Thursday, November 12, 2015

5 proteins with Pinot Noir make a party at The Partisan with Native Flora's fabulous wines (11-11-15)

Last night we joined our friends Denise & Scott Flora for the amazing wine dinner set up by the team at the Partisan under Chef Nathan Anda. They worked hard to pair the amazing wines and did a pretty awesome job.
All those in attendance had a ball. While we arrived quite early (no traffic on the holiday and a free space out front) I ordered a drink called The Regulator made from Cabeza Tequila, Hagman's Sloe Gin, Dolvin Genepy (a type of vermouth) and lime; think softened margarita without the salt but much more punch and no sweetness at all. I loved it.
We sat down (there were 30-something total attendees) and the first wine was poured:
2014 Native Flora "Solstice Skies" Riesling (all the wines are from Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon) which Scott explained was their second vintage of the wine, The first vintage was to "get rid of the diesel" and this was to see "how dry we can make it." Success for sure, because even Will loved it and only likes super-dry Rieslings. There is a mineral intense nose and I loved the intense mineral finish on the tongue as well as the wine's real strong acidity. It was paired with Smoked Mackerel Crudo, Pickled Apple & Celery Leaf (which seems to be such a silly garnish for my taste, or lack of it). The fish was fatty indeed and the wine fought that, but every now and then a large salt crystal was too much for the wine and indeed the palate. I love mackerel sushi and this was supreme, but a little less salt would have been welcome, or perhaps a finer salt.

Milk-Poached Pork Loin arrived with persimmon, Walnut & a Celery Root Puree. This dish was heaven as it was cooked in milk, sous-vide and then seared so the edge was a bit crusty, even if there were large pieces of fat (which I cut out). It was tasty and the persimmon actually reminded me of a slightly sweet potato with tropical finish. The wine was 2014 Native Flora "Karsts of the Andaman" Pinot Blanc and the tropical finish was a perfect match.

I love carpaccio and the 35 Day Aged Beef Carpaccio came so simply prepared with EVOO, Arugula, Salt & Pepper. The pepper was negligent and Scott grabbed the pepper mill and hit the carpaccio with a splash at every table giving it just the pop that it needed as this was served with the 2014 Native Flora "Jolly Rancher" Rose that we all adore so much and can live up to any spice.  It is so structured and made from a blend of co-fermented Pinot Nor & Pinot Blanc, but then floated with Malbec berries on top (which carbonically ferment and explode) for that Jolly Rancher punch, so aromatic of the candy, but bone dry. Scott calls it "heresy in a bottle." I asked our super-handsome server (that's another story), Russell, where the meat came from and we were told a farm in Maryland called Laurel Delight.

The best course all night was the Autumn Spiced Boar Sausage with Squash Puree which was quite spicy, full of flavor and declared by us all, "what a boar!!" I adored the fried sage leaves on it and the intense flavors which paired so finely with 2012 Native Flora "Next Time" Pinot Noir.

The superb and elegant 2013 Native Flora "Jaguar Reserve" Pinot Noir arrived with the Boar Ham with Foie Gras Grits and Red Wine Shallots. The grits were the highlight og this dish and the Pinot Noir was a perfect match yet again. The meat was a feral wild heritage pig (a lot was spoken about the animal and it's heritage back to the times of Columbus) which was brined 5 days and cooked 9 hours. Tasty yes, but a bit on the chewy side.

