Il Buco Alimenteri e Vineria- A Treasure In New York City

Interior Il Buco Alimenteri e Vineria

Interior Il Buco Alimenteri e Vineria

It’s not often that a restaurant not only lives up to glowing reviews, but even exceeds them. Il Buco Alimenteri e Vineria in New York’s NOHO area certainly did that when my husband and I and several friends dined there last week.

From the moment we walked into the casual, inviting space (which also houses an Italian grocery and wine store), we felt welcome. The wait staff was warm and helpful, and the noise level lively, but not so loud that we couldn’t hear clearly. It’s the carefully and beautifully prepared food of talented chef Justin Smillie, however, that will make you remember and want to return to this restaurant. The salumi, the crusty loaves of bread, the pastas, and the sorbetti and gelati are all homemade.

Our waitress explained that the portions were generous and guided us in choosing several

Three great pastas!

Three great pastas!

antipasti, primi, and secondi to share for our group of five. Among the highlights in a hit parade of dishes were crispy fried artichokes and an ethereally light slow-cooked egg custard with black trufflles and favas as starters. Agnolotti filled with a velvety smooth cow’s milk cheese and a garnish of crushed hazelnuts and pecorino was our favorite pasta. It was followed by whole salt-baked branzino (sea bass) cooked with thyme, sea salt, and charred lemons and by slow-cooked beef short Continue reading

London and Paris –A Tale of Two Cities in Small Plates

NOPI interior

NOPI interior

A few days ago, we took the Eurostar to London for the weekend, where we met friends for dinner at NOPI (North of Picadilly), a fairly new restaurant in Soho that serves primarily small plates. The restaurant is the brainchild of Yotam Ottolenghi, the author of two award-winning cookbooks, and owner of four glorious take-out food shops in the UK capital.

From the minute we walked through the door into the brightly lit modern interior, I knew we were in for a treat. The menu is not extensive, but the dishes are carefully thought out and composed of unique

Savory Cheesecake at NOPI

Savory Cheesecake at NOPI

flavors and textures. Our favorites included a creamy burrata set atop fresh orange slices served with a sprinkling of toasted coriander seeds and a drizzle of lavender oil. Roasted eggplant paired with lime pickle and Greek tzatziki plus a dish of zucchini and cheese fritters served with cardamom yogurt were other temptations. A savory cheesecake scented with hazelnut, thyme, and honey arrived at our table in a small copper pan, only to disappear within minutes! Continue reading

Spring, Paris, France

Spring 6, rue Bailleul, Paris 1, 01-45-96-05-72

Chanterelles with Diced Apricots from Spring

If you asked me where I had the best meal of the summer, the answer would be easy. It was in Paris last month at Spring, a fairly new restaurant whose chef and owner is Daniel Rose, an American from Chicago. For months, I had tried to get into this restaurant where inventive food is served as a multi-course meal both at lunch and dinner. Then my friend and respected food critic, John Talbott, invited me to join him and and his wife for déjeuner there. Continue reading

Blauw, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Blauw Amstelveenseweg 158-160, Amsterdam 1075 XN, The Netherlands, 020 – 675 50 00

Rijstaffel at Blauw in Amsterdam

I’ve been to Amsterdam at least a half dozen times, and although the Dutch capital now has a cornucopia of note-worthy Dutch and ethnic restaurants, I always opt for Indonesian fare. My husband and I adore rijstaffel (that translates as rice table), a spread of Indonesian dishes all served with rice. During a brief two-day visit last month, we went with several friends to a new Indonesian place called Blauw. Continue reading

Jean Georges‘ Nougatine, New York, NY

Jean Georges‘ Nougatine 1 Central Park West (between 60th and 61st), New York, New York

Molten Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream at Nougatine

In the same building on Central Park West adjacent to the famous Restaurant Jean Georges, you’ll find another eatery called Jean Georges’ Nougatine, its less expensive sibling. The talented chef oversees both kitchens, and the menu at Nougatine, when I stopped there for lunch recently, was tantalizing and a veritable bargain at $32 prix fixe. In the Big Apple to attend an international food meeting, I and another food writer went for a midday meal at Nougatine where we savored a parade of creative and beautifully presented dishes. Continue reading

