World’s Best 50 Restaurants Named

May 12, 2014

The willows inn on lummi island soup northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

Late last month, Restaurant Magazine released its list of the world’s 50 best restaurants during a ceremony in London.

Copenhagen’s Noma, a four-time winner, reclaimed the title from El Celler de Can Roca, located in Girona, Spain, which came in at number two, after having knocked out Noma last year.

It is fun to look at the world’s 50 best and see how many you have eaten at (or, in many cases, even heard of)!

Seven U.S. restaurants made the cut this year, including Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Per Se, and Daniel (all in New York City); Alinea in Chicago; Coi in San Francisco; and the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

Here’s the complete list. I like to print it out every year and save it on my computer in case we travel to any of the world’s best 5o spots.

The willows inn smoked salmon appetizer northwest wining and dining downtown seattle website link

The world’s top-50 restaurants are as follows:

1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
3. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
4. Eleven Madison Park, New York
5. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London
6. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
7. D.O.M., Sao Paulo, Brazil
8. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
9. Alinea, Chicago
10. The Ledbury, London
11. Mirazur, Menton, France
12. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
13. Nahm, Bangkok, Thailand
14. Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan
15. Central, Lima, Peru
16. Steirereck, Vienna, Austria
17. Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
18. Astrid Y Gastón, Lima, Peru
19. Fäviken, Järpen, Sweden
20. Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
21. Le Bernardin, New York
22. Vila Joya, Albufeira, Portugal
23. Restaurant Frantzén, Stockholm, Sweden
24. Amber, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
25. Arpège, Paris, France
26. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
27. Le Chateaubriand, Paris, France
28. Aqua, Wolfsburg, Germany
29. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
30. Per Se, New York
31. L’Atelier de J?el Robuchon Saint-Germain, Paris, France
32. Attica, Melbourne, Australia
33. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo, Japan
34. Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Spain
35. Martín Berasategui, Lasarte-Oria, Spain
36. Mani, Sao Paulo, Brazil
37. Restaurant André, Singapore
38. L’Astrance, Paris, France
39. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
40. Daniel, New York
41. Quique Dacosta, Denia, Spain
42. Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark
43. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland
44. The French Laundry, Yountville
45. Hof Van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium
46. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
47. The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
48. The Test Kitchen, Cape Town, South Africa
49. Coi, San Francisco
50. Waku Ghin, Singapore

Photos by Braiden Rex-Johnson, taken at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island (Washington State), during dinner at the restaurant there, manned by former Noma employee and James Beard award-winning chef this year, Blaine Wetzel. You can read my Seattle Times review of our experience here. 

Magical Bed-and-Breakfast Inns in Victoria, BC

February 3, 2014

Beaconsfield Inn Victoria BC northwest wining and dining website link

Visitors looking for a unique romantic getaway in Victoria, B.C., will be delighted by the number of individual bed and breakfasts tucked away in the historic neighborhoods surrounding downtown.

Seven owners of heritage-designated properties have formed the “Victoria’s Historic Inns” group, offering guests a variety of packages that they can experience at each property.

With the most romantic day of the year fast approaching, their “Dip Me Inn Chocolate” package is a tempting treat couples can enjoy together. Guests select which inn they would like to stay in, and upon arrival will be treated with a bottle of sparkling wine and two-dozen truffles handmade by David Booth, owner of the Victoria Historic Inn Humboldt House.

A bouquet of long-stem roses will be waiting in the room, along with a $100 gift certificate for a local fine-dining restaurant including The Blue Crab, Camille’s, Pescatores, Café Brio or Restaurant Matisse.

Guests can relax in the comfort of their room, or head outside to explore the local neighborhood hotspots and the downtown core.

Later, guests can enjoy a romantic 30-minute horse-drawn carriage tour of the city while sipping a glass of bubbly together. This package can be added on to any two-night stay for an extra cost of $279 CND.

My Summer Vacation, Part II: Favorite Market Shots

July 1, 2013

One of the joys of my life is visiting and taking food shots at farmers markets when we are traveling.

Below are the best of the best from our recent Seabourn cruise from Lisbon, Portugal, to London.

Look at the shots and read the captions and relive some of my favorite moments vicariously!

