Every Sunday, when I was growing up in Miami, my family had a tradition that, given today’s frenetic schedules and perpetual motion, seems impossibly quaint in hindsight: My parents and my three siblings and I would attend a late afternoon matinee (we kids would take turns choosing the movie; my brother, Star Wars; me, Annie Hall) before going to El Segundo Viajante, a traditional Spanish restaurant, for delicious paella, jamón Serrano, caldo gallego and other Iberian delicacies. So began my special and ongoing relationship with fine dining.
During my university years in New Orleans, one of the greatest food towns in the galaxy, I fell deeply in love with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Creole and Cajun dishes at the iconic K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. I had never tasted food like that in my life—and I was hooked. After graduation, three dining experiences in three consecutive weekends in three different cities completely elevated the stakes for my personal hunger games: Chef Mark Militello’s sublime snapper at Mark’s Place in North Miami; Chef Daniel Boulud’s mouthwatering duck at Le Cirque in New York City and Chef Alice Waters’ tear-inducing spring lamb at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. I know how fortunate I’ve been in my life to be at the tables of some of the greatest culinary talents anywhere, but as a young adult, to experience those chefs’ magical creations—in consecutive weekends, no less—was, in a word, ridiculous.
In subsequent years, as I moved around the country, I discovered even bigger “wow” dining adventures, featuring the restaurants and dishes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Vong, JoJo, Perry St, Jean-Georges); Bobby Flay (Mesa Grill, Bar Americain, GATO); Gilbert Le Coze/Éric Ripert (Le Bernardin); José Andrés (Jaleo); Wolfgang Puck (Spago, CUT); Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill); Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) and on and on. Lucky me.
When I decided to make Saratoga Springs my home, I couldn’t imagine and didn’t count on fine dining being a part of the equation for such a small city (I’d lived in Manhattan, LA, Miami and Vegas prior to moving here). Within days, I was blown away by the likes of Osteria Danny’s edible Tuscan miracles and Hattie’s slap-your-mama hot fried chicken and Fish at 30 Lake’s these-shouldn’t-be-this-good brussels sprouts and R&R’s creamy, unforgettable scallops and Salt & Char’s perfectly seared filet and Boca Bistro’s can’t-get-enough calamari—and the hits keep coming: Hamlet & Ghost’s squid, 15 Church’s fried oysters, Prime’s seafood tower, Max London’s eggs Benedict, Chianti’s antipasto, Harvey’s steak tacos…They all make Saratoga unbelievably, unquestionably and undeniably the country’s best small city restaurant destination. But how?
I suspect those fast ponies and the impressive cultural scene have something to do with it; but no matter the reason, I, once again, find myself in the presence of culinary giants. Told ya I was lucky. You are too. Hungry yet?
Editor in Chief