Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This time we did it right (A very Apples birthday)

Twenty-first birthdays are supposed to be special; they're supposed to be perfect in every way – well, at least until hangover the next morning. Jill's birthday last year was special, but it wasn't exactly perfect; a meal we could barely afford at Clyde's in Georgetown, followed by a drink we were nearly too tired to have, I wish I could have done something a bit better for her.

So with that in mind, I tried to go as far out as I could (going all out just isn't within my limits right now), and reserved us a table at Bebo Trattoria for dinner, with the plan to go to Jaleo for dessert and drinks afterwards. I couldn't afford the perfect meal for Jill's birthday, but some good food and a little surprise from a chef made twenty-two a lot more memorable than twenty-one.

We arrived at Bebo a few minutes after 8pm, when our reservation was set. Upon announcing ourselves, we were told that there was a table available, but there was a nice table next to the window that would be open in five minutes – us being the people watchers we are, we elected to wait.

During the three minutes we waited, the maitre d and Roberto Donna himself (manning the brand-new pizza station) asked us if we had been helped. I'm going to say this once so I don't repeat myself – for all of the knocks that Bebo gets for poor service, the service was pretty spot on for our visit. Everyone was incredibly nice, and we never had to wait very long for anything.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the food. I started off with a big plate of cullatello, the center cut portion of prosciutto. Wonderfully soft and salty, prosciutto is one of my top ten favorite foods of all time, and Bebo's reminds me why I like it so much.

Jill started off with some sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and anchovies. This was my first experience with broccoli rabe, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised. I usually have an adverse reaction to anything green, but I probably could have eaten the whole bowl.

For our main course I got the cannelloni alla nepoletana – a house made baked cannelloni with ricotta cheese and a pork sausage sauce. The dish itself was incredibly flavorful, yet very simple. The highlight of the dish was the base cream sauce (probably also made of ricotta) which was simply amazing.

Jill decided to go with one of the pappardelle with roasted eggplant, tomato, and smoked mozzarella. Richer than my dish, the eggplant and mozzarella really came through wonderfully; and the pasta – all house made – was cooked perfectly.

If you're looking for complexity in Bebo's dishes, then you're sitting in the wrong restaurant (go next door to Jaleo), but if you want really solid, simple Italian fare, Bebo does it just right.

Yet it wasn't the food that'll make that night memorable, it was what happened after the meal. Jill, with the help of a very nice glass of wine, went to Chef Donna and asked if he'd take a picture with her – you know, being that it was her birthday and all. And very nicely, and with a lot of charm, he wiped the flour from his hands and came out to take a picture. Pretty cool for a guy who's supposed to be a complete prima donna.

Dinner was over, but our evening wasn't. After paying our bill and leaving a very satisfying dinner at Bebo, we walked the twenty feet to Jaleo for a little after dinner fare.

For those of you new to us, we've already reviewed Jaleo a couple months ago, so I'll spare you the bigger picture stuff and leave you with details of a very fine dessert.

I decided to get the Sopa fría de frutos del bosque con helado de queso fresco, or the chilled fruit soup with fresh cheese ice cream. The fruit soup was amazingly refreshing and complimented well with the incredible cheese ice cream, which was probably the best single bite of food I've eaten in a long time – just ask Jill, I couldn't shut up about it.

Jill got the Espuma de avellanas y chocolate, a Chocolate and hazelnut mousse torte, which was a wonderfully sweet and chocolate dessert in its own right, but was topped by the dessert wine that was served with it, which Jill fell head over heals for.

By the time we walked out of Jaleo, filled with quality food and good drink, Jill's birthday was almost over. There was no dish, no bite of food that I would say was the best I've ever had, but it was all good at its worst, and wonderful at best – an evening truly worthy of a twenty-second birthday.

