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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stuff My Mom Cooks, Pt. 5

Once again, pictures from my mother's overabundant cooking, this time the two-day Thanksgiving edition:

Day 1:

Wonton cups filled with shredded papaya salad, Thai basil, and dried beef

28-hour beef stew

Orange tea-marinated goose

Poached shrimp with a mango-pepper salad on bird's nest

 Rice cakes filled with smoked mackerel

Baked brie with almonds and parsley

Day 2:

Duck pho (seared duck breast, boiled duck meat, duck egg, vegetables)

Duck pho, the finished product

Mini banh xeo with shrimp

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vinoteca, Part Deux

The Setup

Having literally stepped off a plane after 28 straight hours of travel just an hour prior, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas resuscitated me the only way she knew how: brunch. On this trip, we headed back to an old standby, Vinoteca.

The Vibe


Usually we avoid re-describing the vibe in these Parts Deux, but this is a different case; this was my first trip into the fabled bocce court. The space is small, just a handful seats at an outdoor bar, and two group bench tables; we ended up eating on some bar stools using the railing around the bocce pit. That being said, the back porch is cute, a rustic Italian countryside set-up that must be real nice on dates (if the whole thing isn't out-of-hand crowded, that is).

The Food


For me, there are three small pleasures at brunch: Irish coffee; cheesy grits; and someone else making an egg dish for me at odd times of the day. This meal prominently featured all three. On the first two parts, the Irish coffee was some of the best I've had (oddly enough, it's easy to mess this up... it's called too much Jameson at the expense of Bailey's), and the cheddar grits were fine (which is to say traditional, and not overwhelmingly buttery or cheesy, much to my chagrin).

Texas and I split two dishes: first, two poached eggs on gruyere toast with hollandaise, with a side frisée salad with pulled pork. Poached egg + frisee salad is a pretty regular combination, and this could have easily fallen into a safe category. But the gruyere toast was superlative, a nice flavor addition to the traditional eggs Benedict. Even sans meat, I found myself enjoying the sharp taste and wonderful crunch of the bread.

The second dish was basically a reordered version of the first: a pulled pork sandwich with two fried eggs, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. If the pulled pork got lost in the shuffle on the first dish, it didn't here. Seasoned well, it was mild enough to not overshadow the other ingredients, but still provided enough flavor to pack a punch. If anything, I wished there was more goat cheese on the sandwich, but it's a small quibble.

The Verdict


A brunch that brings dishes as good as the highs of the dinner service, without any of the missteps.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Munchies: ACKC

This Monday Munchies brings us to the small but cute coffee shop/chocolatier ACKC, the 14th St shop that has lately been decorated with a banner that proclaims it the Small Business of the Year.

ACKC's vibe is eccentric, a near riot of color favoring fire engine red. It's part chocolate counter and part laid-back coffee house (replete with local artwork on the wall), with a soft spot for leading ladies. Case in point: all the chocolate drinks are named after famous women celebrities, as famous as Marilyn Monroe to as obscure as Carmen Miranda. On this trip, I had the Lucy: semi-sweet chocolate with chipotle and a dusting of cinnamon. Boy, was this one a hit to the taste buds. The chipotle had a nice kick to it that really surprised me, and was a nice departure from the normal hot chocolate.

Overall, a fun cute place for a pop-by.

Taste Test: 3 Forks
Perfect for: Cold days you want a hot chocolate

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Burger Tap and Shake

(this post written by Official Co-Writer of DCWD AP)
Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom

The Setup 
Ever since coming back from a semester abroad, it seems as though I can't get enough American food.  This has manifested itself lately in a constant burger craving.  Burger Tap & Shake being the latest in a string of new upscale burger joints, I had to try it out.

