Alinea: Dinner and a Show (but not necessarily in that order)

We did the ultimate foodie thing and flew to Chicago to have dinner at Alinea, the top-ranked restaurant in the country. (I know, I know, but have you noticed that we kind of like good food?) All I can say is that the ranking is well-deserved. Alinea specializes in molecular gastronomy but where some restaurants with that specialization think about dinner as a show (and the food as somewhat secondary), Alinea provides both a fabulous show and a delicious dinner.
We started out at the communal table with a dish of parsnip, Osetra caviar, lemon, and white pepper accompanied by a Kurt, Grand Cuvée, 164eme edition. Simple, elegant, and delicious.
Then, we were asked to go into the kitchen and were served a made-in-front-of-us pomegranate shaker accompanied by a black walnut & mace cake. The combination was delicious and also served the purpose of giving the staff time to turn the communal dining table into various separate tables.
We then returned to the dining room and were seated at our own table. We were given an Asian pear, roe, and shiso snow with a Romaine, avocado, and tosaka spear. The wine was a 2015 Hans Wirching Iphofer Julius-Echter Berg Silvaner GG (I should mention at this point that we had chosen the eclectic wine pairing option). Beautifully presented and the flavors blended beautifully as well.

Next up was a crab, coconut, and curry ranina accompanied by a spiced orange glow. Again, flavors that you wouldn’t think would go together (spiced orange and crab?) were delicious together.

Course #5 was an olive and artichoke black and a squid, black garlic, and chrysanthemum ink. The wine was a 2015 Hatzidakis cuvée no. 15 assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece. The dish was darkly flavored (for the lack of a better description) without being overly rich and delectable.

One of our favorite courses was the langoustine, bouillabaisse, and olive oil paper that was served with a 2013 Paul Perone Les Chalmaux Pullgny-Montrachet from Burgundy. The paper did indeed taste just like a bouillabaisse should. Clever and delicious.

A venison, juniper, and huckleberry smolder was next up. This was probably my least favorite course but that is more due to my not being a fan of venison than anything else. (And even in a fabulous meal, there needs to be a least favorite thing, right?)

Next up was “clam chowder” or, rather, a clam, potato, bacon cape accompanied by an Old Bay oyster cracker. The potato had been baked in butter for 14 hours, then hidden in the salt bowl pictured above, which had been heated during the previous courses, before being unearthed and mashed up for the chowder. The chowder was amazing!

chowder making

Accompanying the 2014 Hansell Pinot Noir from Sonoma Valley was a blueberry, black truffle, maitake glass, a matsutake, lemon, and thyme funghi, and a foie gras, shio kombu, and mushroom umami. Heavenly.

Next up was a squab, black forbidden rice, and binchotan coal served with a beet, mustard, and chili spiral and a tenderloin bean. The wine was a 2012 Chevalier des Andes from Mendoza, Argentina. (As a side note, when we asked how this wine aged, the lovely sommelier explained how it became more tannic and poured us a taste of the 2004. He was right—you would not have guessed that it was the same wine.)

And I was wrong. My least favorite course was the goat cheese and manuka air (I am not a goat cheese fan, which might be the understatement of the day). The accompanying pineapple, aloe, and shiso shot, however, was delicious.

The whimsical first dessert was a dark chocolate, birch, and marshmallow campfire and a green apple helium balloon (with the balloon string also made of edible green apple). I don’t know which was more fun—eating the balloon and string or listening to all of us talk in helium voices. The wine was a 2013 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Auslese Piesporter Goldtropfchen from Mosel, Germany.

And the final dessert show consisted of what Alinea calls the white chocolate, coconut, and silver paint. The videos don’t do the show justice but gives you a sense of the whimsy that is very much a part of the dining experience.

Beginning of dessert course at Alinea

Dessert course at Alinea

And by final dessert, we are not counting the sesame, brown butter, and gold nuggets that were presented to us to send us off into the night.

We staggered out of the restaurant complete with a sensory overload of taste, sight, and hearing. Dinner at Alinea definitely goes on the list as one of our most memorable meals ever!

