The Docsconz Top 25 Restaurant Meals of 2018

I have been extremely fortunate to dine and drink very, very well for most of my life, and never better than in recent years.  Between my own personal expeditions, and Rascal + Thorn, the travel business that I operate with my business partner, Charles Grabitzky, I have had the privilege to dine at many of the finest restaurants in the world. 2018  proved to be another extraordinary year, including, perhaps the greatest breadth of dining experience of my life. I traveled more than I ever had and covered a lot of ground, actually circumnavigating the globe in November. I spent a lot of time in my native New York City and again visited my soul city – Barcelona, but I also had my very long-awaited entry into Japan, which proved to exceed my already high expectations. That was the only significant new location for me, as most of my travels were return visits to much-loved destinations such as Copenhagen, London, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Montreal and elsewhere. I returned to a few old favorites in these visits, but also included many a restaurant new to me. In short, I fed on a lot of fabulous food and downed dozens of delectable drinks. The number of great meals greatly exceeded the 25 that I have limited myself to in this post. These were my favorite meals of the year, the ones that for a myriad of reasons, most resonated with me. In some cases, I had company, such as family, friends, or clients. In other cases, I dined alone. The ranking here stems from a lot of subjectivity on my part. I don’t believe there is any way around that for a list like this. To try to approach a meal in an entirely objective way is to deny so many of the factors that make a meal great, or conversely can ruin a meal. A restaurant, of course, must do its share to create a great meal, but so must a diner. In the best of circumstances, the restaurant and the diners feed off of each other. In the worst of circumstances, they fight each other, and then, no matter how good the food may be, the experience doesn’t work as well as it might. Here then, are the restaurant meals of 2018 that occupy the fondest  recesses of my recent memory. 

Once again, as with previous years, I enjoyed many a special guest chef dinner (including a number that Rascal + Thorn produced), but I did not include those “one-off” experiences in my deliberations for this list, as fabulous as they were. Continue reading

Posted in California, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Japan, Montreal, New Orleans, New York City, Places, Rascal + Thorn, Regional, Restaurants, Scandinavia, Spain, The Southern USA, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Legacy of elBulli

It has already been nearly seven years since the legendary restaurant, elBulli closed its doors to the dining public, doors that for the latter half of its existence were barely ajar, with, at its peak in its closing year of 2011, roughly 3 million requests made for approximately 3000 seats over the course of its dining season. It was, by far, the most coveted and the most difficult to get restaurant booking ever. elBulli closed that year, but, as evinced by those reservation request numbers, not because of a lack of demand. As the chef directly responsible what it had become, Ferran Adria, stated, he “closed el Bulli in order to open elBulli.” Continue reading

Posted in Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Pastry, Rascal + Thorn, Regional, Restaurants, Retro Photos, Slow Food, Spain, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Travel With Doc | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Double Harmony at Wu’s Wonton King in NYC

Wu’s Wonton King
165 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
(212) 477-1111

It was my first meal of 2018. Had I had it a week earlier, it would have placed well into my Top 25 Restaurant Meals of the Year. Instead, this celebratory family feast for eleven, built around a whole suckling pig and a large, live, king crab, is the pacesetter for my 2018 list. Continue reading

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The Docsconz Top 25 Restaurant Meals of 2017

I apologize. I have been quite remiss when it has come to this blog. While 2017 was a great year for me from a dining perspective, it was also a very, very busy one. It was the first full year for the travel business (it started the year as Travel With Doc) that I have with my friend and business partner, Charles Grabitzky, I undertook a major commitment as Vice President of The Board of Directors of a great non-profit in Saratoga Springs, NY, The Pitney Meadows Community Farm, and was in charge of a major summer fund-raiser, The Fire Feast on the Farm, which turned out to be a rousing success that featured an all-star line-up of chefs and bartenders. In addition, my main workplace was going through a number of transitions, that also kept me quite occupied and sucked up any of the remaining spare time that I might have had. There is only so much time in a day and something had to give. Instagram was much more expedient, though less satisfying. It had to suffice, despite the plethora of incredible dining experiences that I experienced. I apologize to the majority of the restaurants listed below and others for not having fully reciprocated the incredible love and artistry that was directed towards myself and my dining partners, and I also apologize to you, my readers (if I have any left), for not having provided the detailed coverage that you have come to expect, and (I hope) enjoy. My life will be much different in 2018 as I will be only a part-time Anesthesiologist in order to devote more time to Rascal + Thorn, the travel/dining business that Charles and I have committed to. Continue reading