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France


Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

My Summer Vacation: Best Dishes Lisbon to London

June 24, 2013


Shrimp cocktail on the seabourn quest

In May, we enjoyed 18 days out of the office taking a Lisbon to London cruise aboard the Seabourn Sojourn. Here are a few of my favorite dishes we discovered along the way, beginning with this Shrimp Cocktail from the Sojourn’s Restaurant 1 (main) dining room. Gorgeous presentation on Rosenthal china.

Fried soft-shelled crabs on the seabourn quest

Also aboard the Sojourn, Soft-shelled Crab, better than my mother used to make (sorry, Mom!).

Tofu chow mein on the seabourn quest

A vegetarian entrée aboard the Sojourn–Tofu with Chow Mein–light and full of interesting Asian spices.

Asturian bean and meat stew

During our first port call, in Gijon, Spain, we tried the traditional Asturian bean and meat stew offered to us for lunch at a traditional Sidre (hard- cider) factory.

Raw oysters on the half shell in bordeaux

Fresh oysters at Le Noailles, a restaurant we chose for our one dinner in Bordeaux (a beautiful city where we enjoyed an overnight port call).

Sole meuniere in bordeaux

Sole Meuniére at Le Noailles, our dinner restaurant in Bordeaux. One of the best (if not THE BEST) version of this dish we’ve ever had.

Steamed artichoke in bordeaux

The giant “artichoke salad” I ordered at Le Noailles in Bordeaux. Big as your head! Served with traditional aïoli sauce.

Bouillabaisse aboard seabourn quest ship

Back aboard the Sojourn, I dove into this beautiful Bouillabaisse, made from the local fish we bought during our Market Tour with Seabourn chef Martin.

Three-minute boiled egg aboard seabourn quest ship

A gorgeous three-minute egg I enjoyed aboard the Sojourn during a sunny morning in Bordeaux. Look at that gorgeous saffron-colored yolk!

Fruit plate aboard seabourn quest ship

My fruit salad made a colorful photographic study when taken with my favorite Hipstamatic iPhone4 app.

Giant meringues in St. Malo


Giant meringues in a bakery window in St. Malo, France–the “Buccaneer City!”

Fresh seafood display in St. Malo

Gorgeous seafood displays at a restaurant in St. Malo.

Fresh lobster in Guernsey

Grilled lobster and boiled potatoes (local specialties) in Guernsey, England.

Macaron ice-cream sandwiches in Rouen, France

Macaron “ice-cream sandwiches” in Rouen, France.

French fries in Bruges, Belgium

Frites with mayonnaise, our well-deserved lunch after a busy day of sightseeing in Bruges, Belgium.

Steamed mussels in London, England

Back on shore during our three days in London post-cruise, we enjoyed steamed mussels at Wright Brothers, a well-known seafood restaurant in London.

Spinach soufflé at Langans Brasserie, London, England

The beautiful Spinach Soufflé I enjoyed during our last dinner of the 18-day trip. . .at Langan’s Brasserie, partly owned by actor Michael Caine, in the Mayfair section of London.


Recipe of the Month: Grilled Asparagus Salad with Prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggianno, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

May 30, 2013

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggianno, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Varietal: Pinot Gris

Serves 4

This boldly flavored, texture-packed salad, which comes from Vancouver, British Columbia-based chef Rob Feenie’s third cookbook (“Feenie’s: Brunch—Lunch—Dinner,” Douglas & McIntyre, 2006)  is a cinch to make, yet beautiful to behold and a delight to eat. The caramelized asparagus, salty prosciutto, and sweet-tart balsamic vinaigrette work well with the lively texture and honeysuckle/pear/vanilla flavors typical of Pinot Gris.

1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus extra salt for seasoning

2 pounds green asparagus, woody stems snapped or cut off and discarded

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground white pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette (Recipe follows)

8 slices prosciutto

4 cups mesclun or other salad greens

Parmigiano-Reggiano or good-quality Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough of the salt so that it tastes like sea water. Prepare an ice bath. (See Cook’s Hint, below.)

2. Add the asparagus to the water and cook for 1 minute, or until the asparagus turns bright green. Immediately transfer the blanched asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking process and to preserve the color. When the asparagus has cooled in the water, transfer to several thicknesses of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to drain. Pat dry.

