D.C.'s newest donut shop in Dupont Circle is off to a good start with a variety of offerings including Mexican Chocolate (filled and glazed with ancho chile spiked chocolate), Peanut Butter and Bacon and Passion Fruit glazed with cacao nibs. The young, hip staff, the 80's funk blaring from a boom box, the graffiti themed decor--I almost felt old, but that didn't stop me from enjoying my sinker! I skipped the cereal milk, but it's there for the taking. The donutz are substantial without being leaden, and a perfect foil for the sweet toppings. There have been some complaints on various social sites that the donut itself isn't sweet enough, but I did't find that to be the case. We left sated, smelling of fried dough and utterly happy.
After standing about in the cold for 3+ hours we were looking forward to a hot meal. Silver Spring, MD has a number of Ethiopian restaurants, and I chose LacoMelza based on some favorable reviews I had read on several social media sites. When we arrived, unfashionably early at 5:15, the restaurant was completely empty.
Fortunately, this was not an indication of the quality of the forthcoming meal. This was our first time eating Ethiopian, and I was somewhat relieved there wasn't a crowd of seasoned eaters watching our fumbling about sans cutlery. The waitress was helpful with meal selection and generous with the injera (the crepe-like bread that serves as plate, fork and spoon) and napkins.
We ordered doro wat: a single chicken drumstick bathed in a spicy red berbere sauce and a vegetable assortment that included kik alicha (yellow split pea puree), misir wat (spicy red lentil stew), tikil gomen (sautéed cabbage and potato), fasolia (green beans with carrots and onions) and gomen wat (collard greens). All delicious with complex flavors and some packing quite a bit of heat. We enjoyed scooping up every last bit with the injera and left too stuffed to think about dessert. Dinner for 3 (not including drinks and tip) <$30. Without any other Ethiopian experiences for comparison I was completely satisfied and would love to return, hopefully when the restaurant is a little livelier.
Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? The saucy proprietress admonished Sophie not to stir it--drinking an egg cream should be experienced in stages from the intense sweetness of the chocolate syrup to the pillowy head. There was an intriguing cocktail menu, including a bacon-garnished Bloody Mary. I feared alcohol induced indolence would plague me for the rest of the day, and I had a lot of cooking to do and a freshly-sharpened chef's knife. Seating is counter-only, just like a soda shop. Sophie's metronomic stool twisting was annoying to her parents. Unless you are sitting next to a sugar-fueled toddler, this type of seating fits the bill--great for watching the kitchen and other patrons.
At $5 a piece, the knish is a bargain. Jammed with a variety of fillings (short rib for Ian, bacon and cheddar for Sophie, and Rueben for me), they are substantial and richly flavored. We didn't try the bagels, $12 for a baker's dozen. I am wishing I had brought some home.
Union Market is open WED-FRI from 11-8 and SAT-SUN 8-8. The website lists Buffalo & Bergen's hours as 11-8 WED-SUN--perhaps a typo because it was already the place to be at 9:30 Saturday morning.
With some trepidation Ian and I set our sights on Range for our anniversary dinner last week. Friday night of a holiday week and no reservations? The restaurant does seat 300, and from what I had gleaned during my internet research they do 60% reservations/40% walk-in. Open Table said we could have a reservation in mid January. After seeing the exciting cocktail menu we figured any wait would not be a hardship. To our delight, arriving at the unhip hour of 5:30 ensured our immediate seating. Chef Voltaggio was in the kitchen that night, and Ian caught a few glimpses of him at work. The restaurant is expansive with several different kitchens (including a candy shop), and the menu is organized by the kitchen of origin. The waitstaff was helpful in pointing out that some of the dishes were small plates while others are meant for sharing with a few friends. Cocktails are all $11, they have a nice selection of craft brews on tap, and an extensive wine list--including a good representation of wines by the glass. I started off with the "Wonder of Neglect"--gin/pineapple shrub/vermouth/oak and continued the shrub theme with my second cocktail, the "Inept Carnie"--scotch/pumpkin shrub/spice/averna. Both were delicious and complex, but the giant ice cube in the Inept Carnie stole my heart.
Here is how the food played out:
Yellowfin crudo with soy/lime/jasmine rice: pristine tuna slices gently brushed with sesame/soy and topped with preserved ginger. Fantastic. Best tuna I have had since Uchi, and that is saying a lot. The jasmine rice was actually a couple of rice crackers--didn't really add or subtract to the dish.
Bread basket: order this and you won't have to decide which of the homemade breads and spreads you will have to miss out on. My favorite was the cornbread with the bacon marmalade or maybe the cheddar chive biscuits with the pepper jelly. Just be careful not to over eat and spoil your appetite. Highly recommend ordering if you have more than two people or have two people who just really love bread.