Posted in Bistronomic, Chicago, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, France, Italy, Mexico, New York City, Pastry, Places, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Spain, The Heartland, The Southern USA, Top Restaurant Meals, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Upstate NY, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Noma Mexico – A Time and Place for the Ages

Lau Richter at the entrance –
Noma Mexico
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

What makes a food belong to a particular culture? Is it the location? The product? The people? The time? All of the above? None of the above? Some of the above? It’s a complicated question that seems to have relevance in today’s multi-cultural world. Certainly within the United States, the concept of cultural appropriation or sometimes mis-appropriation has been oft discussed, especially (within my personal circles) in the context of food. The typical situation for this discussion is when people of one cultural background adopt and use the cultural heritage of another. There are those, such as Rick Bayless, Andy Ricker, David Thompsen and Ivan Orkin, who fall in love with a culture different than the one they grew up with and go all in, ending up with very successful restaurants representing their adopted cultures either within the country of origin or outside of it. These culinary appropriators have successfully adapted the cuisines of their adopted cultures, and without “dumbing it down” have extended the reach of those traditional cuisines and cultures in general to new audiences, who then become emboldened to go beyond them and explore those cultures more deeply. People like the examples I mentioned, who do what they do well, are typically respected and embraced by the original cultures. For example, the reception for Rick Bayless at the Mesamerica Congress attended mostly by Mexican chefs and culinarians in Mexico City several years back, was that of a hero. Ivan Orkin is legend for having broken into and been successful amongst the Japanese with his Ivan Ramen shop in the heart of Tokyo. I could go on. Continue reading

Posted in Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Current Affairs, Family, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Mexico, Musings, Pastry, Places, Restaurants, Scandinavia, Slow Food, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Travel, Travel With Doc, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Taste of Contemporary New Orleans

It is becoming more and more difficult in today’s homogeneous world to find places that remain unique, especially when it comes to food. This seems to be especially true in the United States. The influence of globalization is huge, but a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for a greater dissemination of ideas around the world, but on the other it breeds a certain degree of conformity that has a tendency to blend disparate entities into one, ending in a bland sameness from place to place and a lack of identity. Within the United States there are few cities that have retained their truly unique character as much as New Orleans, Louisiana. Ironically, much of that unique character derives from a variety of global influences that have, over the last 400 years or so, been shaped by the local landscape, climate and culture into something special and unlike anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, in recent decades some of that New Orleans uniqueness has begun to erode, as it too has been influenced by more national cultural entities as well as a proliferation of corporate and chain restaurants and businesses, just like practically everywhere else in the country. Still, the underlying character of the city has managed not only to persist, but to thrive. Its history, culinary and otherwise, is readily apparent, but the city enjoys a renewed vigor, as it continues to recover from the catastrophic damages of Hurricane Katrina over decade ago. Continue reading

Posted in Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Hotels, New Orleans, Pastry, Places, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, The Southern USA, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Travel With Doc, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Docsconz Hits Reality TV – Starts Tonight!

I haven’t been posting much of late, because I’ve been busy with a super-secret project that I haven’t been able to share until right now! It’s actually happening and I’m excited to announce that Travel with Doc Culinary Insights Tours has partnered with the Foodie TV Channel to film our  trips and air them as the trip is finishing with a follow-up for the fall-out! We are currently completing our New Orleans adventures and the show’s editors have been hard at work crafting something that will be entertaining and educational. Watch tonight! Check your local listings. 

