Typically my list is a very international one, but to honor the landmark result of the US Team at the 205 Bocuse d’Or, I will stay within the bounds of the map of the United States for this list this year, choosing no more than one restaurant per state. As always, the list is comprised of restaurants that I have not yet visited. Last year, I only made three restaurants from my list, all in Barcelona. I hope to achieve a higher percentage this year!
Usually my wish lists revolve around experiences totally new to me. This year, though, it is little bit different as two of my all-time favorite chefs are involved with new restaurants in new locations. Matt Lightner, formerly of Atera in NYC and John Shields, late of Townhouse in Chilhowie, Virginia have relocated to the west. Lightner has recently opened Ninebark in Napa, California, while Shields will be opening Smyth in his former home of Chicago. Both have tremendous allure for me, however, since Ninebark is already open, I will list it first.
- Ninebark – Napa, California – Lightner is a prodigious talent, who I have come to know well. I can’t wait to see what he is doing with California product.
- Smyth – Chicago, Illinois – John Shields and his wife, Karen, both have too much to offer to not be cooking for a regular audience. Townhouse was an extraordinary meal in an out of the way, but beautiful place. Chicago is the large stage that they deserve. The website isn’t up yet, but is expected to go live in January.
- Alter, Miami, Florida – I will get there with the trip I’m leading this coming April. It is no accident that Alder is on that itinerary.
- Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis, Minnesota – Chef Gavin Kaysen, the Bocuse d’Or USA Team Coach was a star in NYC and somehow, he’s becoming an even bigger one outside Gotham.
- Ardent – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Justin Carlisle has been largely under the national radar, but I have a strong feeling that that will be changing soon.
- Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington – That’s right, I STILL haven’t been!
- Stages at One Washington, Dover, New Hampshire – I’ve been watching Chef Evan Hennessy ever since he won the VitaMix Challenge at the StarChefs ICC a couple years ago.
- Angeline – New Orleans, Louisiana – One might argue that given my expressed criteria, that this restaurant shouldn’t qualify for inclusion. It is true that I have eaten in its space (a former favorite – Scott Boswell’s Stella!) and I have eaten Chef Alex Harrell’s cooking, but that was at another restaurant. This qualifies because I am super excited to experience Chef Harrell’s cooking in his own restaurant, located in a space that already has personal meaning to me. It will be a different experience for sure.
- a(muse) – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – This restaurant is off the beaten track and off most radars, but the food that Chef Hari Cameron makes, looks and sounds fabulous.
- Restaurant Damon Baehrel at the Basement Bistro – Earlton, New York – Ironically, this is the restaurant on the list closest to where I live and the one I am least likely to ever get to as his waiting list for his small party extravaganzas is so long that he stopped adding to it. That’s a pity as reports from those who have been suggest that it is a most extraordinary experience.