Laduree at Harrod’s, London UK

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Laduree at Harrod’s

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Iced Coffee

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Chocolate Coconut Cream, Strawberries and Cream, Pure Chocolate, Pistachio, Peach, Salty Caramel, Lime and Basil, Coffee Macaron

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Duck Foie Gras with redfruit macaron and toasted kugelhof

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French Toast, Pure Maple Syrup

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Savarin – Baba in dark rum, Chantilly Cream, Apricot Jelly

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St. Honore Fraise Coco – Choux cream puff, coconut cream, strawberry compote, coconut Chantilly, fresh strawberries

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With rainy weather dampening my day on grass at The All England Club after only a few matches plus a bowl of cream-clad berries it was back to London that I turned and without dinner reservations until late that evening a three o’clock lunch took place in the upstairs tea room of Laduree at Harrod’s. Fancifully decorated behind its 1862 “Maison Laduree” marquee and located just past a room of watches that left me an envious shade of green it was at a “Please wait to be Seated” sign that my afternoon began and with the lone host apparently encumbered by patrons who chose not to read it was with patience tested that I did wait, a total of twenty minutes and eight flawless cookies separating me from my eventual seat. Truly a divine room with thirty foot ceilings nearly met by shelves of scented candles, confections, teas, and sweets it was with an abrupt greeting that my arrival to the table was met and although wait times would later prove substantial an expedited order was placed, a total of four items progressing in three courses as my water glass languished and iced coffee tasted ‘instant’ at best. Obviously not known for their service given my previous experiences with the brand in Paris but generally making amends with the quality of the product it was without indecision that my meal began with a thick cut of foie gras and reportedly sourced from an independent farm in Southern France the results would wow, each creamy bite spread on toasty citrus kuglhof savored until the very last. Returning at this point to sweeter things it was with good fortune that this particular Laduree offered breakfast throughout the day and with wispy brioche surprisingly light despite its ample imbuement of butter I took great advantage of a bottle of pure maple syrup, the golden sponge eventually near-saturated and all the better for it. Rounding out the meal with desserts, admittedly the most difficult decision of the day, it was eventually in a duo that I partook and although the tender baba was quite good beneath a light veil of rum it was the seasonal St. Honore with textbook choux amidst bright berries and light cream that stole the show – a big step up from the tiny bowl at Wimbledon to say the least.

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RECOMMENDED: Foie Gras, Macarons, St. Honore.

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AVOID: Going during peak hours unless you only plan to order cookies, cakes, or confections to-go.

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TIP: All pastry counter items served upstairs entail a £1 upcharge plus 12.5% service fee. Not a huge deal given overall prices but not particularly justified by the service, either.

http://www.harrods.com/content/the-store/restaurants/ladur%c3%a9e/

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Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, French Toast, Harrod's, Laduree, Laduree at Harrod's, London, Macaroon, UK, Vacation

Fortnum & Mason, London UK

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Fortnum & Mason

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Spotted Dick

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Eccles Cake

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Fruit Scone, Plain Scone

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Carrot Cake

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Strawberries and Cream Cronut

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Treacle Tart

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Coffee Éclair

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Mini Red Velvet Cupcake

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Jammie Dodger Cupcake

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Knowing full well that even an early arrival for the Queue at Wimbledon was likely to be met by an interminable wait it was with provisions packed after a 4am run that I set my GPS to The All England Club and although traffic proved fluid before the Monday morning rush it was still over the course of several hours on a field of grass that I enjoyed my bounty from Fortnum & Mason, a piece of British history housed in Picadilly for over three-hundred years. Formerly a department store and still harboring floors of fanciful furnishings amidst several restaurants atop a market of gourmet delights it was just before closing the night prior that I’d procured some ten sweet selections and although a touch of sog had begun to set into the well layered cronut as well as an espresso rich éclair each of the remaining items would prove far better than that of a typical grocer, the pre-packaged raisin sponge cake and rich treacle tart even managing to impress on the level of many restaurant quality desserts. Truly a gourmet’s paradise with no shortage of cheese, meat, produce, or grain yet far scaled back from the madness of Harrod’s acclaimed ‘Food Hall’ suffice it to say that the focus at Fortnum & Mason is entirely on quality and although my agenda only allowed for one more visit to the store’s “Parlour” on the following day I only wish I’d have had the knowledge then that I do now as I’d have saved serious coin with more frequent visits in place of a few lackluster meals to follow, not to mention how I’d have enjoyed an Eccles cake or a Jammie Dodger over anything served on my long-delayed flight home.

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RECOMMENDED: Treacle Tart, Eccles Cake, Spotted Dick, and pretty much anything quintessentially British – though the scones proved far better fresh from the oven at The Parlour with jam and clotted cream.

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AVOID: Obviously I knew that choux and laminated pastry were likely to suffer but in reality I simply could not resist and with great flavor in each it was only the overly frosted carrot cake that proved truly disappointing – not one bit savory, just very sweet.

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TIP: Flanked by Foie Gras opponents during both of my visits and each time I walked by I’d advise simply nodding and taking their pamphlet, in the end the argument I saw ensue with a woman who seemed to be minding her own business simply is not worth the time.

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BONUS TIP: Check the discount racks for gifts or gourmet grub as several types of non-perishable teas and jams plus prepackaged cookies and puddings are offered for as much as 70% off, the only Spotted Dick I’d see in the city purchased at half price.

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http://www.fortnumandmason.com/

Posted in Breakfast, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Fortnum & Mason, Fortnum and Mason, London, UK, Vacation

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London UK

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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Rustic Sourdough Bread and Unsalted English Farmhouse Butter

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Meat Fruit (c.1500) – Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread

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Nettle Porridge (c.1660) – Frog’s legs, girolles, garlic & fennel

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Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) – Smoked confit fennel & umbles

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Pommes Puree

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Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830) – Salted butter caramel, pear & malted yeast syrup

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Baked Sussex Pond Pudding (1670) – Lemon caramel & Tahitian vanilla ice cream

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Tipsy Cake (c.1810) – Spit roast pineapple

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Americano with Biscotti and Olive Oil Chocolate Pudding

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Liquid Nitrogen Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Toffee Topping

