#2 of Top Food Experiences: Minibar

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Deconstructed Tzatziki at Minibar

#2 Minibar (Washington, DC) – Jose Andres’s Minibar takes the #2 spot for its 28 course journey that is extremely creative, fun and delicious.  If you consider yourself a foodie, you must go here. Located inside Cafe Atlantico, Minibar is a six-seat bar that specializes in molecular gastronomy, a science that combines chemistry (such as liquid nitrogen) with food. The result is a feast for the senses.  More and more chefs are starting to practice molecular gastronomy but no one does it better than Jose Andres, the chef credited for introducing the science to US dining.

My husband and I were lucky enough to dine here on our “minimoon” back in October. Upon being seated at the bar with two other couples, we were greeted by the two chefs who would be preparing our food for the evening, Brian and Ryan. “We would first like to congratulate you for making it here” they said as getting a reservation at Minibar is a nearly impossible feat. You have to call at 10am exactly one month in advance and keep pressing redial until you reach the hostess. My husband and I had 4 phones going starting at 9:58am and we finally got through around 10:10am, only to find out that we were 5th on the waiting list. Somehow though the stars aligned, pigs began to fly, and just days before our trip to D.C. the gatekeeper of Minibar called me saying she had two seats available for us. Hallelujah!

For the most part, the 28 courses consist of small, light bites. Therefore, even though you are eating a lot, you don’t walk away feeling like you just completed a Man vs. Food competition. I won’t list all 28 dishes, even though almost all of them were amazing, but will give you an idea of what the menu consisted of by naming a few of the highlights:

Mojito at Minibar

Mojito Deconstructed – Made with liquid nitrogen and served on a spoon.

Cotton Candy Eel – Made with all natural sugar, not the kiddy pink stuff ;).

Dragon Popcorn – As you eat, smoke comes out of your nose. How fun is that?!

Philly Cheesesteak – Deconstructed, served with waggu beef and a delicious warm gooey cheese that is out of this world.

Corn with Huitlacoche – Possibly the most delicious dish I have ever had in my whole life.

Chocolate Covered Bacon – Need I say more?

While the food at Minibar is out of this world, what really makes this experience top almost all other food experiences (including Table 21 at Volt) is the fun interactive atmosphere. The chefs at Minibar actually encourage you to ask them questions. Brian and Ryan are very laid back and hilarious, two qualities that most chefs seem to be missing.

Chefs Brian & Ryan at Minibar

As the chefs prepared 28 courses in a 3 hour period, Brian & Ryan managed to also joke with us, share celebrity stories, answer our food questions and discuss who should be the winner of Top Chef. If you are looking for a quiet romantic evening for a special occasion you should probably stay clear of Minibar.

At the end of the evening, each couple was given a hollow egg shell. When you smashed it open you discovered your check and, if you were celebrating a special occasion, it also included a celebratory note such as “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations”. A clever and fun way to end an exceptional dining experience, it also helped make the check a little less painful to the eye. ($120 per person. Reservations required.)

#3 of Top Food Experiences: Cane e Gato

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Tortellini

Mushroom Truffle Tortellini

#3 Cane e Gato (Siena, Italy): For a true food euphoric experience while in Italy, look no further than Cane e Gato in the beautiful walled city of Siena. Tucked away on a tiny cobblestone street, this little mom and pop restaurant cooks up some of the best food I have ever tasted.  This was one of my last stops for a good Italian meal after living in Italy for five months so it had a lot of great Italian food to overcome. Cane e Gato did not disappoint.

From the moment you step into Cane e Gato, the staff makes you feel as if you are being welcomed into their home with true Italian style.  At the door, you are warmly greeted by the owner and each girl is given a beautiful orchid corsage, a small touch that sets the tone for a special evening. The restaurant is quaint with decorated little statues and portraits of cats and dogs (cane e gato in Italian) that surround six small tables. And with only one seating per night, the dining experience is truly intimate (expect to spend at least 4 hours here).

I enjoyed practicing my Italian with the waitstaff but there is no need to know the local language at this restaurant. For one, the staff knows a good amount of English.  Secondly, there is no menu to read. Every night the chef creates a different preset menu based on what is fresh that day. In total, there are five courses that are each paired with a different wine. I was lucky enough to devour ten courses since I visited the restaurant two nights in a row. It is just that good.  I won’t go through all these courses but there are definitely a couple to highlight….