There was no dessert, but we were all full anyway and we all had a great time enjoying these novel dishes paired with these blow-your-mind wines that again are only available by direct sales from Native Flora due to the extremely small production. Well worth getting your hands on it. We do! 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

back in DC, CENTROLINA states a great case for some of the coolest cuisine around (11-10-15)

We are thrilled that our new friends from Oregon's Willamette Valley, Denise and Scott Flora, are in town this week for a big wine dinner tonight that we helped to organize.
We decided to start the celebration with them early, by heading to CENTROLINA ( at the hip new CityCenterDC where Chef Amy Brandwien reigns supreme.
I had only been to Centrolina once before back in June, and now I think it's even better as they are about to celebrate their 1/2 year anniversary and are going as strong as ever.
Scott brought some of his superb, rare and novel wines from his winery NATIVE FLORA, and we started with an amazing sparkling wine dubbed "Cuvee Lussier" 2011 Dundee Hills, Oregon, which is their first vintage of the delicate yet yummy wine made from 90+% Pinot Noir and the balance Pinot Blanc, innovative yet delicious.
Our server Shannon explained the menu and we perused the choices for quite a while and then tasted the Burrata which here is served with caramelized onions and greens over slices of Purple Sweet Potatoes as well as Olive Oil. I loved this new take on the cheese everyone adores and might even venture to try it at home.
Next up was one of the first reasons we fell in love with the Floras a year ago when at their home for a wine dinner. Native Flora Rose "Jolly Rancher" 2014 is the newer vintage of this superb dry rose made from Blanc de Noir & Malbec and it is simply superb. Chef Amy, Manager/ Sommeliere (I always thought it was sommelieuse!) Kristin seemed to be quite thrilled with these wines which incidentally are only available by direct sale from Native Flora and sold at no wine or liquor stores due to the very small production quantities, making this an even more desirable wine for your cellar or table (there is also a wine club
We ordered our first white wine, and I managed to intrigue Scott into a Virginia Vermentino Reserve 2013 from Barboursville, which we all agreed had amazing taste at first, but Scott noted that the finish virtually  disappeared within seconds. Kristin opened another Vermentino from Corse made by US winemaker Oren Swift, but from Corsica (hence the name). The label was so poorly created it was nary impossible to read, but we all agreed that for less money, it was far superior with a creamy finish that was so well suited to the milder dishes. The Barboursville, however, did go very well with my spicy Tunnina, or seared tuna belly with bottargo aioli (the spicy element) and broccoli raab that was a tasty treat indeed. The other starters were Carolo or basically a Savoy Cabbage Slaw with Parmesan & EVOO that was refreshing and tasty; the signature POLPO which is octopus soffocato with potato confit, cotechinata and celery salad, which we know will always be on the menu. The Grilled Mortadella was a novel dish with red onion, frisee and pistachio that reminded me of a sophisticated spam (please forgive me for using that word).

Next we tasted Native Flora's 2012 Next Time Pinot Noir which is one of four that they make. We had not yet tasted this present release which has a huge vanilla aroma up front and some of the best body and flavor you will find anywhere in a Pinot Noir! 
We ordered several pastas to share and this is always a treat from Chef Amy:
Raviolini celebrated the autumn and were filled with Roasted Pumpkin & Ricotta Cheese in a Butter & Sage Sauce with Amaretti Cookie crumble.
Quadrucci were filled with Crab, Cod & Potato and served in a simple yet elegant Lemon Butter Sauce.
Neri is Squid Ink Pasta, which had been exhausted on my previous visit since all the pasta is made fresh in house and is often gone by later in the evening! Here is has Sushi-grade Yellowfin Tuna and Nonnaral di Pesce or a spicy fish sauce (think halfway between spicy Thai fish sauce and Puttanesca) on the side of the dish that you can take as much of as you like; I loved it.

The main courses arrived and we decided on two orders of the Grilled Swordfish with Tuscan Kale and two of the Anatra or Cured Duck Breast with Tuscan kale, Pancetta-wrapped potatoes with a tasty Persimmon Marmellata (foto on my FB page). Most of the duck was cooked perfectly rare and tender, but a slice here and there on each plate was a bit chewy, but not beyond edibility. Will enjoyed a glass of Ruche Crivelli 2013 Ruche di Castignane from Monferrato while I loved my Produttori del Barbaresco 2011. By this time, no more wine was an option!