Restaurant review: Dolan Uyghur

Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) cuisine comes from one of the ethnic minorities mostly located in Xinjiang, China.  We have been to a Uyghur restaurant in Beijing many years ago and were thrilled to learn that there was now a Uyghur restaurant in Washington, DC.  Off we went to try it with some friends who had made the discovery (thank you, Joyce and Marty!).

Uyghur food bears some resemblance to Middle Eastern food (not surprising, given some of the common culture and climate) and some resemblance to Chinese food (again, not surprising).

We started out with the Piter Manta, steamed buns containing beef seasoned with onions and spices.  Think of potstickers with Middle Eastern seasoning, and you come close to what these taste like.  They were quite good.

piter manta

We had an additional appetizer, the Samsa, made of seasoned beef and onions rolled in a bun.  They were also quite yummy.


Popular dishes here include several noodle dishes.  We had the Mom’s Laghman (hand-made pulled noodles served with stir fried beef and vegetables).  For those of you who like homemade noodles, this is definitely a dish for you.

mom’s laghman

The consensus favorite amongst the group, however, was the Korma Chop, a dish consisting of dry-fried noodles with beef and vegetables.  The noodles are bite-sized in this dish and more toothsome and chewier than the hand-pulled noodles.  In fact, the beef and vegetables are somewhat superfluous.  The sauce is flavorful, with a bit of a bite, and paired with the noodles, it is an excellent dish.

korma chop

Somewhat more familiar to many diners is the Dolan kabob, which are lamb kabob skewers where the lamb is seasoned with salt, cumin, and red pepper.  These were good but did not stand out like the noodle dishes did.

dolan kebab

Another favorite was the Goshnan, described as a Uyghur-style pizza, stuffed with beef, onions and red peppers.  I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a pizza (it has a double sided crust)—in some ways, it resembles a British pasty, but with deeper flavors and a lighter crust.  It is quite filling and quite delicious.

what’s left of the goshnan

We also tried the spicy-sour tofu, which is the Uyghur take on Mapo Tofu (the Chinese hot and spicy tofu dish).  It was good but not a standout in the dishes we ordered.

spicy-sour tofu

The potato silk was a hit, as it consisted of sautéed shredded potato with scallions, red peppers, and carrots.  Our son was particularly enamored with this one (it contains potatoes, after all).  This isn’t something you can typically order at an Asian restaurant and is well worth trying.

potato silk

Another well-liked dish was the Beef Yotaza, a spicy stir fried beef with assorted vegetables and served with steamed buns.  There was a nice bite to the dish, and the steamed buns are very similar to mantou (a northern Chinese steamed bun).

beef yotaza

The honey fish is fried tilapia seasoned with sweet and sour sauce and cooked with peppers, onions, and pineapples.  I wasn’t a fan of this dish, but others found it to be quite delicious.  (sorry–the official food photographer failed on this one (that’s me!)).

And, finally, there was the Dolan chicken—fried chicken cooked with mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, and bean sprouts.  This was the consensus least favorite dish, as the flavors were muddled and meh.  (another fail on the part of the food photographer)

But there are salads!  Below is the Tatlik salad, consisting of lettuce (duh!), cucumbers, beets, apples, and pineapple.

Tatlik salad

The restaurant also has surprisingly good desserts.  Or, rather, if you judge the restaurant against other Asian restaurants, it has excellent desserts.  If you judge the restaurant against European and American restaurants, the desserts are passable.  (No photos because we consumed them too quickly.). We tried the Dolan cake, which is the Uyghur version of baklava.  It is dryer than traditional Middle Eastern or Greek baklava, but it is very flavorful.  The Kat-Kat cake is a traditional Uyghur cake, and it was my favorite as it was not overly sweet and had an unusual but pleasant flavor.  The fried bananas were good, but you have to like bananas (obviously) to like this dessert, and the Bak-Kal-Li is a walnut cake dried with chocolate.  This is a heavy—almost peasant-like—cake that is worth trying but is not for everyone.

