Sunday, September 30, 2007

Review - Cashion's Eat Place

Brunch has never been a big deal to me. I'm usually up in time to have breakfast, and end up hungry for an actual lunch. But as I've been spending more time over the weekends hanging with Agatha and co., brunch has begun to enter my eating schedule.

I've passed Cashion's Eat Place a number of times, but decided that today would be a perfect time to give a new restaurant (for me) a shot for a new meal (again, for me) - I made the right call.

The atmosphere inside Cashion's is incredibly comfortable. The space is seemingly small, but very open. High ceilings and open windows make even the deepest parts of the restaurant seem spacious.

Cashion's brunch menu is fairly limited, but filled with plenty of great options. I decided upon the bison burger, which was actually a good sized hunk of ground bison sitting atop a grilled tomato with a fried egg and bernaise sauce, served with home fries.

The bison was very flavorful, but served to me well done, not medium as I asked. Fortunately, the bison was the only misstep on the kitchen's part, as everything else was right on (including the two bowls of very good crusty bread that we went through pretty quickly).

Included in that everything else was Agatha's greek yogurt with local blackberries and granola. THe blackberries looked perfect, and the granola was home made. Agatha made a point to compliment the yogurt, which she said was particularly good.

Steve decided upon the two eggs with potatoes and sausage. I'll have to admit, I didn't ask Steve about his dish, but he seemed pretty happy about everything.

Cashion's isn't the cheapest place for brunch. I spent around $15 for my dish, and Steve and Ags paid about $12 a piece for theirs, but it's certainly one of my favorite places I've been to for bruch, and a place I certainly intend to visit again.

(Side note: I know I might be behind the times on this one, but I think I remember hearing from several different sources that Cashion's is moving - probably on Tom's chat. I hope wherever Ann Cashion decides to move it, it's metro accessable.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

First Taste - Ardeo Restaurant

If you've known me for over a year or so now, you've probably had a drink or two with me at Nanny O'Brien's (when Nannys didn't suck, when it still smelled horrible, and when you couldn't breathe for a week after because the smoke was so thick - oh those were the days!).

Furthermore, if you know me really well, you've probably stumbled out of Nannys with me, and noticed a little restaurant next door called Ardeo. I've always been curious about Ardeo - but never bothered to try it out.

My loss.

The dinner, while there were some stumbles, was simply fantastic. The service was on the money, Chef Trent Conry's menu was well thought out, and Sommelier Lesley Gallagher's wine presentation was very informative.

The meal started out with a chioggia beet salad, with large pieces of sweet chioggia beets with avocado, sun gold tomatoes, micro basil, a pomegranate-saba reduction, and an yuzu gelee that really tied everything together nicely. The dish was very refreshing, but also had some weight to it, which created a nice balance.

The second course was a roasted halibut with brussel sprout leaves, parsnips, and lentils (i.e., fish with green stuff). Honestly, I would have been quite satisfied with just the fish (though the brussel sprouts were really good). The halibut was rediculously fresh, only two days from the water according to Chef Conry, and was seasoned very well.

The third course fell a bit flat, and wasn't very well recieved at the table. One would think that a breast of duck with foie gras, sitting aside a crisp noodle cake with huckleberry extraction with watermelon radish would be something to be excited about. But when you undercook the duck, leaving it tough, and overcook the foie gras, you're going to miss.

The dish itself was a good concept - I was struck by the smell once it was put down at the table, I think the extraction was well suited, but it would have been even better if the duck and foie gras was prepared better.

But never fear, there's always dessert! And man oh man, what a dessert! I'm usually not a huge fan of cheesecake. It's always too heavy and I regret it afterwards - but not this time, oh no not this time. Banana-macadamia nut cheesecake? I don't know about you guys, but I'm in. What a stark contrast from the failed dessert attempt at 1789 two nights before - this dish, so incredibly simple, worked so well.

I didn't stumble out of Ardeo, I walked out quite satisfied, full from a very good meal. I may not have been to Nannys in a long time, but I don't think I can walk past Ardeo again without at least thinking about stopping in for a bite to eat.