Desserts here are excellent and we decided to share two:
Apple Crostata with Hazelnuts, Lemon Meringue (which comes in the form of cute little balls) and Prosecco Gelato. The dish had a super perfumey smell that announced the apples and spices and we all agreed the pastry was superb. Chocoholics will adore the Cioccolato which is a Chocolate Semifreddo with tasty autumn-influenced Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Chocolate Crouton and Maple Candied Ganache.

Candied Hazelnuts covered with Chocolate Powder sent us home quite full and happy to starve ourselves today before the exciting Native Flora Wine Dinner tonight at The Partisan!

Monday, November 09, 2015

LEMONGRASS in Las Vegas' Aria is amazing (11-7-15)

My last night in Las Vegas was a Saturday and just an hour or so after three intense days of conferences, etc. I was exhausted and walked about a mile or so up the strip to the Aria complex where I had chose the very highly rated Lemongrass, a pan-Asian spot secluded in the rear off the lobby which I loved. Here at Mandalay Bay, the dozens and dozens of dining outlets, from Hubert Keller (the famous French chef from SanFran) to Wolfgang Puck and more are all facing the monstrous casino area.
We had one lunch at Noodle House which had okay food, but nothing worth writing about. Sadly the casino noise is horrendous everywhere. While Aria also has a huge foyer/lobby/casino area as well, this area where Lemongrass and several other dining spots were located, was quite serene.
The décor was quite interesting with lots of dowels on the wall, giant ropes strung all over creating a giant loom feel as if we were sitting inside the loom. The leather booths, wooden tables and floors and open kitchen were nice as well. I looked up to see a gigantic rope chandelier (several indeed) which looked like a giant woof from a loom. It was fascinating.
The service here was attentive and friendly and the portions were monstrous.
I ordered a small bottle of unfiltered Sake, Miyashita "Sacred Mist", Honjozo Nigori which was cloudy since it was unfiltered, yet milky and smooth and truly awesome with the spicy food I chose.
Tom Kha Lobster was the version of the famous chicken or shrimp soup with coconut, but here with lobster chunks abounding, coconut, lemongrass, ginger, red chilies, Galangal, cilantro and a heaping of Abalone Mushrooms. I had to ask my server for a long rest as the portion was easily a main course.
My main course was a throwback to our winter trip to Malaysia and SE Asia with Penang Red Curry with Duck which was seared tneder and rare with crispy skin and then smothered in the spicy curry with hints of cocnut, sprinkles of peanuts and some lychees.
This place, like virtually everywhere in Las Vegas was not fancy; people really dress down in most cases, but it was more elegant for sure than so many of the restaurants and the food was as elegant as one could expect in any excellent Asian dining spot. A great end to my short stay.

Vegas Dinner #2....RIVEA, gets some raves, Ducasse does in Italian (11-5-15)

On my second night in Las Vegas I was thrilled to accept an invitation from one of my favorite vendors, who happens to handle the Alain Ducasse properties in France. RIVEA, Ducasse's newest installation, just happens to be the top floor of my hotel, the Delano with outrageously wonderful views of the Las Vegas skyline. We had drinks and champagne first in the elegant Skyfall Lounge next door with even a better view and outdoor heaters aflalme in this chilly weather.
RIVEA has Chef Bruno Riou in charge and while he is in control, I do not understand why the food is Italian bistro, where M. Ducasse is indeed one of the greatest French chefs on earth.
No bread here, just excellent grissini, which we munched on with Rolle, La Chapelle Gordonne, 2013, a white Vermintino from Cotes de Provences that I adored. The starters were Mozzarella di bufala & tomato, excellent Tomato Pizzettas with Culatello, San Daniele (prosciutto) & Bresaola that was truly lean and excellent. I also loved the piquant and tasty Octopus Salad with Coco Beans and Confit Bell Peppers.
The pasta was Paccheri with superbly cooked Ox Cheek and a French Daube-style sauce which is a hearty brown sauce that worked superbly with the meat. I was ready for the red wine and it did come as I almost finished (we were a big group and the place was jammed). Domaine Triennes 2013 from Var, France is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cab that was smooth, drinkable and tasty with a good body to boot.
The main course was an amazing Pepper crusted Bison Tenderloin that was soft, rare and divine.
It was the dessert that blew us all away. LIMONCELLO BABA with Meyer Limoncello from CelloVia in the USA, which is as good as any Italian limoncello I have had. The baba was split, soaked with limoncello, as opposed to rum and then doused with a delightful gob of whipped cream. Nobody left a bite on their plate and then a fortified red granache akin to Banyuls arrived.
We had more time overlooking the city from the private dining room at the other side, which had just emptied out (there is also a chef's table in the kitchen with no view save to the food).
Our meal was enjoyable, for sure but I guess I wanted more sublime French and was taken aback. I have no clue what the cost was, so I can't compare, but I am sure this view and M. Ducasse's name go for a price as high as the sixty-something floor it is on!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Las Vegas' GUY SAVOY truly worthy of 3 Michelin Stars++ and superb experience (11-4-15)

