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Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable, entertaining, or informative.

 

Thursday, October 31, 2002 - 11:59PM


Spent some time checking out other food sites like this one on the web. Among the best include - Sauté Wednesday, The Making of a Restaurant, JP's Restaurant, VanEats, Eat Drink and be Married, Kiplog's Food Blog (who turned me on to) The Julie/Julia Project, and Purple Sunshine. Check out the new links section for a huge list of places food related sites.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2002 - 9:24AM


Last night we went out to Ristorante Paradiso in  Kirkland, WA. I'm still looking for a "blow-me-away" Italian place in Seattle as well as a regular Italian place that you can rely on for good food and easy atmosphere. I'm pretty sure Paradiso is the former. The bread was warm and plentiful. My lemon chicken was really tender, flavorful, and good. Debbie's really liked her pasta with cream sauce and peppery turkey sausage as well. (I loved the sausage but thought the cream sauce was a little bland.) Bottom line, dinner wasn't too expensive, the restaurant has lots of little nooks and crannies if you want a more romantic or private setting, the food is really yummy, and there's no pretension. I think this is one of those restaurants, that when you want something easy you'll head straight there.

 

Monday, October 28, 2002 - 11:59PM


We agreed we were going to start going to smaller cheaper ethnic restaurants on a more regular basis. I'm always up for that. Often that's the best place to find incredible authentic ethnic food. I'm particularly psyched to find great Vietnamese food. Saturday night's excursion with Debbie, Victor, and Alex was to Cafe Hue near Pioneer Square in Seattle. Cafe Hue is a cool looking place with exposed brick and a really gorgeous Asian wooden mural where all the characters are "drawn" with inlaid mother-of-pearl. We ordered a bunch of pretty straightforward Vietnamese dishes. The fresh rolls (Goi Cuon) were not particularly outstanding - and only had one shrimp in each. Cheap! The Cha Gio - fried egg rolls - were actually decent. I think they stood out because they were peppery. A really nice flavor. The Pho (not on the menu) is only available with beef or chicken - no Pho Bo Vien (meatball) option. I got the beef. It was actually pretty damn good. The ground shrimp and pork on sugar cane skewers were pretty good too. Everything else was middle of the road. The rice noodles (Bun) were cold and served with too few shrimp skewers. The beef wrapped in some type of leaves (nolo?) were interesting, but not great. And weirdest of all, we were pretty much the only people there. You'd think the service might be better, but it wasn't. They also claim to be a patisserie but of the 10 or so desserts listed, only 2 were available (the "daily specials"). We passed. All I can figure is that this place does a brisk lunch business and hopefully that's when they're in peak form. I might give them a second chance if I was walking by and the place was packed. 

 

Saturday, October 26, 2002 - 12:01AM


We went to dinner with Alex and Victor at my favorite sushi restaurant on the west coast - Nishino. Alex brought a bottle of the 1997 Heitz Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. great bottle of wine, that went surprisingly well with our sushi dinner. We of course had to have the incredible rock shrimp tempura. It's so light, and perfectly cooked, you'll blink and miss out because it gets eaten so quickly. Alex had the presence of mind to order the spicy aioli on the side which was perfect for dipping. We had a ton of sushi as well, but the fun discovery of the night was "Temari-zushi", though the ones we had we're smaller than the one's pictured. I didn't see them make it tonight, but my understanding is that it's typically made using plastic wrap to keep the shape. We topped ours with Kampachi. They were like popcorn. Just pop them in your mouth. Dinner was great - and the fact that Tatsu Nishino and his wife Eri are so incredibly warm doesn't hurt at all. This is my second time there in 2 weeks. That feels about right.

