Friday Five: Five Restaurants On My ‘Must Eat’ List

When I started this Friday Five, I was thinking I’d just jot down a few of the restaurants I’m still needing to visit. As I started compiling my wishlist, however, it grew until it became more of a collection of culinary treks I’d like to make – and all the restaurants I want to hit during those adventures. Food & Wine’s feature on top ten “life-changing” restaurants didn’t help either.

My five ambitious foodie adventures:

1. Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia. After studying abroad in Australia for a year in college, it’s kept a keen place in my heart, so I’ve made sure to cover bits and pieces of food news trickling up from Down Under. I first heard about Chef Dan Hunter and the Royal Mail Hotel when I wrote about the 2009 Australian Vogue Produce Awards that were handed out last May. With the awards given to food purveyors, chefs, and restaurants engaging in sustainable business practices, it piqued the interest of my inner culinary greenie. After reading a recent article from Australian Gourmet Traveller deeming the Royal Mail Hotel a 2010 Regional Restaurant of the Year, I decided that a return trek to the land of Oz, if only to explore the country’s food offerings, needs to be made in 2010/2011. Even Chef Anthony Bourdain is a fan.

2. Alinea, Chicago, Illinois. I remember the big hubbub over whether Chef Grant Achatz would continue to cook after being diagnosed with cancer in 2007. His intriguing demo at this year’s Cayman Cookout combined with the inspirational obstacles he’s overcome certainly puts Alinea at the top of my list. I’m curious about Chef Charles Sorel’s Le Petit Zinc in Detroit as well. I also haven’t made it yet to Chef Michael Symon’s Lola in Cleveland either. I’m thinking a week-long excursion from Detroit to Chicago (Alinea, L20, maybe a stop at Chef Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill or a visit with Chef Stephanie Izard and her Wandering Goat series) to Cleveland and back, to check out a few of the best restaurants in the Midwest. Surely I can work it in while I’m home for my family reunion this summer (sorry Mom!).

3. The French Laundry, Yountville, California. From day one of my food newbieness, I knew The French Laundry was of utmost importance for a food lover. Peter Jacobsen, a master organic farmer in the Napa Valley who works exclusively with the restaurant, had wonderful things to say about the food offerings, and my subsequent coverage of Chef Thomas Keller’s visit to Seattle this past fall only grew my interest. But it’s Napa Valley, right? And if I’m going, there’s a short list of restaurants I have to visit. At the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, I had the opportunity to visit with Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega and Chef Christopher Kostow of Meadowood, so those are a must, as is the fabulously sustainable Ubuntu Napa with Chef Jeremy Fox. What? People go to Napa for wine, you say?

4. Locanda Verde, New York City, New York. Oh, New York. I try to pack in as much as I can when I’m there for a visit but it seems as though you nearly have to live there in order to hit all the greats. In 2008, I enjoyed a decadent dinner at Chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. In 2009, I made it to a few more hot spots, stopping in at Bar Boulud, Ssäm Bar, Hill Country, Rouge Tomate, and Aureole. In 2010, I may have to make more than one visit. Chef Andrew Carmellini’s Locanda Verde is at the top of this year’s list, as is Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill. Everyone and their mother, including Chef David Chang, speaks so highly of Chef Wylie Dufresne and WD-50 that it’s a must as well. After that? Corton, Convivio, Scarpetta, Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park. How many meals can I pack into one day?

5. El Bulli, Roses, Girona, Spain. Well, there it is. The one restaurant I’d travel across the world for. Chef Ferrán Adrià’s TimesTalk at the 2008 New York Wine and Food Festival was completely fascinating, from his structuring of the restaurant to his development of dishes. From the photos I’ve seen in his books, as well as the photos and reports from those who have had the honor of being in his dining room, it is without a doubt at the top of my ‘Must Eat’ list. The only downside, of course, is the number of people also clamoring for a table at the best restaurant in the world. To make it even more difficult, Adrià announced this week that he’ll be closing the restaurant during 2012 and 2013 for a complete redesign. Talk about your impossible reservation. And yet, I still hold out hope. If I get the call (or email, rather), you bet your sweet bippy I’ll be on a plane post-haste.

Now, what to wear…

~Jennifer Heigl

One reply on “Friday Five: Five Restaurants On My ‘Must Eat’ List”
  1. says: Jenny

    I’m heading to NYC for a quick weekend visit, flying my folks out there too just for a meal. Locanda Verde sounds like a dream, if only I could get my dad to eat some of that. We’re going to head to Minetta Tavern, I think – Keith McNally’s new place. Have you heard anything good/bad about it? I figure I get my good cocktail, my dad gets his steak.

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