Thursday, May 28, 2015

208 Talbot Is A Treat (2nd report from Will in St. Michael's, MD-5-27-15)

For my second and last night in St Michael's I went for dinner across the street from my hotel at a restaurant called 208 Talbot (the street address). This place had a more casual feel to it, but there were people in there with shorts and flip flops on. Come on folks !!!! Yes it's warm but it's dinner time and this is not McDonalds. I do not need to see your nasty feet while I am eating. 
      Anyhooooo, my server, Holly was great !! I decided that as I am on the bay I should only eat seafood that night. She threw some great ideas at me. I decided on a bottle of Barnard Griffin Sangiovese Rose to go with my meal. There were lovely hints of mixed berries in the wine and it also had a bit more body than your average Rose.
       When the bread was brought to the table I was very happy as it was warm ciabatta bread, one of my favorites and the slightly salty butter melted on it perfectly. Far better bread than the night before. For my appetizer, I had the Crab Spring Rolls with jumbo lump crab, julienne carrots, cabbage and shiitake mushrooms inside. The rolls were served over a bed of seaweed. While tasty, I think there may have been about 3 flakes of crab in the whole thing. A bit disappointing, but the best was yet to come.
       For my main course I ordered the Soft Shells (yes again), which were slightly dusted with something or other, but who cared !! They were HUGE and juicy. The best soft shells I have had in a long time. They were served over fingerling potatoes, diced petite green beans and a sweetcorn butter sauce. To me it was heaven on a plate. So glad I decided to double dip on the soft shells for this trip :-)
        The dessert menu was a bit boring, but in the end I ordered Mixed Berries with a Pomegranate cream. It was a perfect ending, but then Holly brought me over some of their home made Roasted Pecan Ice Cream. WOW !!! It was sooooo good. 
         While this wasn't the cheapest place either, it was much more reasonable than the night before. This has been a couple of great nights here in St Michael's but now it's time to get back home to DC. I miss my boys. 


DUKES Family Winery wins me over deliciously at the Blue Duck Tavern in DC (5-27-15)

Over a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie & Pat Dukes at a wine tasting here in DC and fell in love with them both as well as their awesome wines.

Last summer, while in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Will & I visited their gorgeous home which is where they make magic with grapes, and once again fell in love with the view, the wine and the family--even the dogs.

This week, the Dukes are in DC and last night they hosted a spectacular wine dinner at BLUE DUCK Tavern at the Park Hyatt in the private dining room overlooking the open kitchen, where only 19 people (including the Dukes and their distributor) assembled. It was a momentous evening of great wines and food from start to finish.

Speaking of starting, Pat had reached into the recesses of his cellars and started us off with his own stash of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004 which was a superb year and truly a gorgeous taste on the palate as we all assembled and sat down. With this tasty treat a selection of shaved meats from the Berkel were served and it was a perfect companion and display:

Bresaola, American Prosciutto and Chorizo were the three shaved meats accompanied by housemade pickles, housemade pickled mustard. The meat was superb as was the mustard and the pickles, but the star was the Chicken Liver/Bone Marrow Pate that sent me to heaven and back for more several times as I shmeared it on the thick tasty bread.

The Dukes made their first Rose in 2014, eleven years after they first started producing only Pinot Noir, and we were treated to the Blushing Kate 2014 Pinot Noir Rose that was superb, refreshing and crisp. All their wines are Willamette Valley/Eola-Amity Hills designated (so I won't write that each time), but this location is south of the larger wine producing area and offers a new variety of Pinot that really is fabulous. Only 50 cases were made of this wine; a real treat. It was served with King Mackerel Tartare(from Beaufort, SC) with a Cilantro Puree, Charred Avocado Puree, Crispy Fried Watercress and Cucumber as well as Coriander Blossoms & Champagne Vinaigrette. It was a superb tartare and beautifully presented (photo on my Facebook page).

The next course was Pan Seared Scallops(from Viking Village, NJ) cooked beautifully to perfection and indeed bigger than I have ever seen with Glazed Pork Belly Confit that had virtually no fat and was crispy to perfection, White Asparagus charred with Fish Sauce, Chili Flakes and Fermented Green Garlic. I adored everything in this dish, but especially the subtle spice from the fish sauce, chili and garlic that was beyond imagination. It was served with two sides:

Creamy Stone-Ground Grits (Anson Mills, SC) with red Eye Gravy and Smoked Gouda-ooooooooooooooh yum and

Roasted Wild mushrooms (Kennett Square, PA) Soubise with Warm Herbs that reminded me again how superb Pinot goes with almost any mushroom.

All the Dukes Pinots were poured from double magnums (etched) and the first was a 2009 Charlotte that was divine and a truly brilliant pairing as they all were. I know our cellar has a good selection of Dukes Pinots, but just not sure which years (have to check). The legs on this wine were thick and unctuous; as they should be.

