As we were making our way around in city a cab, I remarked to my wife that you would probably be able to eat at a different restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire year straight, and still have plenty of untapped locations for the future. And so it goes in New York City. According to the all-knowing interwebs, Manhattan alone is home to around 24,000 different restaurants, with constant openings and closings. Factor in surrounding boroughs like the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and that number skyrockets. Long story short: NYC is, without a doubt, the biggest eating hub in the country. There’s no shortage of options, regardless of what you’re craving.
The first time I came across Chef Sean Brock was on the beloved PBS Show, The Mind of a Chef. Here was this bearded, bespectacled fella, giggling along with Chef David Chang as they ate way-too spicy Kentucky Hot Chicken and then pounded whiskey at a distillery. But then he started talking about heritage cooking and utilizing South Carolina ingredients that were long forgotten; some of which nearly disappeared. The pride he showed in describing his love of food was inspiring. It was while watching this passionate side of Brock, that I made sure to make a mental note to put his flagship restaurant, Husk, on my list of must-try restaurants. So when my wife and I were searching for a honeymoon destination in the U.S., I threw out Charleston as a possibility. Spoiler alert: between the views and the food, Charleston did not disappoint.
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004 (http://fioladc.com/)
*** and 1/2 (Excellent/Outstanding)
Fiola, the Italian fine dining bastion from Chef Fabio Trabocchi, has been well established for some years now. Recently, however, the original DC establishment from Chef Trabocchi has had much of its press stolen by his newest restaurant, the seafood-heavy, Fiola Mare. But, we may be seeing a resurgence from the former. With its supposed top-notch pasta and seafood, along with a recent shining review from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, Fiola was among the top choices in searching for a location for my mom’s milestone birthday celebration. And after our dining experience, there is no denying that the Trabocchi original continues to shine bright.
New Orleans will always hold a very special place in my heart. My earliest recollections of New Orleans are not of the city itself; they are of the food. And those food memories are mostly of Emeril Lagasse, the larger-than-life chef on the Food Network, spouting all that Cajun and Creole cuisine had to offer. Watching Emeril – back when the Food Network produced shows where chefs actually cooked – was fundamental in developing my love of food. It got me interested in cooking which eventually turned into a love of researching, visiting, and now writing about, great restaurants. When I really sit down and think about it, much of this food love comes back to New Orleans.
So my one – and, thus far, only – trip to the Crescent City had to be perfect. There would be food, of course. But in an ironic twist, the food of New Orleans took a back seat to the real star of the trip. You see, the city where food is first, is also where Chew, Party of Two got its start, so to speak. New Orleans will always be, first and foremost, where I proposed to my wife.
1000 Lancaster Street, Baltimore, MD 21202 (http://www.charlestonrestaurant.com/)
*** (Very Good)
Cindy Wolf, the longtime chef of Charleston, has been a part of Baltimore’s food scene since the mid 1990s. If Spike Gjerde, the proprietor of Woodberry Kitchen and Parts & Labor, is helping to lead the revitalization of the Baltimore restaurant scene, then Wolf has long been its matriarch. Along with business partner Tony Foreman, Wolf also owns Pazo, Cinghiale, Petit Louis Bistro, and Johnny’s around the city. Their flagship, Charleston, opened up in 1997 as a fine dining establishment, sitting in the heart of what is now considered the Harbor East neighborhood. And if our most recent meal is any indication, Charleston continues to flourish almost 20 years later.
1015 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (http://kinshipdc.com/)
CityZen, the longstanding restaurant located in the Mandarin Oriental, closed after 10 years of excellence in 2014. Although I never made it to chef Eric Ziebold’s beloved (and well-reviewed) restaurant, everything I heard and read had nothing but praise to offer. When Ziebold announced his sister restaurants – Kinship (which opened in early January) and Metier (which has a planned opening for February) – the DC food scene took notice. Now I understand why.