Monday, October 09, 2017

another beautiful birthday bash with a delicious dinner at DINO'S in DC (10-8-17)

Last night for Will's birthday we used yet another wonderful auction item and eight of us headed to Dino's for an awesomely super spread that lasted almost 4 hours!(FB fotos already posted!)
We started by sipping a sparkling Lambrusco from Fiorini in Sorbara, Italy called Corte degli Attimi.  It's always fun to taste and savor new wines at Dino's as owner Dean Gold revels in telling us the story behind each grape, varietal and label making it a ture wine experience and not just a meal. He also has an amazing staff at the Grotto Bar downstairs where there are happy hours from 5 to 7pm every Tueday to Saturday and all night Sunday & Monday with amazing cocktails. We next enjoyed a Negroni tasting of the 8 different Negroni cocktails he offers on his "Not So Secret Negroni Menu:"
Negroni (Classic) with Beefeater Gin, Campari & Cinzano
DC Groni #2 with 1-8 untitled barrel-aged gin, Don Ciccio Cinque Apertivo, Capitoline Vermouth
Luxury-Tanqueray, Luxardo Bitter, Carpano Antica Formula
Scofflaw's Negroni-Hayman's London Gin, Campari, Dolin, Orange Bitters
Dean's Gold-Beefeater Gin, Aperol, Carpano Antica Formula
Boulevardier-Old Granddad Bourbon, Campari, Sweet Vermouth 9this one packed a huge punch_
Virginia-XO "Virginia Moon" White Whiskey, Cappelletti Bitters, Cinzano--one of the more popular varieties amongst our crowd
Mexigroni-Mezcal, Campari, Cinzano & Rhubard Syrup which had to be the most popular amongst our group that tasted and passed repeatedly until we found one drink we really preferred as
Dean's DEVILLED EGGS arrived to start us off followed by SQUASH BLOSOMS filled with ricotta, Egg, Garlic, in Summer Tomato Essence with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Tintero Arneis 2015 from Piemonte was poured as we learned the story of how the Arneis varietal was almost wiped from the face of the earth.
All the dishes were served Family Style and they seemed to never stop arriving, each full of flavor and taste.
Classic Caprese was an awesome selection of local Heirloom Tomatoes with fresh Italian Mozzarella, basil, Occhipinti Sicilian EVOO and Hawaiian Alaena Red Salt. This was caprese gone crazy.
Chard & Fresh Mozzarella Bruschetta came with the garlic and lemon scented filling on the plate and then topped with huge grilled slices of olive bread.
Grilled Pork Belly arrived with Asian Pear from Pig Crafters of Virginia. The spice cured, braised and crisped meat was superb and rich (not fatty at all) and the caramel spice grilled Asian pear a perfect foil.
Bardolino Chiaretto 2016 from Farina was a super rose with a hint of effervescence and just right to fight the richness of the pork.
Grilled Local Veggie Antipasto was a huge selection including Candy & Sweet Red Onion, Delicata Squash, Zucchini, Bok Choy that we loved and tasted but left to take home as we knew so much more was yet to come..such as Fregola with Grilled Shrimp & Ricotta Salata..OMG with heirloom tomato, chards, kales, cauliflower, broccoli, romanesco, zucchini and string beans.

Our first red was Jante Tereano 2011, a mineral-intense treat from Venezia Giulia (Fruili) that arrived with the Pasta courses:
Heirloom Tomato, Grilled Corn & Veggie Risotti with Basil & Walnut Pesto, Shallot, Herbs, Butter, preserved Lemon, Veggie Stock and 24month aged Parm. Leftovers for Samuel tonight!
Sausage alla Calabrese was Rigatoni with House Sausage that packed a mighty spicy punch in Spicy Pepper, red chili flakes, arugula and confit tomato
Duck Lasagna has to be one of the best pastas at Dino's with Spicy Bolognese, Fonduta, 24month Parm and Silk Road Spices for an amazing flavor bust that just makes you so so happy.

