Category Archives: Restaurant reviews

Five Star Alliance announces World’s Best Restaurant Hotel Awards

The World’s Best Hotel Restaurant Award goes only to properties where “world-class restaurant is the proximity of fine-dining to luxury guestrooms,” according to the Alliance. “The World’s Best Hotel and Resort Restaurant means grand hotel dining within a luxury property. Michelin stars and top-starred Forbes Guide restaurants abound on our list of the top luxury hotel and resort restaurants.”

wb restaurant hotel 2-1

Recipients of the Award included:

  • ABaC Restaurant & Hotel, Barcelona, Spain
  • Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • CuisinArt Resort And Spa, Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla
  • Homestead Inn, Greenwich, CT, United States
  • Meadowood Napa Valley, St Helena, CA, United States
  • The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA, United States
  • Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia | East Kemptville, Nova Scotia, Canada

“We’re honoured by the selection and greatly appreciate the restaurant award,” said co-owner and chef Vaughan Perret. “Everyone at the Lodge works extremely hard to provide guests with a truly exceptional dining experience, but given our wilderness location and size, we often don’t get noticed in the worldwide restaurant ratings.”

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Trout Point Lodge showcases new menus

In 2012, Trout Point Lodge placed its new Chez la Tousquet dinner venue into full operation, with white table cloths contrasting with painted wood panelling and a handcut red sandstone fireplace, views of the river. A hewn hemlock bar rests atop wine racks. Riedel crystal stemware and fine flatware complete the picture. Guests can now enjoy several possible dining spots at the Lodge for an expanded 4-course fixed menu with options . . .

June 22

Spanish Mojama w/ Breviro caviar
choice of soups: Black Eyed Pea w/ shrimp or Roasted Yellow Squash w/ mussels
Fennel & Tangerine Salad
choice of main dishes: Homemade Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom Sauce or Fresh Local Hadock w/ Dill & Sesame
Choice of desserts, including Homemade Chocolate & Caramel Ice Creams with Merengue, Chocolate Gourmandise, Raspberry-Rhubarb Custard Tart, or Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

July 7

choice of amuse bouche: Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms marinated w/ White Wine or Homemade Gravlox w/ Homemade Creme Fraiche
choice of soup: Oxtail Soup or Eggplant & Pepper Soup w/ Coconut
Greens from the Garden w/ Tarragon Vinaigrette
choice of main dishes: Grilled Local Swordfish (harpoon) w/ Sage Beurre Noisette or Homemade Porcini Ravioli
Choice of Desserts

August 2

House Smoked Sturgeon w/ Acadian Sturgeon Caviar
choice of soups: Black Eyed Pea Soup w/ Cabbage & Leak or Wild Mushroom Soup
Mixed Green Salad from the Gardens
choice of main dishes: Local Scallops Ravigote w/ Lobster & Chanterelles or Homemade Squid Ink Spaghetti alla Arrabiata
Choice of Desserts, including Lemon Curd Tart w/ Vanilla Ice Cream or Homemade Passion Fruit Sorbet

September 3

Charred Trout Point Grape Leaves stuffed with Beef & Lemongrass
choice of soups: Creole Red Bean Soup w/ Coconut & Pork or Carrot & Ginger Soup w/ Shrimp
Baby Spinach Salad w/ Homemade Yoghurt Dill Dressing & Lamb Confit
choice of main dishes: Rainbow Trout Almandine w/ Leek & Potato Mash or Handcut Paparadelli w/ Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Choice of desserts, including Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Pear Tart w/ Maple Glaze

Trout Point’s 180 selection wine list includes selections from $29 to $1245, with strengths in French and Spanish wines. Trout Point has just recently joined Small Luxury Hotels of the World.  www.troutpoint.com

Food & wine in Jumilla, Spain — a standout experience

While taking advantage of a special package at Spa Leana, known historically as los baños de Fortuna (2 nights double room with terrace, half board including wine, and a spa treatment circuit for an amazing 108 euros/person!), a hastily arranged day trip to Jumilla wine country (about 70 km away) resulted in a fantastic visit to Bodegas Juan Gil and an unplanned lunch at Finca de Olmo.

Juan Gil has an impressive winery facility amidst the rocky soils and chaliced

Monastrell

monastrell vines of northern Jumilla wine country. The winery has lots of extra stainless steel vat capacity, including large & small vessels, and vinifies both mid market and finer wines. The mainstay in Juan Gil silver label, which is made from 100% monastrell and receives 12 months of aging in French and American oak. The 4 month, with a new gold label, presents an excellent value.  The silver label can stand up to long aging, with at least 5 years recommended. Juan Gil’s great grandson explained that a new 18-month wine will be on the markets this year. Much of Juan Gil’s better wine is made from 80+ year old vines, growing in the starkest, driest, and rockiest vineyard land we have seen.