Shear Gluttony

I work in a cool office, no doubt. I am one of 7 brand-spankin’-new employees, all fresh out of college, who are poor and crazy enough to think that all-you-can-eat gnocchi is a good idea. Which is why, last night, I found myself parked at Piola in Rosslyn with 5 of my closest coworkers (one couldn’t make it) and a digestitory death-wish and a lot of eating-contest trash talk.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, after 6 bowls of gooey potato-pasta-y goodness, I was down for the count. Piola’s gnocchi is, at first bite, light and fluffy and gently sauced with either a satisfyingly rich cheese sauce, a simply tomato, or a pleasantly clumpy eggplant and ham with a tomato base. I think I had one cheese, 2 tomato, and 3 ham and eggplant, but I really can’t be sure. It all got fuzzy toward the end.

Piola is fun, spunky, and unapologetically European. I’ve yet to try the pizza, which is also all-you-can-eat on Sunday nights, but its relatively well-reputed. The service is adequate, the drinks are strong, and the benches allow plenty of gut-room. Thank goodness for loose fitting skirts.

1550 Wilson blvd. Arlington, VA 22209
P: 703-528.1502

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What's in your freezer? - Marc and Jenn Malon

Many thanks to our favorite newlyweds, Marc and Jenn Malon from Biddeford, Maine.

Think you have a freezer worth showing off? No? Well send me a picture anyway to anthonypdeangelo@gmail.com

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's in your freezer? - Jill

Now it's time for us to see what's in Jill's freezer, which she shares with her roommate, Liz.

In typical young professional fashion, there's a lot of frozen dinners and healthy stuff.

Don't forget folks, send your freezer pictures to anthonypdeangelo@gmail.com

Also, sometime this weekend (or early next week), we'll have a review of Jill's birthday dinner at Bebo Trattoria and Jaleo. Until then, have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Apples!

Tomorrow is Jill's birthday; however, Jill will be heading home after work tomorrow, so tonight will be our official celebration of this yearly event.

On the agenda for tonight: dinner at Bebo Trattoria and dessert and drinks at Jaleo - expect a full review of our evening out sometime this weekend.

Also, please don't forget to send in your freezer pictures!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What's in your freezer? - Anthony

It's said that you are what you eat - and since most of what you eat is kept in a fridge or a freezer, I thought I'd ask you, our wonderful readers to send us pictures of what you have in your freezer to anthonypdeangelo@gmail.com, and then we'll post them on the site.

Below is what's in my freezer. I don't know quite what it says about me, except that I really like Tufutti Cuties.

All or nothing

This isn't a news site, but when something like this comes out, it has to be posted. The Washington Post's Reliable Source column reports that Michel Richard's Citronelle was closed for two days late last week after D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration ordered the critically acclaimed and always praised restaurant to stop serving booze. Facing the prospect of serving food without accompanying wines, Chef Richard closed the restaurant down until Saturday when their liquor license was renewed.

The column states that the combined 240 - 260 people that had reservations over those two nights were sent to friendly restaurants such as Restaurant Eve and Marcel's. Over those two nights Citronelle lost an estimated $30,000 in revenue!

Shame on the ownership of the Latham Hotel for allowing this to happen; you simply don't allow the best restaurant in Washington DC, and perhaps the Mid-Atlantic to go to black for two days because someone didn't file paperwork.

I think that Chef Richard did the right thing; he would be short changing his patrons if he didn't have wine to pair with his food, and at $150-$200 per person, that's a steep cost to pay not to have the full experience.

I hope that the folks at the Latham Hotel and other establishments around the city learn from this, and can avoid this situation in the future.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A big fork-full of Summer

Jill and I have recently started a pretty disturbing trend: we're shopping at Whole Foods. Proximity to Jill's apartment and the promise of free samples keeps us going, but after the fun summer salad we made ourselves last night, I think I'll be less recalcitrant about visiting in the future.
Looking for something light, we decided upon a salad – but what kind? What kind of lettuce? What kind of protein? What kind of cheese? And most importantly, what kind of wine to accompany our concoction?

