The 13 Best Restaurant Meals of 2013

It’s hard to follow-up the formidable dining year that was 2012, with its list of heavyweights including The French Laundry and Noma. Remember, there have been many, many tremendous films over the years since the 12th edition of the Oscars celebrating the films of 1939. That year’s Best Picture winner was “Gone With The Wind.” “The Wizard Of Oz” was also a nominee. Hollywood hasn’t had such a same year 1-2 punch since Gable and Garland. I don’t know if yours truly will have a year like 2012 with Keller and Redzepi. But we’re always trying.

Ramon Freixa, Madrid
Ramon Freixa, Madrid

2013 started strong and never let up even if no destination quite achieved the nearly impossible levels of excellence consistently reached by certain kitchens and dining rooms in Copenhagen and Yountville. This year ultimately was a debate between a dynamic Basque chef in Madrid and one of the emerging forces of the gastronomic world from his emerging on the grand scene flagship dining room in Mexico City. In between, we learned that Portugal knows how to cook far more than just salt cod. The best meals in New York aren’t always reliant on Michelin—or The New York Times—stars. Los Angeles is becoming a real force on the dining scene and not because of chefs who adore the media limelight (that’s for sure in one case). Hotel restaurants aren’t always “hotel restaurants.” (Well, they usually are, but this list has two entries from that category (!)). And the year’s funkiest, most thrilling meal took place in a near pitch black underground bunker—in our nation’s capital after an over four hour long wait.

Pujol's Green Squash Tamal
Pujol’s Green Squash Tamal

I guess in that spirit, I should write a four hour long article? I’ll give you a pass on that.

In a moment, we’ll unveil the year’s 13 best restaurant meals.Continue reading “The 13 Best Restaurant Meals of 2013”

The 13 Bites That Defined 2013

What a year for eating. My first bites of the year were in a New Years Day early morning daze at Blue Star Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon (Valrhona Chocolate Crunch was the best amidst stiff competition. These were hands down the best doughnuts of a pretty doughnut-free year). If that’s how a year starts, then the eating surely will continue at a high caliber. Just with less cholesterol.

Belcanto's Skate "Jackson Pollack" and Its Inspiration
Belcanto’s Skate “Jackson Pollack” And Its Inspiration

We’ll break down the trends and analytical stuff in another category this week. This is about those thirteen bites that I still think about and remember almost every detail of. Sure, I could list thirteen bites alone from Pujol or Alma. That wouldn’t be very exiting, would it? Each one of these was an absolute masterpiece that reminded me why dining out can be so special.

Continue reading “The 13 Bites That Defined 2013”

The 13 Sips That Defined 2013

Is it happy hour yet?
This is always the most challenging category to narrow down. In essence, this conveys the sterling sips of cocktails, wines, beers, spirits, and coffee-based drinks I had the good fortune to sample. But really, how can you really compare an espresso to a Kyoto-style iced coffee, let alone that espresso to a South African Chenin Blanc? We must take our artistic liberties and run/drink with it.

Cocktails at Drink in Boston
Cocktails at Drink in Boston

2013 was certainly the year that wine took center stage in my life, joining the editorial staff of Vino 24/7. At the same time, cocktails were vastly improved in every city I visited and even yours truly has become quite the mixologist at home (that word is “so 2010.”). Craft beer and new distilleries? They didn’t fade at all. It’s just the others really emerged.
Coffee really had its year (see end of year trends later this week) . My daily espresso (or two depending on what city I’m visiting) improved exponentially, including my local café that roasts its own beans and serves them inside a running store (hint hint on the winner for this year’s best espresso winner). If it seems like I’m usually buzzed or very hyper, or both, well…hopefully not, as I do keep that under control! But when we drink, we drink well. Very well. 2014 has stiff competition for a repeat performance.Continue reading “The 13 Sips That Defined 2013”

Merry Christmas!

Here in California, 70 degrees and sunny doesn’t exactly seem like the white Christmas’ I used to know as a young kid. However, many of the traditions remain regardless of snow levels or kids’ ages. I will always believe in Santa. Cinnamon rolls (Pillsbury in the house!) are served for breakfast, and Beef Wellington for dinner (this year had some issues and the filet mignon was grilled. Hey, it’s always grilling season out here).

The menu Christmas Eve of course included Dungeness crab. It’s not 7 fishes like they’d do in Italy. When you’ve got the best crustacean, you don’t need 6 more. Some fresh-baked baguette (kind of like sourdough, right?) and leftover homemade cheesecake baked for a recent birthday…now that’s a Christmas Eve dinner. And dark chocolate fudge left out for Santa’s early morning snack.