I arrived in Las Vegas for a 3 day business convention and have to admit that although I have been a travel agent for 30+ years, this was my first time here in sin city. I was already down on the place by the time I hit my hotel as it took 30 minutes to drive less than 1 mile to the hotel (the airport is really across the street, but you have to go the long way around!). I walked through the Mandalay Bay Complex which also houses the Fours Seasons and the Delano, where I am staying, and was completely turned off by the casino, smokers, and offensive dress that many folks sport here (simply said, there are way too many women with skirts that don't go below their waists!). So after my first meetings which ended at 9pm (midnight on my clock), I hopped a cab to Caesar's Palace a couple of minutes away and made my way to the serene oasis of Restaurant GUY SAVOY, the Vegas spot this world-famous Michelin star from Paris chose to house his gastronomic temple. I loved the fact that it was so serene, quiet and restful and I actually relaxed in the room with only twelve tables (I think there was another small room, but it was closed) of which only 1/2 were still occupied. within an hour, at 1030pm, I was the only one left until my departure after the magnificent tasting menu. The SIGNATURE menu was chosen for several reasons:

1)I was in Vegas for the Signature Travel Network meeting.

2)I am co-chair of the Chefs Committee for  March of Dimes Signature Chefs benefit this month

3)I didn't want the pricier degustation menu or the way overpriced white truffle menu.

The price tag was $250 and the accompanying wines chalked up another $175, not to mention $10 for the excellent Badoit.

I did start with a $30 glass of champagne which was offered, but not priced for me. There was a choice of about 8 champagnes by the glass from a huge trolley, and I stayed in the middle to lower range and avoided the vintage choices of Krug, Dom Perignon and others. Chartogne-Tailler Cuvee Sainte Anne was a deliciously soft brut which set me at ease and allowed me to peruse the vast menu choices. It was also delicious with my four, yes four, amuses bouches.

1)Foie Gras terrine with black truffle vinaigrette was creamy, rich and indulgent

2)Tomato concasse (that's fancy for chopped) with black olive was served in adorable little indentations on toasted bread points. It was tasty, but unexciting.

3)a magnificent petite burger (we now call them sliders) was rare and tasty with Dijon Mustard

4)a small bowl arrived with crunchy quinoa over which Carrott Ginger Soup with Espalette Pepper was poured tableside.

The bread trolley was amazing and it was impossible to choose as one does not wish to overdo this. I went for Bacon & Salt Mini-Brioche as well as the tasty Chestnut Bread and the amazing Seaweed. There were also Mustard Seed, Ciabbata (onion or plain), Lemon, and both Poppyseed or plain baguettes. There were both salted and unsalted butters imported from Normandy, fresh ground pepper and sea salt, all served under adorable mini-glass domes that had a Moroccan feel to them.

