Fifth Anniversary: Top 5 Meals of the Blog Year

11/28/14

Today makes five years that this blog’s been active. Woot! Time has really flown by; five years feels like something of an accomplishment and I’m happy to cross this mark.

This past year saw me traveling abroad twice after staying in the country in 2013. Trips to Taiwan and Europe made for some of the most memorable experiences and meals and will surely make an appearance on this post. However, I did have some great meals in LA and some of those experiences will make the list too.

As for I’ve done for each of the last four anniversaries, I’ll recount the top 5 meals of the past 365 days.

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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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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Paris, France)

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
5 rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14

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This Paris Saint-Germain location was the first of Joel Robuchon’s l’Atelier concepts, which is now a worldwide chain. Holding two Michelin stars and ranked #31 in the latest world’s best restaurant list (and as high as #12 in 2012), it’s oft-regarded as the best of Robuchon’s l’Atelier restaurants.

In my first trip to Europe seven years ago, this restaurant was easily the best (and by far most expensive) meal I had. It’s still one of the more memorable dining experiences I’ve had and I wanted to return once more to see if the restaurant was as good as I remembered. There are no lunch specials at this location, just a la carte and a €179 discovery tasting menu. A la carte starters and mains price in the €40-€80 range each so I figured the 10-course tasting menu was the way to go.

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L’Arpège (Paris, France)

L’Arpège
84 rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/27/14

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L’Arpege has been high on my list of restaurants to try for some time. When I first traveled to Paris seven years ago, I remember walking around the corner from the Rodin Museum just to see the restaurant from the outside. Having just graduated from college, I sorely lacked the funds to consider dining here and wondered if I ever would. On this next trip, this was my most anticipated meal in Paris.

L’Arpege has been around for almost 30 years and has become one of the most notable dining establishments in the city. Cheffed by Alain Passard, it’s a Michelin three star (and has been since 1996) and is currently ranked the #25 best restaurant in the world (the highest ranked Parisian establishment). Passard is known for being a visionary and pioneer particularly as it relates to vegetables. The restaurant maintains its own organic gardens to supply its produce and even removed meat from its menu for a period of time. Today, meat is back on the menu but the focus is still clearly on vegetables at l’Arpege.

As with many Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, it can get expensive. Very expensive. The restaurant’s current tasting menu runs at €370 with a vegetable tasting at €290. However, lunchtime brings one more option – a €140 lunch tasting. A relative bargain, we came for lunch and opted for this choice.

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Le Chateaubriand (Paris, France)

Le Chateaubriand
129 ave Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/25/14

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Le Chateaubriand was our first dinner in Paris. While the restaurant doesn’t have a Michelin star, it is ranked #27 on the latest World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (ranking as high as #9 in 2011). Reviews appeared to be pretty mixed with some loving it and some hating it; I was intrigued to find out what the restaurant had to offer.

Le Chateaubriand is an example of Paris’ bistronomy movement, serving fine dining-inspired cuisine in a much more relaxed, casual atmosphere. Its tasting menu, at 65 euros, is significantly less than most Michelin starred restaurants in the city, especially for dinner. Two seatings are available; the first one is by reservation two weeks in advance and the second is walk-in only. Unfortunately, we failed at getting a reservation and opted for the walk-in route. We ended up waiting approximately two hours after getting there at 8:30. The neighboring wine shop had plenty of business from us and other diners-in-waiting.

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