Friday, June 24, 2016

Peking Gourmet Inn is just ducky!(6-22-16)

It was the last dinner before the six visiting family members and friends headed home for the UK after Samuel's Bar Mitzvah and we were graciously asked to join our dearest friends at one of their favorite places, Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, VA which has been a steadfast fixture on the DC dining scene for decades.
We love going here as everyone seems to be celebrating (they sing Happy Birthday in Chinese to so many tables!) something and we all had so much to celebrate: Samuel's 13th birthday and hugely successful Bar Mitzvah, our family visiting the US for the first time, great friends we have cherished for decades and decades and so much more.
Many of the Brits wanted Bud Lights, but we also had a tasty Snoqualmie Sauvignon Blanc from Washington's Columbia Valley which was delightful with those spicy chili pastes and hot mustards on the appetizers as well as a yummy J. Lohr Seven oaks 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Our server Alex was delightful and sweet and made me laugh each time we ordered another bottle of what he called, "the Sauvignon Blanc from Columbia PIKE," which for those of you not in our neighborhood, is a street just around the corner from this restaurant!
If we did not fill up enough on the thick tasty Chinese noodles with thick garlic sauce, we might have eaten more of the many dishes to follow.
Starters included Vegetarian Spring Rolls which are so crunchy the pastry falls apart and my new favorite Fried Leek Dumplings. Of course, Samuel wanted his own order of Fried Pork Dumplings, even though he loves leeks!
We left the starters to move on to what is always a loving and true production at Peking Gourmet, the Peking Duck. We had two ducks and our host explained one was prepared Peking style, with crunchier skin and one Hong Kong Style with less fat rendered and thicker less crunchy skin. Well, I'm a crunch guy so I gobbled up the legs which nobody seemed to want while everyone else enjoyed their pancakes stuffed with Duck, Hoisin, Scallions and/or Cucumber. I have to say it was as good as the duck we had in Beijing, maybe better. Each duck is lovingly carved tableside all the way to the bone (you can ask to take the carcass home to make soup!) and it seems that the production yields enough to serve dozens and dozens! It's a miracle.
One of our favorite dishes is the Jeo-Yen Shrimp (see FB photos) which are huge, crunchy and succulent and then there is the Lamb Chops Peking Style which are crusted and seared New Zealand lamb chops cooked to order (ours were spot on not quite medium rare as requested!) and of course, we keep the tasty garlic sauce for dipping all of these.
Other dishes at the table were Szechuan Beef, Orange Beef, Vegetable Fried Rice and the Gourmet Pan Fired Noodles with Beef, Jumbo Shrimp, Chicken and Vegetables, a veritable meal in itself (I know because we took so much home!).
A side dish of Baby Bok Choy with Japanese Mushrooms was also superb.
The service here is so friendly and welcoming, and the staff is very attentive; we were sorry to disappoint their friendly faces when we had to turn down dessert menu! No wonder!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shirlington's new HULA GIRL Bar & Grill gets you going (6-21-16)

I had the pleasure of meeting Chef/Owner Mikala Brennan at a James Beard event earlier this month. She opened Hula Hurl earlier this year in Shirlington (4044 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA-www.hulagirlbarandgrill.com) and I had not even noticed it with our many jaunts to Signature Theatre. So it was the perfect place to grab a bite before taking the whole family to see La Cage Aux Folles at Signature(which you should not miss).
We got tied up in traffic and the huge storms so by the time we arrived it was just for a main course making a return necessary to try the various starters of ribs, poke and Hawaiian treats--I will skip the spam!
Burgers were in order for the most part with most of us ordering variations of the Hula Girl Teriyaki Burger made of chuck and sirloin with Grilled Onions. Each main course comes with two good-sized sides as well. My Maui Onion Rings with dipping sauce and Grilled Baby Bok Choy were superb. Only my burger was a bit overcooked at medium. Some went for the Applewood smoked bacon, cheese and/or fried egg toppings as well. The fries all disappeared and the Wood Ear Mushroom Salad was a huge veggi treat!
I have to praise the wonderful drink menu loaded with spicy treats. I had the Hula Girl Mai-tai made from Appleton Rum, Ginger Liquor, Tiki Bitters, Roasted pineapple puree, Macadamia Nut Orgeat Syrup, Lime, Goslings Black Rum Float and Chile infused pineapple on a skewer with a jalapeno! The Margarita got spicy raves as well.
I wish we had more time to dine and enjoy, but alas the weather ruined us and the theater called.

