Wanna know where I like to eat? Well I thought you would. But let me give you some idea of how this blog happened.
If there is a greater pleasure than spending a week shooting a TV show of your own in your Dad’s adopted hometown, a place you visit all the time, have friends living there that you have known for 30 years (Samantha and Don Lindgren, the owner of Rabelais book store, the best cookbook store in New England), eating your way through a few acts with your son, and visiting some of the best restaurants in the country … well, I don’t know what that would be. I love Maine. And we got to shoot there last summer and make a great show.Sadly my fave moments of the show wound up on the cutting room floor, like my dinner at Fore St, one of my fave eateries on any continent, and the only place I eat at EVERY time I am in Portland. Sam Hayward is a god. Anyway, from chowder at the Porthole to the glassed-in fridge and live fire kitchen at Fore, from Rob Evans inspired cooking at Hugos to Rabelais’ books, from Duckfat to the lobster rolls at Five Islands Lobster Company to the fried clams at Day’s, food in Maine is as complex and locally inspired as any food in the country. I also love eating at 555 and Back Bay Grill when I hit Portland, and Big Fish in Kennebunkport is a place we always stop in on the way up to visit Dad, ditto the Clam Box, both of which make the drive from Boston to Maine more enjoyable.
So I thought maybe I should let you know about some restaurants closer to home that you should check out. This list is not a complete one, just the last few months I have gotten around a lot locally and wanted to clue you all in to some slick places in your neck of the woods.
Palm Beach: Café Boloud at the Brazilian Court … maybe the best restaurant in Southern Florida, the food is amazing, the service and the setting (the gardens of the Brazilian Court Hotel) are second to none. Too Jays Deli has the best Pastrami sandwich in town, and it saved me from fine-dining overload.
Chicago: Paradise Pup and Hot Dougs for amazing burgers and sausages, second to none. Blackbird and Avec are superb restaurants, and I have been going to them for years, but last week I had a meal at Blackbird that was one of the best in recent memory. At over a decade old, this restaurant is still supremely relevant, and that is saying a lot. The sepia noodles with snail caviar and the braised pork belly rocked me. As did the $150 cup of rare Pu Er tea I snarfed down as a digestive.
Phoenix: Pizzeria Bianco, worth the three-hour wait, go sit next door in his wine bar and relax. The pizzeria might be the best VPN style pie shop in North America. Seriously that good, and Chris is always behind the counter, slinging dough. The tomato-garlic-oregano pie was about as good as pizza gets.
Seattle: Serious Pie, which is Tom Douglas’ newest eatery, is just a few years old. He cooks his pies 200 degrees colder than most VPN joints, but his duck pate, ribbolitta, calamari salad and pizzas are out of this world, a top-10 coast-to-coast pie house for sure. Douglas owns Etta’s Palace Kitchen, Lola etc and is one of the best chefs in the country, but this little pizza joint of his is my current fave.
Los Angeles: In Los Angeles the hottest eateries are humble little joints that forego napery, fine silver or tasting menus. Palate, Osteria Mozza and Gjelina embrace communal dining, wood-fired farm-to-table peasant cookery and humble ingredients.
Montreal: The hottest trend here is in postage-stamp-sized chef-driven cafes that take more pride in a well-turned-out sandwich than in a five-course meal. Martin Pird’s Au Pied du Cochon on Duluth Street is my fave, but McKiernan’s (lunch counter in the daytime/wine bar as the sun sets), Buvette Chez Simone and a half dozen others all follow the same playbook.
Minneapolis: the best new restaurant in town is Barrio, a small tequila bar serving upscale Mexican cuisine at bargain-basement prices; don’t miss it next time you roll into my city.