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Undoubtedly overrated at No.5 by the S. Pellegrino list with prices proportionate to hotel owned ‘celebrity chef’ spots back home in Las Vegas it was with admitted skepticism that I went to Dinner and yet with flawlessly executed cuisine delivered by educated servers in a style I’d see replicated thrice more in Bray I can only say that if Heston Blumenthal ever opts to venture across the Atlantic I’ll be booking reservations as soon as I can. Obviously a unique story from his self-training to Michelin’s third star it has been with a seemingly relentless focus on both the science and psychology of how we eat that Chef Blumenthal has ascended the world’s ranks and while ostensibly choosing not to follow his ‘mg’ pedigree but rather to reinvent British history with Dinner the true beauty lies at the crux, each classic plate succeeding as a result of high quality products invigorated with modernist magic. Offered strictly in an a la carte format with servers encouraging a traditional three-course meal it was with little regard for rules and warnings of large portions that I approached the annotated menu and eschewing alcohol in favor of several sweets it would not be long before the show began, the classic bread served at each of Heston’s restaurants proving warm and irresistible with top quality butter until the creamy meat fruit arrived proving every bit deserving of its considerable praise. Indulging in the foie gras slowly while watching the kitchen work with fervor behind a sheet of glass it would not be long before my second plate arrived and having seen the team literally inject each frog leg with butter the vegetal porridge proved a divine backdrop to otherwise unctuous aromatics, a similar effect achieved in the well-brined duck breast and offal which found an anchor in smoky fennel plus sweet gastrique. Turning attention towards desserts after wiping clean a pot of potatoes on par with those of Robuchon it was in a trio soon to become a quartet that I invested and running the gamut from near-savory brown bread ice-cream to the bright citrus of lemon curd before culminating in boozy brioche and an after-dinner tableside show not a single bite would prove unrewarding – even the Americano delivered with a few bites plus a signed menu and well wishes for my meal at The Fat Duck just two days later.

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RECOMMENDED: Meat Fruit, Powdered Duck Breast, Sussex Pond Pudding, Tipsy Cake.

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AVOID: A bit pricy at £8 the portion of liquid nitrogen ice cream is a bit small – suffice it to say you’re paying for a show everyone in the room will be watching.

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TIP: Obviously not a cheap meal and one without a show like that at The Fat Duck, solo diners interested in technique would be well advised to request one of the two 2-tops facing the kitchen – rarely will you see such a large space move with such elegance and skill at each station.

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http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Dinner, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, UK, Vacation

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London UK

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Bea’s of Bloomsbury

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Earl Grey Supreme

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcake

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Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

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Brownie Bite, Walnut Brownie Bite, Blondie Bite, Strawberry Meringue, Vanilla Marshmallow

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PB&J Slice

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Carrot Bread

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Jammie Cookie Cupcake

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Following a proper Sunday Roast another goal for my trip to London was a suitable spot for cream tea and not particularly sold on pricey finger sandwiches in the refined environs of five-star hotels I turned to Bea’s of Bloomsbury – their offering of a dessert forward “Sweet Tea” service far more my speed. Apparently now an expanding commodity with three small shops throughout the British capitol it was without reservations that I entered the Theobalds Road flagship and although packed on arrival it was a matter moments before a table up front opened up – my boxed to-go order soon joined by a £12 septet served alongside steeping Earl Grey Supreme. Every bit a cutesy café with servers bustling to and fro while a team of bakers brought new treats forth from the kitchen in back it was with little debate that my tasting began with Bea’s warm scone and although a bit more crumbly than other scones to follow the combination of thick sweetened cream and freshly made jam made the point moot – a similar effect achieved by the hefty dollop of cooked frosting and plump strawberries atop a cupcake whose base proved a touch dry. Admittedly a bit uninspired by my first few bites it was onward to small treats that I progressed and although somewhat lacking in diversity the results were quite nice as all three brownies proved quite rich while meringue and marshmallow were expectedly light. At this point taking my tasting to the streets it was in part that evening and then the next day that I continued my Bea’s experience and perhaps as a result of selections or maybe just a matter of time each of the remaining selections would prove better than anything I tasted in-house, both cupcakes well balanced and quite moist while carrot bread and a cake seemingly made of nothing but pureed peanuts and thick jam beneath buttery streusel rivaled similar versions back home.

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RECOMMENDED: Oddly, ‘American’ options like the Red Velvet Cupcake and PB&J far outperformed more “British” traditions.

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AVOID: The Scones simply don’t compare to those at Fortnum and Mason or Harrod’s, let alone those served in more refined environs.

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TIP: Reservations are recommended – were it not for a cancellation my proposed wait time for Sunday tea around 2:30pm was over an hour.

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http://www.beasofbloomsbury.com/cafes/bloomsbury/

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Posted in Bea’s of Bloomsbury, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, London, UK, Vacation

The Jugged Hare, London UK

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The Jugged Hare

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Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2004, West Sussex England

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Irish Soda Bread with Butter

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Whipped Pig with Toast

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Salt Cod Brandade Cakes

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Cloanakilty Irish Black Pudding Croquettes with Guinness Sauce / Wild Boar Head Croquettes with Apple Caramel

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Roast Leg of Herdwick Mutton, Mint Jelly, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Cabbage, Cauliflower au Gratin

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Strawberry Pavlova

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With my fine dining itinerary set months in advance it was only after substantial research that my agenda for more traditional British fare was elucidated and knowing full well that a traditional Sunday Roast, preferably with mutton, was something I wanted to experience it was only after screening nearly two dozen spots that I decided on The Jugged Hare – my research well rewarded in a decadent meal amongst the most memorable of the trip. Owned and operated by a group known as ETM and strikingly similar to several hundred local pubs on its façade my arrival at The Jugged Hare followed a touristy trek of the surrounding area and having worked up an appetite on foot my arrival was met with all smiles as a polite hostess led me to a table in direct view of the kitchen where heavy woods and taxidermy decorated the space on all sides. Every bit English in its offerings though admittedly a bit ‘themed’ in its feel it was with greedy eyes that I took in a menu offering no less than twenty things I’d like to try and after discussing portions with my server a six-part order was placed, though sides and accoutrements would push plates north of ten. Declining beer and instead beginning in brisk British bubbles that stood up nicely to starters it was in a duo of creamy cod fritters and cured pork fat studded with sausage that my meal began and with kitchen clearly looking on at a man they’d presumed to have over-ordered it was not long before I was treated to round two – a half-dozen crispy croquettes stuffed with richly spiced meats finding a sweet balance in a duo of sauces. At this point going strong as the room began to fill and I stood to browse the décor it was perhaps thirty minutes later that my main course arrived and thankful for the break as I delved into the saporous lamb flanked by sides I could not help but smile, the potatoes and gratin amongst the best I’ve had in some time and the Yorkshire Pudding something sorely lacking throughout the United States. Admittedly well sated at this point it was to the lightness of meringue that I turned for dessert and somewhere between a proper pavlova and a semi-constructed Eton Mess the concoction proved peerless; a blend of chilled cream and fresh strawberries juxtaposing bits of sugary crunch to tantalize the palate without making much impact on an already full stomach.

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RECOMMENDED: Black Pudding Croquettes, Mutton, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Potatoes, and Pavlova.

