Monday, November 17, 2014

Jackie's in Silver Spring is super in the suburbs (11-16-14)

Yesterday afternoon we attended a concert in Silver Spring and headed just up the block to JACKIE's ( where there are smiles waiting on your arrival in this brick garage turned restaurant where the fabric patterns will wake you up and the cozy warmth was just right on a cold wet night. We ordered a bottle of La Cartuja 2012 from Priorat which our server Dan was not sure, so he checked with manager/bartender Ryan and we gave it a go. A warm deep red from Spain that despite its youth is drinking superbly now and goes with so many items on the menu. Samuel chose the TRUFFLE CHEESE FRIES from the snacks menu which was a HUGE portion, not a snack, but yummy nonetheless. By the time the dish is finished though, the cold fries are no longer as exciting as they are on arrival, so gobble up. We also tried the CHICKEN LIVER CROSTINI starter which is a snack of three slices with fresh Black truffles, Arugula Pesto and Grano that is a nice starter. The 3 course dinner special is a steal at $32 (there are some supplements), and includes either snack, appetizer and main or appetizer, main and dessert. Sam continued on to the BEEF SHORTRIB with Smoked Gnocchi, Cabbage Crème Fraiche & Red Onion jelly. the cabbage was not a hit, but he adored the gnocchi and ate a good part of the huge meat portion.
Will started with the Walla Walla ONIONS, LAMB BACON, Raisin, Radish & Kale Chimichurri which is a great dish and awesomely smoky from the bacon and chimichurri. My starter was the Salt Roasted BONE MARROW with Foie Gras CRUMBLE, Shallots, Vanilla(Butter) Brioche which were three huge bones and oh so yummy, but slightly overdosed with shallots making it hard to really taste the marrow itself. The crumble was great and the Foie gras taste came through just fine.
We moved on to a bigger wine, BOBAL from Finca Sandoval "Signo" 2010 from La Mancha in Spain which is groan at a high altitude in lime, but still has huge fruit notes in the wine. Ideal with Will's thick rich Roasted COBIA with Cauliflower Variations(puree& roasted), Black Fig, Prosciutto Vinaigrette & Cheese Gnudi. The puree was intensely salty, which Ryan later agreed with us on, but overall the dish was a star. Chef Adam Harvey has been there a year now, and was out last night, so perhaps the sous chef had oversalted erroneously. My GLAZED DUCK with Fermented Bok Choy, Sweet & Sour Eggplant & Cherry Mustard was cooked on the rare side and yet, still had a crunchy crisp skin I adored.
For desserts we chose two and Samuel gobbled up his Warm Chocolate GANACHE with Concord Grape, Peanut Butter & Salted Caramel Popcorn while Will and I tried the Buttermilk PANNA COTTA with Gala Apple, Oatmeal, & Vanilla Dulce di Leche which was a nice dish, but not your traditionally flavored custard as it did just seem slightly odd, though tasty.
We had a real nice time here and the place was almost dead, so it was very quiet on a Sunday....maybe we need to get out of DC to get to the quiet these days?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

an enticing evening at ENTYSE (McLean, VA) with lovely LINDEN wines (also from Virginia) (11-11-14)