 

Friday, October 25, 2002 - 2:28PM


15-La Toque.jpgSaturday evening we went to dinner at La Toque - me, Debbie, Alex, and Lauren. We took plenty of pictures so you can really get a sense of the meal. Alex had friends at one of the local wineries who told him they thought that La Toque might be even better than French Laundry. Before things even really got going there were "gifts" from the kitchen. Nothing makes me happier than gifts from the kitchen. :) These included Gougere - pastry puffs with lemon aioli, and small Fried Green Tomatoes served in little spoons ready for eating.  Debbie was happy as dinner started off with Seared Sonoma Foie Gras. Her main complaint about the previous evening was "no Foie Gras". Specifically we were off to the races with a choice of Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Medjool Dates and Chantarelle Chestnut Bisque with Truffled Creme Fraiche.  Foie Gras was delicious, the soup was very good but pretty straightforward. Next up was a choice of Maine Lobster with Pernod and Candied Turnips or Opakapaka with Braised and Shaved Matsutake Mushrooms. Very very good. The Opakapaka is a hawaiian fish, and the chef prepared it incredibly well. The dish was super light and tasty. Next up - Crisped Pork Confit with "Lentilles du Puy" and Sherry Thyme Sauce or Wild Scottish Hare with "Anna Potatoes" and Wild Huckleberries. But the height of the meal was the Montauk Bluefin Tuna Seared with Cracked Black Pepper and Jack Daniels. There was something so perfect about the completely rare center and the evenly cooked outside. The tuna was simply above and beyond. Later the chef - Ken Frank - came out and talked to us for a bit and told us how at this time of year he was able to get that amazing tuna from Long Island. The other options were great too: Veal Tenderloin with Portobello Red Onion Marmalade and Red Wine, or Baby Lima and Cranberry Bean Ragout "au Pistou". Lauren of course had the whole veggie menu with some interesting items (pictured here and here). With his veal, Alex had the 1999 Paradigm Merlot which he loved. I found it quite good too. Of course throughout the meal we had a bottle of 1988 Kalin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. It was really perfect - strong, bursting with flavor, lots of tannins. Just great. It kills me that they don't make it anymore. (I'm appealing via e-mail to one of the new owner - Terry Leighton - to see if they might consider making Cabs again.) The cheese course was great including Selles Sur Cher and one of my all time favorites Epoisses (all melty and strong). Dessert was a choice of the Apple Cranberry Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream or the Chockablock Cake with Hazelnut Ice Cream. I had both, and both were fantastic. The cranberries in the tart were super sour, and made the whole thing great. There was also of course an entire array of tiny little sugary sweets and delicacies after dessert served with coffee. All in all, better than French Laundry? Probably not. But a really fantastic restaurant? Definitely yes. And on top of it, the atmosphere seemed more relaxed (the chef was very cordial and nice enough to spend time talking to us), and you can see pretty clearly into the kitchen which was cool. And of course, while certainly not cheap, it was a fraction of the price of the previous evening's meal. I will definitely go back. I hear there will be a branch soon in Los Angeles as well.

 

Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 11:55PM


Saturday morning after recovering from our meal at the French Laundry, we stopped at the Oakville Grocery. As fun as it was picking the contents of our lunch picnic basket from their incredible selection of cheese, sandwiches, meat, etc. But I have to admit it was distressing to see just how targeted a demographic we were. It was like every neat thing in your local fancy supermarket was packed into this tiny store filled with a thousand yuppies who are overfocused on food and wine. Oh well. Various salads, sandwiches, and cheeses found their way into our shopping bag, and we were off to our picnic. 08-Pride vista 2.jpg After a long drive up Spring Hill Mountain, we ended up at Pride Mountain Vineyards. Since Alex is a frequent visitor, we were squeezed in for a tasting in their beautiful tasting room trying several of the 2000 whites and reds. The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon stuck out as particularly tasty to me (and I typically don't like Merlot). After placing our orders to be shipped home, we grabbed a bottle and retired to a spot outfitted with picnic tables and an incredible view of the rolling hills covered in vines. The weather was perfect. Highly recommended. Pictures here for your enjoyment.

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - 12:02AM


Didn't get enough French Laundry below? No problem. Here's a bunch of pictures from the trip.  Lots of photos of the various dishes. If you look hard you can catch a glimpse of the laundry pin that held our napkins. Also some cool shots of the kitchen from the courtyard at the front of the restaurant. Cool image of the rows of ladles and mason jars.