Sola, Paris, France

Sola 12, rue de l’Hotel Colbert, Paris V, 33-1-43-29-59-04, Metro: Maubert Mutualité

Not one, but two friends who live in Paris suggested that I try Sola, a new restaurant in Paris’ fifth arrondissement, so I quickly made a lunch reservation. Located near the Seine on the Left Bank, only a stone’s throw from Notre Dame, the restaurant is housed in a 17th-century building, and features the exquisite food of Hiroki Yoshitake, a Japanese chef, who trained at the 3-star Astrance. There are two dining rooms—La Salle Française on the main floor with its striking beamed ceilings, and Les Salons Japonais below in the vaulted cave with its stone walls and Japanese-style tables and benches. (In the latter, you remove your shoes before dining.) Continue reading

The Dutch, New York, NY

The Dutch 131 Sullivan Street (at Prince Street), New York, New York 10012 212-677-6299

I became a fan of Andrew Carmellini’s cooking when he was at A Voce near New York’s Madison Park. Last year when he opened Locanda Verde downtown, I made a reservation a month in advance, and it was worth it. The Italian offerings were creative, perfectly cooked, and served by a helpful staff. So, when I read that this talented chef was opening a new American place called The Dutch in Soho, I couldn’t wait to try it. I met Natanya, my young friend and talented cook, for lunch there recently, and over a two-hour meal we sampled dishes until we could eat no more.

It’s hard to describe the food at The Dutch except to say that it is inventive, yet surprisingly simple, with an emphasis on quality ingredients. There’s plenty of fresh fish (with a first-rate oyster selection), choice meats, and no end of local produce. A welcoming treat arrived the minute we set down: a small warm loaf of peppery corn bread and sweet butter set on a wooden board. Most of it disappeared before we had even glanced at the menu. Continue reading

Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit 14, Antibes, France

Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit 14, rue Saint-Esprit, or 7 promenade Amiral de Grasse (two entrances), Antibes 06600, France, 33-4-93-34-50-12

An extraordinary dessert at Le Figuier

While my family was in Provence this summer, Kathie Alex, our friend and a fellow cooking teacher, suggested that we book lunch at Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit, a fairly new restaurant in the picturesque coastal town of Antibes. The chef, Christian Morisset, she explained, was exceptionally talented, and was a genius at using the freshest ingredients in the market. We called for a reservation on the spot. The “figuier” refers to a large fig tree that stands tall in the center of the restaurant’s enclosed terrace, while “Saint-Esprit” Continue reading

The Plaza Food Hall, New York, NY

The Plaza Food Hall 1 West 59th Street, Concourse A (lower level), New York, New York 10019

Recently during a short visit to New York, I went to the Plaza Food Hall, located on the lower level of the Plaza Hotel for lunch. I had read about its opening in June of last year, and wanted to check it out. I confess that I arrived thinking it might just be another food court, but my solo meal there far surpassed my expectations. I only ordered two things, but both were delicious. A watercress salad with an assortment of shaved, pickled radishes, served mounded atop a grilled goat cheese panini was beautifully balanced in flavors. A mere hint of lemon jam spread beneath the sandwich, lent just the right sweet and tart notes to this dish. A whoopee pie cupcake, a rich, tender chocolate little cake, topped with thin layers of cream and chocolate, and then coated in a dark chocolate glaze, was perfection as well. Continue reading

Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA

Hungry Mother 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 617-499-0090

Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Pea Shoots at Hungry Mother

Hungry Mother in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a restaurant I could return to week after week, for I know that I would never tire of the food. How to describe the cuisine and the rich menu? It has strong Southern country roots with sophisticated and original touches. Full disclosure: I was born and bred in Memphis, so soul food is in my DNA! Hungry Mother (the name of a state park in southern Virginia, the home state of talented chef, Barry Maiden) offers some of the most creative, enticing fare on either side of the Mason Dixon line. Continue reading