Oven-Roasted Duck Breast with Crispy Leg Confit (Grimaud Farms CA) had a Spiced Honey Glaze that was a revelation and again virtually no fat on the breast (foto also on my FB page). On the side was Potato Puree(Path Valley, PA) with Soft Garlic that was nice, but just a yummy mashed potato to me. The Charred Asparagus (Path Valley, PA) was awesome with Soft Egg broken on top, Pine Nut Gremolata and Parmesan Cheese.

These dishes came with the 2009 Nipple Hill Pinot Noir which is a newer area on the Dukes Vineyards that sits down the hill a bit from the others. Only 50 cases were made in 2009 and this wine is more acidic with less of a bold fruit in it and is clearly a food driven wine not to be drunk alone (as the more elegant sisters are) I know we just received the 2012 last year in our shipment! Pat explained that the fermentation process is different in that they use larger 60 gallon barrels and do an extended fermentation process giving it a "layered complexity" perfect for this kind of food!

The last two wines were poured side by side and are so elegant and both drink alone that I could have them on any day. Alyssa 2008 was more complex for me and darker, but the 2009 Alyssa was more fruit forward and also excellent. These were served with array of exciting farmstead local cheeses presented by Chef Sophie Slesinger in a true presentation:

Cabra La Mancha is a  brined MD goat that has 6 months aging and I love (it is sold at the Bethesda farmer's market I go to on Sundays from time to time)

Great Hill Blue is from Massachusetts

& Elsa Mae (the name of the cow) from Calkin's Creamery (Penna) is a brie style cheese that oozed all over the plate just the way I like it.

These came with strawberry rhubard jam, Marcona almonds, sliced apple and small fig chunks (that I could have lived without) making a superb overall effect and sending us home more than sated after a wonderful evening with truly spectacular food, wines, service and great conversation!

The stars are very expensive at Stars restaurant at the Inn At Perry Cabin in St. Michael's, MD (5-26-15)by Will Stevenson

This is Alan's husband, Will. I have been lucky enough to spend a couple of days in St Michael's in Maryland and have been eating up a storm. I will be reviewing 2 restaurants for you during this time. Here is the first one.

When I first arrived at the restaurant I was sat at a window table which is what I had requested in my reservation. The view of the bay is lovely and very calming. Sadly the prices on the menu were not so calming. I opted for the 5 course tasting menu (with accompanying wines) which looked delicious. I am not a big fan of scallops, which was one of the courses but I figured I would give it a go. My server, Terry was superb. He told me that they had a special of soft shell crabs. I explained to him that I loved soft shells but I really wanted the tasting menu. As if reading my mind, he asked if I would still like to do the tasting menu, but substitute that scallop for the soft shells. Hooooray. I noticed that he always called me by my name, not sir, which I liked a lot. "Sir" was my father, lol. 
     First thing to come was a refreshing vodka and tonic and some cheese bread. The bread was rather dry, but I opted out of adding butter to it. The amuse was roasted cantaloupe and cashews in a balsamic vinaigrette. It was served on a deep spoon that was very awkward to use. I felt like a dog trying to lap it up with my tongue. In the end I gave in and used my fork. It was a tasty little morsel and a good start. 
       Next came Fried Green Tomato And Crab Salad. This was very refreshing except for the fact that both the salad (in a mayonnaise) and the remoulade were very creamy, so were a little greasy on the tongue. The great thing was that the Sparkling Rose, Jansz from Tasmania washed it down beautifully with it's fresh but tart dried strawberry taste.
       Next up was the Soft Shell Crab in a mustard sauce, with grits and french beans. The crab was small, juicy and perfectly tasty as were the french beans. The cheddar grits were a bit heavy, so I only ate half of them. This came with a Kerner, Abbaziadi Novacella from Italy. It was my least favorite wine of the evening. I have very strange taste descriptions when it comes to wine. To me it tasted like a very basic table white with that wet cardboard taste. 
         Course number 3 was, Goat Cheese Canelloni, with wilted spinach, toasted almonds and brown butter. This yummy dish made you crave for the Fall. So warm and cozy tasting (if there is such a thing). The brown butter was melt in your mouth. As a treat, Terry brought me an extra wine to try with the listed wine, but the second I saw it was Semillion I said, thanks but no thanks. The wine with this course was a Vincent Delaporte, Sancerre. It was heavy on the citrus but worked very well with the dish. Probably my favorite pairing of the night.
    Next was the Steak Diane with smashed truffled mashed potatoes, and braised kalettes. The steak itself was perfect tasting size (it looked like a Salisbury Steak, lol). It was tender and perfectly cooked. Potatoes were to die for as were the kalettes (still not sure what they were, but who cares). The gravy was so delicious that I mopped it up with my last bit of cheese bread. It all came with a Chateau Montelena Cab...all I can say about that is, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. 
       Last up was the Chocolate Decadence with a bijou coulis. It was certainly decadent and thank heavens it was small. Very rich, but very yummy. It was paired with Graham's Six Grapes dessert wine, which worked nicely with it. Afterward I was given a few chocolate treats and then I was on my way to bed. Very full !! 
        The cost of the meal was $130. I would expect this price from a Michelin starred restaurant, but not here. I did give Terry a hefty tip as he had been awesome. Next up tomorrow (now tonight) is 208 Talbot. Don't think I will eat as much there, lol.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