Dino's in Shaw shows the Brits Italian food, American style (6-20-16)

With the bar Mitzvah over, Will's family and friends are still here from the UK so 9 of us hopped over to DINO's IN SHAW on Monday for a veritable feast which started with Mortadella wrapped parmigiana reggiano; Vadouvin Deviled Eggs which I still declare the best on earth with their crunchy Prosciutto, anchovy sriracha aioli, salsa verde and silk road spices; Squash Blossoms with ricotta, parmigiana reggiano, egg, herbs, garlic and a diviner light summer tomato essense; Fried 'Not Green' Local Tomato which is a new treat for me made from local tomatoes fried with parm, panko and served with pickled green strawberry, onion and balsamico--a delightful different treat and Spicy 'Forte' Salad.
Our first wine was a sparkling red Lambrusco and that was followed by Oregon's Eyrie Rose for the above starters.
The next wine was an earthy Graci Etna Bianca from Sicily that I loved and this arrived with multiple pastas:
4 Cheese Risotto Primavera with cherry tomatoes, snap peas, spring onion, broccoli, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, lemon paste and 24month aged Parm that was a veritable veggie garden of delight.
Fungi with  Pappardelle (Sage roasted mushrooms)
and then Sam had a yummy Pappardelle with Cinghiale-wild boar sauce with rosemary, cocoa, cream and pecorino cheese.
Free form lasagnette came as one of the main courses for Will's sister with Prok & Veal Ragu, bacon, fonduta and that 24 month aged Parm. Pasta Overdose? Never.
We enjoyed a superb Brunello from Sasetti Pertimale "La Querciolna" (sp?) Montecucco in Montalcino that was quite hearty and demanded food. We each chose a main course and had plenty to take home for leftovers:
Duck Breast is Dr. Joe's Heritage Pekin Duck seared and pan roasted with rare Tuscan Mole that was a it as were the Lamb Chops with Balsamico & Ramp Butter.
Some folks were so full they just ordered starters of Grilled Artichokes with roasted shallot/lemon/herb aioli and silk road spices or
Octopus Cooked Under a Paper Bag that I never did get to taste!
Tiramisu arrived for dessert but I just had the Apple Asian Pear/Saffron Limncello which was delilsh and I preferred to the Bergamnot Orange Limoncello....which others preferred; to each his own!
No matter we all loved it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

RIPPLE really treats your tastebuds (6-11-16)

