Best Bites & Superior Sips of 2010

Quite unintentionally iconoclastic in its timing, I am publishing a list of some of the best things I ingested during 2010, now that it’s already 2011. I know, I know…forever behind the times. (The ‘unintentionally’ part – if you happen to care – is because I was stuck in Florida due to the storms in the Northeast of the US and didn’t have access to my laptop with all of my photos and notes).

I have decided against posting favorite meals in favor of the most enjoyable dishes of food and glasses (or bottles) of wine, which gives the added benefit of highlighting some excellent establishments and vintners about which, for some reason or other – call it laziness or busyness – I have yet to post a fuller review.

I have made no distinction between the type of place in which the food was served and have included a few oddballs for the fun of it. I thought maybe it might be easier to digest (pardon the pun) by dividing the list into different parts of the day. I didn’t necessarily have all of the dishes at the specified time of the day (though I mostly did), but assigned them to the mealtime that people would be most likely to consume them.

But without further adieu, Maestro, drum-roll please…

BREAKFAST

Best Eggs Benedict:
The Heathman, Portland, Oregon

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict at The Heathman

Well, to come clean, I didn’t actually order this, it was Mrs. LF’s dish. But she swore at the time that “this is the best eggs Benedict I’ve ever had” – no small praise indeed. I tasted it and had to concur – it was pretty darn good, as many things are at The Heathman. Not particularly exciting, but very, very good. I think even Monica, Michel Roux’s sous-chef would have been happy with the perfect hollandaise sauce. :)

Heathman on Urbanspoon

Best Waffle:
Original Pancake House, Boca Raton, Florida

Belgian Waffle with Blueberries at The Original Pancake House

Exceedingly light and perfectly crispy, these were the surprise hit of our recent pilgrimage to one of the bastions of my childhood memories. Their famous apple pancake (which is about the size of a small horse) was still largely as I remember it, but I think my taste buds have moved on a bit since I was 10 years old – it’s pictured below so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Childhood Memories (But No Award): Apple Pancake at The Original Pancake House

It is delicious, but just a little too sweet for me nowadays. It is still a unique and memorable dish, though.

Best Non-traditional Brunch Dish:
wd~50, NYC

Everything Bagel, Smoked Salmon Threads, Crispy Cream Cheese at wd~50

Out of all of the immensely whimsical and delicious dishes on wd~50’s tasting menu when I visited with Brother LF, this was quite possibly my favorite, in no small part due to the presentation. I mean, it does look like an ‘everything’ bagel, right?…but it’s ice cream, not bread! It tasted like one of the quintessential New York breakfasts of nova, cream cheese and bagel, but in a very grown up and refined way. It was a painstakingly and lovingly created reinterpretation of a piece of Americana – in a word: wonderful. I savored each dainty bite that I took. If I would have had Heston’s Nitro-Scrambled Egg & Bacon Ice Cream from The Fat Duck in 2010, this may have beat out wd~50.

wd-50 on Urbanspoon

Best Macchiato:
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland, Oregon

Macchiato at Stumptown

My favorite place for my daily coffee (when I am near one, that is). I also like Joe the Art of Coffee too, and frequent the one in Grand Central Terminal when I commute into NYC…though the West Village one is much more cozy and you can sit down.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Joe The Art of Coffee on Urbanspoon

Best Cappuccino:
Café Umbria, Portland, Oregon

Cappuccino at Café Umbria

Father LF swore by it, and I swore it couldn’t be good, but in the end elderly wisdom one out. The foam was perfect and the espresso excellent.

Caffe Umbria on Urbanspoon

Best Mocha:
Kaffeine, London

Sorry, no photo for this one, but Mrs. LF swore it was the best mocha she ever had, and from my wee taste, I thought the balance between sweet and bitter was pretty amazing. I love this London coffee-house too – definitely one of my favorites, and the lunch fare is good too.

Kaffeine on Urbanspoon

ELEVENSES

Best Brownie:
Paul A. Young, London

Classic Brownie from Paul A. Young

I’ve tasted a lot of brownies in my time, but this blows them all out of the water. It is at once indulgent and addictive, and it became an expensive yet highly worthwhile habit of mine (at Mrs. LF’s begging, of course) to buy copious amounts of these rich brownies whenever we (she) had a hankering for them in the few months after we discovered them and before we were leaving London behind  us. If you are in London, or if you visit, try one at Paul’s charming shop in Camden Passage in Islington. If you like brownies, there is a very comprehensive review of some of the better ones on offer in the London area on @mathildecusine‘s blog here.

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Best Cream Puff:
Beard Papa’s, NYC

Classic Cream Puff from Beard Papas

I had read about these oddball cream puff shops somewhere or other and before realizing that they had a location in London (which closed a few months ago), I found one on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They do what it says on the tin, so to speak – effortlessly light puff pastry gives way to a lovely cream filling – they are also very addictive, so be careful.

Beard Papa Sweets Cafe on Urbanspoon

LUNCH

Best Sandwich:
Bunk Sandwiches, Portland, Oregon

Pork Belly Cubano at Bunk Sandwiches

This cubano sandwich consisted of pork belly, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. Let me just say this: it was not only my best sandwich of 2010, it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had. Mrs. LF concurred. Now, maybe I don’t know all that much about sandwiches, but I know what I know. If you ever go to Portland, go to Bunk and try this if it’s on the menu (which changes daily).

Bunk Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Best Burger (Two-Way Tie):
Shake Shack, NYC
Café of Love, Mt. Kisco, New York

Cheeseburger at Shake Shack

Now I like a good burger just as much as the next guy, but I don’t eat them all that often…or at least I didn’t until I moved back to the New York area. In any case, I tend to like the more fast-food style burgers, and I prefer my patties smashed, thank you very much. Out of the ones I had this year, my favorite had to be Shake Shack, despite how unoriginal this may be and how many moans I may get from the New York and/or East Coast burgerati. But hey, it was just really good. In fact, I couldn’t fault it in any way. Oh, and by the way, my malted peanut butter shake was off the hook too, using the parlance of our times.

Shake Shack (UWS) on Urbanspoon

Grass-fed Beef Burger with Brie, Apple Butter & Smoked Bacon at Café of Love

Having said all that, every now and again, I get the hankering for one of the constantly-evolving offerings within the ‘gourmet’ burger category at more hoity-toity restaurants. In the not-so hoity-toity but horrendously named restaurant called Café of Love near where I live in Mt. Kisco, New York, they had a burger that I just had to try based on the description. Well, it tasted even better than it sounded on this occasion. The beef itself was excellent and had been perfectly charred on the outside and was nice and pink in the middle. The combination of creamy cheese, apple butter and smoked bacon was genius and the brioche bun was the perfect vessel for this mini heart-attack sandwich. It came with its own flowerpot on the side, which contained really good thin-cut frites that were perfectly salted. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but this was probably the best burger I had in 2010. Now, maybe they can work on their name?!

