Friday, August 31, 2012

News bulletin:Chef Cesare Lanfranconi lands at LIA's in Chevy Chase, MD (8-30-12)

The other day some friends rang us up and asked if we would like to meet them at LIA's in Chevy Chase ( just outside the DC line off Wisconsin Ave. We agreed, as it's been some time since our last visit there and we also wanted to see our friends!

It was quite busy outside on the patio, but inside it was quieter and more akin to my style of dining. I am well aware that Lia's has always produced good pasta, but our friend's son, the same age as Samuel, would not stop raving about their Spaghetti & Meatballs from the second we arrived. He gobbled up his order with no restrain, as Samuel did his hamburger (we had had pasta the night before at home, so he was not allowed to indulge again!).

The kid's menu pasta is a deal and comes with two side dishes amongst a large choice of veggies, fruits and more.

I ordered the Red Pepper Soup with Crab cake Special to start and Will chose the Burratta with Focaccia and Lemon Truffle Arugula. We sipped a very intense grapefruit/citrus FIRE ROAD Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand and settled in. Will's starter arrived and I was surprised that the "focaccia" was a huge pizza-like piece with the salad and Burratta inside it. It's a carb-intense dish and if you seek the cheese, you might wish to choose the other option from the Cheese Menu of Burratta alone.

All of a sudden Chef Geoff Tracy himself popped out and we said a friendly hello and introduced our friends. He was busy, but we chatted a bit and discovered he is opening in Rockville soon (I probably knew this, but my mind can't retain everything!)

We waited some time, and before I knew it the main courses had arrived. No sign of my soup? I asked the guy who delivered the entrees (he was not our waiter Joshua) and he sent the manager over who apologized profusely. At this point, I simply told them to forget it and please send a bottle of MONFERATTO ROSSO, "Mompertone" 2007 from Prunotto in Piemonte as quickly as possible to enjoy with our main courses, which were ALL superb:

Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Salad was piled high with greens and sported a twist with an eggplant tapenade.

Branzino Balsamico came with sauteed spinach, pine nuts, raisins and a tasty reduced balsamic glaze.

My superb Bacon Wrapped QUAIL was accompanied by a super Saffron Risotto Cake, more of that yummy sauteed Baby Spinach and Crispy Shallots.

Our wine finally arrived as I was 80% done with my food and even the delay on the refills for the boys' lemonade was odd. We thought that the outside may have been so busy, things were getting a bit delayed.

Since I missed my starter, I decided some cheese was in order and Will wanted dessert. He chose the excellent NUTELLA Chocolate Tart with macadamia Nuts, Roasted White Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream and Fried Banana (Plantain). I asked Joshua if there was a cheese plate and was told only each cheese by itself. There is a wide selection of cheeses, and I wanted 3 or 4, but the price point and size of a single order made this silly and overindulgent. I chose two which came with some crisp bread and fig puree:

GRAYSON from Meadow Creek in Virginia which was nice, but not as exciting as some of the other Graysons I have had from other producers; it lacked taste and excitement and pungency.

On the other hand the TRUFFLE TREMOR that Joshua suggested was a California Goat that oozed flavor and was aging beautifully as the edges were soft and slightly runny under the light rind-YUM YUM.

It was perfect with the remains of the amazing Prunotto, a superb well known winemaker, but this is the first time I have ever had the Mompertone!

Seconds later we were surprised to have a plate "sent from the kitchen with the chef's compliments" placed before us. It was an odd choice at the end of the meal being crispy sublime Deep Fried Zucchini Flowers. We tried them to our delight, but were full by now. Within a minute a figure well known to us for decades popped out and I was shocked to see Chef Cesare Lanfranconi who is oh so well known in the Italian cucina circuit here in DC. He had left town, apparently for the Bahamas for a year or so, and I thought he had never returned. Well, he is back, and what a pleasure to have him back in DC; now we have to return to Lia's, though I hope they will get my whole order filled next time and maybe they will come up with a multi-cheese platter option for those of use who like tastes :-)).