Sunday, March 04, 2018

Brunch at RIS is remarkable (3-4-18)

I have never been a big brunch person, but since we won a free brunch, we were not going to pass up a trip to RIS which has always been one of our favorite DC spots.
Our certificate included bottomless mimosas as well as a full brunch which goes for $43 each if you take the bottomless option(it costs $10 per mimosa or $18 for bottomless and $25 for the two course brunch).
First came a basket of yummy biscuits with homemade fruit jam and butter as well as lemon-olive oil glazed muffin-like mini cakes which we saved for afterwards and later; all were amazing.
The first round of mimosas here came with a champagne flute and a popsicle stick of orange blossom sorbet in it. The popsicle had a tiny fizz as awell and mleted away as we drank. Even better was the second option with a Pomegranate-Cranberry popsicle...OMG! So good, we had two each(fotos on FB)!
Each $25 brunch comes with a starter and main and it's enough to fill you for the entire day. I started with the thick rich and gooey French Onion Soup which often disappoints once you eat all the top, but here had a rich broth loaded with caramelized onions that lasted to the bottom of the little crock bowl. Will chose the Crispy Thai Brussels Sprouts, much more than a side and again a huge portion with bacon, peanut and chile sauce.
For his main there was a Huevo Ranchero sporting  fried egg on a crispy corn tortilla with black beans, chorizo, queso blanco, avocado, lime and ranchero sauce. Since I mentioned earlier that I like spice, our superb Server, Kareem, loaded the plate with jalapeno slices, which Will surreptitiously removed! My Smoked Salmon Benedict was much better than anything I could have imagined with a poached egg cooked to perfection atop a toasted Brioche and yummy pickled onions with an Orange Hollandaise that was not too rich, too gooey or too much, but just right. The salmon was indeed a large chunk of fish that was smoked and served on the side of the egg; not that smoked salmon you buy in the store and plop on a bagel for sure. We were so full we sat for a while and then waddled home...ready to start our diet tomorrow!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sally's Middle Name in DC makes you want to try everything from first(name) to last....(2-25-18)

I was headed to the Atlas Performing Arts Center last night on H Street, NE and needed a place to grad dinner and totally forgot about SALLY's MIDDLE NAME right across from the theater. At 530pm the palce had just opened with several tables occupied and I was able to get a table, but by the time I left at 650pm, the place was jammed and indeed quite noisy as it has to be one of the hottest spots in the 'hood.
The décor is simple and unpretentious with wooden tables and floors and about two dozen seats downstairs(not sure if there is more upstairs)....and a dozen high bar stools. The menus are in black on the white tile walls and drinks are on the chalkboard; a pile of used cookbooks was on a shelf near me which I enjoyed checking the titles of.... The napkins are checked blue and white cotton dish towels.
My server Amy seemed to be handling the entire restaurant and she later explained the hostess did not show! The bartender was helping as well in what was a team effort that went fairly smoothly except when I needed a glass of wine as my main course arrived a bit earlier than I expected.
I started with a wondrously herbaceous NORONIC which is Mezcal chilled with nonino amaro and vermouth.
Amy suggested two dishes saying they should be shared, but two per person is about right. The Grilled Carrots (see FB) with Harissa, Herbs and Shallots packed a punch and I loved the herbs:dill, parsley, chervil, cilantro and micro greens. For my main course I had the super moist and juicy Cajun Brined Chicken Breast with "Stuffing Cornbread" and a divine Red pepper sauce. The cornbread had mushrooms and was seared crispy and a glass of Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone was a nice pairing. 
There are many vegetarian options bus steak, sausage and more were also on the wall...this is a place I could return to over and over for sure.

Monday, February 12, 2018

DC's SFOGLINA sure fits the bill for family fun and more (2-11-18)

