Dining Around the World with Panache

July 14, 2019 Published by
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Darlings, travel is in the air for millions of families with children and grandchildren and many couples who look forward to exploring, new adventures and renewed romance. After a day of educational sightseeing or lying at the beach, dinner is the perfect time for togetherness with family, friends and one another. Certainly it is a time to converse in romantic restaurants with incredible food.

My ultimate concierge and I will soon be leaving for the south of France, as we will partake in a cruise across the Mediterranean. We are traveling with friends and I am very very excited! To prepare myself, I recently walked to the Art Institute in my beautiful Chicago with a girlfriend to see the Manet exhibit. Manet has been named the finest artist of the 19th century. If the show comes to your city, please do yourself a favor by stopping by.

Last night I lay in bed thinking about Manet, Paris, our upcoming European trip and all things restaurants and food. The French and Italians have some of the most delicious food to savor. I thought of past restaurants and dishes that my ultimate concierge and I have loved. I realized a sampling of some of our favorite romantic restaurant experiences would be perfect to share.

Romantic Dining with My Ultimate Concierge

A few months ago, my husband Shelly leaned over and whispered in my ear as our plane leveled off on its way to California. “It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Let’s go into Palm Springs for dinner at Spencer’s or Le Vallauris” he said.

We decided to phone both Spencer’s and La Vallauris to see which of the two had availability. Both restaurants have equally stunning outdoor garden settings in old Palm Springs.

Our conversation brought back memories and pictures of our past romantic dining experiences, each picture worth a thousand words.

As our plane soared through the sky, I laid my head back and daydreamed about our dining history in our favorite romantic restaurants. Too many to count–so many memorable evenings of quiet, romantic conversation. Again how lucky we were to have found one another. And what a great life we have made together. How in sync we are in our views on life, even politics! I smiled to myself.

Images via La Grenouille and NY Eater.

La Grenouille in Manhattan

Occasionally people ask me, “What is your favorite island in the world?” I quickly answer, “Manhattan!” And the most romantic “island” escape is La Grenouille!

La Grenouille is located in uptown Manhattan. This elegant French restaurant is 55 years old, nevertheless it still remains timeless. The French décor, with its breathtaking flowers made up into lush arrangements, makes a woman–and even a man–swoon!

The restaurant serves classic French cuisine in an intimate, elegant setting. In addition, the service is classically professional and the wine list is complete. La Grenouille is beyond glamorous! One evening, I asked the owner how he came up with the name. He replied, “Madam Good, I named my restaurant for my wife. She is my little frog.” My heart “hopped” a beat at this sweet sentiment. And my mouth watered for the restaurant’s most savored dish: frog legs.

Images via Clos Maggiore, harpersbazaar.co.uk, and LondonTown.com.

Clos Maggiore in London

My husband always says, “London is cigars, scotch and itchy men’s clothing!”

I say that London is the winding River Thames, afternoon tea at Claridge’s and a foggy night in London town with an unforgettable, romantic dinner.

One of my favorite romantic restaurants is Clos Maggiore in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. A romantic evening should pull out all the stops and I promise you, Clos Maggiore does just that. You dine in their apple blossom-filled conservatory, which features a retractable glass roof for summer evenings. And in the winter, you will enjoy Chef Marc’s fine French food beside a roaring fire. This is romance at its finest. We celebrated our anniversary here on a cold winter evening in December. It was unforgettable.

Images via HospitalityNet.org, gillespudlowski.com, and egomagazine.ae.

Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse in Paris

Onward darlings to my favorite city in the world, Paris!

Shelly says, “Paris is perfume, women’s silk lingerie, flowers and the Eiffel Tower.”

However, I say, “Paris is a woman’s city!”

While I have more than one favorite romantic French restaurant in Paris, if I have to choose for beauty and romance, I must pick Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse. This breathtaking restaurant, located in the Meurice Hotel, boasts three Michelin stars. The spectacular décor always takes my breath away. The restaurant takes inspiration from the Chateau de Versailles. As a result, crystal chandeliers, frescoes, French flowers and white marble fill the interior. It is so romantically breathtaking that I can never remember what I ordered for dinner. In any case, champagne is a must!