The first course on the menu was entitled "Colors of Caviar" and consisted of a gorgeous parfait like creation with vinaigrette or caviar, caviar cream, caviar sabayon, herbs and Osetra Caviar and a mother of pearl caviar spoon to dig through the vertically layered parfait to get a taste of each layer in each bite. It was rich, sublime and again indulgent. Paired with R. & L. Legras, Guy Savoy Blanc de Blancs Champagne from Chouilly which was very dry brut, but with a floral nose and herbaceous aftertaste.

I love chestnuts, so Chestnuts "All Around" or "Tout Autour de la Chataigne" was a treat for me and brought me back to my first Michelin-starred chestnut soup in Paris as Carre des Feuillantes decades ago. Here we had a combination of braised chestnuts, chestnut custard, custard chips all in a bowl filled with mushroom-infused milk (think light creamy broth). The wine was Clos Ste. Magdeleine 2012 from Cassis in Provence made from Marsanne & Ugni Blanc, a tasty earthy white that enhanced the dish to perfection.


Red Mullet Fillet was with a Spinach and Mushroom Gratin and this famous French dish (Rouget in Europe) was delicate and tasty in a mullet fume and was served with Yves Cuilleron 2010 Saint-Pierre from Saint-Joseph in the Loire valley. I reveled as I saw the bottle approaching as I had the pleasure of meeting the late Maestro Cuilleron over 15 years ago when I visited his world famous vineyard and tasted so many of his superb wines. This white was again genius pairing, and the sommelier was impressed with my knowledge of it.

The fourth course of the tasting was another Foie Gras, here called "Bitter Infusion" and offered up the treat in a Duck Consomme with Beets, a Kumquat Puree and was paired with a crunchy piece of seared Foie Gras underneath a small cup as a finishing surprise. I gobbled it all up and loved the Domaine Albert Mann Grand Cru Furstentum 2011 Pinot Gris from Alsace that offered up a good deal of residual sugar and sweetness to pair with the "bitter" element of the dish.

As I was enjoying the previous course a glass teapot was brought to the table and placed over small flame to heat what was apparently an element of the next dish: Artichoke & Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche and Black Truffle Butter.

Here we had braised endives over crispy Puffed Rice (Chef seems to like crunchy elements) as well as a Gamache of Green Tea(the glass pot). The truffles were from Perigord and shaved over the dish and the brioche made from mushrooms sat in the middle. The broth was a rich intense reduction that was almost velvety from the truffle butter and aged parmesan was shaved over the top. I loved all the courses, but this was truly a favorite and revelation. Domaine Anne-Marie Gille Vosne-Romanee 2003 Pinot Noir from Bourgogne was a throwback to when I drank this amazing wine while at cooking school at the University of Dijon in the early 70's (of course, it was much less expensive back then).

The "main" course was an American Prime Beef Tenderloin with Braised Paleron (shoulder of beef), Potato Puree and Baby Heirloom Carrots. The Tarragon & Grape Mustard was awesome. The shoulder was nowhere near as amazing as the filet, which did not need the Laguiole steak knife as it was so tender, a fork could cut through it. The Coup de Foudre 37.2 Cuvee Merlot 2012 from Napa was way too young to drink at this time.

I was back in Europe as the cheese trolley rolled over and I debated which to choose:

Brillat Savarin was superbly salty and creamy and went best with the Verget "Les Enseigneres" Puligny-Montrachet 2003, aged to perfection.

I must note that the fine dining spots in Vegas all seem to use Spiegelau crystal which is nice, but here I would have expected Riedel. The white was refreshing after the red I did not care for, so I was happy to switch colors.

Lejeune Altize was a great goat with Ash

Onetik is a tasty earthy sheep and cow with a nettle-like rind with salt

Fleur de Maguers was a superb Corsican Sheep and my

blue was Fourmes d'Ambert

Following this was a palate cleanser of Aloe Vera Gelee with Grapefruit Meringue that was truly novel and fun and oh so refreshing.