These days it seems that any restaurant Fabio Trabocchi opens is a surefire hit and it's no different with SFOGLINA located in the Van Ness neighborhood up the block from UDC. It's a fine addition to an area that never really had many finer dining options. While I use the term fine dining, I am referring to the food as Sfoglina ( has the most casual of feels. We were pleasantly seated at the extreme rear in a comfy fabric booth which went from floor to ceiling (quieter as well than the central area open to the bar and kitchen) and the first thing we noticed was the "antique" feel of the plates and silver; one dish arrived at the next table in one of those 1970's Corelle/Corning cornflower saucepans! 
The menu is very simple with about 7 starters, 7 pastas, 2 mains and a couple of sides with a special here or there. The best deal is easily the option of three pasta choices for $68 (each is $24, so you save $4.00!). 
Will and I ordered a bottle (the wine list is much bigger then the whole menu) of Zenato Ripassa 2013 Valpolicella Ripasso which was a dream (as any Zenato tends to be) and drank well with our very varied choices. Sam and his friend tried the three mocktail options: Eve's Temptation of Cranberry, Sparkling Apple Cider, Lemon & Soda Water; Pompelmo Frizzante of Grapefruit, Agave Syrup, Lime Juice & Soda Water and the one Samuel declared the winner was the Spiced Melograno of Pomegranate, Cinnamon Syrup, Lemon & Club Soda (and I had to agree...the cinnamon was barely noticeable).
While the bread and olive oil were good, we liked it better for mopping up the awesome sauces.
Samuel started with the Arugula & Bibb Lettuce Salad, Ricotta Salata & Autumn Apples which was quite huge indeed. His friend had the Grilled Spicy Calamari which was cooked perfectly and served with a kicky Romesco Sauce for dipping.
Will and I split two starters: Fisherman Style Octopus Bagna Cauda had two large tentacles cooked to perfection and just slightly crunchy on the outside with a super sauce, while the Buffalo Milk Mozzarella came with a Tuscan Tonnato Sauce. Tonnato is almost always served with cold thinly sliced veal and the sauce's tuna taste is often muted by the meat, but here the tuna flavor was evident and the sauce a perfect compliment to the cheese; who knew?
Our server Maurico was a gem and we had others checking on us all the time to insure that everything was going well, and it did indeed. Just as at his other super fine dining establishments, the service here is top notch.
Samuel chose the Marche Bianchetti White Truffle Pappardelle with Parmigiano Reggiano which was quite divine and the rest of us split three pastas, each better than the next:
Basil Infused Tortellini are filled with rich Goat Cheese and served in a tomato based sauce with Brussels Sprouts
Squid Ink & Paprika Cannelloni Curls are more akin to mezzalune (ravioli) and are filled with Baccala (cod) and served with Lobster & Peperoncino in a to-die-for sauce.
Most decadent was the Spaghetti Chitarra served with Pancetta, Escarole and served Carbonara Style with a soft egg on top to break and enhance the rich creamy sauce.
As I said, these sauces needed major wiping up with the bread!
Desserts were a Tiramisu Panna Cotta with Zabaglione and Cocoa Nib Dentelle (a bit too crunchy for me, but novel, and Will loved it, as I prefer my panna cotta smooth) and Apple Hazelnut Coffee Cake with Vanilla Chantilly & Cider Sauce which I declared the winner.
Will's glass of Huckleberry-Cello was cloyingly sweet, but my 2010 Colosi Zibibbo Passito di Pantarella was a wonderful glass of the Sicilian sweet wine that is from the Marsala area.
There were some families, some couples, but in general a lot of small groups of folks just enjoying the good food, wine, service and atmosphere....

Monday, February 05, 2018

Restaurant Week really does go on at DINO's in DC (2-4-18)

Washington's Winter Restaurant Week may have ended for many places over a week ago, but Dino's in Shaw does seem to make it last forever with a $35 menu that is running now thru February 8th.
What's even better is you get the standard 3-course meal for $35 with appetizer, main course, dessert or cheese and they add on an extra starter if Deviled Egg and White Polenta Square with Roasted Mushrooms and Parmeggiano Reggiano as a hefty amuse and a post meal shot of Limoncello!!
We arrived just as the Super Bowl started, so the places was very quiet with only about 1/2 a dozen tables occupied by the time we left! Service from Omar and the team was superb and we had a truly amazing meal as well. Will started with a Raspberry Beret of infused raspberry gin, simple syrup, luxardo, velvet falernum and lemon which a  hint too sweet for my tastes, so I returned to my Mexigroni of Mexcal, Casmpari, Cinzano and Rhubarb Syrup that really was a treat on this chilly wet night. On Sunday(as well as many other nights) there are wine deals to be had and anything over $60 is 1/2 priced, so we reveled in the $79(down to $39.50) bottle of Le Casematte 2014 full bodied Sicilian blend of Nerello Mescalese, Nero d'Avola, Nerello Cappuccio and Nocera from Faro that reminded us of the wonderful wines we had last summer in Sicily (oddly the wine is misspelled on the menu as Casemente!).
Starters included the "Tuscan Bacon" & Spiced Asian Pear which is a spice rubbed pork belly that is braised and then crisped to super crunchiness with the grilled Asian pera and balsamic. Octopus Cooked under a Paper Bag is a novel name for the tasty braised, grilled then marinated cephalopod which is served in citrus with tasty Borlotti & Corona beans for a truly filling and huge starter indeed. I had never had the Ceviche here which has a true Italian flair and (see FB fotos) has the bay scallops, Mexican shrimp on one side, a large slab of salmon in the center and the spicy chiles and onions opposite so you can mix it to your spice level preference. The dish has a kick and it is truly huge as well! Stracchino is a fried cheese sandwich with anchovy first dipped in egg, then fried and served with a spicy tomato sauce, while the Greens and Fresh Mozzarella Bruschetta is served with the toppings underneath the grilled olive bread so it does not get soggy!
We were getting full even before the mains arrived, so there were three doggie bags to go when we left for sure! Winter Squash with Sage and Balsamic Risotto was Sam's veggie choice of kabocha squash, herbs, butter, veggie stock, preserved lemon and 24 month old parmesan that was rich and satisfying again on the cold dreary night. Will's Sausage Alla Calabrese was spicy greens with spicy chili sauce over rigatoni and my amazing Overnight Brisket was super tender pull apart local dry aged Angus beef that melted in your mouth and was accompanied by a very rich four cheese polenta....I guess that will appear for dinner at home this week as well.
Desserts were a Crema di Cioccolato that Will liked, but Sam passed on save for the whipped cream topping; I think he prefers molten chocolate to the pudding type.
Cheeses here are always a treat and Will & I shared four:
Note d'Giusto pecorino tartufato with truffle
Abbondanza "pecorino more selvatiche" raw sheep with wild blueberry and myrtle
Abbondanza "merlino" and
Toma, a rustic cow.
they were all delish and followed by a shot of tasty Limoncello sent us home very full and very warm.
Kudos to the whole Dino's team who always make our visits there like a Sunday family dinner!

