Spoon and Stable

211 N 1st St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 224-9850 •  spoonandstable.com

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The food scene in The Mini Apple has officially arrived. Not that there haven’t been gems here and there over years. But now the level of the game has risen so high, at so many restaurants, that I can safely say that Minneapolis can compete with almost any city I’ve ever been to.

Case in point, on a Monday friggin’ night, this place had an hour wait and not an empty seat at the bar. And for good reason. The chef, Gavin Kaysen, is James Beard winner and a former disciple of Daniel Boulud. But not only did he learn a thing or two from Danny Boy, judging from the décor, he picked up a few tricks from Jean-Georges as well, because this place is tres chic. On old horse stable from 1906 turned to gold with white brick walls, wrought iron details, a divided light wine cellar in the center of the dining room, and a long wood bar overlooking the kitchen as a unique twist on a chef’s table, which is where we sat.

Beyond having front row seats to an episode of Iron Chef, the other plus to sitting there is that you not only get recommendations from the waiter, but from the cooks as well. And to quote Quagmire “Giggity, giggity!” were they spot on with their suggestions.

The first reco being a dish we would’ve never thought to order in a million years, yet turned out to be the best of the night, the Autumn Vegetable salad. The centerpiece is an orgasmic disc of squash placed over a bed of spelt berries, pecans and figs that were marinated in red wine vinegar and cloves all pampered in a buttermilk dressing. Need to add this one to Ultimate Salad.

The other recommended starter was pretty damn great too. A bison tartar folded into a harissa aioli and topped with cilantro and radishes. Then served with socca chips as your utensil for piling on the remarkably seasoned meat.

For entrees I had to go with the lamb shank since wifey don’t play that, and while good, it was definitely the most mortal dish of the evening. Fall off the bone moist, and served with yellow eye beans, artichokes and an herb salad that was a bit junipery. The other entrée, however, was a marvel of pasta technological advancement. The Raviolo al Uovo is a single, softball-sized ravioli that contains a sunny side egg inside it! And its magnificence is only magnified by its preparation, with Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, pecorino and brown butter.

Even the side dish was wow-worthy taking an old staple like creamed spinach and making it new again with the addition of a Midwestern guilty pleasure, fried cheese curds.

And finally, the pumpkin custard dessert was an awesome seasonal finish to a meal that won’t soon be forgotten. The custard itself being just okay, but when you had with the apple cider sherbet and the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds)- look out!

Just eat here already would you! So I don’t have to keep going on and on about it. And I’m not just saying all of this because of the Willet bourbon and Amarone are making me all lovey-dovey. Although it is helping.

5 teeth

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Gato

324 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10012(212) 334-6400gatonyc.com

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Being that he is a millionaire several times over, it’s not like Bobby Flay needs my approval, but after Mesa Grill closed down in New York and Bar Americain should’ve never opened, I thought he lost it. Spread too thin between Throwdown, Iron Chef and Beat Bobby Flay. Well, apparently he found it again. In spades. Gato is purrrfect!

The décor walks that line between cool and casual, inviting and elegant, topped with great energy and phenomenal service. Not a morsel of attitude from host, to bartender to waiter. And very spot on with the recommendations, lining up three Ultimates and not a single miss amongst six plates and two drinks.

So let’s kick it off with the booze and an interesting wintery twist on sangria. Called Sangree, it’s made with Gamay, which is a black wine grape similar to Beaujolais, rye, orgeat (orangeflower water) and nutmeg. The other was a simple ole glass of red, but it was excellent. Ya gotta love it when the by-the-glass selections aren’t a consolation prize.

And while we’re on the subject of love, the roasted octopus with bacon, oregano and tangerine vinaigrette was so delicious I wanted to curl up in its tentacles and declare myself its bitch. But, the scrambled eggs with almond romesco, boucheron cheese and tomato confit toast were equally deft at sweeping me off my feet. So, suffice it to say that things began with an Ultimate love triangle.

Fortunately for me though, things started to taper off a hair from Ultimates-ville, otherwise my head might’ve exploded from bliss overload, like the guy in the movie Scanners. So on the merely fantastic side was the charred beef with blue cheese and broccoli rabe followed by the paella, which was very different from most, due to the absence of seafood, chicken or sausage. But even though it was entirely void of the usual suspects, this vegetarian version still managed to please. Especially as a nice complement next to the charred beef.

Perhaps the greatest reco of the night came next, the walnut brown butter cake, something I would’ve never ordered otherwise, especially with things like the tart tatin in contention (pictured). But I’m so glad I listened (for once), because head-to-head, the walnut easily reigned supreme and would be an ultimate if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever had a walnut cake before, so it seems a bit unfair to crown it from a sampling of one. So TBD on that for now. What isn’t yet to be determined, however, is that Gato is the cat’s meow.

5 teeth

Yankee Pier

San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3 Gate 72
780 S Airport Blvd. San Francisco, CA94128 • (650) 821-8938yankeepier.com

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It’s in an airport, so you can’t obviously walk in expecting Iron Chef, but then again, it also does hit the spot. And it’s better than the shit they serve on planes these days. But if you want to hold them to task, here would be my nits:

The Greek Omelet while good-ish, was a bit over-buttery, which sort of defeated the purpose of my getting it with egg whites. And the home fries were sad and soggy.

Fortunately the service was quick and very friendly. And décor, well, you’re at an airport, so I’ll give them a pass on that one.