The first dessert was Quince & Apple which had apple-wrapped ice cream amongst other multi-variations of the fruits (I'm not a quince fan) and an ice-wine gelatin. The Domaine Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Moeulleux 2009 Vouvray was another wonderful wine choice.

As I stared out the windows onto the strip, I marveled at the lit signs for Planet Hollywood, Vuitton, Dior and the massive video screens. I was so thankful to be inside and sheltered from the craziness of Las Vegas.

The main dessert was a Samuel treat in the waiting of Chocolate Fondant, Crunchy Praline and Chicory Cream. I was worried about the bitterness associated with chicory, but there was none here. This was a miracle chocolate dish and paired with one of my favorites ice wines, Inniskillen Cabernet Franc 2008 from Niagara in Ontario, Canada.

I have a note that I was served a black pepper tea sorbet with something at one point, but it seems to have been lost in the 3+ hour trip to gastronomic heaven that ended with a bag to go of pastries, muffins, mini-cheesecakes and more which I have had with my coffee in the room every morning for the past 3 days. How I love re-living my best meal in Vegas every day as I now plan to head home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

DC's DEL CAMPO does it deliciously (10-26-15)

Last night we headed downtown with Samuel and two friends of ours for our first trip to Del Campo's (www.delcampodc.)dining room. I've been several times before for events, but really wanted to eat there as Chef Victor Albisu is our honorary chef chair of this years March of Dimes Signature Chefs event (of which I am co-chair of the chef's committee) three weeks from now. Chef Victor is very generous to the DC community when it comes to charity and indeed all events, the least we can do is give back to him for that.
We arrived at 630pm and the restaurant was fairly empty, but the bar was heaving. The dining room was almost full by the time we left and the noise levels were high, but not unbearable. One huge arty of about 30 at the rear was quite loud, but we were way up front at the window. The dining room is elegant and warm and most comfortable as well. Our server, Dmitri took our wine order and quickly delivered a bottle of Muga Viura barrel-fermented 2013 from Rioja an earthy white that actually had little oak taste due to the barrel, but was superb as an aperitif alone, or with starters.
Some of us were attracted to the set $45 menu which has a choice of salad, the Provoleta melted cheese with bread and then a huge Asado selection from the grill of Short Rib, Flank Steak, Chorizo, Grilled Greens and a choice of Sweetbreads or Chicken with Chimichurri and Salsa Criolla. Sadly, the whole table must do this, so we have to go back again for that option which I am so game for.
Two starters arrived in the form of a huge portion of Hamachi Ceviche with Sweet Potato, Aji Amarillo, Radish &  Brown Butter(well, thats' what the menu said online, but it also had a Leche de Tigre or citrus marinade that had a lemon curd consistency) which was superb, especially with the small slices of jalapeno for extra spice. A revelation was the Grilled Pear and Pecorino Salad with Arugula, Hazelnuts & Burnt Onion that was one of the best salads I think I have ever had. The vinaigrette was tasty and exciting and the pears were grilled to perfection.
We had moved on to a superb Valsacro "Dioro" Gran Reserva 2005 Tempranillo from Rioja as well that Dmitri suggested and was smooth and easy to drink. The starters were varied and the wine was divine with all:
Grilled Octopus & Crab Causa with Grilled Scallion, Piquillo & grilled Avocado (after a while you do realize that almost everything is grilled here!) which was also a huge starter (well, they all were)
Provoleta was a huge cast iron pan of seared provolone cheese with oregano served with lots of crispy country bread for dipping
My Seared Iberico Pork Loin was as tender as it gets and truly worthy of the name from which the famous Spanish ham also comes. It was served with Grilled Brussels Sprouts, Baby Eggplant, Smoked Yogurt, Salmon Caviar and a nice Romesco sauce.