The Vibe 
Burger Tap & Shake occupies a space right on Washington Circle, in the new office/apartment building.  The first thing you notice when you enter is just how small the area is; it's tiny.  I thought there would be a back room to accommodate the lunch hour rush, but no.  I can only imagine the line is out the door around noon.  Otherwise, the lighting is dim and the seating area is informal.  It's a nice mix actually, not fancy but more upscale than your average McDonald's, which I think is what they're going for.
The Food 
I got the "Apache Sweat Lodge", a burger with roasted green chilies, pepperjack cheese, smoked onions, and XXX sauce.  The burger itself was nice, although not as juicy as BGR and dry in comparison to Ray's Hellburger.  The burger was actually spicy, which I enjoyed (many times I'm disappointed by so-called spicy foods which turn out to be only mild to me.)  The fries were very good.  Think Five Guys' fresh cut taste but less greasy.    

The Verdict 
Overall a nice burger.  Decent value for the money, as it's less than BGR; but not something I'd go out of my way to have again.

Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: ** (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: N/A
Vibe: Chatty
Cost: $ (out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing: Grab an early dinner, then take a free shuttle to the Kennedy Center (leaving from the Foggy Bottom Metro) and catch one of their free shows for an inexpensive evening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fiola

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Penn Quarter

The Setup


Looking for a catch-up drink and dinner, Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC picked out Fiola, Fabio Trabocchi's grand return to the DC restaurant scene.

The Vibe
Upscale, classy, a shimmering mix of browns and beiges... and that's just the bar. Fiola is one of the more spectacular dining rooms I've seen, from the modern bar section to the mixed modern dining area. The square bar fills up the whole space when you walk in, with a row of circular high bar tables behind it. A soft glow comes from the light fixtures made of what can be called glass bubbles hanging over the marble bar.

Follow a set of wine coolers and down a small set of stairs to the main space, a mix of country-inn with granite brick walls, to beige leather couches along chocolate furniture and walls. Seating is a diverse mix, from two large half-circle booths on the left, to back-to-back rows of two-tops in the center of the space. Outside of the lack of space for couples, it's otherwise a beautiful space.

The Food


To start, I had one of Jeff Faile's creations (who, we realized, served us at the bar at Palena): a Root Down, a mix of Zaya rum, Carpano Antica vermouth, and root liqueur. I had no idea what any of those words meant, but the mix was a nice warm mix for a cold autumn night.

To start, we started with the recommended meatballs, served with sunny side up egg and pecorino cheese. Housemade meatballs from high-end restaurants are always great, but these were exceptional, the perfect mix of meat and fat. The egg also did a great job of bringing the whole dish together and gave it a nice finish, despite the lack of starch. And spoiler alert: it was the weakest dish of the night.

For dinner, CC and I split two half portions of pasta. The first was tortellini, with goat cheese, sweetbreads, and fennel pollen. People talk in reverent terms about Chef Trabocchi's old restaurant Maestro, and it's clear to see why. The fresh housemade pasta sang, providing a lightness that was surprising for starch. The sweetbreads were as creamy and smooth and well-cooked as any I've had before, especially with pairing with the goat cheese. Still, everything about the dish left you satisfied without feeling heavy.

On the more savory side was the marubini: butternut squash ravioli with quail and rosemary in a roasting jus. This was just amazing; the quail and jus just so rich with the perfect amount of salt, with the squash giving the dish a depth that was perfect for the season. Again, the pasta was well-made, and the flavors were spot on.

The bartender talked us into dessert and suggested the bombolini: donuts filled with ricotta. Crisp on the outside and delightful on the inside, these were little sugary bites of heaven. Followed by some lovely and diverse petit-fours.

The Verdict


Amazing pasta, seasonal flavors, beautiful room. Definitely a great date spot.

Food Rating: *****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Business
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Chatty
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
Pairing
: Head down the street to Harman Hall, where the Shakespeare Theatre Company opens Much Ado About Nothing in a week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Munchies: Rolling Ficelle

Finding ourselves right smack dab in the middle of a food truck gathering the night of the annual Dupont Drag Race, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I needed to find a truck that suited both of our needs: veggie friendly but with meat options, and most importantly delicious. So we went with Rolling Ficelle.

Rolling Ficelle sells a variety of sandwiches in long baguettes. I'll admit that I had no idea what a ficelle was before this moment, and I'm not entirely sure what it is now (The Google tells me it actually is the bread, not the sandwich). Rolling Ficelle sandwiches are all named after modern artists, from Rothko to Frida Kahlo (an interesting choice), and in this instance I ordered the Davis: chicken breast, parsley, lemon aioli, almonds, avocado, and romaine. The bread was okay, neither as soft or as toasted as I would want it to be. At best, the fillings were like a decent chicken salad, with the almond an okay addition but the avocado almost nonexistent.