Gerard's Place closing, opening again in new form

Are you ready for another French bistro!?!

Straight from the boards of, Gerard Pangaud, head instructor at L’Academie de Cuisine, will be closing down Gerard's Place and has opened Gerard Pangaud Bistro to take its place.

Below is a post from Gerard himself that will shed some light on the Michelin chef's plans:

I am Gerard and I want to clarify some points:
I already changed the menu and we are doing a smooth transition for several reasons.
The building is being sold and the landlord delayed the release of the funds agreed upon the extension of the lease. So the the construction is delayed.
The canopy is ordered and the restaurant will be named Gerard Pangaud Bistro not Adeline.
This week I am in vacation from the school and I am training people.
I will be at the restaurant on a regular base especially for dinner.
The price of he entrees is between 18 and 28 dollars.
I kept the Foie Gras on the menu (it is bistro food look at l'Amis Louis)
It is my food, the food I love and I cook at home and my mother was cooking when I grew up.Just using good ingredients and cook them well.
If you are looking for very imaginative and sophisticated you will be disappointed if you are looking for good and REAL food you will enjoy your experience.
So in many ways it is open and I want a smooth period where my staff is adjusting.

I hope to see you soon all of you.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

It might as well be Anthony Bourdain day

From the board of, bad-ass blogger and author Michael Ruhlman and everyone's food hero Anthony Bourdain have found a way to legitimize the harsh judging of their peers - an awards ceremony!

Check out this link to find out the details, but let's just say that Mario Batali is involved. I think I might have to save up to fly home for the South Beach Food and Wine Festival to see the golden clogs handed out.

I guess I just won't buy food for a week...

...because I'm going to have to pay $150 to go see Anthony Bourdain and Jose Andres host the DC Central Kitchen's "Capital Food Fight", on November 6th.

The list of chefs attending are worth the price of admission alone: Roberto Donna of Galileo and Bebo Trattoria Anthony Chittum of Vermilion, Bryan Voltaggio of Charlie Palmer Steak, RJ Cooper of Vidalia, Barton Seaver of Hook, and Cathal Armstrong, Mayor of Old Town Alexandria.

I really can't wait for this event. It should be a lot of fun and it's for an awfully good cause.

So, to my friends out there; if you're wondering what to get my for my birthday this year, a nice contribution to the Capital Food Fight fund would certainly be appreciated.

(Edit: Immediately after writing this post, I bought my ticket. I just couldn't wait.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

1789 - Revisited

Last night I had a chance to go back to 1789 and try out parts of Chef Nathan Beauchamp's fall menu, and I must say I was incredibly impressed. If you remember, the first trip I made to 1789 ended with mixed results (i.e., I liked it, Jill didn't).

Some of the highlights of the meal (frankly, there wasn't a real miss on the menu - everything seemed to work) were the cured arctic char with heirloom beets and black pepper crackers. The char and beets, together with a bit of creme fraiche that was served as well made for an incredibly light first course that really paved the way for a fantastic meal.

The fourth course was a tortellini with briased pork that was served with butternut squash and sage. Served with a wonderful Steele Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County, CA (2005), the tortellini screamed fall (actually, it didn't make any noise, but it was incredibly tasty) and went well with the squash/sage combination of flavors.

The meal ended with a vanilla poached pear, which was wonderfully light, and a "caramel hazelnut bon bon", which met with mixed reactions within the group, with everyone sitting at my table really liking it (they liked its complexity and the fact that it was slightly out of the ordinary) and everyone sitting at the table next to mine being pretty unimpressed (I don't think they liked the surprise all that well).

Again, the service was incredible and the food and wine pairings were nothing short of perfect. I said in my last post about 1789 that I wouldn't return to pay full price for a meal there - make it official - I'm taking that back.

New Italian restaurant to find home downtown

From the folks that brought you Zola, Red Sage, and Indigo Landing, Star Restaurant Group will be opening a new Italian Restaurant on 15th and H St. NW. Complete with its own bakery, which will be making fresh pasta, breads and desserts, the yet to be named restaurant will offer a spectacular view of the Washington Monument and the Treasury building.

