Review: Sofia

17 June 2017

After that nice trip to Montana (despite that joke of a steak), I headed back East, landing at Newark on a stormy late afternoon. A busy day later, I headed to Englewood, ostensibly for a concert celebrating the life of someone very dear to me, the late great John Wetton. It saddened me greatly that this hero of mine had died after a brave fight against cancer and the resulting sepsis; I knew that day standing at the Vatican that something had happened, and I was right…

But before the concert I needed to fuel up a bit, knowing I’ll get sloshed at some point, so I went for a hearty dinner at the nearby restaurant Sofia. A nice place, lots of other folks in town for the concert so it was a nice few hours there. Cocktails weren’t bad, though the service was a bit odd; some rather nice folks, a few dour ones, and one downright unpleasant…

veal chop - 01

But the food made up for it, evidenced by this veal chop. Far better than that joke of a steak in Helena a few days earlier. Cooked nicely, very tasty. A side of sprouts made this a necessarily filling dinner, having skipped lunch earlier…

But I had to run out quick because I had to meet a friend before the show, but by now the service had deteriorated a bit and took ages to get my bill. I paid and ran out the door towards the venue.

I enjoyed aspects of the concert, despite moments that were tough emotionally. Still remember first time I met him in Virginia in the mid 1990s, during both of our very heavy drinking days. He quit. I didn’t. Frankly I’m surprised that he’s the one gone and I’m still wandering this ball of dirt we call Earth…

I left the concert drained, and I actually went back to Sofia because I had left my card there after rushing out (because I was running late). So I stayed for a few more drinks, took a nice late-night snack of stuffed hot peppers to go (they were good), and went back to my hotel and held down a spot at the bar until way too late…

I can’t imagine why I would go back to Englewood, but if I have another gig to go at the Bergen PAC, this is definitely a good place to eat. Highly recommended. Tho that hangover…

36 Engle Street
Englewood, New Jersey

PS: I headed out for a 2.5-day trek after that, exploring the mountains of northern Pennsylvania and southern New York, dealing with bad roads in horrible downpours, climbing steep hills that were far more treacherous when hiking downhill, and tolerating more bad food that I won’t waste my time for reviews…but that closed off this long, 4-part trip that took me from Omaha/Des Moines to Seattle to Montana first…


Review: Parker’s Bistro

12 May 2017

One of the things I really wanted to accomplish since I began this travel barrage is to see my country as thoroughlly as I can, and one of those things mean visiting all 50 states. I flew into South Dakota, which is #48, for a short stay last week.

Immediately after landing I drove west, enjoying the beautiful views of this beautiful part of the country. I arrived at the state capital Pierre, which boasts one of the most beautiful Capitol complexes I’ve seen. Such a beautiful place, if it wasn’t so isolated I’d visit far more…

I stayed at an excellent B&B, Hitching Horse Inn, which had a very congenial host — a perfect way to end the long day enjoying a few drinks chatting. A good prime rib at the Mad Mary’s and a long walk around town I needed a good night sleep since I’ve had about 2 hours of sleep in the last 2 days…

But since my trip was so short I had to wake up early again, and was on the road by 6.30am. I headed south-east towards Yankton, the capital of the Dakota Territory. The views were different as I used more small roads, but were as interesting. I love the solitary long drive through new roads… I explored Yankton, Vermillion and then jut down to Iowa for a quick stop in Sioux City before cutting north into Minnesota, before arriving back at Sioux Falls just for dinner.

Dinner tonight was at Parker’s Bistro, which drew my attention as I was doing research for having the most interesting menu in town. I walked there from my hotel on a sunny warm day, and as I anticipated, everyone was sitting outside. I happily stayed inside, though it was still very warm.

