Santa Ynez Inn

Exterior
Reception
Room

***** (5 stars)

Patio
Complimentary breakfast

This beautiful property offers spacious rooms with traditional (and posh) decor in a very convenient location.

The decor incorporates fine woodwork and beautiful tile and mosaic floors into a blending of modern floorplans and colonial ambiance.

Prepared to order breakfast, evening wine, and nighttime desserts are included in the room price.

The staff are friendly hosts, and you feel as if they are inviting you into their home. While this imparts a bed and breakfast feel, the service level is what you would expect from a five-star resort.

Many good restaurants are within easy walking distance, and dozens of wineries and tasting rooms are just a few minutes away by car.

Santa Ynez Inn
3627 Sagunto St
Santa Ynez, CA
93460
(805) 688-5588
https://www.yelp.com/biz/santa-ynez-inn-santa-ynez

The Barn Steakhouse

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Ceviche

Lamb chops (Saturday special)

**** (4 stars)

This charming restaurant is indeed in an old, two-story brick barn that was a Bordens Milk plant in the distant past. The space has been nicely remodeled while saving its charm.

The Barn styles itself as a Chicago steakhouse, but there is a lot more on the menus, and none of us actually had steak. We really enjoyed the very generous ceviche appetizer. Another favorite is their famous caviar sandwich, which is also a generous serving, and the caviar was quite good for the price.

As an entree I had the lamb chops, which were excellent. Four large chops were perfectly cooked, and served in a wonderfully flavorful sauce that conatined a hint of licorice. The is a Saturday special, so if lamb is your thing, that’s the day to go.

There’s a fairly extensive wine list.

Service was friendly and professional.

Because of the brick walls, the space can get quite loud when busy, so it’s best to go early. The upstairs seating in the loft is a little bit quieter.

The Barn Steakhouse
1016 Church St
Rear
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 868-8041
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-barn-steakhouse-evanston-4

The Bazaar by José Andrés

Interior

Exterior

Scallop ceviche

Caviar and lox cones

$9 a bite x 4

Foie Sandwich

Smoked oysters

Pork Bahn Mi Bun (3 Each)*

Octopus Toast

Squash Tempura Squash Blossoms

Philly Cheesesteak (signature dish)

Dessert room

Mille-Feuille, Caramel Cream and Salted Caramel

Rose

***** (5 stars)

The is an enormous restaurant that feels surprisingly intimate due to clever use of draperies and display cases as partitions. It definitely has an upbeat vibe, but isn’t deafening, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re not cool enough to be there.

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not cheap. In particular I thinking of the “cones” that look like little ice cream cones but are filled with ingredients like caviar. The operative word is “little”. They are literally smaller than your thumb, and couldn’t possibly be considered more than one bite, and not a very big bite at that. At $9 each they simply aren’t worth it, even if they are good.

But moving on, there are some much more noteworthy items on the menu. It’s divided between traditional tapas and modern tapas. The modern items were so interesting we just kept exploring, and never got to the traditional side of the extensive menu.

Scallop ceviche was Peruvian style with an unusual creamy but very tart broth. There were only a few bites of fish in the large bowl, but the tart broth made that seem like plenty.

The most inventive item we tried was the foie sandwich, which looked just like a Wonder Bread sandwich, but the bread was made of a somehow soft apple meringue! A thin layer of foie gras and jam was just enough.

Four raw oysters were served under a smoke-filled glass dome. The released smoke makes everyone around you want them, too!

Pork Bahn Mi Buns were three mini sliders with traditional flavors.

The octopus toast was extremely tender, and a generous serving. Raw jalapeno slices added a kick.

Squash tempura blossoms were stuffed with a cheese and olive mixture. The pungent olives overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the squash.

Philly cheesesteak is their signature dish, and it’s easy to see why. Four thin slices of wagyu are served atop a football-shaped pastry filled with a sharp cheese sauce. Eat this over a plate!!! It was delicious.

The wine list is fairly extensive, although most prices are pretty high. However, the Spanish wines are priced quite fairly, and there are some real gems.

A large section of the restaurant has been devoted to a separate dessert room, so at the conclusion of your meal they can transfer your drinks over there for a second experience that is seamless. The only other place I’ve seen this done is Berns in Tampa.

The dessert room lets you survey an array of dozens of items to help decide what you want to order. The rose filled with chocolate mousse was good, but the mille-feuille with salted caramel filling was even better.

Service in both parts of the restaurant was professional, attentive and pleasant. This is definitely one of the more interesting dining experiences in LA.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 South La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-bazaar-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-beverly-hills-3

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills

End cut

English cut

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to Lawry’s for almost 50 years, and aside from moving across the street a few decades ago, nothing has changed.

Perfectly cooked prime rib is still served, cut to your liking, from 70-year-old table-side carts. The creamed spinach is still the best anywhere, as is the gravy poured into the divot in your mashed potatoes.

