Monday, May 21, 2007

The first and only...

There are some things that should just be done once, just so you don’t do them ever again. From sticking your tongue to a light pole in the dead of winter, to plopping your hand on a stove top, these are valuable life lessons that must be learned.

This past Saturday I had one of those lessons and I’m going to pass it on to you so you won’t have to endure the pain of a torn tongue or a burnt hand: don’t ever go to the Preakness and sit in the infield.

The crowd was drunk and engaging in scandalous behavior (fine with me), but was also incredibly violent which took all the fun out of it.

Since this is a blog about food, I should probably point out that at no point did I actually eat anything sold at the event, though I did consume a lot of salt and vinegar chips, a turkey sandwich, and more cheap beer than I care to recall.

On the other hand, I’m going up to New York City for the first time in a long time (I honestly can’t remember the last time I was there). I’ll be going up with three good friends and staying in my old boss’s apartment near Times Square. Expect pictures and reviews. It should be a blast.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A bar fit for a pirate

Bars are truly a dime a dozen. Walk down any one of a hundred streets in DC, or in any other big city and if you’re not paying attention, odds are you’ll run into (and stumble out of) a bar.

Yet, like restaurants, it’s often the hidden gems that produce the best experience, and there is no gem better hidden in the DC area than Cathal Armstrong’s PX.

Tucked away above Armstrong’s King Street Fish and Chips joint in Old Town Alexandria, PX mixes a laid back, more mature atmosphere with some of the best drinks in town.

Needing a reservation to attend, one must ring a doorbell on a side door away from the main entrance (denoted by a blue light that shines when it’s open) and state your name when asked. You’re then brought up a set of stairs to the bar area, which consists of several small private rooms, as well as a larger bar area which seats under twenty.

The rooms all have very comfortable seating and the noise in any of the given rooms never went above casual conversation. The atmosphere allows the drinks themselves to speak for PX.

The drink that stood out above all others was a concoction called, “the grog” – a drink that doesn’t just speak, it screams. Inspired by the Pirate flag that flies out front, at $11 a pop this rum and tea mixture is sweet ambrosia, so much so that I had to order four of them.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of alcohol, this drink is the one for you.

But then again, if you’re a fan of alcohol in general, or if you just want to relax with a couple friends after work in a wonderfully comfortable setting, PX is probably the place for you.

728 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Monday, May 14, 2007

Review - Bistro Bis

One of the things keeping me in the Washington DC area is our wonderful culinary culture, and the food that accompanies it. While I’m not always in a position (financially) to enjoy every aspect of that culture, just knowing that the works of such chefs as Michel Richard and Eric Ziebold are minutes away is somewhat comforting.

However, on occasion I get lucky enough to live outside my means, and try one of the many gastronomic jewels in DC; last night at Bistro Bis was one of those occasions.

Beyond their rank as one of the top 30 restaurants in DC by Washingtonian Magazine, I honestly didn’t know much about Bistro Bis; and with no expectations, the meal we sat down to was an incredibly pleasant surprise.

From the moment you walk in to the moment you leave the atmosphere is incredibly friendly. Elegant and formal without approaching stuffy or overbearing, the décor and the service allowed for a relaxing dining experience, and the dining room was quiet enough for us to actually hold a conversation.

The food itself was solid to say the least, each dish equally well prepared with very few exceptions.

I started off with the Steak Tartare Atilla, an appetizer with a large portion of steak tartare, a mixed green salad, and garlic potato chips. The salad and chips were fairly pedestrian and certainly nothing to rave about, but the steak tartare was the real star of the dish – as it should have been. The sirloin was incredibly fresh and wonderfully seasoned. I found it went particularly well with a small amount of fresh ground mustard served with it.

Accompanying the appetizer and the rest of my meal was a wonderful glass (many times over) of red wine from France – unfortunately I can’t remember which part of France or the name of the wine – just that it was quite good.

Moving on to the entrée, I had the monkfish marseillaise – a dish containing chunks of monkfish, clams and mussels, in a tomato and fennel sauce. The clams and mussels were delicious – mussels being one of my favorite foods, these rivaled those at Jaleo which I thought were the best I’ve ever had.

I wish there could have been a bit more monkfish in the dish, and if the fish were a little warmer and slightly moister, but in all, it was a great dish, and was quite filling.

After our main course, we were treated to a complimentary port and cheese course, which consisted of a great variety of soft, hard and blue cheeses along with bread and crackers and a wonderfully sweet port. It was a great addition to our meal, and certainly one that our waiter didn’t have to indulge us in, but regardless it was one of those moments that make meals experiences, and that keep people coming back to a restaurant.

Not satisfied with three, I went for a fourth course and got a desert: a warm apple tart. The apples were slightly disappointing as they looked like they had been sitting out for a while, but the actual pastry portion was quite remarkable and the crème fraiche ice cream was a great touch.

Beyond what I got, what I tasted from my accompaniment was very good as well – standing out amongst the list was some incredibly tasty escargot and some of the best crème brule I’ve ever had.

In short, Bistro Bis had all of the elements contained within every other great dining “experience” I’ve ever had. Great service, great atmosphere, and great food come together to keep me wanting to come back again – and if I’m ever on Capitol Hill looking for a fantastic place to have dinner, Bistro Bis will be on the top of my list.

Bistro Bis
15 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202.661.2700 Tel
202.661.2747 Fax
202.661.2717 Kitchen

Friday, May 11, 2007

Where have I been?

To be honest, I'm not quite sure. Since my new job started it's been a lot of work, and very little time to write.

Still, I'm being two postings and after this weekend (dinner at Bistro Bis) I'll be down three.

I'm going to try my best to keep this up and running. Posts will be few and far between, but I hope to get one up a week, or at least 4 or 5 a month.

Until next time friends...