Saturday, May 29, 2010

TILLMAN's ROADHOUSE is terrific in Ft. Worth (5-29-10)

Our second night in Ft. Wort took us several minutes west of downtown
to a spanking new neighborhood full of upscale stores, dining and
offices that were nowhere to be seen on my last visit a year ago.
Hidden a block off West 7th Street is TILLMAN's ROADHOUSE
( 2933 Crockett Street), a branch of the
Dallas location, but with it's own amazing and wondrous character.
Full of blond woods, booths and sadly more still not so comfy wooden
chairs is a huge spacious set of rooms, one with is huge central two-
story bar made from slices of cork and logs. Dripping crystal
chandeliers, knickknacks abound and a wall full of animal head, but
here made from wood instead of stuffed, make this one of the hottest
new, yet casual, destination to dine.

Again, the kid's menu amazes and Samuel had a $6 plate of superb
CHICKEN FINGERS & Fries with housemade ketchup and ranch dressing dip
(he would have none of the latter). As we sat down two huge pewter-
like ladles were set before us, one filled with house roasted peanuts
and the other with divine Truffle Butter Peppered Popcorn (we took
refills on this as well as a small box to go!) which we all gobbled up
fast. The water served was filtered NATURA for free and comes in
sparkling or still!
Our server Kelly was kind, friendly, casual and helpful describing
everything we were unsure of and helping us to choose. Will had the
LAUGHING BIRD SHRIMP (Caribbean) CEVICHE with Salsa Roja, Corn
Poblanos and Tortilla Chips. This was a less traditional ceviche (not
limey or vinegary), yet tasty with cumin-dusted chips to boot. My
FARMER's SALAD made up of oh so many local wonderful ingredients was a
treat: Tassione Farms Arugula, Mr. Lembey's Blackberries (tasty wild
morsels), Pickled Fennel, Grilled Cooper Farm's Peaches, Smoked Almond
slices in a Sherry Vinaigrette with two of Paula's Goat Cheese
croquettes on the side that just melted in my mouth.

For main courses Will could not resist the novelty of the VENISON
FRITO PIE with White Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream and Scallion Greens, a
variation on the ground beef frito pie and served with an extra bag of
Frito's on the side in case you go for more crunch. My LANDY BURGER
was an excellent Sirloin & Foie Gras Burger with Madeira Aioli,
Tassioni Farm Pea Tendrills and Goat Milk Gouda Tater Tots on the
side. The huge burger had to be cut in quarters and each bite was
simply and explosion of divine flavors in my mouth.

Samuel's blueberry ice cream was not a hit, but we were so full, we
left without even thinking of dessert.
We wanted to go back today for lunch, but they are closed for the

Ft. Worth breakfast Southern Style at the Ol' South Pancake House

Saturday morning we opted for a late breakfast and the hotel
recommended the OL' SOUTH PANCAKE HOUSE about 5 minutes from downtown
( 1509 South University Drive) as we knew
Samuel loves pancakes. I must mention how kid-friendly most dining
spots are here since everywhere has these really cheap kids' menus.
Samuel had a $5 plate with 2 pancakes, 2 slices of bacon and a large
one egg omelet. He devoured it all and asked for another omelette
(which they charge $1.00 for!).
Will went for the CORNED BEEF HASH with Poached eggs, with a side of
BISCUITS & GRAVY which were two huge tasty biscuits with an entre full
bowl of gravy!
I, feeling totally southern, went for the CHICKEN FRIED STEAK and
Scrambled Eggs which came with a Biscuit and smaller bowl of gravy.
The steak was, of course, not a prime cut, but it was tasty and
battered and fried to a crisp tasty perfection.
We were all set for the day and could not eat a bite until dinnertime!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ft Worth, TX-divine dining experience at ELLERBE's (5-28-10)

We all arrived here for the long holiday weekend and chose a slate of
all new places that have opened in the past year and everything has
been truly a treat so far.
Our first night was an adult dinner before the opera and we stopped by
the adorable wine bar in our hotel (The OMNI Ft Worth) called the WINE
THIEF for a quick sip. Will tried the flight of sparkling wines
consisting of 2005 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut which was quite tasty
and yeasty. The other two were Flor Proseccos, a brut and a Rose that
was the driest rose around. I opted for the chardonnay flight with a
tasty bright Millbrandt 2006 from Washington State, and over the top
Hahn SLH 2006 from California that was just too old-style California
for drinking alone and a yummy Charles Wiffin 2007 from Marlborough,
New Zealand.

