The first sign was the asparagus. It’s December here in New York and on the breakfast menu at Untitled at the Whitney, a Danny Meyer restaurant which we frequent whenever we’re in the city, there’s an asparagus omelette. “Asparagus in December?” I asked and then Tweeted something about it, prompting a sarcastic response from the very funny Twitter personage BoobsRadley: “Outraged!” Ok, ok, maybe it’s not something to be outraged about, but it is a sign that something’s a little off, especially when a restaurant’s proprietor is at the helm of such season-oriented restaurants as Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.
Let me start by saying that the dish you see above is not an actual dish served at Billy Kwong, the Chinese-Australian restaurant in Sydney where I ate my first meal after the five hour flight from Perth. It’s a dish that the manager hastily assembled at the end of an incredible dinner (one shared with my old friend and neighbor, Ameer) to allow us to sample the various bugs used as garnishes and flavor-enhancers for a panoply of dishes we didn’t get to try. Do not, by any means, be scared off by that plate. Instead, let me seduce you with the food we did eat before we get back to the bugs at the end.
Don’t get excited: I’m not thinking about opening a restaurant.
But! I have a really good restaurant name in mind (based on a nickname for my friend Diana who, in my fantasy, opens this imaginary restaurant with me here in L.A.; again, it’s just a fantasy, stop getting excited!). I realized, though, in having this fantasy that if I were ever to really do it, I wouldn’t be shooting for the moon ambition-wise. I’d just want a cozy place where I could serve biscuits and comfort food and hang out, during the day, chatting with the staff and customers and maybe blogging from a corner booth. I just heard the guffaw from anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry when they read that last sentence. Which is why I’m posting this post.
Imagine being 27 years old and on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard when you find out that your relatively new restaurant in downtown L.A. has just been named by Bon Appetit the “Best New Restaurant in America 2013.” That’s precisely what happened to Chef Ari Taymor in August and his restaurant Alma is now on the lips of every food-obsessed person in the city (maybe even the country).
Being the wily person that I am, I immediately reacted to the news of Alma’s award with a jaunt over to OpenTable where I booked the earliest reservation I could: dinner for 4 on Saturday, September 7th at 9:15 PM.
Sometimes you have a negative restaurant experience that stays with you for a really long time after the fact. This is one such experience illustrated by a very talented illustrator: me.
This fall I went to a hip new restaurant, here in L.A., with my friends Jim and Jess. You might ask, “Which restaurant?” but I’m not sure I want to shame them so publicly. Maybe they deserve another chance. Maybe. Here’s what happened…
Pop quiz, hot shot: you’re at dinner, sitting at a table, celebrating your anniversary, and someone puts this glass bowl in front of you.
Do you: (a) Admire this beautiful display as a table decoration or do you (b) Eat it? The answer, it turns out, is both.
I know you’re probably sick of these end-of-the-year listicles, but after a year that took me all over the country, I just had to do a list of the 10 best dishes that I ate this year. I ate so much good food, in fact, that 2012 may very well have been the best eating year of my life. I mean, I went to The French Laundry this year (for our friend Diana’s 30th birthday) so that would make good sense. But most of these meals, as you you’ll see, weren’t super fancy… Many, in fact, were quite cheap. What I’m proudest of in considering this list is how I sussed out such exceptional food in so many different cities: I have you (especially those of you on Twitter) to thank for that. And now, without further ado, the 10 best things that I ate in 2012.
I thought this was an original idea for a post but, just to be sure, I Googled the title. Turns out there are several posts with the same name. That almost caused me to click “delete” but then I thought, “Well, if I don’t read any of those posts and write my own take on the subject, that might still be useful.” So here you are, based on my own experiences as a frequent diner at restaurants (the above photo is from a recent meal at Cafe Boulud in West Palm Beach) and as someone who cooked in almost 50 restaurant kitchens while researching my cookbook, 10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant.