You can’t always eat in a restaurant named after or owned by a celebrity chef and expect to have that celebrity chef in the kitchen cooking. Of course that would be nice, but once you reach a certain point it is understandable that you can only be in so many places at once. What you should expect to find is a restaurant that really upholds the standards that made that celebrity chef famous – namely, excellent food (or possibly dive-style food if you’re eating a particular NYC restaurant owned by a bleached-blonde celebrity chef that got a lousy review in the NY Times recently).
The Gordon Ramsay at the London in West Hollywood definitely delivers the experience that you would expect from a restaurant that Chef Ramsay lent his name to. The restaurant features a recently revamped menu of small plate dishes designed for sharing – much larger than tapas, but small enough that you can get a good sampling of different dishes during the meal. The hotel describes the cuisine as being “contemporary Western European cuisine with subtle Asian influences.” They’re definitely right about the Asian influences, but this description really doesn’t do the food justice because the dishes are very imaginative and really packed with flavor (Asian and otherwise).
When I travel, I’m always on the lookout for exciting new places to eat and Chicago is one of my favorite cities to visit because there is lots of very good food there. On my last trip to the Windy City, I noticed that a new restaurant had opened up right next door to Rick Bayless’s Frontera and XOCO, two of my go-to restaurants (where I spotted Rick Bayless himself, on this last visit!). The name of the place definitely caught my eye, and after checking out the menu, I decided to come back the next day to give it a try.
Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ serves up classic American bbq with a bit of an Asian twist. I wouldn’t call it fusion, because the pulled pork and smoked brisket are clearly American classics, but the hint of Asian influence is easy to spot and pairs very well with the bbq. The menu consists of both small plates meant for sharing and larger plates where the barbecued meats really take the spotlight.
Macaroni and cheese is a favorite side dish at bbq places and this one is not like any mac and cheese that you’ll find anywhere else. The dish is served in a small cast iron skillet and is large enough for two to share as an appetizer (or three, in all honesty). It is made with jack, gouda, and both white and yellow cheddar, then topped with parmesan – and despite all of those cheeses, the sauce is light, smooth and stays creamy from start to finish. The best part of the dish isn’t the cheese, though. The star is the satisfyingly thick, slightly chewy, handmade pasta that serves as the base of the dish. That would be good with just butter and cheese alone.
But I came here the first time for bbq meat and it was the bbq meat that brought me back for another visit just days later.
When I mention fahrenheit on this site, it’s most likely that I’m about to give instructions about how to preheat your oven before baking a batch of cookies. In this case, however, I’m taking about the restaurant Fahrenheit, in Tremont, a hip suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I had the chance to dine there on a recent trip to Ohio to visit the Smucker’s headquarters with some other bloggers. The restaurant is owned by Chef Rocco Whalen and is one of the hottest spots in Tremont, which is an area known for its vibrant culinary scene and high quality restaurants.
We actually started our meal with a whole variety of appetizers, including crispy calamari and lobster pizza, but the appetizer that really appealed to me were the Potato Nachos. Homemade tornado-cut potato chips topped with bacon, green onions and a goat cheese dressing. With the salty combination of crispy potatoes, creamy cheese and bacon, it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong: this dish was dangerously addictive and I think just about everyone who took a bite became an instant fan.
Masaharu Morimoto is the highly skilled Japanese chef who has been featured on Iron Chef and Iron Chef America. He is highly skilled, but you might not know that he has several restaurants where you can actually taste some of the food that he has prepared in culinary battles on the show (as well as lots of other tasty dishes). The newest of his restaurants is Morimoto Napa, located in the new Riverfront complex in Napa California and I was able to meet up with some friends for a meal there on my recent trip up north.
The restaurant is a huge, beautiful space with lots of funky lighting and massive natural wood tables. It is relatively new to the area (and has only been open for a few months as I write this), but is clearly popular already. The food is Japanese fusion, and the restaurant has a sushi bar and a menu that features a variety of Asian and American-influenced dishes. We ordered quite a few things in the hopes of getting a good feel for the food.
This week (and this upcoming week of Jan 31- Feb 5) was restaurant week in Los Angeles. This means that some of the restaurants around the city are participating in an event called DineLA where they offer special, three-course set menus at a special price. I took advantage of this to take in a lunch at Spago. The restaurant was lovely, the food was delicious, but I have to say that the highlight of the meal was meeting Wolfgang Puck himself. He made the rounds of the dining room and patio several times, shaking hands with guests and even sitting down a few times to chat. I think that I was the first to break out a camera, but I was certainly not the only one in the restaurant who wanted to capture the moment and many cameras popped out as he posed with diners. I was a little flustered (perhaps the food blogger’s equivalent of being slightly starstruck), but found him to be nothing by incredibly friendly. Also, for the record, I think that he looks much younger in person than he does in photos and on TV. Lest you think that he was only making a show, he also went back to the kitchen (my table shared a glass wall with the kitchen) to work on the food.