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Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Night Flights: Vida Tequila Cocktails


It's summertime. That means stuffing yourself silly with guacamole and chips and sipping on multiple margs. Preferably by a pool. While looking fabulous.

Tequila, in my mind, carries the largest discrepancy between top shelf and bottom shelf. On the cheap, you're lucky if it's barely palatable and tastes like dirt. At the top though, it's a completely different ballgame.

Invited to expand my limited definition of tequila-based cocktails at Vida Tequila's DC coming out party, I bravely tested the colorful salt-rimmed waters.

The "True Blue" was a spin on your typical margarita, subbing in Grand Marnier for the Triple Sec (a move I support!) and adding a splash of watermelon.

More creative was the "Reposada Passion," which successfully used pineapple juice and a passion fruit puree in a way that complimented the tequila and wasn't cloyingly sweet and tropical (happily not inducing any flashbacks to the pineapple and Malibu I drank for a hot second in college, ick). At home I'd water this down with a spritz of soda water and skip the sugar rim. Also a much larger glass...

I'm still not sold on the merits of tequila shots, but I know what I'll be drinking the next time avocados are on sale and it's a nice night to sit outdoors.

Bar Review:
2 1/2 Cheers (out of 5)
Perfect for:
Mixing up the options in your summer cocktail arsenal
Where to find it:
You can find these cocktails at 901, but if you want to check out Vida, head to your favorite liquor store that stocks products through Southern Wine & Spirits!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DCWD Travels: Montreal

Normally, I would string out at least four or five posts about our recent trip to our favorite city in the world, but frankly we were too busy nomming on food to snap pictures or make comments. So instead, here are some quick snaps about Montreal:

Poutine. Love is a dangerous word to throw around, but then again, poutine is a dangerous thing to put in front of a hungry person. I've written before about my love for the Quebecois dish, traditionally a healthy serving of French fries smothered in gravy and what can only be called squeaky cheese (if you spent more than a year in an American elementary school, you know what I'm referring to). Alas, the EatWonky truck that once graced DC streets and served this elegant food is no more, and so I was more than a little excited to engorge myself with some upon our return to Montreal.


Luckily for me, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas is permitting when it comes to stuffing my face, and so we ended up at a Frites Alors on our first night; a chain of poutine-serving restaurants, it's the functional equivalent of Chop't but less healthy and with table service. Despite the presence of more adventurous models, Texas and I stuck with the Vladimir, essentially a regular poutine. And oh my, how delicious it was. Gooey gravy dripping over every just-out-of-the-fryer tater, with the occasional nugget of cheese delivering the coup de grace.

Chocolate. Among Texas's favorite spots in the City of Saints is a pair of matching cafes named Juliette et Chocolat, which obviously serve a diversity chocolate, but also crepes, coffee, and other cafe food. On this trip, our collective family ate a ton (including a number of the buckwheat crepes), but the clear high point of the meal were the chocolate drinks: mine le soleil epice (the spicy sun, made with dark chocolate and bits of cayenne, gingerbread, and Cointreau among other things), hers an exceptionally dark 80 percent hot chocolate. Both were fantastic, sweet but soothing and warming, enjoyable even on the hot summer day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DCWD Travels: Restaurant August, New Orleans

Plaudits: Times-Picayune Dining Guide 2011
Neighborhood: Canal Street, New Orleans

The Setup


For our big dinner in New Orleans, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas decided to go to John Besh's Restaurant August.

The Vibe

Restaurant August is, in a word, well, august. You enter into the bar area, bathed in dark wood with a six seat marbletop bar to the back, and five or so high-top bar tables. It's elegant and stylish, reminiscent of a billiards room or a library in a grand old mansion. The service is also pretty accommodating: on our night, a clearly intoxicated couple came and sat at the bar, and ordered up a storm before trudging out without taking a bite; the staff took this pretty in stride all in all.

The main dining room is the perfect picture of a Southern-style dining room. Glorious chandeliers hang from high ceilings, illuminating a brilliant crimson and cream room. Huge colonial windows are framed by draped curtains and exposed brick, with handsome furniture and dark wood floors. It's just a gem of a room, and one I can only imagine is pretty magic to sit in; sadly, with our last minute decision making, we were relegated to the bar area.

The Food

To start, we were served an amuse bouche - egg custard served in an egg shell, topped with a brioche crouton and caviar. Surprisingly sweet, flavorful, and a nice start to the meal.

Both of us decided to go with the tasting menus, me the regular one, Texas the vegetarian tasting. For my first course, I had a salad of white asparagus, crawfish tails, potatoes, and house cured ham. The idea was there, but for me, it was just a little bit too much salt, with the ham cure and the crawfish and the extra finishing combining to be a little too much oomph for a first course.

Texas's first course was a chilled consomme of blueberries, goat cheese, and a pine nut crumble. Unlike my salad, this was brilliantly composed, a good balance of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy. Despite what you might think about what essentially is berry soup, it actually wasn't overly saccharine either. Instead, it was wonderfully light, which was a bright and appropriate start for this summer meal.

