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Plat du Jour: Thursday August 16, 2012

A Bäco at Bäco Mercat, one of Bon Appetit’s Top 10 New Restaurants

It’s been over a month, but you can breathe easier now, the Plat du Jour is back and better than ever after sweating in the 100 degree heat of a Texas summer, and the 50 degree heat of a Scandinavia and Russia summer.

Of course the big food celebration this week was yesterday, which would have been the 100th birthday for the magnifique Julia Child. For all of us who she inspired into followers of French cuisine and cooking as a whole, Julia is an important figure, even taller than her 6″2″” height. It would be very hard to pick a meal to serve Julia for her birthday. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind some mousse au chocolat for dessert, though, the perfect way to finish every meal.

Speaking of grand meals, recently Dennis Lee of Serious Eats enjoyed the grand tasting menu at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. The legendary restaurants closes its regular dinner service tomorrow after 25 years so Mr. Trotter can study philosophy at graduate school at the University of Chicago. Maybe we can have that brown butter corn bread with Michigan cherries and bourbon ice cream for dessert after the mousse au chocolat?

AQ in San Francisco, also on the list

Bon Appetit just named its ten best new restaurants to open in the past year. It’s quite the impressive list with San Francisco’s own State Bird Provisions winning the gold. Known for its unique dim sum style operation, and signature (and namesake) fried quail and “World Peace” dessert (sweetened milk infused with peanuts), State Bird Provisions is an absolute game-changer in the restaurant landscape. I have yet to visit the restaurant somehow, but very much enjoyed husband and wife chef-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s creations (he does savory, she does desserts) when they were the final chefs at the late, great Rubicon.

Not only is State Bird Provisions a trail blazer cuisine-wise, it also is a pioneer bringing new life to a neglected area of the city on Fillmore Street near the Western Addition (not a dining hotspot…)

We’ll cover more tomorrow about the themes of these ten restaurants the 50 final nominees from Andrew Knowlton’s list. Congratulations to all of the finalists! Having been to a few of them, this is indeed a very fine list, and next year’s crop of new restaurants will have big toques to fill.

Pizzeria Locale, Boulder, CO

Lastly on this heart of August Thursday, two quick points to raise from today’s “Greetings from…!” Stockholm edition. Scandinavian coffee as a whole is very impressive, even the black coffee on SAS Airlines is better than most in the U.S. The espressos at top tier places, such as Johan Nyström and Drop Coffee in Stockholm, Java and Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, and Kaffa in Helsinki all are slightly smaller, smoother, less dense espresso shots, more in the Italian style than the woodsy, crema heavy, darker shots we see from leading baristas in the U.S. at Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, and co. The only latter kind of espresso I found was at Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective and Helsinki’s La Torrefazione.

The Scandinavian espresso is intriguing and elegant, think a milk chocolate truffle versus a dark chocolate truffle. The texture is less stiff and thick, flowing smoother, making it much easier to have multiple espresso shots. Recently Oliver Strand of The New York Times spent a few weeks in Oslo and found a similar elegance in Oslo’s coffees.

Oh, and yes, all of these shops roast their own beans or buy beans from local, tiny micro roasters.

The other question pertains to the theme of prix fixe gastro-bistros, such as the dinner at 19 Glas. Is it a good value? Is it worth the risk? At 19 Glas, we had the best of both worlds– standout starter and clunkers for a main entrée and dessert. I’ve had similar experiences at many of these same concept restaurants worldwide, including Relae in Copenhagen.

What are your thoughts? Trev’s Bistro loves its bistros full of heart and when done well, these are the most enjoyable, stress free meals one can have. Then again, a clunker dish is a clunker dish. It’s a risk by the chef and a risk by the diner that can succeed or backfire.

The debate over whether these meals are a “bargain” is another whole, different one…

Enjoy the August tomatoes…gazpacho at Trev’s Bistro tonight!

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