 

Monday, October 21, 2002 - 9:20AM


This weekend was amazing. We flew down to Napa with a bunch of friends and on Friday night we finally got to eat at the French Laundry. There were 9 of us so we got a private room. The only drawback was that we couldn’t bring our own wine for a party of 9 (8 and below was ok) even by paying a corkage fee. The meal was pretty much fantastic. Our expectations were pretty high so there was almost no margin for error, and the meal was as expected – pretty close to perfect. In addition to the 9 course tasting menu there were about 4 or 5 additional little goodies that came out of the kitchen to make us happy. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant was really warm and refined straight down to the old style laundry clothespins imprinted with the restaurant logo that held each of our napkins as we sat down. (Many of these clothespins ended up in our pockets. Since they had the phone number printed on the back I assume the staff is not surprised when they end up as souvenirs. The bill also came on an oversized dry cleaning tag - cute!) Our waitress Annie was really great. She was eager to understand everyone's food "sensitivities" and talked to us in an audible whisper most of the evening. We were a bit boisterous so maybe that was to help us keep things relatively calm. Dinner started off with Cornets - Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraiche (not on the menu). There was something about the salmon's consistency - it was chopped so finely that it felt almost like caviar. Next up was a selection of little pastries. One was a little gruyere puff, the other was a little flaky pastry filled with tomato confit and topped with either a cherry tomato or a dollop of eggplant "caviar." Chris pointed out that it was likely on purpose (and consistent with the general sense of humor on the menu) that vegetarian caviar was made from eggplant. Up next - truffle custard served in an egg shell. Things continued with Oysters and Pearls – Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Poached Malpeque Oysters and Osetra Caviar, Sweet summer white corn “Agnolotti” with Perigord Truffles and White Truffle Oil. The waiter then came out and grated an obscene amount of fresh truffle onto all of our dishes. Alex got to try grating himself. I think my favorite dish of the night was the Almond Crusted Filet of Gulf Coast Pompano Melted Belgian Endive and Green orange “Aigre Doux”. The texture and flavor was so refined, so balanced (the crunchy almonds and the soft fish) that it was emblematic of the entire experience - and delicious. Then came Peas and Carrots – Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Carrot “Parisienne” with Young Pea Shoots and a Sweet Carrot Emulsion. We couldn't get enough of this. The lobster was sweet, and perfect, and extraordinarily buttery. Next up was Un Paquet des Rillettes de Lapin – with a “Ragout” of French Green Lentils and Applewood Smoked Bacon and Butternut Squash Puree. Aliya and Gil weren't into the rabbit so of course an amazing Quail dish came out of the kitchen for them. The fact that the kitchen was so flexible given how snobby the could be given the demand for their food was really impressive. Lauren's entire vegetarian tasting menu was another example of this incredible flexibility/repertoire - one of her dishes was Sugar Pie Pumpkin Tomato Canneloni - super yummy. Things continued with Carre de Veau au Four – Roasted Rack of Nature Fed Veal with “Rissole” Fingerling Potatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Anjou Pear. Next up was “Montbriac” with Jacobsen’s Farm mission Fig and Fennel Salad, Frog Hollow Peach Sorbet with Toasted Almond “Financier” (amazingly delicate and delicious and peachy), Delice au Chocolat – with Coffee “Anglaise” and Chocolate “Dentelle” (chocolate perfection), and tiny cinnamon Pot du Cremes for the boys with miniature Crème Brulees for the girls. This too was a special item from the kitchen that wasn't on the menu. I'm not typically into Crème Brulee but this was really amazing - tiny and perfectly sealed by fire so the tops were like carmelized candy. And in case anyone was still hungry, Mignardise – an assortment of small chocolates, candies, and little pastries/cakes. As I recall every dish there is a theme I keep trying to touch on but every time I write it, it kind of sounds silly. Every dish really featured the essence of the ingredients in an unbelievably pure and amazing way. The lobster was "lobstery". The peach sorbet was "peachy". But it's more than just highlighting the flavor. You felt like you were eating the ingredient in its purest form. This to me is one of the cornerstones of food at the French Laundry, and something to look for. It's special. In the interest of full disclosure I should point out a couple of things one small, one large. Everyone agreed that the chairs we sat in were uncomfortable - not surprising that the only thing we could find to complain about had nothing to do with the food. And the bill was enormous - dinner starts out at $160 per person and with wine it skyrockets. We had a bunch of wine, the highlight it was generally agreed was the Thackrey Orion 2000 Syrah with grapes that came from 90 year old vines. But if you're not doing it often hopefully you can find a way to finance dinner at the French Laundry because it really is one of the best meals you will ever have. We tried to get an opportunity to thank the chef and even see the kitchen but by the time we were done it was 1 in the morning and we were informed that the kitchen was busy getting ready for the next day. A bit of a disappointment but not the end of the world. Two in our party stuck around for a bit waiting for their cab and caught site of Thomas Keller orchestrating the post-dinner kitchen activities. They said things ran like clockwork with Keller clearly "in charge" and his staff waiting on his every word. No surprise there as it's pretty clear that he's the source of the quest for perfection at the French Laundry. Bottom line, if you're into food, find a way (any way) to get there. You will not be disappointed. Apparently there will be a branch in New York soon. We'll see how the experience scales.

