We rarely go out on Saturday night, but it was such a quiet weekend, we chose THE FEDERALIST in the Madison Hotel downtown (www.thefederalistdc.com) where Chef Harper McClure has found a home fixing some of the freshest farm ingredients around. When we arrived the place was near empty and while several other tables arrived, it never was crowded for a DC Saturday night. The quiet was welcome and the atmosphere was divine.
There are several separated rooms, most with wood floors, raised big cozy booths, light wood walls with glass partitions and a classy, yet casual feel. You can come here in a suit or jeans and feel good. We did.
Our server Josh was a gem and welcomed us with Hildon Sparkling Water from the UK, which we always like and then we tried the Darcie Kent GRUNER VELTLINER "Rava's Black Jack Vineyards" from Monterey 2009 which was a wonderful GruVe made in the USA for a change. I think it is the first I have ever had from California for sure, while we have enjoyed those from Washington & New York.
COD FRITTERS with Soffrito arrived steaming hot and with a hint of pepper as well as coarse salt in the batter. These were not the overly rich creamy type, but closer to a top-notch fish cake. We tried desperately to tell Sam they were like elite fish fingers, but he would have none! More for us. The tomato-based sauce was a perfect foil and dip.
As it is a hotel, there is a children's menu, so we allowed Samuel to have the CHICKEN TENDERS and French Fries, which I have to say looked perfect; he did not let us try his this time around.
The House CHARCUTERIE Board appeared with Artisanal Accoutrements (and these were much more than accoutrements) that was one of the best we have had. The LOMO first sweet, then salty, and literally melted in your mouth. DUCK HAM is always a hit with me as I like anything that quacks. LARDO requires a but more of a palate, especially when one is trying not to eat pure fat, but the flavor was superb. PORK RILETTES were perfect and I smothered the tasty spread on the baguette provided (there was also home made corn bread). Three pate's included CAMPAGNE, CHICKEN LIVER and a rich creamy divine GOOSE & DUCK; all were excellent. The accoutrements were announced as Quince (I later actually thought this was a pickled beet and ate it whole; so did Will!) Paste, Mustard, Onion Jam and Apple Butter. These were all fun to mix with the various meats and try for different flavor combos. There were also many different superb pickled veggies:mushrooms, carrots, red and Cuban peppers(mild), onion and my favorite-celery.
A surprise dish of Grilled JUDITH POINT CALAMARI, seared POTATO GNOCCHI, Roasted GARLIC Puree, Pearl Onions and Scallions arrived and I must say this is an ideal preparation of this version of the Rhode Island squid.
It was, thankfully, without batter, and perfectly grilled, especially those yummy tentacles and the garlic puree was enticing.
We moved to our red which was recommended by Chef Harper himself. Dozens of years ago, perhaps decades, we used to drink BONNY DOON by the glass, or more regularly, half bottle, as it was one of the few reds available by half bottle. LE CIGARE VOLANT 2007 is an amazing year for this age old wine that now has smokiness and full red body worthy of pairing with so many meats.
Roasted MOULARDE DUCK Leg was indeed a great partner for the wine with its intensely rich TRUFFLE HONEY GLAZED Baby TURNIPS, Potato Puree and Natural Jus. It was crunchy on the outside and confit-like inside to boot. The Cocoa-Rubbed VENSION LEG was even better with its rich CHESNUT-BARLEY RISOTTO, Glazed Beets and Red Wine Jus. The meat was cooked just perfectly to before medium rare and we gobbled every bite, especially that crunchy end piece with extra cocoa!
Dessert was an ever harder decision, save for Samuel who went right for and devoured the VALRHONA CHOCOLATE COULANT that was the essence of the bitter chocolate. He loved it, while I always prefer lighter or milk! This was a chocolate lover's dream. It comes with a PORTER (Beer)-Buttermilk Ice Cream Float which Will declared as perfect; sorry, I don't care for beer. We debated which dessert to choose and went with chef's suggestion of the SYLLABUB with Caramelized Banana and Gingerbread Crumble. It is a very old style traditional dessert and a bit too heavy on the whipped cream for me. Next time we try the Tangerine Bavarian with Slow Baked Meringue, Creme Fraiche and Candid Zest which our sever Josh recommended.
Which ever way you go, The FEDERALIST has many options and choices and is indeed a pleasant place to be on most any night.