Christmas Eve Dinner
Christmas Eve Dinner


Well, yours truly has been busy working (which explains the clear lack of articles recently), but we’ll slowly work our way through past travels. However, we will immediately get going on the annual year end list of the most memorable bites, sips, experiences, and notes from 2013, with a fearless look ahead at 2014. As well, I’ll unveil my first ever definitive list of the 208 places to eat and drink in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yes, that’s what I’ve been busy doing. No, I wish I could take credit for making this magnificent gingerbread house on display at the Rosewood Sand Hill, a hotel in Menlo Park, CA. That credit goes to pastry chef Melissa Root and her elves. It’s 90 square feet and uses 800 (!) pounds of gingerbread. My house is about as big and not nearly as tasty. A steam engine locomotive even weaves it’s way around the icing mountains.


Thanks for all of your wonderful support and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!!



Red Sox Win the World Series & Wine of Halloween (or the Week): 2010 Graci Etna Rosso, Sicily

On this Halloween Thursday, yours truly is thinking of drinking red.

No, we’re not vampires at Trev’s Bistro drinking blood (or are we?…) as dusk turns to dark. There is no better time to consider the excellent red wine being produced in Sicily. When you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is no better place to sample these Sicilian wines (or for that matter, any Italians), than amidst the excellent burrata with sea salt and olive oil, maccaronara with ragu Napoletana, and Shelly Lindgren’s magnificent almost entirely Italian wine list at  the now decade-old A16 in San Francisco’s Marina district.

San Francisco's A16
San Francisco’s A16

It’s the type of wine list that makes you forget about your date for 15 minutes as you’re immersed in the fascinating world of varietals and regions you’ve never heard of. I’m sorry, did you say something?

Yet all will be well because the excellent service staff provides exactly the nurturing insight to help you find that perfect decision. They could even make calculus seem simple. Don’t be surprised if after perusing the list for 15 minutes, you receive a 15 minute story about the wine you should choose.

That was the case when I was pointed towards the 2010 Etna Rosso from Alberto Graci. Continue reading “Red Sox Win the World Series & Wine of Halloween (or the Week): 2010 Graci Etna Rosso, Sicily”

The World Series: Food Edition. Boston vs St. Louis, Ted Drewes vs Toscanini’s

Here we go, it’s late October again, which can only mean three major subjects at Trev’s Bistro: Pumpkin everything, Halloween candy, and the World Series: Food Edition.

Last year San Francisco defeated Detroit handily for food & drink. Then the Giants followed suit with a baseball sweep. However for the Super Bowl in early February, the 49ers lost to the Ravens despite San Francisco defeating Baltimore at the table and the bar.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MONow for the 2013 World Series we have two very fine and if I may say, underrated, food and drink scenes in St. Louis and Boston. In both towns the food and drink take back seats to their beloved Cardinals and Red Sox during the season. But there’s no doubt this match-up of food and drink will be as close as the two excellent teams on the field.

This championship is based on my experience and knowledge with both cities. It is not perfect. Both scenes have WAY more exciting options than what is listed. Please feel free to create your own lineups. Yes, I have much more experience with Boston’s dining scene and am a longtime Red Sox fan, but this is a completely unbiased showdown. Good food and drink doesn’t relate to baseball team bias, at least for me.

Since this is baseball, we’ll craft a starting lineup of nine “players,” a starting pitcher, a set-up man out of the bullpen, a closer, a manager, a broadcaster, and a mascot for our “teams.”

The mayors of the two cities elected not to bet each other this time around, but other city officials did. If the Red Sox win, St. Louis would send a six-pack of Schafly beer, toasted ravioli from Ricardo’s, and a smokehouse specialty from The Shaved duck. If the Cardinals win, Boston would send Harpoon’s Oktoberfest beer, shepherd’s pie from Amrheins, and clam chowder from Legal Sea Foods.

Fenway Park
Fenway Park

That’s a nice little wager. Bonus points for both cities going the microbrewery route (we’re not talking about you, Samuel Adams). However, it’s time for the big leagues. Let’s play ball Boston and St. Louis.Continue reading “The World Series: Food Edition. Boston vs St. Louis, Ted Drewes vs Toscanini’s”

Restaurants: Ramon Freixa, Madrid

Usually, two dozen or more course tasting menu marathons actually involve that many courses in succession, one after another, until you start imagining your fork to be swirling lemon macarons.