Dinner was at ELLERBE Fine Foods ( in a new
up and coming neighborhood just 5 minutes southwest of downtown. A
converted 1920's gas station has concrete floors, brick walls, nice
table linens (but wrecked by that large piece of brown paper!), not so
comfy wooden chairs and exposed ceilings with a stellar staff headed
by owner/manager Richard King and a kitchen run by owner/manager Molly
McCook, who hails from Louisiana, and had brought her home style
recipes with her to Texas.

Our server Woody raved about the salads and said all the produce is
very local, so Will opted for the Scott Farm Heirloom TOMATO Salad wit
Carter Farm HARICOTS VERTS, Creamy Basil Dressing, Brazos MOZZARELLA,
Crispy PANCETTA and Marcona ALMONDS--it was worth raving about. My
RABBIT CAILLETTE ad CONFIT on Frisee with Spring PEA Coulis, House
Made Mustard and Country Bread was really two items. A simple rabbit
sausage with pistachio was divine on the salted/peppered toasted bread
and the salad with a mustard-oil dressing on the frisee and confit.
The coulis on the side was great as a little "sauce" on the sausage,
but the frisee/confit combo was the highlight.
We had ordered an ANAM CARA PINOT NOIR "Nichols Estate" Chehalem
Mountain 2006 served in quality Spiegelau crystal was a huge
flavorful Oregon Pinot that won us over. The first round of bread (LA
Brea Bakery Baguette flown in from LA) did not excite us, but the
PLUGRA Butter from France and Red Hawaiian Sea Salt made this a
special treat in itself. The second small plate of bread came out warm
and made this an entire course you would want to order!

The main courses were superb. My Grilled HERB CRUSTED (parmesan) VEAL
T-BONE came out extremely rare, which was fixed very fast and cooked
fine after a second heating. A rich and creamy SHERRY CREAM sauce (not
too much) was generously sprinkled with fresh local MORELS. It was
served with tasty FARRO and B&G Gardens ASPARAGUS. The meat was divine
and the dish just heaven. Will went for the BRAISED Leg of LAMB
LASAGANA with Kalamata Noodles, Crumbled Bazos FETA, Curry Bechamel
and Toasted Pine Nuts--a real stroke of genius in the kitchen here.
Woody suggested we try to Texas Bay SHRIMP & Louisiana Maque Choux
side dish, which we could have eaten as a main course. This slightly
creamy and slightly spicy dish with tasty shrimp, fresh corn,
scallions and a crunch from pancetta.

We could not resist splitting one dessert and chose MAWMAW's BREAD
PUDDING, a segmented muffin with creamy and caramelly WHISKEY Sauce
and Pralined Texas Pecans. The recipe did really come from the chef's
grandmother, but while tasty, was not our favorite or outstanding, but
it was quite good. Yummy French press coffee came with mini-DUCLE di
LECHE Linzer torte-style cookies.
We left full and knowing that Ellerbe's in on out list of must-return
spots in Ft. Worth.

Friday, May 21, 2010

dining at the Argetine Ambassador's and the Opera Ball (5-21-10)

While we have attended some pretty wonderful Opera Ball's here in
Washington, Friday night's truly took the prize. For those of you that
know about "Opera Balls" they are the major fundraiser for a company
and can often bring in MILLIONS of dollars. Here in DC there are the
Embassy suppers that precede the actual ball, and we were invited to
the Residence of the Argentine Ambassador for a wonderful meal with
about 20 or so folks.

Our meal was superb and included GAZPACHO, a Baked VEGETABLE SALAD
with Sunflower Seeds and Pine Nuts with the most beautiful tomatoes to
boot. The white wine was Catena Chardonnay, but the amazing reds were
actually made by the Amabassador's wife, Anabelle Sielecki, who owns a
winery in Mendoza. She named the winery MENDEL after her grandfather
and the two superb wines we drank were MENDEL MALBEC 2007 and MENDEL
UNUS MALBED 2006 (a blend adding 30% Cabernet).
The main course was a tender tasty MONKFISH in CHAMPAGNE SAUCE and a
light Mango sorbet followed as we had the Grand Dessert Buffet coming
at the big ball....