10:09 AM (6 minutes ago)
Last night I headed over to the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner where one of the dining options is ENTYSE which has a beautiful private dining room which the 40 or so of us occupied with
uber-winemaker Jim Law who owns and runs LINDEN Winery in Virginia. I was especially pleased to be seated center-table (we were at one large long table) right opposite the maestro himself, whom
I have admired for decades. He told us many wonderful stories of his 35 years of vintages and it is easy to see from what we drank, what a huge success he is.
We started with Avenius Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (which was just released), and it was superb with the variety of passed hor's d'oevres from
Quail Egg with Hollandaise Sauce, Bacon & Caviar
Grilled Shrimp on Sugar Cane Skewer
Salmon Roll with Caviar
An amazing FOIE GRAS which I could have sworn had cocoa in it, but I was told no.
and more that I have sadly forgotten
We sat down to dinner and were served both the 2009 and 2012 Chardonnay "Hardscrabble" which were two distinctly different wines, although the same grapes!
The '12 is lighter and the '09 was more intense, creamy and rich. These were served with a DOVER SOLE with Roasted Baby Fennel, Creamed Leeks and LOBSTER MEDALLIONS with a Lobster Tarragon Butter Sauce. A yummy quenelle was on the side as well.
Interestingly enough, we all agreed the Fennel & Sole went best with the 2012 and the 2009 was awesome with the Lobster, butter and leeks. I'm thrilled that I have a good supply of the '09 at home.
Wines were poured by sommelier/cellarmaster Vincent Ferraud, whom I have not seen since a previous visit to the Ritz-Carlton when Maestro was located there. He has been a  fixture in DC for decades going back to Jean-Louis at the Watergate!
Spiegelau crystal was used and really enhanced the experience.
The second course was a rich and creamy Organic MUSHROOM RISOTTO with Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and Truffled Micro Arugula with tomatoes. The only thing that could have improved this dish in this season would have been fresh white truffles! It was still superb and paired with a Linden CLARET 2011 made from 44% Merlot, 36% Cab and 20% Cab Franc. Jim explained that each year when they blend the Claret it is developed thru "blind" tastings of the grapes and chance blendings so to speak.
The main course was a BISON FILET with Cauliflower Puree, Confit Marble Potatoes and miniature chips, Globe Carrots and Port Wine Jus. There were two reds from HARDSCRABBLE 2009 and 2010 and Jim explained that these blends vary as well by year with no Merlot in the 2010 (83% Cabernet Sauvignon) but less Cab and more Merlot in the 2009. I have the 2010 at home and while they were both good, it was the 2010 that went better with the meat and the '09 better just as a nice finisher.
Dessert was another pair of wines:
Vidal Late Harvest 2007 and Petit Mensang Late Harvest 2009 (which we have lots of at home!). Jim explained that these are not true but fake icewines in that the Petit Mensang was just picked last Thursday and then the grapes are frozen.
The 2007 Vidal could easily last years and mature like a good icewine or Sauternes. The Petiti Mensang is a sweet "wild fruit trip" that is good anytime and anywhere after a meal or with intense cheeses as well.
We had a nice ALMOND FRUIT TART and then started off on our way home very full and very happy that Linden found its way to ENTYSE us!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

a bit less curious about the CURIOUS GRAPE in Arlington, but still good (11-7-14)

After a little over a year we returned to The CURIOUS GRAPE ( in Shirlington and for the most part, the food was very good. However, it seems that Chef Joe Hornbeck who had just started there in the spring of 2013 has departed and was replaced about a year a go by Chef Delian DiPietro, who has many good ideas, but perhaps needs some more guts.
Wines and cheeses here are stars and we started with a delicious white Grenache 2013 Chapoutier Cotes de Luberon "Le Ciboise." The glass come in full or halves, so you can try many tastes. We moved on to a bottle of red (also available by the glass) from Bodegas LAN 2005 Gran Reserva which was decanted and oh so wonderful on the chilly cold night. We did have to ask for the wine several times after the order was placed, and this was the other big issue. Our server, Jon, was most helpful, but it seemed that the completely full restaurant was desperately understaffed with servers.
The warm focaccia and olive oil for dipping was nice as well.
Three of us started with the wonderful sounding on a cold night POTATO LEEK SOUP with Crispy Potatoes, Fried Shallots, Baby Arugula & Mustard Oil with Kymac, which Jon explained is a Turkish double cream! The crunch from the shallots was great, the soup creamy and rich, but not really hot enough, and sadly, OH SO BLAND. I asked Jon for pepper which came fast, but one of our friends who asked for salt never got it. We were asked about the dishes we liked and disliked and mentioned that it needed crispy bacon or white pepper or something.
The special starter was MEATBALLS PUTTANESCA which was a winner for sure. Indeed we all chose, smaller plates for our meal so as not to fill up before the theater.
My next course was a big winner: Seared OCTOPUS with Black Hummus, Fresh Chick Peas, Cucumber & Fried Capers. The hummus was very different from the thicker manila brand and very vinegary which worked so well as a dressing for the perfectly charred and tender octopus. The dish also was loaded with crunchy pomegranate seeds for a burst of flavor.
The other winner was the CHICKEN ROULADE which was a breast rolled with mascarpone, marcona almonds and marsala jus. Opposite were local mushrooms on a square of date paste that was just as yummy.
The loser was the PORK RAGU which had a scant amount of Virginia pork shoulder on pappardelle with piave vecchio cheese and herbed panko. It too arrived lukewarm.
We tried some of the cheese plates and they were both quite good with some odd additions to be sure. The FALL Cheese plate had pumpkin chevre, cranberry Wensleydale and a maple smoked cheddar with apples chips and the most divine port-infused cranberries. The TRUFFLE Cheese plate had TREMOR Truffle cheese, which could have been a shade riper and BOSCHETTO al Tartufo with Truffle Toast, Truffled Salami, a swath of divine Thyme Honey which went great with the two cheeses and a pile of Preserved Mushrooms which were quite odd. The small pile of micro greens had a glop of gooey balsamic that I thought was worms at first; need I say more.
So, while we had some good dishes, THE CURIOUS GRAPE no longer holds top billing for us and boy does Shirlington need some more fine dining for those of us that love going out to eat before or after attending our beloved Signature Theatre down the street!