A little known fact is that many of the vines are on original rootstock, and this part of Jumilla was never affected by phyloxera. The wines produced were famous for their colour, concentration, and ability to produce high alcohol content (reportedly up to 17%!). Today’s finer wines are lean, tightly structured, and still alcoholic (14%)–the 12 month oak-aged wines need some time to open up.

Departing the bodega on the way back to los baños we spot a roadside cortijo and restaurant called Olmo. We arrive just at lunch time, and a table is arranged. Local sausages, a mixed salad with excellent bonito (mackerel) in oil, and fried local goat cheese precede the most amazing dish we’ve had in Spain in quite a while.

While paella is most often associated with Valenica–just over the border with Murcia–Jumilla apparently has its own, unique version. Paella jumilliana was prepared at Olmo in a heavy-bottomed paella pan cooked over a wood fire. One single layer of short-grain rice covered the pan. The paella was escargot and rabbit, with the brilliant yellow color of saffron unmistakable cooked into the rice–a true culinary expression of terroir. The smokiness did not obscure the complex saffron flavor, itself complimented by an excellent stalk, the rabbit (including the liver), and the snails. Perfectly cooked, the bottom was crispy and the rice grains  plump and flavouful.

Rome: Armando al Pantheon

Ambiance/Service *  Food *  Overall *  Price *

Salita Dei Crescenzi, 31 Tel. 06.68803034

One afternoon, having succumbed to a traveller’s cold, we found ourselves in need of nourishment without the will to cook. The night before we had passed Armando al Pantheon and checked for an available table: they were full up. The place has that typical Roman ambiance and an attractive menu that sticks in the mind; we thus returned for lunch and found one open table.

It turned out to be a charming restaurant, one room, with high ceilings and a clear view into the kitchen. Armando is also listed in the Slow Food guide to Italian osteria. We had but two pasta dishes–spaghetti with truffles (19 euros) and ravioli al Armando (9 euros) and both were excellent. The spaghetti a very simple preparation of dried pasta perfectly cooked al dente with olive oil, salt, and shaved truffles. The ravioli a delicious construction with champignones and a light-handed cream sauce with cheese.

A second visit again proved the primi to be of unwavering, very good quality, freshly prepared, through the secondi—as is so often the case—fell somewhat short. Three of us enjoyed the Spaghetti alla Claudio (with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, mushrooms, and saffron), Cicoria in padella (as a contorni), and Scamorza al tartufo, though the Anatra alle prugne (Duck with plum) left much to be desired—dry and uninspired.

L’art de vivre column: Bohemian Granada

Granada, Andalusia The sun sets over the Alhambra Palace after a typical bright/hot day in this prince of a city. We’re here for just a few days R&R, enough time to soak in not just some sun, but also the street musicians and performers, the labyrinth streets of the ancient Arab quarter, the Gypsy boys playing Flamenco at rock-concert levels, and the flocks of tour-group tourists wandering through the plazas near Mirador San Nicolas.

Granada is a city of Miradors–public open spaces where once can relax and take in the view of the Alhambra, the Generaliffe, and the majestic Sierra Nevada.

The place whose symbol is a pomegranate exudes its authentic Mediterranean and unique historical past: the grapes are heavy on the 50-year old vine that helps shelter part of the front terrace; gentle breezes blow anticipating the coolness of night time, and the olives are just forming, firm, still with their pale greenness; the rosemary grows like a weed in the patio garden, as do the beautiful Cymbidium orchids.

Late summer is still a time for cave dwelling–a traditional form of habitation in Granada, remnant of Arab and perhaps earlier times. The hand-dug hard-clay caves stay cool and fresh even when its 42 degrees outside. Many on the European bohemian circuit visit Granada because of the myriad caves to be had, squatted in for a spell. Ours, by contrast, come with a deed and a ventilation system.

Last night, on the search for a decent place to sup at 10pm, we found a perennial favourite serving dinner–the incomparable Bar Kiki, just beside the San Nicolas church and its gigantic aljibe, or water deposit. Mozarabic style foie gras, a mixed salad, and a fritura or fresh fish, cazon en adobo, and squid, all perfectly crisply fried in the region’s best olive oil. A local Granada wine made with little-known Vijiriego and Sauvignon Blanc provided a perfect, light, floral compliment to the food. Service was excellent, partly because we’re know there, as “los vecinos.”

Restaurant experience: Capricci Siciliani in the Palazzo Taverna, Rome

Rome     Awakening to a sunny, breezy Rome day we vowed to find a pleasant dining experience after the disaster of the evening before, with its visit to Convivio-Troiano. As we wandered around the historical center, we perused numerous menus, almost stopping at Osteria Bottega and at Sangallo. We discovered a wonderful place for gelatto–the Gelateria del teatro on Via San Simone–and then encountered Ristorante Capricci Siciliani, Via Panico, 83.

