Posts for the 'USA' Category


A Voce Columbus – New York City

There are two branches of A Voce Restaurant in New York. The original is on Madison Avenue, which following on from its success and a Michelin star resulted in the second one at Columbus Circle. This too has received critical recognition as well, with A Voce Columbus also garnering a Michelin Star for its fine Italian cooking.

A Voce Columbus occupies a fabulous space on the third floor of the Time Warner Center which was formerly Gray Kunz’s renowed Café Gray. It’s smart and sleek with a long elevated bar area that serves knockout cocktails and bar food. The bar area offers some great people watching, but the best aspect at the restaurant are from the tables that line the windows from where you can peer out onto the goings-on at Columbus Circle and the fringes of Central Park while you feast.

I mentioned the knockout cocktails and for our aperitif we tried the excellent Il Tarfuto cocktail ($33), Michter’s Rye Bourbon mixed with a truffle infused vermouth and topped with a drizzling of white truffle honey and a sliver of bourbon pickled black truffle. The mix takes 2 to 3 weeks to make and was a heady concoction of truffle aroma and flavour. The honey did a great job of sweetening things up, and this made for a delicious way to start the meal.

A Voce - Il Tarfuto cocktail

Il Tarfuto cocktail

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Girl and the Goat – Chicago

Girl & the Goat

Girl & the Goat

Girl and the Goat is one of the ‘IT’ restaurants in Chicago. A laudable hotspot on the Chicago culinary scene, it is run by Executive Chef Stephanie Izard who came to prominence when she won the 2007 series of the hit cooking show Top Chef on the Bravo channel. For two years after the win Stephanie travelled, speaking, cooking and promoting her project which was to become Girl and the Goat. When Girl and the Goat opened in 2010 it immediately received widespread recognition with Izard being named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef.

Located in the West Loop of Chicago, Girl and the Goat sits on trendy West Randolph Street and is suitably fitted with a look of urban chic. The restaurant is a quasi-namesake for Izard, which is French for a breed of Pyrenean goat. The buzz for Girl and the Goat hasn’t abated since it’s opening with reservations being very difficult to come by. But the restaurant also operates a walk-in policy with a waitlist for the table seats on a first-in-first-serve basis. There are also some lounge or bar seats that diners can simply walk in and grab. There are no waitlists for these and so you just have to be diligent and take one when they become available. We were witness to certain disagreements between parties about who got there first, and in my humble opinion, operating a waitlist for these seats would have helped to keep the peace.

We didn’t have a reservation but managed to secure some lounge seats at about 5.45pm where we started to eat while we waited for a table. The lounge area is quite a socialable place to hang out as you get the chance to chat to other diners and people watch. Moving to a table later on the evening, we liked the tightness of the seating arrangements much less. Also as a table became free, the restaurant insisted that we move immediately even though we had just started eating our second dish. We didn’t understand why we couldn’t have finished the plate of food before moving, but the restaurant seems to have a very in flexible policy on such matters.

Girl and the Goat offers an eclectic selection of dishes, hopping from Italian inspirations such as pasta, drawing from Hispanic ingredients such as Cubano pork and tomatillo, and integrating Asian flavours such as miso and tamarind. The menu is divided between vegetable, fish, meat, and goat, and was an incredibly interesting and difficult one to choose from as it was so captivating.

It is a sharing menu and we dipped from section to section, trying some escargot ravioli (fish section) with bacon and a tamarind-miso sauce ($15). As a pasta filling, the escargot was a little bland. But the pasta itself was well made, and the sauce was deliciously sweet and savoury if a little over seasoned. The bacon in the sauce also helped to bring the dish together nicely.

Girl and the Goat - Escargot ravioli

Escargot ravioli

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Odyssey Cruises – Chicago

Note: Words and pictures by Food Porn Nation and myself.

Odyssey Cruises

Odyssey Cruises

Night one in Chicago and we escaped on board one of Chicago’s Odyssey Cruises for a dinner. Sailing back and forth on Lake Michigan, we relaxed to sweeping views of Chicago’s downtown area. Odyssey Cruises also offers brunch, lunch, fireworks and sunset champagne cruise options ranging from $51.90 – $129.90.

Odyssey Cruises - Chicago by night

Odyssey Cruises – Chicago by night

Boarding commences an hour before departure time, and to get to the cruise ship you first walk along the sparkling lights of the fun filled Navy Pier, before being welcomed on board the modern and stylish Odyssey ship which has recently undergone a $2m renovation. The DJ set a relaxed mood, and before long he had a few of the guests up and on the dance floor, or at least bouncing around in their seats! The cruise host also took the time to mingle with all the guests and to make sure we were all having a great time. There were many birthday parties on board and a whooping 50-year wedding anniversary to celebrate too.

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Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas

Franklin Barbecue

Franklin Barbecue

The next day, after my meaty dinner at Sullivan’s, I ventured to Franklin Barbecue for even more meat. Much has been written about Franklin Barbecue with some press publications alleging it to be the ‘best’ BBQ in the United States. Franklin also featured on Anthony Bourdain’ No Reservations series, and in the movie Chef, Chef Carl Casper stopped off at Franklin Barbecue in his food truck as he drives through Texas.