3. In a nonreactive bowl, toss the blanched asparagus with the olive oil to coat (to prevent the asparagus from sticking to the grill). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill 2 to 3 minutes, turning on all sides.

4. To serve, divide the asparagus among four warmed plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over and around the asparagus. Place 2 slices of prosciutto on top of each serving. Top with mesclun and drizzle with a little more vinaigrette. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to thinly slice Parmigiano-Reggiano into curls and place a few on top of each serving.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes 2/3 cup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1. In a nonreactive bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, shallot, and honey. Whisking continuously, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until it forms a smooth, thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s Hint: Ice Bath: Ice baths are called for when blanching vegetables or fruits; the cold water immediately stops the cooking process so the produce doesn’t become overcooked. To make an ice bath, simply fill a large mixing bowl with ice cubes and add cold water to cover the cubes.

Recipe reprinted from “Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia” (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.


Cruising into Seattle

May 27, 2013

Space needle seattle city skyline photo

We’ve long been a proponent of cruising, and are especially devoted fans of Seattle-based Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line.

I’ve even written about our Alaska cruise experience for both Wine Press Northwest magazine and on this website in my Northwest Notes blog.

The Seattle cruise industry’s season runs from May through September, with boats leaving from Bell Street Pier (Pier 66) and Smith Cove (Pier 91) cruise terminals.

According to The Seattle Times, the first cruise ship of the 2013 season–Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony, arrived on May 1. During the 2013 season, the Port of Seattle estimates that more than 175 cruises will sail through Seattle with eight different cruise lines represented. They include Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland American Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.

Seattle’s cruise industry is best known for its seven-day journey to Alaska. During pre- and post-stays in Seattle, passengers can visit the iconic Space Needle, Seattle Art Museum, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Aquarium. For more information about cruise schedules, and to book packages, visit the Port of Seattle website.

And to learn more about the venerable Pike Place Market, please pick up a copy of my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” available in both print and e-editions.

Photo credit: Braiden Rex-Johnson



Don’t Miss the First-Ever Victoria, BC, Spot Prawn Festival

April 29, 2013

Spot Prawns

Hungry foodies will want to plan trips to Victoria, British Columbia, in May and July to coincide with two upcoming food festivals: the inaugural Victoria Spot Prawn Festival and Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food & Wine.

According to a recent press release, the Victoria Spot Prawn Festival runs from May 25 to 26, 2013, and kicks off with a long-table dinner and film presented by the Island Chefs Collaborative. Tickets are $150 CDN and limited to 250 people.

On May 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors are invited to take in crafts, music, guest speakers, and chef demos by local favorites such as Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub and Vancouver Island Salt Company. Fresh seafood will be available on site along with plenty of other food vendors.

This family-friendly party by the sea is free to attend and not-to-be-missed!

From July 25 to July 28, 2013, experience Victoria’s fifth-annual festival of food and wine with Taste held at the Crystal Garden. Showcasing more than 100 British Columbia wines, guests will experience local fare prepared by top Vancouver Island chefs from some of the city’s finest restaurants such as The Marina Restaurant and AURA Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point.

Tickets for the main event are $79 CDN, with more intimate events with themes such as Swine on the Vine and Sips &  Seafood filling the remainder of the festival schedule.

For more information, visit

Twitter Handles: @IslandChefs and @TravelWithTaste


My Favorite Dishes 2011

November 8, 2012

Here is a look back at some of our favorite dishes from last year. We are posting a series of Dishes of the Day the next couple of weeks as we take some time away from the office and computer to refresh and relax (our very belated “summer vacation”). 

It has been another great year of wining and dining both around the Pacific Northwest, but in other parts of the United States and Canada.

So I thought it’d be fun to throw up photos of some of my favorite dishes from 2011. Herein are the “winners” on that list in no particular order.

The Seafood Skewer served tableside on Holland America’s m.s. Eurodam.