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AVOID: Cooked Carrots and Cabbage in butter simply isn’t my thing, your mileage may vary.

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TIP: Attached to a hotel and offering breakfast plus bar bites throughout the day be sure to ask about all menus available when you dine, the bar menu specifically offering several small plates not advertised on the restaurant bill of fare.

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http://www.thejuggedhare.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, London, Pork, The Jugged Hare, UK, Vacation

Duck & Waffle, London UK

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Duck & Waffle

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Caffe Musetti Coffee

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Duck and Waffle – Crispy Confit with Belgian Waffle, Fried Duck Egg

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Spicy Ox Cheek Donut – Apricot Jam, Smoked Paprika, Sugar

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Wild Cornish Pollock Meatballs – Lobster Cream, Parmesan

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Torrejas – Maple Caramel Apples, Cinnamon Ice Cream

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Located forty floors high in Heron Tower with panoramic views of downtown London available 24/7 a Sunday morning visit to Duck & Waffle seemed like a can’t miss proposition, an 8am reservation secured in order to dine windowside during the breakfast-to-brunch transition. Still a trendy choice nearly two years since opening its doors and accessed from the street via rapid transit elevator made of pure glass it was to a largely empty dining room that I entered the brightly lit space and with only a single server available for the first half hour my meal began with a leisurely pace – a pot of good coffee nicely complimenting the restaurant’s signature plate, though a sign of things to come arose in black pudding ‘already sold out.’ Happy to take in the scene as the room began to fill it was with great anticipation that I perused the menu of pending brunch and soon after the clock struck nine my server returned only to again disappoint with news that the restaurant’s supplier had neglected to deliver any foie gras – the brulee I’d desired nowhere to be found, though a complimentary dish of my choosing was offered in its place. Admittedly a bit annoyed after a second day of breakfast bait-and-switch it was at this point that I decided to place my faith in the staff and deferring to the kitchen as to what was best it was actually a duo that arrived, the first a crispy donut performing a tightrope act of savory and sweet while the sourced Rostang’s quenelles de brochet in a sizzling Staub pot. Clearly a talented kitchen despite their shortcomings in supply it was finally in dessert that I indulged and admitting my predilections for custard laden toast I cannot recommend the Torrejas enough as each bruleed bite gave way to a creamy crumb while stewed apples and ice cream merged into a sticky aromatic sauce.

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RECOMMENDED: Torrejas, Oxtail Donut, Pollock Meatballs.

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AVOID: Having your heart set on anything specific as it appears even the printed menu is merely representative.

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TIP: Even on weekends parking in the vicinity of Heron Tower is at a premium and with most spots limited to an hour or two at most even a ‘short’ meal at Duck & Waffle may press your luck as diners are prone to linger and reservations tend to back up.

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http://duckandwaffle.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Duck & Waffle, Duck and Waffle, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, UK, Vacation, Waffles

Kitchen Table, London UK

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Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

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John Dory – Salted and Smoked, Zest of Lemon, Radishes, Peppercorn

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Girolles – Crispy Sourdough, Pickled Garlic Flower Buds, Wild Garlic Emulsion, House Cured Lardo

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Chicken – Crispy Skin, Rosemary Mascarpone, Bacon Jam

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Courgette – Flowers, Beetroot Sauce, Preserved Fennel Pollen

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Carrot – Spiced Baby Carrot Soup with Elderflower

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Scallop – Served Raw from the shell, Maldon Sea Salt, Raw Ginger Pickled Mayonaise, Bottarga

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Plaice – Steamed Filet with Crispy Skin, Mussels, Charred Cabbage, White Strawberries, Wild Fennel

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Asparagus-Truffle – Blanched and served in Hollandaise, Orange Zest, Summer Truffle

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Pig – Suckling Shoulder pounded flat and roasted crisp, Kohlrabi, Apple, Chervil, Elderflower Capers

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Lamb – Roasted Rump, Butter Poached White Onions, Lemon-Thyme, Sheep’s Yogurt, Minty English Pea

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Ricotta – First Milking, English Cherries, Lemon Balm, Black Pepper Gastrique

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Strawberry – English Strawberry, Hibiscus Jelly, Dried Rose Petal, Meadowsweet Cream

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Raspberry – Elderflower Ice Cream, Frozen Olive Oil Dots, Raspberry Sauce

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Caramel – Praline Base, Salted Caramel Toffee, Caramel Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate Shell, Nuts

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Sloe – Toasted Sloe Puree Marshmallow

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Located on the backside of gourmet hotdog and champagne bar Bubbledogs is the sort of secret that separates the enthusiast from those simply looking for something good to eat, a casual space serving serious food straight from the hand of Chef James Knappett with service, sourcing, and skills on par with the city’s best. Titled “Kitchen Table” and manned by the young chef plus two in assist it is with a fine dining focus honed during stints at noma, per se, and Marcus Wareing that the sixteen course experience unfolds and with each dish prepped start to finish before the gaze of a twenty-seat communal counter it was only the inebriated self-described ‘socialite’ to my right that proved anything short of impressive during the three hour night. Beginning light and progressing to richer things while infusing the evening with anecdotes as they worked it was both in produce and proteins that the Kitchen Table team displayed their skills and although portions trend larger than a typical tasting rarely did a course go unfinished even by those claiming to be “full,” a strong testament to the beautiful interplay of only a few pristine ingredients compelling each bite. Truly an ‘experience’ as much as a meal and the sort of place where those invested are well rewarded in the results it was only The Fat Duck whose creativity wowed me more during my trip to the UK and taking into account the overall costs of each suffice it to say that Kitchen Table is a veritable bargain, a rarity in a city where even the most modest of Michelin’s stars often exceeds £100/pp.

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RECOMMENDED: Offered as either a 12 or 16-course meal with a £20 difference in price one is well advised to pay the supplement – the courses of girolles, truffles, pork, raspberries, and scallops our bonuses for the night.

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AVOID: Drinking too much and making asinine comments all night – your communal co-diners and the chefs deserve better.

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TIP: Having begun to develop a buzz with reservations now booking months out one is well advised to check the website for hours and openings while also calling the restaurant to inquire about the wait list.

