Santa Ynez Inn


***** (5 stars)

Complimentary breakfast

This beautiful property offers spacious rooms with traditional (and posh) decor in a very convenient location.

The decor incorporates fine woodwork and beautiful tile and mosaic floors into a blending of modern floorplans and colonial ambiance.

Prepared to order breakfast, evening wine, and nighttime desserts are included in the room price.

The staff are friendly hosts, and you feel as if they are inviting you into their home. While this imparts a bed and breakfast feel, the service level is what you would expect from a five-star resort.

Many good restaurants are within easy walking distance, and dozens of wineries and tasting rooms are just a few minutes away by car.

Santa Ynez Inn
3627 Sagunto St
Santa Ynez, CA
(805) 688-5588

Roque Pub


The Silo

***** (5 stars)

Roque offers a very extensive selection of beers on tap, and a really staggering list of beers in bottles and cans. There are many local offerings, and the list is brilliantly categorized by style, alcohol, bitterness and color. This was the most informative beer list I’ve ever seen, and is ther reason for their fifth star.

Unlike many of the beer-centric places in town, they also have a nice menu of sandwiches and pub food. The Silo was piled high with tender roast beef, and the grilled cheese panini was even better.

Service was fast and friendly, and there are darts and electronic games, plus live entertainment and special events most nights of the week.

Roque Pub
3076 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 985-3778

Whirly Dome


***** (5 stars)

Whirly Ball is the world’s most fun sport for people who don’t like sports, a group of which I’m a proud member. It requires absolutely no skill to have fun, and consuming alcohol before play makes it even better.

But let’s talk about the bar. They actually have a very nice collection of beers, and can whip up a mean cocktail. The house margarita was only four bucks and was one of the best I’ve had.

There is also bar food. We had a company event here and they put out quite a nice buffet.

I’ve been here three times, which is probably more times than I’ve ever been to a sports venue in my life, and it’s always great fun.

Whirly Dome
6464 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 212-3030

The Bazaar by José Andrés



Scallop ceviche

Caviar and lox cones

$9 a bite x 4

Foie Sandwich

Smoked oysters

Pork Bahn Mi Bun (3 Each)*

Octopus Toast

Squash Tempura Squash Blossoms

Philly Cheesesteak (signature dish)

Dessert room

Mille-Feuille, Caramel Cream and Salted Caramel


***** (5 stars)

The is an enormous restaurant that feels surprisingly intimate due to clever use of draperies and display cases as partitions. It definitely has an upbeat vibe, but isn’t deafening, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re not cool enough to be there.

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not cheap. In particular I thinking of the “cones” that look like little ice cream cones but are filled with ingredients like caviar. The operative word is “little”. They are literally smaller than your thumb, and couldn’t possibly be considered more than one bite, and not a very big bite at that. At $9 each they simply aren’t worth it, even if they are good.

But moving on, there are some much more noteworthy items on the menu. It’s divided between traditional tapas and modern tapas. The modern items were so interesting we just kept exploring, and never got to the traditional side of the extensive menu.

Scallop ceviche was Peruvian style with an unusual creamy but very tart broth. There were only a few bites of fish in the large bowl, but the tart broth made that seem like plenty.

The most inventive item we tried was the foie sandwich, which looked just like a Wonder Bread sandwich, but the bread was made of a somehow soft apple meringue! A thin layer of foie gras and jam was just enough.

Four raw oysters were served under a smoke-filled glass dome. The released smoke makes everyone around you want them, too!

Pork Bahn Mi Buns were three mini sliders with traditional flavors.

The octopus toast was extremely tender, and a generous serving. Raw jalapeno slices added a kick.

Squash tempura blossoms were stuffed with a cheese and olive mixture. The pungent olives overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the squash.

Philly cheesesteak is their signature dish, and it’s easy to see why. Four thin slices of wagyu are served atop a football-shaped pastry filled with a sharp cheese sauce. Eat this over a plate!!! It was delicious.

The wine list is fairly extensive, although most prices are pretty high. However, the Spanish wines are priced quite fairly, and there are some real gems.

A large section of the restaurant has been devoted to a separate dessert room, so at the conclusion of your meal they can transfer your drinks over there for a second experience that is seamless. The only other place I’ve seen this done is Berns in Tampa.

The dessert room lets you survey an array of dozens of items to help decide what you want to order. The rose filled with chocolate mousse was good, but the mille-feuille with salted caramel filling was even better.

Service in both parts of the restaurant was professional, attentive and pleasant. This is definitely one of the more interesting dining experiences in LA.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 South La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555

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.

Soufflés 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 soufflés 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