It’s amazing how much hype and attention is given to winners of TV food competitions and even more remarkable is the quality of food on offer at these restaurants. Having unintentionally eaten at several restaurants run by the US food series Top Chef winners, the expectations from such restaurant just kept getting higher and higher and one such restaurant, The Girl and Goat, in Chicago had been garnering a lot of praise from critics and best restaurant lists alike.
I did laugh out loud and possibly may have even done a chicken walk to the sound of Portland’s hottest restaurant, Pok Pok. Having discovered a very decisive and accurate listing of some of America’s best restaurants, Pok Pok had been on my radar and as it so happened that I had a friend who I was visiting in Portland, the opportunity was there for the taking. To bolster this decision, a couple of friendly diners with whom I struck up a foodie rapport at Red Farm in New York further mentioned Pok Pok’s claim to culinary fame as one of America’s finest Asian restaurants. Having won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef, Northwest 2011, Andy Ricker’s brand of Northern Thai cuisine has no problems filling the rafters, with people constantly queueing to sample the fare. Luckily, being a table of two not opposed to sitting at the bar, we were let in almost immediately to start our feasting….
It’s almost sacrilege to visit through the west coast, especially San Francisco and not pay a visit to a few trees. By trees I mean the biggest giants rooted on planet earth – the Redwood Sequoias. My adventure took me to Yosemite National Park where amongst the giants was one that stood 240 feet tall, 30 feet wide and looked well for it’s 2000 years of age. Of course, the rest of the national park, made famous by its namesake cartoon bear, too is stunning beyond words. However, one is ravenous on the way back and I had been lucky to have been recommended the restaurant Sons & Daughters by one of the waiters from Coi – the even bigger bonus was that the restaurant happened to be about 10 minutes from my hotel in Union Square. As I later found out, the chef is a protege of 2* Saison and has a style similar to that of its mentor, only a few hundred dollars cheaper. Being the last customer of the night, there was no rush to my meal, the service was lovely and I even got a complimentary addition to my tasting menu! On this occasion, I decided to finally try out a vegetarian tasting menu – something I should do more often as these are the ones that truly bring out the best of a chefs creativity.
Charlie Trotter: the man’s been a legend for 25 years having run one of the first fine dining restaurants to champion local produce and developing cross cultural cooking to a level that hadn’t been done before. Charlie Trotter’s Desserts was the first cookbook I ever bought, having left college to go work at Gordon Ramsay at the Claridges as commis pastry chef. In that book was a recipe for Goats cheese and grape ice cream – a fabulous combination and one that has been replicated at numerous restaurants. I, of course, being a bit of a rebel and over excited at having learnt how to make ice creams for the first time, decided to attempt a goats cheese and grape ice cream! I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that, except, I used the recipe for a normal