Honorable Mention: Cheeseburger at Five Guys

In this category, I would like to make an honorable mention for Five Guys. I had two burgers of theirs before the end of the year and thought they were excellent. Although you can’t specify how you would like it cooked, it comes medium, which seems to work for their burgers. They are very, very good burgers from what I could tell from the two Manhattan outposts I visited. And their fries actually taste like potatoes – no, I mean that. It took me a second to get used to them, because they were clearly from very fresh Midwestern potatoes and prepared with fresh oil: delicious. Just be careful, all you can get there are burgers, hot dogs and fries. Seriously.

This year I hope to try the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern, The Breslin‘s lamb burger, and also visit Corner Bistro…all in NYC.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Best Hot Dog:
Gray’s Papaya, NYC

Hot Dog Duo at Grays Papaya

Okay, so I didn’t eat too many hot dogs, but I was resolutely shocked when these turned out to be so good. A New York institution, and in my humble opinion deservedly so, these are exceptionally good hot dogs…

Recession Special is Still On!

…especially with the ‘Recession Special’ that’s currently on – you can save $1! :)

Gray's Papaya (UWS) on Urbanspoon

Best Pizza:
Dove Vivi, Portland, Oregon

Sausage Classico Pizza from Dove Vivi

After having my first-ever cornmeal-crusted pizza from Otto in London (see review here), I was eager to try the pizzas at their alleged source of inspiration in Portland, Oregon – Oregon being my home state. We actually ordered the pizza to pick-up, although there is a nice little dining room at the restaurant too. We had two varieties, but my favorite by miles was the ‘Sausage Classico’, which was made up of mozzarella, house-made fennel sausage and tomato sauce. These are actually more like pies than pizzas, but the crust is really unique given the cornmeal content. It is light, golden and crispy, and makes for the perfect base to the hearty toppings. I am now getting a taste for this stuff – when will NYC get a similar joint?

Dove Vivi on Urbanspoon

Best Meatball:
Polpetto, London

Duck & Porcini Meatball at Polpetto

When Russell Norman opened up Polpo in London’s Soho a while back, I was a fan from my first visit. The restaurant’s first offspring, though not originally planned to be by its parent, is the tiny and charming box of a dining room called Polpetto…or as I affectionately call it, Mini-P. Anyway, it was the venue for my last fun lunch in London – and my dining companion @BigSpud wrote about it (sort of) here. We mostly had cicchetti and my favorite of the bunch was this stunning meatball, in all its unadorned glory. Deep, rich duck and punchy porcinis mushroom with a robust sauce made this stand out as much in my mind as it did against its little stark white plate.

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

Best Risotto:
Gauthier Soho, London

Wild Garlic Risotto, Chicken Jus Reduction, Mousseron Mushrooms, Parmesan Tuille at Gauthier Soho

Okay, so it’s a French restaurant, but it’s risotto, so hey.

As I said in my preview of Alexis Gauthier’s new restaurant: “Alexis’ risottos were always a big strength at Roussillon, and this was no exception as his new Soho townhouse. The petite mousseron mushrooms worked well; they had quite a fleshy texture and were sort of like a really juicy piece of meat. The risotto itself was textbook – perfectly creamy, with the rice having just the right amount of bite left in it. The reduced chicken jus had a deep and rich flavor, which held the interest on the palate, and the razor-thin parmesan tuille added a nice contrast of sharpness and crunchiness. A really lovely dish.”

Honorable mention must go to an excellent seafood risotto I had at Fifteen Trattoria. You can read more about that here and there is a photo below.

Honorable Mention: Risotto Ai Frutti di Mare’ with Samphire, Chilli, White Wine, Garlic & Bottarga di Muggine at Fifteen Trattoria

Best Terrine:
The Bar Room at The Modern, NYC

Warm Lamb & Goats Cheese Terrine at The Modern

This dish wasn’t mine, but I got a few bites anyway. Besides its rather arresting beauty on the plate, it also tasted d*mn good. The richness of the lamb was cut through by the tangy goats cheese and the toasted pistachios added not only a note of sweetness and a pinch of saltiness, but also a chewy texture which rounded out the dish. The watercress provided a fresh and peppery contrast. It was original – to my mind – and superb.

The Modern on Urbanspoon

Best Steak Tartare:
Terroirs, London

Steak Tartare at Terroirs

Despite some odd sightings of fresh produce by @DouglasBlyde (see here), Terroirs is a haunt of mine, simply because they have consistently delivered me good and unfussy food that is well executed, plus they have a fantastic array of natural wines, many of which have proven to be very good. Anyway, on my last London meal of 2010 with my good Welsh friend, we ordered the steak tartare. The waiter said to order it spicy, so we complied. Thank god we did. It was one of the best versions of this bistrot classic I’ve had. We were both mesmerized. If it’s on the menu, order it.

Terroirs on Urbanspoon

AFTERNOON TEA

Best Afternoon Tea:
Hidden Tea Room, London

Ambience & Cupcakes at The Hidden Tea Room

If you live in London and haven’t been to the Hidden Tea Room, do yourself a favor and book it. Aside from having the best and freshest baked goods you are likely to get at an afternoon tea in London, it is also a lovely underground restaurant experience. There is a rectangular table with jovial strangers who obviously share at least one interest with you (food…or tea, I guess); or if you are particularly delicate in nature, you can go with your friends. In any case, Lady Gray’s scones and cupcakes are excellent and Mrs. LF and I popped our underground restaurant cherry here – so it will always hold a fond memory for us. Oh yeah, and there is an excellent assortment of fresh, diverse and exotic teas.

Other excellent afternoon teas we had in 2010 were had at The Wolseley (somewhat surprisingly), Browns Hotel and Bob Bob Ricard.

DINNER

Best Amuse Bouche:
Aldea, NYC

Kusshi Oysters & Lobster Gazpacho at Aldea

The kick-off to my first meal at George Mendes’ Aldea was as beautiful as it was flavorful. I savoured that rich bisque for as long as I could and soaked up even more of the sea with my oyster. It was an extraordinary beginning to a very good meal. You can see and read more photos of our meal here. I was also happy to see that the team picked up its first Michelin star this year.

