Posts Tagged ‘American contemporary’

One of our favourite restaurants in Burlington is one we’ve come back to several times. It’s comfortable, the service is friendly and helpful, the menu is always full of interesting and enticing things from the region, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating when the weather is nice. At this particular time, the street air smelled like wonderful tree flowers. This time, we deliberately drove about half and hour out of our way on our way back to Canada to stop by the restaurant, and then waited around for an hour until it opened for brunch at 11am. It was worth it.

On the warm summer afternoon, we savoured our ice teas, which tasted brewed rather than from a fountain. After agonizing over the delicious menu, I decided upon a simple bowl of chili with some extra cheddar. It was a little spicy, full of ingredients, and just as flavourful as I could have wanted. I tasted my husband’s cup of cheddar and beer soup, which was also good. For dessert, I got what sounded like a homemade strawberry and rhubarb crumble, and ended being a thick-crusted, cold almost store-bought-like pie. I still ate it, and all the ice cream, though.

Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner and the place can get pretty crowded. Once, we waited for an hour in their downstairs pub for a dinner seat.

160 Bank St  Burlington, VT 05401, United States


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One of our new favorite brunch spots is a popular bistro in historic Griffentown. It’s always busy, but also friendly and delicious. Located amidst a row of antique shops, it itself is charming and comfortable. The dining area isn’t large, and the tiny kitchen area in the corner is completely open – usually one sees at least two cooks working hard at the old fashioned-looking stove to pump out dishes and a frenzied barista manning the station in the opposite corner. We often have to wait at the bar for a table and once we ate at the bar area right in front of the cappuccino machine, which they dubbed “Niagara Falls.”

The brunch menu is fairly standard. My favorite dish so far has been the Huevos Divorciados, a soft corn tortilla topped with black beans, cheddar, optional pulled pork, avocado with sour cream, and poached egg. You don’t actually need the poached egg, because it’s fairly wet already and is served in a shallow bowl, but I guess that’s what makes it “brunchy.” The succulent pulled pork is a must. I don’t normally order alcoholic beverages, but decided to try a Bloody Caesar while waiting for a table at their bar. It was too heavy on the horseradish for my taste, and not as Bloody Mary-like as I’d hoped. At another time, I had a hot chocolate which was fine if ordinary.


1378 Rue Notre Dame Ouest and Rue de la Montagne

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It’s hit or miss at this out-of-the-way restaurant in the Essex’s restaurant, Butler’s. We weren’t able to get reservations back in July when we were moving up to Montreal through Burlington, but this time were seated without issue on Saturday night at 5pm. The menu had standard American contemporary hotel fare, and the selection was rather disappointing for the “NECI-trained kitchen” hype.

One could almost say that half of dinner of the evening was excellent; the other was just awful.

The butternut squash soup was thin, but well-seasoned; but the “curry” soup du jour seemed to be a clear vegetable soup with harsh chili spices recklessly thrown in without anything to blunt or round out the soup. My beef tenderloin was a perfect, juicy medium rare, but needed slightly more béarnaise sauce; the accompanying cheddar mashed potatoes were too dry and did not taste like cheddar. The coq au vin was generously portioned, rich, and intensely flavored. Hot cinnamon sugar-encrusted beignets were fragrant and wonderfully accompanied by three sauces; the petite four combination plate was served too cold to enjoy the truffles and the gelee in the macaroons was unpleasantly cold and firm.

Our young server was so astonishingly timid that it was impossible to provide any constructive feedback. She failed to tell us the daily specials, took too long to deliver milk for my tea and deliver our entrees, and forgot to give us forks for dessert. On the other hand, she was friendly and pleasant, knowledgeable about the food, and refreshed our beverages several times throughout the dinner without asking.

The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa, 70 Essex Way, Essex (Burlington), VT 05452, USA

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Having just sprung up in Feb. 2008 in Alexandria, VA, along with its associated Kimpton hotel, the Lorien Hotel & Spa, Brabo has the youthful vitality and personality of an eager-to-please puppy. During the Dec. 2009 blizzard, the surrounding sidewalk was obsessively shoveled; when we walked into the Brabo Tasting Room by mistake, the maitre’d personally walked us through the wind and snow to the neighboring Brabo. Delicious, chic, and enjoyable, it doesn’t at all feel like a “hotel restaurant.” The service is especially spirited, tempered with well-trained professionalism (e.g. when listing the sorbets available for dessert, our server told us she refused to tell us one of the items on the list, hoping the chef would remove it from the menu because it “wasn’t selling;” she went on to give us the most tempting descriptions of dessert I’d ever experienced – one of our party almost clapped at the end).

Bread was brought with butter sprinkled with reddish Himalayan salt. We ordered a selection of appetizers and side dishes instead of large entrees. The bonbons of pomme duchesse were dry and too browned; roasted artichokes and Gruyère were pleasant but forgettable. My duck confit ravioli with the orange slices and cognac sauce were too subtle to stand up to my other dish of light, crispy roulade of veal sweatbreads with a rich, dark sauce (more a fault of ordering than of the restaurant itself). The creme fraiche cheese cake – dubbed the “OMG cheesecake” by the server, due to its honey-sage pineapple topping and richness – lived up to expectations. While lacking hot cocoa, my decaf cappuccino was good and piled high with froth.

After dinner, we were encouraged by the server to tour the soothingly modern hotel, and were given a guided tour by the head housekeeper. With their “dreams” theme, the Lorien seems like a great deal, and promises a very pleasant stay.

1600 King St., Alexandria, VA, 22314 USA

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The top restaurant we visited during our Washington, D.C. trip last week. Perhaps the only hint that this is supposed to be a Greek restaurant is the tahini and olive tapenade condiments served in the culminating feast portion of the small plates menu. The rest of the weekend degustazione was a steady, delicious flow of tiny small plates, some shared and some not. The bite-sized portions do add up, and by the time the main course was served, I was almost full…yet somehow managed to carry on through a cheese plate and dessert and even enjoyed my lollipop in the taxi on the way back to the hotel. My emailed request for the menu and wine pairing remains unanswered, but it included:

yellowfin sashimi

salmon sashimi with crunchy pine nuts and fresh wasabi sorbet

tender octopus tentacles


crispy and savory pork belly

culminating in a feast of mouth-watering roast suckling pig, melting roast lamb shank, fresh and fluffy pita bread, tiny roast vegetables, sautéed spinach and garlic, and a condiment selection of: oregano salt, pepper sauce, tahini sauce, olive tapenade, eggplant sauce

small cheese plate (brie?) with pepper relish

caramel apple ice cream

donuts dipped in hot chocolate sauce

homemade star anise lollipops to take away

The flavors were both satisfying and exquisite; especially fine usage of fleur de sel. Presentation, from the food down to the courageously open kitchen area, were immaculate, intimate, and homey. While my husband and I were fortunate enough not to see the bill, our dinner partners grudgingly said that it was worth the price (well, almost). The wine pairing was also highly praised, though I can vouch only for the raisined wine served with the cheese. Reservations are hard to get, so plan ahead.

1509 17th St. (between P and Q Sts.), Washington, D.C., 20036, USA

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