Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Adams Morgan's BROTHERS & SISTERS in the new LINE Hotel lifts dining to deliciousness (4-15-18)

New places are popping up constantly in DC and we just can't keep up as we try to cut back on our food intake, but Sunday night we asked two of our dearest friends to join us at the brand new BROTHERS & SISTERS at the LINE Hotel(https://www.thelinehotel.com/dc/venues/) smack in the center of Adams Morgan here in DC. Sunday night was a good choice as parking is not to hard(although they have valet for a fee). The restaurant is the creation of Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang & Harper McClure who sure can cook up a storm in this quite vast venue. We were four, but our two sons took another table separately(teenagers cannot be seen with their parents as we are an embarrassment), which worked out quite well. The old bank conversion offers a two story dome-like room with seating on both levels as well as two bars to the extreme left and right in separate glass-walled rooms(which are much quieter). Indeed the central room is also the hotel lobby with sofas, benches and tables all mixed together. I have to admit that if I was a hotel guest entering from the front, I might find it hard to navigate through the hostess stand, lobby and more to find the front desk, located in a free standing cage-like bank teller's booth. 
We were greeted warmly(we were early) and had to wait several minutes for the table and looked around at the vast space, but have to say the noise level was not that unbearable; once we moved to our table talking was really not an issue. Our server Miller was a gem, and while she guided us, we took charge making the choices and asking for each group of dishes to be staggered; it worked perfectly. We ordered a bottle of Averaen Pinot Noir 2015 from the Willamette Valley in Oregon which came as a 2015 and was a superb choice with tons of fruit. We thought about white wine, but it was so cold, we hit on this lighter red and actually had 2 bottles of it before proceeding to a heavier Bodegas Las Orcas Solar de Randez "Finca de Angel" Tempranillo (listed at 2011, but vintage 2014 appeared)from Rioja Alavesa in Spain. The wine was served by Cuong and at one point he asked if we used to go to Gabriel at the Barceló Hotel(now Palomar Dupont Circle) and he remembered us from all the places where now moved to Australia Chef Greggory Hill used to be. WOW!
The starters are broken into cold plates and hot plates and then there are plates to share and larger plates. We stuck to the first three and loved sharing EVERYTHING. An amazing UNI(Sea Urchin) platter arrived with profiteroles and condiments ranging from Himalayan salt to scallions, cooked egg white and yolk, EVOO, red and white onion, creme fraiche and a whipped pork lard. These were added to the delectable uni in each warm profiterole and was an amazing burst of flavor in the mouth.  What a treat! We ordered the Oysters with Uni which came three to the order and were amazing with a light tasty cucumber mignonette; a good option if you like oysters and don't want to get the whole Uni platter. Big Eye Tuna Crudo was superb with a light Coconut vinaigrette while the Avocado Salas with Five Grains and Hazelnuts was a true winner; one of the best salads ever in truth. There are many veggie options as well and we adored both the Brussels Sprouts with Urfa Ranch that packed a spice punch and was loaded with sautéed onions as well as the Cauliflower with Creme Fraiche amazingly prepared with a spicy vegan nouc cham(Asian fish sauce)-OMG!! My only complaint is that the menu descriptions tend to be two or three words and if you don't like an ingredient when the item comes you might be in trouble(for example the onions in the Brussels sprouts).
French Fries here are not be missed served with a ton of kicky earthy seasonings and a béarnaise dipping sauce. The Octopus Hot Dog is a revelation with Yuzu kosho as it really looks like a hot dog and has amazing flavor akin to one.
Straciatella(cheese) comes with black garlic and while a nice dish was my least favorite, but then I adored EVERYTHING!
Cacio e Pepe Mushrooms were with black truffles and truly looked like pasta, but was actually mushrooms with cheese and pepper.
Duck Ballotine was a sliced breast cooked beautifully and served with peas and beet gastrique.
The winner was the Beef Short Rib Burger with Mornay sauce that is a monstrous burger served on a giant parker-house like roll that is separated into four rolls joined together(see FB for photos) and is easily split 4 ways, so perfect to share and you may even want to get a second one! It comes over the tasty seasoned fries to boot! Who knew?
My other complaint is that when you are sharing dishes, serving spoons should be proffered as it is really not in the best health interests to use the forks or knives you have been eating with.
One dessert was ordered to go by our friends, but there was no way we could eat another bite after having so many superb dishes.
Bravi to the entire team on this new and exciting dining venue!!

