Thursday, November 29, 2007

looking to LAFAYETTE at the HAY ADAMS

Last night I was invited to a private supper at the HAY ADAMS Hotel here in DC, a notable and beautiful landmark where the Chef de Cuisine prepared a quite amazing menu. The new owners of the hotel have upgraded the wine cellar and are doing quite a spectacular job as can be seen from the delicious menu below:

CREME of CAULIFLOWER CURRY FLOREST served with Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut, N/V, France which was more of an amuse but totally creamy and tasty getting us really excited for what was to come...

LOBSTER, SCALLOP, FENNEL & WHITE TOMATO MOUSSE TERRINE Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Artisan Series 2004, AustraliaThe wine was a creamy huge chard and went wonderfully with the mousseline like terrine which was almost misty in its texture akin to a cloud. Chunks of Lobster were on the plate as well and it was a beautiful presentation to look at to boot.


This was a huge and satisfying red for a winter's night and a wine I will look for in the future as it is drinking wonderfully now, but will also last for years. It was perfect with the ensuing cheese course as well. The venison was so light, I thought it was VEAL Medallions at first and the sauce was not too heavy but definitely delightful. The sides were spectacular giving a whole new meaning to hotel food!

BOONE BOUCHE Vermont ash ripened GOAT CHEESE was served with OREGONZOLA a medium intensity gorgonzola from ROGUE CREAMERY in OREGON (hence the name) which I actually adored.

WHITE CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING with Cranberry Compote and Soft Whipped Cream was a small disc of some of the best bread pudding around, and I ate every bite just leaving the cream!

YUM YUM and cheers to Chef Ville Uusimaki (who is incidentally from Finland).

Monday, November 19, 2007

more praise for PEKING GOURMET INN (Falls Church, VA)

Last April we joined our dear friends Mel & Juan at their traditional family gathering spot for special occasions, PEKING GOURMET INN ( on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church, VA. Last night we joined them again for an even more fabulous Chinese dining experience, even better than last time. We did order a number of the same dishes, but also tried some new ones.

The FRIED CHINESE LEEK DUMPLINGS are not to be missed and you can choose to dip them in soy sauce or a soy/vinegar combo, but best is the creamy sweet garlic paste that just seems to be the best condiment around.

The SZECHUAN CABBAGE is simple and cold and not too spicy, so I added some of the marinated Chinese chili peppers, which were pretty mild as well this time around--a nice combination in the end. Once can not skip the presentation of the PEKING DUCK which is such a treat here, and our servers did it great justice! The Chinese scallions are grown on the owner's own farm in Purcelville, VA. The duck is as tender as can be and the skin is crispy and luscious. Wrap this up in the pancake with a dab of plum sauce and you are in heaven. Our other entrees were WALNUT CHICKEN which is prepared with battered chicken breast pieces in a tangy glaze (somewhat akin to sweet & sour) and served with yummy candied walnuts. Again the menu indicates this is spicy, but I thought not at all.

The SINGAPORE RICE NOODLES are an excellent choice for a bit of spice and are delicate rice noodles in a very light curry sauce, almost a film rather than a sauce.

SZECHUAN BEEF comes looking like branches of shredded beef and has that wonderful crunchy texture and a good amount of spice while the BLACK PEPPER BEEF is huge chunks of beef in a slightly spicy peppery sauce and coating.

The top dish here besides the duck will always be the JEO-YEN SHRIMP which one of us said was "like sex in my mouth." They are the best battered shrimp anywhere and come with that superb light coconut flavor.

Another seasonal treat is the GARLIC SPROUTS also from the Purcellville farm and we chose them STIR FRIED with PORK. While you can get them with shrimp or chicken, I think their strength really calls for the pork to equalize the intensity of the tasty sprout.

We needed to skip dessert, but our hosts brought a magnificent GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE procured from Desserts by Gerard in Oxon Hill, which we all devoured despite being so full. Sam gets to have a taste tonight! The wines were superb as well with a FOLEY 2005 SANTA RITA HILLS Pinot Noir and a 2004 SIMI Russian River Chardonnay going so well with everything.

But, boy do I need a rest before Thanksgiving. HAVE A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

ramble into RUMBEROS in DC for tasty tapas and more

A new neighborhood is dawning and improving daily in Adam's Morgan/Mt.Pleasant in the Tivoli Theater corridor on 14th Street, NW and can be witnessed by the onslaught of several new upscale dining spots amongst the mid-level and low-level chains as well as the wonderful Central American spots.

