Saturday, May 23, 2009

MORTON's steaks still superb and more....

Every now and then I get a mailing from Morton's (you can sign up at offering a $99.99 special for two which includes a huge meal that we always take home lots of leftovers from!

Last night several friends of mine from Jamaica joined me since Will was out of town and we headed to the Morton's on Connecticut Ave, NW (and L St.) in downtown DC, which despite the Memorial Day weekend was pretty busy.

The atmosphere is dark and clubby; we had trouble reading the menus and wine bottle label at times, but he staff is always friendly and our server Jake was a gem, having just graduated from Geo. Wash. Univ. and trying to figure out where to head with his future. He was so upbeat and most refreshing.

The huge loaf of warm onion bread came and we ordered a bottle of superb TAZ Vineyards "Goat Rock" Syrah 2002 from Santa Barbara, California. It was a super full-bodied wine with plum, mild tannins and indeed ideal for all the heavy food to follow.

Our friend David being on a limited diet chose the excellent LOBSTER BISQUE to start, rich and creamy, and great for extra weight and then went on to a large platter of SMOKED SALMON, which he said was good, but a bit too salty as he prefers the salmon to be less salty (maybe it was the load of capers!).

The rest of us went for the STEAK & SEAFOOD SPECIAL at $49.99 per person (they will accommodate any number of people even though the deal is billed as per couple at $99.99). This starts with a choice of House or Caesar Salad, and we had the latter which is a huge plate, and tthey even added a 1/2 dozen anchovies to mine at no cost makin it truly a great salad, despite the plain croutons that I simply avoided (the onion bread is better!).

The main course consists of a SINGLE CUT FILET (8 ounces) and a seafood choice (the other options are scallops or shrimp) and we immediately chose the JUMBO LUMP CRAB CAKE. This is an excellent virtually all crab cake seared to perfection with little breading and a slight crunch on the top. The lemony sauce that accompanies is superb and a nice change from tartar or remoulade. The steak is always great and comes with BEARNAISE if you like (on the side). In addition each couple gets a potato and veggie. Last night we tried the superb tasty MASHED POTATOES, creamy, rich and with a little bit of crunchy topping that was a light seasoning for fun. The BAKED POTATO is monstrous and splits between two (or more) people easily. It is lots of fun since they always present the butter, sour cream and bacon bits as you like for each person. Finally, the GARLIC STRING BEANS were garlicky, but not intense, not mushy and really just right.

Dessert options (yup, it's included in the $49.99) are two choices and neither is my preference, but they are as expected HUGE. KEY LIME PIE is nice and loaded with whipped cream. I sampled two bites and let one of my guests take the rest home! The Legendary HOT CHOCOLATE CAKE got raves.

This deal can be upgraded for $8 per person if you prefer a DOUBLE CUT of FILET (how could anyone eat a pound of this with everything else....although I guess you can plan another meal with a doggie bag!), Prime Ribeye or Single Cut NY Strip. I'll stick with my filet!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Georgetown's NEYLA knows Middle-East cuisine with flair

Last year at our favorite food event we had the pleasure of meeting Chef Abdul Hash Housh of Georgetown's Neyla (, and while we tend to avoid dining in Georgetown, this was the second night in a row we were thoroughly impressed in the neighborhood. We had bought the dinner at Chef's Best Auction and saved it for my birthday, and each bit was indeed a treat.

Kudos to Nabil our server who seemed to anticipate our every need and showed up within seconds with ARABESQUEs for us all, the house drink made with Absolut Citron, Triple Sec and Infused Lemonade. It was a not at all sweet martini that I would return to regularly. Mana'ish, the toasted pita bread with seasoning came with Lebanese Yogurt and Olives that got us munching; we had no clue what was to follow, but it seemed UNENDING!

The MEZZA or appetizers included Hummus, Fried Kibbeh, Tabbouleh, Kabiss, Chicken Shwarma, Garpe Leaves stuffed with Cinnamon Rice, Lahmajeen (best described as a pizza-like pita with lamb spread on top), Cheese Rolls of Manchego & Goat in Puff Pastry Cigars, Lebanese Sausage, Vegetable Kibbeh, Gambas (shrimp) & Cilantro, Kafta Hara (ground beef with shaved fried garlic) and the best Baba Ghanough we have all ever had in our lives! Highlights were the Baba Ghanough, but all the other dishes shined as well. The Gambas were less buttery or oily than the tapas or Italian style we usually get-here with a sauce that had more body than simply hot butter or oil.

The Kibbeh came with an Indian-like Raita of Cucumber/Yogurt/Mint and the fried garlic on the Kafta Hara was another novelty and tasty treat.

Neyla has outdoor space on the corner of N and Wisconsin, but opted to sit indoors in the Casbah-like dark draped interior with huge bar, mirrors and nice atmosphere.