Samuel's 13th birthday week began with a special menu created for the adults by Top Chef contender this past season Marjorie Meek-Bradley who has created a niche and name for herself in the Washington restaurant community; we are all glad she chose this city!
Will and I started with cocktails: his was "Pour it Up, Pour it Up" a refreshing mix of Campari, Doulin Rouge (Sweet Vermouth) and some bubbles while I went colorful fancy (see the FB fotos) with The Vex made from lavender Mezcal, House Limoncello, Sherry & Black Pepper Shrub & Egg White, which had a beautiful aroma but a mild not sweet taste that was quite yummy coming from my newfound favorite mezcal. How appropriate it was lavender for Gay Pride Weekend.
The amazing Parker House Rolls arrived with soft butter and the four were gone in seconds flat and Will could not resist the Gribiche Deviled Eggs so he ordered a small plate of those as well.
Samuel started Lamb Tartare which disappeared so fast we couldn't even think of tasting. It had fried green tomatoes, Old Bay Aigre-Doux, Capers & Pickled Mustard Seed.
Our first course was Marinated Blue Crab with Fresno peppers, Celery, Cucumber, Ginger & White Soy Vinaigrette which was superb, refreshing and tasty in the 96 degree heat! A yummy Tesco Blanca "La Zorra" from Spain that was yet another new varietal for me was a perfect match with rich minerality.
The second course was Rye Flour Malfatti (Italian for "made bad") which is a kind of large pasta that is kind of thrown over the ingredients which here was Braised Path Valley Rabbit Sugo with Roncal Cheese(aged sheep). This is one of the best pastas I have had in a long while and Samuel looked and glared and begged for a taste then he ordered a whole portion as his second course! the pairing was a Guild Lot 10 Red from Columbia Valley that is a blend of 68% Syrahm 19% Mourvedre, 8% Durif (another new varietal) and the rest Grenache and Cinsault which was slightly earthy but also not too heavy and brilliantly matched the richness of the meat and pasta.
I have to give great credit to manager Caroline for finding these amazing wines and to our server Kristen for doing such a superb job pairing them.
The third course was a Seared Branzino with perfectly crispy skin, Wild Rice (puffed and al dente), Tamarind Aioli, Pepitas and Treviso (a type of radicchio). I loved the aioli and the fish was perfect as well making the entire dish truly a brilliant combination of flavors. Coenobium 2014 from Lazio was a white made by Trappist nuns from Trebbiano, Malvasia and Verdicchio that was slightly earthy funky yet again ideal with the tamarind and big flavors of the fish.
Samuel had ordered the Roasted Amish Chicken Breast with Sofrito Braised Thigh, Chickpea Hummus and a side of, naturally, hand Cut Fries with House made ketchup.
Our main course was a gorgerous Roseda Farms NY Strip with Shitake Steak Sauce, Maitake Mushrooms, Celery, Carrots and Sous Vide Shallots; the vegetables alone deserved a prize. An Orben 2008 from Rioja in Spain was the perfect Tempranillo pairing yet again.

It was getting late (we had been there almost 3 hours) but dessert was included and two arrived. Samuel said he could not possibly eat anymore and packed up most of his chicken to go home.
Cheesecake & Mousse were the Miso Carrot Cake which I had on my previous visit with Strawberry Ice Cream, Candied Ginger and Toffee Chips. The Greek Yogurt Mousse came with Candied Pistachios, Pistachio Sponge Cake, Salted Caramel, Saffron Poached Oranges and indeed was a big winner in my book--well they both were. The wine was a BenRyé Donnafugata from Zebibo in Italy that was a rich orange intense dessert wine that paired so wonderfully with the poached oranges.
We were full, gave our gracious thanks to one of our most favorite chefs around, and then headed home to crash before the big weeks gets started!

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

the James Beard Foundation celebration culinary women with a super SUNDAY SUPPER at UNION MARKET (6-5-16)

