saam + mugaritz
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Mugaritz @ SAAM at The Bazaar (Los Angeles, CA)

It’s been over 4 years since I dined at the Saam Room, the tasting menu-only private room in the back of The Bazaar by Jose Andres. I’ve appreciated the experimental nature of the restaurant – it never fails to provide something new, exciting, and different with a flair for the whimsical. Andres’ organization recently announced that the Saam Room was closing to re-conceptualize. To mark the occasion and provide a sort of farewell, the restaurant hosted a two-night dinner with chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz. Mugaritz, a well-known restaurant in Spain, currently holds two Michelin stars and is ranked the ninth best restaurant in the world. Aitor Zabala, who will be chef of Somni when it takes the place of the Saam Room, teamed up on the collaboration. The menu was about 20 courses ($250), with Aduriz and Zabala more of less alternating on each course.

vernick pasta
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Vernick Food & Drink (Philadelphia, PA)

Vernick Food & Drink is high on many lists of best restaurants in Philadelphia. It’s been one of the most highly regarded upscale restaurants since opening in 2012, from being named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit to its chef, Gregory Vernick, being named ‘Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic’ this year by the James Beard Foundation. As expected, the restaurant is very popular but we were able to squeeze in on a late Friday seating.

gnocchi barbuzzo
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Barbuzzo (Philadelphia, PA)

Barbuzzo is one of the more popular restaurants in Philadelphia. It’s part of a restaurant group that operates a number of other restaurants in the neighborhood, even a chocolate shop and jewelry store. Barbuzzo serves Mediterranean cuisine with a concentration towards Italian, including pastas, pizzas, housemade charcuterie and a variety of both small and large plates. We stopped in for dinner on a busy Wednesday evening – the small restaurant was packed when we got there and packed when we left.

oysters pearls @ per se
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Per Se (New York, NY) [3]

This was my third time dining at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s Michelin three star restaurant in NYC’s Time Warner Center. My last visit was at the restaurant’s lounge having an abbreviated menu, but I returned to the dining room for the formal tasting menu on this visit. The tasting menu is currently priced at $325 (service-included) and we opted for the wine pairing at the $200 level.

merluza @ le bernardin
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Le Bernardin (New York, NY) [3]

For a weekday lunch in midtown, I stopped into Eric Ripert’s flagship restaurant. This was my third time dining at the restaurant and second time for lunch.

The restaurant’s lounge offers a prix fixe menu of 3 courses for $55 with two options for each course. $5 of each purchase goes straight to City Harvest, a local organization that “rescues” excess food from local restaurants, grocery stores and farms and distributes this food to community programs to provide meals to underserved populations.

SEMIFREDDO TROPICALE coconut semifreddo, passion fruit, kiwi, mango, basil
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Marea (New York, NY) [2]

I’ve been to Michael White’s seafood-focused Italian restaurant once a couple of years ago. I recall having a good meal there; in particular, there were some memorable pastas. The restaurant is known to have some of the best pastas in town, which was one of the primary reasons for returning (another was that it was so close to the hotel on an evening with scattered thunderstorms). The restaurant still holds two Michelin stars and is still one of the busiest fine dining establishments in the city.

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