The menu, guided by Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello, will feature such dishes as Tuscan bean soup with proscuitto, tomato oil and purple basil, and a rotisserie of guinea hen with apples, chestnuts, figs and Ciabatta croutons.

Personally, I'm very excited about this. One of 2003's Best New Chefs in America according to Food and Wine Magazine, Chef Moscatello is a great talent, and I'm sure that his talent is going to result in a fantastic restaurant.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Review - Restaurant K

K St. isn't exactly known for its cuisine. Lawyers? Lobbyists? Expense accounts? Maybe. But they made a TV show about K Street featuring political pundits, not culinary masters. However, after giving the newly opened Restaurant K a shot, I might be willing to reconsider.

First, it must be said that the location of the restaurant is fantastic. Incredibly close to both the Farragut North and West metro stops, the restaurant is very convenient to those who will inevitably end up being its biggest clientele - those paying with corporate credit cards.

It seems that the restaurant and its menu was designed with this in mind - at it's core, it's a safe, convenient place to take a client or coworkers. Looking at the menu, you're not going to be scared by any one item - tuna tartare, small salads of various types, and marinated hanger steaks can be found in almost any restaurant these days.

Yet, what makes Restaurant K stand out, is Chef Allison Swope's ability to take seemingly safe food and somehow make it exciting.

Wild Mushroom Baklava baked between layers of phyllo pastry with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction was described by one of my eating companions as good, "comfort food", and was very well seasoned - not to mention quite visually appealing on the plate.

One side note before I go too far - I want to say that I was quite happy that there were multiple vegetarian dishes on the menu (that weren't salads), which makes it nice when you're dining with a friend who is a vegetarian (Agatha).

Another appetizer success was the lamb sausage on a fried plantain and goat cheese. You wouldn't imagine that the sausage and plantain would work well together, but the plaintain was perfectly fried (not at all greasy) and was complimented perfectly with the goat cheese.

The entrees were also a pretty big success. Tweaks got the Pork Osso Buco which was very tender and had an incredibly large portion.

Steve got the ribeye which was cooked perfectly and served with a nice potato gratin. It wasn't an incredibly inspired dish, but again - this was safe - designed literally for the meat and potatoes crowd.

Ags got the Vegetate - a grit cake with a bunch of other vegetables around it. I wasn't incredibly impressed by it, but she seemed to enjoy it.

The rockfish fillet I had, which was served on a bed of cheese grits and smoked tomato broth was nicely cooked, and it was great to have a decent serving of grits for once; but the skin was too soft (a couple seconds with a torch would have firmed it up nicely) and Tweaks felt it was slightly overcooked.

The real star of this meal was one of the desserts - making her own ice cream, Allison Swope's basil ice cream was one of the best I've ever had. So much so, that the rest of us put our respective desserts aside to dig into the basil deliciousness.

Sadly, the chocolate malt ice cream I got was pretty bland and almost without taste, and the banana fritters, according to Steve, was a little too "McDonald's".

It's hard to say for sure if Restaurant K will succeed. It's only be open for a week and a half now, but it seems like the problems that usually plague new restaurants are non-existant there. The service was fantastic, the food, with a few exceptions, was on the mark, and the dining experience as a whole was first rate.

I don't know if Restaurant K on its own is enough to lift K St. into the top tier category for food, but it's giving it a good shot, and I hope it stays around long enough for us to see just how good Allison Swope and this concept can be.

Restaurant K
1700 K St. NW
Washington DC 20006

Opening Soon - Cakelove, Shirlington edition

Cakelove will open another location tomorrow, this time in Northern Virginia. This edition of Warren Brown's confectionary cafe will evidently similar to their Silver Spring location; a mix of both Cakelove and Love Cafe, which are both in DC.

I haven't spent much time in Shirlington, mostly due to the fact that I am now sans car, but I hope to make the trek down there sometime in the next few weeks to check out this new sweet shop.