I have to give huge kudos to Omar & Gustavo whose service never failed or wavered despite the many large groups all around us and many tables enjoying long dinners as it was a holiday weekend. Next poured was Monferrato Ruche di Castagnole 2015 from Ferraris which was an herbaceous Barbera-ish wine, so lighter than most Italian reds, but gutsy.
It was ideal with our 3 main courses:
Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana (also leftovers for Sam) with smoked mozzarella that we all raved about.
Lamb Rib-slow roasted Shenandoah breast with grilled onion, tomato and chile salsa and potatoes with house ramp butter --this was the only item all evening that didn't impress me as much as the meat was on the fatty side as breasts tend to be and I think we all enjoyed every other bite so much, we moved on to the truly spectacular
Tagliata--Sliced Roseda Dry Aged Sirloin with Salsa verde that was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouths; no steak knife needed!

Cheeses arrived in abbondanza:
Robiolini
Gorgonzola Dolce
Note del Giusto Pecorino Tartufato(truffled raw sheep)
Abbondanza Caprino alle Fragole--goat cheese aged with strawberry
Mostardo was super, not to mention the Grappa, Strawberrycello and Butler's Newphew LBV 2007 Port which I adored.
of course Will had to have a slice of Tiramisu with a candle before we could all roll ourselves home.

Many thanks to the staff and also to Chef/Owner Dean Gold for his generosity!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBY!



Sunday, October 08, 2017

Bethesda's TRUE FOOD is truly delicious (10-7-17)

Last night 7 of us popped up to Bethesda's new "healthy" if huge and noisy spot, TRUE FOOD, part of a national chain that offers up some healthier choices and has a lot of vegetarian (and vegan and gluten free) options for Samuel (www.truefoodkitchen.com).
We started with a couple of bottles of "Belleruche" Rose of grenache from M. Chapoutier, this is a super wine that wortks well with many of the spicy foods here, and is also perhaps a last vestige of summer wine as we know the temps will be dropping soon. Our second wine was a superb Sicilian Nero d'Avola from Purato. There are over 20 wines here served in 6 ounce or 9 ounce pours(many of which are organic and/or sustainable) as well not to mention the healthy drinks which Sam tried and raved about the Kale Aid (ginger, apple, kale, celery, cucumber & lemon) and Lemonade. We arrived just before 6pm and the place was fairly quiet, but by our departure after 9pm, it was heaving and heard to hear speech across the table without really yelling. I would suggest earlier dining or weeknights as Saturday it is a zoo; this also seemed to effect the service quality. While our server Nini was a gem making superb suggestions and always trying to help, they just seemed to be short staffed whenever you needed someone or something, and the size of the place makes the effect multiply.
Speaking of the servers they wear T-shirts emblazoned with "HONEST," "TRUE," SHINE ON" and such, which is cute, and I have to give them credit for allowing us to skip the whole spiel on organics that the Post review plodded on about. Speaking of the Post review, the Guacamole is truly delicious and while it still has Pink Grapefruit (with Cilantro, Roasted Poblano & Sunflower Seeds and is served with Pita Chips) the grapefruit has been drastically reduced as per Mr. Sietsema's request. The Charred Cauliflower is either a veggie side or starter and is one of the big winners for sure with Harissa Tahini, Medjool Dates, slight hints of mint and dill and Pistachios.
The prices are quite low and the starter portions are quite large such as the divine Edamame Dumplings (again many photos avail on my FB page) which come in a rich Dashi broth with White Truffle Oil & Asian Herbs.
I had the fun Shitake Lettuce Cups (really wraps) with Tofu, Jicama, Sambal ( I adore this Indonesian spice), Thai Basil & Cashew. The crunchy tasty earthy mixture can be spooned into the large Romaine leaves on the side, so it's truly great for sharing as well. 
I could come back to True Food over and over just for the bowls and while there are only a handful each can be adorned (for a fee) with tofu, chicken, shrimp, grilled salmon or grass-fed steak. I chose the latter which was perfectly seasoned meat that was like filet as grass-fed always is so much better when it comes to taste! Mine was on the Red Chili Noodle Bowl with Gailan, Zucchini, Shitakes, Snow Peas and tasty Cashews for crunch. The bowls are perfectly sized and again very reasonably priced. Another bowl is the Spicy Penang Curry with Potato, Long Beans, Bok Choy, Carrots, Thai Basil, Coconut, Shrimp Broth which Will chose to have with Grilled Salmon. Each was so different and so completely tasty and full o fresh and fabulous veggies.
The Grilled Salmon was a hit, but I think the top entrée was the Moroccan Chicken with Mission Figs, Heirloom Carrots, Chickpeas, Olives, Spinach, Chermoula and Greek Yogurt. 
Dessert is novel here and worth the splurge. Will got a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream and Cocoa Nibs with a candle as a birthday treat and Samul immediately insisted on having his own.
A simple yet filling Chia Seed Pudding with Banana & Toasted Coconut ws rich and creamy, but I loved my oh so simple yet bursting with flavor Sea Buckthorn Sorbet; it was even more special as it's not something we often see in the states!
Manager Greg Kopit clearly loves wines and pours them with glee, and the entire staff indeed exudes friendliness and cheer and is as upbeat as the food is tasty. It's a wonderful diversion, if you don't mind the noise or manage a quieter evening (maybe we will head there during the next snowfall, because we have to go back to taste more!). 


