fine dining

Auspicious beginnings at East Coast Bistro

Auspicious beginnings at East Coast Bistro

A New Brunswick friend had given us a list of her favorite restaurants in Saint John, but her list was longer than our projected stay. So when places began to open for dinner, we walked around and poked our heads inside. We know better than to judge a place on looks, but we were smitten with the design of East Coast Bistro (60 Prince William St., Saint John; 506-696-EAST, eastcoastbistro.com). Clearly, so were a lot of folks who posted online impressions about the clean lines, brick walls, and fine photography. But the menu was what won us over. It wasn't especially long or unusual, but it was clearly built around local products and made nice use of Maritime provinces seafood. We were hooked. Chef-owners Tim...Read More
Cail Bruich sets the bar high for Scottish cuisine

Cail Bruich sets the bar high for Scottish cuisine

“We serve wild game and it may contain shot,” cautions a note at the bottom of the tasting menu at Cail Bruich (725 Great Western Rd., Glasgow; 0141 334 6265; cailbruich.co.uk). For those who like their meat nice and brown, the menu further advises, “Some ingredients are cooked sous vide.” With warnings like that, who could resist? (Against my mother's admonitions, I was always the child with beans in his ears.) It's a bit of a schlep from Glasgow central city out to this bohemian stretch of West Glasgow near the Botanic Gardens, but it's worth the pilgrimage. Now in its 10th year of serving elevated Scottish cuisine made with classical technique in a semi-casual setting, Cail Bruich (Gaelic for “Eat Well”) continues to amaze....Read More
Small-town culinary greatness: Patty Queen’s Cottage

Small-town culinary greatness: Patty Queen’s Cottage

One of the pleasures of touring rural France, Italy, or Spain is discovering amazing country restaurants far from population centers. The U.S. has some places like that, too. But few of them can match the Cottage Restaurant & Cafe (427 Farmington Ave, Plainville, Conn.; 860-793-8888, cottagerestaurantandcafe.com) for staying power and consistently terrific food. Located at a nondescript crossroads in Plainville, Connecticut, a little southwest of Hartford, the Cottage should be celebrated as a Nutmeg State treasure. Full disclosure: We met Patty Queen at a 1996 book party celebrating the publication of Julie Stillman's Great Women Chefs (https://goo.gl/Rxutaq). Queen was among the youngest chefs featured. Ever since, we've been driving more than 100 miles to eat at the Cottage three or four times a year. We're...Read More
Le Moo nails the essentials of steak and bourbon

Le Moo nails the essentials of steak and bourbon

Every city needs an unrestrained steakhouse. From the fiberglass steer in the parking lot to the real taxidermied longhorn on the wall inside, it's pretty clear that Le Moo (2300 Lexington Rd, Louisville, 502-458-8888, lemoorestaurant.com) does steak without restraint. Le Moo is a major special-occasion restaurant, and like any good over-the-top place, it has one booth of truly over-the-top seating. The upholstery comes from 17 pieces of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage. There's a $500 minimum to reserve it, but it does seat four to five people. And Wagyu steaks with top wines will meet the minimum handily. (Actually, the domestic prime Angus is maybe even beefier and friendlier to the wallet.) We were visiting with Mint Julep Tours (see the Harvest post), and since it...Read More
Bon appétit, y’all! (At the English Grill)

Bon appétit, y’all! (At the English Grill)

Louisville certainly has some nice new hotels, but for old-city ambience and sheer Southern comfort it's hard to beat the Brown Hotel (335 West Broadway, Louisville, 502-583-1234, brownhotel.com). A bastion of hospitality since 1923, it's a pillar of the New Old South. Its English Renaissance-inspired architecture has a polite reserve that reflects Louisville's role as the epicenter of bourbon and thoroughbred racing. If we were true barflies, it would be hard to pry us out of the Brown's elegant sepia-toned lobby bar. The room opens at 3 p.m. and by late afternoon it begins to fill with Louisville's business elite. As befits one of the city's finest and most storied bars, it even has a bourbon steward. On our last stay, it was Troy Ritchie,...Read More
Backhouse realizes Niagara’s great potential