We started with the lettuce and decided on a nice bag of mixed spring greens. We then added strawberries, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, sauteed shrimp, a strange type of green bean [edit: haricots verts. They're not strange, they're just French.], and some balsamic vinaigrette dressing and it turned out wonderfully.

The strawberries were simply sliced and the walnuts were already chopped into little pieces.

The shrimp were sautéed in a mixture of olive oil, salt, parsley and basil. After the shrimp was cooked, we threw the green beans in the same pan and used the oil from the shrimp.

For our wine we choose a bottle of Gatao, a Portuguese wine that has a slight green hue to it and is lightly bubbly. It was very light with a hint of citrus to it and complimented the meal perfectly, and, at WF, was only $7. [Jill adds: for once, we only drank 1 glass each. It was a struggle.]

Served along side a large loaf of sourdough bread, this light salad was filling without being overwhelming, and provided a tasty way to end a wonderful weekend.

"Strawberry Shrimp Summer Salad"

Serves 2 (or more, if you're not us)

1 – Bag of mixed greens

½ lb – Medium shrimp (deveined and pealed)

1/8 cup – Gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup – sliced strawberries

1/8 cup – chopped walnuts

¼ cup – green beans

Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste

Friday, July 20, 2007

I can come back here...

The moment you walk into Vapiano you realize you're somewhere different. This isn't your normal restaurant - in fact, it's more like a restateria (my own little mix of a restaurant and a cafeteria). Now while that may not sound incredibly appealing, it actually provides a unique and quite tasty dining experience, and one that'll make you want to come back.

The decor is smooth and classy. High, long tables with plenty of dark colors and lots of natural lighting due to large windows make it an incredibly pleasant atmosphere to eat.

The proceedure in which you order your food is a large part of the unique nature of Vapiano. Once you enter you recieve a plastic card, akin to a credit card, that you'll then give to the person maning your station - be it pizza, pasta, or insalate.

When it comes to pizza and pasta, there are four groups to choose from, each one more progressively complex and expensive than the last - with prices ranging from $6.75 to $9.75.

For my first try I decided to try the pomodoro e mozzarella (part of group B) with penne pasta (you can choose from about 6 or so different types of fresh made pasta that they make on site).

It was here that Vapiano hooked me: fresh garlic was chopped up and put into a large pan with sauce - and not just some sauce out of a industrial sized can, but sauce that was tasted and seasoned - at one point to the extent that my individual chef told the head chef (or so it seemed) that the sauce needed more salt, and he proceeded to make adjustments to the batch he was making.

Pasta was cooked, sauce was added, and food was consumed. Enjoyed with a wonderful bruschetta, and with a glass bottle of diet coke (the only way that soda should be contained), I had a wonderful meal for less than $15.

Yet the restaurant isn't just unique and stocked with quality food, it's also playful - providing a bowl of gummy bears where mints would usually be as you leave the restaurant.

Vapiano, now open in Ballston and M St. and opening soon in Chinatown is a success through and through. As I left I thought to myself: I can come back here. Upon further reflection, "can" isn't an option - I must go back, and as soon as possible.

4401 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22203

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back for brunch

Thats right, Apples it back. The exact terms of my contract are still
up in the air-- Facebook might describe it as "complicated." But such
is life. The food is more important.

The Courthouse/Clarendon area is one abundant with brunch options
(although none of them open quite early enough for the obsessively
early-risers who are Apples and Bananas). After examining our options
this morning, we passed over Mexicali Blues (too beany), Tallula (done
that, liked it, want to try something else) and Summers (nixed pretty
quickly) to try Liberty Tavern, a new neighborhood spot getting good
reviews by the Washington Post, among others. We had vowed to try the
funky pizzas there-- and Ant refuses to post about LT until he gets
his paws on a pie-- but its early hours (brunch starts at 10) gave it
the edge among the Wilson strip pack.