I looked over the menu as I was served a nice cocktail. They have a good list here. Then I ordered and chilled out. The place seems to be very busy, as outside was packed. But as I was near the entry area, I was starting to hear of folks grumbling about not getting seats outside. Then the starter appeared…


Of course I couldn’t come to South Dakota and not eat chislic — the localised version of what started out as shashlik, brought over supposedly by immigrants from Crimea. These were pretty tasty, though the fries weren’t really needed. The chimichurri added a little interesting kick. Not bad, a good food start…

But that’s saying more than everything else. It looks like the bar got hit with a lot of orders from outside and are totally backed up, and my section has 1 overworked server. It is a sunny, warm, Friday night, so I was watching a shitshow getting worse as the night went along…

It took quite awhile to get that second cocktail, as well as my main course.


This was supposed to be cooked medium-rare, but was closer to well-done by the time it arrived at my table. Friday night shitshow strikes again… It tasted interesting as it was bourbon and vanilla brined, but again it being overcooked kinda ruined the dish. And the horrible black rice and pistachio salad was just disgusting…yech…what were they thinking?

At this point I finished the pork and called it a night. I could have stayed for dessert and/or drinks, but with things looking as chaotic as ever, I decided to head back to the hotel. I can imagine this place being good, but really, avoid these places for weekends — especially after the college school year is over and the place is lacking servers.

Parker’s Bistro
210 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

PS: I ended up going back out later and seeing a really cool little place, so decided to park myself at Prairie Berry East Bank, and enjoyed quite a few surprisingly nice local wines. Yes, local wines in South Dakota. Mostly grape, but at the end I had a pear wine — notoriously hard to make without it being way acidic. Excellent.

Review: Sein

2 May 2017

Liechtenstein has its charms, but I needed to get back to Switzerland as I have a lot to do on the final day of this trip before heading back across the ocean.

I made my way back to Zürich by bus and train around midday and enjoyed some spectacular views from the train of the snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes. I had a little free time so I dropped into Sein near the train station. Sein is one of Zürich’s Michelin-starred restaurants (1-star), but I happily sat at the bar and looked over the cut-down lunch menu.

I decided to just have some ravioli stuffed with veal and chilled with some wine. It soon appeared.


Very tasty, I enjoyed it. Rosemary butter and some hot pepper oil. Cooked perfectly and a very nice filling, though they could have let the oil be a bit spicier. Done well. Satisfied. A simple dish that already whipped everything I had in Liechtenstein.

I need to come back here for a proper meal one day… Now off to a long afternoon…

Schützengasse 5
Zürich, Schweiz

Review: Killen’s Barbeque

26 Feburary 2017

I was hungover and out of energy, but I managed to get a few things done this Sunday. Just missed the Galveston trip, but oh well… Long day, and I drifted into Pearland early afternoon for what I was told the best barbeque in Houston, Killen’s Barbeque.

Queue was short for a Texas weekend, only about 45 minutes. I got my food for 2-3 meals (yep, lunch and dinner, and likely brekkie in the morning before I head to LA) and headed to my hotel nearby. I opened up the goodies and it went all over the scale…


Firstly, the sausages…they brought the wrong ones (I asked for spicy), and it’s obvious because it was more links than I ordered. But they were AWFUL. They tasted 2 days old at best. What the hell? I was worried…


Then the brisket…again, terrible. What, this is supposed to be the best in the area? It was horribly dry and had no flavour aside from the over-spiced edge. The worst brisket I’ve had in ages!

Damn worried now! Did I waste my time? The pork ribs were actually quite good, so I relaxed a little.


And to be honest, the creamed corn side was really good.


But what made this epic was the fabulous beef rib.


Now this was the absolute BEST beef rib I’ve ever had, amazing how they made this. So all in all it balanced out to a point. I had enough for 2 meals, lunch and dinner. No brekkie, as the sausages and rest of the brisket I fed to the birds outside…

Well, thank you Houston, off for Lalaland…and a plate of pork rinds waiting for me

Killen’s Barbeque
3613 East Broadway
Pearland, Texas

Review: a(MUSE.)

