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Friday, October 24, 2014

DGS

Plaudits: Washingtonian Top 100 2014
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle

The Setup


Over a year and a half ago, I proposed to now-Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas under the pretense of meeting her at DGS for lunch. We never made it there. So after a month-long work trip and walking through Dupont Circle, we decided now was the time to finally get to it.

The Vibe

DGS (a short hand reference to District Grocery Stores) looks very much the part of a hip modern deli in the midst of Dupont Circle, borrowing tropes that it seems like everyone pushing a similar vibe is going for (see: The Partisan). To wit, the front of house is slick and bright with light capable of pouring in and reflecting off the white subway tile that dominates the space. A to-go counter sits in the middle of the space, with two-tops surrounding it. We post up in one right by wall opposite this counter.

Towards the back is a two-level dining area full of repurposed wood and brick, where larger tables reside.

The Food


While the restaurant bills itself as a next-generation delicatessen, many of the servings will be familiar to anyone who has ever indulged in traditional Jewish deli food. To wit, we take advantage of the happy hour specials and order two of the small nibbles along with our beer (oh hey, they also have some pretty nice craft beers on tap too). The loaded latke, a tiny three bite potato latke topped with sour cream, pickled jalapeno, shredded cheddar, and gribenes (which are poultry cracklings), is an interesting dish, but is barely enough for one, certainly not enough to warrant the price.

On the other hand, the Sympathy for the Reuben is (while a smaller sandwich) a substantial bite that hits all the notes that it needs to. With rich tongue replacing the pastrami, it's a nice step up from your normal reuben, with a nice salt and depth balanced by the tang of the sauerkraut and Russian dressing.

We move onto items from the regular menu. Texas orders some pierogis with a cucumber yogurt sauce. These are nice, but ultimately predictable. If you've had a pierogi before in your life, it's likely  that these are similar. Fresher than your typical one perhaps, but nothing inspired from the cheese filling.

Of course, we had to finish with the schmutzy fries, a high speed collision between two of my favorite foods: a reuben and poutine. With Swiss cheese and Russian dressing replacing the curds and gravy, and the bonus of some generous pastrami chunks and sauerkraut, the dish is a messy but fun indulgence, the kind of food a drunk savant might come up with in his spare time. Recommend.

The Verdict


Fun and flavorful. Worth a stop by.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing
: People watch on the Circle. With the weather turning quick, there'll be less and less days to do so. Plus, you know, a beautiful park.

DGS Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Special Events: Farm to Table Dinner at St. Brigid's Farm

Perhaps nothing defines the food culture in our household better than local and sustainable. As longtime readers of the blog know (all two of you!), those are Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas's rules for any meat we consume, whether it's groceries or meals out. It's important enough of an issue that even our wedding's food, flowers, and decor were as locally sourced as possible.

That wedding bit, with its rustic chic barn setting, also tips off the kind of things that Texas loves. So when we had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual Field to Fork Dinner at St. Brigid's Farm, we jumped at the opportunity. Sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, a collective of over 7,500 dairy farmers in the region, the event was held out on Maryland's Eastern Shore, a region that never struck me as agricultural until we were driving through it. What's more, each year's dinner takes all the proceeds and donates it to a deserving charity: this year's recipient was the fitting Sassafrass Environmental Education Center, an educational program that exposes students to the local biology of the region.

Before the dinner though, we were treated with a quick stop at Crow Vineyards. Home of both a bed and breakfast and a winery, the farm was a wonderful setting to get acquainted with the produce and foodstuffs that the Eastern Shore contributes to our dinner plates. Here, we sampled three wines (among them a Barbera and a Barbera Rose) paired with cheese from the visiting and well-known Cabot Creamery. They're fun wines, clear and strong.

Then onto St. Brigid's. A dairy farm, the site had all the typical sites for a farm, with large holding pens for its Jersey cows. And yet, the bucolic setting could not have been any prettier. I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

This year's menu was German-themed; having missed Octoberfest this year (a fact that I'm sure unsettles my German father-in-law), this was a more-than-welcome menu. We started off with some wonderful passed appetizers: Chapel's Country Creamery cheese, some roasted fall vegetables, and fig-ginger preserves that were just absolutely to die for. We washed it down with local beer.

Sitting down on our end of the table, we started with Evergrain Bakery bread and a cabbage roll stuffed with winter squash from Arnold's Farm, served fairly cold. The real treat though was the main dish for the evening: veal sausage, made by St. Brigid's Farm, with a hot German potato salad and a sweet and sour red cabbage slaw. While it's certainly more expensive, sausage like this is exactly why I'm on board with Texas's local emphasis: it just tastes cleaner and brighter than any factory-made equivalent. What's more, I usually cringe when I hear the words "German potato salad" but this was wonderful, decidedly light on the vinegar that I usually am not a huge fan of.