The cool, crisp, and chic-ly rustic interior of Liberty Tavern is
welcoming and clean; I imagine that the bar, complimented by leather
couches and a long, high table edged with bar stools, gets hopping at
night. We were the first customers in for brunch this morning though,
and chose to sit at a high 4-top looking out over the sidewalk.
People-watching is the best. We both started with grapefruit juice,
and enjoyed complimentary cinnamon-raisin bread with soft whipped
butter-- the bread was cool and a touch dry, but a welcome nibble.
LT's brunch menu, like most, is fairly limited, and populated mostly
by variations on eggs and toast. Ant chose the "2 eggs with Johnny
cakes and breakfast sausage," a deliciously up-scale version of your
basic diner breakfast classic. His over-easy eggs were perfectly
runny, and well-suited to moisten up the slightly-dry but sweet and
yummy Johnny cakes, which look and taste more like mini-cornbread
muffins than anything else. The sausage was two spicy, sage-infused
balls of meaty goodness, which I loved but which Ant would have
preferred sweeter. We agreed it would be great on pizza or pasta. All
this was accompanied by a lovely fruit salad of fresh berries and
melon. For $9, it seemed like a steal to me.

I ordered less wisely-- the Spanish-style egg tortilla, with fried
potatoes, roasted peppers, and goat cheese called to my hungry tummy
with its promise of grease and carbs. The tortilla arrived in a little
cast-iron skillet, the kind that makes everything in it look cute and
rustic. Tasting primarily of over-cooked egg and caramelized onion,
the yellowy grey mess was topped with very good, but unfortunately
scant, crumbles of goat cheese. The roasted peppers turned out to be
green chilies lurking at the bottom of the pan, and the potatoes,
while apparent, mostly melted into the eggy background. My tortilla
would have been much improved by the inclusion of some tomatoes, or
some sort of green herb... anything to give it a little color and zip.
Even a small side of fruit or greens would have been appreciated.

Overall, Liberty Tavern is a cool place. I dig their music, and their
decor, and the menu, in general. I can't wait to go back for real
dinner sometime, to taste the pizza and the other non-egg options. The
service was fine, the location is excellent, and the menu holds a lot
of promise.

The Liberty Tavern

3195 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thank you, come again!

A special thanks goes to my friend and future roommate Kyle Barss for reminding me that today is July 11th, and being 7.11, everyone's favorite convienence store is offering free slurpees.

Unsure where to go? Go to the 7-11 website to find a store near you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What I'm reading...and other news

I always get excited when I find fellow foodies - but I really get excited when fellow foodies come to me. So when I found out that the girlfriend of a friend of mine now has a food blog, I knew I had to read it - and I'm glad I did!

So you should go read it now too:

The Deep Dish

Also, Apple might be returning to Apples and Bananas. I think she'll do more cooking and less restaurant reviews, but she's a fantastic writer and brings a lot to anything she's involved with. I hope we can see her back here soon.

Something to look forward to...

It happens twice a year, and I can't help but get incredibly excited for it, but my reservations are made for restaurant week, and the countdown has begun.

So far, this is what I've got:

Tuesday, August 7th at 8:15 - Zaytinya

Friday, August 10th at 8:30 - TenPenh

Saturday, August 11th at 12:30 - Hook

If you've got any suggestions for other restaurants, or dishes at the restaurants above, please leave a comment.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Let the reservations begin!

Breaking news (at least to me):

The restaurant week listing is up - good luck finding a reservation!

Far from home, close to food

I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like. Work and lack of sufficient funds often prevents me from being the jet setter I aspire to be. However, when an event arises that allows me to splurge; I try to take full advantage.

So this past weekend I found myself right in the heart of Vacationland – Biddeford, Maine – to attend the wedding of one of my best friends, Marc Malon.

This was my second time in Biddeford, a place that’s very easy to fall completely in love with, and I wanted to use my limited time there to try some authentic Maine cuisine.

Not sure of where to venture, I passed a quant looking little restaurant on an early Saturday morning run, and decided that it would be my eventual target.

So before my afternoon flight yesterday, I ventured out with my friends Agatha and Meg to Buffleheads, a restaurant in the Hills Beach area of Biddeford.