Aldea on Urbanspoon

Best Tart:
The Sportsman, Seasalter, UK

New Season Asparagus Tart at The Sportsman

Pretty much everything we had at The Sportsman was excellent, but this was the bite that stood out in my memory as the best of 2010. Full stop.

As I said in my review earlier in the year: “This was basically spring arriving on a plate. It was one of the best and most memorable bites of food I’ve had in the last year. The pastry was spot-on, and the texture, temperature and combination of flavors was exemplary. Asparagus, spring onion, red onion cheese, shredded lettuce – it all came together in the best way possible.” It received a very rare 10 out of 10, and deservedly so.

Best Soup:
Arbutus, London

Curly Kale & Potato Soup at Arbutus

After this enjoyable meal with the London Food Detective, I remarked: “I was quite impressed when my soup was brought out: it was a good portion size and it looked very hearty and appetizing. The soup possessed a lovely soft texture, and the flavor of the fine olive oil that had been used in the broth came through subtly. It also surprisingly had a pleasant, gentle heat which sat in the background of my mouth as I ate it. The dollop of yogurt worked nicely, both subduing the slight spiciness and also serving a textural and temperature purpose that added a slight creaminess and also a touch of coolness to the dish. It was a very memorable soup and I really enjoyed every spoonful.”

Most Creative Use of a Bean in Supporting Role:
Viajante, London

Roasted Broad Bean at Viajante

This was one of the more interesting presentations of a plate (or in fact, slate) of food this year. In my review of the meal, I wrote:

“A roasted broad bean was presented on a small square black slab of slate. Inside the beautifully presented specimen lurked a cream of the peeled beans themselves, which was pierced by three square shards of São Jorge cheese with a thin snake-like link of pea shoots residing on top. On the side, there was a dusting of toasted brioche crumbs. It was a beautiful and dainty looking dish and it tasted very good. The peas themselves were just slightly seasoned, allowing their delicate natural flavor to shine, and they had a lovely soft texture. The cheese brought a nice sharpness to the dish, and I ate it with some of the crumbs which added a pleasant crunchiness. This was a very good second amuse, and further illustrated the inventiveness of the kitchen.”

Best Dish Incorporating Goose Eggs & Soldiers (of Toast):
Launceston Place, London

Poached Goose Egg, Somerset Truffle Risotto at Launceston Place

Firstly, apologies for the especially poor photo, but this was taken with my old, archaic and generally not so useful camera. Right at the beginning of 2010, this was nonetheless one of the best dishes I had for sure. My thoughts at the time, which haven’t changed, were: “It was cleverly conceived in terms of the flavors and stylish presentation. Hidden beneath a topping of black Somerset truffles (English truffles…I am learning something new every day) was an unctuous, rich and delicious risotto that was perfect in pretty much every way. I was surprised at how pungent the truffles were and the strong depth of flavor they possessed (I thought English truffles would have been much lighter than their Continental counterparts), and the addition of little toast soldiers was a cute nod to a British breakfast tradition of soft-boiled eggs (the French call it oeuf à la coque).” This was a 10 out of 10 all the way.

Best Vegetarian Dish:
Mathias Dahlgren (Matbaren), Stockholm

Baked Farm Egg from Sanda Farm, Forest Mushrooms, Garlic, Parsley, New Potatoes at Matbaren

I loved my meal at Mathias Dahlgren’s Matbaren and this was the stand-out dish for me of the evening.

As I wrote in my post about the meal: “…for me, it was really all about the mushrooms. They had such a deep, rich flavor and were some of the better ones I can remember tasting. Again, I felt the dish was perfectly balanced, with the soft and creamy new potatoes lending a fairly mellow base (with their crispy counterparts in ‘chip’ format providing both saltiness and crunch), and the garlic and parsley both coming through just enough. I detected the presence of a rich, buttery and unique oil, which I enquired about, and proved to be a bit of a revelation…but more on that later. Oh yes, the egg! You can see below a diagram of why it’s called a 63° egg as illustrated on the menu, and yes, it was very good, yielding a creamy yellow yolk, which added the final textural component to this superb dish. It didn’t look or sound like much, but it sure made up for that in taste!”

Best Scallop Dish:
Morgan M., London

Seared Diver-Caught Scallops, Poêlée of Cèpes, Glazed Pumpkin & Nut Biscuit, Butternut Coullis at Morgan M.

You may recall me saying something along the lines of…“This strikingly presented pair of trios was a wonderful beginning to the meal proper, no? Each scallop had been delicately handled and perfectly seared, revealing a fragrant sweetness that was enhanced by the succulent carrots and the crunchy biscuit below, which provided a good crunch in contrast to the fleshy feel of scallop and carrot. The cèpes themselves were excellent – intense, meaty, not at all overcooked – and might just have been the best thing on the plate. I personally didn’t think the butternut squash coulis added that much to the mushrooms (or the scallops for that matter), but it did create certain visual flair in the plating of the dish and represented autumn strikingly well on the plate.”

Best Raw Seafood Dish:
Sushi of Shiori, London

Raw Scallops with Secret Truffle Paste at Sushi of Shiori

Another memorable London meal took place at Sushi of Shiori, a sushi restaurant that accumulated a scale of press disproportionate to its own modest size (it seats about 12 at most). I dined with @LondonEater (see his reviews here and here), and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company – my mini-review and photos are here. Aside from having the pre-ordered omakase, we ordered an extra course of truffled scallops. I remember exclaiming that this was an actual explosion of flavor in the mouth (so many times, people just use that term half-heartedly). I don’t know what the chef does to his secret paste, but the tiny amount dotting surface of the raw scallops really does explode in your mouth and somehow complements the sweetness of the scallops perfectly. I loved this, and it is quite affordable at about £2 a pop.

Sushi of Shiori on Urbanspoon

Best Chicken Dish:
wd~50, NY

Cold Fried Chicken, Buttermilk-ricotta, Tabasco, Caviar at wd~50

Okay, so nearly everything I had on the wd~50 tasting menu was pleasurably challenging for my senses – both visually and in terms of taste, texture and temperature – but this dish stood out in particular. This dish brought back so many memories of good fried chicken. It was served slightly cool and was absolutely delicious. My favorite part of it was the heat – those little dollops of orange sauce packed some serious power, and this enlivened the whole dish. Playing off against this was the creaminess of the buttermilk-ricotta cloud, which helped manage the spiciness. But the touch of genius here was the caviar, which added an extra element of saltiness on top of the chicken, cream and Tabasco. It was superb.