Monday, January 29, 2018

DC's District Commons restaurant week gets raves, save for dessert....(1-17-18)

The three of us headed to District Commons for dinner before the Kennedy Center and Will & I chose the $35 3-course restaurant week menu, which is always(almost) a good deal.
Sam always likes to order the delicious Pretzel bread with beer mustard butter that has been a hit since the place opened, and who are we to say no.
The wine list here is huge and well-rounded and we loved the American Albarino 2015 from Tangent in Edna Valley. To start Will stuck to his diet and had the huge Mixed Green Salad with Deviled Eggs, Praline Bacon and Mustard Vinaigrette while I adored the Mussels with a spicy Chipotle Cream and Sausage as well as two huge hunks of bread to mop up the awesome sauce (FB fotos); our server John thought it should be on the regular manu and I agreed! Samuel ordered off the Restaurant Week menu and started with the Arugula Salad with Pimento Cheese Fritters which were extremely rich, although the salad itself was super tasty and worked well if you chose to mix a small bite of fritter with the arugula.
For his main course, Sam chose the Charred Broccoli Flatbread with Butternut Squash Bechamel, Shaved Manchego, hazelnuts & Honey. Will liked his Blackened Swordfish with salad, and when he realized it was the same salad as his starter, John offered to switch it for any side, but he liked it enough to keep it. My Pan Seared Scallops with lobster Grits, Pancetta, almond cream fraiche and crispy spinach was a bit rich, but superb.
Desserts were a letdown with the Peanut Butter Sundae being a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a dash of PB Fudge sauce and tons of whipped cream(which was not in the description and I rarely like) and toasted peanuts. the Boston Cream Pie with salted caramel was even less impressive as we know the full-sized dessert is quite good...we blamed it on the restaurant week portion. Luckily the friandises still came and impressed us wildly with Peanut butter cookies, fruit gelees, a minty brownie fudge and more.
We did leave full and happy with those!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Arequipa Peru's CHICHA cooks up a Peruvian feast (12-30-17)

