Sowing Seeds of Creativity at Semilla

20141212untitled-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A1601061Other than its very trendy, u-shaped kitchen counter dining area (a trend that I happen to like very much), Semilla, the small, sophisticated new restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is unlike any other I have been to. The work of the super team of Jose Ramírez-Ruiz (aka Chez Jose) on savory and Pamela Yung on bread and pastry, Semilla cooks up a style of food that is original, beautiful, a great value¹ and absolutely delicious. Billed as “vegetable-forward” the restaurant is not vegetarian, but animal flesh takes a decidedly back seat here, in stark contrast to the couple’s recent summer work dishing up themed pig roasts. Continue reading


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Laurel – A Labor of Love

Chef/owner Nicholas Elmi presenting what was to become my second favorite dish of 2014

Chef/owner Nicholas Elmi presenting my second favorite dish of 2014

The ideas of restaurants and romance revolve around each other like two dancers on a ballroom floor. There are few locations more conducive to consummating a couple’s conjoining than a quiet corner of a carefully chosen room. When the eating is exquisite, the event is all the more exciting. Though I was not there in a romantic situation, many other diners appeared to be. A superlative spot for the serious diner, Chef Nicholas Elmi’s Laurel in Philadelphia is the ideal location for a sensuous tête-à-tête with a loved one or one who would be loved, particularly if the two happen to love great cooking. Continue reading


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A Conversation With Katie Button & Felix Meana of Curaté & Nightbell

They come with what may be the greatest pedigree in the modern cooking world. Chef Katie Button and her husband, Felix Meana met while they were both working at the legendary elBulli in Roses, Catalunya, Spain. Katie was a stagiere (she was featured in Lisa Abend’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli) while Felix worked the front of the house (he waited on my table the first two times I dined at elbulli). Since then the married and opened up what may be the hottest tapas bar in the United States, Curaté. With the success of Curaté, they have also opened a second restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, this time one with a more American theme. While these restaurants have kept them quite busy, they have somehow found time for a few other things. I had a chance to catch up to these two whirlwinds this past fall at the 9th annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Katie and Felix from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

The original music for this video was written and  played by my talented nephew, Lucas Sconzo and his friend, Jason Beck. It was recorded and mastered at Akin Studios in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.


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The Docsconz 15 Most Transcendent Restaurant Dishes of 2014

BU4A0071This is an extremely difficult list to put together. I’ve had so many wonderful dishes over the past year, I hate to exclude the many outstanding dishes that I enjoyed. Many a meal had more than one or even a few dishes worthy of consideration, but I limited the selection to no more than one dish from any given restaurant and in some cases a whole class of great food was epitomized within a particular example. Some of the dishes were straightforward expressions of outstanding product prepared with great skill, while others were more elaborate in their preparation. The basic commonality was absolute deliciousness. For me, these were the best of the best, the most thoroughly transcendent restaurant dishes I ate in 2014! Continue reading


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The Docsconz Top 25 Restaurant Meals of 2014

Chef Matthew Lighner and his kitchen team at Atera

Chef Matthew Lighner and his kitchen team at Atera

This list is entirely subjective as they always are. Food is certainly the biggest single factor in my rankings, but ultimately the rankings are determined by the entire experience from food to service to ambiance to the mood that I was in or that developed for me. I was once again extremely fortunate to enjoy a year of outstanding dining, including many at restaurants that fell shy of this list. I hated to leave so many great meals off, but if I included every one, the value of the list would be reduced. Twentyfive is enough to provide depth, but not so many as to be unwieldy. These below, were the restaurant meals that meant the most to me over the year. The most difficult rankings to differentiate were 2-4, as all three meals were absolutely incredible. I ultimately chose to give the highest ranking to 41º in honor of its progenitor, elBulli. It was a worthy heir that itself has since closed awaiting yet another iteration as the forthcoming Enigma. Continue reading


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My Most Memorable Meal of 2014