Backhouse realizes Niagara’s great potential

Too bad the great French gourmand Christian Millau didn't live long enough to visit Ryan and Bev Campbell's Backhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake (242 Mary St.; 289-272-1242; backhouse.xyz). In 1968, Millau revolutionized the way the French (and, given the era, the world) regarded haute cuisine when he announced that he had discovered “the best restaurant in the world” in the provincial town of Roanne. He might have said something similar had he discovered this grill-centric, hyper-locavore restaurant in a shopping strip at the edge of this Lake Ontario resort village. “Best restaurant in the world” is hyperbole, of course. But the comparison to Les Frères Troisgros is more than fair. Backhouse serves brilliant food far from the metropolitan restaurant scene. Asador Etxebarri in the small village of...Read More
Realizing a 150-year dream: Ravine Vineyard Estate

Realizing a 150-year dream: Ravine Vineyard Estate

Norma Jean Lowery Harber's family has farmed the 34 acres of Ravine Vineyard Estate (ravinevineyard.com) in St. Davids since 1867. Indeed, her great-grandfather planted the Niagara region's first commercial vineyard here in 1869 and the land was in orchards for many decades. Norma Jean and her husband Blair Harber bought the farm from the rest of the family in 2004. They set about creating organic vineyards and an organic winery. Norma Jean's father had grown wine grapes, and the couple replanted vineyards to focus on the three classic Bordeaux reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc) along with Chardonnay, Riesling, and small amounts of Gewürtztraminer. The wines are reason enough reason to visit Ravine. As luck had it, we missed the tasting room hours. But...Read More

Ontario food rivals the view at Elements on the Falls

A big “CANADA 150” sculpture celebrating the country's 150th anniversary of Confederation had just been installed when we settled into a window table at Elements on the Falls Restaurant (niagaraparks.com/visit/culinary/elements-on-the-falls-restaurant/). People were having so much fun climbing on the sculpture and posing for photos that we were almost distracted from the glorious view of Horseshoe Falls. The restaurant is one of five owned and managed by Niagara Parks. The agency was established in 1885 to preserve and protect the natural resources of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River. Niagara Parks also ensures a good time for all in this legendary natural setting. They oversee everything from cruises and zipline tours of the falls to gardens, golf courses, historic sites, and the Niagara River Recreation Trail....Read More

Vineland Estates Winery: a clone of one’s own

“These trees are the beginnings of Canada,” David Hulley told us as he welcomed us to the cathedral-like log barn that serves as the tasting room of Vineland Estates Winery (vineland.com). “Trees were being cut down for warships. Some of them weren't needed, so they were used for this barn.” The 1877 structure and the landmark stone tower are among several practical and handsome buildings remaining from a 19th century Mennonite homestead. They perch on an elevated slope along the Twenty Mile Bench of the Niagara escarpment. The chinked log-cabin barn certainly makes the region's most dramatic tasting room. The winery's setting atop the rise among vineyards makes it among the most picturesque estates in the Niagara region. The buildings anchor 42 acres of vineyards,...Read More

Natalie’s celebrates lobster on its home waters

Natalie's co-chef Shelby Stevens is a Mainer, but she's not from lobster country. She grew up in Farmington, an inland town where mountain timber meets upcountry lakes. But perched on the hillside over picturesque Camden harbor, Natalie's occupies a prominent spot on the Times Square of Lobster Land. Roughly half of the state's annual lobster catch—130 million pounds in 2016—is landed at Penobscot Bay ports. Stevens and her husband, co-chef Chris Long (pictured above in their official portrait), naturally developed an extensive repertoire of lobster fine-dining dishes to wow the guests at the tony Camden Harbour Inn (camdenharbourinn.com). When the crustacean is in season, Natalie's offers a five-course tasting menu of four lobster dishes and a dessert as one of its menu options. When we...Read More