I had attended the first James Beard SUNDAY SUPPER at Union Station 4 years ago and was thrilled to be able to return this past Sunday for another superb Sunday Dinner, this time benefitting both the James beard Foundation and Women in Culinary Executive Program with a slew of mostly women chefs making merry for the hundreds of us in attendance. On arrival the valet whisked my car away (superb service) and we were welcomed into a covered area outside the market where mixologists and chefs were at work.
My first stop was for a Blackberry Iced Tea which was very nice, but I craved alcohol and made my way to uber mixologist Gina Chersevani of Buffalo and Bergen (actually at Union market) who was whipping up T1 Exceptional Reposado Tequila with Grapefruit, Ginger, Cointreau and Passion Fruit in a magnificent drink that I fell in love with. For us tequila nuts, there was also a shot of T1 Anejo for sipping.
My first food stop was with Chef Jamie Leeds of Hanks Oyster Bar(and many more places now) who was serving a super Crab & Shrimp Summer Seafood Bisque into which she placed a yummy chunk of homemade Corn bread! YUM!
It was hot, but this soup was refreshing and rich and oh so delicious. I wanted seconds, but knew the night would be long and filling, so I refrained.
Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern of the newly opened CHAIA in Georgetown had a veggie dish as that is what Chaia is about: Spring Asparagus Taco with Green Garlic, Alleghency CHevre, Hot Cherry Pepper Spread and Preserved Lemon. I'll need to pop in to Chaia to see what's tasty on the menu there for sure.
Mikala Brennan of Hula Girl in Shirlington served up crispy wonton chips with Ahi Poke that was simple yet superb. I am in Shirlington all the time and failed to notice this new spot.
Next I visited Jordan Cotton, founder of Cotton and Reed which will open DC's first Rum Distillery across the street soon. He was mixing up several rum cocktails and I loved the one with allspice and Caribbean flavors. Once my run stash at home expires, I'll just have to buy local!
Chefs Ruth Gresser(of Pizzaria Paradiso/Veloce) and Janis McLean(Seasons Culinary Service) had a yummy Crostini con Fegato Escarola which was a simple crostini slathered with Escarole, Chicken Liver, Walnuts, Parmesan and Sour Cherry Drizzle that I could not stop eating!
Freshly shucked Chesapeake Oysters were also being served....I must have finished off a 1/2 dozen.

The dinner bell rang just as the rain started and hundreds of us hurried inside to the long tables and I had a table which was at one end next to the chef's serving area; how lucky for me(and you) since you can see some great photos of the superstar chefs on my FB page! You could spot well known faces in the food biz such as Chefs Haidar Karoum, Nora Pouillon, Ris Lacoste and more floating through the crowds.
Wines were poured and I settled in on the Williamsburg 2015 Viognier (most were from Virginia!) which went very well with a lot of the dishes. Everything is served family style, but there's plenty for everyone and two dishes arrive for each of the three courses. There was also a nice Alain de Treille Rose.
First at bat was Chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina with Charred Garlic Scapes, Roasted Shitake & Creamed Fava Bean that I fell in love with instantly. It sounds so simple, yet the dish was complex and flavorful. Opposite was the lone male chef of the evening (how did he get in?)Nick Stefanelli of Masseria with Burrata with Skinny Dipper Oysters, Caviar & Cippollini Onions. I love burrata and this was a superb presentation, but I felt it was the least innovative dish of the evening, though still delicious.
I moved to red wine and liked the San Elias Cabernet being served which was perfect with my favorite dish of the evening Macnhester Farms Quail Drummette l'Orange which was an entire deoned quail crispy fried and served with Thai Bird Chiles, Scallion and Orange Glaze. Top Cheftestant Jennifer Carroll, who recently opened her Requin in Fairfax was the source of this delicious dish and I could not compliment her enough. Chef/Author Elizabeth Falkner made the other plate of Carrot Top-Sunflower Seed Pesto, Roasted and Raw Carrots, Spiced Lentils and Seeds that had a flavorful punch and mixed so many different things to sublime veggie offering.

The "main" course was shared with one dish by Top Cheftestant Karen Akunowicz of Myers & Chang in Boston with a yummy Blue Catfish & Green Fried Rice--Peas and Tendrils, Ginger, Lime & Chile that needed more catfish and less lemongrass, but was as tasty as ever. I had to go back to the Viognier as there was no Riesling for this spice-packed dish. The other dish was from one of our favorites, Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley(watch this space for a super upcoming meal from her this weekend) of Ripple/Smoked & Stacked who pulled out all the strings with a "Tasting of Autumn Olive Farms Pig" consisting of Andouille Sausage, Glazed Shoulder, Roasted Belly, Braised Greens, Chile & Ginger. The dish was lean and tasty and the belly crunchy and flavorful; each element a treat.
By this point I had switched to RdV Vineyards 2010 Rendezvous which sells for close to $100 a bottle and I was surprised to see being served so flowingly. It is still a young Bordeaux blend, but since the bottles were opened on the table at the start of the dinner, by this time it was drinking very well and worked to perfection with all the pork elements!

