10 Things to Taste Before You Die–By Food Critic John Mariani

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John Mariani

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A few years ago I had the privilege of traveling through France's Paris and Champagne region with the very talented and discriminating food critic John Mariani (among other things, he determines and reviews Esquire magazine's annual best new restaurants). Though I'd rubbed dining elbows with him for years, it was there, between sips of bubbly at the deliciously Art Deco-designed house of Perrier-Jouët and bites of $165 chicken at Paris's three-star restaurant Taillevent, that I truly got to know what a gentleman, food, wine, and travel scholar, and all-around enjoyable person he is.

Recently I dropped John a note at his website Virtual Gourmet (where you can--and should--sign up for his delicious and extremely worldly restaurant newsletter), and asked whether he'd be kind enough to share with us his top 10 foods to try before you die.

On the heels of his greatly anticipated annual announcement of the nation's 20 Best New Restaurants in this month's Esquire magazine, I am delighted to present to you this exclusive post by John Mariani.

If you're a foodie like me, it may just inspire you to get on a plane and land at your destination just in time for dinner.

John Mariani's Top 10 Must-Eats
1. The silky wonder of a terrine of foie gras, cut into neat pink slabs edged with its own pale yellow fat as they do it at Taillevent in Paris, served with just some slices of country bread and a glass of Sauternes.

2. The signature dish of San Domenico New York, which has had it on the menu since opening in 1988, is Chef Odette Fada's uovo in ravioli: She cuddles an egg yolk in a single ravioli skin, poaches it and drizzles it with clarified butter and generous shavings of white truffles. At the touch of a fork to the ravioli, the golden yolk gushes forth to mingle with the butter and truffles, a dish as sensual to watch as to sniff and eat.

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3. The fat Dover sole a la meuniere at London's Dorchester Hotel Grill Room is as fine as seafood will ever be--deftly de-boned (if you wish) at the table by a formally dressed waiter who spoons the sizzling butter over the fish along with boiled potatoes or crispy, light golden pommes soufflé.

4. The porterhouse steak, slightly charred on the outside, sliced and rosy-red inside, is the specialty of Porterhouse New York, which looks out over Central Park. This is as good as American beef could ever hope to be.

5. It's one thing to roll over a cheese cart at a restaurant; it's entirely another to be offered a menu of 250 cheeses, as is the case at NYC's Artisanal restaurant, along with its hearty bistro fare.

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6. The perfect pizza—in Naples, of course—at Ciro' Santa Brigida, whose cooks stretch back in experience to the man who invented the pizza alla margherita.

7. Paella, served in myriad ways, with seafood or chicken or rabbit, at any of several seafood restaurant along the waterfront on Avenue Neptuno in Valencia, Spain, like La Pepica or La Rosa.

8. Lobster, pulled wiggling from a lobster boat and steamed immediately, as they do at the no-frills Abbott's Lobster in the Rough on a well-worn deck in Noank. Connecticut, with nothing more than melted butter and a sea breeze.

9. The best cappuccino in Italy—therefore the world—is to be found at San'Eustachio in Rome. Unprepossessing and always crowded, with basically one big machine, this café turns out a perfect coffee crowned with a perfect creamy topping.

10. The extraordinary half-roasted, half-fried chicken in the bustling little bar called Henne in Berlin, where the only sides are potato salad and cole slaw and the only thing to drink are steins of German beer.

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--Erika Lenkert

[tags]world's top restaurant experiences, best dishes, john mariani, food, dining, tips, where to dine, europe, New York, Paris, Germany, Italy, Connecticut, London, Spain, naples, pizza, steak, best of, esquire[/tags]