eat your heart out at EATALY in NYC...or opt for oysters at PJ CLARKE's (5-5-15)

I'm in NYC for a couple of days and not really eating, but stopped at Mario Batali's EATALY (200 5th Ave at 23rd St) emporia. You have to choose if you want meat, cheese, fish or what and I went for pizza.pasta at Le Cucine d'Eataly and wolfed down an awesome cooked Prosciutto Cotto & Ramp "salad" and then a Pizza Capricciosa laden with mozzarella, tomato, olives, artichokes and mushrooms. A glass of Morello di Scansano "I Perizzi" 2013 from La Mozza which was full bodied and tasty.

I wanted cappuccino and found it in another are and it was supreme...

After the opera we stopped across the street in the Empire Hotel's PJ Clarkes where I enjoyed a Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita and a dozen superb oysters:

Naked Cowboy from NY..smallish but yummy

plump Saddle Rocks from Conn.

super salty Fanny Bay from BC

Neptune's Choice from Wash state

and the elegant Shabumi from Wash and awesome Kusshi from BC


Ft. Worth's REATA ropes you in and fills you up (5-3-15)

After the opera in Ft. Worth on Sunday, four of us headed to REATA, which I have always adored, but the food is so big and so heavy, that it is not a great pre-opera dining spot. Luckily there was only a Sunday matinee and we all some free evening time to be with friends.
We gobbled up the amazing homemade biscuits with pecans and shmeared them with the pop in your mouth spicy chili butter.....
We shared two appetizers which were enough to feed five people:
Tenderloin Tamales with Pecan Mash and a superb salsa
and Jalapeno & Cheese Elk Sausages which came with grits.
A creamy rich Becker Vineyards 2013 Viognier from Texas was quite impressive for all of us, even the Texans. I told our server Jodi that if it was bad, I was not going to drink it, but she seemed quite confident, and rightly so. For the red we were considering a huge Spanish Priotat, but the sommelier came over and suggested an awesome 1999 Faustino I Gran Reserva Rioja which totally blew us all away and fits so well with these huge dishes:
Carne Asada & Enchilada--probably the best anywhere.
A simple lettuce wedge for one of us that was bigger than my head and my
Chili Dusted Smoked Texas Quail with Chimichurri Drizzle, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits and Flash Fried Spinach which was bit too greasy..the only fault all night.
We couldn't even think of dessert, but I ordered a Cherry Vodka Limeade that was so sour it was really vile...we all tasted it and giggled before we rolled home.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

bring me back for BIRD CAFE in fantastic Ft. Worth (5-2-15)

I am back in Ft. Worth, Texas again for my almost annual jaunt here for the superb Ft. Worth Opera Festival (this year Dog Days, Hamlet, Traviata and workshops on 8 new short operas) and since I loved the new Bird Café so much last year I returned again to the adorable spot just across the street from Bass Hall (opera house).  This time I was escorted upstairs on arrival to the quieter 2nd floor, called the Rookery, where I was the only person at 540pm, but it filled up within an hour. I had not noticed the bird pictures and paintings on the walls last year and now had a huge one over my table of an adorable scarecrow, with a dead crow hanging from it. The Indian music was nice and later it turned to a Caribbean lilt (with bird sounds). The floor had several Eastern carpets as well as a large fireplace at one end and long narrow windows giving a very airy and light feel.
I perused the menu of small plates, none of which is small, and decided on 3 choices. My server Nick guided me first to the Bird Green Salad which is a wondrous mix of greens, avocado, broccoli, pistachios, sunflower seed and sprouts and feta cheese with a superb Balsamic Tarragon dressing. I enjoyed a split of Le Grande Courtage Brut Rose sparkling from Nuit St. Georges in Burgundy which was dry and refreshing and lasted through my next course, the awesome Texas Vintage Steak Tartare. I'm not sure what vintage it was, but the delicious meat mixed with mustard, capers, shallots and seasonings sat on several pieces of slightly toasted pumpernickel bread (with raisins, which I did not care for with the meat) and had a gorgeous raw quail egg on top just cracked open at the very top, so the egg oozed out when you turned it over onto the meat. Fried Crispy Shallots were a superb crispy touch on top as well.
I have only one thing (other than the raisins in the bread) that I dislike here and it is the large white paper sheets on the table instead of cloths; I would rather just have the table top.
For my main course I ordered a superb glass of Aviary Chardonnay 2012 from Napa that had gorgeous legs in the large Spiegelau crystal glass, but was served way too cold to enjoy all the flavors. I warmed it up in my hands and it was the ideal temperature when my Crisp Sweetbreads arrived with Tennessee Sorghum and Fire Glazed Cider. These  two sauces were most novel and the antithesis of each other on opposite sides of the row of crunchy crispy perfectly battered and fried sweetbreads. The glaze was slightly sweet and honey-like while the sorghum was spicy and really just the right touch to the awesome little glands tender as could be and lightly sprinkled with some sea salt (which is used well in most of the dishes here, witness the tartare).
I skipped dessert as I remembered it was not too good the year before, and enjoyed a huge pot of their superb French press coffee before heading across the street to the opera. I love coming to Ft. Worth for the opera, to eat and always to bump into so many friends.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Super service at SUR LA PLACE not to mention the cookin' cuisine (4-26-15)

