Archive for December, 2016

Top Ten Dishes of 2016

Posted 30 Dec 2016 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

To say 2016 was busy is an understatement. Projects and associated travel spanned my roles as an educator, board member, executive advisor, consultant and volunteer. The year included major trips to Chicago, Seattle, Paris, Washington DC, Athens and Thessaloniki Greece, Lyon France, and Vevey Switzerland. There were multiple side trips all over New England and visits to just over 50 full service restaurants – it was a great year and I am blessed to have the opportunity to constantly explore and benchmark across all sectors and segments of the food industry. There were so many great meals and dishes I am still vacillating over numbers 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 with two dozen other dishes that could be included. However, my top five are locked in. As of now – here’s my top ten list for the year. It’s only natural that many of these are seafood!

#10 – L’Olivier, Vevey, Suisse – Lac Leman Perch, Summer Vegetables, Olives, Pine Nuts

Restaurant L’Olivier at Hostellerie Bon Rivage is special – Vegetables come from extensive gardens facing the lake and seafood is sourced from Christophe & Christine Liechti of Pecherie du Leman. My early evening trip to the terrace to sip Rosé and enjoy the local fresh perch proved incredible.

#9 – Matsuhisa, Aspen – Coconut Mochi Cake, Miso Caramel, Blackberry Lavender Ice Cream

Our visits to Aspen always include a trip to Matsuhisa for sushi and other treats – we love the place. The Coconut Mochi Cake with Ice Cream during this visit was over the top. It’s a staple on the menu now – absolutely delicious and simple.

#8 – Roister, Chicago – Foie Gras, Black Walnuts, Pretzel, Marshmallow Bar

It isn’t unusual for me to visit Chicago at least one or twice during the year. This year included three trips and on the second visit we dined at the recently opened Roister. Black Sabbath was blaring on the sound system when we sat down and the huge garage doors onto the sidewalk were open – the restaurant was absolutely electric and the food spectacular culminating with a deceptively delicious Foie Gras dessert bar that had me wanting to eat the plate it was served on.

#7 – Cosme, New York – Crispy Octopus, Hazelnut Mole Pickled Potatoes, Watercress

Chef Enrique Olvera was banging around in the kitchen the night I visited Cosme. While on property he controls the sound system from his iPhone and every time he came out of the kitchen the music got louder. The room was pulsing with energy when I took a seat at the bar and had the bartender order for me. Of the many samples I tried, the octopus was spectacular. Not the prettiest dish of the year but one of the best tasting…and taste always wins!

#6 – The Lost Kitchen, Freedom Maine – Tomatoes with Many Basils

I didn’t expect chef Erin French to be so damn charming and talented. Her restaurant has more soul than 90% of those I visited this past year. It doesn’t have the striking gravitas of Bocuse or the virtuosity of Alinea – it has something else though: a magnetic energy and the soul of an entire villiage. French’s tomatoes with many basils isn’t just delicious – it is a metaphor for the hope and future of the community surrounding the restaurant. Fabulous is an understatement.

#5 – Pineapple and Pearls – Sturgeon and White Beets, Matsutake

It is unprecedented when a newly minted chef-owner realizes his operation is all about the people involved including employees, guests, suppliers, vendors and the surrounding community. Chef Aaron Silverman knew this right from the beginning. I am a huge fan and his Sturgeon with Beets was so delicious that the thought of it still lingers.

#4 – Oberlin, Providence – Marinated Mussels, Garlic Chive, Sweet Potato

When Ben and Heidi Sukle’s Oberlin was awarded #7 best new restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine in 2016 it gave me great joy. I have known Ben for years and always loved his food but felt he went unrecognized – until now. My wife and I enjoyed dinner with Ben in the fall and his Marinated Mussels instantly became a top five dish of the year. They’re perfect. My heart fills with happiness as I see Ben and Heidi prosper!

#3 – Pierre Herme, Paris – Macarons

Our trip to Paris included an obligatory visit to Pierre Herme (the Rue Bonaparte location) for patisseries, macarons and cocolats. Herme and I met at the StarChefs conference back in 2011 and he’s an absolute gentleman. We expected excellence – our expectations were exceeded. There’s a reason Herme was named best pastry chef in the world in 2016.

#2 – Alinea, Chicago – Scallop with Corn Consommé, Shio Kombu, Nori

When dining in the gallery at Alinea one has to expect the unexpected. However, there was no way I could come close to anticipating how over-the-top delicious this scallop and corn consommé would be. The technique, precision, and absolute restraint used to produce this dish is evidence of passion, brilliance, and mastery – the purest form of elegant simplicity and deliciousness. The consommé crystal clear – the scallops dried into crispy sheets that melt into pasta like “noodles” when hydrated! This is the best thing I put in my mouth all year – period!

