Dining in Sicily: Tischi Toschi

Gambero Rosso is an Italian gourmet magazine that amongst other things publishes a guide with their reviews of restaurants in Italy. It is similar to the Michelin Guide, but I find that for Italy I tend to agree more with Gambero Rosso’s judgements than those of Michelin. Restaurants get awarded one, two or three forks (forchette), whereas trattorie may receive one, two or three prawns (gamberi). Only 16 trattorie in all of Italy have received 3 gamberi in the 2013 guide, and Tischi Toschi in Taormina is one of them (when I visited Tischi Toschi, it was still located in Messina). We make a point of eating at trattorie with tre gamberi and even before going to Tischi Toschi last night we had already eaten at 6 out of the 16.

Tischi Toschi is a small restaurant, run by Luca Casablanca and his son. For Luca, who was trained to be a jeweller,  food is a passion and it clearly shows. The restaurant serves authentic Sicilian dishes. Continue reading “Dining in Sicily: Tischi Toschi”

Dining in Amsterdam: &Samhoud Places**

Chef Moshik used to be the chef of restaurant ‘t Brouwerskolkje in Overveen, half an hour west of Amsterdam. He has recently moved to Amsterdam under a new name: &Samhoud Places and immediately received two stars from Michelin (the same as at Brouwerskolkje). We were curious and so went to pay a visit. We had the 7-course “Inspiration” degustation menu (EUR 159.50) with wine menu (EUR 65) and black truffle supplement (EUR 20). Photos made with my iPhone. The amuse bouche are travel themed: Hong Kong, Venice, Chicago, and Moscow. The first is dim sum of scampi: both the filling and … Continue reading Dining in Amsterdam: &Samhoud Places**

Dining in the Netherlands: De Kromme Watergang**

Each year for the anniversary of our first date we go out to dinner on December 23 or 24 (the official date is December 24, but it’s not always possible to dine on that date due to restaurants preparing for Christmas). Last year we went to La Torre del Saracino near Naples, but this year we stayed closer to home and went to De Kromme Watergang in Zeeland. This is in the far South-West of the Netherlands, almost in Belgium and close to Oud Sluis. De Kromme Watergang is the restaurant of chef Edwin and maitre Blanche Vinke, but unfortunately … Continue reading Dining in the Netherlands: De Kromme Watergang**

Dining in Spain: Lasarte**

Since we were in Spain to eat at El Celler de Can Roca anyway, we decided to use the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Barcelona and have a nice dinner in that city as well. Our neighbors had recently visited Barcelona and recommended two-Michelin starred Lasarte, so that’s where we went. There is a smaller “Lasarte” menu for lunch on weekdays, but apart from à la carte we could only choose the 10-course tasting menu for 125 euros. We weren’t so sure whether the 78 euro “harmonia de vins” would be such a good idea, as that is quite … Continue reading Dining in Spain: Lasarte**

Dining in Spain: El Celler de Can Roca***

El Celler de Can Roca is the restaurant in Girona (Spain, 1.5 hours from Barcelona and close to where El Bulli used to be) of three brothers: chef Joan Roca, sommelier Josep Roca, and patissier Jordi Roca.  Since for me the wine and especially the wine pairing is very important for a great dinner experience, the combination of a famous chef with a famous sommelier was already a good sign for this restaurant. (My favorite restaurant in the Netherlands, and one of my favorites in the world, is the Librije in Zwolle, run by chef Jonnie Boer and his wife sommelier … Continue reading Dining in Spain: El Celler de Can Roca***

Dining in Amsterdam: Bistrot Neuf

Bistrot Neuf is a brasserie-style French restaurant with classic French food like oysters, lobster, snails, bouillabaisse, cote de boeuf (prime rib), crème brûlée, and a nice wine list with many wines by the glass. The latter is not surprising as it is next to, and affiliated with, wine store Chabrol. The wines are mostly from France with some from other ‘old world’ wine countries. Wine is always expensive in Dutch restaurants, often marked up to 3 times the retail price or more, and unfortunately Bistrot Neuf is no exception to that rule. Expect to pay at least 50 euros for … Continue reading Dining in Amsterdam: Bistrot Neuf

