Out of our two days of winery visits in the Wachau region of Austria, our favorite was at Nikolaihof. 31-year-old Nikolaus Saahs, now the winemaker, showed us around his family’s winery and cellar, the oldest winery in Austria, with origins dating back to the year 985. Nikolaihof was also the first winery in Austria – if not the world – to use biodynamic practices.
We spent four amazing days visiting Austrian winemakers this October – two days in the steep slopes of the white winegrowing regions on the Danube River west of Vienna called the Wachau, Kamptal, and Kremstal, and two days in the flatter primarily red regions south of Vienna called Caruntum and Burgenland, with a special stop to taste the sweet, botrytis-influenced wines of the Neusiedlersee.
Before our trip to Croatia, Jay and I had read in several places that Valsabbion was one of the best restaurants in the country. So of course we called for a reservation. Unlike some other European restaurants where you need to make reservations a month or two in advance, we were able to get in for lunch with less than a week's notice, no problem.
Jay and I weren't sure what to expect from Amsterdam food. Some people had told us that it was yummy; many others told us it was tough to find a good meal, especially for New York City foodies. We did figure out that you could get a solid meal by focusing on some of the city's strengths: Indonesian food, pancakes, and fish from one of the fish stands...
Prior to our quick trip to Amsterdam, online restaurant research pointed us to De Witte Uyl (“The White Owl”) as one of the best restaurants in the city – neighborhoody, but focusing on high-quality, organic ingredients in a creative (as we would learn, for Amsterdam) menu.
As fairly new residents of Manhattan's Upper West Side, Jay and I have been trying to sample as many of the local restaurants as we can. So what better way to try a lot of restaurants in one place than by attending the New Taste of the Upper West Side?
I've long been a fan of red wines from Austria -- in fact, I usually order Zwiegelt whenever I see it on a wine list (which, sadly, isn't as often as I'd like). No matter the producer, it's usually a reliably juicy, slightly spicy wine with cherry and red berry flavors, sometimes aged in oak but sometimes not. However, Austrian wine is still rather difficult to find...
If you haven't heard of Txakoli (sometimes, confusingly, known as Txakolina or Chacoli), or the grape hondarrabi zuri, you're not alone. But this tangy, low-alcohol wine that's popular in Spain's Basque regions (especially in and around San Sebastian) is gaining popularity in the U.S.
All the hype about Cyrus had prepared me to expect great things. It has two Michelin stars, the San Francisco Chronicle awarded it four stars, and it has been talked about as one of the best restaurants in the country, upping the bar on fine dining to Healdsburg.
We had high hopes for Vancouver's Tojo's restaurant. It's gotten a ton of press over the years as one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city – though also one of the priciest.
After a rough morning wine tasting around the Boucherie Mountain Bench area of the Okanagan Valley, west of the city of Kelowna, we had to stop for a bite to eat to rejuvenate – and preferably somewhere with a view. The restaurant at scenic Quails' Gate Winery fit the bill perfectly.
Restaurants: Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Okanagan Valley, BC: Local food with a view
The Okanagan, a scenic five-hour drive east of Vancouver, boasts some of the loveliest vineyards anywhere in the world. Many of them are on the banks of the Okanagan River and offer sweeping views of the water and the vines, many of which slope down to the river's edge.
To celebrate Jay's birthday in Vancouver, on what was apparently one of the rainiest days on record, we decided to drown our sorrows with some seafood at the Blue Water Café, widely acknowledged as the best seafood restaurant in the city.
Jay and I were excited about visiting the wineries on Vancouver Island this fall because when we'd last gone there two years ago, we'd had some surprisingly good wines, most of which are very difficult to find outside of the area. The wineries on the Island are mainly small-production, family-run places where the owner or another family member is also likely to be pouring your wine, so they're good places to ask questions about the growing and production process.
We decided to try the Richmond branch of the Vancouver mini-chain Kirin, a large restaurant filled with Chinese families on the second floor of a nondescript mall (as most good Chinese restaurants seem to be!). Though Kirin didn't offer the dim sum wheeled around on carts that we love, we were impressed with the huge menu featuring some unusual choices. (And we ended up totally over-ordering.)