Best Duck Dish:
Eleven Madison Park, NYC

Lavender Glazed Duck at Eleven Madison Park

I don’t think anyone would be able to question Chef Humm’s ability to cook a whole bird. The even browning of the skin, its crispiness and the juiciness of the duck were outstanding. The lavender glaze gave it an intriguing and subtle flavor, with peaches and other hidden joys dancing around on my palate. While not quite as exceptional as the Canard de Challans a l’Hibiscus I had at l’Arpège last year – which is to date the best duck dish I’ve ever tasted – this was still pretty fantastic. It was an interesting and not unwelcomed contrast to some of the more modern elements during my first meal at the excellent Eleven Madison Park.

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

Best Dish Incorporating Frozen Foie Gras:
momofuku ko, NYC

But of course there is no photo due to the restaurant’s no-snapping policy – sorry, but don’t snap at me. The following description will be in my forthcoming review of ko, where I dined with @catty.

Shaved Foie Gras, Lychees, Pine Nut Brittle, Riesling Gélee

This was certainly one of the top dishes of the evening, and I guess it is one of the classic dishes at ko. When I got up the gumption to ask how they made the cool shavings, the chef matter-of-factly said: “We freeze a terrine and the grate it.” Basically, you should have known that, it’s so obvious. Well, I didn’t know 100%, but was glad for the confirmation. Anyway, the foie was shaved like grated cheese over the other components. The sweetness of the lychees and the sweet-yet-tart Riesling Jell-O worked miraculously well with the foie shavings, which melted when they ware placed in your mouth and became a deliciously gooey texture. It was rich yet light at the same time (therein lay the brilliance) and, to me, it tasted more like seared foie gras than a terrine once it had melted in the mouth…maybe due to the texture. The pine nut brittle was OTT too, and everything was complementary. I noted that they had also salted the dish well, which is important to bring out the flavor of foie gras properly. This was a really fun and great dish to eat.

I also immensely enjoyed one of our two foie gras dishes at wd~50, but I couldn’t give Chef Dufresne another award, so he gets an honorable mention. There is, however, a half-decent photo below and a full description here. (And yes, I know it’s not frozen in the process, but hey…).

Honorable Mention: Aerated Foie, Pickled Beet, Mashad Plum, Brioche at wd~50

Best Desserts (Three-Way Tie):
The Loft Project with Samuel Miller from noma, London
Fifteen Trattoria, London
Eastside Inn, London

Malt Parfait, Seabuckthorn & Freeze-dried Strawberry at The Loft Project

This was the most memorable dessert for me of the year. Although not particularly complicated in conception, the fresh combination of flavors was nonetheless dazzling.

Here’s what I said in my review of the amazing evening: “A dark brown rectangular log of malt parfait was dressed with freeze-dried strawberry crystals and micro herbs, with a side smear of havtorn purée (yellow-orange Scandinavian berries, which I believe are also called Seabuckthorn). The parfait itself was so intensely malty it almost had a charred or burnt flavor about it – much different from the sickly sweet ‘malt’ flavors to which most people from the UK or US would be accustomed. But there was a slight underlying sweetness that kept it balanced.  The sweet, acidic and sharp notes of the English mustard colored purée perfectly offset the rich and slightly bitter intensity of the malt, with the dry strawberry granules adding crunch and further bittersweet fruit to the mix. It all worked together perfectly and it was one of the best desserts I’ve had in recent memory.”

Vanilla Pannacotta, Raspberries & Homemade Biscotto at Fifteen Trattoria

Not too long ago I had a simple dessert that the kitchen knocked out of the park, as we say in America. It was the best pannacotta I can remember having and got the fabled 10 out of 10.

In case you didn’t read it, and care to, here’s what I said: “The quality of the pannacotta itself was just mental. It was so creamy, so full of delicate vanilla flavor, and so delightfully wobbly while at the same time retaining its form when shaken or portioned up on our plates. It was the best example of the dessert I can recall. I would have been perfectly happy having that by itself on a drip for a few hours, but it was very well paired with some surprisingly sweet raspberries (not the ‘raspberry compote’ that the menu advertised, by the way) – my hunch is that they were from Secretts, but I didn’t ask – and a really wonderful homemade pistachio-laced biscotto (not the biscotti that were promised on menu). In short, Italian food heaven on a plate.”

Araguani Chocolate & Tonka Bean Ice Cream at Eastside Inn

Unfortunately, I never got to properly review the ‘bistrot’ side of Bjorn Van der Horst’s Eastside Inn before it sadly closed towards the end of 2010. However, I vividly remember the intensity of chocolate that was perfectly paired with a memorable tonka bean ice cream. As always with Bjorn’s food, it was also stunning to look at.

Weirdest Dessert:
(Note: that doesn’t mean it was bad!)
Il Baretto, London

Fried Aubergine, White & Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Red Berries at Il Baretto

When I had some time to digest the experience (and the dessert), I reflected: “It sounded so strange, we just had to try it. Yes, if you read the caption for the above photo, than you heard it correctly folks, it was an aubergine (eggplant) based dessert! It was certainly very pretty, at least in my estimation. Three discs of fried aubergine had been layered with white chocolate cream between them, and on the very bottom lay a hidden dark chocolate base. Leaning against this delicately balanced brown and white striped trunk was a branch of tart red berries. The whole thing was dusted with pistachio crumbs finished off with a dash of powdered sugar.

At first bite, the taste of aubergine was too prominent for my liking; however, when portioned up with an adequate amount of the white (and darker) chocolate and a berry or two, I could understand the rationale of its creator…it was actually strangely very good. In fact, I found myself liking it more and more and then suddenly, as fast as it had appeared (okay, it didn’t appear *that* fast), it ‘twas gone. I ended up really liking it, and bonus points for using an ingredient I would NEVER associate with dessert.”

LUSCIOUS LIBATIONS

Favorite Gin:
Sacred Spirits, UK

Favorite Vodka:
Chase Distillery, UK

Favorite Martini:
Dukes Bar, London

Martini at Dukes Bar

If you follow this blog, you will know my hands-down favorite martini is at Dukes Bar in London (see here and here), when it is served by the ever-affable and supremely knowledgeable Alessandro Palazzi.