In true European style, the main course was actually followed by an arugula salad from Colchester Farm topped with apples, figs, and a shallot vinaigrette. Finishing up the night was an apple strudel and with Lockbriar Farms’ vanilla ice cream.

All in all, a pretty incredible evening. If you've never done a farm to table dinner, find one now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Red Hen

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2014 #22, RAMMYS 2014 Best New Restaurant, RAMMYS 2014 Rising Culinary Star
Neighborhood: Bloomingdale

The Setup


Official Friend of DCWD Mark was in town and looking to try the best of what Washington had sprouted since his last visit. So Official Co-Writer/Wife of DCWD Texas, Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC, and I took him out to the Red Hen.

The Vibe

Laid back and rustic, the interior of The Red Hen plays like the inside of a country inn. An open kitchen sits in the middle of the space, surrounded by bar seating, with wood piles in shelving above. Refurbished tables and chairs abound, as do some of the more ubiquitous flourishes in this decor style: exposed brick, stained wooden floors, exposed ceiling, hanging garage lights, kitsch on shelves. Still, here they seem less hackneyed and more welcoming, like a comfortable neighborhood joint that always exists with a quiet hum around the restaurant. The service is excellent; our server is friendly, jovial, and knowledgeable.

The Food


The nice thing about eating with a bunch of food lovers is that it doesn't need to be labeled a "share plate" to actually be shared. Still, of the order four appetizers we order to start off the night, everyone has their favorite. For me, that was the charred beef tongue, a supple piece of meat topped with a shredded carrot slaw and radishes on top of a horseradish crema. When I was a kid, I used to work in a deli where someone first introduced me to combining roast beef with horseradish cheddar; eating this dish harkened me back to that first sensation, except if I was flying on a rocketship while I was eating it. Delicious.

The other appetizers are similarly exquisite, each with their own personal fan. Texas, as per her usual, loves the burrata, a massive softball-sized portion on top of a salad of corn, grilled zucchini, pea shoots, and pesto. Given the summer season when we have this meal, it's a bright and sweet burst made almost too extravagant by the incredible cheese. CC latches onto the grilled octopus with white beans, tied together with fennel, frisee, and a romesco sauce which is perfectly clean, wonderfully clean, and nicely acidic. For his part, Mark loves the heirloom beet salad with smoked mozzarella, with its beautiful flavors and textural shifts, punctuated by wheatberries and pistachios and the caper vinaigrette. The one thing we really notice though is how amazingly things are plated, and how bright all of the colors are. If you eat first with your eyes, then you can probably do no better than the beautiful red and gold beets, or the sharp contrast between bright whites and yellows and greens on the corn dish.



We move on to entrees, where we debate between the restaurant's numerous housemade pastas. The one thing we bat around is the fennel sausage ragu rigatoni, a dish so legendarily buzzy in the restaurant's short history that we feel compelled to order it, but compared to some of the other offerings, we hedge. That is, until we ask our server for recommendations and the rigatoni's almost jumping off his lips. So we capitulate. And how glad are we that we do: for something so straightforward, it meets you right at each bite with a light tang that is instantly pleasing. Everything blends so well, and is so bright that it's unsurprising that this dish has made it so big (even the sauce itself is a brilliant tangerine color).

In comparison, the solid saffron zucca, as canary yellow as the rigatoni is orange, is stuck playing second fiddle. Which is unfortunate as, much like the burrata dish above, its summery brightness plays well with bits of sweet corn puree, squash, mascarpone, and shitakes. Similarly, the chicken fra diavolo, another server suggestion, is a wonderful dish that might have been superlative if the superlative hadn't already been seized. Paired with fingerling potatoes and kale, it's a shade below Palena's in my book (mostly due to the latter's more interesting spice mix), but it piques the interest with its inclusion of currants. It's homey, in a good way.



Dessert runs similarly: two good plates overshadowed by a boss. Both the gianduja brownie with hazelnuts and vanilla gelato, and the sweet corn cake with blueberry preserves and maple gelato are earthy and non-overpowering (and I really can't emphasize this enough, magnificently bright colored). But the winner by everyone's estimation is the maple custard with toasted hazelnut crumble. Imagine a creme brulee on steroids; the maple kick is enough to make you go bananas on its own. We ate it so fast, I didn't even have time to snap a picture.



The Verdict


At the RAMMYs this year, when Red Hen won for best new restaurant, co-owner Sebastian Zutant started his speech but jokingly thanking Aaron Silverman of Rose's Luxury for not being a part of RAMW, since it would've taken the award away from him. Having eaten at both in quick succession to one another (and fully noting how amazing our experience there was), I'm not so sure it wouldn't have been real close.

Food Rating: **** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: Why not start the night off by visiting the National Geographic Museum's exhibit on food? It's across town, but "Food: Our Global Kitchen" will get your appetite going.

The Red Hen on Urbanspoon