Cakelove (new location)
4150 Campbell Avenue
Suite 105
Arlington, VA 22206

Monday, September 24, 2007

Save room for dessert

Leave it to those Sri Lankans to whip up a dessert worth $14,500. According to Sri Lanka's national newspaper, the dessert, which features gold leaf, Irish cream, mango and pomegranate compote and an 80-carat aquamarine stone sitting atop a chocolate fisherman, is being served at The Fortress Sri Lanka, an award winning resort.

Just for reference, here's a small sampling of what $14,500 can get you:

- A burger, fries, and a soda from McDonald's dollar menu, every day, for over 13 years
- 60 meals at the French Laundry
- 58,000 beers during quarter beers at Asylum in Adam's Morgan

So let me ask you - is this decadent dessert worth it?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It is DC

It was a busy week at work, hence a slow week on the blog. I've got a big food week coming up, so expect a lot to read.

The week was unofficially kicked off last night at Ben's Chili Bowl, which - and I think I've said this before at some point - is the most important restaurant in Washington DC.

Yes, the food isn't the best (though it's pretty damn good), and the decor isn't the most modern and the plating isn't pretty, but no restaurant truly represents Washington DC like Ben's.

Washington DC isn't the only city with star chefs and fancy french restaurants, but we're the only one that has Ben's - its food, its character, and its history. And after a chili half smoke and some chili cheese fries last night, I'm incredibly thankful for that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food day!

Hello there folks. Sorry about the complete lack of posting over the past few days. A lot going on - not enough time to write.

A couple of quick items before I get back to work:

Barton to expand into Bagelry

The WaPo reports that haute hunk Barton Seaver is expanding the Hook concept into the next door Georgetown Bagelry by turning that space into a casual seafood restaurant akin to a small seafood shack in New England - he's calling the new place "Tackle Box".

I think this is a great idea and will succeed in Georgetown, where wealthy college kids from the northeast can finally get a taste of home for a decent price. I will however miss the Bagelry's bagels and pizza.

The Bagelry will close in January with Tackle Box opening in the spring.

Will Morou be the man?

It's also the food day for the Examiner, and former Iron Chef loser Morou has a nice full page profile today as he gets prepared to enter the contest that will allow him to enter Kitchen Stadium as an Iron Chef.

That's all for now fellow foodies - only a few more hours until Tom's Chat!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Oasis in an asphalt desert

Walking through downtown today on my way back from taking care of some business I found myself hungry, and resisting the urge to stop in Wendy's or get a chilidog from a cart I decided upon a chicken samosa from Naan and Beyond for a little under $2.

Best decision I've made all day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

So you think you can make another crappy reality show?

Well Rachel Ray thinks so! According to this article on CNN, Ray will basically copy the Top Chef concept, but with regular people instead of sweaty bald guys and crazy knife welding psychos.

Like everything else she does, I'm sure this will be a success. Hell, at the very least it'll give us a whole new cast of characters to make fun of.

Happy Food Day!

And a happy food day to all of you - a couple highlights from the WaPo's food section today:

Dish: One of our least favorite restaurants, Butterfield 9, may have just given us a reason to go back: Manabu Inoue, the new executive pastry chef straight out of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's kitchen is now making such treats as white chocolate flan with passion fruit gelee and a green tea tuile, and sesame meringue with vanilla bean ice cream. I've been wanting a reason to give it another shot, and now I've got one.

Tom's Chat: Apples got in two questions today (good job Jill!):

Washington, D.C.: Hi Tom,

I ate at 1789 on Monday night with a group of friends; I ordered the pork chop, mostly because it came with fried green tomatoes, which I've been craving. The waiter asked how I'd like it cooked; I took your advice and requested that the chef cook it as he see fit. My poor pork chop came to the table rough, tough, and (in my mind) overdone. When I had already asked for the chef's recommendation, would it really have been wise to send it back?

Tom Sietsema: How odd that the chef of a major restaurant would overcook a piece of meat. Then again, I'm getting really mixed reports from diners who have been to 1789 recently -- reviews I trust because I, too, have had middling plates there in the past few months.


