Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Salt & Pepper seems to hold up(Palisades neighborhood DC)2-27-12

We returned to SALT & PEPPER ( last night with friends to discover that the chefs/manager we met last summer have departed for California. We aren't sure why, but things in the kitchen are not as smooth, although the food is overall still quite good.
Our sever James was certainly quite nice, although a bit aloof. We did have to repeat requests like the kid's Shirley Temples. He was very positive about the new chefs and when I inquired about the fab drinks and wine that the previous team had created, he said they were gone, but replaced with top notch items on the new menu. The burgers are still a main feature here, although the menu items have expanded to fine dining items as well.
The kids had the Burger Sliders with French Fries. Sam asked for the Parmesan fries which he loved and then begged for an extra serving after he was done! The aioli dip for the fries that he adored is, alas, gone.

The yummy bread and focaccia came to the table with a red pepper tapenade spread that Sam (and I) gobbled up as well as roasted garlic cloves in oil that were divine (especially mixed with the tapenade).
I tried the FIERY SWEETNESS made with Hangar One Citron Vodka, Cointreau, OJ, Muddled Jalapeno, Strawberry and a dash of Grenadine. The drink size has been severely reduced from the huge martinis of last year and the taste is nice, but I won't rave. Will had the BIT O' GINGER made from FINLANDIA Grapefruit Vodka, Grapefruit Juice, Honey Syrup, Muddled Ginger and Ginger Beer...which tasted like a sweet grapefruit juice with a punch.

We ordered a bottle of red, and they were out, so James suggested a superb RIGLAS GRAN MALBEC 2006 from Mendoza, Argentina that had lots of flavor, a hint of spice and nice body.

The starter prices tend to be in the mid-teens dollar-wise, but don't be fooled. The POUTINE is a huge portion that could easily make a main course and more. Yukon Gold Potatoes and Sweet Potato Fries make up this dish smothered with DUCK CONFIT, Parmesan & Gruyere Cheeses and Duck Gravy. I will finish more than half of this at home as the week progresses! It is a bit decadent, but a true gem of a dish that could be a signature one if they bill it right.

The CAPRESE Salad was huge as well and our friend said the Burrata was some of the best he has ever had, not to mention the huge red juicy Beefsteak Tomatoes with Rosemary Salt.
SHRIMP DUMPLINGS came in a Gingered Organic Broth with Plum Tomato and Crisp Garlic and were nice.

The main courses of Grilled PORK TENDERLOINS with Creamed SPINACH & Celery Root Puree with Guiness Demi Glace got some raves and the JUMBO LUMP CRABCAKES Special came with two HUGE cakes laden with crab, Sweet & Sour Lentils and Baby Green Beans on the side with a Lobster Sauce. My MAINE LOBSTER ROLL was also huge and the Tarrangon Mayo had a slight bite for taste, but the yummy PRETZEL ROLL had a bit too much coarse salt on it taking away from the tasty chunks of shellfish that flowed out of the sandwich!

The disaster at the table was the SMOKED & BRAISED BRISKET of BEEF that came to Will as dry and bland as could be. The smoking process way overkilled the beef. There were okay Green Beans & Fingerling Potatoes, but the Goat Cheese Custard tasted off and was not even custard-like. It went back to the kitchen promptly and Will replaced it with a starter of the divine POUTINE, which he will also will be able to eat the rest of the week at home!
We looked at dessert menus and then decided we could eat no more and it was late for the kids as well, who behaved brilliantly.
A wonderful evening with friends save for the Brisket!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LOS CUATES cucina con mucho -Georgetown, DC (2-20-12)

The other night we were headed out to dinner and friends (yes, you know who) and oddly ended up dining at LOS CUATES in Georgetown ( on Wisconsin Ave at Q Street. We had been once before and it was fine and deserted. Not so the other night, with one huge group of about 20 on the other side of the room and almost every table full (on a Monday at 6pm!).
We ordered up Samuel's Shirley Temple and our pitcher of Margaritas. There is a bit too much ice in the pitcher, but it lasted for the whole meal giving us multiple refills.
Now I know that Mexican restaurants always serve a ton of food, so I warned Will, but he was feeling GUACAMOLE and I gave in. It's a creamy yummy style with some chunks and the most tasty puffy fried pillow-like chips ever. Samuel started (and ended) with the Chicken QUESADILLA appetizer which came with 6 -1/2 round portions, enough to feed a family for starters; we ended up taking half of it home. They come with pico de gallo, sour cream and guac as well!
Will's main course was the SEAFOOD BURRITO, and enormous portion of shrimp and scallop filling with Veracruz sauce that was super tasty. My POLLO VERDE was a HUGE hit. A huge breast flattened and grilled and topped with an amazing pico de CILANTRO sauce as well as several grilled shrimp. Beans and Rice on the side were just as yummy. The portion was SO HUGE, I took half home as well!
Needless to say there was no room for dessert as we rolled home.
It's one of Georgetown's bargain secrets with great food as well!

