Dining date: 11/27/14
This is my sixth time recapping our family’s Thanksgiving, which is tradition that’s been going on for as long as I can remember. Similar to past years, we have lunch at my mom’s side and dinner on my dad’s side. The vast majority of food is homemade (of course!) with my aunt and grandmother taking the leads.
Chinese Sticky Rice
Piazza del Fico 29
00186 Rome, Italy
Dining date: 10/22/14 and 10/24/14
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).
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.
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.
Barrel & Ashes
11801 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Dining date: 11/22/14
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.
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.
4 rue Beethoven
75016 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
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).
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
5 rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
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.