I also highly recommend the Uyghur tea, which uses black tea as a base but adds ginger, date, and other fruit flavors as well.  Even the son, who does not like tea, liked this one.

The restaurant itself is small and austere, typical of an Asian hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but the wait staff is friendly, competent, and helpful.  We really liked the food at Dolan Uyghur and will definitely be back to try new dishes!

Dolan Uyghur is located at 3518 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (

Inn at Little Washington weekend (aka I want to come back in my next life as one of my kids)

As you may have noticed from my blog posts, the Inn at Little Washington is a favorite restaurant of ours, with a combination of stunning food and warm hospitality.  (We always feel treated like family when we go.). This past weekend will be remembered in the family chronicles as the Inn at Little Washington weekend.
Jade wanted to hold a “thank you” party for her friends.  This all started in 7th grade during bar/bat mitzvah year.  She asked for a bat mitzvah party, and we pointed out that since we aren’t Jewish, that would be a tad difficult.  Jim eventually told her that we would throw her the equivalent of a bat mitzvah if she was accepted into Stanford (she didn’t have to go, but she had to be accepted).  Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington with her friends was what she wanted.
We booked both kitchen tables on Saturday night for the late seating and had a limo bus ready to go.  Everyone arrived early (our biggest fear, since punctuality is not her friends’ strong point, as fond as I am of them) and off they went.

All eleven friends elected to spend the night at our house, given the lateness of their return.  (Note:  12 teenagers in one house is not for the OCD amongst you.). Most importantly, everyone (especially Jade) had a fabulous time.  For some reason, no one was particularly hungry at breakfast the next morning.  Can’t imagine why.
Sunday was Marcus’s turn.  For his birthday, we gave him a dinner for 6 at the Inn.  So, Sunday afternoon, he and 5 of his friends piled into a different limo bus (one that was much more limo than bus) and went off to the Inn for dinner.

The three of us decided that we needed a dinner at the Inn as well but made sure we would be seated out of sight lines from the table of 9th graders.  In addition to the always skillful and imaginative food, we were pleasantly surprised to have new dishes to sample—all of which were delectable.
The new dishes included:
Carmelized Catalan Foie Gras Custard, which quite possibly is the best foie gras we’ve ever had:

carmelized catalan foie gras custard

Chilled Maine Lobster with Vichyssoise Puree and American Osetra Caviar

chilled lobster with caviar

Japanese Wagyu Beef Two Ways:  Seventy-Two Hour Braised Short Rib and Ribeye Sashimi with Potato “Noodles” in Fragrant Broth (possibly the best dish of the night, which is saying something!)

wagyu beef two ways

Raviolis of Ginger Scented Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Brown Butter, Sage, and Toasted Pecans

sweet potato and apple ravioli

Chocolate Mint Bomb

mint ice cream in a chocolate bomb

There isn’t a lot more to be said, other than the fact that the Inn could not have been nicer about having 12 high school seniors descend upon them one night and then 6 high school freshmen descend upon them the following night.  Their hospitality and graciousness created two evenings that will not be soon forgotten!

Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is the one restaurant through the years that we always ensure we visit when we are in Honolulu.  February is the tail end of black truffle season, and we were fortunate enough to ride the coattails of one of our favorite ingredients.  The restaurant is currently offering a four course chicken dinner option, and we immediately opted to try it, as this option is not always on the menu.

The first course was the meli-melo salad, served with Hamakua maitake mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, pan-fried panisse, and a roasted beet pepper vinaigrette.  There is no one who can make vegetables and raw ones, at that (I know, my Asian heritage is coming through) interesting like Chef Mavro.  The salad was delicious (for a salad).  🙂

The second course is one I have dreams about.  It is the Truffled Egg “Osmose” and is an egg served on a bed of potato mousseline with pickled shallots, prosciutto ribbons, and most importantly, black truffles!  The egg itself has been infused with black truffle flavor, and it is one of the most delectable dishes ever!

