Alta CA (San Francisco, CA)

Alta CA
1420 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 11/28/14

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Alta CA opened late last year, the latest from chef-restaurateur Daniel Patterson (Coi, Plum, Haven). The restaurant is one of the more notable SF openings in the past 12 months and has generally garnered praise for its Californian cuisine. My parents had dined here earlier in the year for lunch and found it unmemorable, but this would be their first time for dinner (and my first overall).

The menu is shared plates-based, ranging from $5 for deviled eggs to $26 for black cod. Between our party of three, we were able to sample seven of them with dessert as well.

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Osteria Barberini (Rome, Italy)

Osteria Barberini
Via della Purificazione 20
00187 Rome, Italy
Dining date: 10/24/14

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While researching for restaurants to try in Rome, we came across this place – Osteria Barberini. It had very strong reviews everywhere we looked, including being a top 50 restaurant on TripAdvisor (4.5 stars on over 1700 reviews) and holding 4.5 stars on Yelp. The restaurant touts its truffle menus (especially as white truffles were in season) and reviews raved about the truffle dishes. Was exactly what we were looking for. We attempted to make a reservation and found dinner completely booked, however we were able to squeeze in a late lunch table.

Osteria Barberini’s menu has a lot of classic Italian favorites within its antipasti, primi, and secondi areas of the menu. However, there is an additional category featuring dishes using black and white truffles. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call them cheap, truffles (particularly white) were significantly cheaper in Italy compared to prices in the U.S. We first noticed this during our first night at Da Francesco, but Osteria Barberini’s pricing was also reasonable with white truffle dishes in the low-€20s and black truffle dishes in the mid-teens. We focused in on the truffle dishes (while in Rome!) and ordered a couple of items off the regular menu.

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The Walrus and the Carpenter (Seattle, WA)

The Walrus and the Carpenter
4743 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Dining date: 11/6/14

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I had one free evening on a quick business trip to Seattle, my first time to the city. Seattle’s got a ton of interesting restaurants and it was a difficult decision narrowing down to one. In the end, we decided on The Walrus and the Carpenter, Renee Erickson’s 4 1/2-year old oyster bar. The no-reservations restaurant has been consistently popular since its beginning, but we were able to squeeze in for an early dinner table after a 20 minute wait.

As expected, the focus here is on seafood particularly oysters. A large variety are always on hand (9 on this evening) as well as a bounty of other seafood small plates. A handful of garden, pantry, meat and cheese plates round out the menu.

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Da Francesco (Rome, Italy)

Da Francesco
Piazza del Fico 29
00186 Rome, Italy
Dining date: 10/22/14 and 10/24/14

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The first…and last…dinner in Rome was here at Da Francesco. While walking around the Piazza Navona area, we found this restaurant on Yelp. Located just east of the piazza, it had positive reviews and pictures with raves of a black truffle pasta. While I’m not always so trusting of Yelp, the pictures looked great and the prices reasonable (few dishes reach €20).

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The menu is fairly extensive featuring everything from classic Italian appetizers to pastas, pizzas and heartier main courses. Porcini mushrooms were in season and a highlight on the menu (with the bounty displayed at the front of the restaurant). Menu and staff were also pretty English-friendly. We actually enjoyed the meal so much on our first evening that we returned on our last night to give a few more items a try.

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Barrel & Ashes (Los Angeles, CA)

Barrel & Ashes
11801 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Dining date: 11/22/14

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One of the hottest restaurants in LA right now has to be this place, Barrel & Ashes. It’s the latest from prolific restaurateur Bill Chait, teaming up this time with two Thomas Keller vets Tim Hollingsworth (The French Laundry) and Rory Herrmann (Bouchon). Add barman Julian Cox and I’d say this is one of the highest-powered restaurant teams LA’s seen in some time. While the Hollingsworth/Herrmann pedigree comes from some of the fanciest of foods, Barrel & Ashes focuses in on a rather ‘simple’ food – BBQ. They’ve done extensive travel and eating and bring a mix of regional Southern specialties to Studio City.

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The menu hones in on meat sold by the weight and ribs by the rack or half-rack. A handful of small plates and sides round out the savory part of the menu. On this evening, we tried a couple of the small plates and tried as many of the meats we could in one sitting.

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L’Astrance (Paris, France)

L’Astrance
4 rue Beethoven
75016 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14

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After lunch at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, our last meal in Paris was dinner here at l’Astrance. A Michelin three star and currently #38 on the world’s best restaurant list, it was our toughest reservation too as the popular restaurant has 25 tables and is open only four days a week. Luckily, we scored a table through our hotel concierge.

Pascal Barbot trained under Alain Passard at l’Arpege and brings many of the same principles, using high quality seasonal ingredients and simple preparations to allow the ingredients to shine. Barbot does incorporate more meat into his dishes, though. Having spent a bit of time cooking in Asia, there are hints of Asian techniques and flavors throughout. There is no menu; the restaurant creates a surprise tasting each night (€210).

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