Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
5 Golden Spoons
A last-minute hotel booking turned into a culinary adventure. When we visit Chicago, we usually stay at the Waldorf, but this trip we decided to try something new and reserved a room at the Trump. After a day of travel, we arrived at the hotel in the early evening. We were tired and hadn’t made any dinner plans so we decided to stay in and dine at the hotel. There were basically two options for a meal; a snack type small bite menu in the bar or the hotel’s upscale dining experience, Sixteen.
After dropping our bags in our room, we took the elevator down to the sixteenth floor. Just steps after the doors closed, we were warmly greeted by a charming hostess, Sandy, who showed us menus for both restaurants. One option offered burgers, sandwiches, and diner fare while the other was an elaborate fine-dining tasting experience of what appeared to be a rather pretentious prix-fixe with dishes described in over-flowery detail. We opted for the prix-fixe. Sandy called over the Restaurant Manager of Sixteen, Jessica, who said she would check to see if she could find us a table and if the chef was prepared for additional guests. Hmm. I could see that Jessica took her position very seriously and that maybe, just maybe, we had stumbled into something spectacular.
5 Golden Spoons
One of my absolute favorite restaurants in the country, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas never disappoints. The cuisine, service, ambiance, and overall experience is consistently wonderful. This trip, as often happens, we enjoyed three of our absolute favorite dishes. We started with the Blue Corn Pancake with Barbecued Duck and a Habanero Chile Sauce. The duck is moist, smoky, and rich.
The Falls, Palm Springs, Ca.
1 Golden Spoon
We started our experience in the bar. Dominic pourer our Martinis complete with a panache of dry ice. Very fun and he was charming. We actually became excited about the potential experience based upon his great care. But…then everything went downhill.
We were escorted to a corner table and presented with menus. Atmosphere was fine, but tired. We perused the menu which was a traditional steak house menu but the descriptions were lackluster. This should have been a sign. We opted for The Falls Caesar Salad described only as “Prepared from Scratch Table Side for Two for $20.” Seemed safe.
Match Box, Palm Springs, Ca.
4 Golden Spoons
One of my favorite places for lunch, Matchbox in Palm Springs, has some of the best thin-crust pizzas this side of Italy! They tell me that the trick is a wood-fired masonry oven that heats up to over 800 degrees which gives the pizza a crisp, smoky crust. They also have a selection of fantastic appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees, but I always gravitate when having lunch for two to split a salad and small pizza. Today, we started with a delightful salad special of sliced pickled cucumbers with an assortment of toy box tomatoes topped with micro-greens. The cucumbers are sweet, tart, and crisp and the tomatoes are tossed in a wonderful tangy herb vinaigrette.
It’s actually the perfect marriage of flavors and textures. Delish. We accompanied that with the restaurant’s signature pizza bread. Shaped like a pretzel and sprinkled with coarse salt, it is crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy (in a good way) on the inside. Served with house-made garlic herb butter, this is one of my favorite breads on the planet. For our pizza course, we shared a small pizza which Matchbox will let you mix half and half. (more…)
2 Golden Spoons
Okay. So I was sold on the infomercial hype. Veggetti seemed like a cool tool to spiral your way to oodles of vegetable “noodles.” Just twist a zucchini into this little gadget and you have ribbons of fresh veggie strips for a quick stir fry. I’ve been doing this myself for years with an old fashioned vegetable peeler but this seemed so much easier I had to give it a go. Since I didn’t want to wait a few days for the TV offer, I went online and discovered that Bed, Bath, & Beyond and them in stock so I rushed out to the store and, $14.99 later, I had my Veggetti in hand.
I decided to test a zucchini, just like on TV. What I quickly realized is that, unlike with the traditional peeler, you needed your veg to be just the right size for the twisting tube. Too big and it won’t fit and too small and you run the risk of slipping and grating off a fingertip. Ouch. I almost actually did this.
So, with the perfect sized legume, I quickly grated a nice little bowl of noodles. However, there is a lot of waste involved as you can’t twist the entire veg in the grater. You lose an inch or so. I also tried a carrot. Not quite the right size and not quite as effective. Bottom line. It’s a fun idea but other kitchen tools do the trick more easily and veg-effectively. I hate to waste food. Only 2 Golden Spoons for the Veggetti. Nice try, but really more of a gimmick than a must-have tool.
Billy Reed’s, Palm Springs, Ca.
4 ½ Golden Spoons
This is actually a tough restaurant to review. One of my absolute favorites in Palm Springs for so many reasons. I’ve had dozens and dozens of meals there over the years and have never been disappointed. Consistently great comfort food and exceptional friendly service in a homey setting. It’s the kind of place that my grandparents used take me to when I was a child that we considered “fancy” for special occasions that today I know as just a great place for every day breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (more…)
4 Golden Spoons
Finally, we found it! The best little authentic Italian cafe for lunch in Rome. We literally stumbled upon this cafe on a side street near the Piazza Barberini. We were actually planning on having lunch at a chi chi rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Boscolo Aleph, but it was mysteriously closed. Disappointed, we wandered down the street and jumped out of the way of a bus to land in front of Locanda where a warm Italian gentlemen with a nice smile, Giuseppe, was standing and offered us a menu.
The dishes featured seemed very authentic to the area with classic rustic descriptions and the prices were exceptionally reasonable.There were also daily specials on a hand written chalkboard that sounded delightful. We asked Giuseppe for table for two and were promptly seated street side under a canopied seating area with acrylic walls just inches from the rushing traffic. It was a little unnerving when buses whooshed by, but a bit fun as well. (more…)
3 1/2 Golden Spoons
A simple review of a simple and traditional street-side cafeteria in Rome. Just what you would expect. Quality food, reasonable prices, active bistro atmosphere. The Pizza Roma with mozzarella, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and black olives was delicious. Crisp thin crust. Light tomato sauce. Everything fresh. We also shared a nice Cobb salad and a bottle of Brispal naturally effervescent water. A refreshing break from the glutinous meals we’ve been enjoying for weeks now. Thank goodness we walk everywhere or we would have hips the size of Parma hams.
Gran Caffé La Caffettiera
Gelato is a local speciality in Portoferraio Italy, a gorgeous little port known for its big iron mines and little exiled resident, Napoleon, who lived here for a short time. Ironic.
4 1/2 Golden Spoons
Yes, another 4 1/2 Golden Spoon experience. Your probably thinking that I’m too generous with my reviews, but that really isn’t the case. I’ve just been lucky enough lately to fall into some of the best dining experiences of my life. Cafe Veneto was another amazing find. We were casually walking the streets of Rome when we came upon a charming well dressed gentlemen who was standing in front of an elegant restaurant of about twenty tables housed in a gleaming glass cube directly on Via Vittorio Veneto. He asked us to look at the menu which had a wonderful selection of local delicacies. We weren’t hungry, but we’re so impressed with him and his promise of a great dining experience that we took his business card and vowed to return. In fact, the next evening we did return and he remembered us. We were seated at a elegantly dressed table with bright white linens and gleaming glass and silverware. A live duo was singing with a list of classic romantic american tunes. (more…)