My second dish was yellowfin tuna with artichoke, fava bean, and chickpeas on a sauce verte. The fish was cooked perfectly with the center remaining tender. The problem I had with the dish was the accompaniments, a bit insubstantial on the sauce, a bit undercooked on the beans and chickpeas. It meshed decently well, and the protein was solid, but it was just missing that extra step.

Texas's dish was ricotta stuffed squash blossoms with sun drop tomatoes and sweet peas in a saffron vinaigrette. The concept was well-executed, and it definitely was one that I enjoyed just as much as my dish, but it just missed that critical wow factor that might have propelled it into greatness. The saffron or the tomatoes, either of which I expected to punch through more, sort of got lost.

I had an extra dish on my menu: roast breast and slow cooked leg of duckling with creole cream cheese, blueberries, and rapini. This was great execution, and more of what I was expecting from John Besh: not only the technical precision and quality food, but an interesting blend of flavors including a Southern twist. Quite good.

The two main courses were both cast iron roasts: mine a flat iron beef with tete tortellini, a pea pesto, and sweet corn, hers centered around broccolini and sunchoke with pecans, candied fennel, and aleppo pepper. Our eating habits what they are, we both tended to favor our own choices; I liked mine because it featured the protein prominently and was cooked cleanly, while she enjoyed hers for the variety of flavor patterns and textural shifts.

Still, there were now-common problems with the two dishes: mine was fairly ordinary when compared to other high-end places, while hers was basically a side dish without a single one component asserting itself; it was essentially a much more interesting salad, and not what should be the penultimate course of the night.

For dessert, I had the dark chocolate pate with a raspberry and brown butter ice cream. The cake was rich and filling, but the ice cream was the winner, with an interesting creaminess that went well beyond the form of the dessert itself. I chalk it up to the brown butter base, which added a wonderful savory counterpoint.

Texas's was a blackberry upside down cake: a cornbread base filled with the fruit, with a bourbon-based sauce and white corn ice cream. Hers was the clear winner of the dessert battle, a wonderful touch of Southern cuisine with the corn shining through, while still retaining a pointed sweetness.

The Verdict


There's no doubt that the food is all cooked perfectly. But it just lacked that transcendent moment we were expecting. Really good food always on the cusp of great.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
Vibe:
Calm
Cost:
$$$$
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)

Restaurant August on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 20, 2012

Date Ideas: Paying the Bill, and Tipping

With a first date, first impressions are massively important. But opportunities for first impressions last well beyond the first five minutes; even the way you settle your tab says something about you. Here are some quick tips from all of us here at DCWD on paying the bill and tipping:


Always allow for the check dance, but win it. The check dance is a time honored tradition, where the lady (or to be non-gender-normative, the one being taken on a date) feigns that she'll go Dutch on the bill; the gentleman (or again, the date taker) will wave her off; some amount of argument will ensue; the gentleman will eventually pay the whole bill. Look, here at DCWD, we are all committed feminists, but doing the check dance and paying the bill go beyond feminism. It's about demonstrating that you enjoyed the date enough to pay for the first date, and incidentally, that you're not so cheap, you can't afford to pay the bill (sure, it has dulcet undertones of being a provider, but whatever). Because of this, you also don't want to skip the dance altogether by sneaking to the server; you don't want to seem presumptuous. However...

Always take into consideration the situation. If one person asked the other on the date (or a blind date for that matter), then the above situation applied. But if it was a mutual set-up, you might want to go Dutch to acknowledge the balance.

Above all, always tip your server well. They help make a good night great, and a great date unforgettable. They also are for the most underpaid and overworked, especially if they pool their tips with all the bussers and staff in the back. Most of all, it doubles as demonstrating you're generous/not a jerk. For a helpful guide on tipping, click here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DCWD Travels: Stanley, New Orleans

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: French Quarter, New Orleans

The Setup


This week we return to New Orleans for two more reviews from our trip to the Big Easy. First up, a brunch with Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend of DCWD Texas at Jackson Square spot Stanley.

The Vibe


 Stanley (with from what we can tell, its sister restaurant Stella, another solid Streetcar reference) seems like a perfect representation of a French Quarter restaurant: vaguely Colonial Spanish/French facade, with a quasi-brasserie-like interior: chocolate brown crossbeams across white ceilings and walls, black ceiling fans atop simple furniture and a tiled floor. Walls are decorated with black and white photos, and the kitchen remains fairly open in the center of the main floor. Seating is cramped in the morning hours, with twos almost on top of one another. On this trip, we scored one fairly separate from others by the window.

The Food



On this trip, we ordered (what else?) an Eggs Stanley and an Eggs Stella, both takes on eggs benedict, though one was topped with cornmeal-crusted oysters, the other with cornmeal-crusted soft shell crab. The results were frankly, however, a little bland; the oysters were a little chalky in their consistency, the crab was ho-hum, and the hollandaise lacked the acid or punch it needed to bring both dishes together. Even the English muffins seemed a little lackadaisical.

What saved the day were the gluttonous milkshakes we ordered with housemade ice cream, after lusting after them seeing them being whisked every which way. My bananas foster was pretty lush, and Texas's peanut butter chocolate chip was also sweetly delicious.

