“Is this lunch or dinner?”, He asked, reaching for his glasses. “Well it’s 5:00 and we haven’t had lunch or dinner, so let’s have both,” Me said. Happily there are lots of choices to wine and “dine” from and all the ones we picked were great. Our server’s thorough understanding of all the wines by the glass (and bottle) was as reassuring as her smile. We appreciated being able to sample sips of two whites, two reds (reorder our favorites) before choosing. In terms of our total intake, however, two plus two, exceeded four. Enough said. Ciro, Gavi, Montepuliciano – we were happy.
He said, “I know he seeks out exotic locations, but where is this place?” We were on our way to lunch at Richard Branson’s elegant Moroccan retreat, Kasbah Tamdot. Driving for about an hour from Marrakech, we had been twisting our way up into the mountains into seemingly nowhere. Boujemah, our expert guide and driver from Sun Trails said, “It’s not much farther.” The road became yet steeper and more narrow but, as we came around yet another bend, there it was. “Not much to look at,” He said as we parked outside the gates. “Just wait,” Me replied as we headed for the entrance.
Magical Kasbah Tamadot can rightfully boast some of the most elegant delicious cuisine in Morocco. “You know I don’t like olives,” He said. “but this dish is beyond description. Here, taste!” Chicken Tagine: Saffron Perfumed Free Range Chicken, Green Olives and Preserved Lemon. “So do you like olives now?” Me asked. “Maybe not,” He replied, “but I love these olives. While He focused his entire attention on the plate in front of him, Boujemah and I enjoyed our meals and were still able to take in the magnificent views of Toubkai National Park and the lavish gardens and setting of Kasbah Tamadot.
“Next time”, He said waving a happy fork in the air, “when we come back to Morocco we will spend an entire month here, wandering through the mountains, or laying by pool, and I will have this dish every day.” “Of course!” Me smiled, thinking that to be highly unlikely, but yet a very worthy dream.
“You’re going to love their food,” Me said. “Marcony?” He asked. “Absolutely” Me said. Having been there for the first time last night, it was impossible not to be impressed with the specials we ordered and the freshness and flavors of everything brought to the table. The big surprise? The eggplant mousse starter. Would not have ordered it without the encouragement of my dinner partner, a steadfast regular and Marcony fan. It was exceptional in every way.
So too, was the lobster risotto and Dover sole. Marco Pipolo is the owner and visionary behind Marcony and his talents and passion are reflected in a lovely dining room, excellent service and elegant yet unpretentious cuisine. The wine list is, yes, Italian and the choices ably support the menu.
“Really”, Me said, “you would have had a hard time choosing what to order.” “When are we going?” He pressed “I’m ready.” “You always are,” Me replied. (I’m thinking this weekend.)
The first sip of the Muga Reserva 2008 elevated our already high spirits anticipating another tapas-like-you’re-in-Barcelona meal. “Sooner or later,” He said “we’ll order something we don’t like.” Perched on the high stool banquette watching a swirl of tantalizing plates dance around us, Me said, “I’m not so sure.”
The one thing we haven’t done at Boqueria’s Flatiron location is sit at the counter right inside the door, which would give us immediate access to their Tortilla Espanola kept at the bar. There are as many versions of this tapas classic as the number of people who make it. Hot, cold, room temperature, egg-centric, potato-centric, onion-laden, filled with one or more ingredients not included in the “basic” recipe, sophisticated, rudimentary, but never inedible. Boqueria’s version is room temperature and superb.
I’ve never met a croquettas I didn’t love,” Me purred, “these are incredible!” The Croquettas Cremas at Boqueira are velvety, delicious and always seem to arrive at the table at the perfect moment. The Txipirones are a particular favorite of ours – always perfectly cooked, seasoned and undeniably fresh.
Looking too hard for something to criticize, He said, “This wine list is a problem. Too many great choices. I want everything.” “Well, yes,” Me sighed, “Life is hard.”
Boqueira is an edible travel brochure for Barcelona. It will make you want to book a trip if you’ve never been and you should absolutely go to this energetic, beautiful city! But as for eating “the real thing” – you will find it here at Boqueira.
