Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wes Morton makes miracles with heart at ART & SOUL (11-9-12)

I had tried to get to Art & Soul on Capitol Hill

( for ages and something always happened

(traffic, weather, emergency or such). Bumping into Chef Wes Morton at

last weeks fabulous Karen Cathey Annual Crabcake Competition forced my

decision and I made it there last night for a stupendous meal and

wonderful quiet evening out on my own!

Art & Soul is the brainchild of Chef Art Smith, who while he owns the

restaurant, has moved on to many other ventures and lots of TV

appearances (notably on several of the TopChef runs). He hired Chef

Wes Mortin who hails from Louisiana and brings just as much heart,

art, soul and love to the kitchen.

Located in the Liaison Hotel on New Jersey Ave, NW there is a buzz as

the hotel lobby is open to the bar and restaurant. The bar was a bit

too noisy for me, but I got one of the fabulous off-white snakeskin

covered booths that are set into the rear wall and offer lots of quiet

and privacy for one, two or three people.

House filtered water was poured and two types of break (a nut/fruit

slice and Parker House roll) arrived with soft butter. My server

Michael was a gem and helped me with all my choices from wine to


I started with a glass of White Hall Viognier 2011 from Virginia and

asked him what was the best starter. he said that most people like the

Shrimp & Grits. Well, I would too, but I told him I was not "most

people" and like trying new dishes. "Would he suggest the Boudin Blanc

or the Soft Scotch Egg?" He said the latter was amazing and would be

perfect with the Viognier. He was spot on and the dish came with soft

halved eggs sitting in Spicy Sausage "bowls" that were crisp on the

bottom over a bed of Frisee with Grain Mustard. The greens were

delightful, the mustard just the right touch, the egg yolks just soft

as I adore them and a splattering of pickled red onion were divine.

I asked Michael about the Alain Normand Macon La Roche-Vineuse 2011

Chardonnay and he said "oaky." I was not familiar with the wine and he

proffered a taste; it was intensely oaky for a French chard and he

suggested the Albarino 2010 Zarate Balado from Rias Biaxas which was

loaded with citrus and minerality. It paired beautifully with the

SALMON HOECAKE which is really a large corn blini with a superb house

cured salmon "salad" bound with dill creme friache with more pickled

onion, caperberries. fresh tarragon and flat leaf parsley. This is

almost like a full salmon salad sandwich and could easily be a lunch

dish; boy, had I overordered, but I wanted to. I loved the salty

caperberries and enjoyed each bite with a different piece of either

caperberry, tarragon, parsley or onion for varied fun.

I moved on to a huge long legged currant intense with coffee hints

2006 MERLOT from DEYO Castillo de Monjardin. I know Spain is not

famous for Merlot and this didn't even taste like one, but what a

brilliant wine.

My main course was the Air Chilled PEKIN DUCK which was a perfectly

roasted (and I might add huge) breast with Dirty Duck Rice, Duck Fat

Turnips, Turnip Greens and a decadent Madeira Jus. Chef Morton knows

the meaning of crispiness as he exhibited in the Scotch Egg Sausage,

but here the duck skin was divine and the fate almost all rendered out

during the cooking, the way I do it at home. It was one of the best

duck courses I have had in ages.

I was surprised that the kitchen sent out two complimentary sides, but

not at all surprised that they knew me and chose the two I would have

selected. The Mac and Cheese had that Chef Morton crunchy crust and

creamy rich inside that was oh so classic yet tasty. The BRUSSELS

SPROUTS came also crisped on the outside and cooked just right with

large pieces of crispy bacon and super seasoning for taste. This again

showed that "crispy" fancy I am in love with.

I asked Michael after a long rest which dessert he would choose and he

immediately hit on my first choice, FRIED FIG PIE. Little did I know I

would receive three crispy sweet fried empanadas with powdered sugar

filled with fig, almond cream and a side of burnt honey ice cream on a

bed of port reduction. I tried to finish, but could not; I got thru 2

and a half.

Next time I plan to head to ART & SOUL, I will make sure I don't get