Kale caesar: like it sounds, sliced kale dressed up with a shower of parmesan. Egg yolk/olive oil emulsion to apply to each bite or mix in as you see fit. The best argument for kale to remain on the "in" list for 2013. Definitely enough for two folks to split. With all that bread I didn't miss croutons.
Kimchi linguine with uni/bay scallop and nasturtium: the Lee family is always happy to see kimchi on the menu, but even folks of non-Korean descent will enjoy the very understated kimchi flavor. There were several choice morsels of briny uni, however, nary a nasturtium. Bread basket for the win--you will want to mop up this sauce.
Beef heart: I talked Ian into this dish--served with a garlicky chimichurri--thinly sliced heart grilled medium rare. The waitstaff provided a Shun steak knife that we didn't need to slice this tender dish. Lean/flavorful, heart is a great starter organ meat for the squeamish.
Sunchokes: oven roasted with watercress and lemon. We ordered because I have never had sunchokes. Not a standout dish but delicious in the way that root vegetables liberally oiled and roasted can be with toasty caramel notes brightened by the hit of lemon juice. Probably would have opted for the "everything mashed potato" if we hadn't already eaten ourselves into a diabetic coma with the bread basket.
We did save enough room for the two of us to split an order of the rice pudding that came with an assortment of condiments: chopped crystallized ginger, shaved Brazil nuts, chopped pistachios, chocolate and quince to gussy up each bite of your pudding. We brought home a gingerbread marshmallow and a sesame malted truffle for Sophie. You will have to take her word on their deliciousness because she didn't share.
Range is located in the Chevy Chase Pavilion. There is a parking garage. Range does not validate parking. If you are a Metro person, the Friendship Heights stop is the way to go. According to the hostess, Range may open for lunch in January. Looking forward to returning with a big crowd of adventurous eaters so we can kill that bread basket/try more cocktails/peel Sophie away from the candy counter.
I received a text from my foodie friend Lisa saying "we are going to the Irish Whiskey Public House, interested?" Knowing Lisa's excellent taste in restaurants from our year of school together and a working week in Cleveland, I quickly accepted her offer for Easter brunch.
One of the attributes that clearly differentiates good from great is attention to detail. As you can tell from the pictures, the kitchen staff only sent out precisely prepared and plated food. The food tasted as good as it looked, with edgy splashes of flavor overlaying traditional favorites. This theme permeated throughout the "pub", with a sophisticated but comfortable interior designed by Maggie O"Neill. For us, however, we enjoy one of the handful of outside table on a perfect sunny day in the Dupont Circle area of Washington D.C.
The dish above is "From the Coast", featuring perfectly seared potato puffs with poached eggs and smoked salmon on soda bread, and covered in gravy. Simple scrumptious.
The Cream of Mussel soup with fried mussels and Irish cheddar cheese surprised us with the complex flavor profile in each bite, both blending and separating the taste of the ocean and the cheese. I will order a bowl of this soup when I bring the family back here.
Lisa's dish, Chipped Corn Beef with gravy over brioche (aka. sh_t on a shingle) and double fried potatoes, spoke of ageless comfort food and tasted exactly as we hoped it would. The SoS had a special place in my heart as it a traditional favorite in our family.
Having a late breakfast, I chose a lighter option. Although slightly smaller than I hoped, the scallops blended beautifully with the bacon, red onions, and vinaigrette.
To complement the food, we received excellent service. Our servers were my favorite type - unpretentious, helpful, and relaxed. Prices were also quite reasonable.
In addition to great food, the Irish Whiskey Public House is also known for its 50+ brands of whiskey and 50+ mostly craft beers - in case food is not really your thing. We also recommend the alcoholic apple cider.
If you can catch a beautiful day in D.C. we recommend you sit outside (see how happy the girls look?). The neighborhood is quiet and the architectural structures remind you that you are in a scenic historic district, not as strip mall. For us in the end, every one claimed they had the "best" dish. I am looking forward to returning when Ginny and the girls make it out this way.
After skipping breakfast and going for a short hike in the Shenandoah Mountains, we stopped at this highly rated Moroccan and Mediterranean Restaurant in Charlottesville. Maddy chose the salad, which included marinated chicken, feta cheese, and an assortment of vegetables.
Her friend chose the Chicken Shwarma Wrap.
I choose the Casablanca wrap, with lean beef Kafta with seven spices. Both wraps came with lettuce, tomato, and Aromas sauce. The entrees were delicious, although we had a few small quibbles. The wraps were a little bready for my taste, the food was served lukewarm, and the meat Aroma sauce, which was delicious, was spread too thin to completely season the inner contents. Again, all small issues, but next time I will remember to ask for a side of Aromas sauce.