Favorite Restaurant to Order Wine:
Bob Bob Ricard, London

A Glass of Pol Roger Brut Reserve at Bob Bob Ricard

Not only do Leonid and Richard have the now ‘soooo 2010’ Champagne buttons at the booth-seating-only tables at this fabulously individual creation, which could have only resulted from the marriage of Russian and English (business) partners, they also have the lowest mark-ups I’ve come across of some really excellent fine wine. This means you can (better) afford to indulge yourself in a special bottle or glass of wine when going out on the town. And the food is generally very good across the board too. For a peek at their current wine list, click here.

FYI, @gourmetraveller also has an excellent BYO guide for London restaurants here.

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

Favorite and/or Most Memorable Wines:

This list is from across the board…glasses and bottles I remember that I particularly enjoyed and/or found memorable. I have probably missed some out, but I hope not. They are listed chronologically and then alphabetically within each vintage.

Sparkling

  • 1999 Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc
  • 2004 Duval-Leroy Champagne Blanc de Chardonnay, Brut
  • NV Charles Heidsieck Champagne, Brut Réserve
  • NV Henriot, Brut Souverain
  • NV Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noir
  • NV Thiénot, Brut
  • NV Vincent Laroppe, Cuvée Alfred Laropp

White

  • 1992 Haut-Brion Blanc
  • 2001 & 2009 Soula Blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
  • 2004 Lafon Meursault
  • 2005 Huët Vouvray Sec, Le Mont
  • 2005 Les Plantiers de Haut-Brion
  • 2006 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc
  • 2006 Domaine Sylvain Loichet, Ladoix
  • 2006 McHenry Hohnen, 3 Amigos
  • 2007 Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay, Cuvée Alexandre
  • 2007 d’Arenberg, The Hermit Crab
  • 2007 Domaine Gauby Blanc
  • 2007 E. Guigal Condrieu
  • 2007 Felton Road Chardonnay, Block 2
  • 2007 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc, Les Sétilles
  • 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Quarz, Terlano
  • 2008 Benmarl Riesling
  • 2008 Beringer Chardonnay, Private Reserve
  • 2008 Domaine William Fevre Chablis, Champs Royaux
  • 2008 Trimbach Riesling, Reserve
  • 2009 Adair Cayuga White
  • 2009 Arietta “On the White Keys” (Semillon)

Red

  • 1964 Haut-Brion
  • 1985 Haut-Brion
  • 1990 La Mission Haut-Brion
  • 1998 Bahans Haut-Brion
  • 1998 Château Haut-Bailly
  • 1998 Château Pichon-Longuevile Baron
  • 1998 Château Lafite-Rothschild
  • 1998 Poliziano Le Stanze
  • 2000 Château Vieux Chevrol
  • 2001 Château Musar
  • 2001 Château Palmer
  • 2001 Château Pavie
  • 2001 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion
  • 2005 Montes Carménère, Purple Angel
  • 2006 Domaine La Tourmente, Syrah, Chamoson
  • 2006 Herdade do Arrepiado Velho, Arrepiado
  • 2006 Neyen Syrah, Limited Edition
  • 2007 Ridge Lytton Springs
  • 2007 The Sum, Seventy Five Wine Company, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2008 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir
  • 2008 Domaine Gramenon, Côtes du Rhône, Sierra du Sud
  • 2008 Monty Waldin Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
  • 2008 Mullineux Syrah, Swartland
  • 2008 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir, Tavola

Sweet

  • 1999 Château Coutet
  • 2003 Château Rieussec
  • 2006 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine, Gold Reserve
  • 2006 Leduc-Piedimonte, Ice Cider
  • 2007 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, Donnafugata

In the coming year, I am aiming to develop a better understand of grower-producer Champagnes (i.e. ones that are terroir driven by the people who grow the grapes), deepen my cursory knowledge of some major European wine countries – namely Italy, Spain and Germany – and, of course, get a better handle on the domestic North American wine scene…as well as becoming more familiar with countries such as Chile and Argentina in South America.

#   #   #

So that is the end to a wonderful year of food, wine and friendship shared over the two. Here’s hoping 2011 will be even more exciting and enjoyable. I look forward to sharing with you what I can from the shores of America – or wherever else I may be lucky enough to travel – with an exciting review coming up very soon.

Thanks for putting up with me, and a very Happy New Year.

All the best for 2011!

Matbaren – A Balanced Equation

Matbaren
Mathias Dahlgren
Grand Hôtel Stockholm
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 6
10327 Stockholm
Website
Map
Online Reservations (for Matbaren only, you must call for Matsalen)
Phone Reservations: +46 (0)8 679 3584

  • The menu at Matbaren changes every day and all dishes are served as ‘small plates’ (though some are not that small). The restaurant recommends 2-4 dishes per person, and prices range between SEK 135 – 315, or £12.50 – 30.00 (on average about SEK 250, or £23). There are 3-4 vegetarian options each day.
  • For the full set of high-resolution photos, please visit my Flickr set for this meal

I had a superb meal and a wonderful time at Matbaren, Mathias Dahlgren’s more casual eatery in central Stockholm. It holds a Michelin star and deserves it. The intensity and balance of flavors in his food is memorable and the setting of Matbaren achieves a wonderful balance between the fun and the formal. The restaurant (which is only nominally a ‘bar’) is by no means cheap, but if you fancy a stimulating meal in a great setting, and don’t mind splurging a bit, look no further.

Entering the grand

I am fortunate enough to travel to Stockholm fairly often. I love the place no matter what the season. It always seems peaceful and content with itself. The air is crisp and you are surrounded by clear water in many of the main areas of the city. The people are straight forward and friendly in their own way.

My only frustration with these trips is that I am normally too consumed with work to be able to spend time exploring the more exciting culinary experiences that Stockholm has to offer, and it boasts many – from the simple to the more refined.

However, on my last trip in mid-October I was determined to at the very least pay homage to Sweden’s brightest star in the culinary world, that being Mathias Dahlgren. For those of you not familiar with the name, here’s a potted history. He was the proprietor of Bon Lloc from 1996-2005, which held a macaron in the Michelin guide. In 2007, he braved it on his own and opened up two restaurants in the Grand Hôtel Stockholm. One is a private dining salon called Matsalen which only has 38 covers and currently holds two of those Michelin macarons. The other, Matbaren, is nominally called a ‘bar’ (although it only accepts dining guests), but is no slouch, holding its own star from the man dressed in puffy white inner-tubes.

Chef Dahlgren’s flagship restaurant was recently voted #25 in the most recent, and now well-established, San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and is only the second Swedish restaurant to hold two Michelin stars. He also holds the distinction of having been the recipient of Kockarnas Kock (‘Chef of all Chefs’, or Swedish Chef of the Year) four separate times, and is the only Swedish chef to have won the Bocuse d’Or.

