An Extraordinary, Ultra-seasonal, Japanese-inspired Tasting Menu in Wine Country

What:

Single Thread @ST_Farms Newly opened and it's already been awarded the San Francisco Chronicle's highest honor — four out of four stars by critic Michael Bauer. I don't always share my food opinions with Bauer, but when it comes to the level of brilliance and care coming out of Single Thread, it's hard to disagree.

Where:

Downtown Healdsburg 131 North Street Healdsburg, CA 95448 [wpgmza id="302"]

When:

Despite its high-end concept and rather expensive price point, they do manage to keep the entire experience quite approachable and not stuffy, unlike many other tasting menus at this price point. Still, you'll definitely want to save this one for a VERY special occasion based on cost alone. A 10-course tasting menus costs $255 per person (which comes to around $295 with tip included) and the wine pairing add-on costs $155. We visited Single Thread to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary with a bang.

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Magnificent, Modern Southern Cuisine at Odd Duck in Austin

Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore's also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both.The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer's touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin!And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.

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An Exciting, Sexy, and Modern Italian & American Date Night at Perla

*Editor's Note 6/4/15: Perla has completely overhauled their menu, decor, and have lowered the price point substantially since postingDrop everything, I've got a new favorite restaurant in NYC. On the day we visited, Amy and I were in a celebrating mood. She had just started a new job and I've was just about to begin a new job of my own. On this occasion we were looking to treat ourselves right, to splurge on something extra special.After seeing numerous end-of-2013 lists that included the nearby and recently opened Perla, I knew I wanted to try it out and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to do it. We made a reservation only a few days in advance and were able to snag seats at the chef's counter for a Sunday evening at 6:30. It was a bit earlier than we usually dine, but what the hell, it was a Sunday night anyway.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2013

Given the number of insanely delicious things I've eaten over the past year, selecting the best of the bunch is a very difficult task. Over on Foodspotting I've released a long version that's over 200 items long which includes every single dish jaw-dropping dish from the last year. Here, instead, I've chosen the very best in select categories. In no particular order, let's begin!

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Molecular Gastronomy Magic from Wylie Dufresne at WD~50

*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open.Recently, I wrote about a particularly crazy meal I ate at Los Perros Locos. They delivered a kind of craziness through the sheer brashness of piling as many wacky pedestrian ingredients on top of one another as humanly possible. But, like I've said before, there are many kinds of crazy when it comes to food.To celebrate my 26th birthday, my girlfriend took me to a restaurant that's been high up on my worldwide to-do list for a long time, WD~50. The restaurant is the brain-child of Wylie Dufresne who established the molecular gastronomy dining scene in NYC. The kind of craziness that Wylie delivers is less like that of a psychopath, but more like that of a mad scientist through his use of complex, technical, processes and methodologies usually reserved for a chemistry lab. Every dish and drink at WD~50 has some sort of complicated twist whereby an ingredient is transformed or presented in a way you've probably never experienced before.

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