6 November 2016

Woke up with quite a headache as apparently they poured me a quadruple bourbon before they closed up the night before…and that 1 extra hour of time-change sleep didn’t really help. I headed out of Wilmington a little slowly as I pushed towards Dover. A charming little town, I spent most of the morning there. I enjoyed the wee stop. I pushed further south, making a few stops. Ran into a Trump group rally in Georgetown (wrote this pre-election, btw…), which really sickened me… Nevertheless stopped for some barbeque in that town before I pushed further east towards the coast.

I got to Rehoboth Beach mid-afternoon. Not much going on being off season, as this place is usually packed to the brim on a weekend between Easter and Hallowe’en. A cold gust was blowing, which was perfect for me. I chilled out until around time for dinner, and tonight’s destination is the pun-ny named a(MUSE.) in the heart of the small downtown.

It wasn’t too busy, but not surprised for it being out of season. Many places shut down off-season, but — like the brave Vinland in Portland, Maine — they open year-round. They ride out the off-season somehow, and I was happy to contribute however I can. I chilled out with a cocktail and decided, for some reason, to go for the 7-course tasting.

I know I said no more after that disaster at Trentina in Cleveland (as well as Dublis in Vilnius), but I had a good feeling about this place for some reason. Not sure why, but I went with it. If this blows up, then it’ll really be the last tasting menu I’ll try from a place I’ve never been. After I finished my cocktail they poured me a glass of one of the few bubblies I like, Gruet from New Mexico. That made me smile, and then the amuse came.


No bad, though the lavash cracked a bit too much to eat this cleanly without tahini all over your hands. The roe was nice. Then a splash more of the bubbly and the first item arrived, the tartar.


Now this was just fantastic, chopped rib-eye from a local producer. One of the best tartar dishes I’ve had in many years, lovely flavours and texture. I love it when it’s not minced to pulp, and you really get the best of the beef in this method. Fantastic! I can eat this all day, really!

Pretty happy with how this dinner is starting. Then a pour of sancerre and the second dish, scallops.


Good quality scallops, broken but cooked very well. The eggplant really added a nice touch to it. Solid dish. Then a rose from Provence is poured and the next item arrived…


Whoa, it’s a creative take on surf-and-turf to say the least. Seared yellowtail and sweetbreads. The quality of the products were excellent, especially the creamy fried sweetbreads. Fabulous stuff, lovely combination. Excellent!

I’m so glad I decided to do this tasting tonight after all those recent disappointments… Sometimes there’s still surprise left to be had! Then a good Santa Barbara pinot is poured, and we have some pasta.


Excellent, boasting a healthy amount of hen-of-the-woods and bacon, as well as some lovely watercress. Pasta cooked very well, a nice tasty dish! Then a wee glass of Bordeaux and we move to the last savoury course — the short rib.


Nice stuff, with celeriac puree and adorned with mustard seeds. Very tender, excellent full flavours — from the same beef that we got the first tartar dish. This is some excellent beef.

I was a little sad the savouries ended, but those were large plates. This really puts places like Trentina in Cleveland and Piccolo in Minneapolis in their place, both in value and quality. Excellent cooking, awesome ingredients.

We move to the cheese dish and they originally were going to pour an apple concoction, but instead poured a nice Oloroso…but that also made me worry. My heart sank…


Manchego. I usually like it, but I eat it so much it’s lost its uniqueness — especially as I mentioned I crave unique, strong cheeses. I won’t say more, but I can see why they would serve this because it is a wonderful cheese. Just me being the wrong guy to be served this… But they brought out the Eden iced apple ciders too…love these things, so rare to see them!

We then shifted to the dessert, which had a nice port to go with it…


A fun combination of chocolate, caramel and apple here, and it was a nice way to close off this excellent tasting menu. I really enjoyed it, especially the savoury dishes. Obvious talent in the kitchen, boasted by understanding of the excellent ingredients this region has to offer. That beef especially was special.