Next up was a truffled ballotine of thigh meat on frisee salad.  I am a dark meat person, and having dark meat chicken with black truffles is an absolutely fabulous treat.

The main course is a whole chicken, carved tableside by the chef, served with garlic creamed corn and an au jus sauce with black truffles.  It comes with a side of caper-olive oil mashed potatoes.  Yum, yum, yum.

mashed potatoes

And, finally, dessert was roasted pineapple served over a light yuzu crumble and a scoop of bay leaf ice cream.

Oh, and let’s not forget the after-dinner treats of green matcha chocolate squares and passionfruit pate de fruits (I must learn how to make these).

All in all, another amazing meal from a fabulous restaurant!

Chef Mavro is located at 1959 S. King Street, Honolulu, HI (

Inn at Little Washington December 2016

Another one of our annual traditions is to go to the Inn at Little Washington after Christmas and spend the night.  While Jim and I usually do it with just the two of us, this year, we took the kids.  (I know—I want to come back in my next life as one of our kids, too.)
The Inn was kind enough to sit us at the kitchen table, which made the entire experience even more memorable.  Unlike many kitchens, especially in New York, the kitchen at the Inn is quiet and serene, at least on the surface.  The stress and tension are definitely there, as it is in every high-end restaurant kitchen, but yelling and profanities are not acceptable behavior.
We started off with a family favorite—truffle popcorn.  As much as I love every dish at the Inn, there are times when I think that the truffle popcorn is all I need to keep me happy.  It truly elevates popcorn so that you’ll never be happy with the movie theatre version again.

truffle popcorn

Next up, was the amuse-bouche.  We were treated to the chip-and-dip served on an (inedible) stone.

In addition, there was a bite of pork belly served with a hoisin sauce.

pork belly

And, finally, there was a brioche with a quail egg and quince jam.  Everything was quite delectable.


Next up was an oxtail consommé with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich studded with black truffles.  The oxtail consommé used to be part of a regular dish on the menu, and it was one of my favorite dishes on the menu.  This taste brought back a lot of lovely food memories.  Virtually any savory dish can be improved upon with the addition of black truffles, and the grilled cheese sandwich was no exception.  Heavenly.

oxtail consomme & grilled cheese

Another Inn favorite that is no longer on the menu is the fire and ice—seared tuna served on a bed of cabbage “noodles” topped with cucumber sorbet.  We took advantage of its availability that night.

fire and ice

Our son had the carpaccio of lamb loin with caesar salad ice cream.  It’s a favorite of his.

lamb carpaccio

The mousse of foie gras with sauternes gelee and red plum preserve is another family favorite and is often ordered when we are at the Inn.

foie gras mousse

Another past menu item that made a brief return was the roasted pheasant with cabbage

roasted pheasant

Jim took advantage of white truffle season and ordered the spaetzle “risotto” with a poached farm egg and white truffles.

white truffles galore!

Our daughter had the pan roasted lobster with tomato butter, spinach, and garlic custard (among other things):


The pan-seared diver scallop with artichoke puree, capers, and tomato tartare was excellent,


And the Inn always does a fabulous job with its version of roasted duck topped with foie gras and served with pickled cranberries (which were amazing!):

roast duck

Here is the delicious pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli:

pork jowl with walnut ravioli

The most amazing dish they served us in an evening of amazing dishes was a black truffle, which they had roasted in the ashes of the fireplace in the kitchen.  It had been wrapped in foil and was warm and sat in its own lovely truffle juice.  It was then sliced and served over a simply dressed salad with the juices poured over it.  Those truffles were one of the most wonderful things I have ever put in my mouth.

roasted black truffles!

Desserts included the painter’s palette of sorbets,

the chocolate mint fantasy,

a chocolate hazelnut mousse tart,

and a honeycrisp apple tart.

While the food is definitely delicious and artistic and memorable, the service is even more exceptional.  The staff always looks happy to see us (they are excellent actors all!), and we are treated like valued guests.  We already are looking forward to our next trip there!