We adjourned from the dining area back outside, where the rain had passed and temperature and humidity had dropped to a super comfortable evening and many desserts were being served. I skipped the long line for Dolcezza gelato and headed to the miniature pastries:
Christina Marie Chambers of BLACK PEARL in Dc had two and I tried the tasty Rhubarb Orange Crumble Tart with Rhubarb Orange Jam, Almond Poppyseed Crumble, Blond Chocolate and Poached Rhubarb which was nice but could not hold up to the amazing Milk Chocolate Peanut Bites and Valrhona Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Emily Luchetti of Marlowe/Park Tavern/Cavalier/Leo's Oyster Bar. Bluebird Bakery was represented by Camila Arango & Tom Wellings who served up Kouign Amann-Flakey & Sweet Pastry from Brittany and Strawberry Tarts with Tahitian Vanilla Cram, Wild Strawberry Preserved and Strawberry Meringue.

I was indeed full after a glass of Painous Cava Brut and completely forgot to try the Compass Coffee Nitrogen Infused Cold Brew everyone was raving about!
What an amazing evening it was and lots of money raised for such a good cause!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ESTELA in NYC's East Village is a cute spot for cool cuisine (5-29-16)

Our last dinner in NY at ESTELA (estelanyc.com) brought us to East Houston Street where this small narrow restaurant can be easily missed as it is a 1/2 flight up. The huge front window was open and facing the street which scared me as the temperatures were still warm and they seemed to have no air. It was not perfectly comfortable where we were near the rear, but it was quieter than the front bar area. It's a small unassuming spot with wooden tables, chairs and bar. Even the menu is simple and they serve only organic sodas like ginger ale and ginger beer, so forget your Coke here. Luckily Sam likes Ginger Beer.
I have to mention the bathroom only because it was clean and had nice aromatic spray and hand soap which one often finds lacking in even a good dining establishment these days.
We bypassed the cocktails and Zwan, the sommelieuse was a great help guiding us to a novel French wine from Ardeche called Chasselas by Pierre Gonon 2014 that was deliciously creamy and full of earthy tones. What a superb choice it was with all the starters from the tasty Peter's Point Oysters with yuzu kosho mignonette to the tasty Beef Tartare with Crispy Sunchokes, Onions, Capers and Mustard served with toasted sourdough. Sam insisted on having his own even though the idea is to share here. Burrata with Salsa Verde and charred bread was pretty and served with a sweet potato leaf, and while it was nice, I can always have burrata at home of fine quality for so much less. The salsa verde however was more akin to a Mexican JUGO Verde as it was quite thin but also very vegetable-y and not spicy at all. Samuel loves mozzarella, but refuses to try burrata which I like to call mozzarella on steroids.

For his "main" Sam chose the Steak with Spicy Marmalade, Potatoes and Taleggio cheese, and while he offered me a taste of the marmalade, no steak was forthcoming for me to comment on here.
Will and I chose four superb dishes. First was Fried Arroz Negro with Squid & Romesco that would win a prize anywhere. Our server Siobhan suggested this as her first choice, and whle she seemed to not be feeling too well, this was a spot on hit.
Swordfish with Heart of Palm (sliced in thin long shavings) and Meyer Lemon that was like a chunky glaze we loved.
We had switched to an amazing red thanks to Zwan and fell in love with a Pinot from Lombardy in Italy called 'Ca' Fracia Valtellina Superiore from Balgera that was a 2000 vintage full of amazing earth tones and again superb pairing with all our rich dishes.
 Ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo indeed had a super rich sauce that was divine. Our final Pork (fotos on FB) with Burnt Cucumbers and leeks was a nice change from the regular pork dishes one sees so often.