Friday, March 30, 2018

a pre-Passover pasta plunge is pefect at DC's CENTROLINA (3-28-18)

Samuel and I had headed downtown to City Place for an event for the Washington National Opera and we found ourselves craving dinner afterwards and headed next door to Centrolina, where our friend Chef Amy Brandwein was working her tuchus off readying for the spring/holiday onslaught, not to mention her recent nomination for a James Beard Award.
It's a great spot for vegetarians and Sam was thrilled to choose the BURRATA with baby potato chips, No. 24(spice) and chives which was a gorgeously presented cylinder that disappeared in minutes(see FB fotos). My starter was called ROMANA which was actually Artichokes three ways: creamed, roasted and shaved & crispy with a simple baby greens salad and a spectacular parmesan cream. A glass of Paolo Lali 2016 Grillo brought me back to our trip to Sicily last summer.
Out of nowhere a huge single RAVOLO appeared (not on the menu) stuffed with ricotta and braised greens and served in an egg, butter and parm sauce that was heavenly.
Bridgette, our server, could not have been nicer, and she is a true gem and credit to Centrolina with a winning personality.
We went on to pasta mains with Sam choosing the Tagliolini Rossi made from pinot nero with wood roasted mushrooms, truffle, rosemary and more parm while I indulged in the first(it's MARCH!) soft shell crabs of the season in  a magnificent Linguine dish with tomato, basil and EVOO-simple yet perfect.
We were full and it was late, so we headed home knowing we had enough pasta to last through the end of Passover. HAPPY HOLIDAY ALL!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Savannah's THE GREY, no shades here, great from grits to Ginger Ice Cream (3-27-18)

Our final night took us to one of Savannah's newest and hottest restaurants in a bit of a noisy revamped greyhound station hence the name The Grey.  They also boast  a James beard nominated chef for best chef in the region this year...awards in May!
 The linoleum floors add to much more noise and the hard chairs don't make it too comfy for long seating,  So try to head to one of the gray leatherette banquettes which give it a very 1950's diner feel, not to mention the large bar with raised stools giving it very much a diner feel with a walk up counter.
 There is a large selection of small plates and several large plates divided into a number of categories which include oysters, pantry, dirt, water and pasture.
 Will and I started with a  a dozen oysters accompanied by an adorable eye dropper vial of mignonette. Sea Nymphs and Dana Passage came from Washington, salty Mookie Blues from Maine, and my favorites the Rocky Nooks from Massachusetts, while Will preferred the Georgia Harris Necks.
 There were many vegetarian options and Samuel decided to start with turnip cakes made with potlikker vinegar, daikons and scallions. The Benne Seed Crackers were nice and came with a kicky collard chutney with habaneros, raisins and Indian spice.
We started with a crisp Vermentine from Domaine Vetriccie 2016 in Corsica. The wine list is fairly large and very varied with many expensive wines but also a huge selection under $30 that are quite a value. Our red was a Zweigelt Glatzer "Rebencuvee" 2015 from Austria and each of these was about $28!
Another veggie dish was Peas and Rice  made with Carolina Gold rice, Sea Island red peas and Bay leaf
 For us the Carrot Tartare was a winner and arrived with a tartare of lamb hearts, some cooked carrots, some thinly sliced raw carrots, Benne seeds and Chile d'arbol for spice.   The octopus was also perfectly cooked and served with Lima beans, a very kinky harissa and pickled celery with some gorgeous bagel chips.
 Slow roasted leeks arrived at room temperature and we expected them to be hot, but they were delicious and cooked to perfection served with Edward's ham, gooey Tomme cheese and crunchy bread crumbs.
 House made ravilo was filled with ricotta cheese and served with heirloom sweet potatoes in a Brown butter sauce, and disappeared from Sam's plate in seconds. The Smoked collards with onion trifecta, olive oil and smoked over pecan wood were also a tasty and nove spin on the Southern staple.
Smashed New Potatoes with Brewer's Yeast, sour cream and scallions was a baked potato lover's dream. Speaking of Brewer's yeast, I forgot to mention that you get a bowl of popcorn dusted with that instead of bread.
 Will and I chose two meat plates to end our main course: first came Foie and Grits with sweet potato jam, red wine gravy and onions.. which was indeed traditional grits with a little bit of gravy around the edge topped with a gorgeous piece of foie gras and a dab of jam.  The 2nd dish was one of the winningest dishes of the night, as it was fried veal sweetbreads with a ham hock vinaigrette and a shallot mustard that was out of this world.
 At one point Sam had a delicious mocktail of lemon and ginger as well.
Coconut lime gelees appeared as a pre-dessert, and then we ordered Beignets with Ginger Ice cream and chocolate sauce which were divine and a to die for rich Chocolate Pot au Creme.
  As if this wasn't enough we were given little crunchy peanut butter candies that were like honeycombs to eat then or munch on the walk home. A winning meal as we packed to head home.
Kudos to Chef Mashama Bailey, whom we did not meet, but definitely deserves a James Beard Award!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Alligator Soul in Savannah surely satisfies (3-26-18)