– Mushroom Truffle Tortellini: Homemade pasta stuffed with a meat mixture and topped with an amazingly delicious creamy white truffle mushroom sauce.  As a sucker for truffles, this dish was one of my favorites. Truffles are somewhat plentiful in Italy so, although they’re still expensive, it is no big deal to sprinkle their shavings on top of ravioli.  I have attempted to recreate this dish in my own kitchen with truffle oil but I can’t match the taste of fresh truffles.

– Dessert Plate: Both the antipasti (appetizer) and the dessert were served with a bunch of little tastings, which provided a great variety and allowed me to try as many different creations as possible.  The dessert plate provided a perfect combination of heavy to light desserts that wrapped up the meal nicely.  The array of desserts included tiramisu, a strawberry meringue parfait and fresh fruit.  Although the tiramisu included the traditional ingredients, the creamy custard that coated the top made it truly unique.  The meringue was a refreshing treat with fresh strawberries and crunchy sweet meringue.  Even after being extremely full I wanted more.

So if you ever find yourself in Siena, go to Cane e Gato and splurge on one of the most unforgettable meals of your life. Also, before you leave make sure to sign their guestbook and read the Rediker entries from 2004 and 2008 :). (Via Pagliaresi 6, Siena, Italy, 0577-287 545. Reservations required. Approx 65 Euros Per Person.)

#4 of Top 5 Food Experiences: Roppongi

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Polynesian Crab Stack at Roppongi (Photo Courtesy of Roppongi)

#4: Roppongi (La Jolla, CA): There is no place in the world we would rather spend happy hour than at the Asian fusion restaurant Roppongi in beautiful La Jolla,  just north of San Diego. So what are the amazing drink specials you ask? $2 mojitos? $2 martinis? Believe it or not, Roppongi doesn’t offer any drink specials during happy hour. Well, maybe they have a small discount on a bottle of wine, but we never go for that.

So how could Roppongi have the best happy hour ever with no drink specicals? Because from 4pm to 7pm every day at their patio and bar, Roppongi discounts all tapas and sushi by 50%. Trust us, this is a steal as Roppongi has some of the most unique, creative and delicious tapas you will ever taste. And at around $3.25 to $9.50 per tapa (2 to 3 per person will definitely fill you up) you can get a full priced drink and still won’t spend much more here than you would at the average chain restaurant.

Almost everything on Roppingi’s tapas menu is delicious but there are a few that you must order and devour if you ever go:

– Polynesian Crab Stack: Pictured above, this dish has a lot of components that all go together beautifully. The layers of the stack include pea shoots, tomato, cucumber, red onion, sweet mango, avocado, fresh dungeness crab meat and peanuts. It is drizzled with a spicy ginger lime dressing and served with toasty garlic bread. The presentation, colors, textures, freshness and flavors of this dish truly make it one of the best things we have ever ate. We’ve seen copy cats at other restaurants, but they are never as good as Roppongi’s crab stack ($9.48 happy hour).

– Chinese Potstickers: We promise you, these potstickers are unlike any potsticker you have ever had. They are very light, pan seared, filled with shrimp and scallops then topped with micro greens. But what makes them so special and so amazingly delicious is the tobiko caviar sauce. Now we aren’t even caviar fans, but there is something in this buttery sauce that is orgasmically good. Just one bite of these potstickers with the tobiko caviar sauce and you will enter food euphoria. Please order these, and thank us later ($7.13 happy hour).

– Hot Rock: Ever want to cook your own meat on a rock? Roppongi’s “Hot Rock” allows you to do just that – cook thin slices of New York steak on a hot rock at your table. Pretty cool stuff. The waiter will tell you how long to cook the steak on each side for medium rare, medium and well done. The steak does cook quickly so you really don’t have to work hard or wait long for your food to be ready. Served with a chili ponzu and sesame goma sauce, this dish is fun and delicious ($7.98 happy hour).

So the next time you are in San Diego, make the quick drive up to La Jolla and eat at Roppongi for happy hour. Your taste buds will thank you. (No reservations for happy hour. Arrive early to ensure you get a table on the patio with enough time to order before 7pm.)

#5 of Top 5 Food Experiences: Michel Richard Citronelle

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And so the countdown begins!  Some of these restaurants are way out of our price range and we promise that after this top 5,  we will be talking about more attainable food. However, we feel compelled to share our most amazing food experiences for special occasions as perhaps you will want to check out one of these top 5 for a future birthday, anniversary or random night where you just feel like having one of the most memorable meals of your life.