Monday, February 13, 2012

MASALA ART makes more awesome impressions (2-11-12)

Saturday night we took our dear friend Erica out for a small birthday celebration along with Samuel.
We chose MASALA ART ( at Tenley Circle here in DC as it has one of the most wonderful vegetarian selections and really the best Indian food in town! (Oh, Erica eats fish, but not meat).
It was a cold night, so we choose a bottle of earthy and full bodied FAIRVIEW PINOTAGE 2010 from Paarl, South Africa. In summer, I would probably go with the Rieslings they have, and since the don't offer red Zinfandel on the wine list, this red works with spices for sure.
We made our selections and Samuel started with the Vegetable SAMOSAs and adored the tasty GARLIC & PEPPER NAN so much that he asked if we could order a different one--so we did, and he liked the ROCK SALT & CILANTRO as well, but said the garlic won between the two.
We started with BHELPURI on the recommendation of our charming server, Kuldeep. Will was not thrilled with this dish of Puffed Rice, Chick Peas, fried-like vermicelli, peanuts, onion, mango and cilantro that comes in a taco-like Indian flatbread shell. I enjoyed its lightness, but have to say there are other things on the menu that are better.

Samuel moved on to his main course and it was indeed a brave new world for him as he is not a big sauce guy. Kuldeep said they would make a CHICKEN KORMA even though it is not on the menu, as they do this for lots of kids (of course, korma is on the menu, so it was not a big deal). Samuel adored the creamy sauce and moist chicken.
We chose one seafood dish and it is a big winner here...AJWAINI JUMBO PRAWNS are huge succulent shrimp grilled perfectly with spicy saffron marinade with carom seeds that I just loved to smother the rice with! Our other two dishes were superb veggie choices:
TAWA BINDHI-Okra sesame seed and cumin
and the rich indulgent
LASSONI CORN PALAK an amazing creamed spinach with garlic

We were full but Kuldeep came out with glasses of sparkling wine and a small plate of Ras Malai a sweet cottage cheese dessert with lemony citrus tones and a birthday candle! A perfect way to end a perfect meal.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Chef JEFF TUNKS takes us to the top at a private dinner (2-7-12)

Each year Food & Friends invites its major donors to a private dinner
cooked in their facility in NE Washington. This year I chose the
dinner cooked by Chef JEFF TUNKS, who is a well known fixture here in
Washington one third of the Passion Food Hospitality Group where he
oversees DC Coast, Ceiba, Acadiana, Passion Fish, Distict Commons and
Burger Tap & Shake (
passion_food.html) as well as the late Tan Penh. Joining Chef Tunks
was Executive Chef Chris Clime (who is at the helm in Reston's Passion
Fish) making a dream team for any cooking event.
On arrival we were treated to superb mini CRAB CAKES, some of the most
divine DEVILED EGGS each with a small upright piece of crisp bacon and
SHORT RIB SLIDERS each with a mini-pickle on top. I could have made a
meal of these, but was forewarned that the dinner menu was intense.
After raving to both chefs about the passed hor's d'oevres, we sat
down in the Food & Friends kitchen to a truly mouth-watering meal with
some truly tantalizing tastes!

First came a creamy rich heavenly Roasted BUTTERNUT SQUASH BISQUE with
Kaffir Lime and TONS of Butter Poached LOBSTER. At the end of the
meal, I complemented the chefs on their excess of tasty tender lobster
easily beating our one measly piece of shrimp in the Lobster Bisque at
Blue Fin in NY the other night!
Domaine de Cassagnoles 2010 Vin de Pays de Cotes de Gascogne was a
citrus-infused wine with lots of acidity that complemented the soups
creaminess and brought out the lime even more.

Next came a GRILLED OCTOPUS with Baba Ganoush, Toasted Coriander
TZATSIKI and Pomegranate. These flavors mingled on the plate and
totally wowed everyone at our table for sure. The octopus was tender
and the bursting flavor-crunch of the pomegranate was an added treat.
Chateau Riviere La Coste Graves Blanc 2010 was a smoother white with
lots of flavor that I chose to drink alone later as well.

