We have been back in Miami for a little over a week. In addition to trying to reduce my cholesterol level and triglycerides from our twelve-state food crawl, I have spent my time at home reflecting upon what has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. If I had to sum up our eighteen-day excursion up and down the East Coast in one word it would be — extraordinary.
As fellow chefs know, this is not a profession where one gets copious amounts of vacation time. More than a couple of days out of the kitchen is quite a rarity. In fact, with the exception of my wedding, I can’t remember the last time I took more than one consecutive day off. The time I do have to myself, usually falls on a Sunday or Monday following a hectic weekend of service. If I can even motivate myself to get off the couch, these days are often spent attending to the chores that I neglected during my typical 80-hour workweek.
This year, a fortunate turn of events has left me with a bit more time on my hands. Maybe it is my ever increasing age, or the fact that I am the father of a shiny new baby girl, but my priorities seem to be a changin’. Rather than spending my time off planning a Vegas vacation or a snowboarding trip to Chile with the boys, all I wanted to do is spend time with my growing family, show Isabela Grace off to family and friends that have not been able to travel to Miami and do some research for my new venture. And, thus, the plans for our excursion were born.
When I first sat down to write this blog post, my initial thought was to highlight a couple of the best moments of our trip. Perhaps focus on the yummiest bite or a few special moments with family and friends. However, when trying to narrow down these “best” moments, I realized that there were so many that I could not cut them down to a mere few. Consequently, I have decided to summarize highlights of the trip in two categories — “The Most Memorable Dishes” and “The Most Memorable (Non-Food) Moments.”
Most Memorable Dishes
As an initial matter, I have to say that we were fortunate to experience some amazing food on this trip. Every place we visited seemed to have at least one standout. This has gotten my creative juices flowing and provided me with great inspiration for what I have in the works. Magic City look out! For that I am eternally thankful to the chefs whose food we have had the great fortune of sampling. Without further adieu, the most memorable dishes of our trip (in no particular order) are as follows:
- North Pacific Cod in an Asian Inspired Broth Perfumed with Ginger — The Inn At Little Washington – This melt in your mouth cod in broth was nothing short of delectable.
- Pan Seared Duck Breast with Wild Rice Pilaf, Seared Foie Gras and Caramelized Virginia Figs — The Inn At Little Washington – Such amazing flavors, so balanced in textures.
- Buffalo Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps – Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant – Charleston, South Carolina – The crispy pig ears and cool, smooth lettuce was such a great combination of textures, I could have made a meal out of them alone.
- Cheddar Pimento Cheese On Crostinis With Pickled Ramps – Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant – Charleston, South Carolina – The creamy pimento cheese, a southern favorite, on crispy bread was simply delicious.
- Shrimp and Grits – Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant – Charleston, South Carolina – Hands down, the best shrimp and grits I have ever tasted.
- Pumpkin Pie – Noah‘s Nor-Easter Diner – Stonington, Connecticut – A great combination of warmth and spices made this the perfect introduction to fall in New England.
- Braised Chicken and Mushroom *(a la Julia Child) – My Mother-In-Law’s Kitchen – Lincoln, Rhode Island – Simple home cooked dish that literally melted in your mouth.
- Pumpkin Tortellini, Escargot and Tom Ka Gai – Sbraga Restaurant Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Beautifully prepared thai soup, poured table side with tortellini and garlicky- escargot.
- Braised Beef Tacos, Avocado and Guajillo – Richard Blaise’s The Spence – Atlanta, Georgia – A unique take on a traditional taco.
- Buttermilk Corn Hushpuppies with Honey Butter – The Optimist Fish Camp and Oyster Bar – Atlanta, Georgia – Crispy, sweet and covered with powdered sugar. These little balls of heaven were perfectly seasoned and cooked. Loved them!
- Fried Pork Chop With Red Pepper Jelly – Early Bird Diner – Charleston, South Carolina – The sheer size of this portion is memorable in and of it self.
- Fried Clam Roll, Kimchi Vinegar, House Pickles – The Optimist Fish Camp and Oyster Bar – Atlanta, Georgia – Crispy with just the right amount of kick from the peppers made this roll delectable.
- Himachi and Avocado – Tom Collichio’s Riverpark – NYC – So fresh, beautifully prepared and accompanied with avocado and squid ink. A great welcoming of what New York dining is known for.
- Steak and Cheese – Jim’s Steak – Philadelphia – The oozy, gooey cheese wiz and steak defined this Philly classic.
Most Memorable Moments
Although food played an important part of our trip, it was not the sole focus. Amy and I bonding with Isabela and introducing her to family and friends and taking in sights that neither of us have experienced before was top-priority. We were again fortunate to have had many, many special moments. Some of these are described below.
- Giants Game in Giants Stadium – This was easily one of the best days of the trip. I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of attending a Giants game in Giants Stadium. And the fact the Giants killed it that day was the cherry on top!
- Heirloom Bookstore – Charlestown, South Carolina – Spending a couple of hours browsing the shelves of this vintage cookbook store and taking my time to flip through some of the stores wares made my day in Charleston.
- Grandparents – The look on my grandmothers face the first time she met and held Isablea – Priceless!
- Hanging Out In The Kitchen @ The Inn At Little Washington – Having the opportunity to tour the kitchen, speak with Chef Steven Lyons and watch the preparation of some of the best food in the country is something that I will cherish for a long time.
- The Rolling Hills Of Virginia – Such a beautiful and different landscape from South Florida. Leaf peeping was in full effect.
- The Ferry Ride From Orient Point to New London – Memorable only for the fact that I now know that I hate ferry rides.
- Stonington, Connecticut – Spending time in this quintessential sea-side New England town let us know that we had arrived smack in the middle of the fall season.
- Isabela and Sophia – Watching family sit on the floor, all eyes and attention on Isabela and her cousin Sophia, defined what this trip was all about — Spending time and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Although this trip was an amazing experience, we are happy to be back home in Miami, if it is only for a couple of days until we are off again. This time to Cleveland … stay tuned.
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