I ended up shifting to the bar and drinking all night chatting with the staff until they closed up for the night. After last night’s excess I shouldn’t have drank so much again, but oh well. I was heading back home tomorrow and soon into the electoral maelstrom…(and again, didn’t know how bad it was gonna get…)

44 Baltimore Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Review #2: Bocca di Lupo

29 September 2016

I had a wonderful night out with a dear old friend, with good drink and food (at St John Bread and Wine), but more importantly great conversation. I will miss these as circumstances will make these evenings in the future unlikely in London — although I suspect they will continue in other locations around the globe…

I had an important afternoon so wanted to fuel up with a late lunch at another of the “safe” places for me in London, Bocca di Lupo. I heard restaurants in SoHo were hurting from the massive drugs problem that is escalating quickly in the area, but the place was rammed. In fact, like some other times here, it was uncomfortable to eat at the counter due to overcrowding. Plus a drunken “celebrity” nearby taking up much room, it didn’t help.

I tolerate it because of the good food, but it’s one of the biggest downsides of this place. Very uncomfortable. And with it rammed the service was at a crawl at the beginning. Took about 15 minutes to get some wine, and another 10 minutes to order. Not starting out too good here…

I chilled out and remember that this happens every time here, so just take a deep breath and carry on. After a bit of time the cascade of dishes arrived. First were some nice “Jacob’s peppers”…


Good stuff, and then some so-so stuff like this spicy sausage…


And the rather weak scallop…


But the star was something you rarely get outside the region, rigatoni con la pajata


Mmm, in this pasta dish you have veal chitlins with its mother’s milk inside…a wonderful rare delicacy to get in the UK. Lovely stuff, something I’ve not had for over a decade. Fantastic.

And things quieted down a little, though everyone was puzzled by the person next to me ordering a plate of PLAIN pasta and to not really eat it. What is with food wasting with millennials? Of course an American tourist too… Embarrassing…

Anyway, for a dessert I usually always do the sanguinaccio, but this time I did a 2-parter. I began with these…


Honestly not that great… Anyway, then the espresso gelato…


These were fantastic, especially with some grappa on the side. I finished up and headed out for my very important afternoon.

I have to say, as usual, the frustration of the counter spacing is soothed by good food — although to be honest today was weaker than usual, and more chaotic than usual… One of the most important aspects of this place for the many years I’ve come here is to get stuff you cannot get outside of Italy easily, and that makes up for all the inconvenience and discomfort.

I’m glad I got to drop in one last time on this trip tho.

Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street
London, England

Review: Noble Rot

28 September 2016

My return to London of course was not to go without hiccups. I got some takeaway from one of the places I always thought was reliable, and of course they failed me and even ripped me off. Sigh… So the next day I needed a nice jolt for lunch.

I’ve seen so much praise for Noble Rot in London it actually turned me off. I don’t like places that has such universal praise, as it usually fails to deliver. But nevertheless I headed there and after a slow and awkward start the lunch began. Nice seat in the back with the skylight, which was cooler thank goodness.

I ordered and enjoyed some wine. I had a busy afternoon and a busier evening so didn’t want to overdo it — even if the wine list was pretty awesome, as it should be. I ordered and chilled out.

I like this atmosphere. But soon that happy chill turned into a happy drooly chill…


This was an excellent gazpacho with smoked eel. Lovely flavours in the eel of course, but I really wish there was more gazpacho — it was fabulous! Excellent stuff. Then my main…and I was drooly again…


Wow, this was amazing if you love pork — and I LOVE pork. A beautiful middlewhite chop cooked perfectly, without being trimmed to boredom. Lovely stuff for any pork lover, I can still taste it a fortnight later… Fabulous, one of the best pork of the year.

I enjoyed this lunch and made my way out after a final drink. I guess this place is deserving of all that praise, though I fear over-hyping this place will not do it justice. Safe to say this was a darn good lunch.

Noble Rot
51 Lamb’s Conduit Street
London, England