cosa buona meatballs
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Cosa Buona (Los Angeles, CA)

Cosa Buona is one of the most talked about restaurants openings in LA this summer. The restaurant is from Zach Pollack, who first opened Sotto with co-chef Steve Samson then opened Alimento. Cosa Buona is the most casual and simple of his restaurants so far, meant to be a neighborhood pizza joint. In fact, the restaurant replaces a similarly-named pizza joint (Pizza Buona) which had been at this location for over 50 years.

pujol churro
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Pujol (Mexico City, MX)

On my first trip to Mexico City, Pujol was high atop my desired restaurants to try. Reservations fill up well in advance, but I was able to get an early dinner reservation on a Friday that I would be there (OpenTable can be your friend with some persistence).

Pujol chef Enrique Olvera is the most internationally acclaimed chef from Mexico City. The chef opened Cosme in New York at the end of 2014, which was a hit from the beginning, earning the 40th spot on the top 50 restaurants in the world. Pujol, generally regarded as one of the top fine dining establishments in Mexico, is ranked #20 in the world.

truffle risotto melisse
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Melisse (Santa Monica, CA) [4]

It’s been a couple of years since I last dined at Melisse. One of the few real fine dining establishments left in the city, the restaurant is still going strong 18 years in. To celebrate their anniversary, the restaurant was running a promotional 4-course anniversary menu for $99 (it felt more like 7 courses). There were a couple of options for each course, giving us the ability to try a number of different menu offerings.

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.

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