Monday, November 03, 2014

DC's JACK ROSE DINING SALOON - if you like Whisk(e)y, get there soon! (11-2-14)

At an auction last year we purchased a Scotch tasting and dinner and we were treated to an awesome evening last night at JACK ROSE DINING SALOON ( located at 18th & Florida Sts, NW just below Adam's morgan. The establishment has been there for 4 years and I never even noticed it in my many passings of this block! On arrival Roberto Cofino, the Scotch malt Whisky Tasting Advisor introduced himself and started us on our journey. Each of the five of us explained our likes and dislikes and he proceeded to bring over bottles and taste that were different per our requests.
We mentioned that we like the peaty intense Scotches we have had over the last 5 years since we first tasted Highland park at the distillery. We named some we liked and some we did not like as much, and also mentioned we were headed to Ireland next summer and would love to know more about Irish Whiskey.
A tasty amuse of warm goat cheese puffs arrived with pickled cauliflower and veggies and then the plate of various appetizers we ordered came and kept us busy for quite some time.
The platter is for two and can easily feed three and includes:
Deviled Eggs
Pickled Eggs
Spiced Nuts & Kettle Corn (pecan, almonds and peanuts)
Marinated Olives
4 Bros. Pickled Veggies
Goat Cheese & Ritz Crackers
Roberto returned and we began the EXPERIENCE:
A.D. RATTRAY (he called it Dewer Rattray as the Irish do) is a 12 year aged single cask Irish Whiskey from Cooley Distillery. He explained that the Connemara "style," which this was, is much more peaty. Only 212 bottles are made of this gorgeous liquor and we were all quite happy.
We looked around and noticed the long bar on one side stretching from front to rear has hundreds and hundreds of bottles each displayed on the wall library style with a sliding ladder(that screeched too much) to access them. Our side of the room was raised on step and had comfy leather booths that fit 4-6 and behind us was another wall of whisk(e)y that had us inspecting at length. There is an adorable original tin ceiling that sadly adds to the noisy din.
We proceeded to 12 year old LAGAVULIN 2010 Edition from Islay in Scotland that was another superb treat, but the winner was the potent potion, nay, the unctuous nectar of KILCHOMAN 4 years also from Islay, but bottled by the Jewish Whisky Society and only 245 bottles were made of this Single Cask Nation using Bourbon barrels and ringing in at 58.4% alcohol.
How odd that Roberto chose this as we were hosted by our rabbi and this was an item purchased at our synagogue auction!
I had a taste of the BALVENIE 15 year made in sherry casks and the GLENDONA made in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks (only 643 bottles) both of which had a wonderful sweetness to them.
We gave Roberto a run for our money when we asked him to pair a whisky with our main courses. Mine was the ultra-lemony STEAK TARTARE with Serrano Chili(not spicy), Homemade Potato Ruffles and a very vinegary but yummy side salad. His choice of DAILUANE The Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Single Cask 41.58 was amazing. The label called it juicy, juicy tart and fruity and it worked with the intense lemon for sure.
The fries here are Boardwalk style and super salty, but excellent. With the burger you might wish to try the BRUICHLADDICH The Laddie 10 (aged 10 years) but it is unpeated and hence alone is not my style, though it paired well.
It was an extremely fun night and I even got to have a small sip of WHITE ARMAGNAC which I had not had in years thanks to our generous server.
Now we can't wait to go to Ireland!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