Service is proper but not prim, and wine pricing is reasonable.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrys-the-prime-rib-beverly-hills-beverly-hills

Bouchon

Steak frites

Mussels

Interior

Pate

**** (4 stars)

There are three Bouchons at this location and Google maps, for one, is very confused about that. The Bouchon Bakery is a counter serve and Bar Bouchon offers downstairs patio seating on the park. But the real Bouchon is upstairs, and offers a brasserie-like atmosphere plus outdoor balcony seating.

The menu is similar to Las Vegas, but not to Santa Barbara. A bouchon is a cafe typical in Lyon that focuses on meat-based dishes, and that is the case here. The French classics are all exceptionally well prepared, from mussels to onion soup, pate to salade Lyonnaise.

As is typical in France, the meal begins with bread served on the paper table covering. Be sure to order something to use the wonderful pot of mustard on; there’s nothing like pate and genuine Dijon on fresh crusty French bread.

Service is professional yet friendly.

This is actually one of my favorite of Keller’s restaurants. I even like it better than Per Se. The only negative is that the room has no acoustic treatment at all, and even when half empty it is very loud.

Bouchon
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-9910
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bouchon-beverly-hills-4

The Dawson

Exterior

Entry

Interior

Outside dining

Ceviche

Bacon wrapped dates

Burrata

Fried chicken

Bacon burger

Mac and cheese

Asparagus

**** (4 stars)

The Dawson has a nice selection of shareable plates and one of the best spirits lists in town.

We started with ceviche and the bacon wrapped figs. Both were excellent. Buratta was less impressive and seemed a bit flavorless, although the grilled peaches accompanying it were good.

For mains we had the fried chicken and the bacon burger. Both of these were also excellent.

We also had mac and cheese, and grilled asparagus as sides. These were both tepid, but the manager happily replaced them and the hot versions were excellent.

The outside dining area is one of the most pleasant in town, and I can imagine it being lovely to sit by the fireplace on a cool night.

The Dawson
730 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 243-8955
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-dawson-chicago

Moe’s Cantina- River North

Ceviche

Chicken Mole tacos

Interior

Nachos

**** (4 stars)

I went a long time without trying this place because the name is similar to a chain I despise, but there’s no relationship.

The cavernous space is neat looking, and has pretty good acoustics from what I could tell, although I was there during a fairly quiet lunch hour. The are several long bars and some tables big enough for large groups.

We really enjoyed the nachos we started with. They are definitely non-standard, almost more like a salad in some ways, with lots of pickled onions, lettuce and jalapeno. We got them without the beans, which I think would have just made them messy.

The menu is mostly tacos, and I enjoyed the chicken mole variety I tried, although I would have liked a variety rather than four all the same. My companion liked her ceviche.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Moe’s Cantina- River North
155 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 245-2000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/moes-cantina-river-north-chicago

La Grenouille

***** (5 stars)

La Grenouille is still doing things the same way as when they were founded in 1962, and that’s a good thing. I remember when the world was full of restaurants like this: posh, refined, attentive, traditional, and oh so French. Now it is the last of its kind.

The three course menu is pricey at dinner, but not absurd, and essentially the same food is available at lunch for less than half the price.

The wine list is mostly French (of course) and offers some values for those who browse carefully.

One thing you wouldn’t find on the 1962 menu was the sea bass tartare we started with, which was refreshingly limey and served on an avocado base.

Soufflés are the specialty here, and the cheese shuffle was superb as a main course. The Dover sole was extremely traditional, but perhaps not worth the upcharge, as cooking styles for fish have changed, and left this old standard seeming overdone and bland.

A half dozen or more soufflés are also on offer for dessert, and are a great choice. Alternatively, the cheese plate offered a great variety. A basket of madeleines and other pastries, and some truffles finish things off.

Service was very French and very professional, yet managed to also be welcoming and conversational. Let’s hope that La Grenouille can continue to carry on its tradition for another fifty years.

La Grenouille
3 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 752-1495
http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-grenouille-new-york

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

IMG_6895

**** (4 stars)

This is quite a spectacular hotel, with the rooms facing huge (as in HUGE) atriums filled with plants, waterfalls, rockwork and rivers. There are many restaurants scattered about, and the theming is really well done.

Having been to the Gaylord in Orlando, I was surprised to be reminded how much larger and nicer this Nashville one is.

As with any giant hotel, there are hordes of guests, so part of the trick of staying here is to try to avoid the rush. That means not arriving right at check in, when there can be 100 people in line at the front desk, particularly on a Saturday night. And if your room includes breakfast, go early before the lines form.

Staff is very friendly, so as long as you can avoid the crowds it’s a good place to stop in Nashville (note that it is nowhere near downtown, though).

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
2800 Opryland Dr
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 889-1000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center-nashville-8

Orlando Science Center

**** (4 stars)

This is a really nice museum facility, but what I particularly like are the special events, especially the annual Spring “Science of Wine” which includes a very informative seminar and the best food of any wine event in town, even including the much more expensive Epcot food and wine festival. It’s great fun to eat and sip beneath the dinosaur bones! Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll find out about these special events in advance, before they sell out.

Orlando Science Center
777 E Princeton St
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 514-2000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/orlando-science-center-orlando