionate about food and wine is an understatement. Black is a graduate of the Clive Coates Burgundy School, as well as the Jim Clendenen University of Pinot Noir. He belongs to the Commanderie de Bordeaux, the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, and the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. He has one of the largest collections in the U.S. of the world’s most highly sought after wines, and is not only a collector, but an educator of fine wine. Tom Black lives ‘food and wine.’
I always enjoy hearing about people’s favorite meals so I was excited about this newsletter. Listening to people share their favorite dining experiences, I find they share pieces of themselves sometimes more than the meal itself. And like Black’s newsletter, most people’s favorite meals are fueled by emotion, their surroundings and circumstances. This is the same thought behind what inspires and feeds chef Thomas Keller’s passion. To read through the French Laundry Web site for example, you understand that Keller and his colleagues truly want guests to have an experience, not just dinner. Looking back at my own Top-Ten list, its peppered with sentiment and what made that moment special.
Best meals are not necessarily about five-star restaurants or drinking a rare vintages – although it does not hurt. It’s about what makes that meal an experience to remember.

TomBlackWine.com Jan. 23 Newsletter -

2008 Top Ten Meals
Michelangelo said, “I feast on wine and bread – and feasts they are.” Oh, for the good old days when wine and bread were enough. Well, the good old days of ’08 are behind us but most of ’09 is left. I always like to reflect on great meals I’ve had in the past 12 months. I’ve eliminated Nashville restaurants and a great Italian restaurant in NY, Alto, because of my involvement and familiarity with them.
My 10th best meal was at Spago in L.A. The appetizer pizzas and the salmon ice cream cones were memorable – as was the service. It’s always impressive when the chef works the room and Wolfgang stopped at every table. He had a glass of wine with us.
My 9th best meal of ’08 was in New Orleans. It was my third trip after the hurricane and tourism seems to be almost normal. The restaurant was August. Oysters and soft shell crabs were perfect and the atmosphere of the old house on the edge of the French Quarter was perfect.
My 8th top 10 was at the Ritz in Buckhead. It was a multi-course meal and each dish was perfect. This is French-style dining. Nothing crazy and the service is always perfect. This is one of the longest running 5-star restaurants in America and it’s easy to see why.
Number 7 was New York’s toughest reservation – Babo. I am always impressed with their pastas. This is pasta heaven if you love unique noodles and special sauces. Get a reservation if you can but don’t ask me to help.
My 6th best meal was at the Biltmore in Asheville. Yes, Asheville, North Carolina. The dinner was a Chaine des Rotisseurs event and the caviar, lobster, and lamb were fantastic. I found out you don’t just go to Asheville for the hills and mountains.
Number 5 was at The Greenhouse in London. I never expect over-the-top food in London but this meal was exceptional. White truffle pasta with an egg in the middle was one of the great dishes of ’08 for me. Paul McCartney was there that night and Ronan (the Master Sommelier) said “What a perfect evening to have both Tom Black and Paul McCartney there on the same night.” Anyway, it was the best meal I’ve ever had in London.
Coming in a number 4 was a relatively new restaurant in NY, Del Posto. For me, this is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in America. The scenery is worth the trip. When we walked out, Don Napier said it was one of the great dining experiences of his life. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have got it going. I especially liked the beef.
At this point, any of the final three could have been number 1. In fact, I switched positions on these three restaurants three times.
So, number 3 was a birthday party for a 1958 baby. So we drank lots of wine made in 1958. The restaurant was Melisse in Santa Monica. Actually I had two meals there this year and both would have made my top 10. However, this one was just more special. Josiah Citrin, the chef, is putting out creative fine dining that’s as great as anywhere I’ve eaten.
In the same category of great cuisine is my number 3 restaurant – Picasso in Las Vegas at the Bellagio. Over the years I’ve had lots of great meals, but there is something special about dining with $100 million dollars worth of original Picasso oil paintings while a world-class water show goes on outside your window. The food and wine have a Spanish influence and the service is to die for.
Finally, my number 1 meal of ’08 was in Nashville, but at a private home (not mine). Michael Kornick made a nine-course meal at the Patton’s to benefit Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Each dish was made from French recipes that were over 100 years old. You can go to Michael’s restaurant in Chicago – it’s MK.
I had other unbelievable meals at Veritas and Daniel’s in NY, Bern’s in Tampa, Sona in Los Angeles – but these 10 stood out. Here’s to great dining in ’09! I’ve already eaten with Charlie Trotter and he’ll be tough to beat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FareStart

Barak Obama challenged us to a day of service. So how does a food blog help to heed the call to serve our community? Simple - by highlighting FareStart, one of my favorite programs here in Seattle. I was honored when I had the opportunity to be a volunteer server at one of their Guest Chef nights.
FareStart is a job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals. It offers two programs; one for youth focusing on barista skills and one for adults. The adult program is an intensive training program combining hands-on food-service training with classroom instruction, individual case management and job placement services.

A special feature for this training is Guest Chef Night. A weekly highlight on Thursdays, Guest Chefs work with the students to prepare a three-course meal which has been haled as "Seattle's best food lover’s event." For just $24.95 it's also one of the city’s best values!
Students work and train alongside staff of chefs from notable Seattle restaurants like BOKA Kitchen & Bar, Purple Cafe & Wine bar, Serafina and Oceanaire just to name a few.
So here's how you can get involved: they NEED you to be a volunteer server. Community volunteers serve the guests who enjoy great food in support of FareStart and the students. What's more, 100 percent of the proceeds and gratuities from Guest Chef Night go back into the program and fund student services and training.

For FareStart students, it is an opportunity to work with Seattle's premier chefs. For you, it's a great opportunity to enjoy an excellent meal, learn more about the program and volunteer. To volunteer, please contact volunteer@farestart.org.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Happy New Year - Cheers to New Tasting Adventures!

With the holidays behind us and mid-January already here, it's the perfect time to toast new tasting adventures - whether near or far!

Let's raise a glass to:
SpringHill in West Seattle - Mark Fuller is responsible for the culinary direction, menu and overall excitement of this elegant and fresh take on the northwest cuisine.





The Corson Building in Georgetown - Celebrity and local chef Matt Dillion (Sitka & Spruce) is the adventurous mastermind behind this cozy multi course, family-style restaurant inside a historic Seattle residence.

NYC Restaurant Week - Jan. 18 - 23, gotta love it when more than 250 restaurants offer three-course fixed-price lunches and dinners. Bar Boulud and Gotham Bar & Grill shouldn't be missed!

Hearts Delight Wine Auction - Held in Washington D.C. May 7 - 9, the first growth featured at the Vintners Dinner will be Ch√Ęteau Latour!

And here's hoping 2009 holds a better outlook for:
Poppy - located in Capitol Hill which I can only describe as "buzz kill."
El Gaucho - new location in Bellevue. Let's hope it holds up to its Belltown brethren.