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Dining Special: The Best 5 Things of 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

 

Gorgeous room, sumptuous fare: Newport's newly launched Muse at the Vanderbilt Grace.

Can it be almost 2012 already? It's been a big year on the RI dining scene, and Sean DeBobes has spent it revisiting classics and visiting the newest, splashiest restaurants. As he turns the page to 2012 these are his handpicked 5 things he wants you to know were his all-time favorites of the year that was.

Best opening of the year - Muse by Jonathon Cartwright @ The Vanderbilt Grace, Newport

The Vanderbilt Grace Hotel and Muse, the restaurant located at the entrance level, deliver the promise that Newport makes to all of us. A chance to walk through the splendor of Newport’s past while enjoying the elegance and upscale accommodations that it still provides. Built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909 this property has stood as a testimony to the opulence of family and a city. Happily, the great tradition of pristine service remains strong at Muse. My dining experience was faultless, nothing left to chance, all things considered.

Discovery dish of the year – Los Andes, Providence

I can say confidently that this is in the running for the best Ceviche I’ve ever had. Fresh-diced tilapia, squid, shrimp and oysters were tossed in a citrus-forward mix with cilantro, pureed garlic and a healthy dose of spicy Rocoto pepper. This dish was a real find. Perfectly seasoned and wonderfully tender, it had a nice slow burn that should not be missed.

Service of the year – Fluke, Newport

A robust, roasted garlic and rosemary spread was creamy and perfect with a real wake-me-up flavor. Great as it was, though, here's the best part: my waitress waited until after I had finished my duck rillette starter to bring it out, inverting convention. What she knew, and I appreciated, was that the duck rillette was delightfully subtle with notes of lemon and cayenne, and needed the palate's full attention. First.

Appetizer of the year – David Burke’s Prime, Foxwoods

I adore when a chef takes the mundane and turns it into something glossy and new (Rumpelstiltskin be damned). So of course I was delighted to see breakfast repurposed as an appetizer. Chef takes double-cut

Back and better than ever: XO Cafe, Providence

slices of bacon and dresses them in a maple and pepper glaze before drizzling with a little mustard oil. I loved this dish. This crispy, sweet and thoughtful appetizer was as mouth watering as… well… bacon.

Dessert of the year – XO Café, Providence

Wow! It doesn’t get more decadent, or more Chow Fun Food Group, than the pièce de résistance of all desserts - a platter of chocolate five ways. Chocolate ice cream in a sugar bowl, a chocolate pecan brownie, chocolate enrobed cranberries, white chocolate crème brulee and my favorite of the five, a chocolate marquis. Does it get any better than chocolate folded into whipped cream and frozen? This fun and flirty dessert is alone worth the trip.

Man of the year – George Germon/Al Forno, Providence

Chef George Germon is famous for reworking ice cream makers, pizza ovens, even ice machines so that they perform to his standards and peculiarities. All of this tinkering led him to lift the grate on his home grill one night and throw his steak directly on the hardwood charcoal. A few minutes on the embers and Al Forno’s Dirty Steak was born. Served with smoldering wood still attached, the Dirty Steak is a tad overdone, but is still is primal grilling at its best and it speaks to that inner carnivore in me. Similarly, the re-wiring of the ice cream machines in Al Forno’s kitchens allowed them to prepare ice cream churned to order. Today that's a standard operation for a fine restaurant.

Love food? Don't miss a beat of Sean DeBobes' travels and reviews by following Five Things on Facebook, here.

 

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