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http://www.kitchentablelondon.co.uk/

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Posted in Bubbledogs, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Kitchen Table, Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, London, Pork, Tasting Menu, Truffle, UK, Vacation

La Patisserie des Reves, London UK

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La Patisserie des Reves

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Carrot Cake

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Tart Taitin

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Mille-Feuille

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Already familiar with the work of Chef Philippe Conticini from a 2011 visit to his famous French flagship it was undoubtedly a gluttonous decision to enter London’s recently launched Patisserie des Reves following a three-part breakfast and in between tastings at Hedone and the Bubbledogs Kitchen Table yet despite tough decisions due to limited capacity I’m happy to report the Marylebone iteration shined every bit as brightly as the original. Truly a boutique experience with clean white lines juxtaposing walls of a sugary palate while refined service offers as much style as the sweet baubles under glass do substance it was eventually in a trio of novelties I’d passed up in Paris that I invested and carefully packed in an ornate box my degustation took to the streets where football fans celebrated a recent Brazilian win. Largely focused on choux and laminated pastry the first time around it was in cakes and tarts that this order began and with carrot cake richly spiced beneath a light layer of tangy crème fraiche while the buttery apple tart tiptoed a fine line between savory and sweet I couldn’t help but smile as I approached what came last – a filled to order Mille-Feuille reminiscent of Jacques Genin and far better than any other French pastry I’d find during my nine days in the UK.

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RECOMMENDED: Tart Taitin, Mille-Feuille, and from my Parisian experience the Brest and St. Honore.

006 - La Patisserie des Reves (7)

AVOID: N/A

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TIP: With the items under glass entirely for display and most items prepped or stored in back the average order takes approximately fifteen minutes to fill, depending on the line. Those in a hurry are advised to call in advance.

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http://www.lapatisseriedesreves.com/uk/

La Patisserie Des Reves on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Food, La Patisserie des Reves, London, UK, Vacation

Hedone, London UK

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Hedone

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Beet Root Cone – Beet Foam, Smoked Dill

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Fermented Rye Crisp, Old Winchester Sour Cream

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Fermented Buckwheat Crisp, Bone Marrow, Sturgeon Caviar

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Poached Oyster with Apple Foam, Apple Gelee, Violet

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Umami Flan – Bread Crumbs, Brown Bread Custard

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Bread and Butter

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Scottish Hand Dug Dived Scallop Sashimi, Cucumber, Seaweed, Japanese Emulsion

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Mediterranean Tomato Variation, Dill and Mustard – Gazpacho and Sorbet

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Turbot – Broad Beans, Fennel, Vinaigrette Supreme

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Lobster – Sea Weed, Coral Sauce

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Liquid Parmesan Ravioli, Smoked Onion Consomme, Mild Horseradish, Smoked Pancetta

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Black Angus – Sirloin, Carrots, Onion, Beef Emulsion, Vegetable Vin Jaune

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English Strawberries, Meringue, Hibiscus, Coconut Sorbet, Lemon Cream

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Warm Chocolate, Powdered Raspberry, Passion Fruit Jelly, Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream Pudding

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White Chocolate Macaron with Apricot Butter and Lime Bon Bon

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Caramel

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Located in the Chiswick area of West London and the recipient of considerable praise plus one 2013 Michelin Star a visit to Chef Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone was amongst the most anticipated of my recent trip and although a trek through rain soaked streets may have dampened the experience in the literal sense it was the Chef and his team who figuratively did so as I dined carte blanche at the counter. Considered by local enthusiasts to be perhaps London’s best gastronomic experience with a strong focus on sourcing and subtle manipulation of the season’s very best it should be said from the start that a visit to Hedone is quite unlike the refined spaces of the UK’s top tier and although strikingly casual to the point where children were allowed to tantrum at tables the service was far too rudimentary even for that, a clear frustration to Chef and Maitre D’ who more than once snapped at staff eventually leading one young woman to break down in tears. Moving past the mood, one clearly stemming from a stone-faced chef who twice praised himself as being of “considerable skill” before lecturing me as to why a piece of stringy beef was “in fact, perfect” I can honestly say that much of what I tasted from the kitchen at Hedone was actually quite good yet even as both the vibrant tomatoes and opaline turbot wowed with precision before a briny ravioli in a broth of sweet smoke blew me away I simply cannot fathom a reason to return or recommend spending 180 minutes in a space so lacking in service or spirit no matter how ‘considerable’ the skill or serious about the craft.

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RECOMMENDED: Offering three menus at lunch service the carte blanche certainly offers the best value provided you are comfortable following the chef’s whim. Overall the kitchen seems to handle fish quite well so for those opting for shorter menus this should be an area of focus.

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AVOID: The beef was tough, especially compared to a very similar presentation of high quality aged sirloin at Saison just two weeks prior.

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TIP: Much like the rest of Europe bottled water carries an upcharge but here at Hedone I was actually ‘scolded’ by my server for requesting tap – his statement something along the lines of pure ingredients warranting quality beverages after I’d already declined wine.

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http://www.hedonerestaurant.com/

Hedone on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Hedone, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, Macaroon, Pork, Tasting Menu, UK, Vacation

St. John Bakery, London UK

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St. John Bakery

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Eccles Cake

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Brownie

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Custard Doughnut

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Cranberry Doughnut

Discarding more than half of the underwhelming leftovers from Comptoir Gourmand as I progressed down Druid Street it would not be long before I arrived at Archway 72 and with smiling faces behind piles of bread ready in wait my first of two experiences with the team of St. John would prove well deserving of accolades long received. Far more focused in scope than several of the Druid Street stalls with no more than a half dozen sweets plus a well culled collection of breads it was entirely with focus on the former that my order arose and with 9£ exchanged for four items weighing what seemed like literally 4lbs I made my way to a small park to enjoy – a wise choice considering the delicious mess soon made. Beginning first with something of a signature before trending to things more familiar it was the flaky golden shell of an Eccles Cake that first met my tooth and breaking through to a dense pocket of currants and spice I couldn’t help but smile, the flavor unlike anything found stateside though somewhat reminiscent of a fruitbread that would pair well with coffee or good cheese. Moving next to a more ‘American’ pastry offered only on Saturdays and equally well praised it was in a duo of doughnuts that I indulged and with crunchy sugar crystals overlying fluffy pockets of custard and jam I couldn’t help but reminisce of the paczki enjoyed on Fat Tuesdays past, each bite extruding filling onto my hand and the bench beneath. At this point taking a break given the day’s already substantial eating plus that yet to come it was not until a few hours later that I finally finished my sampling and although dubbed a “brownie” by the St. John team the item I actually encountered was something far more – a sort of fudge or ganache infused into a nearly-flourless chocolate base that slowly melted on the tongue.

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RECOMMENDED: Eccles Cake, Saturday Doughnuts, and a Brownie as well.

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AVOID: N/A

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TIP: Later dining at St. John Restaurant be advised that both brownies and Eccles Cake can be ordered from 11am onward at the on-site bakery but served plated with accoutrements both are offered at an upcharge and frequently sell out by the end of dinner service.