Afterwards we all headed to the Russian Embassy which was truly a
"winter wonderland."

We were greeted by dozens of supers dressed as Boris Godunov (when he
introduced himself, I said I was Natasha and my partner was
Bullwinkle :-))!), princesses, tsars, boyars and more. The courtyard
of the embassy was the scene of a light snowfall saluting the SOCHI
Winter Olympics of 2014 and a ZORB (large hollow bouncing ball) was
bouncing dozens of feet in the air in the snow with a gymnast or
dancer in it!

Upstairs (I think for the first time ever) a concert hall was
dedicated to a showcase performance by the "rising stars of the
Bolshoi Opera" who were flown in for the event. We heard some arias,
and I enjoyed some of the novelties:

Swan Princess Aria from "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" sung wonderfully by
Venera Gimadieva. She also performed Shemakhan Tasritsa's aria (Queen
of Shemakha) from "The Golden Cockerees"(?). Perhaps it should have
read the Golden "Cockerel?"

Less impressive musically was tenor Pavel Kolgatin in Levko's song
from "A May Night."

"Tolstoy's Library" just outside the concert hall featured a Champagne
& Cordial Bar serving up Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot and Perrier
Jouet, while the "Tea Room" featurted a pianist

and in the Golden Ballroom replicas of Faberge eggs were being sliced
and served (they were yummy chocolate cakes!).

Our favorite stop was the Blue Room or Ice Palace with 8 foot high ice
sculptures of the Kremlin, the Russian double eagle seal and more. In
the center was a sevruga caviar bar, oysters, lobster cocktails and
yummy iced pepper vodka. Actually, there were different vodkas
everywhere, not to mention quality wines and spirits. This definitely
was a splurge all event and we all really did feel like Cinderellas &
Cinderfellas at the Ball!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

Saturday, May 15, 2010

doin' the pre-theater at DC's DISH (5-14-10)

I don't often eat out at home before the theater, but last night an
short dinner was in order prior to attending the NSO at the Kennedy
Center. As I don't like to start venturing too far, there are not a
lot of choices within 2-3 blocks, so I decided to return to DISH at
the River Inn ( where I have not been for
quite some time.
We were rewarded with a friendly greeting from manager Keith,
excellent and efficient service from our server Pascale (as well as
recommendations) and a superb meal.
The salads were superb with a MIXED GREENS having small goat cheese
balls inside a kind of crouton and my amazing BEET SALAD coming like a
cylindrical tower with Feta, Arugula, Grapefruit and a Citrus
Dressing. A glass of TORRONTES, Crios de Susana Balbo 2008 Argentina
is always refreshing and paired wonderfully with the citrus of the
salad while my host had the Shiraz/Grenache from Ken Forrester 2005
Stellenbosch, South Africa with her salad. I moved on to a tasty and
full fruit POPPY Pinot Noir from Napa with my perfectly just past PAN
SEARED AHI TUNA with Mixed Greens Salad, Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad.
My host had the winner of the day in the HERB CRUSTED New Zealand Lamb
chops (six chops!!) with Spiced Tomato Marmalade, a brilliant sauce
and such a change from awful mint! The cylinder of Sweet Potato &
Andouille Sausage packed a bit of spice and was one of the best sides
around! A glass of KUEKA LAKE 2007 Cabernet Franc from the Finger
Lakes in NY was a nice wine, but could not hold up to the spice and
big meat of the dish.
Cappuccinos here are superb and I headed off the symphony knowing that
Dish can do it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