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

an awesome advance taste of DC's great new GRAVITAS opening next month (10-1-17)

At last year's March of Dimes Signature Chef's event we purchased Chef Matt Baker who was in the plans to open a new restaurant this year. Little did I know when we asked to cook for our anniversary that it would be about 5 weeks before his grand opening in IVY CITY (http://www.gravitasdc.com), which has been written up in numerous publications as one of the hottest most expected opening of this season! based on our dinner last night, we can't wait!
We started with Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions for flavor and the most decadent Truffle Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Aged Havarti and Apricot Marmalade!! These were served with Jackson-Triggs 2007 Entourage Sparling Merlot from Niagara, Canada, followed by a spectacular 2000 Dom Perignon Champagne, drinking magnificently at this late age!
At the table we started with Soy-Miran marinated Tuna Sashimi with Nori, Dehydrated Garlic and Shallots for crisp and Black Vinegar Aioli. Jalapeno slices added a superb kick if you wanted to indulge, which I did. It was paired with a Mazzocco Alexander valley 2016 Sauvignon Blanc which was very smooth considered it was all steel fermented.
Next came a decadently rich Purple & White Cauliflower and Truffle Veloute with Black Truffle Foie Gras Terrine, Fig Marmalade, Pickled Red Onion, Marcona Almond Savory Granola (for yet another yummy crunch and texture) and Micro Greens. We decided to try two side-by-side Chehalem (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 2013 Rieslings. The first was Wind Ridge which had an ever so slight sweetness next to the veloute and the Corral Creek was much more up front in the mineral department; each had their preferences.
The main course was a Roasted Amish Chicken Breast cooked sous-vide and served with Butternut Squash Puree, Cippolini Onions, a Braised Chicken Thigh Confit with Sage Roulade and Chicken Jus. paired with a magnificent Dukes Family 2012 Nipple Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir from Oregon this was indeed a spectacular course; whoever thought you could raise chicken to such a level? The chicken was first cooked sous-vide at 55degrees Centigrade for an hour and the skin seared to perfection for crunch!
Dessert was a Warm banana Cake with whipped Nutella, Vanilla Ice Cream, Shortbread Crumble and Chia Tea Foam made with all kinds of spices and rum. What's not to like and the Fonseca Vintage 1997 (we could not find a good port from our anniversary year of 2004) was in superb form at 20 years old!
Chef Matt has surely proven he can cook up a storm and I am sure Washington will be blown away when GRAVITAS opens in November!