The main course was a PORCINI Crusted HALIBUT with Yukon Gold
Potatoes, OXTAIL and Black Truffle Jus. The Potatoes were pureed and
the jus drizzled around them for more flavor, while the Oxtail was a
small rich patty with tones of flavor. Some of the folks at our table
had never had oxtail before and truly were amazed by its burst of rich
meaty flavor. I would have liked a red wine, but the white served
Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone-Villages CAIRANNE La Font d"Estevenas
Blanc 2009 was a very rich creamy wine with (according to the
description) "Cavaillon melon flavors+ which I have never even heard

Dessert was a CHOCOLATE PRALINE BOMB which I limited myself to simply
one bite of as it was oh so rich, albeit divine. The nice fruit and
caramel sauces were worth an extra finger taste of as well.

While this event is limited to major donors, you could always head to
DC Coast or Passion Fish for similar tasty seafood dishes like these!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Cedric is a sure spot for hefty Harlem brunch in NYC (2-5-12)

We spent Sunday with a friend who lives up in Harlem and the truth is
the restaurant scene is really hopping there.
We headed to the newly opened CEDRIC (185 St. Nicholas Ave.;
212-866-7766) at 119th Street, which is a clean open space with
exposed brick, blond wood tables and floor to high ceiling windows and
huge portions as well.
There are many options and almost all come with tasty frites, as this
is French bistro style food.
Samuel's Blueberry Pancakes with Bacon & Scrambled Eggs are french fry-
less, so he picked off other's plates and ate only the pancakes which
he loved.
EGGS BENEDICT was a happy choice with perfectly cooked eggs as were
the EGGS NORWEGIAN (the same with Smoked Salmon). Ham & Cheese Omelet
got high marks and there are lots of burgers with the HAMBURGER a
CHEVAL having a runny fried egg atop.
MUSSELS come in many styles and the THAU version is with a light
creamy Ginger Lemon Grass broth that I could not resist mopping up
with the crusty sourdough bread.
The HAUTES COTES de BEAUNES 2007 Clos de Perriere from Domaine
Sebastein Magnien is a reasonably priced lighter style Burgundy that
is great for brunch as well.
The 7 of us schmoozed and dined leisurely and loved every minute and
every bite!

back at BLUE FIN in NYC's Times Square (2-4-12)

On Saturday night we took Samuel to the fabulous production of
Anything Goes on Broadway with the truly illustrious and lustrous
Sutton Foster. Prior to the show we dined at my old favorite, BLUE FIN
( in the W Hotel Times Square. The food is still
great, but the place seems to be noisier; perhaps because it was a
Saturday between shows, or maybe I am getting older and more sensitive
to the noise?
We ordered up a bottle of Chablis "Vieilles Vignes" 2009 from Domaine
Bernard Defaix that had a nice smokiness to it and was quite tasty
with two of our starters, the Maine LOBSTER BISQUE with Tarragon
Spaetzle and Shrimp. I think Lobster Bisque should really have
LOBSTER, and at that, only one small piece of shrimp was evident. The
bisque, however, was creamy and divine and the spaetzle an added
treat. The Grilled OCTOPUS Salad is a winner with Toasted Pumpkin
Seeds, Wheat Berries, Apple, Butternut Squash and Brown Butter
Vinaigrette which is more buttery than dressing-like.
Samuel chose the kid's menu penne with butter and parmesan and went
for the huge dessert portion of fresh baked BROWNIE...that looked
We adults moved on to a MONTAGNY 1er Cru 2009 from J.M.Boillot that
was quite nice as well with our fish courses:
Maryland Blue Crab Empanadas with Cilantro, Salsa (there were two-red
tomato and tomatillo) & Avocado
Sesame Crusted Bigeye TIUNA with Crisp Vegetables, Lo Mein Noodles and
Ginger Soy and my
excellent American RED SNAPPER with Chanterelles, Cauliflower, Apple,
Smoked Bacon, Capers & Arugula that had a perfectly crisped skin to
While Will indulged on the Chocolate Graham Cracker S'MORES with
Passion Fruit Marshmallow and Butter Pecan Ice Cream (substituted for
Cinnamon), I thought the $8 three choice cheese plate was perfect with
SunDried Tomato Breadsticks, Fruit bread, two jellied fruit spreads
and caramelized onions. I chose the
Roth Kase Grand Cru GRUYERE-sharp and tasty
Black River BLUE-not too intense (both of these from Wisconsin)
and the Georgia Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill (sheep?)
On the side was a watermelon and grape shooter as a palate cleanser
which was a nice touch.
The service was excellent and we all enjoyed a truly superb time back
in NY after quite a while.