To Anonymous: If you're looking for solid, inexpensive food near Dupont with outside dining, Zorba's is tough to beat. Have the Greek salad and the caviar dip (which I won't attempt to spell).

Tom Sietsema: Good idea. The dip you refer to is taramasalata -- fish roe whipped with olive oil, lemon juice, bread crumbs.

Fare Minded: There's a very good positive review about Liberty Tavern in Clarendon, which is good to see because, well, it's our neighborhood. For our review of Liberty Tavern, click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's happening? Arts on Foot

If you're anywhere in the DC area this Saturday and have a few spare hours, the annual Arts on Foot festival in the Penn Quarter area looks like it'll be a lot of fun, and most importantly, will have a lot of food.

Click here to see the full food line up. I'm looking forward most to see PS 7's Peter Smith and Charlie Palmer's Brian Voltaggio do their thing.

We hope to see you there!

Review - 1789

We were right on the border - we didn't quite fit in, yet we didn't seem entirely out of place. Regardless, when Jill, myself, Agatha and co. left 1789 last night, we were all just as equally stuffed as the rest of the high end Georgetown clientele (ETA by Apples: and equally monetarily set-back).

Looking to take advantage of the last days day of their amazing three course, $36 summer special, the five of us found our way down to Georgetown last night to experience the restaurant that gets a lot of play in this area.

Notice I didn't say the food - ranked only 44th in the Washingtonian's top 100 list, a trip to 2 Amy's would have yielded higher rated food, but when it comes to atmosphere, 1789 is awfully hard to beat.

The decor screams "old" and "classy" - the room we were seated in (I believe it was the Wickets Room), on the second level, had only about six or so tables in it, and for a good portion of the meal we were the only party seated there (having a 6pm reservation certainly helped that).

Before I get to the food I should also point out, before I forget, that the service was simply wonderful. From the moment we walked in to the moment we left, I felt completely comfortable - which is saying something considering the fancy factor of 1789. (ETA: I would have taken that waiter home to read me bedtime stories... he had one of the best voices I've ever heard.)

As I said, the $36 deal included three courses, and I took full advantage of each one. For my first course I got the steak tartare. The steak itself was fantastic, served with a quail egg yolk on top, two large capers (which were treats by themselves) and a grilled piece of flat bread that I only found to get in the way. (ETA: I think you're supposed to scoop the tartar up with it. I find that silly.) The star of the show was the steak, which was incredibly flavorful and came in a very sizable portion.

Jill got some kind of seafood ratatouillesque dish that seemed to fall a little flat. I'm not quite sure what it was lacking (Jill, a little help here), but she wasn't looking too thrilled. (ETA: It was fine. It was a mini-cast-iron skillet (seriously, can't we save those for Cracker Barrell? C'mon people.) filled mostly with very nicely cooked bits of zuchinni and yellow squash and tomato, with a few little shrimp and a couple mussels thrown in, topped with a savory buttery and breadcrumb-y topping. It was tasty, don't get me wrong, but when I intentionally order the second most expensive thing on the menu in a quest to get my money's worth (the most expensive was the short ribs, and since I was getting white wine that wasn't going to work), I expect more than that.)

Agatha got the heirloom tomato salad, which had huge pieces of tomatoes and mozzarella, and certainly looked worthy of a first dish. (ETA: Our other two dining companions had, respectively, the clams and the beat salad. Both seemed satisfied.)

For my entree I decided on the veal, which consisted of a large piece of sweetbreads and a large piece of veal steak, with some nice vegetables between. Honestly, the sweetbreads were one of the best bites of food I've ever had. I can see why they're such a big deal. (ETA: I asked for a second taste. It was somewhat begrudgingly granted, and very very good.) Paired with the steak and the veggies, it was a wonderful entree, and one I'd gladly get again.