Back on the kudos side, I do actually think it’s better than Boudin bakery’s pre-made breakfast crap, but that’s not saying a ton since it’s located in a food court, even if it does bear the name of a Thomas Keller establishment.

2 teeth

Bar Americain

152 W 52nd St. New York, NY 10019(212) 265-9700 baramericain.com

 BarAmericainSkate

If it pleases the court, I would like submit exhibit A into evidence, that Bobby Flay is stretched WAY too thin. The menu, while quite promising in theory, falls flat on its face in execution. Maybe he should retire from Iron Chef, or stop throwing down and get back in his restaurants to make sure they are living up to his name, because quite frankly, they aren’t. Mesa (RIP) has fallen and Bar Americain can’t get up. I hear Gato is supposed to be good, but after eating here, I’m definitely skeptical.

First, the airplane hanger-sized dining room doesn’t do much in terms of making you feel like you are in for something special. On the contrary, you feel more like cattle being herded into a money-making machine. This is not to say that all large dining rooms are bad and all small ones are quaint. I happen to like the dinning rooms of Cipriani, Tao and Guastavino’s very much. And all three are equally grand. But that’s just it, they are grand. Not just big.

Anyways, enough about the decor. I’m sure you want to hear about what sucked, so without further delay I will say almost everything. Well, not “sucked,” that’s unfair, but underwhelming for realz.

From the triple greens salad to the tuna tartar to the pork chop to dessert, which was so impressionable I can’t even remember what it was, none of it was worth the time or money… with one exception.

If you have to have to go here, then the cioppino is your salvation. If you don’t know what the hell that is, it’s basically an Italian bouillabaisse. It’s spicy and the bread that comes with it is diptastic. Sadly, that’s the only thing I had, in two separate visits, that is worthy of the “tastic” suffix.

2 teeth

Marc Forgione

 134 Reade St. New York, NY 10013 • (212) 941-9401 • marcforgione.com

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Umm… I’m gonna go with WOW! That pretty much sums it up. I loved just about every last drop of this restaurant and ate most of those drops as well.

To start, the décor is great. Just teetering on the edge of casual and beautiful. With an energy about it that hits you the moment you enter. Some may find it a bit loud, which it is, but that’s part of the fun- having you yell at each other about how good your food is.

As for service, our waitress was tremendous. Not in size, but in personality and attentiveness, without ego or plastic undertones. But not flawless either. For example, our cocktails came quite a bit late to the table, mid-way through our starters, but this was do to the bar losing the ticket. Now, normally you’d think this would be cause for docking a knife, and normally it would be. But is it the rarity of flawlessness that matters or is it how they handle the occasional hiccup? In this case, both the waitress and bartender came over to personally apologize for the mix up and delivered the drinks within a minute after. And yes, they were worth the wait. Especially the Summer Sangria with a richness almost as if there was Bourbon in there as opposed to wine.

But by now you’re probably getting pissed because I haven’t gotten to the food yet, so let’s get to it.

First up would be the amuse bouche, which is comprised of two dishes. A basic ceviche that is nothing to write home about, and a wonderfully explosive cream cheese puff pastry, that is worth flying home about.

Next came the buttery brioche-like bread which was so buttery and delcious, the fact that it came with butter was like gilding the lily. But as good as the bread is, I strongly recommend that you skip it in favor of the Texas Toast that comes with the Spicy Lobster which was so incredible it was as if my taste buds had died and gone to taste bud heaven. The lobster meat and bread in that sauce- OMFWow!

But not to be outdone, the tortellini is also very impressive, packing it’s own heat and a complexity to its sauce that unfolds in your mouth like a story.

Wait, I probably should’ve saved that description for the Halibut entrée, because that sauce was also quite the tour de force, minus the heat. But so rich and layered it was more like a meat dish.

Now here comes my one nit. And I blame myself for it. I had gone there fully prepared to get the highly acclaimed chicken, but our served talked me out of it and I went with a lamb special instead. Now, the lamb was far from bad, but at 48 bucks a plate, not bad IS bad. At that price I should’ve lept out of my chair and danced a jig after every bite.

The dancing, however, was not far behind, because the S’more dessert had me giddier than Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Just the presentation alone- well, of everything really, but with the “charred” marshmallow on a stick and the salted “chocolate bar”- if my tongue had hands it would applaud.

The other dessert was no slouch either. A deconstructed key lime, which had it been the only dessert on the table would be receiving all the adulation right now.

Such a treat. Finally an Iron Chef restaurant that lives up to its metal. A tribute to the fact that he is still the one actually in the kitchen. Saw him with my own eyes the last time I went.

Which brings me to another evening of incredibleness. The amuse bouche this second time was a touch less impressive. An homage to the NYC bagel and smoked fish. Good, but not grand. The graganelli with short ribs and black truffles, however, was mood-altering-good.

Also, this time I had the heavily revered under brick chicken and I have to say, while good for a roasted chicken, it’s still just a roasted chicken. I’ve had MANY a chicken dish that bests it. From One in Irvington, NY (RIP) to ABC Kitchen to Son of a Gun in LA. Don’t get wooed by the hype. There are so many better options on the menu.

And once again, come dessert, Marc knocked it out of the park. The best “pumpkin pie” I’ve ever had. Made in souffle form, served with a very complex and equally delicious sorbet made from bourbon, squash and three other things I can’t remember. If an afterlife exists, and they serve food, this must be what it tastes like.

5 teeth