Kasara Lebanese White wine came with the mezze and red with the main courses...they were both quite tasty and came from the Bekaa Valley. We were even more surprised when the huge platter with so much more arrived, albeit we were grateful for the long rest Nabil gave us! BEEF KABOBS, CHICKEN SHISH TAOUK, BEEF KAFTA, LAMB CHOPS and the most tender LAMB KABOBS all came atop Grilled Tomatoes and Green Sumac Onions with huge bowl of the tastiest RICE PILAR with Slivered Almonds. For taste, GARLIC WHIP is served with the meat and works to perfection. It is made by adding egg white and ice to the garlic mash to make a meringue like dip that is divine.

We were stuffed but gave in to after dinner drinks or coffee as we knew dessert was at hand. The platter included BAKLAVA and other Turkish Pastries, ASCHTA (a fluffy concoction like rice pudding) with Banana, and KANAFFE- a semolina, cream cheese, simple syrup and rosewater mix. I was even more surprised when a small CHOCOLATE MOUSSE FONDANT arrived with Vanilla Ice Cream on Fried Dough with a birthday candle. It was quite good as we each took a small bite. It was delivered by some guy who just seemed to crash our table and try to chat. We had no clue who he was or where he came from, and he was simply quite obnoxious. Will stepped away to ask Nabil to get rid of him and he actually did leave, but came back again! Well, at least he was just chatty and silly and not rude or anything.

This year's birthday gets an A+ and Neyla easily gets top rating on my list for Middle Eastern cuisine. Bravo to Chef Abdel Hash Housh!

Monday, May 18, 2009

you can get a good catch at the SEA CATCH in G'town

Last Monday we visited the SEA CATCH Restaurant on the Canal in Georgetown ( and while I have not been there in ages, I was surprised to find the quality of the food at the highest of levels. We took Samuel with us as it was an early birthday celebration of mine with the entire family (we celebrated the next day--to be reported soon...).

As always Samuel had the FISH & CHIPS and while the fried fish was indeed superb, he seemed to prefer only the fries on this outing. Will started with Purita's Famous GAZPACHO with Crab which was good, but not a bowlover creation. My OYSTER CEVICHE was a great idea to dress up the bivalves and keep their flavor. They were simply dressed with tomato, cilantro and lime and were delish. So much so that we ordered some more raw oysters: Chesapeake, Deer Creek (Washington) & Kusshi (British Columbia); all were superb.

A bottle of VERDEJO from Jose Pariente "Vinedos Dos Victorias" 2007 was a great option with our food as well as it goes with spice from the gazpacho, the oysters and more.

Will opted for the GRILLED SWORDFISH plain with Vegetables as he is dieting, and loved it. I adored the WILD VIRGINIA BLUEFISH with Parsnip Puree, Red Pepper Coulis and slivers of Fried Onions. It was a great preparation of an oh-so-much overlooked fish.

As it was my birthday some desserts came out and we nibbled only a bit. Samuel loved his Lemon Sorbet and the WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE was intense, so I stopped at two bites. The CREME BRULEE was extremely good with a nice crunchy top.

We went home full knowing that SEA CATCH is a good choice if you are in Georgetown, like nice decor (there are tables on the canal) and want a wide variety of seafood choices.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

y'all gonna BRAVO for BONNELL's Fine Texas Cuisine in Ft. Worth

While Fort Worth's downtown revitalization over recent years has brought many fine dining options, as well as lots of great casual ones where you can enjoy a great meal before the opera, many of the quality spots are located in the outer reaches of the city (which is very spread out). In researching, I discovered that award winning chef JON BONNELL had set up his restaurant, BONNELL's FINE TEXAS CUISINE ( about 10 miles from the city center where I am situated. I go there at 5:45pm in about 12 minutes by interstate from my hotel, making this an easy trip (perhaps not so easy during a weekday rush hour) and was back at the opera house downtown by 735pm! It was well worth the trip.

Located at the intersection of I-20 and Bryant Irvin Rd (#4259), little glamour greets you as the feel is truly roadside locale. Inside the lighting gets dim again (I guess this is a Texas thing?) as you make your way through numerous "rooms" divided by 8 foot high walls in the overall space twice this height. The walls have open space so you could reach through to a table nearby and hear conversation, but it serves as a nice dividing spacer. On these ledges are small children's cowboy boots filled with dried flowers. The walls have lots of wildlife photographs and high up on the ceilings you can spot Texas flags and art (cowboy and longhorn tapestries) as well as a huge elk head (this was over 12 points!); the chandeliers are made of elk horns as well. The reason for this is that Bonnell's is truly a game destination as you shall see.

The linens are clean and white and each place has a large thick brown leather serving plate, which remains until your main course comes. Few places in this area are dressy, and indeed, I felt overdressed in a suit jacket and pants (albeit no tie); well, it had gotten chilly and was 73 degrees all day! Some folks looked nice, but there were shorts, sneakers, and of course, several cowboy hats, as well.