RUMBEROS at 3345 14th St, NW ( is actually in the Tivoli complex and sports some of the huge pillared columns from the original theater, red walls with lots of modern Latino art (for sale at reasonable prices) and suffers only a bit from a lack of great service. Once we told our pleasant server Veronica that we needed to be at the theater at 730pm, there were no problems; we just worried a bit, and then all the food came and was wonderful.

The wines are good and reasonable too. We started with a DON ARIANO 2004 Tannat-Syrah blend from Canelones in Uruguay. I joked with Veronica, asking if 2004 was a good year in Uruguay, and wouldn't you know she was Uruguayan and insisted on trying to find out! OUr second wine was even better, A TERRA NOBLE Gran Riserva CARMENERE 2005 from the Maule Valley in Chile. These are slightly tannic full bodied warm wines, just great as the cold sets in right now in DC and excellent with the full falvors of the food as well.

The four of us could not decide what to have so we boiled it down to 5 tapas selections and 2 entrees to share which was just perfect, and with the 2 bottles of wine the bill came to only $150 without tax and tip; not bad for a filling mail minus dessert.

Our tapas choices were: CAMARONES CARIBENOS al RON which were more lemony than rum tasting shrimp, but the rich buttery sauce was yummy to mop up with bread. YUCA FRITA came with a bland mojo sauce and when we asked for some aoili or such to beef it up, a mediocre chimichurri sauce arrived, which was better, could not touch that of the sauce at Guantanamera in NYC on its super hangar steak with chimichurri! This is the only dish I would avoid, while the yuca was wonderful, it really needs something better to dip in for moisture.

CALAMARES al TEQUILA were tender sauteed squid in Spanish paprika and a tasty Sherry-Vinegar sauce, also great for mopping up. I loved the slight spice in the paprika and this portion was also huge with 5 pieces each about 4 inches long and scored into ringlets.

I have always adored mofongo since visiting Puerto Rico and here is it served as a tapas MOFONGO con MARISCOS and prepared in a wooden cyclinder with the plantains battered onto the side of the wood.

Normally the tomato-sauced mixture of meat or seafood is inside this, but here it is served on the side with Garlic, Shrimp & Scallops and you can simply spoon it over the plantains after you scoop a bit out of the cylinder, or fill it up yourself if you are not sharing! It was very tasty and I would love to see several versions (perhaps lobster and pork or chicken) as an entree.

The big star tapas winner was the TORREJITA de ESPINACA which was simply akin to a spinach latke with shallots, garlic and Guayanes cheese oozing in its middle. Think cheesy cream spinach breaded and fried like a latke (but these were just sauteed or baked, cutting the fat and) giving tons of flavor!

Our two entree choices were the ROPA VIEJA served of course with Rice & Beans (as everything is) and it was a tasty one as well, but again, not as excellent as that I just had recently in Guantanamera in NYC. The RED SNAPPER with Seafood Sauce was a treat with the sauce actually having a light tomato base with mussels, shrimp and calamari as well. The fish was excellent, and I would like to try other fish on a later visit, because I know we will return to Rumberos!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Super service and surprises at SPEZIE

Last night we were invited to SPEZIE (1736 L St, NW - where we discovered an old friend who had disappeared from the restaurant scene in DC for a short while. Award winning Chef CESARE LANFRANCONI who ran the kitchen at Tosca for so many years, is now in charge at this warm charming little spot, that we did not even know existed, and he is doing miracles in their kitchen.

Our set menu was no less than a revelation and was accompanied by superb wines: LA CALA Vermentino di Sardegna was a crisp and fruity white that was perfect with the ROASTED MAINE SCALLOPS with RED BEET, Cured Lemon Salad and Creamy Sea Urchin Sauce. I switched to the delicious red, a wine I always enjoy with lighter meats and pastas: MICHELE CHIARLO Barbera d'Asti "Le Orme" and it, too, was perfect with the two pastas served simultaneously: HOMEMADE RAVIOLI Stuffed with ROASTED PUMPKIN & AMARETTO COOKIES with Fresh SAGE & PARMESAN SAUCE & HOMEMADE PAPPARDELLE with WILD BOARD & CHANTERELLE RAGU. These are two of my favorite types of pasta and sauces as well, and all we could do was rave, rave, rave!

The ROASTED VEAL FILET with BATTUTO SPINACH and Roasted Potatoes, Porcini Mushroom Sauce was delectable and by this time I think we all agreed, the meal was sheer perfection, as was the superb staff and service.

Dessert was a DOUBLE CHOCOLATE & HAZELNUT MOUSSE Cake with Seasonal Berries & Vanilla Sauce which I ate evry single bit of, and most folks know I tend NOT to finish desserts these days; enough said!

We look forward to returning to SPEZIE and seeing our old pal Cesare in the kitchen again many more times; it was great to find him doing so well!