--

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

DEL CAMPO does it deliciously yet again with an awesome asado (9-3-17) 2 messages

For several years now the wonderful and generous Chef Victor Albisu has been the Honorary Chef Chair of March of Dimes Signature Chefs and we have enjoyed of the hottest live auction items-his Asado dinner cooked to order for 12.
Sunday night we hauled over to Del Campo, where Chef Faiz Ally was running the show splendidly, as he and Chef Victor had just spent the week working in Houston on relief aid!
We arrived to Moet & Chandon Brut poured while we tried not to fill up on the exquisite passed hor's d'oevres:
Pork Belly Anticucho with Candied Fresno Slaw which was crispy in every bite and yielded almost no fat
Jerked Brisket Arepa with Sweet & Spicy Rocoto
Green Chile Crab -Causa Morado
and the amazing Lobster & Shrimp Empanadas with Burnt Green Pea Curry

We sat down as our servers, headed by the superb Kit, poured La Moussiere Sancere 2016 from Alfone Mellot and they served those yummy puffy pupusa like bread puffs with a 24 month aged lardo spread. OMG..DECADENT!
The Asado meal is served family style (which was nie as we took only what we wanted, and it gave us some leftovers to take home!) starting with the first course of:
Grilled Local Oysters with Parmesan-Chili Butter which were simply irresistible and I had to finish whatever was left as you really can't reheat these!
Local Oysters with a Fluke & Corn Ceviche on top--well, these were just as good and also really had to be finished, of course!
Ceviche Mixto of Halibut, Octopus, Lobster, Calamari with Pique-Limo Dressing was a ceviche that would send any seafood lover right to foodie heaven.
Smoked Tuna Ceviche had the Avocado Leche de Tigre and Spicy Plantains for dipping.

The second course was two gorgeous salads:
Burnt Beet Salad with Shallot Creme Fraiche and Crispy Carrots
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Whipped Burrata and Anchovy Toast
This was served with a superb Brick House(Oregon) 2015 Gamay Noir. I adore their wines and have never had this excellent varietal from them.

We rested some time as we knew the next course would be a large one. We were not disappointed and you can see photos on my FB page of the St. Bernard sized
Dry Aged Tomahawk Ribeye with Chimichurri del Campo
&
Snake River Farms Wagyu Bavette with Anticucho Dry Rub which one of our guest quickly describes as "Bavette's Feast!"
Grilled Maine Lobsters were served split with some Frisee and Chili Butter
and who cannot resist the Crispy Yuca Fries, Grilled Long Beans & Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes Sides that are the signature of Del Campo.
An amazing 2010 Syrah from Polkura in Marchigue, Colchuga Valley, Chile accompanied the huge meats and was a brilliant pairing as were all the wines.

Dessert arrived after a nice rest and again it was hard to choose, so I tired a bite of each:
Sweet Corn Clafoutis with Ginger Corn Ice Cream
Rhubarb & GUava Crostat with Sea Salt Ice Cream
and the ever-decadent and delicious
Tres Leches Twinkies with Passion Fruit Sorbet

Oremus Tokaji Late Harvest 2014 was our sweet and satisfying dessert wine.

Monday, August 21, 2017

REQUIN's Restaurant Week(extended thru this weekend) is really amazing if you find yourself near Fairfax,VA (8-20-17)