Given my time constraints, and the probable difficulty in scoring a reservation at the private dining room at short notice, I opted to go to Matbaren, which was facilitated with ease only a few days before through their online booking system. I was meant to go with a colleague, but on the night of our reservation, we ended up hanging out with some of his friends at a casual restaurant called B.A.R. (coincidentally just behind Mathias Dahlgren), which was pleasant enough but the food was pretty ‘meh’. Nevertheless, undeterred, I booked a table for the following night and decided that I would go solo if need be.

The approach

I made my way across Skeppsbron, and over the bridge on a quite a chilly Nordic night, with the illuminated facade of the Grand Hôtel beckoning.

The vibe

Upon entering the very attractive room, I immediately liked the atmosphere and vibe of the place. The bar (where you can have the full menu) was still completely full and there were a few tables of two left, so I took one next to the window, which afforded a nice view of the room. The décor was very Scandinavian, with bright red accents throughout and some wonderfully playful high-backed white spindled chairs in the corner. The room exuded that difficult to achieve balance between the casual and the formal, and had a good energy without verging toward the frenetic.

The open kitchen

The rather small kitchen is visible through a glass wall, and the chefs were operating in a quiet, controlled and precise manner throughout my meal.

The table

My waiter came over to explain how the menu worked. The menu at Matbaren changes each day and is printed on brown paper – oh-so current, no? – within your wooden tray. The food is arranged into four sections (‘From our Country’, ‘From Other Countries’, ‘From the Plant World’ and ‘From the Pastry’ – i.e. desserts), and there are 3-4 dishes in each group. All dishes are presented in the format of ‘small plates’ and the restaurant recommends 2-4 dishes per person. They also have a very good selection of local beers and an interesting selection of wines by the glass. Also within your tray is a brown bag with the current day’s date stamped on it, which contains some crisp Swedish crackers, and on the right they place a small helping of butter with a little wooden spatula.

A memorable quartet

I would like to say at the outset that the service – which was solely provided by my one waiter – was phenomenal. He answered all of my questions without fail (even some fairly obscure ones) and was friendly at the same time as being professional and efficient in what was quite a busy dining room for most of the evening.

Crisp bread

After we decided on what my first course and accompanying wine would be, I opened up that brown paper bag and tasted some of the crisp bread, which was good, but even better when smeared with a touch of the creamy butter.

Creamy butter

I was also offered some other bread, of which I selected a white sourdough, which was excellent. They don’t do their baking in-house but rather source their breads from one of the best bakeries in Stockholm, whose name of course now escapes me.

Plate 1: Pumpkin & Broccoli, Truffle, Watercress, Hazelnut, Parmesan

I decided to start off with the pumpkin and broccoli as it sounded like a light dish and was recommended by the waiter (I had also eyed it myself). The green elements masked a base of faintly orange pumpkin cream, apparently a native variety that was in season at the time. While appearing to be a very simple plate of food, I actually found it to be quite complex in flavor and definitely more than the sum of its parts.

The pumpkin cream itself was rich and sweet, but not too much so. This was enhanced by the surprisingly pungent and concentrated flavor of the truffles, which were from the nearby island of Gotland (a popular summer vacation destination for Stockholm residents in the middle of the Baltic Sea). The truffles were fabulous – again full of flavor, but just restrained enough not to dominate the plate. The simply steamed broccoli served as a neutralizer of sorts, while the chopped hazelnuts (or were they actually almonds?) added bits of sweetness and textural variation. The hint of parmesan also lent a little dose of acidity to the sweetness of the pumpkin and the richness of the truffles. This was a really accomplished and harmonic dish that showed off the produce of the region and the season. The broccoli was a tad too chewy for my liking but I think it was probably intentionally cooked this way. 8/10.

The waiter recommended pairing this dish with the 2009 Mâcon-Charnay from Domaine Cordier (Bourgogne, France). This white Burgundy was rich and intense, but also refreshing and would give many a good wine from the nearby Côte d’Or a run for their money. It was a match made in heaven with the vegetables.

Plate 2: Sashimi of Salma Salmon & Reindeer, Avocado, Ginger, Horseradish

First of all, sorry about the appalling lighting in the photo – I’m still trying to get to grips with my little Canon. This is apparently one of Mathias Dahlgren’s signature dishes at the bar. I liked it a lot, but wasn’t wholly enamoured. The presentation was beautiful, I have to say, and the conceit was certainly clever. It is sort of a de-constructed sushi/sashimi box lunch. You’ve got the salmon, which I didn’t think was particularly memorable (it tasted farmed, but I didn’t enquire); you’ve got the ginger, but it’s fresh and not pickled; you’ve got the horseradish, i.e. wasabi, but it isn’t green (though the avocado is); and then you’ve got beads of tapioca, which have been soaked in soy sauce, lying on top…so while it appears to be fish roe it’s actually the soy sauce into which you’d normally dip the sashimi or sushi.

There are, however, two rather intriguing additions: avocado and reindeer carpaccio. They both somehow worked, despite my culinary logic telling me they shouldn’t. The softness of the avocado didn’t bother me, and its mild creaminess actually worked well with the sharpness present in the dish. The reindeer itself was excellent and somehow didn’t stick out like a sore thumb either – it was rich but certainly not overpowering.

I liked this dish, and thought it was an interesting take on a sushi/sashimi box meal, but it’s not what lingered in my memory a few days after the meal. 7/10.

The suggested wine pairing was a young German Riesling named Jacobus (2009) from Peter Jakob Kühn in Rheingau. It was an intense and unique Riesling in a very dry style which complemented the dish very well. Its biodynamic roots (pardon the pun) definitely showed through well.

Plate 3: Baked Farm Egg from Sanda Farm, Forest Mushrooms, Garlic, Parsley, New Potatoes

This was quite possibly my favorite dish of the evening – for me, it was really all about the mushrooms. They had such a deep, rich flavor and were some of the better ones I can remember tasting. Again, I felt the dish was perfectly balanced, with the soft and creamy new potatoes lending a fairly mellow base (with their crispy counterparts in ‘chip’ format providing both saltiness and crunch), and the garlic and parsley both coming through just enough. I detected the presence of a rich, buttery and unique oil, which I enquired about, and proved to be a bit of a revelation…but more on that later. Oh yes, the egg! You can see below a diagram of why it’s called a 63° egg as illustrated on the menu, and yes, it was very good, yielding a creamy yellow yolk, which added the final textural component to this superb dish. It didn’t look or sound like much, but it sure made up for that in taste! 9/10.

