I love to dine! The first time I went out to eat PCQ (post covid quarantine) – I remember the joy I had when the host sat me at the table and brought me water & a menu. This just scratched the surface as my first meal post quarantine was at Bell’s in Los Alamos. But to that a little later. I love the experience of a great restaurant – from the space, service and spread.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.James Beard
A loner by nature . . . confined to the house, no obligations for gatherings & everyone just starting to let their freak flag fly. This is my MO – modus operandi. Maybe not what everyone wanted, but potentially what we ALL needed. The collective experience, we stopped and took a minute to consciously or unconsciously evaluate.
And now that the world has sped up – I realize the difference between lockdown covid time and real life time. And maybe next year somewhere in-between would be an ideal place for me. But for now, I am reflecting on the restaurants and stand out dishes that made time stand still in 2021.
My Top 4 Restaurants of 2021
East Hampton, NY
I travel a lot for work – there are pros and cons – but ALWAYS send me to The Hamptons. I was lucky enough to spend a little over a month there this Summer – and it is *chef’s kiss*. The rolling sand hills with beach grass gently swaying in the east coast summer breeze that leads to miles of pristine beaches with dolphins and whales somewhat showing off in the water. But there is one problem with the Hamptons if you are traveling. . . . the restaurants are average at best. Except a few . . . including Carissa’s Bakery. The space is beautiful, every ingredient is super fresh, wholesome and simply put together. With two locations in the Hamptons – it is a must try. Go to the one on Pantigo and marvel at the space. Avocado Toast and orange juice – is my perfect breakfast order.
I went to Charleston in the spring & fell in love. So many reasons – but Leon’s being top of the list. The charm of the restaurant in an old body shop, one of those places you can tell everyone is happy and they serve Southern comfort food. We bellied up to the bar for fresh oysters, Siam Salad with Fried Chicken and the Chicken Sandwich with Pea Salad. Remarkably, the salads were loved just as much as the fried chicken. From their menu:
“The combination of Fried Chicken and Champagne is one of the finest in the world. The bright, lush, effervescent zip of a fine glass of Champagne is particularly suited to the richness of the South’s iconic dish; it cleanses the palate, lifts the spirits, and sets the stage for a damn fine eating experience.”
Champagne & Fried Chicken turns out to be the perfect pair!
Los Alamos, CA
Very rarely am I early to a trend. . .but luckily I stumbled onto Bell’s shortly after they opened in 2018. I read this Travel and Leisure article and was sold. Though from 2018, I would still recommend following this article for a wonderful weekend. Just add a stop at, A Tribute to Grace Wine Company, for a deep dive into Grenache from a woman winemaker.
We stayed at the Skyview in Los Alamos just outside Santa Ynez Valley and per the article road our Linus bikes straight to Bell’s. We ordered – gnocchi, french fries, a french dip sandwich and a fresh green salad with chicken – all perfection. Every time we have been there, Daisy and Ryan are very present &clearly care about their community and customer experience. Since this first time, the lunch menu has slightly change, but everything is perfection. We have been back about a half dozen times and have become especially fond of the egg salad & braised beef sandwiches. My boyfriend loves their merch & I love that they have also started a non-profit, Feed the Valley.
On a quick work trip to Washington this year – my boss suggested we get Afghan food. Intrigued but scared – I said yes and was looking forward to the new experience. We sat outside at this cute D.C. bistro on the perfect Fall night and got a good spread to explore the cuisine. It’s slightly fuzzy after the food coma – but I know we ordered the starters tasting flight, a handful of amazing shrimp dishes, the lamb chop, a few vegetable sides and all the sauces. The craft cocktails are not to be missed! Our waitress was exceptional answering our laundry list of questions and leading us to the perfect meal. My favorite dining experience of 2021 – because it opened my eyes to this amazing new cuisine full of colors, flavors & culture.
Below are restaurants you need to go to and what you MUST order. You’re Welcome. Located up and down the Coast of California from Newport Beach to Napa.
A Restaurant – Chicken Pot Pie (Served Friday Only)
Bob’s Well Bread – Cinnamon-Raisin Brioche French Toast (add bacon lardons)
Bar le Cote – Little Neck Clams
The Charter Oak – The Cheeseburger
Mustards – The Ever-Popular Seafood Tostada
Solbar – Sake Marinated Black Cod
I would love to hear about your Favortie Restaurants or Memorable Dishes . . . so I can start my 2022 dining wish list. Please comment below.
Part of the secret of success is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.Mark Twain