So what makes Franklin Barbecue so famous? There are many factors, one of which is the quality A-grade meat that they use. Franklin Barbecue also uses an especially dry Post Oak wood which has been cured for 9-12 months that helps to impart a special mild smoky BBQ flavour. Franklin also adopt a slow cooking technique, one that they have refined over the years. Depending on the meat, the cooking process can last for up to 18 hours, at cooking temperatures of between 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (about 107c to 121c), to produce that incredible melt-in-the-mouth effect for which Franklin is so famed.

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Sullivan’s Steakhouse – Austin, Texas

In Texas meat is king and nowhere did I experience this more in Texas then in Austin. Dinner one night was a steak meal at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, an American chain that had its origins in Austin some twenty years ago and is therefore an Austin institution. Alongside its hearty selection of steaks is a varied selection of seafood starters and mains dishes as well. Side dishes are also plentiful as is customary in a US steakhouse.

To start your meal at Sullivan’s I would thoroughly recommend the ‘knockout martini’ ($11), the Sullivan’s signature cocktail. This is made using Clementine vodka, infused with fresh Hawaiian gold pineapples for two weeks and it is this long slow infusion that provides the martini with its ‘knockout’ flavour. This martini easily deserved its signature cocktail status as it was delicious, beautifully sweet and yet delightfully refreshing.

Seafood starters on the menu included a jumbo shrimp cocktail ($16.50) containing five pieces of firm and reasonably tasty shrimp served with a well made cocktail sauce. Another seafood starter of shrimp and lobster bisque (bowl – $9, cup – $7.50) bore more similarities to a chowder rather than a classic French lobster bisque with a rich lobster flavour. It was pleasant in taste, and also a little spicy and would therefore offer a certain appeal for the most typical of American palates.

Sullivan's Steakhouse - Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

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Lone Star Court Hotel – Austin, Texas

Next stop Austin. The capital of Texas is a hip, happening city and prides itself on being called the ‘Weird City’. But it’s not so much weird as extremely liberal, with a thriving live music scene and a reputation as the live music capital of the world. It is also emerging as a new destination of choice for tech startups and consistently ranks number one for jobs in the US on the Forbes’ annual list. It also scores highly on other demographic rankings as well and openly embraces alternative life styles. In short, Austin is a cracking city.

I loved Austin and there is much for the tourist to enjoy. Rather than me listing all the things that you can do in Austin, check out this website. I followed many of the tips on here and enjoyed every place I visited (including Franklin Barbecue, but more on that in a later post). In fact I loved every minute I spent in Austin and I hope if you visit this fabulous city that you will too.

Lone Star Court Hotel

Lone Star Court Hotel

While in Austin I stayed at the Lone Star Court Hotel. The hotel is located in an area of Austin called The Domain, Austin’s newest commercial and residential district, which is about a 15 minute drive from downtown. It’s not the most centrally located hotel, but in Texas EVERYONE drives. A boutique hotel, Lone Star Court Hotel is every bit as quirky as Austin itself. Visiting the hotel is like a trip back to a bygone era, with the hotel being designed in the vein of a ‘retro-ranch’.

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Hotel Valencia Riverwalk – San Antonio, Texas

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk - The patio

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk – The patio overlooking the Riverwalk

From Houston I headed to San Antonio, a city famous for its basketball team the Spurs, the site of the Battle of the Alamo, and the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a gorgeous network of walkways that run for about five miles along the banks of the San Antonio River and is a showcase in first class architectural design. It is lined with bars, shops and restaurants and connects a number of the city’s tourist attractions and forms an important part of the city’s urban fabric. San Antonio is a city filled with a quirky irresistible charm and an effervescence that is surprisingly delightful.

Perched right in the centre of the city with views overlooking the Riverwalk is the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, a boutique hotel listed on Condé Nast Traveler Gold List of World’s Best Places to Stay. The hotel is a beautifully proportioned hotel, romantic in its essence and unique in its design. The rooms are stylish and spacious, and comfortably appointed with luxurious furnishings which allowed me to perch my head for a wonderful night’s sleep.

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Hotel Icon Houston

Hotel ICON - The lobby

Hotel ICON – The lobby

The award winning Hotel ICON Houston was formerly the Union National Bank, a statuesque landmark building erected in 1911 which was converted to a hotel in 2004 and is now part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. Erected with a limestone and brick façade, it’s a palatial building that reflects the grand neoclassical architectural style of the time. Today Hotel Icon continues to maintain many of its original touches such as the Corinthian columns and decorative features of Roman Gods. And now this sense of history has also been intertwined with a modern urban Texan décor to produce a result that is the ultimate in comfort and style.

Hotel Icon is located in the business downtown area and offers fabulous access to the city’s attractions including the theatre district (the second-highest concentration of theatre seats in the country), galleries and museums, Market Square, Houston Pavilions, Discovery Green and Houston’s sports districts. It also operates a handy free shuttle service to any location within the downtown area and is the only downtown hotel on the 7.5 mile, state-of-the-art Houston METROrail light rail line

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