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2002 - 10:37PM


Chris and Leslie are from the midwest. They think that Graeter's ice cream is the best on the planet. It is definitely good. Super creamy. But I think the locally produced Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream may be my current favorite. And even though I'm into vanilla, their Mukilteo Mudd chocolate flavor is just amazing. Lots and lots of butterfat.

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2002 - 11:11PM


I made the scallion soup,  that I listed the other day. It was really really good. Easy to make too. I have to confess though I did not use chicken stock made from scratch. I used Osem Chicken Consomme. The soup was still great - and the consomme is even vegetarian. The recipe is now listed in the recipes section.

 

Monday, October 14, 2002 - 3:29PM


Chris travels to Beijing soon. I'm so jealous. :) Found a couple of restaurants that might proved to be yummy... added them in the new Beijing Restaurant page. I especially want to go to the Beijing branch of Hong Kong's China Club.

 

Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 8:52PM


Tonight we went with Chris, Leslie, Alex and Lauren to Racha Noodles and Thai Cuisine. The restaurant looks nice and has a cool open kitchen where you can watch them prepare the food. The food itself was decent. At its best, it was the chicken satay - juicy, tasty, delicious. At its lamest it was the Goy See Mee (buckwheat?) noodles. The chicken curry was also very very good as was the half ton of sticky rice we ordered. The garlic spinach and the duck were "eh".  I won't feel bad if I go back to Thai Racha, but there's a bunch of places I want to try that are much higher on my list. The hunt continues for great Thai food in Seattle. 

 

Saturday, October 12, 2002 - 10:53PM


20021012-belltown 051.jpgToday Debbie and I went with Lauren and Alex to Belltown Uncorked. (It's still happening tomorrow.) Basically a bunch of restaurants from a relatively food-centric part of downtown Seattle (Belltown) and 15 or so Washington state wineries get together to give out samples of their food and vintages for a flat fee - $20. It was definitely worth it. I'm not a fan of wine from Washington state, but there was an interesting thing today - namely Wilridge Winery (neighbors of Alex and Lauren) who had an interesting Nebbiolo - Nebbiolo di Klipsun. Not as much depth as I like, but definitely tasty and not too expensive. While I don't think you can grow good cabernet sauvignon grapes in Washington state, maybe Nebbiolo is the grape that's made for this climate. The restaurants made a decent showing - we didn't make it to the "Winemaker's Lunch" ($75 per person) served by Mistral, Restaurant Zoe, Dahlia Lounge, and Marco's Supper Club. But other than Dahlia Lounge which I've been to often and love, I want to try those places. However, we did get to try food from a bunch of other places including - Assaggio, Belltown Pub, Brasa, Cascadia, Cyclops, Fandango, Frontier Room, and Mama's Mexican Kitchen. Many of the chefs were there handing out food including Kerry Sear (Cascadia) and Tamara Murphy (Brasa). The standouts were the two sandwiches both with yummy crumbled cheese - chicken from Belltown Pub and steak from Brasa. Makes me kind of want to try Brasa again (last time we tried it we didn't have a good time - atmosphere was crowded/dark/noisy, and the food wasn't good enough to make it worth it). The pork taco from Fandango and the quesadilla fropm Mama's were good too. Lampreia, located a scant block from the event wasn't included in the selection of restaurants. And the organizer didn't seem to have heard of them. A glaring omission, but the day was still worth it.

Note the new "Media" section of the site. Expect more pictures as time goes on.

We decided today that we're not going to enough tiny unknown ethnic restaurants. We'll have to do more of that.