The desserts were beautiful. Above is the traditional baklava. Below was a special variation with pistachios and grain that tasted like mini-wheat cereal, along with Greek yogurt and a pomegranate reduction. The desserts were fantastic, although a little steep at $5 and $7. Note however, that there is no lunch menu - the lunch and dinner menu are one in the same.
Both the service and the food met our expectations, and we know this restaurant is destined to be a hit in Charlottesville.
Maddy took a break from studying and joined me in DC this weekend. After our wintry morning with the red pandas at the National Zoo, we were in the mood for soup. We plugged "noodle" into the Garmin, and found our way to DC Noodles. DC regulars may know DC Noodles as the former restaurants of Rice and Simply Home.
The restaurant is clean, smallish, hip, and with a full bar. This mural greeted us at the entry.
Maddy ordered the chicken with noodles in spicy sauce for $9. Her dish was beautifully presented, and the broth knit together a sophisticated and complex flavor which warmed the lips but did not burn. The wide noodles were quite wide at about an 1.5", and tasted a little too noodle-ly for Maddy (she will just order thin noodles next time - it's just preference thing). The chicken, in strip and minced pieces, was scrumptious.
I chose the Burmese Kao Soi for $14. While the price seemed a bit high for this curry soup at lunch, Kao Soi is a favorite in our family since our trip to Chiang Mai, and often difficult to find. Other than an under proportioned amount of beef, the dish was excellent. The fried noodles and egg noodles in the curry soup tasted wonderful. Maddy and I licked the bowl clean - figuratively.
DC Noodles gets two thumbs up. The service was excellent, the atmosphere comfortable and fun, and the noodle dishes tasted great.
While working the on the computer I spotted tonkatsu on the local news foodie segment. So I headed out for dinner tonight to Toki Underground, which opened earlier this year. The restaurant is small, above a pub which greets you with the smell of stale beer. However, upon entering the upstairs restaurant, you are transported by sound and sight into a hip asian noodle house. It was nearly full when I arrived a quarter past five.
I started with miso kiwi red potatoes, one of the specials. I did not really tast the kiwi, but the flavor was good, and the potatoes were cooked perfectly. Forgetting my tonkatsu ramen mission, I ordered another special instead. That is okay, I had a feeling I would be back.
Above is the abura tsukemen dish, a soba dish served with an oily, soy based sauce on the side, for dipping. The noodles were cooked in pork fat and included a generous portion of pork that tasted as if it were cooked in the tonkatsu broth. The dish also contained sesame and scallions. The broth tasted like salty tonkatsu broth. Not really one to follow directions, I ended up pouring the broth into the noodles - tasted awesome.
Quite reasonable and delicious, I will definitely be back. As with much of DC, parking can be a challenge, and similar to the Ramen places in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, the restaurant is small and seating does not provide much personal space. I think my area on the shelf off one of the walls was about 14" by 20". Like in Asia, I sat on my coat and put my bag on the little shelf for your feet. The experience may be a little too cozy for some.
Regardless, the food is terrific and the atmosphere is authentic.
The second favorite restaurant we dined in while in Baltimore was Nanami Cafe. It is situated right on the pier, but offered an excellent selection of sashimi, traditional sushi, and fusion sushi for reasonable prices. The decor is simple, and you have the option to sit on the floor or at a table.
Our first dish came on a flaming dish.
The fusion sushi was heavy on the sauce, but delicious none-the-less.
For the purest, they served beautiful cuts of sashimi.
All of the fish tasted fresh and looked great.
The highlight of the evening however was the above. Is is squash? No! It is monkfish liver, which has an unbelievable creamy texture and straddles the line between hurling and gastronomic delight. It was not on the menu, but my experienced friends knew to ask, and we were stoked they had it.
If you are jones-ing for fresh seafood in Baltimore, head to Nanami Cafe.
Salt is off the beaten path in Baltimore, so you likely will not run into it. That said, it is one of those restaurants that serves food you want to enjoy again and again. The food, service, and atmosphere create a wonderful dining experience. Do you get the idea we liked this place?
Above is the crispy wild boar belly with noodles. While much less fatty than the pig belly I am used to, the meat was tender and delicious.
The duck fat french fries, served hot and with a trio of aioli. Note that you get more than three fries!
Goat shoulder ragout with parsnip gnocchi and honey roasted endives.
The Mushroom and Spinach Strudel with goat cheese, root vegetable "risotto", pine nuts, and fig molasses. I had a bite of this and it was unreal!
Braised Veal shortrib with sweetbread with mushroom marsala and celery puree.
Rabbit leg Confit on soft porcini polenta, rapini, and broth.