Sadly, Jill's Kurobuta pork chop with fried green tomatoes didn't quite meet the sweetbread standard. The pork was a bit overcooked, and the tomatoes were a bit undercooked. Again, Jill cleaned her plate, but didn't look too thrilled once all was said and done. (ETA: The pork chop was a little under-seasoned, I think, and I was particularly disapointed with how over-done it was because when the waiter asked for my doneness preference, I pulled a "Tom" and asked it to be done to the chef's recommended temperature. I thought that would mean it would be perfect. Not so much. It was also served with a very tasty corn salad that had a nicely tart/sweet dressing and bits of beans and bacon in it. If Tom Allen and I ever meet, we'll have a good time gabbing about cute boys and the indubiable merits of bacon.)

Dessert was a bit of a tough choice, but I settled on poached peaches with a really great ginger (I think that's what it was (ETA: I think it might have had some lime and some liquor (yuzu?) in it as well)) ice cream. The peaches were a perfect compliment to the ice cream and the dish overall was very good.

Jill, once again disappointed, got the golden chocolate dome (not to be confused with the golden dome at Notre Dame), which in Jill's words was, "pedestrian". (ETA: Again, perfectly tasty. But if I had gotten it at our previous-night's destination-- Bertucci's-- I wouldn't have been particularly pleasantly surprised.)

What we had at 1789 was a tale of two dinners. Both a hit and a miss at the same table. I very much enjoyed mine. I didn't dislike anything that was put in front of me. Jill on the other hand was pretty under whelmed. Now - she didn't hate the food, she was just expecting more.

In the end the experience - the atmosphere and the service - made 1789 a worth destination. I don't know if I would go there to shell out full price for a dinner, but you bet I'll be there next summer if they run this special again.

ETA: I'm discovering that very few flavor combinations really thrill me, and almost all of them involve ginger, lime, garlic, and fish. I think I was born on the wrong continent.

1226 36th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202.965.1789
Fax: 202.337.1541
*Photos courtesy of Heather Freeman Public Affairs

Monday, September 10, 2007

Breaking Bakery News

The conversation went a little something like this:

me: what the hell are you talking about?
Lisa: new bakery on M st
i went to one in NYC
just opened in DC
me: is it that good?
Lisa: yah

A special thanks to Lisa from Kitchenette Diaries for the heads up about Le Pain Quotidien, the newly opened bakery on M St. NW, which, if it's as good as advertised, will give us a good place to go get bread when Breadline is closed.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A little more than twenty percent

I hope everyone out there is enjoying their weekend. Jill and I just got back from a very hot and sticky 9/11 Memorial 5k run. While she's taking a short recovery nap, I found this interesting article in the Washington Post about big name chefs tapping their customers for inventment money for other projects.

Uber-chef Michel Richard for example raised about $3 million from 44 different investors to open Central.

I think this is yet another example of how strong the food community is here in DC, and certainly a good sign of things to come.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Piece of (cup)cake

Through my daily reading of blogs over the past week I've noticed multiple mentions of the complete lack of solid cupcake options throughout the city. Yes, certain shops in LA and NY may be nationally known and have had their fifteen minutes of fame, but we've got some good ones here.

Below is a short list of a few off the top of my head. I haven't been to all of these, but I think the fact that I can list four or five is a testament to the fact that yes, you can find a quality cupcake in this town too.

If you can think of any others, please leave me a comment, I'd hate to forget someone.


Sticky Fingers Bakery

Le Cupcake

Baked and Wired


If only style had a taste

For the past year I've had an excess of American Express rewards points. Obviously, I'm going to find a way to use them to eat, and cashed some of them in for a $100 gift card to Morton's steakhouse.

Now this isn't my first time at Morton's, and I've been to a number of the other big time steakhouses in the city, of which I've always ranked Morton's towards the bottom. Saddly, our experience last night only reinforced this.

Now, in contrast to our meal the night before, the service was really solid. Jill at one point mentioned that she felt oddly comfortable sitting in a restaurant that certainly isn't McDonalds. It seemed like everyone stopped to check in on us, and our waiter, while a little awkward (he was an older man who had to take a deep breath before every sentence just to get it out), was incredibly nice and was working very hard to make sure we had everything we needed.