Last night we took the drive to the Mosaic District in nearby Virginia and have to say that at 23 minutes from NW DC it was not bad at all and there is tons of free parking as well. We settled in to our first meal at Requin to discover there were two restaurant week options (3 courses for $35 and four for $45 EXTENDED thru next Sunday) as well as the a la carte menu. Decisions, decisions. I ordered a glass of awesome White Sangria  made with Tequila and souped up with fruit garnish or kiwi and honeydew and Will loved his Gin Blossom with Beefeater, Cocchi rosa, lemon, persimmon bitters & cava brut, while Sam tried the Pineapple Lemongrass Soda(he moved on to Coke). We also loved the Bulgarian Rose called Mavrud from Karabunar Winery 2015.
Sam wanted us to share an order of Garlic bread, but chose the Burrata & Tomato Salad to start with pickled onions that he said were superb as well as almond herb pesto and aged balsamic glaze. His main course was a dish similar to one that Chef Jennifer Carrol had made at our home earlier this year: Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Melted Leeks, Pickled Ramps, Snap Peas in a Mushroom-Madeira Jus which he adored along with an order of Garlic & Herb Fries.
Will and I opted for the 4 course choice and I started with the delicious Deviled Lamb Rillettes with macerated Cherries, Pickled Mustard and a nice kick from chili as well. I love rillettes and always get them when they are offered and these were some of the best I can recall recently. Will had the Eggplant & Tomato Ratatouille with Fennel, Garlic, Shallot and Herbs which came warm with small sliced toasted bread (as mine did); apologies that there are no FB photos of these, but there are of the rest!
Next for Will came a heavier dish: Cod Croquettes with harissa aioli with red cabbage kraut and watercress which I was glad I did not order as while they were superb, the portion was very large, rich and of course, fried! He went on to a much lighter main course of Spanish Octopus with Summer Vegetable Couscous Salad, tahini & Feta that was indeed perfect for a warm summer night. I had the orgasmic Baked Oysters with Roasted Garlic & Herb Champagne Cream and went on to the Summer Corn & Sausage Risotto with Pecorino, Charred Tomatoes, parsley Oil & greens which was akin to a creamed corn risotto with great bursting flavors from the sausage, tomatoes, even the greens and don't forget the fresh corn.
Our server Hillary had directed me to this over a heavier dish and I was grateful as it was light and superb. She did a great job with suggestions and help all evening.
Will chose the Strawberry & Blueberry Clafouti with Lemon Curd, toasted Almond Streusel and Chantilly Cream which was also excellent, but I went the cheese route which was beautifully presented with Cherry Mostarda, Fuji Apples, Grapes & Fresh Honeycomb. There were many cheeses to choose from but I let Hillary choose and she did well with a superb Spring Brook Reading raclette and a creamy Camembert fro Soft Bloom.
Chef Jen sent out some yummy cookies which we nibbled on and took the rest home that were all super as well: Chocolate Chip, Rocky Road, Oatmeal Raisin & Snickerdoodle.
It was a yummy meal and a super deal which is extended for another week as so many places have decided to do.
The décor is simple with a huge open kitchen at the side of the restaurant and many tables all well spaced so that folks can enjoy their meals and not be crowded. Kudos to the super nice bathrooms with great music (Kennedy Center Honoree Lionel Richie) but also so clean and with superb scents. While Fairfax is a harder ride on weekdays, I can see us returning on weekends for sure! Chef Jen will also open in SW DC in October at the new Waterfront complex!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

DC's DOI-MOI starts our Restaurant Week with a rave (8-16-17)