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The Docsconz Top Twenty Beverage Experiences of 2016

I have never previously ranked or put together a list of my top beverage experiences before, but then I can’t recall ever having as full and exciting a year of cocktails, spirits and wine as I had in 2016! This mirrored and in some cases overlapped my top dining experiences of 2016 with the beverage experiences being major contributors to those final rankings. Unlike my restaurant listings, these rankings are not limited to restaurants. Bar, winery and distillery visits also played major roles, affording extra-special experiences and tastings. The final rankings here were influenced by food only in so far as the food may have affected the enjoyment of the beverages. For example a great wine pairing is the result of synergy between wine and food and can’t be truly had without both being stellar independently and especially together. I enjoyed many a great pairing of food and wine in 2016, but for this list, only the most exceptional pairings were included. Other restaurant inclusions occurred due to the quality of individual wines, which had not necessarily been specifically paired for the meals. In most of those cases, the wines were special bottles that had been brought to the restaurant by me or others just for the occasion. 

Abigail Gullo’s Mildred Pierce at Rascal & Thorn via Kara Newman’s Shake, Stir, Sip.

Not included on this list, despite the fun I have playing with cocktails myself are the cocktails I make at Rascal & Thorn, my wannabe private club/home bar (#rascalandthorn on Instgram). That said, I would like to acknowledge a few products that were new to me in 2016 that I really hd fun with. While I really enjoy playing and creating my own riffs and cocktails, I have really got into Shake, Stir, Sip by my friend, Kara Newman. It is a very approachable and useful book of cocktail recipes based on equal proportions. The recipes are excellent and I highly recommend the book for anyone with more than a passing interest in making cocktails. My favorite cocktail from the book, previously unknown to me is the Mildred Pierce, a refreshing citrus and mezcal delight originally created by New Orleans bartendress Abigail Gullo. Three  new-to-me spirits that brought my bar extra pizzazz in 2016 included Giffard Pamplemousse Liqueur (see the Mildred Pierce), Plantation Pineapple Rum and Ancho Verde, all of which offered fresh flavors for cocktail creation. Continue reading

Posted in Bistronomic, Books, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Events, Family, Fine Dining, Florida, Food and Drink, Great Britain, Musings, New York City, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Spain, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Upstate NY, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Docsconz Top 20 Traditional Restaurant Dishes of 2016 – Craftsmanship

This list is to highlight the very best dishes of my dining year based upon the the craft of cooking and the quality and presentation of the central component or traditional preparation. As with the Creative Restaurant Dishes list, I will not list more than one dish on this list from a given restaurant, though a restaurant can be on both lists. In addition, though the same base ingredient may be listed, I will not repeat a particular way of doing it more than once. That said, this is a list of dishes that excelled for their craft and product not just for 2016, but as truly remarkable examples that I had the pleasure of sampling. They were dishes that I didn’t just enjoy. They were dishes that asserted themselves and made me take note of their superior quality. One big difference between the dishes here vs the other “Best Dish” list that I posted is that the dishes on that list were entirely new to me, even though there may be a sense of familiarity about them, such as the Pulpo a La Brasa at Bodega 1900. I have certainly had grilled octopus before and Canary Islands potatoes, but the texture of this octopus was so remarkably different (and better) than any other that I’ve had, as to deem it unique enough for that list rather than this. These dishes are either classics, minor variations on classics or absolutely primary product driven and represent not just the best examples of these types of dishes that I’d had during 2016, but dishes that performed at an iconic level.  Continue reading

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The Docsconz Top 20 Creative Restaurant Dishes of 2016 – Artistry

Chef Quique Dacosta

I enjoyed so many wonderful, creative dishes in 206. There were numerous examples of dishes that harnessed impressive creative drives, often in the same meal. The dishes here were not just imaginative. They were also beautifully presented and above all, deliciously unique, at least to my experience, even if they utilized specific cultural influences as their base. I limited my choices for this compilation to no more than one dish from any given meal. These dishes are representative of cooking as art, but without giving up anything in terms of ultimate deliciousness. That remains, for me, the ultimate barometer of a successful dish. The artistry is utilized for elevation. Continue reading

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