I don't think I can overstate this - I love the atmosphere at these restaurants (it's not just Morton's, but Ruth's Chris, Smith and Wollensky, etc.), you know you're going in for an expensive meal, but you're just well taken care of, and the experience seems to make up for the expense.

Unfortunately the food didn't. While the oysters were really solid (as long as oysters are fresh, you really can't screw them up - hence the beauty of oysters) and the bread was really nice - but there was something slightly off about the steaks.

Jill's was a bit overcooked (and was sat atop a piece of bread that even this morning she's confused about), and mine had a few too many pieces of stringy fat through it (I don't know the technical firm, but it left some parts hard to chew)

Don't get me wrong, they weren't bad steaks, they just weren't worth $37 a piece.

The meal was polished off with a warm upside-down apple pie that was actually very good and served with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I feel as if the experience I had almost makes it difficult to criticize the food, because we both had a great time, but the food really didn't live up to the price or the service.

I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again - style is great, but it can't cook a steak.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I'm in need of more convincing

I've never seen so many beautiful people in one restaurant. The hipster staff, the trendy clientele, the massive stacks of wine, Proof, the new wine bar/restaurant across from the Verizon Center is more of a status symbol than an eating destination.

First off, kudos to Agatha for landing us reservations. Jill, myself, Steve and Ags arrived pretty much right at 8:30 (when our reservations were), with Steve and Ags actually arriving about ten minutes ahead of time. With our entire party there on time, we still waited about fifteen minutes - which does happen, but during this time we were pretty much ignored, which was pretty hard considering we were standing right in front of the host stand.

Upon sitting down we were faced with a massive wine list. We all chose to get a glass of wine and an appetizer (except for Steve who got a beer and three courses).

I had a very good 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (from a vineyard in Napa that I can't remember) and paired it with the first course portion of Wagyu Beef Sashimi. Topped with "Asian greens", ginger, soy sauce and various chili oils, on the surface it was a solid dish.

However, upon further reflection, I was fairly disappointed in this dish. The beef was pretty much just a Carpaccio with pretty typical Asian flavors drowning it. Ginger, soy sauce, lime? I could have done that at home. Also, several pieces of the meat were incredibly chewy - to the point where I really had to work at it. Real sashimi should be smooth, this wasn't it.

The meal was saved by the dessert, which for me was a double chocolate bundt cake with hazelnut sauce and banana ice cream. The cake was wonderfully light, which is surprising for anything "double chocolate". Though through all of that, the real winner was Agatha's cheesecake, which I could have for any meal of the day and be happy (and fat).

Sadly, Proof in my mind will not be remembered for the great glass of wine or the chocolate cake, but for the relatively bland food and off putting sense of exclusivity.

We weren't the best dressed crew in the restaurant, and we were probably the poorest kids there, but we were probably the only table that the sommelier didn't visit. While this may not be that big of a deal, it's a wine bar - come and talk to us about our wine, come and explain to us what we're supposed to be tasting.

I love this concept, and I want it to succeed, but I never like walking out of a restaurant feeling like I was slighted. You've got a good thing going Proof - just remember to let the rest of us poor slobs join in on the fun.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Clarendon to get real restaurant - Cheesecake Factory fears for its life

If you frequent Clarendon Blvd in Arlington as much as I do, you've been wondering over the past few months what the new restaurant just east of the metro stop is going to be. Turns out that Restaurant 3, a new restaurant from the folks that brought us Whitlow's on Wilson will be moving in.

Offering "American cuisine in an upscale setting", local Executive Chef Brian Robinson of such restaurants as Whitlow's and Georgia Browns will feature such dishes as Southern Fried Catfish and Malasada style doughnuts with milk chocolate dipping sauce.

Jill has already labeled this menu as "uninspired", but I'm hoping that Greg Cahill Jonathan Williams and their knowledge of the restaurant scene in the area will result in a quality restaurant that provides a quality alternative to the Cheesecake Factory and La Tasca across the street.

Knives down, hands up

Breaking news food fans - according to the New York Post, Mario Batali has severed his ties with the Food Network. That's right; no more Molto Mario and no more Iron Chef. Though this does explain why they're now looking for a new Iron Chef.