“Tell me again why we haven’t been here before,” He said, as the final course of a proposterously brilliant lunch was nearing our table. Having eaten at most, if not all, of the highly touted fine dining establishments on our many visits to Edinburgh, there was no reasonable explanation. One of the less expected joys of this fairly “secret” city is the number and quality of restaurants on offer. You can eat very, very well in Edinburgh and Restaurant Mark Greenaway has moved to the top of our list.
Having had two completely different tasting menus with wine pairings on separate occasions in a single week (true we have no shame), we are now avid Mark Greenaway fans! Smart, modern, inventive cuisine that is equally respectful to ingredients and diners. While we’ve spent far more for tasting menus with wine pairings, we found these to be more successfully conceived, consistently executed, and better supported by the wines irrespective of country or cuisine. In fact, in every case, the wines not only complemented, but perhaps elevated many of the courses. Head Sommelier, Timothy Elliott gracefully cloaks his expertise with gracious affability as he directs attention to choices designed to delight rather than impress. (They do both.)
It’s rare to read a menu and want to order every selection for all of the courses, which explains (not excuses) how we ended up having two completely different tasting menus just a few days apart. The room is lovely, service professional and knowledgeable. “There’s just one problem with this restaurant,” He said. “Two thumbs up just aren’t enough.” Me said “Well, with mine, that makes four.” But he was right. A dozen seemed more like it. We have become happy, hopeful fans and look forward to experiencing the direction Mr. Greenaway’s cuisine takes over time. Favorite dish? Too hard to choose! But please do.
“Quiche this good could never be cliché!” He purred. “I should have bought more,” Me said sadly. A splendid morning made buttery-yum-special with individual quiches purchased at Maison Kayser in Midtown Manhattan. Warmed in our own oven with a smug nod to last year’s resolution to use at least one kitchen appliance per calendar year, freshly brewed coffee, flaky pastry, and an irresistible aroma were the perfect start to this Christmas Day.
Maison Kayser is quite literally a slice, if you will, of Paris bordering Bryant Park. What to choose – that is the question. Their vast array of croissant, baguettes, pain au chocolat, pastries, tarts, eclairs, as well as full size and individual cakes are masterfully prepared and presented daily.
With tables and chairs at the back and quick, charming counter service at the front, MK has become the favorite of Bryant Park area residents, commuters and tourists alike. Certainly a favorite of ours! Bon appetit!
Maison Kayser 8 West 40th Street New York City 212-364-2300
“You’re home early,” He said pressing the mute button on the remote. “Did you have fun?” Hmmm. Yes. Out for dinner with a wonderful friend, we did have fun, but that had less to do with the restaurant and more to do with the company.
Artisinal Bistro and Fromagerie in midtown Manhattan holds pride of place in the small dining desert surrounding Madison and 32nd. Usually full, bordering on cramped, privy to perhaps everyone’s conversation but your own, it can get loud. Pace is definitely on the menu, Are you ready to order, can I take that away for you, will there be anything else. Not my choice for a relaxing or romantic meal. But a weeknight after work near the office? Not a bad choice.
Having ordered a St. Emilion Grand Cru and being presented a lesser vintage some $65 cheaper, the waiter appeared more confused than concerned. The gougere were room temperature. Entrees arrived before the gougere could be eaten. My duck was tasty but overly salted and overly sauced. My guest didn’t comment on her meal. I was afraid to ask. The wine, however late to the table, was great.
But for cheese lovers, mes amis, this is the place to be. Order pretty much anything from their cheese menu you will have a wonderful time with the added bonus of being able to purchase any of their cheeses on the menu (and more) from the fromagerie before you leave. Cheese is deservedly Artisinal’s hallmark and strength. Given the smiles and happy faces with fondue forks in hand, this is the raison d’etre for Artisinal. Given the range of selection and extensive wine selections on offer, it won’t be difficult to have great experience (and a little something to take home from the counter). Worth noting, catering and on-line delivery and shipping are also available, so their website is definitely worth checking out.
Fine dining, excellent service and superb experience. While not inexpensive, the exquisite tasting menu gracefully supported by an admirable wine list makes for a memorable and entertaining evening. While the atmosphere is one of sophisticated calm, there is an energy of enthusiasm in the air. Diners with smiles, engaged, knowledgeable servers and not a disappointment to be found on the menu or plate. Me and He loved everything, again, at 15 East He said, “Japanese is never at the top of my list. But 15 East certainly is.” Me said, “I agree.”