Beef Heart from Mack Brook Farm grass-fed beef

Beef Heart from Mack Brook Farm grass-fed beef

It didn’t take place at a restaurant, so it didn’t make my Top 25 List, but it was pure magic nevertheless. Perhaps it was all the more sweet because it took place at my home, but I suspect a meal like this would have been just as sweet wherever it occurred. It combined primo product, super people, live fire and a spontaneous onslaught of off-the-cuff cooking, winning wines and marvelous mixology after what had already proved to be a wonderful weekend of food, drink, cooking and touring the farms and lakes of northeastern New York. Oh, and it involved a Michelin two-star chef (should be three IMO), his chef de cuisine and their restaurant’s resident botanist. Continue reading


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The Docsconz 2015 Wish List

2014 was another superb year of dining for me, although it wasn’t because I was particularly successful in hitting up my wish list. Compared to 2013, I did a very poor job of that, only making it to one of my Top 10 – Pakta, which was everything I hoped it would be and more. I was more fortunate, however, in making it to a number of places on my Honorable Mentions list including Daikaya, Estela, Quintonil and Rose’s Luxury. For 2015 I will have to try to find a way to get to some of the more difficult places to get to. That said, I am not even bothering to list restaurants in Asia, Australia or New Zealand as barring a miracle, once again, they will be out of my reach. In the meantime, here are the restaurants, new to me, that I most want to visit in 2015. Continue reading


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I Found Fabulous Fare in Fun Philadelphia

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I like alliteration. That is probably fairly obvious to anyone who reads this blog with any regularity. Indeed, I couldn’t resist the appropriate alliteration of the title above. Thankfully, though I thought about it and was tempted, I resisted the urge to utilize the cliched conceit of using “Ph” in lieu of “F” in that title.

Continue reading


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The Making of My Favorite Cocktail of 2014 – Betony’s Milk Punch

Eamon Rockey at Betony

Eamon Rockey at Betony

I’ve enjoyed cocktails for a long time, but 2014 was a watershed year for me, both in making and drinking cocktails. It is fun to experiment creating new cocktails and it is even more fun to drink them, especially when they are well made. As much fun as I have making them, though, the best bartenders at the top of their games make me stand in awe. None humbled me more in 2014 than the Milk Punch at Betony as made by Eamon Rockey. Milk Punch appears to be in vogue nationally and I had and enjoyed a few at various venues around the country. While a number of them were very good, none approached the complexity, clarity, beauty and deliciousness of the ones I experienced at Betony. I asked Rockey, the General Manager of Betony if he would show me how they made the clarified cocktail. He graciously agreed and here is the result.  My editing skills being what they are, the video is not brief, but I suspect that it will be of interest to those who are curious about what goes into a truly artisanal bar program.

Betony’s Milk Punch from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

Original music, “Hey, B.B. (Take 2), is composed and played by my nephew, Lucas Sconzo for this video.


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Yirgacheffe and Olives at Mockingbird Hill

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This was entirely unintuitive to me. During a tasting of three different Ethiopian Yirgacheffe brews at Washington DC’s Mockingbird Hill, a fantastic sherry and coffee bar from Derek Brown and company, I was given a plate of olives to go with the coffee. I looked at Cory Andreen, the Mockingbird Hill coffee master and winner of the 2012 World Cup Tasters Championship, quizzically, thinking, “huh?” He assured me that all would be well with the world and to try the olives immediately after sipping the coffees. I was blown away by the combination, which paired seamlessly with all three coffees and especially with the wonderfully cheesy funkiness of the one naturally sun-dried coffee, the Wonago from London, England’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters. The other two Yirgacheffes, delicious with great depths of flavor in their own rights had been washed and lacked the tell-tale funkiness of the Wonago. As with the coffee procured from London, these expressed Mockingbird Hill’s efforts at securing top roasts from around the world. The first was the Hunkute from Oslo, Norway’s Tim Wendelboe and the second was the Chelba from Portland, Oregon’s Heart Coffee Roasters. The entire brewing and tasting process was a total pleasure and the added epiphany of the olive/coffee pairing catapulted the tasting to a special level worth sharing here. Continue reading


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