This post is pretty late (as is the other US-centric post that will follow; I’m waiting for a recipe from a friend before I can post that one). S and I spent almost 2 weeks in the USA, stopping in Los Angeles for 3 days, heading down to Orange County for a friend’s wedding (held at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna-Niguel, which is easily one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen) for 2 days, pigging out in New York for 5, and resting in Washington DC for 3.
Some of you are bound to berate us for this, but despite the perfect weather, neither S nor I left Los Angeles (and Orange County) as fans. While we both enjoyed bopping down Pacific Coast Highway in a rented convertible, we felt that LA itself was a little too spread out and a tad too superficial for our tastes. Famed fast food joints In-N-Out and Pink’s disappointed us. As did Mozza, Mario Batali’s and Nancy Silverton’s stylish and very popular new pizza joint (although we were thrilled to spend some time in the company of the fabulous Bee). Some of the highlights of our stay on the West Coast were a quartet of fish tacos that we tasted (3 in Orange County and one in LA) and that will be the focus of an up-coming post; Sprinkles cupcakes (the Red Velvet is the best); dinner with an old friend at the restaurant at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, where what’s going on around you is as interesting and entertaining as the food in front of you; a pho bo we slurped down in Little Saigon (thanks for the recommendation Bee!); and a grilled Reuben sandwich at La Brea Bakery. Our best meal, though, and the only place that wowed us in terms of both food and ambience, was at AOC. Of course, the meal was only made more fun because we had the honor of dining with Matt, of the uberblog Matt Bites, and his partner Adam. AOC is the casual wine and food bar concept from Lucques owners Suzanne Goin and Carolyne Styne. It is suggested that patrons order multiple dishes to share. Our waiter said that for 4 persons, the norm is 8-11 dishes. Of course, we ended up ordering 13. All the dishes were delicious. My own personal faves were the dates wrapped in bacon and served with parmesan (and I usually don’t like dates); fried tetilla with quince paste and romesco; pork rillettes with pickled onions; veal sweetbreads with chestnuts and mushroom; arroz negra with squid and saffron aioli; brioche with prosciutto, gruyere and egg; and a creme fraiche terrine with seascape strawberries and acacia honey. The restaurant had a fantastic buzz; the wait staff were all great; and the company (as you can imagine) was awesome.
New York was fantastic. Of course, as an ex-resident, I’m a little biased. We ate ridiculously well, splurging out on some great restaurants. We were, I have to admit, a tad disappointed with Le Bernadin, only because I think many Americans like their fish cooked quite a bit more than S and I do. We really like our fish cooked as rare and as tender as possible, so we often find that even the best American restaurants serve what we feel are over-cooked dishes (but which their normal patrons love). Eric Ripert’s use of flavours and ingredients, though, was excellent and I was happy to experience his cuisine for the first time. In addition to our amazing lunch at Per Se, we had great meals at Basta Pasta, a wacky Japanese owned and run Italian restaurant; Del Posto, the super-cool and very sexy new Mario Batali eatery; Pastis, the always-crowded but always fun French bistro in the meatpacking district; and DB Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s bustling mid-town bistro where we had an excellent lunch with a friend from Conde Nast Traveler. I was also thrilled to bring S to Corner Bistro for her very first Bistro Burger. I’m happy to report that she loved the simple yet famous greasy bacon cheeseburger served on paper plates in this West Village dive bar. Unfortunately, while we were staying just a five minute walk from Shake Shack, the lines were simply too long and we left without trying their burgers.
We went to Washington DC for a couple of reasons. None of them were food-centric. I wanted to show S my old high school and the National Cathedral (which is next to the school); we wanted to see a few old friends; and our plane ticket routed us from NYC through DC to Paris. Nonetheless, we managed to have a few good meals. The most memorable, most amusingly, was the cheeseburger off the kid’s menu at the very cool Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (where we stayed). It was so good, in fact, that we ordered three of them (done medium-rare) during our three day stay. We also had good meals at Fahrenheit, the simple New American housed in the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown; Maestro, the very high-end degustation restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Tyson’s Corner; and Cafe Atlantico, a cool, casual and modern restaurant owned by Jose Andres. We tried the burgers and fries at Five Guys. The burgers were good, better than In-N-Out’s but nowhere near as good as Corner Bistro’s. Their fries, however, were really good and I’d go back just for them. We also enjoyed some Argentinian ice cream from a cute place in Georgetown called Dolcezza (the dulce de leche was sublime).
In all, it was a good trip to the States. We ate best in New York, but we also loved the fish tacos we had in California and the cheeseburger at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown in DC.