Dining in Paris: l’Astrance***

Paris is a 5-hour drive and it is one of our favorite cities in the world, so we like to visit once every one to two years. There is only one surprising thing that is less great about Paris: so far we’ve not been very lucky finding a restaurant there that we really liked. We tried a two-star restaurant that was good but too expensive and a bit boring, and the other restaurants we tried were all mediocre. I had had my eyes on l’Astrance for some years, but so far never managed to secure a reservation. l’Astrance has the reputation … Continue reading Dining in Paris: l’Astrance***

Dining in the USA: Fleming’s Steakhouse, Salt Lake City

After our less than memorable experience at Gem’s Steakhouse in Deadwood, South Dakota, we decided to celebrate the last night of our vacation in the USA by going to a steakhouse in Salt Lake City. Locals recommended Fleming’s, a chain of steakhouses with over 60 restaurants all over the United States. We were not disappointed this time: it was one of the best steaks we’ve ever had. Fleming’s uses USDA ‘Prime’ beef, aged for 21 days. For those of you who are not from the US, let me quickly explain about USDA beef grades. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) … Continue reading Dining in the USA: Fleming’s Steakhouse, Salt Lake City

Dining in South Dakota: Gem Steakhouse, Deadwood

We are in Deadwood, South Dakota, a wild west town from 1876 and still has some of its original charm (most of it is drowned out by countless slot machines though). It was nice to be back in a slightly more populated area after touring national parks in an RV for a week, so we decided that we would eat out instead of cooking at the campsite. Steak is usually a safe choice outside of major cities in the US, so I checked out TripAdvisor to find a recommended steakhouse in Deadwood. Gem Steakhouse seemed a good choice, located in … Continue reading Dining in South Dakota: Gem Steakhouse, Deadwood

Dining in Chicago: Alinea***

Being jetlagged has its advantages. I’ve just had a fantastic dinner at Alinea and am eager to blog about it, but I wasn’t sure when I would get around to that as I will be travelling in areas where wifi is not something to count on. We went to Alinea with friends from Chicago where we are also staying the night. I’ve slept really well after the dinner at Alinea for about 6 hours, but now it’s 5am (i.e. noon in the timezone I left yesterday) and I am wide awake. So what better thing to do then to do … Continue reading Dining in Chicago: Alinea***

Dining in Amsterdam: Bussia

Bussia is one of my favorite restaurants in Amsterdam. It is a true Italian ristorante where you eat antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce instead of pizza. Everything is made from scratch from fresh ingredients and they have a nice selection of Italian wines. The service is as professional as it is friendly. Last night we took a friend there for her birthday, since I knew she would enjoy this. And she did, as did we! Although you can also eat à la carte, the main attraction of Bussia is the six-course daily menu (antipasto, pasta, risotto, fish, meat, dolce) that you can … Continue reading Dining in Amsterdam: Bussia

Dining in Sweden: Pio Country Club

Despite the cheesy name, Pio Country Club, in south Sweden along the road between Halmstad and Simlångsdalen, is a very good restaurant. Two years ago we had a very nice mid-summer’s dinner there with typical Swedish mid-summer’s dishes in haute cuisine fashion with paired wines. This year we discovered that the guy who runs it is a fan of Argentina, has visited the country and serves great Argentinian food.  They have a garden where they grow their own vegetables and everything is freshly made from good quality ingredients. Reservations are required; since it is a bit out of the way … Continue reading Dining in Sweden: Pio Country Club

Dining in Amsterdam: Ciel Bleu**

The Okura hotel in Amsterdam has two restaurants with michelin stars: downstairs the traditional Japanese (Kaiseki) restaurant Yamazato* and on the 23rd floor Ciel Bleu** with a magnificent view on downtown Amsterdam. We had not been there in a few years, and were looking for a special occasion to go to Ciel Bleu again. This occasion presented itself when two American friends were in town, and we decided to celebrate the occasion by having dinner at Ciel Bleu together. Since it was a weekday and we all had to work the next day, we chose the 5-course summer menu (95 … Continue reading Dining in Amsterdam: Ciel Bleu**