Ristornate Capricci Siciliani, Rome
The main dining room at Capricci

Restaurant experience: Il Convivio-Troiano, Rome

Rome Having heard good things about Il Convivio for years, we thought to give it a try–a splurge–in the hopes of finding authentic alta cucina, despite the loss of its Michelin star. The romantic story of 3 brothers, committed to seasonality and local ingredients, who come to the big city of Rome from Ascoeli-Piceno and achieved vaunted success had its modicum of appeal.

Founded in 1990, the restaurant has had lots of time to practice its trade in the provision of expensive food. As first -timers wanting exposure to the full talents inside the kitchen and also wanting to replicate an experience most travelers might seek out, we opted for the Degustaziones of both food (98 euros) & wine (50 euros).  This required that everyone at the table get the same thing, and the waiter specifically pushed the black truffle option with the pasta course (12 euros additional), and we said “yes.”

One would hope that Convivio-Troiano’s ambiance would be convivial, and it was. The waiters clad in dark suits created a warm greeting as they quickly answered the door bell just before 9 p.m., taking coats and scarves to the wardrobe sitting to the side of a separate reception area. Vaulted ceilings, occasional art, and soothing pastel colors created a relaxing environment. The waiters pulled out our chairs, which were more than sufficiently comfortable.

An aperitivo was immediately offered, which we declined, and then came the Water List, allowing one to choose from perhaps 20 different bottled waters. We selected one from nearby–Frascati–called Dolomia. It was fine.

Now begins the sad part of the story: the food and ultimately, the service. On fine dining occasions, when one is spending a lot of money for something seemingly special, you want the experience to be good; you’re predisposed to liking everything. However, even with this impetus it was hard to be enthusiastic about the antipasti at Convivio. Slices of bread on a plate, which to the eye appeared all the same, were described by the waiter as actually being five or six different types of bread with different flavorings. The taste test showed them to be all the same bread dough, baked all in the same shape, with the same crust, etc., but with different flavorings added to make them “different.” Uninspired, to say the least. The bread sticks were good, but bread sticks does not a meal make.

From here on, each dish arrived at the table lukewarm, never approaching hot. The amuse bouche (also served to nearby tables not having the tasting menu): A nondescript stuffed, fried olive on the end of a bamboo stick served with overpoweringly oyster flavored, watery mayonnaise (fata en casa), didn’t make a great first impression.

Next came a slice of head-cheese sausage (also fata en casa), equally robbing us of flavor as the stuffed olive, except here the texture wasn’t great either. The sausage came with a minuscule branch of raw broccoli and one pomegranate seed–one seed!

The “Gorgonzola cheese crème brulèe with pear and coriander, water ice of porto,” was okay–a nice twist on classic combinations and flavors–however the pear balls were under-ripe, hard, and flavorless. The best dish by far was the sea bass with tomatoes, taggiasche olives, salina’s capers and basil, though like everything on the tasting menu, portion size was quite small: maybe 1/2 ounce of fish.

The pasta appeared: somewhere between a spaghetti alla gricia and a carbonara, which paled in comparison with the high quality pasta served so commonly at so many other Rome restaurants. Pasta is the obvious strong suit of any Roman meal–and this one failed. Not to mention the waiters never offered grated cheese, as they did for other tables, and they forgot the truffles we had so specifically ordered! In fact, we could not imagine that spaghetti all gricia was the dish that was supposed to come with truffles. We waited.

The secondi was supposedly “orange scented guinea fowl leg stuffed with meat, olives and traditional vinegar sauce,” though we’re not quite sure what we got. It was tender and stuffed, no orange flavor whatsoever, no “sauce” to speak of, and with a texture like pork loin. Portion size remained tiny.

When they then began bringing the “pre-dessert” we asked about the truffle dish. Our current waiter–who had not taken the original order–disappeared. After several minutes, we had to ask again.  The original order-taking waiter arrived and said sorry, that he had written it down, and that it was the kitchen’s fault for not making it. Did we want something now?

No, we did not.

Dessert was absolutely pathetic–some kind of orange pudding served with rectangles resembling the fried flour tortilla strips from Taco Bell– a culmination to a very expensive, completely underwhelming meal with utter disregard for detail by both the kitchen and the front of the house.

Then came the real culmination as the chef–presumably one of the three fratelli Troiani–did his perfunctory “Hi, I’m the chef” walk around to the dining tables. This was the wrong thing to do. There was never any attempt or offer to make up for the truffle fiasco, the poor quality of the food, its tepidness, or its lack of flavor. We told him that his own waiters were blaming his kitchen for the truffle mistake and that in general we were far from satisfied. It all turned into a very disagreeable end to a very disappointing meal, with the waiter, the chef, and the patron all arguing with one another tableside.