My family often goes to our neighborhood spot SUR LA PLACE on MacArthur Blvd in the Palisades, when I head out of town for the weekend or such, but this past Sunday we went with friends and had a truly memorable and wonderful time as always.
On Sunday-Thursday they also have selected wines by the bottle and glass for 1/2 price so we got an awesome NORTON 2012 Reserva Malbec from Mendoza for just $17.00!! Who can beat that?
Samuel has become enamored of their Creamy Potato & Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon, and who wouldn't love this creamy concoction that oozes with flavor. Will tried the Wild Mushroom Ragout starter which is served with Grilled Garlic Toast and has added flavor as it too includes sautéed leeks. I went light with the Hearts of Palm Salad with Baby Spinach, Asparagus, Sliced Apples and a Citrus Vinaigrette.
For main courses Samuel always orders the Steak Frites and gobbles it up with the tasty Béarnaise Sauce (when served his steak the sauce was missing, and he gave us this look, but it showed up seconds later). Speaking of service it is as friendly as it can get here and our server Tula is always a gem, as is the entire staff. Any request can be made as was with our gluten-free friend who asked for her Mushroom Ragout without the toast and substitutions of Haricots Verts for Wilted Spinach on her tasty Rack of Lamb with Pomme Gratin a Red Wine reduction. Her son chose the Merguez Sausage & Frites as well and while I always want to enjoy their multitude of sausage options, I inadvertently end up ordering Moules/Frites. Sunday I chose the SNOB which is with Celery, Onion, Herbs, Lobster Bisque, Garlic & Brandy. The bisque is not too thick, yet easy to enjoy by the spoonful before, during and after eating the tasty kilo of mussels and crunchy fries. Sur La Place now offers fixed price meals as well with courses running $34 if you choose a meat or fish entrée and $30 if mussels. Will opted for POP-EYE which has the always present base of Celery, Onion & Herbs, here with Spinach, Bacon, Cream & Parmesan Cheese added.
We were all so stuffed that we couldn't even think of dessert, so Tila said that since the price of the fixed price with a starter was cheaper anyway, next time we could all have free desserts or a free glass of wine. What a deal! So now we have to go back sooner than later and I think Will & Sam are headed there when I head out of town next anyway!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

If you head to Philly, make sure you find ABE FISHER's (4-24-15)

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you will have seen pictures from the other night of the kitchen and several of the dishes I had at ABE FISHER's in Philadelphia.

It is owned by Michael Solomonov, the now-famous Israeli chef of Zahav, but offers a completely different style of modernized "Jewish" cuisine and is run by Chef Yehuda Sichel, who also hails from Israel.

As I arrived, I was asked if I would like to sit at one of the two seats at the kitchen counter which allowed me to see almost all of the final prep that went on before dishes were served and to chat extensively with the servers as the came to the window next to me; it was a ton of fun. I was greeted by General Manager, Eilon Gigi and then met one of my servers, Tehila; I was beginning to think this was an Israeli invasion, but a good one!

The menu consists of three columns called 1, 2, & 3 each with 5 plates and priced at $10 each, $12 each and 414 each respectively in each column. There is an option for a fixed price meal of $39 with a choice of one from each column plus dessert and this is an awesome deal for sure. All the wines are priced at $12/glass or $50/bottle. The décor is dark leather, tile floors and a big busy bar, and my only real complaint was that as the crowd grew, the noise grew. It was like a combo between a hot bar spot and deli.