Our 2nd night here in the deep South was a much improved dinner at the truly wonderful Alligator Soul. 
 We were all expecting something funky and weird and as we went down the steps to the restaurant we were very surprised to see a beautiful cavernous room of brick with ceiling fans and white linens. The manager Rashad greeted us and asked us if there was anything we needed to please come ask him, and our server Misha was more than generous with his time, explanations and help.Southern hospitality abounds here in every venue!
 Will ordered a Constellation made from Prairie Orange vodka, Stirrings organic pomegranate,  Grapefruit bitters and lemon juice with lemon twist, while I chose the Hilbo's Bloody Mary made from Crop organic tomato vodka with Hilbo's spiced stewed tomato puree, blue cheese stuffed peppadew pepper and habanero pimento cheese stuffed olives...what a trip.  But the spicy rim on the drink only made it 20 times better.
An ok amuse arrived in the form of a lentil spinach curry soup in in odd ceramic spoon with little spoons to eat it,  luckily this was not a preview of the fabulous spicy and tasty food to follow.
 Samuel started with fried green tomatoes with a superb spicy remoulade, while Will chose the Alligator Fritters which were served with Savannah river farms pork belly,  Trinity mirepoix, panko and Cajun lemon caper remoulade as well as a green tomato Chow Chow.
My Oysters a la Soul  were gorgeous plump Chesapeake Bay Oysters grilled  with Savannah River Farms bacon, Louisiana crawfish, Trinity mirepoix and scallions in a creamy Hilbo spiced roux topped with parmesan bread crumbs.  If this weren't enough to make me thrilled and want to come back again and again for this dish, there was a blow your mind Habanero jelly that you could dapple on top of each oyster!!
 Misha suggested a beautiful bottle of Martin Codex 2016 Alberino from Rioja,  which was perfect with all the spicy food.
 There was only one vegetarian main course but it was a beautiful preparation of 3 items including a stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, a spinach salad and a tomato bisque, even if Samuel only wanted the quinoa.  Will chose the rich shrimp and grits with Georgia wild shrimp. lemon butter and Creole spices with Freeman's mill stone ground Georgia grits creamed with aged cheddar cheese.
 My main course was called Gumbo's Back Baby which consisted of wild Georgia shrimp,  Littleneck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels, tons of sweet Louisiana crawfish, grilled Andouille sausage, the Trinity mirepoix and okra in a dark Cajun roux with Carolina gold rice that was very reminiscent of an etoufee and was everything anyone could ask for.  Indeed being in the South the main courses were huge and we had to forgo dessert because we knew there were some rich fudgy chocolate brownies in our hotel room with a bottle of red wine where we are right now enjoyed them...

Savannah Georgia's A.Lure is less alluring than we had hopes (3-25-18)

Our 1st night took us to A.Lure  here in the Southern food capital of Savannah. 
 We were not sure if the name was allure or whether it was a. lure which meant it was a seafood restaurant as in a fishing lure,  which proved to be the correct explanation.
 What seemed like a teeny restaurant with 12 to 15 tables with about 4 or 5 high tops in the middle actually had a large back room as well with much local art on brick walls. 
 Our server Curtis came over with a big smile and explained a lot of the menu to us as we sat and looked at it for a while and chatted with the folks at the next table who told us their food was fabulous.
Will and I ordered blood orange martinis made from Ghost Coast vodka, Stirrings triple sec and blood orange puree with hibiscus bitters, lime cordial and hibiscus flowers..Yum,  But alas the martini glass was not filled very full.
 Curtis convinced us that the braised rabbit open faced ravioli with a rabbit-bacon syrup, butternut squash, spinac,h mushrooms and rosemary and thyme cream was something that people came from hundreds of miles away for.  Indeed it was a delicious rich and filling dish but I can't say I would come back for it over and over.
We ordered a bottle of Square Plumb and Level Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend 2015 from Dry Creek, California which was fruit forward and delicious with everything we ate, so much so that we ordered a second bottle and took the remains home with us as Savannah allows you to walk down the street with open bottles and drinks!!
 Delicious focaccia and buttermilk biscuits arrived with a raspberry pineapple and rose water jam, And Sam had to ask for extra focaccia. 

For main courses Will had the Smoked Duck Breast with Georgia gold barbeque sauce, duck confit baked beans,  pickled mustard and cole slaw.  The beans sadly came cold and had to be sent back for a warm up while the duck came on the extremely rare side which caused will to leave a number of pieces on the plate, as there was plenty but he didn't want to be bothered asking for them to cook the rest, as there was more than enough.  Samuel ordered a dish called Peas and Carrots which was a wild mushroom risotto with peas and carrots and a carrot ginger reduction, which he gobbled up. My meat loaf made with Smith brothers ground filet mignon, and foie gras and truffle-Madeira demi-glace had a dapple of cauliflower puree and what were called blue cheese fingerling fries although the cheese was very mild. The green bean casserole on the side was a big hit.
 Desserts sounded 20 times better than they actually were as the mint chocolate chip creme brulee came out chilled and the brulee was not crunchy at all.  Bourbon chocolate pecan pie with butter pecan ice cream in bourbon caramel was delicious but the crust would have failed any test. 
 The service here was winning and the setting is beautiful but it seemed that Curtis really hyped up everything so much more than it was and we really had a nice time but didn't enjoy every bite.

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 (http://www.sfoglinadc.com) 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....