We had only one night in Arequipa and had heard many good things about the top restaurant in town called Chicha which is famous from one of the top chefs in Lima who has opened Chicha branches in several major cities.
 On arrival we were taken past a large open courtyard with an open kitchen,  but led on to a beautiful vaulted stone room with tile floors, nice linens and leather and wooden chairs,  Definitely a Colonial feel with some local woollen art mounted on the walls.
 The drink menu is huge and will chose the Cholopolotan,  a way too sweet drink made with Pisco, Cointreau, Passion fruit, sweet lime and cranberry.  Samuel hit the jackpot with a Pisco Punch made with pineapple syrup and lemon that was not sweet at all and I went with the standard excellent Pisco Sour.  The water here was San Pelligrino but at about 7 dollars for a 1/2 liter bottle!!  Bread arrived and there were 3 options from an Andean bread as well as quinoa grissini and the delicious chica morada(purple corn) bread with raisins and nuts.  There was a nice butter made from rocoto chili(which is in virtually every dish here) and parsley. 
 Samuel started with a dish called Ocopa, Salerillo  Potatoes with egg and fried cheese that he adored.
 Will and I decided to combine 3 of the ceviche dishes which included sea urchin, classic sea bass and then the local river shrimp.  Of course they all had lime, onion, sweet potatoes, rocoto, crunchy corn and Peruvian corn and an amazing leche de tigre sauce and was just spectacular.
 We decided to share a dish called Escribano, made of potatoes,  rocoto, tomato and Chicagre with olive oil,  It was a delicious dish and can be explained as a potato salad gone spicy Peruvian style.
 The portions were huge and we began to worry as we had each ordered a main course and probably could have shared them.  Will and I were enjoying a bottle of Tacama Blanco de Blancos,  the same delicious white blend that we had had the night before.  Will had ordered a glass of red wine but unfortunately our server Edson who was excellent was completely overwhelmed by a group of loud and obnoxious Russians wearing stilettos and God knows what at the next table; it never arrived.
 I ended up pouring the rest of the white wine myself and we had to ask 3 or 4 times for 1 or 2 of the non alcoholic drinks that Sam had ordered which he declared wonderful.
 For his main course Sam ordered Torrejitas,  which were  8 huge deep fried vegetable fritters with Ariquepean sauces of rocoto chile, ocopo and huacatey (the famous local black mint which really doesn't taste minty at all).  We knew we had way over ordered.
 Will chose the pork adobo made with cumin oregano onion garlic and chicha(corn beer). The portion was huge and some of the meat a bit fatty but otherwise it was a hit.
 I chose one of the most famous local dishes called Chupa,  a huge thick rich river shrimp soup made with potatoes, fava beans, cabbage, huacatay, corn and milk with shredded spinach on top... It was one of the best soups I've ever had but was so huge I could barely finish half.
Key words to remember here "ORDER LESS!
While the desserts sounded fantastic there was no way on Earth any of us could eat another bite so we gathered our stuff together and walked the 15 minutes back to our hotel and hit the sack before we head back to Lima for New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Colca Lodge in Colca (Canyon)Valley(near Chivay,Peru) comes up with creative cuisine (12-29-17)

We headed northwest from Titicaca yesterday morning on a long journey to the Colca Valley and ended the day for our overnight at the not so luxurious Colca Lodge. The lodge is famous for it's hot springs, and I welcomed the hot tub fed directly by the springs on our secluded private terrace overlooking the valley with its pre-Incan agricultural terraces. So the fact that the shower had natural rain coming in through a leak and lots of squeaky doors was made up for by the location, springs and restaurant.
The bread and whole wheat grissini that came with garlic butter were okay, but nothing compared to what we had on our journey so far. We also learned from the English menu translation(very good) that the local herb huacatey is called "black mint" in English, although it is not very minty.
We had Passion Sours to start which were Pisco Sours with passionfruit added and while a hint sweet at first, got more sour from the lime as you drank more!
Samuel started with the Taboule de quinua which was a gorgeous tabbouleh/quinoa salad with peas, carrots, corn, pepper and avocado with a fig and peach compote(which he skipped). As always there are FB fotos available.
Will had the Tartare de Trucha nuestro estilo which was a huge portion of trout tartare with quinoa, apple, avocado and curry sauce with toasted Andean bread(rolls). I tired the Causa de Trucha ahumada and while the causa is a famous national potato dish, here there were three (room temp) mashed potato towers with avocado, quail egg, smoked trout, aji amarillo sauce with capers and sprouts that was a wonderful take on the traditional causa.
Will and I enjoyed a 1/2 bottle of Tabernero Peruvian Blanco de Blanco which was a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc that was super with our trout dishes. We ordered a bottle of Intipalka 2015 Syrah for our main courses since a bottle often costs less than 2 glasses or 3 here...we shall enjoy the rest of this plummy wine with a hint of tannins tonight before bed. I have to say I was impressed by the Spiegelau crystal, although we did have Riedel at the MAP Café in Cusco.
Samuel had Le pizzeta caprese of mozzarella, candied tomatoes, olive oil and basil which was gone before I could even get a taste, and while he said it was good, it was not as good as the other pizzas he has had.
Will loved his Aji de Gallina,con cremoso queso Andino, which was a take on the local chicken dish with aji amarillo sauce here with cheese and pecans. I loved my Risotto de quinoa con lomitos de res en aromas de saltado y pisco which was a beautiful quinoa risotto with sautéed sirloin tips marinated in lomo saltado sauce with pisco.
There was no room for dessert, but we did miss our Badoit from back in Cusco as here the local San Mateo sparkling is VERY gassy.