While we waited for our main course we finished off the superb Valsacro and Dmitri suggested a lighter Malbec from Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Lujan de Cayo 2012 from Mendoza in Argentina that was much bigger than I expected but again superb with the grilled main courses, even the fish! Samuel had the 10 ounce Prime Hanger Steak with Steak Frites and Salsa Golf (aka Argentine Ketchup or ketchup with mayo, hence Russian dressing-ish, but with more oomph) which was a s tender and delicious as it gets. Two of us had the Grilled Tuna & Calamari with Smoked Tomato, Espalette and Grilled Olives, while the Peruvian Chicken with Crispy yucca, Aji Amarillo Alioli & Green Chili Puree was declared moist and superb. My Cast Iron Seared Prawns (photo on my FB page) were huge with head on and served with Chorizo, Mussels, Chillies, Ink Citrus Spaetzle and Mint (which I could not taste at all) as well as a Corn Salsa. It was perfect indeed and while a lighter dish, quite filling. Delicious green Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes arrived that were creamy and divine as was the Grilled Cauliflower with Raisins and Salsa Verde. Don't skip these fantastic sides as they are all superbly tasty and novel.

Desserts were inevitable so we tried several and shared, except for Samuel who would not let anyone have a bite of his Warm Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Toasted Cashew Ice Cream. He seemed full after eating about 1/2 and finally allowed us to taste the yummy dish. The one not so great dish all night was the Coconut Caramel Crepe Soufflé  with Grilled Pineapple & Canela , but the Grilled Key Lime Pie with Lime Espuma made up for it and the even better Grilled Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Dulce de Leche was beyond excellent. As if this was not all enough a plate of Nutella Donuts with Grilled Banana Ice Cream magically appeared which were easily the winner overall and simply decadent and oh so tasty.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

doin' the whole darn dinner @DINO's in Shaw (10-12-15)

Last night eight of us headed to our friend Dean Gold's DINO's for what was an event we purchased last year when he was raising money for his move to the new place. Little did we know this would be an over-3 hour long event starting with cocktails and snacks including Tapenades & Crostini(Yogurt,Garlic,Cucumeber with Roasted Red Pepper; Corona Bean; Kalamata Olive), Fried Crab Balls with Remoulade, and the always so deadly and indulgent Deviled Eggs with Crispy Parma Prosciutto, Anchovy Sriracha Aioli & Salsa Verde. I had a Fuego Verde again which was even spicier than last time, but loved it.
We moved upstairs for the main event which commenced with pours of a Sparkling Rose Fiorini Corte degli Attimi, Lambrusco di Sorbara which I can't say is one of my favorite sparkling wines as I prefer it drier, but paired very well with the multiple plates of salamis, pates, etc. These included the best Testa ever(pig head) with a to-die-for ginger mostarda, sliced Fagatini with a very mild horseradish cream, and a Prok & Mushroom pate. Also in evidence was Boar Salami, Andouille Sausage and a superb creamy Rillettes.
If we weren't full enough, we were when the first pasta arrived which was a delicious vongole (clams) and then another full plate of Linguini in Pesto with vegetables came. Well, we have plenty of leftovers this week to eat at home. The wine was a superb Soave Classico, Vigneto du Lot 2010 from Inama which was creamy and intense. I joked with our server Roberto about the name as it had a Greco-clad couple on the bottle which was supposed to be the Biblical Lot and his wife, who turned to a pillar of salt-odd choice for a wine.
We asked for a long rest and ordered a bottle of Ridge 2012 Estate Chardonnay, Monte Bello Vineyard which Dean's wonderful wife, Kay, recommended as one of her favorites. This was a ddeal as wines ar 33% off Sundays-Tuesdays! It was a superb California chard, full of huge fruit flavors and as far as I can recall, the first American wine I have ever had as Dino's is so Italian-centric.
The rest was over and the Castello dei Rampolla 1999 from Samarco, a subtle yet full bodied Tuscan red arrived to truly set the stage for the meat course of Pork Belly with a yummy Tuscan Mole Sauce that packed a nice spicy bite and a plate of roasted potatoes with several slices of the Teres Major Steak with Salsa Verde that we discovered earlier this year and is a real treat for meat-aholics.
After this another amazing red arrived that was much bigger than I expected from a Sudtirol (South Tyrol, near the Austrian border) wine. De Silva Lagreine Edizione 2010 from Alto Adige which indeed impressed us. It was a delight with the excellent cheese plate of Ubriaco al Pepe (aged cow with a punch), Moliterno al Tartufo (an intense aged sheep with truffle) and a new cheese for all of us, St. Stephen which is a triple cream cow from upstate NY that is oh so creamy and salty at the same time. There were spiced almonds and an apple compote that disappeared oh so fast.
Some folks opted for desserts and while I was full, I told everyone that my favorite was the poached peach which may be gone soon as autumn is indeed upon us. A glass of frozen Limoncello, that was unctuous beyond belief, sent us away very happy and we have to thank Dean for his undying kindness to us in oh so many ways, as well as his generosity to all who know him in DC. We
were happy to help make this move possible, even if only with a small contribution, but boy was this a meal to remember.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