Close your eyes and imagine a small restaurant on a beach in southern Maine, and I guarantee you it’ll probably look like the inside of Buffleheads. Small wood tables and local pictures on the wall make you feel right at home, and the food will make you want to stay there.

I started off with a cup of the Buffleheads seafood chowder; a surprisingly light and creamy mix of fresh seafood and potatoes served as a great way to start off a lunch.

When it came time to choose my entrée, I felt that I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t leave Maine without having some lobster – so I dug into the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. Large, succulent pieces of lobster, perfectly dressed in mayo in a wonderfully buttered and toasted roll, it was almost enough to make me want to pick up and move to Maine. Served with a pickle, coleslaw and thick-cut French fries, I thought it was a steal at a little over $13.

Knowing the odds are stacked against me being in Hills Beach in the very near (or far) future, I decided to get dessert – a refreshing and wonderfully delicious piece of strawberry rhubarb pie with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Walking away paying only $24 (including tax and tip), Buffleheads is a great find in a pretty secluded area in a pretty secluded state. When you’re far from home, sometimes you need a little slice of home to make things right – Buffleheads serves a great slice of home, and a damn good lobster roll.

122 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, Maine

Friday, July 6, 2007

On second thought...

There are times that I’ll eat somewhere and think it’s simply magical. A day later I’ll think it’s really good. The next day, it’ll be downgraded to decent.

When I finished my dinner at Vermillion in Old Town Alexandria a couple weeks ago I placed it in the realm of some of the best food I’ve had; upon further reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that the food was good, the wine was superb, and the service was solid – not quite my initial impression of excellence, but quality nonetheless.

The meal started off with bread – and I’ll reemphasize the fact that to me bread is one of the most important parts of the meal. It’s your first step forward, and if it hits right, it sets the tone for the rest of the meal; if it doesn’t work, it could ruin the entire meal. This bread was incredible. Small homemade rolls and cornbread, it was warm and perfectly cooked – served with apple jelly and butter, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Next came the first course; a really good soft-shelled BLT that was well flavored and incredibly well cooked. It was my second go around with soft-shelled crab (after my trip to Annapolis last year), and I finally understand what all the fuss is about.

The entrée however was what has changed my mind over the past couple of weeks since I’ve eaten there. I got the bison, served with cauliflower “mashed potatoes” and morels. The bison was honestly pretty boring, and almost cold. Perhaps it was intended to be almost like a fancier roast beef, but the accompanying elements didn’t lead itself to go with a haute deli meat. The meat was decent, but it could have been warmer, more flavorful, and a bit tenderer.

The meal ended with a wonderful Nutella Panna Cotta, served with hazelnut crepes and strawberries. The panna cotta was like a tastier, firmer version of jell-o pudding, and it went incredibly well with the strawberries. I found the crepes a little dry, and pretty useless, but they were relatively tasty nonetheless.

So after thinking about the meal again, was it worth the $100+ dollars that I (Jill) paid for it? Well when you figure that Jill and I each got a glass of wine, and split three appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts, it’s not that bad, and certainly worth doing again.

It might not have been the incredible meal I thought at the time, but still one I’d have again.

1120 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
703 684 9669

Thursday, July 5, 2007

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...

...but when it's five o'clock in Washington DC, the best place to be is Matchbox - easily one of my favorite restaurants in the city now that I've actually tried it (after over a year of waiting).

A must try are any one of their "Quittin' Time Cocktails" and their mini burgers - which are the closest thing you'll find to a backyard burger in a restaurant.

Jill and I went last week, each got a cocktail and split six miniburgers and came away paying less than ten dollars including tax.

I wish I can write more about this, but very little else needs to be said. Now, how much longer until five o'clock?

713 H St. NW
Washington DC 20001
202.289.4441 phone
202.289.1947 fax
Open Monday through Friday,
11:00 AM - Close
Weekends 12:00 PM - Close