Monday, May 27, 2013

last night at LIA's in Bethesda was luscious (5-26-13)

The three of us headed to LIA's in Bethesda last night to use a "coupon" we had purchased at a charity event for a multi-course dinner and we had a superb dining experience at this wonderful local spot. You may recall it is under the auspices of the Chef Geoff group (, but here the kitchen is run by famed local Italian chef Cesare Lanfranconi, who was off for the day. Heading up the kitchen staff was Chef Liz Clifford, Executive Sous Chef, who indeed know how to run the show well.
We sat down to a special plate of SWEET CORN SOUP with a tasty MINI-CRAB CAKE and basil puree that was silky, luscious and divine. The "VA" Syrah Rose from Vina Aljibes 20011 in Castilla y Leon, Spain was the perfect dry wine for a just getting warm day (well, it's about time!). The crusty bread (which Samuel loved and I only tasted) arrived with olive oil for dipping.
We started with a plate of excellent WHITE ANCHOVY FILETS with Arugula and Olive Oil that were cured to perfection and I can only look forward to more as the summer goes on. YAY-BOQUERONES, and we hope to have them even fresher in Portugal and Spain in August!
Samuel ordered the SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS in the adult portion with Basil, Marinara, Ricotta and Grana Padana grated all over the top (of course, he asked for extra part way through) and managed to finish about 75% of the huge portion.
Our server Toby suggested the excellent HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette (didn't she mention there was a crabcake with that?, but maybe we got it instead in that superb soup!) which was as fresh as it can get with the spring veggies in full bloom. The BEET & BLOOD ORANGE Salad with Goat Cheese croutons & Pickled Shallot Vinaigrette was another example of how easy it is to enjoy this season. Only the crouton itself (a plain white crunchy cube) was dispensable, while we slathered the goat cheese on the beets!

Our appetizer (that was the course, after the salads and soup!) courses were the special of the evening, a Polenta crusted SOFT SHELL CRAB on Spring SUCCOTASH of Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Onion, Asparagus in a Morel Mushroom Sauce. The succotash and sauce were super, and again showed that veggies here are the rule; sadly the crab itself while good and crunchy lacked flavor.
The other starter was a huge winner and could easily be eaten as a main course:
PORK BELLY PUPUSAS are huge flat "tortilla" style pupusas stuffed with tasty pulled-pork style filling with a tasty (not spicy) TOMATILLO SAUCE on the side for dipping and another veggie king for LIA's the CABBAGE SLAW on the side.
We had these with two glasses of LIOCO NOCO 2011 North Coast, California NO OAK CHARDONNAY that had very little flavor or excitement.

The manager, Dawn, who was a pleasure to talk to about the wine (we should have asked her for a glass recommendation on the chardonnay--too late) suggested a spectacular PETITE SIRAH 2009 from Fleur, also on California's North Coast. While listed in the "big opulent wine" section, this superb wine has a subtle silkiness that makes it a great wine to drink alone or enjoy with heavier or even lighter foods.
We enjoyed it with our pasta course. Toby had suggested the WILD MUSHROOM RAVIOLI with Cherry Tomato, Arugula and Truffle Pecorino that was a heavenly dish, clearly from the ingenuity of Chef Cesare's Italian roots.
We were getting full and chose to take most of the also excellent BLACK PEPPER PAPPARDELLE home which won me over for not the tasty Basil Chicken, but the crunchy RAPINI and Rose Sauce. I can't wait to eat this later in the week, although, my diet will hate me! It was yet another example of how the great seasonal veggies are making their arrival.

Will and I split an entrée portion of excellent fresh and flavorful Pan Seared SCALLOPS with ENGLISH PEAS (more fresh veggies), Leeks, Truffle Pea Puree and Popcorn Shoots. These were early sweet corn shoots on top of this (or perhaps another dish) and Samuel was not interested in trying them, but after a bit of coaxing he did, and insisted on having the rest of the bunch! Again, another star of a dish with beautiful blending of all the great ingredients.

Samuel had already ordered the FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE with Pistachio Ice Cream for dessert and gobbled up all the cake as we split the hot out of the fryer RICOTTA DONUTS with luscious LIMONCELLO CURD (bravo again, Chef Cesare).
We were full, but our holiday weekend splurge was indeed special!