Food & Libations

Who doesn’t love great food and fab drinks? With this page, I will offer some unique or unusual places that I feel are worthy of a visit.  Generally, they are not the most famous or most expensive but all are special. Enjoy.

Articles on this page:

  • 5 Dining Experiences to Write Home About
  • Seafood Shacks Serving 5-Star Eats
  • Best Instagrammable Bars
  • Quirky & Fun, These Spots Are Worth a Visit
  • Belgian Waffles Just Got a New Fan

5 Dining Experiences to Write Home About

Beijing, China

For dinner, we took the advice of several friends (thanks!) and went to Da Dong for their fabulous Peking Duck. The menu is huge and a bit overwhelming, but we stuck with the famous duck and a variety of other dishes and enjoyed a feast.  The restaurant is modern, service attentive and instructive as we were taught how to put together and eat the duck, condiments and Chinese pancakes.  It was interesting to see the chefs cook the duck in huge fire ovens, and then carve them into small delicate pieces that are reconstructed on the serving platter.  Never knew duck skin put in a little sugar could be so good.

Santa Rosa, California/ Wine County

Second course: Red Wine Braised Duck.

The weather is perfect and we have decided to launch our food, wine and shopping journey with a tasting dinner at the St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in nearby Santa Rosa. And, OMG, what a wonderful way to begin.

Fourth course: NY Strip Loin.

We arrived just in the nick of time (they keep to tight schedules here), tired and hungry. The food and wine pairings were absolutely wonderful. We started the meal with Arctic Char à la Barigoule (with a celery root/Yukon Gold potato purée), paired with a Chardonnay.  Next was a Red Wine Braised Duck with coriander spätzle along with a really nice Pinot Noir, and a Smoked Beet Salad with goat cheese fondant and green garlic purée along with a different red.  Our main course was a Coffee & Cocoa Crusted NY Strip Loin with roasted cauliflower, smoked garlic, and crispy shallots set off with a terrific Cabernet Sauvignon.  For dessert, an incredible cheese selection (almost like a cheesecake) was served with a Mexican Chocolate Pot du Crème and a Port. The meal was perfectly portioned and exquisitely prepared and served.  It was heaven.

Details: You will need reservations for the dinner and wine pairing. $60 pp.  It is a bargain at $60 and less if you join (or are a member of) the Wine Club. Each seating has a maximum of 16 guests. There’s a great gift shop too.

New Delhi, India

After a busy day seeing the sights, we weren’t finished with Delhi yet.  We ended the day sharing both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian Chef’s Tasting Menus at India’s number one restaurant, Indian Accent. A real dining adventure by star chef Manish Mehrotra – we sampled 15 incredible dishes. Foodies take note, they have opened branches in London and New York. I wish the photos could impart just how amazing each dish tasted. Elegant and exceptional.

San Francisco

Through the years, we’ve eaten some fine meals here – from the iconic Tadich Grill to a Moroccan feast, breakfast at Sears Fine Food (best bacon ever) and Tyler Florence’s The Wayfair Tavern. There is a fabulous restaurant around every corner of this great city. And, there are too many Chinese restaurants to count. We had heard great things about R & G Lounge and their Chinese-style Dungeness Crab. We knew things looked promising when the other diners are predominantly local and Chinese. And, on the night we were there, the Japanese Consulate had arranged a private event (since the Prime Minister of Japan was in town). In fact, reception staff initially mistook us for part of the press corps traveling with the Prime Minister.  R & G did not disappoint. One surprise was that this place knows how to make a martini.

We tried one of the four signature Dungeness Crab offerings – our choice was the ginger and scallion seasoning. It was delicious, even if we did have to work a bit for our dinner. Making a mess was worth the effort. The spicy green beans are also terrific. Make a reservation, because it is a popular spot.

Strasbourg, France

Chez Yvonne served up everything an Alsatian meal should be. I was in Strasbourg for a second visit to their incredible Christmas Markets and it was perfect after a day of walking for miles. It was cozy, warm, and had absolutely divine food I felt like was prepared just for us. Staff at our hotel, Cour du Corbeau, recommended the venue when we requested a restaurant with local, rustic-style fare and were not disappointed. We started with an ample serving of exceptional foie gras served with delicious fresh bread and a nice local wine. Frankly, that was so good, we could’ve stopped there. But we continued sharing dishes so we could try more, including dessert, and loved everything. It’s located in the middle of the old town and was a lovely walk to and from our hotel just on the other side of the I’ill.