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https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/bakery/

St. John Bakery at Maltby Street Market on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, London, St. John, St. John Bakery, UK, Vacation

Comptoir Gourmand, London UK

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Comptoir Gourmand

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Macaron Samples

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Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookie

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Almond Croissant

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Canele

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Bakewell Tart – Almond Tart with Raspberry

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Lamington – Victoria Sponge dipped in chocolate, rolled in coconut

Ducking out of The Table with plans to attend The Borough Market soon thwarted by a throng of early shoppers it was in a quick re-route that I found myself on Druid Street and although intending originally only to visit St. John Bakery my curiosity (and gluttony) could not help but stop by Comptoir Gourmand for a few bites en route. Technically French in concept but covering a wide swath of styles as part of a growing chain providing supply to several cafes throughout the city it was admittedly with wide eyes that I approached the garage of sweet treats and although oddly chopped gummy macaron samples should have served warning when several other options appeared average at best a five part order soon took shape, the results ranging from a horrendous frangipane hot pocket dubbed an “almond croissant” to a stellar representation of the Aussie favorite Lamington with the rest otherwise forgettable save for the sheer size of the cookie. Perhaps a victim of its own success or the product of an ‘everything to everyone’ approach suffice it to say that there is simply better pastry to be found throughout London although I obviously did not sample the lot even high volume kitchens like those at Harrod’s and Fortnum & Mason seem to be putting out a superior product on the whole.

003 - La Comptoir Gourmand (16)

RECOMMENDED: Lamington.

AVOID: Oddly, for a “French Bakery” the croissant was terrible, the macerated macarons gummy, and the canele flaccid.

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TIP: Offering free Wi-Fi, outdoor seating, and plenty of free street parking nearby I guess there is at least that incentive to stop by…

003 - La Comptoir Gourmand (21)

http://www.comptoirgourmand.co.uk/

Comptoir Gourmand Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Canele, Comptoir Gourmand, Croissant, Dessert, Food, London, Macaroon, UK, Vacation

The Table Cafe, London UK

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The Table

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Corn Fritters and Black Pudding

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Banoffee Waffle – Banana, Toffee

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Valrhona Chocolate Pancake with vanilla yogurt and seasonal berries

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As yet unaffected by jetlag having slept well and started the day with a 12-mile run along the Thames it was after a bit of right-sided driving that I found free parking in Saturday downtown London and with a spring in my step given an online menu full of promise I walked into Southwark’s “The Table” only to experience the first of several ‘bait-n-switch’ breakfasts – in this case the aforementioned brunch menu over 6 months old with no figgy pudding or hot chocolate profiteroles currently to be found. Admittedly disheartened but willing to make do given hunger pangs, the trappings of free Wi-Fi, and a staff unabashedly apologetic for mistakes reportedly unbeknownst till that day it was after several questions that an order was crafted and with good coffee, a rarity in England, soon in hand a short wait would see all three plates arrive at once…my fault for not specifying a more leisurely pace, or so it would seem. Obviously a touch more ‘American’ than many breakfasts that would follow it was largely with an eye on diversity that my meal took shape and although I personally found the famous fried corn to be far more filler than ‘fritter’ I’d be hard pressed to find fault in any of the rest – the black pudding toothsome and rich with its signature sapor while a crispy golden waffle shined under the savory sort of toffee not often seen on the other side of the Atlantic Undoubtedly a hearty meal even without other desired delicacies it was only after sampling the more regional fare that I finally delved into the oven finished pancake that came highly praised by my young server and with a toothsome texture rife in buttermilk beneath bursting berries, light yogurt, and molten dark chocolate suffice it to say my sweet tooth was satisfied…though I still hold a grudge considering the online menu continues to taunt with its offer of brunch figgy pudding at the time of this writing.

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RECOMMENDED: Banoffee Waffle, Chocolate Pancake.

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AVOID: Corn Fritters.

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TIP: Early arrival is recommended as the small space fills quickly and parties are likely to linger while the small kitchen does its work. For those chancing a drive, parking can be found for free on several side-streets on Saturday, Sunday, and Bank Holidays as well.

http://thetablecafe.com/

The Table Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, London, Pancakes, Pork, The Table, The Table Cafe, UK, Vacation, Waffles

Sketch, London UK

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Sketch

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Black Croque – Squid Ink Bread, Mozzarella, Basil Oil, Tomato, Courgette

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Aged Comte Gougeres with Purple Cabbage Jam

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Foie Gras Terrine with Rhubarb Jam and Grilled Bread

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Pierre Gagnaire’s Sauternes – Sauternes Domaine Clos le Comte, Angostura 1824 Rum, Apple Juice, Cinnamon

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Champagne/Lime/Vanilla Gelee, Tuna Paste/White Sesame/Red Currant, Tartlet of Horseradish Cream/Comte/White Chocolate, Yougurt/Cous-cous/Salmon Pearls, Cumin/Almond Sable, Bread Souffle/Crab Brandade/Pink Peppercorn

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Unsalted and Citrus English Farmhouse Butters/Seeded Fig and Mini French Baguette Bread

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Morel – Creamed Morel and Spinach with Coffee / Celeriac Cubes with Sesame Seeds

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Foie Gras – Foie Gras Ravioli / Red Onions and Baby Turnips Braised with Curry

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Guinea Fowl – Roast-poached breast rubbed with lime / Almond Cream Stuffing with Colombo Spices / Sauce Turner / Seasonal Mushrooms with Swiss Chard / Golden Delicious / Durum-wheat Semolina

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Middle-England Ewe’s Milk / Stichelton / Eve’s Brick / Teamsborough / 12-yr Cheddar, Mango Chutney/Roquefort Ice Cream with Pear Veloute/Celery with Paprika/Maldon Salted Olive Oil Poached Apple

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Baba – Soaked with Iced Syrup / Lemon Jelly / Almonds / Poppy Chantilly / Red Berries / Ron Zacapa 23 Year Rum

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Vanilla Souffle – Tahitian Vanilla / Vanilla and Hojicha Tea Ice Cream / Strawberry Coulis with Milk Foam, Crystalized Sugar, Matcha Green Tea / Vanilla and Hojicha Tea Jelly with white almond paste

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Lemon-Basil Chocolate / Yuzu-Hazelnut Marshmallow / White Chocolate Meringue with Rhubarb

