Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Favorite dining cities Part 1

I recently read a debate on chowhound about the best US cities for eating, which sadly Atlanta was excluded from. My culinary travel has always been far more focused on international trips, so I thought I'd come up with my own list. There are too many to write about today, so I'll start with a few favorites.

New York City
My beloved New York City is the US's culinary mecca. With an over-abundance of the world's top chefs, bustling ethnic communities, and a hungry population of people with tiny kitchens, it's no surprise that NYC has amazing food options. As much as I love my new Inman Park hood and its many dining choices, I do miss being able to walk to so many of the country's top restaurants. Funny enough, my favorite meals were not at the 5-star places, although of course places like Le Bernadin and Bouley are amazing. Rather, I most remember Pearl's Oyster Bar lobster rolls, the amazing jalapeno and cheese stuffed bread at Taboon, pizza at Grimaldi's, the omakase at Soto, dim sum at Golden Unicorn, rice pudding from Rice to Riches and romantic dinners at Little Giant.

Paris
No list of top dining cities is complete without Paris. I've heard Lyon's food is even better, but I've never been. On our recent visit, we had a gorgeous, bloody slab of beef and perfect crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside frites at Bistro Paul Bert. Although the service was unbelievably slow given our reservation was for 9:45 pm, it was the perfect Parisian bistro, with mirrored walls and a warm glow. Of course, everyone knows the pastries are divine, too, so no stop in Paris would be complete without stuffing your face couchon style with some flaky croissants or gooey eclairs.

Buenos Aires
Oh BA, how I love this city! Not only is it a truly lovely city, with wide Parisian avenues, a lively social scene, and amazing shopping, but it's one of the last places on earth where the dollar will get you somewhere. Best off all, these people love to eat, and there are a wealth of top-notch restaurants at bargain basement prices.

Fortunately BA isn't the kind of city where you rush from site to site, so the boyfriend and I mostly focused on eating and drinking. Prices are so low that we were able to eat every night of the week at the best restaurants in town. By the end of our 2 week stay in Argentina, I'm fairly certain we ate at least an entire cow each.

I can't say enough good things about the wine either. Mendoza wines, particularly Malbecs, are getting some buzz these days, and it's for good reason. Argentina wines are flavorful and complex and dirt cheap, with great bottles going for $5. We had one for lunch and one for dinner! There's so much to say about this amazing dining destination that I'll save the details for a later post.

The South of France
One of my all time favorite meals was at Moulin de Mougins The chef, Alain Llorca is Spanish, which has influenced the menu of the venerable restaurant in the small town of Mougins. The menu is ever changing, but during my visit he was offering a 15-course tapas-style tasting menu which cost me something in the neighborhood of $200 with wine pairings. It was expensive, but oh so worth it. Not only is the setting beyond lovely, with a gorgeous garden for drinking champagne while you await your table and a glassed in dining room, but the service is the most impeccable I've ever experienced.

There was such a flurry of staff to cater to our every need, that it was hard to tell just how many people were serving us. My favorite moment was when I realized that the waiters had started setting my silverware in reverse for each new course because they'd noticed I was left-handed. What attention to detail!

Of course the food was incredible too. Each course was better than the last, and about half way through I was stuffed but couldn't bare to not eat the beautiful food being set before me. By the end of the night, I was actually food drunk. Not every meal in the South of France lived up to this one, but still I contend that the entire region has great seafood-based cuisine.

Hungry and ready to buy a plane ticket? Next up: Rome, Vietnam, Morocco

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