Seafood “Shacks” Serving 5-Star Eats

Newport, Rhode Island

Some notable highlights for good Rhody food include a hidden delight, Belle’s Cafe, at the Newport Shipyard with really good lobster rolls and an interesting setting featuring many of the yachts and sailboats in the area. Relax and enjoy all the activity around you.

Flo’s Clam Shack (in Middletown), is a local favorite for fresh fried clams and fried everything else! Best fried clams I’ve ever had.  Bring your appetite.

 

Bodega Bay, Northern California

The Russian River flows into the Pacific on the Sonoma Coast and much of the coast is part of the Sonoma Coast State Beach.  Highway 101 runs along this dramatic, protected area.  We drove the stretch between Bodega Bay and Jenner. It was uncrowded and seemed so remote, with wild, uncorrupted beauty.  There was no cell service.

All this scenery and wine tasting made us hungry and we headed back towards Bodega Bay (where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds) and the Spud Point Crab Company.  You don’t come here for a luxury setting, comfortable chairs (picnic tables outside), bathrooms (across the street at the marina), or heat (it was cold and windy); what you will get is terrific crab, shrimp and clam chowder.  They have won awards for the best clam chowder on the Pacific coast and I can taste why, it was wonderful. Service was fast and friendly and we were soon on our way to San Francisco.

Key Largo, Florida

Alabama Jacks has the best conch fritters ever. We can’t even remember how long we’ve been coming to this great South Florida spot – at least 25 years, and it is always consistently fun. First, let me say, the food is great. The Conch Fritters are incredible, actually one large mound, not wimpy, little bite-size croquettes like most places. Other favs include the smoked fish pieces, fish spread, and peel & eat shrimp.
The setting? Well, it’s special too: all the way down deserted-looking Card Sound Road, right where Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties meet, on a permanently anchored barge, with a water view on the Gulf side.

It’s casual, very casual; a weekend-bikers destination that attracts boaters who dock, as well as a mix of locals, tourists, kids, Coast Guardsmen, red hat ladies, and every type of person you can imagine. From tattoos and designer shorts to sunburns and square-dancing costumes, nothing is out of place. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons they play host to a country music band, and patrons will be even more entertained by the friendly local clogging crowd.

Alabama Jacks is the way Florida used to be and has a vibe far too few get to experience these days. So, when you’re in Miami/South Beach for a visit, keep driving south and see what Florida is really about.

Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola is pleasant, walkable and friendly. We were visiting on a Monday and the historic tours weren’t operating, but on the plus side, Monday is 25 cent oyster night at Atlas Oyster House. So, that’s $3 for a dozen terrific, plump Louisiana Gulf oysters! I think we ate about three dozen.

 


Best Instagrammable Bars

Philipsburg, Saint Martin

The highlight of our visit had to be stopping in at the Sunset Bar to watch the low-flying planes land over Maho Beach.  The local Princess Juliana International Airport has a very short runway and it starts just behind the beach.  We checked the arrival schedule earlier in the day since our goal was to see a jumbo jet, generally KLM

Flight schedule at the popular Sunset Bar on Maho Beach.

or Air France, land.  We knew the larger planes were arriving between 1:30 and 3, so we staked out a perfect spot along the beach-side edge of the bar, ordered some rum drinks and waited.  It was a blast in every sense of the word!  People on the beach

also get a charge from being blown away as the jets take off, not my idea of fun.  I was just happy not to be directly under the planes. Generally, only one jumbo jet arrives each afternoon, so be sure to check the landing schedule, which you can find conveniently posted at the bar. Get there early to get a good seat and some unobstructed photos.

Singapore

Last one I had? Probably at the original Ruby Tuesday’s in K’Ville.

Time to Cool Off & Try a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel. Truth be told – I was so hot by the time we got into the Long Bar, I probably would’ve paid anything for a drink. We were lucky and got the only available table.  We, of course, went to have an authentic Singapore Sling. It was $22. I was so dehydrated I guzzled a Coke first. They serve an ample portion of Coke in a small carafe for a reasonable price. Peanuts in the shell are on the table; they are much smaller than our American peanuts. A full menu was available.

The Sling tasted pretty much like others I have had – although that type of fruity drink is way in my past.  First created here in 1915, the Sling is considered the national drink of Singapore. Still, it was fun to have one in the original spot and just in time. The hotel and bar were closing the next week for a major renovation. The Raffles Hotel, including the Long Bar, will reopen August 1, 2019.