DC's DISH still does it deliciously (10-29-14)

We were at DISH ( , two blocks from the Kennedy Center in the River Inn, back in June for a huge post-opera party and had a great time. Last night, I returned for dinner with the hotel's Sales Manager whom I have worked with for years, as well as the hotel's new General Manager, whom I have known for what it seems like decades! We had a super time in the small dining room that was full for KenCen pre-theater diners. Keith, the manager, has been a fixture there for years and does his job superbly, offering us a bottle of CLINE Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2012 from Contra Costa County in California that was not even on the menu! It was jammy, yummy and totally fulfilling with all our hearty dishes on the first chilly night of the coming winter.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP here has crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds and a swath of Roasted Pumpkin Oil for excellent flavor. It is definitely one of the best of its kind in town.
The DUCK BREAST was a huge dish and cooked perfectly as requested to medium rare with Baby Bok Choy, Sweet Potato Puree and a delicious Orange Grand Marnier Sauce. How I have missed these heavy cold weather dishes.
The Lamb Chop with Confit of Sweet Potato (I always wondered how this differs from the puree?!), Butternut Squash, Andouille Sausage, Onions, Arugula in a Red Wine sauce was a big hit, not to mention the gorgeous Pork Chop.
There is a set pre-theater dinner which includes most items and is a bargain, but dining here after 730pm will insure more quiet for sure. DISH is indeed DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

James Beard Foundation TASTE AMERICA takes the tour to DC and the Mandarin Oriental (10-17-14)

Last Friday evening I headed over to SW DC and the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental where The James Beard Foundation brought Taste America, it's fundraiser on wheels, so to speak.
We had a 90 minute cocktail party with the best food of the night prepared by awesome local chefs, followed by a four course sit down dinner with paired wines.
I made my way down the cocktail area first trying the fun sparkling rose from Lucien Albrecht which went so well with many of the options at each chef's table. I then moved on to a wonderful Jordan 2011 Chardonnay (there was also a Provenance 2011 Sauvignon Blanc). The reds were even better with a divine Newton Claret 2011 and an awesome Grgich Hills 2007 Merlot. Lots of love went into these choices. Bacardi had sponsored the beverages and there were three quite sweet mixed drinks using their rum which I avoided.
I first came upon Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Ripple (where we had just eaten a couple of weeks before) & Roofer's Union who was assembling CARROT CAVATELLI with Lobster & Chanterelles that was so good I went back for seconds and thirds!
Next to her was one of Washington's newest faces, Chef Ed Scarpone of DBGB Kitchen, Daniel Boulud's first DC spot which is apparently so hot, reservations for months ahead are virtually impossible. He was serving a Truffled BOUDIN BLANC with Pomme Puree, Apples & Pork Jus, which was nice, but my least favorite item of the five chefs present. I guess I won't have to worry about getting a table there, as I would choose the others first!
Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia was there and the only James Beard winner of these five as well. It was obvious as he had a luscious creamy and divine Low Country SHE CRAB Soup (really bisque) with the most adorable and tasty Old Bay Marshmallows (although the menu said it was a Deviled Crab Benne Seed Cracker--nope!).  Fourth was Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya, who I think is one of the most fun chefs in a DC kitchen. We had such a ball at his place a while ago that it made me want to return to his big smile and great demeanor. He had a wonderful dish of Buttered BREAD(really black bread toasted) with Fire Kissed UNI, Aged Ponzu and Jalapeno. He was torching the uni just a tad and delicately layering it on each piece of tiny bread with the ponzu and jalapeno slice (the menu said it was a Japanese Hot Pepper, but it was not). I must have had six or seven of these awesomely tasty tidbits. Finally was Chef Anthony Chittum of Iron Gate, where we also went for the first time last month. He prepared Melted CABBAGE Tortelloni, Surryano Ham & Red Onion Marmalade. which was super with the little piece of Virginia made crisped ham (a la Serrano) and the tasty pasta and sauce. I am glad I had multiples of all but one dish(the boudin), as the dinner was much less impressive than these superb creations.
There was a silent and live auction and I went home with two fun silent packages for dining out as well; I could not resist buying dinner with Chef Marjorie at Ripple!
I had a fun group at my table and we all talked about all the great dishes as the wine was poured. Our wine server had two bottles of the first wine, a Trimbach Rielsing from Alsace, but one was 2010 and one was 2011. I asked him to pour both (he did not realize they were different vintages) and immediately fell in love with the 2010 as it was much fuller than the fruity 2011. James Beard Winner CHARLES PHAN of The Slanted Door in San Francisco was flown in for the event and presented us with Banh Boc Lot PORK & SHRIMP TAPIOCA DUMPLINGS in Banana Leaves which was quite nice, but nothing more special than a really good dumpling (and while plural, there was just one on each plate). The wine was perfect with it and I would have had more, but the meal moved along steadily to the second course cooked by DC's own VIKRAM SUNDERAM where his work at Ripple has won him his James Beard Award (well, no surprise there!). His Baked BLACK COD was Marinated with Honey, Chili, Dill, Star Anise, Cream & Cheese and was the winning dish at the table for sure. The anise was barely evident (which made me happy) and the cheese was a crispy piece of Parmesan atop the dish like a little hat. Seguinot-Bordet Chablis was the paired Chardonnay and another superb wine.
For the main course Chef Phan was brought back with a Braised DUCK LEG, Shitake Mushrooms, Bamboo Shoots & Chinese Dates which again was okay, but not a bowlover, especially since the duck was slightly dry (always a problem with hundreds of people at a large event). The wine was an amazing Grenache/Syrah Gigondas from Gonnet in the Rhone. I kept drinking this for the remainder of the night as I did not really take to the 2007 McKinley Springs Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Horse Haven Hills in Washington State that was served with dessert. Chef Didier Pouzier of the Mandarin Oriental in DC was allowed to prepare dessert on his own turf and gave us a refreshing Coconut Tapioca, Cucumber Meringue, Fresh Pineapple & Coconut Sorbet that sent us home feeling quite good as it was not heavy or overpowering at all after some of the very rich dishes that preceded.