For dessert Will ordered the novel Parsnip Ice Cream with Sesame & Caramel which was nice and I had the (surprise) cheese which was a winner of a plate with
Fromage d'Affinois -that creamy super rich brie from Rhone Alps
Gutensberg from St. Gallen in Switzerland which was a real novel treat in the USA
and Picon Bejes from Treviso, Cantabria in Spain where blue rules.
I do have to warn that the cheeses are $8 each and I begged to get a $4 portion of each sharing all three which took some arm-twisting as they don't usually do a 3-cheese plate unless u want 3 full $8 portions!
Zwan found the perfect dessert wines: Domaine Marengo No. 655 Muscat from Corsica 2012 and Vollenweider "steffensburg" Riesling Auslese 2010 Gold Kapsel from Mosel, Germany.

We left full and happy and ready to head back to DC the next day after a wonderful weekend of theater and food in  NYC.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

NYC's TXIKITO in Chelsea is the best Basque around (5-28-16)

We needed a place to eat an early and not too heavy dinner near the Theater District for our second night in NYC. After some research, I found TXIKITO (the Basque name for the Spanish "chicito" or little) at 9th Avenue at 25th Street (240 9th Ave-www.txikitonyc.com) which is simple, basic and friendly but offers up some of the most novel tapas and dishes in NYC.
The 15 minute walk from our Times Square matinee where we saw Aladdin (loads of fun) was a bit taxing in the 90 degree heat, but worth it. On arrival, the restaurant had no opened yet (they open at 530pm), but we were inside the cooler dining room within minutes. The hostess took us to a table in a second room, where we lasted several minutes before moving back to the first room and bar area as the a/c had not yet kicked in! We drank lots of water and ordered up a bottle of 2013 Domaine Ametiza Rose from the Basque region of France made from Irouleguey, Tannat & Cab Franc which was dry and refreshing. I can't ever recall hearing of Irouleguey so this was our first novelty.
The décor is simple with wooden tables in small rooms and simple wooden chairs; it really is a neighborhood spot, and what a treat to find this in my searches.
We chose a number of tapas starters to share and first to arrive (fotos on FB page) was the op winner Esparragos made from Navarran white asparagus marinated in Celery-Black Truffle Vinaigrette with Chopped Egg. We could not get enough of the tasty treat and ended up using the bread to mop up all the excess vinaigrette. Next came a Pintxos, usually a tapas served on bread, sandwich-like and ours was called TUTERA with large toasted bread slices smothered with a Gratin of Artichokes, Roncal Cheese and Jamon. Sam adored these and ended up ordering extras!
Our third starter was as simple yet tasty PULPO which was layered carpaccio of octopus with lemon oil, marjoram and piment d'espelette. It was superb and seasoned just right with delicious fresh green herbs as were most of the dishes (were those the first baby corn shoots of the season on the asparagus?).
Samuel chose the Albondigas (his often go to tapas) but here the huge meatballs were made with lamb and served in a simple minted broth; a big hit.
Will chose the special Suckling Pig with crunchy skin and Chimichurri sauce that was tasty, but did not come close to the amazing quality of my Grilled Brook Trout with Crispy Serrano, Crispy Garlic and Garnacha Vinaigrette.which our server Carlos (who hailed from Guadalajara) said was his favorite special on the menu and whenever it appeared sold out fast; no surprise there. The fish was fileted to perfection with the head and tail and skin still on and smothered with huge layers of crispy crunchy Serrano ham and small pieces of crunchy garlic slices and the sauce which was light, still was rich with butter and lemon and wine that simply made my mouth super happy. It was a sight to behold on the plate and a magnificent revelation in the mouth.
We chose three desserts and Samuel got the winner with Pastel, a lemon scented butter cake with crème fraiche which disappeared fast save for the two bites he shared with us. Cuajada is a goat milk yogurt with honey and walnuts that won no prizes and reminded me of a nice breakfast yogurt. The cheese tray was very nice with Quince Paste and Raisin walnut toast but had three cheeses very similar in texture and could have used a bit more variety. Ossau Irraty, Roncal and Idiazabal are all tasty cheeses from the region that are hard with different flavors and a Blue de Basques was a creamy rich blue we adored,
We loved our little new discovery and found out they have another just tapas spot across the street called El Quinto Pino and two more different places in Brooklyn, one a café, and the other, La Vara in Cobble Hill Park. Check them all out.