Restaurant review: Bazaar Miami

Our food highlight from this past weekend in Miami was dinner at Bazaar, located in the SLS hotel.  We’ve been to the Bazaar in Los Angeles and while the Bazaar in Miami has many of the same dishes, there are also Miami specific dishes.  As with many of Jose Andres’s restaurants, the restaurant serves small dishes, which our favorite way of eating, since you can try a bunch of dishes.
I started out in the best South Beach tradition with a drink, an Old Cuban, consisting of rum, mint, and lime juice.

More interesting was the food.  We started with the Jose Taco, consisting of Iberian ham and Ossetra caviar.

Next came what was probably my favorite dish, Onion Soup with Foie Gras Cappuccino.  Words cannot describe how completely scrumptious this dish was.  The foie gras was more foam than solid, and the onion soup was flavorful and almost meaty.

We then had Conch Fritters served Cafe Atlantico-style with a liquid center.

A surprisingly excellent vegetarian dish was the Twenty Vegetable Quinoa “Couscous” served with fresh vegetables in tamarind broth.

The next course was Pork Belly Sliders.  There is nothing that contains pork belly that would be considered not delicious.

Croquetas de Jamón (Spanish ham bechamel fritters) were next.

Pollo al Ajillo Cubano or slow-cooked chicken thigh with black garlic followed.

Sauteed Shrimp served with garlic, parsley, spicy tomato sauce, lemon, and guindilla peppers were quite spicy and extremely delicious.

The Cubano in honor of Cafe Versailles was delectable, with Iberian ham on the top and a liquid center.

The final “entree” were Baby Japanese Peaches served with fresh burrata, hazelnuts, and arugula.

Dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake served with creme fraiche and salted caramel ice cream.

We also had cookies (a coconut financier, chocolate chip, and chocolate flour de sel).
Service was impeccable and lovely as well.  It’s definitely a highly recommend!


Restaurant review: Chinatown Express (Washington, DC)

We were looking for a quick bite to eat before the Adele concert at the Verizon Center.  Daikaya (known for its ramen) was a 40 minute wait.  But then we happened upon this hole-in-the-wall that advertised fresh hand-cut noodles (called 手拉麵 in Chinese).
The noodles can be either put in soup or stir-fried, and you can choose your toppings (vegetarian, chicken, roast pork or roast duck are some of the choices).  I opted for soup with roast pork on top.  Jim went with the little soup dumplings(小龍包) and normal dumplings.  They were good but not memorable.
On the other hand, the noodles were excellent—thick and substantial, the way hand-cut noodles should be.  The broth was simple but filling, and the roast pork was excellent—flavorful and meaty.

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

We believe the quality of the dishes here is completely dependent on what you order.  Based on our limited data points, I would lean towards ordering Cantonese specialties such as roast pork as well as the hand-cut noodles (which aren’t a Cantonese specialty but are lovely anyway).
We will definitely be back to try some additional dishes.  If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive meal around the Verizon Center, Chinatown Express should be on your list!

Chinatown Express is located at 746 6th St, NW, Washington, DC 202-638-0424 (

Inn at Little Washington birthday dinner

It was our son’s 15th (!) birthday a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to feeling really old, we celebrated with a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (at his request).

As usual, dinner was fabulous from the moment we stepped into the restaurant until we were wheeled out of the restaurant in a food coma.

Appetizers included the mélange of the Inn garden’s heirloom tomatoes with marinated fairy tale eggplant and local sheep milk’s feta


to a tin of sin (American osetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes)


to a quartet of Rappahanock oyster slurpees (with sorbets of cucumber, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and wasabi)


Additional courses consisted of a carpaccio of herb-crusted Elysian Fields baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream


to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar


to a pan-seared Maine diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée, capers and tomato relish


to grilled pepper-crusted black kingfish with shallot confiture and red wine reduction


to crispy maple-glazed pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli


to fontina-filled tortelloni on a sweet corn sauté with local shiitake mushrooms and patty pan squash purée


to a chanterelle mushroom “meatloaf” with celery root purée and angry red sauce


to a chop of organic milk fed pork with grilled peaches and potato purée


Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake


to the Inn’s signature dessert of seven deadly sins (clearly gluttony is the one practiced most frequently here!)