For her part, Texas ordered the Klee: hummus, piquillo peppers, Swiss, tomato, and baby spinach. Her sandwich was desperately lacking, with too much spinach and no real filling; all the ingredients were complementary pieces and not star attractions, so it felt like it was missing the key piece that tied the whole thing together. So, at $6, not exactly a steal.

Taste Test: **
(out of 5)
Perfect for
: Lots of sandwich for a decent price.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cork, Part Deux

The Setup

This Part Deux revisits 14th St standby Cork, with Official Roommate of DCWD Talia (though this happened before the chef change).
The Food

This time, Talia and I arrived early enough to score patio seats on a lovely late summer night. Being a pescetarian, we ordered three veggie friendly dishes to split between the two of us (plus a fish dish, and one meat dish for me). This came along with the pinot noir flight: a wonderful rose champagne, a pinot blanc, and a burgundy.

First up was the avocado, served on grilled bread with pistachios, pistachio oil, and sea salt, a dish so good that the couple next to us ordered two of them. I guess this dish hinges on how much you love pistachios, almost as much as avocados. The texture is lovely, and the avocado is surprisingly mild, balanced out with the salt, but the pistachio is the complementary flavor that brings the whole dish together.

We also ordered the chickpeas in a saffron broth, with swiss chard, tomato, and mint. This was less of a success for us, the chickpeas not soft enough, and the broth not strong enough to make up for it. Great in theory, fun flavor profile, just not great execution.

Last in this round was a Mediterranean sea bream, with fingerling potatoes, parsley, garlic sauce, chili oil, and garlic chips. The crisp of the skin on the dish was nice, but the taste was overwhelmingly parsley, with the herb being made into a paste that the fillet sat on. For all the other subtleties, this dish was very one-note for me.

Still hungry, we went with two more dishes. First, the brussel sprouts served with pancetta, apple, and brown butter. I would have been much more excited about the dish had my bowl come with more than two morsels of pancetta; I kept digging for more, excited to perhaps find a third, but it wasn't meant to be. The brown butter sauce was tasty and everything well-cooked, just not balanced in terms of actual product.

Our second round brought the oil-cured roma tomatoes and goat cheese on grilled bread. From the menu, this wasn't what I was expecting; instead, it came out more like bruschetta (which in fairness, should have been fairly obvious). I liked the combination, and the microbasil that came with it made for a decent caprese taste, but I guess I wanted more punch from everything.

The Verdict


A much lower experience than my first time around; perhaps due to it being just one week before Ron Tanaka left; let's see if Rob Weland of Poste can bring it back.

Food Rating: ***
(out of 5)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pizzeria Paradiso, Part Deux

On our last trip to Pizzeria Paradiso, Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan and I visited the Dupont Circle location; this time Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I headed for a pizza-making session in the Georgetown version, for the 20th Anniversary of PP, situated in the restaurant's cozy basement bar.

Among the winners from the night are the Bosco (tomato,mushrooms, spinach, red onion, mozzarella), paired brilliantly with a De Proef Gageleer Belgian pale ale. But of real note is the week that PP has planned for its anniversary:

Monday, November 7 – $20 Take Out. Get one large and one small pizza for $20 on take-out orders only.
Tuesday, November 8 – 20th Anniversary Beer Glass Giveaway (one complimentary beer glass with beer purchase)
Wednesday, November 9 – $20 All You Can Eat Pizza and Beer (2 drink max)
Thursday, November 10 – $20 Small Special Pizza paired with an Anniversary Beer
Friday, November 11 – .20¢ For Your First Beer
Saturday, November 12 – .20¢ Topping (Dine In Only. 3 toppings max)
Sunday, November 13 – “20 Free Pizzas” Family/Kids Day. 1-4PM. Kids can participate in a Make Your Own Pizza demonstration with Chef Ruth Gresser; first 20 kid’s pizzas are free. (Old Town location only).