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NYC's THE BRESLIN brings brilliant British cuisine stateside (5-27-16)

We headed right from the airport to 5th Avenue and 29th St (16 W.29th) to meet a friend for dinner at THE BRESLIN as I thought it be nice to have some British-style cuisine for a change. We were running about 30 minutes late for our reservation and despite the capacity crowds, the management was most gracious in holding our table due to our flight delay.

It's a busy spot and while noisy, not unbearably so. The décor is eclectic with booths and leather and lots of cows of ceramic, papier mache or other artsy styles, even the coat hooks have longhorn cattle. The tables and floors are dark wood and the ceiling above us looked like tin, but it was not as shiny; perhaps it was ceramic? The menu is not huge, but there are many fun things to share. We had only had several rounds of drinks back in DC at the American lounge and then more on the plane, so another cocktail was in order. I loved the idea of the Pickled Ramp Gibson and asked if it could be made with Vodka. Our sweet server David said he would check and came back with a happy face and ultimately a superb Grey Goose Vodka Gibson with some superb pickled whole ramps in the glass; this beats an olive or onion any day, especially in this spring ramp season when I use them regularly to make one of the best vinaigrettes I can rustle up all year.

We chose some starters to share including a superb miniature BEEF & STILTON Pie which we managed to cut into four totally miniature bites. At $10 it's a pricy two-bite small dish, but has great flavors and is a yummy pastry pie as well. SCRUMPETS were described to us as battered breadcrumb meat sticks which are deep fried, and while they were tasty, especially with the quasi-chimichurri dipping sauce made with malt vinegar for that British touch, the half stick that Samuel got was virtually one big piece of fat with fried breadcrumbs. LAMB MARROW was a special starter and a big winner. We got about 5 or 6 pieces of bones with the albeit very salty marrow and a yummy carrot parsley sauce that cut the salt. These were accompanied by housemade whole wheat bread slices which we could slather th marrow and further cut the saltiness for a super hearty and tasty treat. Our last starter was the first one I spotted on the menu as I have an eye for Sweetbreads. Here they were FRIED SWEETBREADS with 'nduja (that yummy porky sauce), Ramp Kraut (who can resist more of that) and a Black Garlic Aoili and there were chunks of Smoked Blue Cheese for extra flavor; this was a winner for sure.

We wanted a nice rose and David brought over a Schneider & Bieler Cab Franc Rose 2015 from the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY for us to taste as it is served (oddly, on tap) by the glass. It was nice, but we wanted something different and Nick, the sommelier-manager suggested a superb Monteniddo Rose 2015 from San Gimignano in Tuscany made from the Canaivolo grape. It was just right with all the various flavors. Our red wine to follow was a huge winner with the Lopez de Heredia Tempranillo/Granacho blend 2004 from Rioja called Vina Bosconia. It was a great match with the juicy huge Chargrilled LAmBURGERS (A Signature dish) served with Feta, Cumin Mayo and awesome Thrice Cooked Chips (that's fries). It also paired beautifully with the Crescent Duck Breast which came with Duck Sausage as well, a huge potato rosti underneath the entire dish, but still crunchy and flavorful and topped with fermented ramps (YUM) as well as poached rhubarb. Th dish was a perfect medley of flavors and was only marred a little by the fact that the duck skin was quite fatty (I cut it out) instead of crispy, my preferred choice for all duck skin.