Math for eggheads

The suggested liquid partner was a lovely Californian Pinot Noir, which I had read about but never had the opportunity to taste. It was the 2008 Garnet from Saintsbury (Carneros, CA) and I liked it on its own but didn’t think it integrated all that well with the egg and mushroom flavors. I think I personally would have tried for a white wine to drink with the dish – but these things are very subjective.

Dessert: Baked Wild Chocolate from Bolivia, Sour Cream, Toffee Ice Cream, Nuts

There’s not a whole lot to say about this chocolate dessert…but in a good way. My menu informed me that they have sold 28,967 of these since opening the restaurant in 2007, but the waiter said they’ve actually sold over 30,000. A decadent baked chocolate cake revealed a molten chocolate core, which melded nicely with the intense dollop of toffee residing on top. This was enhanced by a superb toffee ice cream and just the right amount of sour cream to cut through all that sweetness and gooeyness.

Aforementioned ‘gooeyness’

The addition of chopped nuts added the necessary crunch factor and it all worked together in harmony. It wasn’t the most original dessert I’ve ever had, but it was certainly excellent and very satisfying. 8/10.

2008 Vin doux Naturel Vendage, Domaine Pouderoux (Maury, France)

The sweet red wine that I drank with the dessert was my favorite out of the four wines I tasted that evening, and was also the best pairing. The light Grenache wine was sweet, but not cloyingly so, and retained a good streak of acidity to preserve its freshness. Red berry fruits – I noted raspberry most distinctly – abounded and I think I could have drank a whole bottle myself as dessert on its own…pure pleasure. It also went very nicely with the dark chocolate of the dessert. Chocolate and raspberries is a classic combination, I suppose.

Single macchiato

I finished off the meal with an espresso macchiato. Besides the coffee being very good itself, what I particularly liked was the fact that they brought out a silver pot of steamed milk (which had very fine foam), and after the waiter placed a dollop of foam on top. I was allowed to do with the milk as I pleased (I actually left it as it was served). Nice touch, though.

Petit fours

The bowl of petit fours that came with the coffee contained little round Madeleines that were delicately flavored with lemon and some dark chocolate with hefty chunks of hazelnut and a smattering of sea salt. Both were very tasty and I’m sort of ashamed to say that I ate the whole lot. Greedy me.

In the kitchen

Near the end of the meal I asked my ever-effervescent waiter if Mathias was in the kitchen today, to which he replied ‘yes’, and asked if I would like to meet him. He graciously took a minute to come and say hello and I was struck by his understated personality. After the meal, I asked the waiter if I could have the name of the olive oil that I had found so intriguing (it is from the arbequina olive and this particular version was from Spain). He explained that it is much less spicy than typical Italian oils and this is why they used it in particular dishes.

Mathias show me ‘THAT’ olive oil

He went to the kitchen to make sure he had the name right, and called me over to show me a bottle of the stuff. At that moment, Mathias came in from the back door in the kitchen and asked what was going on. He then took the bottle himself and showed it to me, and told me that when he spent time in Napa Valley he was able to find it there as well (I found some online afterward). He then asked me if I’ve ever had oranges, olive oil and salt before. When I said no, he sprung into action.

The chef’s kind offering

He told me that in some parts of Spain, it is a typical thing to eat for breakfast, but of course his version had an extra little element. He gave me a bowl of oranges, orange sorbet, the Spanish arbequina olive oil and sea salt and explained that it covered the “four corners” of taste, being sweet, bitter, sour and salty. The simple concoction certainly provided a nice explosion of flavors in the mouth. He said that he needed to get back to the dinner service and I thanked him again, hardly believing my luck at not only getting to meet him but also sample something straight from his hands. It was the perfect end to a highly enjoyable evening.

Equilibrium

A few things about my meal at Matbaren stood out for me.

Firstly, the flavors had been perfectly balanced in all four dishes I ordered. Everything had been thoroughly thought through and while all of the dishes were rich in flavor, there were no dud notes and every component was complementary. The intensity of the field mushrooms in the third dish I had particularly lingers in my mind. This highlights both the quality of the ingredients – many of which are locally sourced (there is a big emphasis on this) – and also the skill of the kitchen.

Secondly, the setting is exactly right for what the restaurant is purporting to be. It has a great ambience, lively and warm but not overly loud, and the staff is focused on making sure that their guests enjoy themselves while at the same time delivering the right degree of attentiveness.

This brings us to the issue of price. No matter how you slice it, Matbaren is not cheap. With the average price of a small plate above £20, things can add up quickly. That said, I would posit that an average bill at Matbaren is probably less than half the cost of the more exclusive Matsalen, which offers 5-courses and 8-courses for SEK 1500 (£140) and 1250 (£115) respectively (the corresponding wine pairings are SEK 1300 and 950). When all was told, my bill for four dishes and four wines at Matbaren ended up being just over SEK 1300 which is quite punchy even in by the fairly expensive standards of Stockholm.

That said, I was quite happy to pay on this occasion as I had a wonderful time – which is often a big ask when dining alone. I would highly recommend paying a visit to either restaurant if you find yourself in Stockholm and want to splurge on a meal.

From my brief introduction to Mathias Dahlgren’s food, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with it. Just like his illustration of the 63° egg on the restaurant’s menu, which is part humor and part science, I found Matbaren to be a perfectly balanced equation.

Oh, by the way, Matbaren keeps about 7-8 seats free (they are not bookable), so if you find yourself alone and want a good meal, there’s a good chance they’ll have a seat for you at the bar.

Rating

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 9/10

Food: 8/10

Wine: the wine list is concise but well put together and sufficiently diverse. The wines also facilitated some good and varied matching with the food. My only quibble was that they did seem to be quite highly marked up across the board.

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Matbaren once, and it was for dinner*

Grill Ruby – Always a Good Choice in Stockholm

Grill Ruby
Ōsterlånggatan  14
Gamla Stan (Old Town)
111 31 Stockholm
Sweden
Website
Phone: +46 (0)8  20 6015

Ribeye steak & a glass of good wine at circa 500 SEK (£40)

They have movie posters - in particular, a large one of Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas" - and loads of buzz & ambience

Grill Ruby in Stockholm has lots of movie posters - in particular, a large one of Wim Wenders' film "Paris, Texas" - plus loads of buzz & ambience

Paris, Texas: an old favorite…film & restaurant

I was in Stockholm last night due to a sort-of last minute emergency at work. From the end of 2008, going back about 3 years from then, I came to Stockholm on a monthly or bi-monthly basis as a result of my job. I have come to really adore Stockholm, and Sweden in general, over this time period. Some of the reasons for this include the general friendliness and openness of the Swedes, plus the fact that in Stockholm all of them speak near-perfect, if not perfect, English (at least in my line of work); the cleanliness; the charming Gamla Stan (Old Town) of Stockholm, plus its many other attractive neighborhoods such as Södermalm; the clean & fresh air and water everywhere; the relative under-population; but most of all, the fact that I don’t recall ever having a bad meal here. The produce is of a high quality, and they have the most amazing assortment of breads, which are all good in my book.