HUNTING CREEK STEAK simmers & steams in Alexandria (10-7-15)

Hunting Creek Steak has been open most of this year, but we only found out about it a month or so ago. We know the owner, Michael Nayeri, who also rules at A La Lucia in Alexandria, as well as the Chef, Will Greenwood, who actually cooked our first honeymoon meal in the Jefferson Hotel 22 years ago this last week!
These guys have put together an adorable spot at 1106 King St. ( with plenty of room and plenty of choices. You all know, I am not a steak nut, but this has to be one of the best steaks in the area for the price; a worthwhile venture for sure for steak lovers and others.
Samuel and I went while Will is away, and he wanted to sit outside since it was such a nice evening; it was a great idea and the brick enclosed patio facing the street was jammed with folks, but not noisy at all. There is a cute cabana if you want to spread out and enjoys drinks and snacks and lots of tables with umbrellas. The service outside is superb (it can often be bad when you are there alone and the waiter is AWOL) and we were looked after excellently by the entire team, but Eric was always on with the wine as was our server Shawn.
Speaking of wine, you get 25% off any bottle Mondays-Wednesdays, which I am a big fan of, so I ordered the Numanthia Termes 2011 Tempranillo from Tot, Spain which was smooth, yet intense and would be a superb steak wine for sure. My only complaint for the entire night was that the glasses are on the heavy side; but then this is ahuge palce with an outdoodr, so they need to be sturdy. Samuel had his coke.
Out came a small plate of pinwheel wraps stuffed with smoked salmon and boursin cheese, which Samuel declared inedible as he detests cream cheese; they were delicious, but filling, so I will have the rest for lunch today. I ordered the Lemon-Ginger Infused Salmon Tartar with Jerusalem Artichokes which is a great starter to share. The plate is laden with thinly sliced chokes that are deep fried and come out like thickish potato chips and are seasoned perfectly as the tartar is mild and can be scooped onto the yummy chips. There is also tasty housemade focaccia.
Every day there is a 3-course menu deal with many choices as this is not just a steak place, but we were drawn to the Roseda Farms Butcher's Cut Wagyu Beef Bavette from the start. The steaks are hormone and antibiotic-free at this grass-fed farm and dry aged 21 days in Maryland, which won me over from the start. The Wagyu cut is 12 ounces which is huge and rings in at an amazing $32!! Sam had his with Bernaise which he barely used as the steak was so tasty. My chimichurri was superb and there are many sauce options, although they are not needed at all! The steaks all come with tasty just spiced-right frites, so we skipped ordering any sides as we were indeed stuffed and managed to take home about 1/3 of each steak anyway for tonight! When Chef Will came out, we were all praises and he explained that the steaks are cryovac wet-aged for even longer in house which has to be the secret as well as the superb source.
A glass of tasty Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold Alcoholic Cider from Dougspur, VA was brought around and I fell in love with this sweet treat before we headed home, knowing full well we will be back to HUNTING CREEK for steak or not....maybe duck and the chocolate desserts...or whatever.