It was almost impossible to decide which items to choose from each column, but I was so lucky that I kept receiving tastes of the items I did not order. As soon as I had chosen, Sara arrived with a large cigar box in hand and opened it to reveal warm savory rugelach. I chose one of each and while the Caramelized Onion & Fennel Salt was superb, the Pastrami Short Rib with Spicy Mustard & Caraway was a dream come true.

Flaky, warm, tasty and indeed savory, I would have to return just for these.

I ordered a glass of refreshing Grenache/Cinsault Rose 2014 from Elicio in Cotes de ventoux which went with almost everything.

My first plate arrived and was a magnificent Jerusalem Artichoke Caesar Salad with Snow Peas, Radish, Pickled Onions, Pine Nuts & Pecorino Cheese. I was eating Spring and then tasted a small smooth, yet firm, crunchy and sweet fruit that I could not place. Sara said it was Asian Pear, and it was the perfect foil to this dish, although I love the fact that almost every dish here has something pickled on it! Roasted Jersualem Artichoke Chips come with the dish instead of croutons and are a true treat.

My first treat arrived and was a Borsht Tartare which I had been watching be prepared before me multiple times as it is one of the hit dishes on the menu. It is pickled beets with Smoked Trout Roe and a home made Sour Cream-Onion Potato Chip (that I could have eaten a whole bag of) and topped with fresh dill. The ideal dish for someone watching their weight, as was the Artichoke Caesar.

My second treat arrived seconds later in the form of Chopped Liver on Toasted Rye with Pastrami-Onion Jam, Pickled Red Onion and fresh Dill. It is one of the best I have ever had on earth and is of the creamy variety served in a smooth quenelle form which you can shmear on the awesomely buttery crisp thick rye bread. I wished I could take an entire pound (ok, a 1/2 pound) home, but I was headed to the opera and that might not keep.

For my second plate I chose the Matzo Brei just because it came with Smoked Tongue, Fried Egg and (yes, to my surprise) Maple Syrup. When I posted this on facebook, one person mentioned that smoked tongue is so rare (and another suggested he put cigarettes on his tongue....). OK, jokes aside, this dish was phenomenal in that the "brei" was of a kugel consistency in chunk form under the fried egg which I was able to break the yolk on for extra runniness which I adore. The two large pieces of tongue were accompanied by small crunchy pieces akin to bacon bits; I was in love. I might have thought the sweet of the syrup was weird, but NO, it was brilliant, and the fried egg was topped with crunchy thin scallion slices for even more flavor. This seemed to be the only dish I had (as well as dessert) without anything pickled!

Another treat arrived in the form of a one bite Corned Pork Belly Reuben. The folks had asked if I ate pork as they did not want to send out the one non-kosher style meat on the menu (this is not a kosher place for sure, but as I said, Jewish-style modern) and I shook my head "no-way." The bread again was toasted and buttery with pickled green tomato on the side and melted cheese on top. Instead of sauerkraut, this Reuben sported pickled cabbage/health salad with a zippy seasoning that was very different from your average Reuben and especially tasty.

Again, when it came to #3, I was in a conundrum between the duck and veal, so needless to say, they sent out both. The Duck Blintz is heavenly with a thinner than blintz pancake, but thicket than crepe and filles with Duck Confit, smothered in Foie Gras Butter and topped with a tasty tangy Sour Cherry Sauce. No bubbie makes blintzes like this! Although I would venture that Chef Sichel (who by the way will be cooking many of these dishes at James Beard House on June 17), must have someone in his family tree who tried to tweak our Jewish cuisine heritage!

The Veal Schnitzel Tacos are a revelation and I am so glad I chose this as my main course. There are two per plate and each soft shell is filled with a rolled up veal schnitzel that is flash fried before serving giving it a somewhat falafel crunch, yet the meat is so tender, it is soft inside. The team explained they were going for that fish stick taco way, this was an awesome original creation topped with Health Salad or superb (and not bitter) radish shavings and pickled Cabbage with a to die for Anchovy Mayo drizzled on top. If you wanted spice, there were two lemon slices laces with Espalette Pepper for punch, and I didn't even think before squeezing them on. The overall experience was indeed "himlische", "meen ha-Shamayim" or heavenly.

For my main courses I had a glass of superb 2013 Petit Sirah from Peirano Estates in Lodi, California which Sara recommended. Right on the spot.

I had seen every dessert go  by and was completely full by now so I asked for a small plate of the Fluffernutter Crullers which looked like fried sugar-dusted bombolini and were filled right in front of me with creamy peanut butter and the placed on a shmear of Whit Chocolate Cream Cheese Fluff and garnished with poached Rhubard. the dish called for a mini-sprig of chervil, but the prep chef in front of me was not happy with the quality of the herb, so mine had none. No matter, I was so full and satisfied, that sprig would have been the After Six mint of Monty Python.