The restaurant Ramon Freixa in Madrid’s ritzy Hotel Unico in the elegant Salamanca shopping and residential neighborhood, in theory, provides you that many miniature bites while experiencing the tasting menu. You’ll have roughly the same number of tastes as at any of the world’s great tasting menu temples that Vanity Fair‘s Corby Kummer earlier this year deemed “totalitarian.” Ramon FreixaExcept, each “course” at Ramon Freixa has close to four components that aren’t merely “tastes.” The entertaining English translations breaks down the tasting menu into “The Beginning” (essentially four amuse-bouches), “The Origins” (crisp wafers covered covered and “salchichón” salami, along with a fried sardine dish), “The Previous” (four more small bites at one time), then the “Courses” (4 sets of courses with 3-4 creations within each course), “Sweet Wait” (a Black Forest themed chocolate mousse and cherry number), “Dessert” (again, one course with four different plates), and then your finishing chocolate bites. This makes football game plans seem elementary.

Looking back at the sheer amount of food set before me over the course of three and a half hours this past summer, it’s startling that I felt merely content afterwards. Perhaps that’s what Madrid’s 95 degree July weather does to you. It’s good for sweating all that jamon Iberico off.

"Crac- oil- thyme" and stuffed olives with Vermouth
“Crac- oil- thyme” and stuffed olives with Vermouth

It’s a different tasting menu method than I’m used to. For better or worse organization-wise, and I’d say more for the worse since you’re more likely to let something get cold, Freixa’s kitchen yielded a tomato- centric concept and a goat dish that might hold off stiff competition at the end of December for 2013’s dish of the year. Then again, I’d have to choose between the two. That won’t be trivial.Continue reading “Restaurants: Ramon Freixa, Madrid”

Plat du Jour Monday October 7, 2013: When Is It O.K. To Send Something Back?

What a challenging question to begin this first full week of October with. Usually my answer is the always vague “follow your gut feeling.” Well, if you’re gut isn’t feeling so good, you probably want to send the dish back.

I’ve noticed I almost never have to send back food. Cocktails get returned at a far higher rate. Then at a seemingly innocent, low key lunch at the highly respectable Los Angeles restaurant/cafe LAMILL (also a terrific coffee roaster, located in the city’s Silver Lake area), I was forced to do something about this joke of a sandwich delivered to me. Something had to happen. Sandwiches don’t look like this for $7, let alone double the price from a kitchen owned by one of the city’s top toques. Just look at the sandwich “filling” to the left in the picture below. Nothing has been edited. Seriously.

Note the difference between Sandwich A and Sandwich B at LA Mill
Note the difference between Sandwich A and Sandwich B at LAMILL

Continue reading “Plat du Jour Monday October 7, 2013: When Is It O.K. To Send Something Back?”

Greetings from…Chicago! Part II

Continuing back to the Windy City, we continue with a beverage to commence our concluding Part II from Chicago.

The Chicago River
The Chicago River

Cocktail of Chicago: The Office: Rum, Ginger, Bonito, Wasabi, Sesame, and Mint
Don’t make me choose between The Aviary and The Violet Hour, Chicago’s pre-eminent craft cocktail bars that are deservedly on every “ten best cocktail bars in the country” list. So, I chose a cocktail not really from either.
Looking at my list of cocktails from this trip, I can’t believe I managed to run a half marathon in Minneapolis during my brief stay in the Twin Cities book-ended by two half weeks in Chicago. What a champion! Or such is the life of a runner-food writer?IMG_1377
Chicago is a great cocktail town. The Aviary gets the headlines around the country for being the cocktail circus extravaganza of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (Alinea, Next). Charles Joly now runs the show nightly at The Aviary, named in May by the James Beard Awards as the country’s most outstanding bar program.

The "Tropic Thunder"'s porthole at The Aviary
The “Tropic Thunder”‘s porthole at The Aviary

Is it really? Well, it’s probably the most fascinating. And the drinks are both eye-opening and almost always excellent. But you’ll go to The Aviary as your neighborhood bar like you’d visit your local neighborhood bistro Alinea. It’s an experience. What an experience it is. Continue reading “Greetings from…Chicago! Part II”

Wine of the Week: 2011 Rebholz Trocken Riesling, Pfalz, Germany

Hurry, there’s only a couple of days of summer left. That means it’s time to sneak in a few more outdoor barbeque sessions, complimented by end of season heirloom tomatoes, corn on the cob, and a few final chilled bottles of Rosé. Then, next week we start with root vegetables, beef stew, and Malbec.
Not so fast. We don’t have to be that literal with the seasons, do we?

2011 Rebholz Trocken Riesling
2011 Rebholz Trocken Riesling

Well, yes if we’re referring to the “Summer of Riesling,” a now iconic program at restaurants and wine bars nationwide to use the June 21st to September 21st period of warmer days and nights to get you the skeptical wine drinker to drink the much maligned grape. Continue reading “Wine of the Week: 2011 Rebholz Trocken Riesling, Pfalz, Germany”