to a peach tart served with almond ice cream


It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is one of our favorite restaurants in Honolulu. While some of our other favorites have gifted chefs who serve excellent food, Chef Mavro has both those requirements, and the dishes are always beautifully presented. We try and go twice on every trip and alternate between the 6 course menu and the 4 course menu.
This is the four course menu, where the serving portions are a bit larger than the 6 course menu, and it is every bit as delicious.

We started with the amuse-bouche: white bean mousse with duck confit rillettes. We could have cheerfully made a meal out of the rillettes.



All of us opted out of the squid course and substituted it with black truffle risotto. Black truffles. Risotto. In the hand of a master. Need I say more?


black truffle risotto

The next course was onaga in fisherman’s bouillabaisse marseilles-style, with rouille & croutons. The “crouton,” served with a spicy garlic aioli, was completely scrumptions.

onaga bouillabaisse style

onaga bouillabaisse style

The meat course was herb crusted niman rack of lamb, served with tomato, zucchini, eggplant & bell pepper à la monégasque.



It was accompanied by a side dish of extra virgin olive oil caper mashed potato. I don’t particularly like mashed potato (it’s a texture thing), but this was scrumptious.

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

The palate cleanser was a watermelon-champagne gelée.


And, finally, the dessert course. A peach flambé, with peach, lemon chiboust brulée & sablé, and a blueberry compote accompanied by crème fraiche with a pernod accent and fennel pollen. It was a perfect finish to a lovely dinner!

peach flambe

peach flambe

Restaurant review: The Source (Washington, DC)

The Source is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant next to the Newseum. Scott Drewno is the executive chef and in addition to being an extremely talented chef, he is also a really wonderful guy (possessing both characteristics is not as common as you might think).
The restaurant recently revamped its menu, so we went and checked it out a few weeks ago, and it is even better than we remembered.

Disclaimer: we cannot comment on the entrees or the desserts because Jim and I did what we often do, which is to order an assortment of appetizers instead. But we have high praise for what we did order.

We had the following assortment of appetizers and side dishes:

Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Cones, Shaved Bonito, Pickled Ginger, Tobiko (this is the appetizer that appears at all Wolfgang Puck restaurants and is considered one of his signature dishes)

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

Scallion-Onion “Bread” (this is a riff on the traditional Chinese scallion pancakes—much as I have fond memories of the authentic dish from childhood, this version is even better)

scallion "bread"

scallion “bread”

Table Side Wonton Soup, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings, Tea Poached Egg, 20 Hour Broth (a must have if you love rich, flavorful broth!)  And you’ll have to take my word on the fact that it was a lovely dish as well.

deconstructed wonton soup  :)

deconstructed wonton soup 🙂

Crispy Suckling Pig, Rhubarb Puree, Pickled Cipollini, Sweet Bean Sauce (crispy pig—need I saw anything more?)

suckling pig

suckling pig

Lobster & Shrimp Dumplings, XO Sauce, Sichuan Bacon, Spring Peas, Asparagus (the weakest of the dishes we had, but it was quite lovely)

lobster & shrimp dumplings

lobster & shrimp dumplings

Selection of Dim Sum: Scallop Siu Mai, Pork Potsticker, Lobster Springroll, Chicken Dumpling (we love the restaurant’s dim sum and rarely pass by an opportunity to order this)

selection of dim sum

selection of dim sum

Chinese Roast Pork Fried Rice, Sichuan Sausage, Asparagus, Sunny Side Up Egg (by this time, we were so stuffed that we only had a few mouthfuls. That is not to say this wasn’t delicious, only that we were quite full).

pork fried rice

pork fried rice

If you haven’t had an opportunity to revisit The Source since its menu has been revamped, we highly recommend doing so! The Source is located at 575 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC, next to the Newseum. (