I always have fun when I go to the James Beard House in NY and attend their events here in DC. I anxiously await the next one!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Come into NYC's KINGSIDE for some swell cuisine (10-11-14)

I've run up to NYC for a quick two nights of opera, musicals and the Tucker Gala and since I'm staying at the one-year old VICEROY hotel in midtown, I decided to try the restaurant in house called KINGSIDE (120 W 57th Street near 6th Ave). guess Saturday night in mid-town isn't the busiest time for Kingside.
My server, Stacy, said it might pick up later, but that weekdays are busier.

I settled into my cozy brown leather booth and was a bit dismayed by the loud music. The décor here is quite nice with B&W tile floors and white tile walls. There are cool chalkboards on the walls with quite wonderful drawings of various vegetables (very Audubon-ish) which Stacy explained are redone periodically. The lighting is deco-ish and muted and there are lots of votives on the tables.

The bread is sesame seeded and warm and comes with a timbale of tomato jam which tasted like pasta sauce panna cotta, an interesting flavor sure. The white bean puree was a winner for sure.
The menu is simple with some crudos, small plates, large plates and salads. I did not want a lot so I started with the amazing Shaved Kale with Goat Cheese, Olives, Toasted Almonds and a superb Lemon Vinaigrette. I had a very nice "quarto" (small carafe) of Tenuta Rapitala "Campo Reale" 2013 Nero d'Avola from Sicily which worked with the lemon.
Next I went a whole different route based on Stacy's suggestion. The Crispy Baby Artichokes are cooked to perfection and come with juicy lemon slices. All it needed was some fresh pepper which was on the table. Two silly deep fried slices of zucchini were not welcome with the crispy tangy veggies.
The Lobster Toast is a treat with four small squares of toasted brioche topped with lobster salad with mustard seed, fennel and almost no binder; think aioli gone very light. YUM.
A super cappuccino finished my meal, but I was not done for the night.
I returned at midnight where Stacy was tending bar and had a post-opera snack of a 1/2 dozen Chesapeake Oysters with a boring cocktail sauce, but superb jalapeno mignonette and a novel marinated beef mignonette. A small plate of Shaker Blue cheese was a treat which came with yummy port-roasted grapes.
Owen Roe(Yakima Valley, Wash) Rosa Mystica Cab Franc  was an awesome wine choice as well. Now, I was ready for bed.