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World’s 50 Best Restaurants

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. (more…)


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.

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Restaurants: Roca Moo, Barcelona

Just because the three Roca brothers behind the newly anointed San Pellegrino World’s Top 50 “Best Restaurant in the World” are behind Roca Moo doesn’t mean you should stroll into the dining room expecting world class excellence. You will be disappointed. The single Michelin starred Roca Moo in Barcelona isn’t trying to be like its sibling, El Celler de Can Roca, the glittery three Michelin starred destination an hour northeast up the Costa Brava in the countryside medieval town of Girona. Earlier this year, El Celler de Can Roca replaced the Copenhagen restaurant Noma for the world’s best title.
Roca Moo isn’t trying to be El Celler de Can Roca or Noma.

Roca Moo

Roca Moo

Unfortunately, even reasonable expectations for a restaurant of Roca Moo’s ambition aren’t met. It’s a strange experience that dabbles in its lofty potential from time to time, while altogether making you feel empty. It’s a restaurant currently with no personality. Does it want to be more refined and genre- defying like El Celler de Can Roca? Does it want to be more like a baby “gastrobistro,” of which Barcelona right now seems to have more of than Gaudi designed structures? Does it just want to be a sleek, hipper than thou boutique hotel restaurant with the façade of being an exceptional restaurant? The latter is what I took away walking away to the Passeig de Gracia unfulfilled. I wanted to go to Girona. (more…)


Plat du Jour Monday April 29, 2013: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Announced

And the winner is…El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain.

After three years atop the world, Noma in Copenhagen flip-flopped today with last year’s runner-up, after the San Pellegrino and Restaurant Magazine World’s 50 Best Restaurants were revealed in London.

The world’s new best restaurant lived in the shadow of fellow Basque region stalwart and longtime “best restaurant in the world” El Bulli, before Ferran Adria turned his legendary molecular gastronomy institution into an institute a few years ago.

Who is El Celler de Can Roca and where is Girona, Spain, and why did El Celler de Can Roca switch with Noma are many of the questions the general public are asking themselves.

El Celler de Can Roca is no secret. Opened in 1986 by the three Roca brothers, the restaurant has held three Michelin stars each year since 2010. Joan Roca is the head chef, while Jordi Roca is the pastry chef, and Josep Roca is the sommelier.

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Yours truly spent a layover day in Girona seven years ago (Ryan Air doesn’t fly directly into Barcelona, so Girona is the closest airport, about an hour northeast of Barcelona), but unfortunately didn’t have the chance to visit the Rocas. Instead, I enjoyed some bocadillos at a vintage tapas bar-coffee shop. The city is straight out of a postcard with its meandering Onyar River, striking bridges, and the spectacular cathedral. I have a feeling Girona will be much more known after today’s announcement.

Roses, home to the El Bulli Institute, is a bit further north up the Costa Brava. San Sebastian may still be the capital of Spanish gastronomy with two restaurants in today’s top 10, but the Costa Brava once again can lay claim to being home of the best restaurant in the world. (more…)