ART Shrimp Cocktail in downtown Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel

Shuckers Crab Louie in the Fairmont Hotel in Seattle

Antipasti Plate at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Roasted Beet Salad with Grilled Salmon at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Woodinville, Washington

Vietnamese Crepe at Bambuza Vietnamese Cuisine in downtown Seattle (now under new ownership with a new name–920 Pike)

Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad with Cheddar Dressing at Dominion Square Taverne in downtown Montreal, Canada

Crab Tails at Elliott’s’ Oyster Bar and Restaurant in downtown Seattle

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market

The Abalone Appetizer at The Oyster Bar along the Chuckanut Drive north of Seattle

The Everything Green Salad with Dungeness Crab at The Pink Door in the Pike Place Market

Grilled Oysters with Cheese at The Inn at Semiahmoo in Blaine, Washington

Octopus and Beans at Lecosho on the Harbor Steps in downtown Seattle

Smoked Salmon Appetizer and Side Salad at Luc in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood

Shrimp and Grits at Joule in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood

Tuna Bowl at Revel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

And, just for a bit of final fun:

The Fried Mars Bar with Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream at Garde Manger in the Old City section of Montreal, Canada

A Merry Olde Victoria (BC) Holiday

November 6, 2012

Every year during the holiday season, Victoria, B.C. is lit up with festive décor and a magical ambience that can be felt floating through the air. From November 20, 2012 to January 3, 2013, the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel encourages visitors to stroll their hallways and take in The Festival of Trees.

An annual fundraiser for BC Children’s Hospital, The Festival of Trees invites local businesses, organizations and individuals to sponsor and decorate dozens of Christmas trees that deck the halls of the hotel.

From November 24 to January 1, 2013, visitors will feast their eyes and noses on creative gingerbread inspirations at the 2012 National Gingerbread House Showcase at the Inn at Laurel Point. Professionals and amateurs will vie to produce the most elaborate, decorative gingerbread creations using 100 per cent edible ingredients. Following the competition, these creations will be on display at the Inn.

Finally, The Butchart Gardens presents its 25th season of The Magic of Christmas from December 1, 2012 to January 6, 2013. Amongst the tens of thousands of twinkling lights throughout the gardens, visitors can take in the delights of the season through various displays and activities.

Whether searching for the scenes depicting The Twelve Days of Christmas that are hidden throughout the gardens, or donning a pair of skates and taking a spin on the outdoor skating rink, there is something for both the young and the young at heart.

Sooke Harbour House Honored

August 21, 2012

Sooke Harbour House

Our friends Sinclair and Frederique Philip, co-owners of Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island, have been raking in an impressive number of awards lately. And as always, they are very well deserved.

Sinclair and Frederique Philip

According to a press release, “This year Travel and Leisure Magazine Readers’ Poll has dedicated a category exclusively to Canadian properties for their World’s Best Awards. In the last decade Sooke Harbour House has been rated close to the top several times in this poll for continental North America.

“Today, Travel and Leisure has recognized Sooke Harbour House as Canada’s #2 best resort for 2012, and on its list as one of the World’s Best Hotels and Resorts. This recognition comes with a ‘budget’ annotation signifying that the resort offers rooms under $250. Vancouver Island was selected as their best island travel destination.”

In a previous edition, Travel and Leisure Magazine described the 28-room Sooke Harbour House as a “charming clapboard inn overlooking a dramatic Pacific beach and the Olympic Mountains, 45 minutes from Victoria.” The cutting edge, as stated in the T+L 500, is the “inventive Pacific Northwest cuisine that has made this a legendary food and wine destination.” Two of the highlights mentioned were “bald eagle-spotting on the nearby protected Whiffen Spit” and the “Blue Heron Room, for its large balcony and panoramic ocean views.”

You may remember that I profiled Sinclair and Frederique in “Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia,” and included their recipe for Coriander-Crusted Albacore Tuna with Spicy Buckwheat Noodle Salad in the book.

Sooke Harbour House also took home two awards at Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine. The Best Showcase of Island Wines award recognizes the wine list that best showcases the wines of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. It has a diversity of producers, styles, and price points – and innovative pairing with the restaurant’s menu.

Sooke also won for Best Overall Wine Program thanks to its wine list, which “offers a fabulous selection of quality producers that complements the menu in price, size, and style. The wine program is innovative and promotes wine knowledge and appreciation through by-the-glass offerings, seasonal features, and special tastings and events.”

Congratulations to the Philips on all these coveted awards.

Isn’t it time we all planned a trip to our neighbor to the north (British Columbia and Vancouver Island) and, specifically, Sooke Harbour House?

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