This is horrible news for the Food Network and for food fans everywhere. Mario was the best of the Iron Chefs on Iron Chef America, and his show was by far the best straight up cooking show on the Food Network.

As sad as this is, I've got a feeling that we'll see Mario sometime soon - perhaps he'll follow his friend Anthony Bourdain over to the Travel Channel.

Why run?

I've always wanted a wok, and was all kinds of excited when I actually got around to buying one for the new apartment. Jill came over last night to give it a test run, and we made one hell of a dinner.

Shrimp and Crab Stir Fry

1/2 pound of small shrimp
1/2 pound of artificial crab meat
1 medium green bell pepper (sliced into 2x1 inch pieces - approx)
1 medium red bell pepper (sliced into 2x1 inch pieces - approx)
1 teaspoon of garlic (diced)
1 tablespoon of ginger (diced)
1 white onion (sliced)
Sesame oil (to taste)
Dry red pepper flakes (to taste)

Serve hot over rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How has this place been open for 50 years?

I've got a soft spot for privately owned restaurants that have a rich history and a lot of character, and there isn't a better example of this in the Arlington area than Mario's Pizza. Located on Wilson Blvd, it is perched in a near perfect location between Ballston and Clarendon and is always, always, packed with cars and people sitting outside eating.

I've only ordered out (via Dr. Delivery) for Mario's and had never been impressed - I had also never been sober while eating Mario's. So, after a couple years of sobering up, Jill and I decided to give Mario's a shot late Friday night, in need of good late night food.

There are reminders everywhere that Mario's has been around for a while. From the customers and staff who have been there long before I was born, to the self-congratulatory signs announcing the anniversary, it's a number and an accomplishment to be proud of.

You know what's not an accomplishment to be proud of though? Their pizza. I guess I wasn't that drunk the other couple times I had it, because it was just as bad as I remembered it.

On par with elementary school pizza, the crust was bland, the sauce was too sweet and the cheese...well, didn't seem real. I ordered a slice of sausage pizza, and had a hunk of sausage just placed on top of my cheese pizza. Make an actual slice of sausage pizza! It's not that hard.

I can't understate how disappointed I was by Mario's. I would still prefer its presence in the neighborhood to another Cosi's or McDonald's or some other mass produced no taste fat factory, but I'll never eat there again. I just don't understand how my neighbors can.

Holy F'n Goodness, Batman

Lunch is something to be cherished, in my opinion; I spend all damn day sitting at a desk in a cube (illicitly) reading food blogs, so lunch had better satisfy and sustain and (dare I say) excite me or else I will just up and leave work and never come back.

Lunch today did the trick. I wish I'd had my camera.

Pre-toasted (no toaster here, had to do it at home) sandwich-sized English muffin, "Seriously Sharp" Cabot's cheddar, sliced maple-glazed deli turkey (on sale at HT), granny smith apple slices, and completely delicious honey mustard (Deitz and Watson). I melted that cheese up and slapped the rest on and oh my goodness.

I might still up and leave work and never come back, but I'll have a happy tummy.

Full credit goes to Ant for the inspired sandwich suggestion.

Labor Day'd

Ah, nothing like a nice long weekend to act as an excuse to eat and enjoy the weather. While we did eat out quite a bit (more on that later), the real highlights were a couple meals made in our own kitchens.

Late last week Jill was craving something eggplant related. Not having the time or the patience for a proper eggplant parmesan, we simply sautéed some eggplant dipped in egg and panko breadcrumb and threw it over some whole grain pasta with some tomato sauce and some cheese.

The eggplant turned out nice and firm, and contrasted well with the soft pasta.

The second meal came from the Courthouse farmers market on Saturday, where we decided a loaf of dill, cottage cheese bread (better tasting than it sounds), a couple heirloom tomatoes, some marscapone, and fresh basil would make a proper breakfast.

Not only did this make a proper breakfast, but it made a damn good dinner too.

It should be a busy week. Lots to write about. It's going to be an exciting September!