It has taken us too long to get to DOI MOI (which means new changes) but it was worth the wait, and now that DC's b-annual Restaurant Week is on, you can eat a ton for $35!
I had met Chef Sasha Felikson at an event some time ago and was looking forward to seeing him in the kitchen, but alas his schedule did not coincide with ours, but I must say each dish was delivered in a timely manner, presented properly and tasted superb. Nobody could have told the boss was away! Only the service is a bit overly laid back and could use some fine tuning. It took a while for us to figure out who our server was at the start.
The split level inside and outside terrace as well as bar seating offer many options and by the time we left at 830pm, the place was virtually full. The décor is relaxing with white brick walls, white wash, a white bar with light wooden top all giving a very celan feel. The several pieces of artwork were whimsical and adorable; I wish there was more!
Now that Samuel is a vegetarian, he was in heaven and ordered his 3 plates for $35:
Sauteed Okra with garlic, Shallots, Chili and Sesame Seed that was one of the best dishes and indeed a Veggie Side that gives it Main Course Status.
Tarot Root & Potato Dumplings with Mushrooms, Broth, Thai chili, Soy & Lime that he loved, bu t it was the
Steamed Buns with Rice Cakes, Soy Mayo and Pickles that he adored so much he ordered a second helping!
Will chose the same Steamed Buns, but stuffed with Chili Braised Pork along with the Soy Mayo and Pickles which was yummy
went on to the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Hot 'n' Juicy XO Sauce and Soybean Braised Cabbage. I loved this course(I also had it, and Will liked it) but a it more than 1/2 a small softshell might be in order.
His 3rd choice was the Brussels Sprouts with Nuoc Cham Aioli and Puffed Rice which was a real amazing veggie dish at all, so we thought...then I realized Nuoc Cham is fish sauce which got our son a bit upset...although he did love them until I told him...OOPS!
I started with the Chilled Mango Thai Chili Soup with Pickled Shrimp and Tomato Salad which was a super spicy and delicious soup. Interestingly enough I had ordered a drink called Salt 'n' pepa which was Jalapeno infused Rhum Neisson Blanc with Cotton & Reed White Rum, Lime Juice and Salt-cured Key Lime Soda that was superb but also super spicy and did work well to alleviate the soups' spice---luckily there was water :-))
I went on to the crab and then had the Grilled Quail with Vietnamese BBQ Sauce that was out of this world, and also a bit spicy, but great. It came with a Watermelon & Pineapple Kimchi that was not spicy at all, but also delicious and refreshing and garnished with gorgeous little purple flowers. The Syrah/Carignan Rose Moulin de Gassac 2016 from France was okay, but I adored the Red Xinomavro 2011 Foundi from Naoussa in Greece as it really stood up to the big spices.
Desserts were also quite delicious with Will trying a Soft Serve Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Fish Sauce & Coconut, Sam heading right for the Thai Spice Molten Lava Cake and me winning with the Summer Fruit Brulee with Sticky Rice & Coconut that was a chewy, crunchy topped gooey fruit jam with big chunks of red fruits and a tasty rice with coconut on the other side. It was scalding hot and they guy who delivered it didn't say so, and I managed to slightly burn my finger when I tried to pass it to the others for a taste!
Samuel tried a Dry Watermelon Soda which was novel and he wasn't crazy about and Will had beers starting with a leo Lager from Thailand that he said was wimpy and then switched to another (I forgot which) on our server's suggestion which he adored.
All in all, DoiMoi has such a huge selection of small plates to share that it's fun for everyone and with amazing bursts of flavors and spices! We'll be back, especially with the huge veggie menu!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

ROSE & KETTLE (Cherry Valley, NY near Cooperstown) rises again for our annual friends/client dinner@Glimmerglass(8-13-17)

It has become a tradition for us to invite our sponsored young artists, friends and clients to a dinner each year at Glimmerglass, so on Sunday night almost 20 of us joined again at the Rose & Kettle in Cherry Valley for a super evening of food, wine and camaraderie. This will be a short review as I could not possibly taste every dish, but I did check the wonderful wines:
Wachau 2014 Gruner Veltliner was our successful white while we started with a Farnese Montepulicano d'Abruzzo and then moved on to an amazing Earthquake Petit Syrah from Lodi 2013. 
Our server Mattie was amazing considering the size of our group and convinced me to start with the appetizer special of Braised Oxtail with Bok Choy, Red Onion & Asian Pear which was a tasty combination with the pear cutting the meat's richness and the broth enhancing the whole bowl. I ordered the traditional MeatLoaf of Locally raised beef, pork & lamb with garlic mashed potatoes, pan gravy and green beans which is always a hit. Only some of the yellow wax beans were way too al dente. It's a huge portion and I wish I could have taken the rest home but we had to drive 7 hours back to DC the next morning!
Others loved the salmon, steaks and pastas and some even managed to have dessert. Our dinner lasted almost 4 hours and everyone had a super amazing time. Thanks for being there!