 

Quirky & Fun, These Spots Are Worth a Visit

Seattle

For dinner, we headed back to Post Alley, in the Pike Market area and had dinner at The Pink Door.  If you weren’t looking for it, you would have no idea that behind this innocuous, pinkish door is an eclectic spot with retro décor, whimsical flair, a charming outdoor dining patio with views of the Sound, and a different style of entertainment. With an Italian/American menu and tasty food, it’s a winner.

 

Berlin

We were only in Berlin minutes before we’d found a famous Chocolate Café. Fassbender & Rausch, Chocolatiers am Gendarmenmarkt is the largest Chocolaterie in the world. Their café is located on the second floor over the shop (featuring 300 different types of treats).  We arrived for lunch and decided to skip the chocolate-infused dishes and go directly to dessert, feasting on chocolate with delicious cherries (not like any grocery-store-in-a-jar cherries) and cherry ice cream, as well as dark chocolate fondue and fruit. Everything on the menu is made with chocolate. It was fun and a nice way to start our Berlin adventure. The shop downstairs has lots of yummy items to choose from, but sorry to say, no chocolate syrup for sale. I’d add this as a stop to any Berlin itinerary.

St. Paul du Vence, Provence, France

Le Café de la Place is a great place to stop and have a refreshment after wandering through the streets of the beautiful St. Paul du Vence village. As Bocce players we especially enjoyed watching the energetic Petanque players throwing their smaller balls around the no-boundaries, sandy playing surface. The cafe is very conveniently located at the entrance to the village, so it is a perfect meeting spot. I can’t speak for the meals in this location, just that it is a nice stop for a café or soda and snack while Petanque-watching.

 

New York City, Upper East Side

We heard about Il Vagabondo from several friends who used to live in the area. There are hundreds of Italian restaurants in NYC, but no others with a 1910 bocce court in the bar. We gave it a try with a group of 6 and had a really nice time. It was clean and cozy, with an open kitchen and a surprising wall of windows facing lots of greenery. Everyone enjoyed their meal from the menu featuring traditional Italian fare and our antipasto platter was delicious. We had an uber-attentive waiter and an atmosphere peaceful enough to actually hear one another speak (getting to be a rare treat these days).  After dinner, we tried our hand at bocce – which was bizarrely funny on the old, undulating cement court. Fun was had by all.

Update: Sadly, this spot has closed in 2019, after 50 years of business and the death of its owner. The family now has the property for sale, I hope the bocce court survives. 

Singapore

Finally got to scratch this one off my bucket list, with a visit to Singapore’s Cat Café. Popular in many cat-loving Asian countries, I have missed pop-up cafes in NYC and Miami.

This was fun.  Fifteen kitties of various stripes and colors – mostly asleep when I visited. Admission is $15 (for the cat’s upkeep) and all the residents are rescues.  You remove your shoes, Purell your hands, and can stay as long as you like.  One can of soda comes with your admission and the cafe has an assortment of other drinks, coffees, and snacks for sale. I visited mid-afternoon, which was not a prime time for kitty-play, but it was the only time I had.  Plus, I did not have much time to carve out of our busy travel schedule.

It would be nice to just hang out, read a book or do a little work.  Cats seemed quite comfortable to sleep on the tables, unconcerned with any human interference. The cats all wore cute colors or scarves, had plenty of play towers, lots of kitty-beds and seemed quite content. BTW, it was very warm inside, so it would be smart to dress accordingly.


Belgian Waffles Just Got a New Fan

Antwerp, Belgium

We spent the morning on a walking tour of Antwerp and were ready for refreshments. We asked about the best place to sit down and eat a waffle and headed off to find the café, Désiré de Lille. I don’t even like waffles but wanted to give an authentic Belgian waffle a try, and I’m sure glad I did.  They were so light – delicious; with a little ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and wonderful sauce.  Now that I write these ingredients – what’s not to like.  We also tried another local specialty, shrimp croquettes, but those tasted pretty ordinary to me (like the croquetas we have everywhere in Miami) and were expensive. Stick with waffles.

 


 

 

  1. This is one of my favorite places in Miami…and longtime residents would recommend you add it to your “must visit ” list though they might also like to keep it an “insiders” secret. For tourists – after the seemingly requisite visit to South Beach and hectic nightclubs – this spot offers a quiet chance to explore another aspect of South Florida glamor. It is an ideal spot to enjoy and experience the natural beauty of certain things that are unique to South Florida. It offers a romantic journey for couples, an opportunity for families to introduce issues of nature, ecology, and the simple pleasure of seeing a beautiful flower or the incredible life path of a plant -(the visit will also give an advantage in science school studies), and a wealth of photo possibilities for scrapbooking and visual mementos of a special occasion for anyone who spends an hour -it’s likely you will want to stay longer.

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