I can't wait to go back to Abe Fisher's in Philly for more food and fun. Thanks to the entire super staff as well.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Chef Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground and the brand new Maketto makes merry at Food & Friends patron dinner (4-16-15)

Every year we attend a wonderful dinner at the Food &Friends Facility here in Washington which is for major donors, and it always proves to be a very fun evening.
This year it was DC's youngest super-chef Erik Bruner-Yang who has blown DC away with his ramen restaurant Toki Underground ( H St, NE). Last week he opened Maketto which serves
breakfast, lunch and dinner while you shop for clothes; it's a novel take on dining & shopping and might be worth a stop-in to see. Chef Bruner-Yang still came last night, although he departed a bit early after taking questions and walking around the room to greet the diners; he had lots of work to do in his 6-day old restaurant/store.
We chose this night as we wanted to see what he could do outside of the ramen realm, and he explained that the cuisine last night was indeed Cambodian-influenced as his wife is Cambodian and this will also be one of the styles of cooking at Maketto.
On arrival we tasted an awesome Cambodian Sausage in a Cabbage wrap which he later explained was fermented in rice giving it a slightly sour yet spicy tang which made me go for seconds. As Chef Bruner-Yang is from Taiwan, Chinese buns feature largely in his cuisine and we had Leek Buns with a tangy Hoisin sauce as one of our hor's d'oevres. Only the Scallion "Pancake" was a bit boring and because it just needed more flavor. It was not really a pancake but a phyllo-dough pastry like Spinakopita which was buttery, flaky and delicious, but only one bite had enough scallion for me.

The first course was a tasty Red Snapper Crudo(Ph'Lee Uh Sach Trey) with Watermelon Radish, Coconut and a Salt Cured Egg which was quite novel and a bit spongy. Chef later explained it is salt cured for three weeks in tamarind & lime like salmon hence the name 1000-year old egg in China. The Domaine des Cassagnoles Gros Manseng 2013 was the perfect foil to the complex flavors in the dish.
A beautiful, if simple, Khmer Tamarind Salad (Nyoam Teuk Amp-uhl)of greens including lettuce, pea shoots and "Phil's" carrots was next with a tasty tamarind dressing. I loved the in-bloom watercress flowers that were quite large and yellow atop the salad as these were tasty and not bitter as some edible flowers can be. Domaine les Fouques Cotes de Provence Cuvee de l'Aubigue Rose 2013 was a superb crisp wine and ideal for any dressed salad.

American Wagyu (Bao Gua Bao) was our main course and again with beautiful steamed rice buns (which we were told are gluten free) and more of that yummy Hoisin. We made our own bao sandwiches with the lean meat and accompanying pickled veggies. A Marc Kreydenwiess Costieres-de-Nimes Perrieres 2010 was aged enough for sure, but didn't have enough punch in it's light red mix to work well with the intense flavors of the meat, pickles and hoisin.....

Dessert was Banana Cream Pie and I would call it RE-constructed (no deconstructed) with Struesel, Caramel, Pastry Cream and Coconut. Not one plate had a bite left on the table.

Kosher for Passover "style" Dining at Dino's Grotto in DC's Shaw (4-5-15)

Every year we head out on one night of Passover since we try to avoid leaven and enjoy a Passover-style meal at DIno's Grotto in Shaw. This year was truly the best of all Chef Dean Gold's years and the food was impressive. The three of us gobbled up most of the food served family-style, and what was left we took home for later and enjoyed again the next two days!
Trio of Charosets offered up some novel takes on the Seder dish which is used to dip the horseradish in. Here we had one with Dried Fruit, Coconut, Chestnut Paste and Poppy Seed which was sweeter than I am used to, but I enjoyed the tropical tinge. Cooked Dates and raisins was amore Sephardi take and the third was a traditional Apple & Walnut with Spices.
I think the best thing we all adored was the Leek Fritter with Saffron which Samuel really wanted seconds on, but we proceeded to what Chef Gold calls "The Passover Trinity:"
Chopped Chicken Liver which is easily some of the best around town--although Samuel will never touch this :-))
Matzo Ball Soup, which Samuel will always gobble up, and this was a tasty one with light fluffy balls as well.
The Gefilte Fish was a huge hit of the meal for both Will and me as it was made from Salmon, Rockfish & Mahi making it probably the best I have ever had anywhere--no questions asked!

The main course was several items again family style and came served with Sweet Potato Tsimmes and Matzo Farfel with Mushrooms both of which the adults loved.
Fish with Citrus and Ginger came in the form of a delicious Salmon Fillet which Sam ignored that night, but gobbled up at home a night or two later.
Braised Veal Breast was the least impressive of the mains, but on the other hand the Tuscan-Matzo-Fried Chicken with Livorno Leek & Tomato Sauce was spectacular with an amazing juicy fried chicken, crunchy coating which anyone would adore on Passover and superb sauce.
Desserts were a dairy Almond Torte with Nuts, Cinnamon Ice Cream and Caramel Drizzle-YUM as well as Macaroons (I like mine better, sorry!)
We always have fun at Dino's Grotto as the staff is friendly and we get to chat with Chef Gold and his wife who are so warm and loving and caring.
Dino's is great ALL YEAR, don't save it just for Pesach!