We were stuffed and headed to our hotel without dessert to find a plate of cheese, grapes and even mini-cupcakes in our suite on arrival at the Regency; what a nice treat on the start of our big NYC weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PENNSYLVANIA 6 in DC provides a perfect meal (5-16-16)

We were invited to dinner last night by our dearest friends at the spanking new PENNSYLVANIA 6 (www.pennsylvania6dc.com) located on Franklin Square at 1350 I St, NW and we were mightily impressed.
Since it was a belated celebration of Will's birthday, we started with Franciacorta Brut Sparkling from Guido Berlucchi in Lombardy which is a delicate super dry sprakling which surpasses the mediocre Proseccos we see so much of these days.
It's a great wine to have with some of the fun starters such as the Olives marinated in Rosemary, Chili and Citrus Aromatics or the super Fresh Ricotta Spread with Olive Oil, Black Pepper & Thyme served on a large slate with Grilled Bread slices and a super yummy, yet mild, Orange-Fig Jam. This is a really great fun starter and in addition you should consider the Sardinian Flatbread. These days, I always avoid the starchy, even though tasty, flatbreads as I prefer to avoid the carbs. This is a very crunchy flatbread that is more like lavosh which is smothered with shaved Aged Goat Cheddar, Radish slices, Arugula, Truffle Oil and 'Nduja, which our ever so sweet server, Olesea, explained was a slightly spicy sausage paste, that I just could not get enough of.
We were thrilled to find an old friend at the helm of the wine program, Sommelier Mark Slater, who hails from Jean-Louis at the Watergate and Citronelle, if you go back some years. He brought out a divine Geroges Vernet 2009 "Les Terrasses de l'Empire" Condrieu which has to be one of my favorite varietals on earth. Condrieu is a very specific varietal of Viognier that comes from a very small region on the Rhone that I could easily visit over and over; I can't wait to go back again as it is so beautiful, and also has magnificent views of the river and the Alps beyond. The nose was to die for and the wine simply earthy and full of body. It was ideal with the Charred Spanish Ocotpus with Gigande Beans, Fennel, "Nduja(more of that!!) and Salsa Verde; this dish is one of the best starters around town. We also tried the superb trio of Crudos of which my favorite was the Black Kingfish (Cobia) with avocado, ginger, palm hearts, serrano chile and citrus ceviche sauce. It sounds busy, but works. The Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with yuzu-miso, mango, roasted peanut and spicy cress was nice, but you know I make the best Tuna tartare around, so the Kona Kampachi Crudo with gooseberries, cumin salt & salsa verde was the least exciting for me.

I noticed a great deal for Happy Hour (4-7pm) at the bar with $1/oysters and $5/oyster shooters....gonna have to return for that, and the bar is huge with a very large lounge area to relax with all those deals.
The raw bar is extensive, but we refrained.
It was hard to choose main courses, and I was torn between the Monkfish Osso Buco but went for the Berkshire Pork Chop with Sweet Potatoes, Candied Pecans, Fried Brussels Sprouts and an amazing Bourbon Lacquer. the meat was perfectly cooked and the portion HUGE, so it will be eaten later in the week for sure. Will chose the 14 ounce Bone-in Fillet with Chimichurri, but they brought extra sauces and the meat was divine, charred on the outside, rare in the middle. Steak is great here and the décor is that of a clubby leathery steak place for sure, but next time I'm headed for the large choice of seafood for sure.
Sides are amazing here from the Wild Mushrooms to Duck Fat Fries which come with a decent ketchup, but an awesome mustard sauce. The Fried Brussels Sprouts which were on my plate can also be ordered as a side and have to be the biggest on earth and the tastiest. FB pictures can be seen of the main courses and desserts.

Our main course wine was a 2008 Pommard "La Chaniere" from Domaine Mallard Pere et Fils which was so fruit forward and truly a revelation. Will got a glass of the much bigger and heartier The Prisoner Zin/Petit Sirah/Syrah
blend that is available by the glass.

Mark brought us amazing Sauternes with dessert, Petite Vedrine 2010 which we all loved and we split two desserts: Spiced Apple Cake with Butter Toffee Pecan Caramel Sauce & Bourbon-Vanilla Gelato and the delish Bread & Butter Pudding with Black Currants, Butterscotch Sauce and Mick Chocolate Gelato.

We all had a great time and there is something for everyone at this new spot in Downtown DC.