Images via viamichelin.comsirenuse.it, and italianalluretravel.com

Ristorante La Sponda in Positano

Italy is known for family, fun and food! I agree–so let’s go to Positano.

Mama Mia! Shelly and I have frequented an endless number of romantic restaurants in the wonderful country of Italy. One restaurant with a beautiful romantic dining room with a view is La Sponda in the Sirenuse Hotel. This terrace dining room overlooks the charming town of Positano. Over 400 beautifully-lit candles line the dining area and their gorgeous foliage will make you forget that you are indoors.

The waitstaff certainly makes your evening a memorable experience. Palpable passion exists in the speech of the sommelier while describing his champagnes and wines. The menu is engraved in our lives forever. In short, I promise you that if you dine in this magnificent restaurant, you will agree.

Images via Four Seasons, AlliumChicago.com and StatusChicago.com.

Allium Restaurant in Chicago

I cannot write about favorite romantic restaurants and not mention my beautiful Chicago! I find the entire city romantic, with its tree-lined streets, Lake Michigan and the people. We are the heartland of America. Although Chicago is known for steaks and chops at Gene and Georgetti, Gibsons, and Morton’s, three romantic restaurants stand out in my mind.

I describe Allium as casual and exceptionally romantic. It is located within the Four Season Hotel. The space is an intimate room with a large wood-burning fireplace that sets a romantic and welcoming tone. Couches and large cushy chairs surround the fireplace, where you can dine or sip champagne. Comfortable booths and tables with warm accents grace each table. The lighting is soft, adding to the mood. Allium is a great spot to drop in with a girlfriend for lunch or with your loved one after work.

For Shelly and myself, after a quick walk from our condo, we can experience a short or long evening of enjoyable dining. The restaurant is known for its Chicago hot dog: all beef, handmade by the chef of the Four Seasons. It is served so beautifully with diced onions, hot fries, two sauces, delicious dill pickles on a wood plank board divided in sections. I love the brussel sprout salad and the broiled salmon, fresh from our Chicago markets. In addition, it’s a great spot to lunch with a special friend and grandchildren.

Images via Peninsula Chicago, StarChefs.com, and chicagorooftopbars.com

Shanghai Terrace in Chicago

Shanghai Terrace has both an indoor and outdoor space in the Peninsula Hotel. The outdoor terrace is beautifully set for romantic and intimate dining. Restaurant guests on the terrace look up at the skyscrapers and city lights. Outdoor dining is strictly for the summertime! In contrast, the indoor dining room is ideal for romantic dinners on cold, winter evenings.

Shanghai Terrace, the top Cantonese restaurant in Chicago, is celebrated above all for its succulent Peking Duck. The indoor décor is patterned after a 1930s supper club with a seductive and romantic setting. The terrace contains huge, white umbrellas that cover the white linen tables. In addition, large trees and planters line the restaurant in an elegant setting.

Memorable Dining Experiences

I could go on and on, darlings, describing romantic restaurants with incredible menus where Shelly and I have had memorable moments. Each experience is a treasured memory in my mind and I am smiling!

In the Middle East, I love everything from the hummus, falafel and tabouleh to naan bread in India, freshly-baked French baguettes in France and the traditional Neopolitan pizza in Italy. Peking duck in China, wiener schnitzel in Austria, grilled meats in Argentina and mussels in Belgium always remain at the top of my list. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding are my go-to dishes in England. In Russia, you must try Borscht. Last but not least, a good old fashion hamburger always does the trick when we’re home.

I have left out many special food types and restaurants from many countries. Please forgive me. I could write paragraph upon paragraph on delicious foods from Serbia, Portugal, Greece, Japan, Vietnam and more. Now I will leave it up to you to pack your bags, spread your wings and explore the cities around the world. Bon voyage and safe travels!

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