DC's AL DENTE anniversary dinner is delicious (4-2-15)(please forgive my lateness)

Hi folks,
The night before Passover we decided to do a carb binge and chose AL DENTE where Chef Roberto Donna was actually holding a 3rd Anniversary Party for the restaurant in our neighborhood.
I am very sorry for the delay on this write-up, but Passover came and then my computer decided to misbehave, so I am quite backed up on this group!
At any rate Samuel looked at the menu and immediately chose the RAVIOLI del PLIN since he adores the butter sage sauce not to mention the meat stuffing and veal jus. They were superb and reminded me of how Chef Donna is truly one of the greatest pasta makers we know.
Before we ordered some anniversary nibbles arrived in the form of a shrimp arancini (fried risotto ball) which we offered to Sam as he loves them, not knowing it was risotto and shrimp. He was not happy as he truly does not like shrimp, at least for the past couple of years. When will this change again?
Prosciutto and parmesan cheese were on a slab of bread as was mozzarella and tomato, but the yummy tastes were the huge meatball with hot sauce and an Italian style mini-frittata.
We ordered a bottle of 2010 Val D'Aosta (Piedmont) called Donna's Nebbiolo which was specifically bottled for Chef Donna from near the French border (hence the label using the French valley's name Valle D'Aoste).
The wine is an awesome blend of 90% Nebbiolo with 5% each of Freisa and Neyret from the Caves Cooperatives de Donnas!
Will and I decided to order two starters to share. The Fried Zucchini Flowers with Ricotta, Lemon and a slight hint of mint were just in season and truly fresh and refreshing, while the Fried Sardines were superb with a Salsa Verde and Arugula topping. The bones lifted right out of each fish for simple bone-free degustation.
Will, knowing that Passover was 24 hours away chose the Pizza Salsiccia e Rapini with tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, pork sausage, garlic and wonderfully fresh broccoli-rabe. I went traditional with the Veal Saltimbocca topped with Prosciutto and Sage in a rich thick Marsala Wine Sauce with Sautéed Spinach and a Potato Puree Tower.
We were way too full to even think of dessert and went home knowing that it might be a week without bread or pasta, but we had our fine share that night.
Congratulations Chef Donna on three wonderful years almost around the corner; it's good to have you so close!


Thursday, April 02, 2015

COLICCHIO & SONS soars in NYC's Meatpacking District (3-28-15)

