45th Stop N Shop and Poke Bar – Seattle, WA

Poke bowls from a convenience store?  Yup!  And they’re incredible.  I’ve been known to go multiple times a week.  The menu is simple – 1, 2 or 3 fish (Izumidai, salmon, shrimp, tuna, unagi, or tofu) and from there you decide if you want regular or spicy.  Next you decide if you want rice, salad or 1/2 and 1/2.  Sides included are seaweed, ginger, crab meat, edamame and avocado.  The ingredients are incredibly fresh and the staff couldn’t be nicer.  Not to mention your bowl is made so quickly that the wait time is minimal even when they’re busy.  If you don’t have time to go yourself, do yourself a favor and use Postmates.

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Divellec – Paris, France

I’m not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best meals of my entire life.  Truth.  One of the ladies in my group said had we gone there the first night of our trip she would have requested we go back the last night.  Everything made this meal perfect – from the decor to the incredible staff, the night really couldn’t have been any better.  I truly feel that Divellec is Paris’ best kept secret.  They earned their first Michelin star after only being open for 4 months and I think soon enough this place will be the talk of the town.

I have never felt so glutinous but I couldn’t help myself.  Started with the caviar, next the sashimi and then followed it all up with the classic sole meunière.  The sole might sound boring to some but let me tell you, boring it was not.  I rolled each bite of fish in the butter it was sitting in and moaned out loud the whole dinner.  This really could have been my last meal on earth and I would have been perfectly satisfied.  Although I felt like I needed to be rolled out of the restaurant…we ordered desert.  Who can pass up a beautiful chocolate soufflé?!  Not me apparently.  Go here and enjoy yourself!

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mbar – Seattle, WA

Friends recently recommended this as a great place for dinner and an amazing view so my husband and I tried it out on one of our date nights.  I think it’s safe to say this will be a new one in our rotation.   And what’s even better is that once the nice weather hits the roof deck will be so on point!

First impression was “wow…we’re somewhere really hip!”.  You’re greeting by a hostess at a podium on the ground floor where they check for your reservation then lead you to an elevator that takes you to the 14th floor.  Once at the top you go down a long hallway and turn the corner where you finally see the space and views.  Something about the whole process makes this place feel very exclusive and cool.  I’ve only experienced this twice before, once at Vue du Monde and the other at our very own Nest at The Thompson.

Everything we ate was memorable and I’d order the exact same thing again.  It’s the kind of place where you want to lick your plates clean.  Their craft cocktails are just as notable.  Perfect place to meet a friend or loved one (or perhaps a future one:)).  Go!

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roasted cauliflower hummus with tahini & rice beans

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black spaghetti with dungeness crab, trout roe, lime leaf, meyer lemon & brioche breadcrumbs

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grilled trout with avocado, sumac, labneh & fenugreek

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the mbar: dark chocolate bar with sesame nougat & tamarind caramel

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Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro – Tokyo, Japan

If you’ve seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi then you’re well aware of who Jiro Ono is.  I’m completely convinced now that it’s nearly impossible to get into his sushi restaurant.  However, we DID get a reservation at his son Takashi Ono’s restaurant, Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi.  There are 8 seats at the counter and rules to go along with dinner.  No perfume and you must be on time or they will cancel your reservation after 30 minutes.  The rice is purposely prepared so that it’s warm when you eat it (side note – if at any time you feel yourself getting full, tell the chef and he’ll make your rice serving smaller going forward – big help considering how much you have to eat!).  The ambiance is not that of your typical sushi restaurant in the States.  No music or mood lighting.  It’s all about the sushi.  Anything else is purely a distraction.  Chef Takashi Ono was very personable and talked to us during the whole meal.  Was it worth the price and hype?  Absolutely!

Our dinner consisted of the following:  Flounder sashimi, clam sashimi, abalone (awabi) sashimi, marinated mackerel sashimi, flounder nigiri, squid (ika) nigiri, needle fish (sayori) nigiri, lean tuna (maguro) nigiri, medium fatty (chutoro) tuna nigiri, fatty (otoro) tuna nigiri, sardine family fish nigiri, large scallop (hotate) nigiri, raw horse mackerel (aji) nigiri, Ikura nigiri, tiger prawn (kuruma ebi) nigiri, Japanese geoduck (mirugai) nigiri, octopus (tako) nigiri, sea urchin (uni) nigiri, hard shell clam nigiri, small scallops nigiri, saltwater eel nigiri, egg nigiri.

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Cosme – New York, NY

SO GOOD!  It’s no wonder this is supposedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant in NYC.  We were recommended this restaurant by a very trustworthy Seattle chef/friend and now I want to fly to Mexico City to try Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol and eno and then to Cabo for Manta.

Who knew Mexican fare could be so refined and modern?!  Stunning stunning food.  My mouth is still salivating thinking about the brown butter on the lobster and the duck carnitas.  I also have to mention how incredible the staff was.  Our server couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming.  He has fabulous suggestions and just made the night that much more enjoyable.  You won’t regret this dinner choice.  Go for a drink beforehand and take in the cool space.

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Tuna tostada, daisy capers, yuzu, avocado

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Lobster, shiso, ginger mojo, brown butter

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Mole verde, pine nuts, chile güero, brussels sprouts, kale

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Duck carnitas, onions, radishes, cilantro

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Huckleberry raspado, cheese, coconut milk, lime

Le Bernardin – New York, NY

There’s a reason this restaurant has three Michelin stars, seven James Beard Awards and is  ranked 24 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  Time and time again it’s impeccable.  I’ve been twice now, the first time having the Chef’s Tasting Menu and the second ordering a la carte.  Both were divine and different which was extremely satisfying.  Each dish is so beautifully composed and perfect from the presentation to the moment the flavors touch your tongue.  Mmmm…I just wanted more!  Definitely set your alarm to call two months in advance at 9am EST.  It’s worth the effort and money if you can manage it.

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Hamachi – flash marinated Hamachi, young radishes and amaranth crisp, Yuzu vinaigrette

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Langoustine – seared langoustine, fennel mousse line, spiced citrus-sambal sauce

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Snapper – crusted red snapper, pickled Persian cucumbers, green curry-goat yogurt emulsion

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Trattoria Sostanza – Florence, Italy

I think this is my favorite restaurant in Florence.  I just can’t believe I found out about it a decade after I lived there for a year and that it’s blocks from the pensione where I lived.  Small, casual and far from touristy, I make a point to go here every time I’m in town.  The staff is no nonsense but friendly in every way.  The food speaks for itself.  The first time I found myself in the kitchen learning how to make the artichoke pie and the last time it was our friend standing in front of the stovetop trying to memorize their method.   Take my advice and definitely order the artichoke pie, butter chicken and the meringue cake with fresh berries for dessert.  I PROMISE you…these dishes will change your life.

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