The Verdict


Just didn't live up to our expectations.

Food Rating: ** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)


Stanley Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We Made It From the Market: Donut Peach, Goat Cheese, and Honey Waffles

With this week’s Eat Local First campaign in full swing after Saturday’s Kick-Off party, I thought I’d add a post about my favorite weekend dish using some fantastic fresh products from our local farmers market at 14th and U Streets NW.  It has become a Saturday morning ritual for Official DCWD Co-Writer/Boyfriend Kim and I to head over to the market for some local produce, cheese, flowers, and meat.  I try to keep my meat intake to a minimum, but when I do eat meat I make sure that its local. 14th and U Farmers Market has plenty of tasty options for this occasional omnivore, and I’ve become addicted to Saturday morning breakfasts of applewurst from Truck Patch Farms. Looking to branch out a bit, and armed with some Monocacy Silver goat cheese (Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co. in Boyds, MD), ripe donut peaches (Kuhn Orchards in Cashtown, PA), and orange blossom honey, Kim and I whipped up the following **delicious** waffles.

Waffle Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  •  2 tablespoons white sugar
  •  2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  Sprinkle of cinnamon 

Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe donut peaches
  •  1 teaspoon butter
  • Sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • Crumbled Monocacy Silver goat cheese
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom honey
For the Waffles:
Mix the dry ingredients together first (flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar). In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the warm milk, melted butter and vanilla.

Create a well in the flour mixture and begin by pouring a small amount of the milk mixture into the center of the well. Whisk until absorbed, and continue pouring bits of the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisking until completely combined. Mix until smooth.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and mix.

Ladle the batter into a preheated waffle iron. Cook the waffles until golden and crisp. Tip: To keep the condensation from making the waffles soggy, add a paper towel to the cooling plate to absorb the moisture.



For the Toppings:
Cut the donut peaches into thin slices (about 5mm thick) and sprinkle with cinnamon. You could add a bit of sugar, though if they are ripe enough, they shouldn’t need it! Add the butter to a warm pan and melt. Add the peaches to the pan and cook until golden, then flip the peaches and cook the opposite side. Remove from heat.

Top your warm waffles with a generous portion of the cooked peaches. Then, crumble the goat cheese over the peaches and waffle, and finish with a drizzle of orange blossom honey.

These were incredibly delicious. While I would normally be intimidated by making a whole waffle recipe for just two people, we decided to make all of the waffles and just pop the extras in the freezer for an easy grab-and-toast weekday breakfast option.

All and all, a fantastic, local summer breakfast!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Munchies: Orange Cow

With the sun rapidly setting on the NoMa summer screen green, Official Co-Writer/Girlfriend Texas and I ventured over to the four food trucks providing that week's refreshments, deciding ultimately on Orange Cow, a purveyor of homemade ice cream (mostly because well, it's ice cream).

For my cup, I chose a scoop each of banana cream pie and peanut butter cup, figuring that the combination of banana and peanut butter never goes wrong; in this case, I struck gold. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, with just enough flavor to be substantial, but not so much that it was overpowering or overly saccharine. Certainly better than your average soft-serve.

Taste Test:
3 Forks (out of 5)
Perfect for
: Summer treat on the go.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Munchies: Cheeses of France

The Fancy Food Show rolled through DC last month, and with it a myriad of supporting and side events. DCWD was lucky enough to be invited to the Cheeses of France event, and boy do I mean lucky. This event was hosted by the Cheeses of France Marketing Council and held in the beautiful Long View Gallery near the Convention Center.  Not only was the space exquisite, but the wide selection of cheese was borderline overwhelming. While some were mild, some were excellently creamy, and some could certainly be considered “stinky” (the stinkier the better in my book!), every last cheese we sampled was beautiful in it's own way. While we didn’t get to try every offering (seriously, there was a lot of cheese), there wasn’t a single bad taste in our sampling. To see a full list of cheeses presented by the Cheeses of France Marketing Council, along with plenty of recipes to create a beautiful plate with these cheeses, please visit their webpage

To get you started, a sample recipe using the soft Pont-l’Evêque cheese is below:


Chicken Tartine with Pont-l’Evêque
Ingredients:
4 slices country-style bread 
¼ lb Pont-l'Evêque 
2 chicken breasts 
Marinade 
- 1 lemon 
- 3 oz olive oil 
- 1 branch rosemary 
- 1 tsp curry 
- salt & pepper

Directions:
For the marinade: Squeeze the lemon and pour the juice into a large bowl. Add the olive oil, rosemary and curry, season and mix. Marinate the chicken breasts for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the rind from the Pont l’Evêque and cut into thin strips. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and wrap them in aluminum foil. Close tightly and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Open the aluminum foil (be careful of the burning hot steam) and set aside to cool. When cool, cut into thin strips. Grill the slices of bread on one side. Spread a few chicken strips on the ungrilled side of the bread. Spread the cheese strips onto the chicken. Bake for a few minutes, until the cheese melts. Serves 4.

(photos courtesy of the Cheeses of France Marketing Council)