I ordered the Grilled Creekstone Farms Hanger Steak with Worcestershire and foie gras spaetzle, almonds, pesto, and chanterelle mushrooms. The meat was cooked medium rare and tasted sensational.
The Fall Venison Pasta, with butternut squash, swiss chard, onions, and housemade red beat pasta.
The deserts were very good, but did not quite shine like the entrees and appetizers on this night.
In summary, the food was terrific, and for those concerned, Salt chooses to use sustainable food sources. My favorites were the pork belly and fries for appetizer, and the hanger steak and strudel for entrees. The menu changes often, but that is a good thing if you want to keep going back to Salt - I know I will the next time I am in Baltimore!
We chose to eat at Maya for second dinner. Our later arrival at 9:30 allowed us to be seated inside immediately. We shared a bowl of the beef-based soup of the day, which was fantastic. It was surprisingly good.
My favorite entree and one of the nightly specials was a lamb dish with a red wine reduction. Like the lamb Ginny has cooked all day in the crock pot, the meat was fall off the bone tender and excellently seasoned to complement the lamb flavor.
All of the entrees came with two sides. We tried the broccolini, corn bread, mac and cheese, sweet potato fries, brussel sprouts with bacon and onions, and stone ground grits with white cheddar. The sides were really good, although the sweet potato fries seemed a little soggy, not crispy.
The second special of the night was pork chops with apple butter. The mix of savory and sweet worked nicely together - very tasty.
The third dish was Rock Barn Pork NY Strip with Carolina bbq slaw. Initially I did not see the "Pork" in the title, and the server explained that this was the same cut, but pork instead of beef. After a quick period to reconsider, I stayed with the dish. The slaw was delicious, reminding us of Thai sweet chili sauce. Unfortunately, the pork seemed a tad dry. In retrospect, the dish of course tasted like pork, and I am not sure I see a meaningful comparison to NY strip. When I think of NY strip, I think of a softer meat cooked medium rare. Of course pork must be fully cooked and ends up well done and firm - which could not be farther from my mental picture of NY strip.
Of note was the service. When I asked for honey mustard to dip the sweet potato fries (like at Willies in Manhattan, Kansas), the owner (I think) came out and sincerely went through alternative options, which was much appreciated. On the other hand, the server seemed too focused on having us consider drinks, appetizers, deserts, and coffee. There is a fine line between being informed and prodded, and I perceived the latter. Other than the push to order more, the service was quite good.
In summary, some of the dishes were excellent while others were generally very good. To be fair Maddy had a superb experience here during her last visit, and during this visit I don't think I chose exactly what I was in the mood for. My impression is that Maya seeks to consistently produce excellent food and improve the customers' experience, and we will definitely consider returning to Maya during my next visit.
While visiting Maddy in Charlottesville this weekend, we stopped at "the flat" for 1st dinner. If you want a gigantic crepe filled with pure goodness, this is the place for you!
Perhaps measuring 15' x 20' in size, we admired the excellent use of space, as well as the charm of the small kitchen.
The employees were relaxed, really cool, and had a little fun with us when we pulled out our cameras.
We shared the "party fowl", which contained grilled chicken, avocado, peppers, and cheddar. It cost us a whopping, $6.50. We also tried the delicious hot cider, which we agreed would be perfect on a late fall day. It took a little while to get our food so if you see a line and are starving, this might be a consideration. However, the crepes tasted great and were stuffed to the gills with good stuff. We highly recommend the flat. Note however, they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and they only take cash.
I tried the Now! Deals on Groupon, where you purchase a Groupon to use same day or Groupon will refund you for the Groupon. With $20 of food credit burning a hole in my pocket, I chose the most expensive item on the menu at the Jerusalem Restaurant, the vegetarian combo platter, as well as the meat pie. Little did I know I was in for an 11 course meal!
The waitress served seven vegetarian dishes, and then included one of the three savory pies (meat, spinach, and spinach with cheese) along with a fried pocket filled with meat. The hummus, taboulieh, and the foul moujadara were fantastic. Complex and bursting with flavor, I savored every bite. The pies, fried pocket, grape leave rolls, and falafel were very good; warmed, but not freshly baked or fried. The rice and the greens were okay. Unlike my order, most of the patrons chose some variation of kebobs or meat-heavy entree, all of which looked quite good.
This restaurant is in a modest strip mall off of Leesburg Pike and draws an international crowd. It has a nice vibe and children are welcome. In fact, the 4 year old in the next booth kept jeering at me, until I flicked my greens at him (just kidding, about flicking the greens). I felt somewhat neglected by my server and had hoped for more water, but I believe people come here for the food and relaxed atmosphere, and the servers are friendly.
Will I go back? Definitely!