Dining in the Netherlands: De Librije***

Every year since De Librije has been awarded its third star (in late 2004) we have celebrated our wedding anniversary on June 15th with a dinner at De Librije. The first time in 2005 was very special, as it was our first dinner at a three-star restaurant and we were completely blown away by both the food and the wine. As I’ve written before, follow-up visits to a restaurant are like sequels to a movie: it is hard to beat that first great experience. But De Librije has held up quite strongly, and that’s why we keep coming back. We … Continue reading Dining in the Netherlands: De Librije***

Dining in Italy: La Mola, Varazze

During our weekend in Italy we did not only stay in Turin to eat at Combal.Zero, but we also stayed at a friends’ house at the seaside in Varazze with an amazing seaview and the sound of the crashing waves lulling us to sleep. Her brother recommended La Mola just around the corner, and we liked it so much that we had dinner there the second evening as well. La Mola is the type of restaurant that you can find a lot in Italy: simple but good and honest food with friendly service for reasonable prices. Outside of touristy areas, … Continue reading Dining in Italy: La Mola, Varazze

Dining in Amsterdam: Lastage*

Lastage opened up less than two years ago at a stone’s throw from Amsterdam Central station. I tried it last year and was impressed with the quality of the food, wine, and service, especially considering the very affordable prices. Meanwhile they have been awarded a Michelin star, but the prices are still the same. You can choose 3 to 6 courses with 2 choices per course for 38 to 62 euros (US$ 48 to 78 at today’s exchange rate), with matching wines for 7.50 euros ($9.50) per glass. Given this price level this is a very good place for a … Continue reading Dining in Amsterdam: Lastage*

Dining in Italy: Combal.Zero

  My regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t posted for a few days. That’s because I was in Italy, to visit friends and to eat at Combal.Zero. In September we dined at Combal.Zero in Rivoli (close to Turin, Italy) for the first time and were totally impressed with the food. So much, that we wanted to go back there again soon. And so we did. Combal.Zero has two Michelin stars (I can only guess why there aren’t three), ‘tre forchette’ (3 forks) from Gambero Rosso (the highest rating from this leading Italian guide) and ranks 59 in the … Continue reading Dining in Italy: Combal.Zero

Dining on Costa Adeje, Tenerife

We’ve just spent a week on Tenerife on the Costa Adeje. Most of the restaurants there are cheap and offer mediocre quality at best. Reviews on the internet are not of much use because most people going here seem to like this mediocre food and appear to award five stars (out of five) only if the service is friendly. Although we have not sampled restaurants exhaustively, here’s my take from a week’s stay with links to the full reviews I posted on TripAdvisor. 1. Rosso sul Mare in La Caleta: our favorite. Authentic Italian, great seafood, nice decor, good view, … Continue reading Dining on Costa Adeje, Tenerife

Dining in Italy: La Torre del Saracino

For the 12th anniversary of our first date, I surprised Kees with a visit to La Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense, near Naples. We had been there twice before (in 2008 and 2010), but this was the first time we went there straight from home without going anywhere else. La Torre del Saracino of chef Gennaro Esposito has two Michelin stars (worth a detour), but according to us that should be three (worth the journey). La Torre has two degustation menus (Proposta di Ciro of 6 courses and Proposta di Salvatore of 8 courses) that change with the seasons, … Continue reading Dining in Italy: La Torre del Saracino

Amsterdam dining: Utrechtsedwarstafel

Even though are favorite way of dining is to let the chef decide what to cook and the sommelier which wines to serve with it, we had never yet tried Utrechtsedwarstafel because of the pricetag (between 65 euros for 3 course with basic wines and 125 euros for 5 courses with premium wines) and mixed reviews on Dutch leading restaurant review site Iens. But since their formula is exactly the way we like it, we decided to give it a try and go for the full treatment (5 courses with premium wines). We had high expectations of the wine pairings, … Continue reading Amsterdam dining: Utrechtsedwarstafel