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Fortuitously blessed with the ability to sleep soundly on aircrafts at any time of day it was fresh off the red-eye from McCarran to Heathrow that I walked into The Parlour at Sketch and although a table laid in wait at The Lecture Room upstairs just sixty minutes later I simply could not resist the temptation to experience the ‘casual’ side of my favorite Chef’s cuisine amidst a room of intriguing design and some of London’s most beautiful people. Truly a space to see and be seen with eye catching décor at every turn it was in a trio of small plates that my Sketch experience began and served en masse at my request not a single bite underwhelmed in the least, the ethereal gougeres melting to the tongue while both the creamy liver and black brioche would not have been out of place at Michelin starred spots throughout the English capital. Already impressed with the best yet to come it was with a surprisingly smooth transition that I moved to the posh environs upstairs and having already studied the menu at length a six course tasting soon progressed, though as anyone familiar with Chef Gagnaire will know the plates hovered somewhere in the mid-twenties with concepts and flavors evolving exponentially as a well-trained staff assured I was never for want. Truly a landmark meal for many of the same reasons that I’ve enjoyed Twist and Rue Balzac in the past suffice it to say that those willing to adventure into seemingly discordant flavors are likely to be rewarded for their faith and with bitter playing a strong role in both Morels and Foie Gras while intense sweetness was well served in the indulgent $51 cocktail and a soufflé standing tall and proud the highlights of the meal were in fact the three-piece guinea fowl and a cheese cart focused on the local and unpasteurized with thick cuts and clever accoutrements unlike any I’d see elsewhere in the subsequent eight days – the unpasteurized Stichelton particularly elegant and a beautiful segue to a baba that would trump even Ducasse, the savory sesame notes playing perfect foil to smooth lemon jam while a stiff shot of rum found levity in syrup, cream, and semi-tart fruits.

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RECOMMENDED: With an ever changing menu the focus should be on plates where discrepant flavors are most prominent, Chef Gagnaire and his executive chef’s at each of his restaurants often thriving where bitter meets sweet. The cheese course and cocktail list also warrant attention compared to the rest of London’s 2-3* scene.

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AVOID: N/A, though past experience generally sees me trend away from pepper and spice in Gagnaire’s cuisine as these flavors tend to be quite prominent when utilized.

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TIP: Make time for a tour afterwards, both the Lecture Room and the rest of the building warrant exploration.

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https://www.sketch.uk.com/

Sketch Lecture Room and Library on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, England, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Sketch, Souffle, UK, Vacation

Cotogna, San Francisco CA

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Cotogna

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Focaccia

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House Cured Cod Bruschetta with Pole Beans

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Monterey Bay Squid, Cucumbers, Haricots Verts

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Grilled Shrimp with Beets and Cucumber

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Knoll Farm Fig Pizza with Gorgonzola Dolce and Arugula

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Chino Farm Corn Triangoli

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Tagliatelle with Devil’s Gulch Rabbit and Fiddlehead Ferns

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Trippa alla Fiorentina

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Wolfe Ranch Quali with Corn and Green Chickpea

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Chocolate Budino, Market Fruit, Streusel

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Located adjacent to Quince and featuring a far less Frenchified interpretation of Chef Michael Tusk’s Italian cuisine it was with plans to meet a fellow fine dining enthusiast that reservations for two were booked at Cotagna and with my companion well-known to the house it seemed only reasonable to assume the meal would be memorable – an assumption that would at least partially hold true for the food, though service left much to be desired even after taking into account my friend’s 30-minute late arrival and the addition of a third diner to an already small table. Truly a bustling spot, rich in blond woods with every seat filled as suits discussed business over the popular prix-fixe, it was just after 12:30 when our full party finally sat and with time constraints duly noted our order was expeditious, though service was anything but as long delays left us picking at bread early on and literally ‘wolfing down’ the complimentary Wolfe Ranch Quail as the clock neared 3:00pm. Fawned over by the Maitre d’ due to my table-mate but not particularly benefitted by this save for the quail served with an apology for slow service it was largely with an eye on diversity that the rest of our meal progressed and flowing from lighter flavors to those more bold a common theme emerged, the perfect produce and light saucing far outperforming proteins I found to be generally overcooked and underportioned given the price – the tender tripe a lone exception, though still not on par with that at A16 or Delfina. Focusing on the strengths of the meal it bears mention that the wood fired pizza deserves high praise for its seamless marriage of savory and sweet atop a smoky crust while Tusk’s team again showed a deft hand with filled pastas in the silky Triangoli filled with what can best be described as cream corn veloute rife with butter and just a touch of aged cheese. Certainly not a ‘bad’ meal by any means but one that could most certainly have been better both in food and service suffice it to say that I won’t be rushing back to Cotagna given the high quality of the Bay Area’s mid-range Italian scene but I’d also not dissuade others from giving it a chance, particularly those interested in focusing on pasta but not yet willing to go all-in at the dual Michelin starred spot next door.

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RECOMMENDED: Filled Pastas, Pizza

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AVOID: Meat-heavy Secondi, Shellfish prone to losing texture with overcooking.

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TIP: It should be noted that my visit occurred with a recent change in the kitchen and this may have been partially responsible for service delays and preparation mistakes. Perhaps giving the kitchen some time to re-find its legs is in order, though from my standpoint this is one of those situations where Tusk should be present making sure things are ‘right’ until the ship can sail itself.

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http://www.cotognasf.com/

Cotogna on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Cotogna, Dessert, Food, Italian, Pizza, San Francisco, Vacation

Hooker’s Sweet Treats, San Francisco CA

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Hooker’s Sweet Treats

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Big Easy Bread Pudding with Raisins, Pecans, and Melted Caramel

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie with Melted Caramel

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Caramel Bar with Cashew, Dark Chocolate, Smoked Sea Salt, and Buttered Caramel

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Sweet Cheddar Scone

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Located just a few blocks from my hotel and garnering praise for their dark chocolate caramels since 2010 it was largely for airplane snacks that I visited David “Hooker” Williams’ small store before flying out on Tuesday afternoon and as much as the trio of bagged items would trump anything at SFO or LAS it was what I ordered in house that instantly placed Hooker’s Sweet Treats on my rather short Bay Area “must return” list along with Knead, Humphry Slocombe, b.patisserie, and Saison. Small in size and surprisingly hip in feel despite the Tenderloin locale a visit to Hooker’s will likely entail a short walk amidst some of the area’s most unfortunate yet once inside the cozy confines a more pleasant scene unfolds with wood and hues of blue strewn in NOLA-themed décor while notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar permeate the air. By all definitions an artisan operation with Williams working both counter and kitchen it was with friendly smiles that questions were answered and taking a seat at the windowside bar it would not be long before my order arrived, the caramel still bubbling as it dripped down the side of a golden mini-loaf into a fancy shallow bowl. Generally preferring this style of pudding to more free-form versions served via slice or scoop the beauty of Hooker’s Big Easy begins in the bread – a golden eggy thing with soft custard beneath crunchy top – and spruced up with raisins along with candied pecans for taste plus texture the dish is brought to new heights in the salty buttered caramel, a flavor surprisingly not too sweet but instead ‘just right’ in allowing cinnamon notes to shine for an almost savory finish…a flavor I’d later find equally present in all three takeaways, the smoky complexity of the cashew bar particularly satisfying when paired with coffee as I awaited yet another delayed plane.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, Cashew Caramel Bar

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AVOID: N/A

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TIP: Closed on Sundays and Mondays with somewhat limited hours throughout the rest of the week one is advised to check the website or facebook before making the trip – although safe enough during daylight hours I wouldn’t particularly wander the area at night.