I decided to start light and switched from my first leaning (the Venison Carpaccio with green peppercorn dressing) to a superb SHRIMP & REDFISH CEVICHE made with Farm Raised Texas RedFish and White Shrimp with Lime Juice, Tomatoes, Avocado, vey mild Chilies and Crispy Tortilla Strips with a perfectly round lime slice on the rim of the martini glass. It was ideal, and Chef Bonnell truly does stress TEXAS's wonderful local foods; almost everything on the menu is home
grown in the state.

The main courses were so varied from elk to mixed grill to venison loin to kangaroo (also local) to squab (from Europe; I think this was the only entree not from Texas) that it was very hard to decide. I opted for the signature dish of the restaurant: BANDERA GRILLED QUAIL from Diamond H Ranch with Jalapeno-Garlic Cream Sauce, Herbed Mashed Potatoes and Spicy Parmesan Cream Spinach, You can order the dish with one tiny bird for $21, or two for $26. Unless you are not hungry, the latter is the better deal without doubt. The delectable birds were grilled to perfection with crunchy seasoned skin that was divine. The jalapeno-garlic sauce was light, but quite spicy, but easily countered by the milder mashed potatoes. The spinach was not the creamy type we are familiar with from a steak house or the frozen food section, but whole leaves just sauteed and then dressed with a light cream and parmesan pieces; it was not real spicy at all, just divine. There was not a bit in this dish I did not enjoy and thrill over. The "bread" comes with the main courses here and is a small tray of warm puff- pastry like biscuit triangles that are each about three small bites. While buttery, flaky and delicious these were fabulous for wiping up the very little jalapeno-garlic sauce that remained after I finished the yummy birds.

I ordered a glass of WILLAMETTE VALLEY VINEYARDS 2007 Pinot Noir and it arrives in a large Schott crystal (albeit restaurant style) Burgundy glass that was nice. The wine was slightly intense and worked fairly well with the dish, but perhaps a slightly fuller bodied wine would have been better with the spices.

I had to look at the dessert menu which was indeed fun with many options including the Dublin Dr. Pepper Float (think root beer float with Dr. Pepper instead), but was immediately drawn to the TEXAS CHEESE PLATE with Berries and Crostini. The long narrow plate came with nine small tastes which was just perfect. The berries were tasty, but I skipped the buttery crunchy crostini as they really did not complement the cheeses which were all from local farmers in Texas:
Cociotta- a semi-hard cheese with a caraway flavor
Sage Derby-a very mild sage version of the semi-hard cheese
Blanca Blanca -a soft earthy cheese that was one of my favorites
Swiss--which was indeed as Swiss tasting as it gets
Smoked Gouda-a soft, tasty Texas version of the Dutch
Most of these cheeses were semi-hard, but ever so creamy in the mouth
Goat-a mild creamy one
Brie- a ripe very runny version that was also a delight but not too strong
Horseradish Cheddar -was the only one I did not like as it seemed to be lacking in both horseradish and that intense cheddar flavor
I love Blue-a mild blue that was soft and slightly creamy...a perfect finish to the meal.

The only problem of finding these delightful new places to dine is that each year I return for the Fort Worth Opera Festival, it is SO HARD to choose which ones to return to, and which new ones to try!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ft. Worth's MERCURY CHOPHOUSE makes more than meat

I tend to avoid chop and steak houses, but yesterday someone told me to head to the MERCURY CHOPSHOUSE in Sundance Square (301 S. Main St) in downtown Fort Worth before attending the opera. I thought, "$40 steaks before the opera....INSANE." But I tried it and was very happy to see the MERCURY CHOPHOUSE featured much more than meat. Located in an historic building it has a dark clubby feel with lots of mini-booths of leather for two as well as large tables in an area separated from the slightly noisy bar by a low wooden wall. The ceilings are exposed and the walls have some old photos of downtown, mirrors and not much more. The lighting was a bit too dim for me at 6pm when it was sunny and 90 degrees outside.

My server Linda was a bowl full of bubbles. Water came with a huge loaf of tasty homemade sourdough bread. and I ordered the OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER to start. There were a dozen plump Gulf oysters with spinach, cream sauce, a bit of spice and topped with a crunch bread crumb topping. My FRANCISCAN SAUVIGNON BLANC was as grapefruity as a wine can get, and was a nice size Texas pour as well.

I opted for the Mussels main course which was over a pound of Prince Edward Island bivalves (that's about 24 in the shells, plus another 3 or 4 loose ones in the sauce) in a spicy Tomato-Herb sauce with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese on top. The sauce was thinner than a marinara, but still slightly thick. There were two huge slices of the buttered toasted Sourdough on the side that were just begging to be used to mop up that sauce.

It was funny that the bus boy put the plate down and said, "here are your scallops!"

I finished with a small salad special of FIELD GREENS with HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, MOZZARELLA and Balsamic Vinaigrette. As a subscriber to the opera, we get 18% off plus free dessert at the ChopHouse! So I tasted the GRAHAM CRACKER CRUSTED LIME TART which was very rich and with a thick marzipan-cream-like topping. After two bites I finished off the macerated berries in the sauce on the side and called it a meal. All this for $44 without tip! What a deal.