#5:  Citronelle

(Washington, DC) – This Georgetown eatery takes the number 5 slot for it’s heavenly taste in every bite and the experience of destroying a masterpiece by eating it.   I went here for my birthday almost three years ago so I apologize if my descriptions are a bit vague but I will never forget the two dishes I had.

Sashimi Mosaic

Sashimi Mosaic from Citronelle (Photo Courtesy of Washingtonian.com)

For an appetizer, I had the sashimi mosaic (pictured) composed of some of the freshest fish I’ve ever tasted.  Decorated in between the pieces of salmon and tuna was a sweet cilantro sauce that complimented the fish perfectly.

The entree came in one of the most unique presentations I’ve ever seen – a caviar tin.  When I opened the tin it appeared as if it was filled with caviar (which I hate so I’m glad it wasn’t!) but when I scooped it out I realized it was small balls of pasta died in squid ink.  Beneath the pasta was a buttered lobster that paired perfectly with the pasta.  Delicious and creative!

Definitely a must try but whoa was it expensive!  Plan on spending well over $100 a person for a 3-course meal. Also, be sure to make reservations well in advance as this place books up quick.


Our Top Lists

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Strawberry Pizza in Rome, Italy

For the past twenty-something years, we sisters have been lucky enough to experience some of the best food that life has to offer. Some of this food has come from the most highly regarded restaurants in the country, but often this food comes from little hole-in-the-walls in cities we have lived in and traveled to for work and pleasure. While we would love to re-visit each and every one of these places and write about them as we are experiencing them, unfortunately we both have full time jobs and a budget that prevent us from doing so (unless you want to pay us :)).

Therefore, in the next coming weeks, our blog will instead consist of us reminiscing about our favorite food euphoric moments. We will create Top Lists, where we will countdown to our top food experiences in different categories including 5 Star Meals, Cheap Eats, Best Brunch, Best Dessert and Top US & International Food Experiences.

We’ve found food euphoria throughout the country and world so hopefully your future travels will take you to one or more of these places where you too can enjoy a deliciously amazing, orgasmically good, food euphoric experience. Stay tuned!

Hush Puppy Tasting Tour

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Hush Puppies at Surf Rider in Virginia Beach, VA

This past weekend our quest was to find the best hush puppies in Virginia Beach.  In case you are unfamiliar with what is the deliciousness of hush puppies, they are essentially corn meal batter fried into little balls and usually served with butter.  They were invented way back in the day when southern cooks fried leftover batter and tossed them to the dogs in order to “hush the puppies”.  Today you can find hush puppies as appetizers and sides at restaurants all over the south, including Virginia Beach.

We started out at Kokoamos (http://www.kokoamos.com/), a place known more for their drink specials ($1 domestics and wells on Fridays and $1.80 domestics every other day) and view than their food. However, I had their hush puppies before and they were quite delicious so I had to include them on our tour and I’m glad I did. The hushpuppies were served to us straight from the deep fryer – very hot and crispy, the way they should be. The presentation was simple, in a basket with red checkers, but what made these special were the chunks of corn in the inside. They were served with little packets of butter, which was kind of a disappointment. Altogether we rated them an 8 out of 10.

Next stop was Surf Rider (http://www.surfridergroup.com/), a seafood restaurant with multiple locations in Hampton Roads. The location off Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach is my favorite though as it is a completely outdoor restaurant (closed in the winter) and reminds me of being on an island in the Caribbean.  Surf Rider shares the same parking lot as Kokoamos. Their menu is limited but we didn’t care, all we wanted were hush puppies. Surf Rider’s hush puppies were also served hot and were very crispy. The presentation was even more simple than Kokoamos, served in a red basket on tin foil, and they didn’t have chunks of corn, but they did come with a delicious whipped butter. Surf Rider’s hush puppies were also much cheaper than Kokoamos at less than a dollar for 3. Definitely an added plus. Putting all factors together, we gave Surf Rider’s hush puppies an 8 out of 10.

So we have a tie. What to do now? Find another restaurant that has hush puppies with corn AND whipped butter or some sort of honey butter deliciousness dip. Any ideas? 🙂

Nevertheless, in the end we can conclude that if you are mainly going out for cheap drinks and want a side of hush puppies, then out of the two your best bet is Kokoamos. If you are mainly going out for food and just want a drink or two, then Surf Rider is the better option. No matter what, you are guaranteed a delicious hush puppy experience.