When in Stockholm, my evening stroll through the Old Town inevitably seems to lead to one destination when I am solo: Grill Ruby. As I headed off from my hotel on foot last night, I thought about my options for the evening. I was grateful to have been given the green light to abandon my clients (who were dining in our hotel – yawn…), and was looking forward to a well-deserved relaxing meal after what has to be one of the most stressful 7-day periods I’ve had in a good few years. Although I was considering Sally’s Bar, I knew deep down that my walk would end up at the door of the steakhouse-esque place that hasn’t failed me so far. I had to employ some quick spy tactics as just outside of Grill Ruby I saw two of my colleagues from London. I really didnt’ feel like talking shop, so I quickly did a 180° and ducked down an alley, hoping they wouldn’t see me. I was successful, and eventually meandered back to my chosen destination.

I am always slightly confused about the name of this place – I think the official name is “Grill Ruby”, but on their business cards and on their own barbecue sauce bottles, it says “Paris Texas”, so it is a bit confusing. Plus, there is the sister restaurant “Bistro Ruby” next door…? Anyway, I had arrived, and quickly took a seat at the bar – always the best bet when you are dining alone as it means you will normally have some ongoing interaction with the staff.

This is one of the best barbeque sauces I've had - sweet, tangy and with a slight hint of spice, I can't help but love it with my meat (I guess I am American after all :))

This is one of the best barbecue sauces I've had - sweet, tangy and with a slight hint of spice...I can't help but love it with my meat (I guess I am really American after all...). It is a shame you can´t buy it or take any back with you!

Getting down to bi’nuss

My brilliant waitress asked me if I had been here before, and I said yes. So she quickly told me that yes, I was a ‘regular’ and therefore didn’t mess around. She promptly asked me what cut of meat I was after, and then asked if I would like it medium rare with chili bearnaise sauce and a tomato salad on the side (2 sides are included in the price, and there are about 10 to choose from), to which I said yes. She then proceeded to recommend a glass of wine by the glass, which was a Californian Zinfandel I hadn’t had before, so again, “Yes, please,” I responded, as she genuinely said she loved it herself. The wine arrived, and I loved it too after only the first sip. It was a Bonterra Zinfandel from Mendocino made from organic grapes and came with a host of ‘green’ credentials. I couldn’t stop sipping it as I waited for my ribeye (my selected cut of beef).

A wonderful wine to accompany a steak and salad: good red fruit wiht a hint of clove and a nice finish

A wonderful wine to accompany a steak and salad: good red fruit with a hint of clove and a nice finish

My steak's soon to be perfect partner

My steak's soon-to-be perfect partner

My meal arrived, and I cut off the first slice of steak. To my disappointment, it had been cooked almost well-done (a first here, as it has always come cooked as requested in the past), and I had to send it back as it wasn’t even close to being medium. What I liked is that the waitress didn’t bat an eyelid, said it was the kitchen’s mistake, and told me I would get another, fresh salad (I was so hungry I had already almost demolished it by this point). Can’t imagine that happening at some London institutions, where you would at least get an eyebrow lift or some sort of push-back from the staff before admitting that something was actually wrong. She said I would have to wait a little while, but I wasn’t bothered. It came back about 10 minutes later and was perfect this time.

I asked her where they source their steak from (I had never bothered to ask before), and she said that right now they are getting their steaks from Germany, but that their lamb comes from elsewhere and that sometimes they get steak from Scotland – they just buy the best of what’s on offer at the time. In any case, I took my time with this steak as it was really delicious and satisfying, and also took my time with my second glass of Zinfandel :).

Grill Ruby's ribeye steak

Grill Ruby's ribeye steak...

...plus the tomato salad (with oil, onion and herbs) and chili bernaise (excellent)

...plus the tomato salad (with a zesty oil mixture, chopped onions and herbs) and chili bernaise (excellent, with a decent kick, but not too much)

As I had been so good (by not having fries or potatoes of any kind with my meat, you see), when the waitress asked me if I wanted to have a look at the dessert menu, the answer was a resounding “Yes, please” (again). I asked her if the pecan pie was any good, and she said it wasn’t her favorite, and to go for the crème brûleé. Given her accuracy so far, I didn’t object, and also didn’t resist her offer of a glass of Sauternes to accompany it. The brûleé came out a little while later, and she told me to wait for a minute or two as it would taste better once it settled and the top bit hardened. I obliged, and she was right, it was bloody excellent. The wine went well with it and I was getting a little dizzy by this point, having not eaten much during the day and being a wussy lightweight with alcohol.

My delicious dessert

My delicious dessert...

And its partner

...and its partner

I passed on coffee, as I want to sleep well for an early start the next day. I paid up, thanked the waitress for a lovely meal, and walked off (not quite in a straight line), teetering back towards my hotel. In my mind, I was thanking this lovely restaurant and city for making my trip here truly worthwhile, as without this evening, it would have just been a stressful, feckless 2-day tour of Stockholm’s finest meeting rooms.

I bid you adieu with a few shots of the bar…

If you are ever in Stockholm on your own and are a carnivore, I suggest you make your way to Paris, Texas / Grill Ruby (NOT Bistro Ruby – I have never been), and sit at the bar. You should have a good meal and a good time.

One half of the bar - they have some very decent spirits too...for instance, a 16-year old Lagavulin

One half of the bar - they have some very decent spirits too...for instance, a 16-year old Lagavulin

The bar had emptied by the time I left...but thank you Grill Ruby for giving me a bit of pleasure in this fair city and making my otherwise hellish day something to remember...goodbye...for now

The bar had emptied by the time I left...but thank you Grill Ruby for giving me a bit of pleasure in this fair city and making my otherwise hellish day something to remember...goodbye...for now

PS – I was a little bit too much the worse for ware to give the restaurant an official rating on this occasion, but it is a solid 7/10 in general given my past experiences.

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Grill Ruby 5+ times over the years.*