Monday in the summer is always a bit quiet, and it was not a full house last night in the least. The cooler (well, for a day at least) weather made me hungry and I had so much trouble deciding what to eat, so I ordered three appetizers (well, really four), and our guests thoroughly enjoyed their first visit to this winner of so many awards (2401 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.-www.marcelsdc.com), so much so that they decided to come back soon to celebrate a birthday!
Marcel's has always been special for us, and indeed a place to celebrate, whether with family, friends or intimately. The service is of the finest quality, the food always superb, and I have never met a soul that leaves unhappy!
We started with a DUTTON GOLDFIELD 2003 Russian River RUED Vineyard Chardonnay that just oozed oak and overtones of those big California Chards. It was a perfect aperitif and drank so beautifully, whether alone or with food. The amuse of ROASTED RED PEPPER FLAN with Creme Fraiche and Chives was an intense flavor burst and welcome start to our evening of fine dining.
Our appetizers were varied and all beyond our greatest expectations:
BEEF TARTARE with Grilled Baguette & Quail Egg was creamy from the homemade mayonnaise and had just the right amount of pepper for a bite.
CREAM of CORN SOUP with Jumbo CRAB FLAN and Pea Tendrils had a bite as well from the white pepper, but really should be called bisque as it is quite rich and creamy.
Two of us chose the scallops, and since there were TWO scallop appetizers on the menu they graciously agreed to let us have half a portion of each:
MAINE DIVER SCALLOPS with ARTCHOKES, English Peas, Roasted Peppers and Chardonnay Cream was the lighter of the two...how perfect with chardonnay, too. AND
PAN SEARED DIVER SCALLOP with YELLOW WAX BEAN RISOTTO & Red Wine Syrup was the other (from the tasting menu), which I have had before and always adore. There is no grain or pasta in the "risotto," since it is really a take one the dish using the beans chopped up small and then placed in the wine sauce. YUM YUM. It was hard to decide which half of the plate was more enjoyable.
Our second wine was a French Chardonnay, SAINT ROMAIN from Domaine Bertrand Ambroise 2004 which had lots of fruit, a slight acidity normal for the French varietal and lots of full body, it was even better with the red wine scallops with wax bean risotto.
As I said, I could not decide on an entree and was so enthralled with the many appetizers that I had three of those. My next was the NAPOLEON of SUMMER TOMATO, GRILLED ONION, GOAT CHEESE Dressing and Lardons of Bacon. I was expecting a goat cheese dressing, but it was literally gorgeous yellow and red tomatoes layered with rich goat cheese; rich, but delicious, and a perfect interlude.
My final appetizer was the monstrous sized RAVIOLIS of DUCK CONFIT with GREEN PEPPERCORN Sauce. This was indeed a very filling portion of two huge raviolis stuffed with yummy confit in a masterful sauce. By now, we had also switched wines to a special bottle we had brought along from our cellar: CLOS ST. DENIS 1985 Domaine Dujac, now at 21 years old was at first a huge burst of Pinot Noir flavors in the nose, so typical of a great Burgundy. The wine was bigger in the mouth at first, but quickly dissipated, so we drank it rather fast, enjoying every sip. It was fine with the food, but even better just alone.
The Pinot paired perfectly with the FARM HOUSE CHICKEN, on the menu since day one, the gorgeous GROUPER FILET with Potato Galette, Baby Spinach, Aged Sherry Shallot Butter (I wish we saw grouper more often in DC!), but perhaps overpowered a bit by the VEAL SHANK with Melange of WILD FOREST MUSHROOMS, Yukon Gold Potato Puree and Veal Jus.
By dessert we were starting to wind down and shared two:
RASPBERRY CENTERED MILK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE with Berry Coulis and White
Peach Sorbet, was a perfect size to share as it was rich, but not too huge (as my mousse at Talulla was). The excellent sorbet was the perfect foil to the chocolate as well.
The BLACKBERRY SORBET came in three adorable bowls each with a scoop and we all raved about the quality of the fruit-intense and smooth treat.