Septime in Paris, France 2021

Getting a reservation to Septime is near impossible. The online reservation is an exercise in false hope. The dates on the calendar seem like they’re open, but really they click through to a waitlist. And the waitlist never seems to move. So I guess the silver lining about the pandemic is that only a portion of the world’s population can actually come to Septime, which means tables are easier to come by. I was planning a trip to Paris in September, so I started looking for bookings in the summer. I had no trouble getting a table. It felt really good being able to click on a date and get an actual reservation. What a difference two years makes. Last time I went to Septime, all I ended up with was a tote bag from their wine bar. This time I left with memories of the most amazing dinner.

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Mingles in Seoul, Korea

If you find yourself looking for that one splurge meal in Seoul, Korea, make it a meal at Mingles. On paper, it checks all the boxes on the status meal – it’s currently ranked the best restaurant in Korea for 2021, it’s ranked 10th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and it was awarded 2 Michelin Stars. It deserves all those accolades, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is passing through the city. Korea has a lot of fine dining restaurants that do a fantastic job, but Mingles just does it with more finesse and creativity. Lunch is a great time to do it, since they offer a shorter and less expensive tasting option at 125,00 won–the current exchange rate is really in the US dollar’s favor, so this translates to $105, which is on a relative scale a pretty good deal for fine dining. Mingles is the best restaurant in Korea in 2021 so it makes so much sense to plan your meals in Seoul around it.

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Outdoor Dining at Xilonen and Oxomoco in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Oxomoco, a Michelin star Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, makes the best steak tacos in the city. When I ate my steak tacos, I was immediately floored. Everything about the taco was perfect–the sauce, the seasoning, the melty texture of the meat. Melt-in-your-mouth is an overused description when it comes to excellent meat, but in this case, it was totally appropriate.

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Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck Dinner

It’s been a very, very hard year for restaurants. Many have been able to pivot to a mostly take-out or a food/wine retail model, but what do you do when you’re a fine dining restaurant like Eleven Madison Park? You’re known for bringing out course after beautiful course in a gorgeous dining room, but executing this outdoors and in cold weather is impossible. Some places like Daniel have gone the outdoor route, which certainly has some issues, while EMP has remained closed during the pandemic and is instead offering “EMP At Home” dinner kits. These dinner kits are outrageously expensive–the EMP At Home holiday Roast Duck dinner kit for 4 cost $475 pre-tax, $518.16 all in. But what the hell, I was in a festive mood, I wanted to do something a little special for New Year’s, I probably saved a lot of money this year from not eating out, so I decided to treat myself with this Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck meal kit.

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Outdoor Dining at Daniel (The Terrace)

There are certain chefs in New York who are so acclaimed that they need only go by their first names. Daniel of Daniel Boulud is one of those lucky few. His two Michelin star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side is a famous fine-dining destination that’s typically reserved for special occasions. Or perhaps if you’re a fabulous wealthy UES local, it’s just your local neighborhood spot. The pandemic has been especially rough on the fine dining segment. Coordinating multiple plates of a meticulous tasting just doesn’t work when you’re outdoors. So Daniel has momentarily put the tasting on hold and has pivoted to a more casual bistro format–The Terrace at Daniel–although the prices remain sky high. Now Daniel has resumed indoor dining, something I am not quite ready for, but The Terrace remains open.

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