Samuel, along with us, has always enjoyed Top Chef on TV, so he asked to go to Tom Colicchio's restaurant in NYC for our last night as we had no theater plans that evening after the awesome matinee of "On the Town." COLICCHIO & SONS is located on the Hudson River just off 14th Street across the street from the way-too-fun Chelsea Market where we spent too much time eating and wandering before being late for our dinner reservation. The hostess was so gracious and kind and we were so embarrassed. We were escorted to a beautiful dark wood table in the super high-ceiling rooms (more noise, alas) with carpeted floors )less noise). Exposed black steel girders divide and support (no, it's not a bra) the room. They have cool lighting which I can't describe and an awesome service team with our main server Morgan. The teams work so well together that everything was truly flawless and perfectly spaced as well.
The menu consists of several sections which Morgan explained were smaller size plates so you could choose more dishes and also share. House filtered sparkling or still is available, which is always welcome and we spoke to Patrick, the sommelier about our love of wines, especially those off the beaten track. He suggested an amazing minerally, dry and creamy Blanc et Morgez et de Salle from Valle d'Aosta in Italy on the French border from Maison Vevey Albert 2013 (hence the French name). The Prie Blanc varietal is one I never heard of but will surely remember for the future; the wine was supreme with all our fish dishes as well. Schott crystal is also nice, but the silly woven mats need to go on the tables.
House made Parker rolls arrived in a huge cast iron pan steaming hot with sea salt on top which we all gobbled up way too fast.
First came Hearts of PALM with Blood Orange & Sheep's Milk Yogurt with Brussels Sprouts Chips for Will. The dish had the hearts steamed on the thicker portions, so it was actually prepared two different ways.
Samuel started with the Broccoli-Rabe Ravioli which are charred and served in a broth with Lemon & Pepperoncini (actually Pequillo peppers) which he liked but said the broth was a bit unexciting. He went on to the Beef Tartare with Apple Jicama, Smoked Mayo and a kick from Aleppo Chiles, which disappeared prontissimo.
My first dish was the Marinated Himachi with Citrus, Celery, Pistachio & Watercress which I adored due to its simplicity but flavor as well; the pistachio crumble and dust was  very nice touch.
Will & I then split the Squid Ink Campanelle with Whipped Lardo & Egg which Morgan explained was awesome, but rich. It was wise to split this dish indeed and we were in love with every bite. Even the crunchy breadcrumbs on top were an asset to the perfect pasta preparation.
We were thrilled and surprised to receive a complimentary extra course for ALL of us in the form of the divine Celery Saffron Butter Poached Lobster with Candied Fennel and Fingerling Potato Chips which even Sam ate this reluctantly at first on the dare that he would get an extra APP for his phone. Well, he declared after that I can now cook lobster at home and he will eat it. Score one for the dads. The dish was awesome and truly a revelation.
For our "main" course, which is a misnomer as the dishes are all the same size Will chose the Charred Octopus with Citrus, Caramelized Endive & Chorizo Vinaigrette which I can only say was beyond compare as the octopus was so tender; like "buttah." The same goes for my Dry-Aged Sirloin with Asparagus, Black Garlic and Soy Bordelaise. I normally avoid steaks, but Morgan steered me to this super tender way more than flavorful meat that was indeed like "buttah." The garlic sauce helped a lot too:-)).
While Will finished the white wine, I ordered a glass of Artai 2009 "Closa Batllet" from Priorat in Catalunya, Spain which was an awesome chewy spicy red that paired excellently with the garlic and sirloin thanks to Patrick.
I was leaning towards cheese before the dessert menu came, but fell in love when my awesome platter arrived. There were three separate preparations (you can do one or three) each one a treat in itself:
SPENDIN' CHEESE was a Tickler (cow) from Devon with Mango Chutney in the form of a BLT on a biscuit with fried Prosciutto, avocado, roasted tomato and egg yolk. I could eat this BLT any day for lunch, or dinner or breakfast!
LET THEM EAT CHEESE was a Stilton Colston-Bassett from Nottinghamshire with a Vanilla Torte, Sweet Port/Lavender Sorbet(ice) and egg yolk as well as crumble. Again, sheer genius at work thinking these ideas up.
DON'T MIND IF I CHOUX (which is a play on the French pastry pate a choux, as opposed to the cabbage) and has Pyrenees Brebis (sheep) from Aquitaine with Cream filled Gougeres (puffs), Apple-Cherry Chutney, Fried Sage and Spiced Honey.
I honestly could not pick a favorite.

Samuel chose the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Port, Blood Orange and Cookies N' Cream Ice Cream. It was gone before I could even taste a bite.
Will has the yummy Coconut Cream Doughnuts with macadamia Nuts, Pomegranate-Ginger jam & Grilled Pineapple Sorbet.
Bravos to Pastry Chef Stephen Collucci, not to mention Chef de Cuisine Chris Lavey and the entire team here for a truly awesome last supper in NYC!

Midtown Manhattan's (NYC) PERA will perk up your taste buds at brunch (3-28-15)

While in NYC last weekend we met my niece for brunch and I chose PERA, a wonderful mid-town Turkish eatery that has a superb brunch deal with main course/brunch drink and coffee or tea for $21.00!
Yummy seeded rolls arrived with FETA Butter which we gobbled up and my niece was in the mood for Hummus which is served warm with LAMB Bacon and lots of tasty lavash flatbread crisps. The hummus was superb, but the bacon was skimpy and fatty; frankly our kosher vendors Hillel & Chaim who make Lambaaacon and sell it at the Bethesda Farmer's market every Sunday do a far superior job!
I had the SUMAC Bloody Mary which was tasty and had a super kick, but since Will is highly allergic to sumac, he had a delish Blood Orange Margarita.
My niece ordered the Pera-Style French Toast which looked awesome and came with Pistachio Jam, Feta Cheese & brandied Strawberries.
Samuel had the Chicken Brochette which was fire-roasted "tender marinated breast" with Garnish Salad (tomato) and lavash. He also insisted on the Mediterranean Fries which were seasoned so well, ketchup was not needed.
Will went for the kofte Slider of Grass-fed beef, "isot biber" mayo, more lamb bacon, Brussels Sprouts slaw and a side of those yummy fries.
Our server Kelly doubled as the bartender and seemed to be running the whole place which was cozy and warm on a cold day, but quite empty as it is at 42nd St & Madison Avenue which is quite quiet on a weekend.
He was very helpful and guided me to the Crock Baked Eggs which came in a huge cast iron pan and had a flan-like tortilla on the bottom, baked eggs all gooey and runny and mixed with Soujouk (sausage), Pastirma (a kind of crispy pastrami), fresh tomatoes and Kasseri cheese. It was one of the best brunch dishes ever.