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http://www.hookerssweettreats.com/

Hooker's Sweet Treats on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, California, Dessert, Food, Hooker's Sweet Treats, San Francisco, Vacation

b. patisserie [2,] San Francisco CA

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b.patisserie

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Blueberry Almond Peach Croissant

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Cherry Apricot Kouign Amann

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Chocolate Kouign Amann

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Raspberry Bostock

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Banana Chocolate Croissant

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Four Barrel Americano

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Rooted in French technique but possessing a particular flair for innovation with pastries whose basic forms are oft botched by lesser bakeshops it was once again on my final day in San Francisco that I made my way to b.patisserie and timing my whole morning to assure arrival as the doors unlocked my rewards were myriad – five perfect pastries with only one lacking residual heat from the oven. Taking a ’some for now and some for later’ approach which inevitably meant ‘most’ and ‘half the bostock,’ respectively, it should come as no surprise that despite my proclivity for croissants any morning at b. begins with kouign amann and taking it one step further I ended there as well – my first bite shattering a crystalline shell to yield still-liquid butter amidst tender stone fruits, my last rich with bitter-sweet ganache, and every one between as perfect as I remembered. Serving as segue between the Britton butter pastries it was to tender brioche tinged with almonds and raspberry jam that I next treated myself and setting some aside for the flight home I turned to croissants, b. again achieving the rare feat of crackling layers of pastry with cavernous separation even when packed with filling, the blend of stewed sour cherries amidst sweet apricots particularly impressive. Admittedly a fan, but having also visited a fair number of the ‘best’ food cities in America without neglecting a chance to visit praised bakeries in each, suffice it to say that item for item I’ve yet to find anyone in the country doing what Belinda Leong and her team at b.patisserie does day in and day out – a focus on perfection with eyes toward innovation that will keep me coming back again and again.

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RECOMMENDED: Kouign Amann, Croissants, Four Barrel Coffee

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AVOID: Making a mess of your shirt when you bite into a warm Kouign Amann to meet a gush of warm butter, chocolate, or fruit puree.

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TIP: Although baking fresh throughout the day your safest bet is going early when everything is fresh…or waiting for new batches as you eat something else in the cute café.

http://bpatisserie.com/

b. patisserie on Urbanspoon

Posted in B.Patisserie, Breakfast, California, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Four Barrel, San Francisco, Vacation

Fillmore Bakeshop, San Francisco CA

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Fillmore Bakeshop

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Almond Croissant

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Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

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Cinnamon Brioche Swirl

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Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookie

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Raspberry and Mocha Macarons

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Pecan Pie Bar

Slotted in the unenviable position of early breakfast on my last half-day in town I’d be lying if I claimed Fillmore Bakeshop to be anything more than a convenient curiosity en route from my hotel to b.patisserie yet with a friendly staff and comparatively low prices to the rest of San Francisco the small storefront actually managed a pair of delicious highs amidst otherwise mediocre offerings and air-pocketed macarons overloaded with sugary paste and far worse than those of many home cooks. Obviously an ‘everything to everyone’ sort of place with French pastry lined up along favorites from the American Kitchen it should probably come as no surprise that items warm from the kitchen would prove amongst Fillmore’s strongest and beginning there the croissant was a fairly good start with nature’s subtlety replacing sticky frangipane amidst crispy curls and moving on to the brioche bun a similar crunch was found, though this time giving way to a springy buttered core liberally dressed in cinnamon sugar. Saving cookies and ‘pie’ for later only to be underwhelmed in each it was last during my visit that my attention turned to the ‘still-too-hot-too-eat’ bread pudding and still my very favorite type of dessert no matter how ‘simple’ to prepare this particular version proved lovely – a big scoop fresh from the pan teaming with custard-laced old croissants, fresh bananas, and intense dark chocolate beneath a lightly toasted top.

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RECOMMEND: Bread Pudding, Cinnamon Brioche Swirl

AVOID: Macarons, Cookies.

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TIP: Bread pudding is available daily at opening with later day baking focusing on pies and cakes, though occasionally a second batch will be made. Flavors vary daily and reportedly included blueberry-peach and strawberry-banana most recently.

http://fillmorebakeshop.com/

Fillmore Bakeshop on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Croissant, Dessert, Fillmore Bakeshop, Food, Macaroon, San Francisco, Vacation

Baker & Banker, San Francisco CA

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Baker & Banker

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Chateau de Malla Sauternes 1999

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Bohemian Creamery Capriago & Boho Belle, dried fruit compote, Candied Ginger Bread

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Stone Fruit Crisp, Brown Sugar Oatmeal Streusel, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Blueberry Bread Pudding, Crème Fraiche Sherbet, Buttermilk Caramel

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Mr. Espresso French Press

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Warm Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie, Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Hot Fudge

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XXX – Triple Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Devil’s Food, Cheese Cake, and Flourless

Having missed out on the highly praised but short-lived brunch service from the Wife & Husband team of Lori Baker & Jeff Banker yet ever intrigued by the cozy space on Octavia Street it was through gluttonous eyes that I’d been stalking their online menu leading up to my visit to San Francisco and with daily updates dictated by seasonality and sustainability one could call June 16th my lucky day – a pair of new desserts joining the classics I’d coveted. Originally planning a ‘proper’ meal but giving this more thought as I walked up from the Mission it would be mere moments before my designated time that I arrived and surprisingly met by Chef Baker upon entry a seat was soon procured – the rest of the space filled in capacity as well as lively conversation while a small staff including the chefs themselves tended to guests’ needs. Largely brasserie in feel with rustic touches adding warmth it would not be long before my lovely young waitress arrived with a menu and after pretending to peruse I let my intentions be known – a wide smile and “sounds fantastic” the appropriate response to an order consisting solely of wine, cheese, coffee, and desserts. Obviously amused by my order and apparently taking bets regarding my ability to finish as a sniffed the small glass of fragrant Sauternes it was in a duet of local cheeses plus housemade accoutrements that the night began and with both cuts quite generous I sampled each slowly until the ‘real’ show commenced – a first serve ace arriving in bubbling pluots, peaches, and plums beneath buttery crumbs and slowly melting vanilla. Preferring a progression pairing fruits with wine and coffee with cocoa it was in the second sweet course that I held the highest expectations and having heard rumor of the team’s breakfast bread pudding I was not let down when the tender brioche presented almost supersaturated with custard beneath a golden crown as tangy ice cream worked overtime to keep sweetness in check, the end result something akin to a molten blueberry muffin and therefore an inspired textural segue to the reference-standard cast iron cookie that threw caution to the wind regarding sweetness and proved all the better for it. At this point sipping coffee and conversing with the bemused couple beside me it was just past nine o’clock when Chefs Baker & Banker together arrived to put their signature on the table and stacked high with a quenelle of whip cowering in its dark shadow the only thing sinful about the “XXX” was that it signified the end of a great night I’d put off for far too long.