 

Friday, October 11, 2002 - 11:21PM


Saveur recently had an article all about scallions. I like scallions. They had 3 neat recipes I'd like to try - Scallion Soup, Batter-Fried Scallions, Scallion Cakes.

Lunch at Mayuri and dinner at Post Alley Pizza. The butter chicken at Mayuri was delicious, and the pizza at Post Alley was just as good as last time.

 

Thursday, October 10, 2002 - 11:59PM


We're going to Napa soon. This place seems interesting.

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2002 - 11:59PM


OK. I'm in. The LA Times (free registration required) reviews several different brands of artisanal pasta. The conclusion? It actually does make a difference.

Molly Katzen has a new cookbook. (Free registration required)

Buy lots of cheese? Don't always eat it all before it's too late? Try this.

 

Tuesday, October 8, 2002 - 10:36PM


One of my favorite wines, that I've discussed a bunch of times - Kalin Cellars 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon is not being made anymore. This has actually been the case for some time but I finally figured it out today. According to an e-mail discussion I've been having with them, the 1992 was the last version of the Cabernet, as new owners took over the vineyard and decided to stop making it. Major bummer.

Alex sent in this link to pictures of sushi. Makes me want to go to Japan (or at least to Nishino). I have to get my act together and start posting all my food pictures on this site.

 

Sunday, October 6, 2002 - 11:35PM


I love Cabernet Sauvignon from California. Every one I've tasted from Washington state has been "eh". However, I'm always willing to try something new. Pacific Northwest magazine has a cover story about Washington vineyards.

My friend Larry in the other Washington (DC) went out to dinner last night at Ten Penh on Pennsylvania Avenue. He said the  "best thing of the night was the drink though -- had a round of Saketinis. A martini made with Sake and a splash of vermouth. But instead of an olive, it was a baby octopus on a stick. Yummy. grossed out the chicas, though, when we ate them. I guess they've never had a baby octopus before. (I'm sure the octopuses would serve the same drink with human embryos or something, but hey, I'm happy to take advantage of my spot on the food chain)."

 

Saturday, October 5, 2002 - 6:15PM


Just when you think the internet is boring, someone puts a ridiculous amount of effort into something like The Condiment Packet Museum. The go deep.

This is kind of neat: eBay sells food and wine. Who knew?

Frozen food is on the rise says the San Francisco Examiner.

In France, fusion food is popular. The New York Times (free registration required) talks about four fusion restaurants in Paris.

 

Thursday, October 3, 2002 - 11:06PM


I love this website. Top Secret Recipes gives you recipes to make your own homemade versions of commercially sold food products. This week? Make your own KFC Cajun Honey Wings.

Alex and I are planning to make peking duck (instead of turkey) on thanksgiving. As best we can tell it's basically a honey marinated duck. Ever wonder what it takes to raise good duck?

Bon Appetit has a guide to the "new ethnic restaurant." I've been wondering if we should make a trip to greece lately. I don't think I've had upscale Greek food yet.

 

Wednesday, October 2, 2002 - 11:41PM


Buried in "downtown" Redmond, Washington is the Country Garden Bistro service Country French Cuisine. Robert  and Cynthia Houot are the Chef/Owners of this establishment. At first it seems neat to have a small, easygoing French restaurant out in the suburbs. And certainly some of the dishes they serve are enjoyable - yesterday's french onion and leek soups in particular were good. The croque monsieur and madame sandwiches were also yummy - really buttery grilled ham and swiss cheese sandwiches the latter with a fried egg on top. Sometimes the food is inconsistent with the fruits and vegetables served with lunch not feeling as fresh as they could be. Country Garden Bistro is certainly much better than many of the nearby fast food options, etc. but overall nothing feels super special. The service is kind of unsmooth as well. If you're in a pinch though, it's certainly worth a try.

 

Tuesday, October 1, 2002 - 11:58PM


I've been experimenting with baking lately. If you can follow directions, it's difficult to not love any baked product just coming out of the oven. The Seattle Times talks about quick baking with baking powder instead of yeast.

I plan on trying to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off when it reappears in a year or two. But that's not the only cooking contest in town. Here's the recipe that won the National Beef Cook-Off (whatever that is).

StarChefs has an article about rising stars in the Boston area. One of the four is Thomas John of Mantra. I want to go back there. 

 


September 2002 is archived here.

 


 

     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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