1409 Playbill Cafe's full portions and fine neighborhood cuisine

The Dupont Circle/Scott Circle/and are neighborhood corridors have
been busier and busier over the years, but a great stalwart for 15
years is the almost funky 1409 PLAYBILL CAFE at 1409 14th St, NW just
across from the Studio Theater.
We attended a show in their small performance space last night and
found ourselves hungry afterwards and decided to grab a small bite.
They were setting up karaoke and we were kindly seated in a rear
booth, but the singing was actually not loud or even bothersome; some
of the performers were actually quite good!
Our server Jonathan, who goes by Shelby (it's a long story) was a gem;
always with a smile and attentive, he really was a gem. The staff help
each other as they rotate and perform, and nothing seems to get lost.
We had a decent bottle of $25 Cabernet/Merlot Blend from Covey Run in
Washington State (2004 was the vintage, so it's been around a while I
guess!) and each ordered up our sandwich choice. Will went for the
RUEBEN which came oozing hot cheese and a side of superb onion rings.
My FALAFEL WRAP was HUUUUGE (well, Shelby did say they were bigger
than the ones at Chipotle) and had a fine thing wrap that went around
only once, not making this dish too much of a wrap with too little
filling. The Falafel balls were tasty moist and peppery and the salad
accouterments were nice filler. I only wished for a tad more sauce,
perhaps TAHINI dressing in the mix.
There were many options on the burgers (turkey, salmon, veggie, etc)
and entrees as well (meat loaf sounded good) and I think that 1409
offers up a lot of simple home cooked dishes for a very reasonable
price (ours were $10.99 each). Head here if you are hungry, as the
portions are indeed huge!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

sampling Charlotte,NC cuisine (ENSO Asian Bistro & Zink-5/8/10)

Over the weekend I hopped down to Charlotte to see a good friend
perform at the opera and was shocked to see how vibrant the downtown
dining and nightlife scene is. Oddly, there is little else to do such
as shop; other than a couple of museums everything is out of downtown.
Before the opera I ran across the street from the Ritz-Carlton where I
was staying (and forwent their BLT-Bistro Laurent Tourondel) to the
new EPICENTER which is a small complex with movie theater and several
dining spots as well as a CVS and some other stuff. ENSO (meaning
circle in Japanese(at 210 East Trade St) is a huge dining complex, bar
and sushi lounge. It was pretty quiet at 6pm, but I gather it was
jammed later on as the place began to fill around 7pm. Sadly, the
thumping music bombarded the place and kind of shook the place with
the huge bass.
My server Ginny was sweet but just kept going on and on about the
quality of the food, etc. There are two menus (sushi and ala carte)
making decisions harder, so I chose the SEAWEED SALAD with cucumber
and baby greens which was nice and a glass of smooth OZEKI house sake.
I decided on two sushi rolls:
TUNA TATAKI (at $13) was EIGHT pieces (WOW for that price) of barely
seared tuna wrapped around rice, spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber. It
was nice, but not a prize winner.
SPIDER ROLL (again EIGHT HUGE PIECES for $16) was deep fried SOFT
SHELL CRAB (I doubt it was fresh!), lettuce, avocado, cucumber and
masago with a sweet glaze and sesame seeds. The crunch from the
tempura was a treat and Ginny did bring two dips which worked superbly
with each of the dishes rather than soy sauce.
For the crab a thick CHILI Japanese MAYO was rich, but great if used
sparingly. For the tuna a light PONZU-SOY sauce was perfect.
The place has some fun huge chairs, red vinyl chairs, lots of
banquets, a HUGE noisy bar with three large screen TV's sporting
sports and a monstrous blown up photo of a sumo wrestler on the wall.
The decor is nice, but I would dread the noise after 8pm!

As we walked down the street after the opera around 1130pm, I was
shocked to see people spilling out of noisy bars and discos
everywhere. The opera has a post-performance party at a super noisy
place where we lasted all of 5 minutes before heading to ZINK
( at 201 N Tryon St) where the place was
quite deserted. The bar had several occupied tables, but we were seven
people, so the manager opened up the quite nice main dining room for
us, but did warn there was a limited after hours menu from 11pm-1am.
It was super! I salivated over Housemade BLUE CHEESE Potato Chips and
LOBSTER MAC 'n' CHEESE, but we all ultimately chose the various
burgers which are 1/2 price after 11pm. That means HALF of $10...or
$5.00 for my ZINK BURGER of tasty Angus with melted American cheese,
1000 Island Mayo, crispy tasty MAPLE-PEPPER BACON and some slightly
soggy fries. WHAT A DEAL at $5.00. We down a couple of bottles of
WRITER's BLOCK SYRAH from California and went home VERY HAPPY to be
able to chat and be with friends while enjoying a superb burger!