Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square



Cold appetizers

Side of meatballs

Penne Alla Penne Alla Vodka

Tugboat (1/3 of a Titanic)

**** (4 stars)

When someone tells you a restaurant serves large portions, you probably think you know what to expect. You don’t.

Carmine’s is a restaurant you want to go to as a group of eight, and then order two dishes. I’m not kidding. You’ll leave full. Four of us ordered two dishes, and left with an eight-pound bag of food.

We started with the cold appetizer plate. The calamari salad was particularly noteworthy.

The Penne ala Vodka was very good, properly al dente. Truth to be told we also had a side of meatballs. A side is eight meatballs the size of baseballs.

Service was good, and the large, crowded dining room is not as loud as you might expect.

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square
200 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-3800

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills

End cut

English cut



***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to Lawry’s for almost 50 years, and aside from moving across the street a few decades ago, nothing has changed.

Perfectly cooked prime rib is still served, cut to your liking, from 70-year-old table-side carts. The creamed spinach is still the best anywhere, as is the gravy poured into the divot in your mashed potatoes.

Service is proper but not prim, and wine pricing is reasonable.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827


Steak frites




**** (4 stars)

There are three Bouchons at this location and Google maps, for one, is very confused about that. The Bouchon Bakery is a counter serve and Bar Bouchon offers downstairs patio seating on the park. But the real Bouchon is upstairs, and offers a brasserie-like atmosphere plus outdoor balcony seating.

The menu is similar to Las Vegas, but not to Santa Barbara. A bouchon is a cafe typical in Lyon that focuses on meat-based dishes, and that is the case here. The French classics are all exceptionally well prepared, from mussels to onion soup, pate to salade Lyonnaise.

As is typical in France, the meal begins with bread served on the paper table covering. Be sure to order something to use the wonderful pot of mustard on; there’s nothing like pate and genuine Dijon on fresh crusty French bread.

Service is professional yet friendly.

This is actually one of my favorite of Keller’s restaurants. I even like it better than Per Se. The only negative is that the room has no acoustic treatment at all, and even when half empty it is very loud.

235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-9910


Peel and Eat Shrimp

Cheese Monger

Hamachi crudo


**** (4 stars)

If you are a cheese lover, Haven is a must visit. There are dozens of cheeses on their menu, and the “Cheese Monger” offers a selection of 18(!) of them on one well-organized plate. My only wish was for more variety, as they were almost all cow’s milk, and mostly the same firmness. I’d have liked some more soft ones, and some stinkier ones. But that’s just me.

The menu also offers a nice selection of other small plates. We liked the hamachi crudo. The peel and eat shrimp was okay, but I didn’t care for the harissa flavor of the accompanying remoulade, as it overwhelmed the other flavors.

The interior decor is gorgeous, with reasonable lighting levels and not too noisy, even though there are no soft surfaces except the booths (which offer the quietest place to sit).

The wine list is extensive, and the more expensive wines are actually the better deals.

Service was friendly and efficient.

2208 W Morrison Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-2233

Spice Affair Indian Restaurant

Ice cream

Mango mousse

Butter chicken

Chick pea and walnut




***** (5 stars)

It’s really nice to find a truly elegant Indian restaurant. Spice Affair backs up its stylish decor with excellent service and creative, flavorful cuisine.

The highlight of our meal was definitely the Butter Chicken, and it’s hard to imagine going here and not having this dish. Garlic Naan bread was great for dipping in the sauce, although it could have had more garlic.

We also really liked both appetizers we shared, a crispy cauliflower dish and patties made of chickpeas and walnuts. The accompanying raita was particularly good.

None of us cared for the salmon entree, which was fishy, and didn’t have a particularly appealing coating. When the server noticed this he offered to exchange it, but when we demurred he brought us several complimentary desserts. That and many other touches really impressed us with the professionalism of this restaurant, and I’m sure we’ll return.

Spice Affair Indian Restaurant
50 N La Cienega Blvd
Ste 120
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(424) 286-1739

La Grenouille

***** (5 stars)

La Grenouille is still doing things the same way as when they were founded in 1962, and that’s a good thing. I remember when the world was full of restaurants like this: posh, refined, attentive, traditional, and oh so French. Now it is the last of its kind.

The three course menu is pricey at dinner, but not absurd, and essentially the same food is available at lunch for less than half the price.

The wine list is mostly French (of course) and offers some values for those who browse carefully.

One thing you wouldn’t find on the 1962 menu was the sea bass tartare we started with, which was refreshingly limey and served on an avocado base.

Souffl├ęs are the specialty here, and the cheese shuffle was superb as a main course. The Dover sole was extremely traditional, but perhaps not worth the upcharge, as cooking styles for fish have changed, and left this old standard seeming overdone and bland.

A half dozen or more souffl├ęs are also on offer for dessert, and are a great choice. Alternatively, the cheese plate offered a great variety. A basket of madeleines and other pastries, and some truffles finish things off.

Service was very French and very professional, yet managed to also be welcoming and conversational. Let’s hope that La Grenouille can continue to carry on its tradition for another fifty years.

La Grenouille
3 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 752-1495

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center


**** (4 stars)

This is quite a spectacular hotel, with the rooms facing huge (as in HUGE) atriums filled with plants, waterfalls, rockwork and rivers. There are many restaurants scattered about, and the theming is really well done.

Having been to the Gaylord in Orlando, I was surprised to be reminded how much larger and nicer this Nashville one is.

As with any giant hotel, there are hordes of guests, so part of the trick of staying here is to try to avoid the rush. That means not arriving right at check in, when there can be 100 people in line at the front desk, particularly on a Saturday night. And if your room includes breakfast, go early before the lines form.

Staff is very friendly, so as long as you can avoid the crowds it’s a good place to stop in Nashville (note that it is nowhere near downtown, though).

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
2800 Opryland Dr
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 889-1000

Orlando Science Center

**** (4 stars)

This is a really nice museum facility, but what I particularly like are the special events, especially the annual Spring “Science of Wine” which includes a very informative seminar and the best food of any wine event in town, even including the much more expensive Epcot food and wine festival. It’s great fun to eat and sip beneath the dinosaur bones! Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll find out about these special events in advance, before they sell out.

Orlando Science Center
777 E Princeton St
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 514-2000

The Taproom at Dubsdread

**** (4 stars)

A nice clubby atmosphere (it is, after all, a golf clubhouse) with excellent bar food and some more elaborate entrees.

They have the reputation of having the best burger in town, and it certainly is in the running. The hummus appetizer was excellent, with lightly grilled pitas.

We were there for a busy Saturday lunch, and the server did a good job of keeping up.

The Taproom at Dubsdread
549 West Par Street
Orlando, FL 32885
(407) 650-0100

48 Lounge

*** (3 stars)

I’m an old fuddy duddy, but this place was close to the theatre, the hotel, and was open late. Lounge seating is–let’s face it–uncomfortable, and the soundtrack makes it almost impossible to converse, so going in I knew it would have two strikes against it from my point of view. But the drink list and wines were interesting, and the food was okay. Pork sliders were the best, followed by the kobe hot dogs. Tater tots, spinach artichoke dip and hummus were okay but nothing special. If you like lounge ambiance and are in the area, it’s worth a shot (pun intended).

48 Lounge
1221 Ave Of The Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 554-4848