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RECOMMENDED: Dessert, particularly the bread pudding.

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AVOID: N/A.

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TIP: Unbeknownst to me, in addition to the online menu which is updated daily, Baker & Banker also offers a $45 3-course set menu each night – a veritable steal considering the ingredients, portions, and quality of the restaurant.

http://www.bakerandbanker.com/

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Posted in Baker & Banker, Baker and Banker, Bread Pudding, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, San Francisco, Vacation

Locanda, San Francisco CA

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Locanda

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Grilled Pizza Bianca

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Grilled Pizza Bianca with house mortadella and pickled ramps

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Rigatoni alla Carbonara – Guanciale, Tully Doici Egg, Pecorino, Black Pepper

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Pancetta-Wrapped Guinea Hen Leg – White Polenta, Grilled Turnips

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Flavorosa Pluot Almond Torta – Blueberry Swirl Buffala Gelato, Nebbiolo Plum Sauce

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Admittedly sampling the Cal-Italian scene heavily on most of my trips to The Bay Area and having found greatness to be more consistent here than elsewhere in the States it was the largely the Roman style of cuisine that originally piqued my interest in Locanda and after several intriguing afternoon sessions at the conference my Monday double-feature dinner would take me back to the Mission where always beckon but the early-summer menu could not be ignored. Open just fifteen minutes when I arrived and as yet unfilled it was in the warm sun of the front window that I opted to sit and although the long, narrow space was amped up with unnecessary music the room never grew too loud – a serene effect unlike that of Delfina, Cotagna, or A16 despite the high ceilings and substantial wood. Seemingly a bit more of a ‘locals’ place than other highly praised places of the ilk it would not be long after seating that my menu was delivered and chatting up the charming server about several indecisions an order was placed – her recommendations matching my predispositions letter for letter and leaving me in wait as I grazed on glistening pillows of warm bread with a second board soon arriving draped in nutty peppered pork invigorated by bright pickled ramps. Already impressed by the charcuterie it was within moments of my finishing the mortadella that my al dente primi arrived and although pre-mixed in the kitchen with yolk already beginning to thicken the quality of the guanciale could not be ignore, a small portion going a long way and leaving ample room for the substantial secondi of force-meat stuffed leg beneath crisp pork atop toothsome polenta sopping up the bird’s juices. Never one to skimp on sweets but in this rare case with eyes on my appetite’s future it was between a duo of selections that I debated and again turning tableside for recommendations my assumption proved true, a rich almond and cornmeal cake as soft as pudding arriving five minutes later with slight grassy notes from the gelato proving a deft foil to sweet stone fruits.

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RECOMMENDED: Apparently a famous dish frequent to the menu with seasonal variants the Guinea Hen should not be missed.

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AVOID: Even had the pasta not been underportioned for the price I contest that a proper carbonara should be mixed tableside – preferably by the diner.

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TIP: Reservations seemed unnecessary at first but by the time I left at 6:40 every seat was filled…even on a Monday.

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http://www.locandasf.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, California, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Locanda, Pizza, Pork, San Francisco, Vacation

Kin Khao, San Francisco CA

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Kin Khao

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Thai Iced Tea

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Thai Iced Coffee

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Pretty Hot Wings – Man Pla Fish Sauce, Garlic Marinade, Tamarind, Sriracha Glaze

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Fried Quail with Chili Jam and Sticky Rice

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Khao Yum Kai Dao – Fried Duck Eggs over Rice, Chili Jam, Peanuts, Shallots, Mint, Cilantro

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Black Rice Pudding – Warm coconut, burnt coconut sugar caramel, salty coconut cream, puffed rice + peanut + sesame praline

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Owned by Pim Techamuanvivit and reportedly offering authentic tastes of cuisine from her native Thailand prepared from the sustainable farms of San Francisco it was only after a security guard of the Parc 55 Hotel showed me the way that I finally located Kin Khao and with the restaurant nearly empty during an early Monday lunch it was to my choice of tables that I was soon seated, the blogger-turned-restaurateur mostly walking the room and tending to beau David Kinch while a fledgling staff offered up a menu substantially shortened from that offered at night. Modern yet pleasant in design with wood and white dominating the décor as a small kitchen tinkered and clinked just out of sight it was perhaps five minutes before the afternoon’s sole server arrived at my side and having already noted the missing mushroom jar I inquired to its availability only to be denied, a pair of lunch specials offered along with eight other savories from which I selected three along with the menu’s lone sweet. Stating up front that both the lunch menu and he himself were ‘new’ it was with an error that my waiter first brought Thai Iced Tea in place of the coconut tinged cold brew I’d requested and although bright with tamarind a few sips was enough, the creamy java far better fitting my palate as well as the opening volley of three funky wings themselves quite hefty in the orange Indian aromatic amidst a sauce of acid and spice. Explaining that I was really in no hurry as the meal marched on it was next in the daily special of fried quail that I partook and although quite crispy the flavor itself lacked, a touch of Pim’s chili jam enlivening things a bit while slightly sweet rice was a filler par for the course. Moving onward to one of five items under the section labeled “eats” it was with admitted indecision that I selected between the Khao Mun Gai and Khao Yum Kai Dao but eventually opting for crispy duck eggs over the chef-recommended ‘chicken fat fried rice’ I can only assume I made the right choice, the runny yolks acting to meld a multitude of complex flavors while bold textures arrived in each bite. At this point admittedly eavesdropping on the conversation of the doubly Michelin Starred chef just two seats away as he chatted with a friend about the ballgame they were in town to attend it was just under an hour and ten minutes after I sat down that my final plate arrived and served steaming from the kitchen though I cannot attest to just how ‘authentic’ any of it was I can definitively declare the rice pudding as excellent, an $8 portion big enough to share served to be dressed like an American sundae proving to be one of the top two or three takes on the dish I’ve experienced to date.

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RECOMMENDED: Rice Pudding, Khao Yum Kai Dao.

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AVOID: Fried Quail

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TIP: Still new in their lunch service and featuring a far more extensive menu at night those looking to experience Kin Khao at its best may be better served to book a dinner reservation or call in advance to inquire about specific plates.

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http://kinkhao.com/

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Posted in California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Kin Khao, San Francisco, Vacation