#1 – Paul Bocuse L’Auberge du Pont de Collognes, Lyon, France – Lobster salad ‘à la Française’

Choosing the best dish of the year is never easy but my mind was made up after eating at L’Auberge du Pont de Collognes though it was only June. My rationale is fairly simple: in an industry that chews and spits out restaurants and chefs as often as the changing tide, Bocuse has maintained three Michelin starts for 50 consecutive years. He’s the greatest chef of all time – period. My meal at Bocuse was old-school French in every way – and it was gorgeous. Service was perfect and the ambiance exceptional. I was washed over with the best hospitality I have received in years. Dining at Bocuse was one of the happiest meals of my life! Thank you chef!

Pineapple and Pearls: “In the People Business”

Posted 18 Dec 2016 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service

Chef Aaron Silverman’s team centered philosophy is primary cause for why I rearranged my schedule to include a dinner at his restaurant Pineapple and Pearls in the Barracks Row neighborhood just north of the Navy Yard in Washington DC. Though I did notice the two-star nod the Guide Michelin gave Pineapple and Pearls back in October, Silverman’s December 2015 TedEx talk 2015 is what really caught my attention. His heartfelt presentation centered on the connection between building and maintaining an outstanding team and achieving overall greatness. I couldn’t agree more with his perspective and I had to see for myself.

His first restaurant Rose’s Luxury won best new restaurant recognition by both Bon Appetit and GQ magazines in 2014. The restaurant was a game changer for the local restaurant scene and for the Silverman himself. Its customer centered casual feel paired with incredible – approachable food drew rave reviews and a steady stream of guests willing to cue up on the sidewalk in order to score a table upon opening. But behind the scenes Silverman focused on creating an environment and culture that would draw in the best talent. An environment where people want to work and that employees look forward to being part of.

My experience at Pineapple and Pearls provided deep evidence Silverman’s approach is working. It was illuminated by steady warmth and hospitality on a freezing December night. His team exceeded my expectation from start to finish and though the food was outstanding (the sturgeon rose was sublime) the service and beverage program was even better. Beverage director Jeff Faile has crafted an incredible program and one of the finest pairings I have had. We spent 20 minutes chatting in the kitchen after my experience (I sat at the bar for service). His approach is straight forward; he seeks great products that align perfectly with each dish on the tasting menu and he doesn’t leave non-alcoholic options as an afterthought. The non-alcoholic offerings were compelling, complex, and perfectly paired. Not an easy task. The Paliokerisio wine from Greece (grape varietals white Debina and red Vlahiko) was a favorite as was the alcohol free Jörg Geiger PriSecco sparkling cider made just east of Stuttgart in Germany. This is the kind of talent Silverman is attracting. What a great role model and example.

When a leader builds an authentic and engaging culture of excellence the impact of all involved is significantly amplified and Silverman has clearly figured this out. 2016 has been good to him – his recognition by Michelin was preceded by a Best Chef Mid Atlantic award by the James Beard Foundation. This is tangible evidence that leadership matters. Silverman ends his TedEx talk stating: “I’m in the people industry – it just so happens that I work at a restaurant.”  If people are his product – he should have three stars instead of two!

Fennel Absinthe Bonbon

Crispy Yuba, Cured Trout Roe, Garden Herbs

Beef Tar Tar, Caviar (retired dairy cow loin)

Sweet Shrimp, Ajo Blanco (almond gazpacho), Mixed Grapes, Cilantro

Sturgeon Rose, White Beets, Matsutake

Mustard Green Agnolotti, Parmesan, Greyson and Ricotta Cheese, Huitaloche, Mustard, Mushroom Kombocha Squash Gastrique

Atlantic Cod, Fall Vegetables, Pigs Head Terrine, Crispy Garlic, Garlic Fumet

Beef Loin Presentation –

Homage to DC Steakhouse – Dry Aged Rib Eye, Béarnaise, Truffle Pepper Cream, Popovers with Wild Mushrooms, Potato Onion Tart

Cheese Presentation

Warm Greyson Cheese, Purple Sweet Potato Brioche, Pawpaw Butter

Satsuma, Labneh Sorbet, Hibiscus & Whey Soda

Granny Smith Apple Crostata, Sundae Bar of Dark Chocolate, Tarragon, Olive Oil Sorbets, Lemon Glaze, Toasted Coconut

Cookies – Sesame Fortune Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough with Red Walnut, Snickerdoodle

Coffee and Pistachio Shortbread Afterwards

Pineapple and Pearls

715 8th Street SE, Washington, DC