Thursday, July 04, 2013

Alexandria's BRABO gets mutliple bravos and new Chef Harper McClure will allure (7-3-13)

Yes we were bad on our diet last night, but then a rare indulgence seems to allow the diet to reinforce :-))
We had planned to go to BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier for years and just never got there. I forced myself to make a visit to the adorable LORIEN Hotel in Alexandria
which houses the restaurant allowing me to do a site visit of their accommodations and then take in dinner at BRBAO ( right on King Street
just blocks from the Metro. They also have complimentary valet parking for diners, something you don't find too much any more!
We knew Chef Harper McLure had left the Federalist last year shortly after our visit to move to Marcel's, but we were thrilled to see that Chef Wiedmaier trusts him enough to let him helm this superb fine dining establishment. He is joined by Pastry Chef Jennifer Short and Sommelier Matthew Carroll with a wonderful team including our server Greg.
Another bonus here is the unlimited pours of bottled water from the Vivero system (either flat or fizzy) at $2.00 per person.
We perused the drink menu and Will chose a Gin Gimlet (they specialize in gin cocktails) made with Bluecoat Gin, fresh lime and simple syrup. My TOMMY's MARGARITA (named for
the one of San Francisco fame, we were told) was heavy on the ice and not very big, but tasty with Herraduro Blanco Tequila, Lime & Agave Syrup.
The bread was fine, but we avoided it for the most part and the butter seemed to be covered with salt, which was the only problem we encountered all night!
After much procrastination we agreed on the tasting menu of seven (plus) courses at $70 each with wine pairings for an extra $50, which at $120 each is a real deal these days.
Will was craving the GRILLED SPANISH OCTOPUS, so we had Chef Harper squeeze in a small plate of that along the way.
All of the items on the tasting menu are new for Brabo from Chef Harper's cookbook and the entire menu will be overhauled this Saturday night.
First came a GAZPACHO CONSOMME that I could have eaten for days and taken home gallons of. A clear tomato consommé bursting with flavor and chilled perfectly for a 90 degree day was
garnished with Confit Cherry Tomato, a tiny square of CUCUCMBER PANNA COTTA with a slice of Boquerón ANCHOVY atop, a flowering mini cucumber and Espalette Pepper for spice.
The pairing was ingenious as tomato acidity is so hard to do: STEININGER GRUNER VELTLINER SEKT 2010 from Kamptal, Austria was a sparkling version of the great fine Austrian white wine
that we drink so much of all summer.
GRILLED JUDITH POINT CALAMARI was on the menu at the Federalist and reappears here with a Roasted GARLIC PUREE, CIPOLLINI ONION and a HARISSA AIOLI that shows Chef Harper
is not afraid of using intense spices. The onion was topped with an edible nasturcium flower petal and Red Mustard Greens adorned the dish which was as tender as squid can get.
ABAZZIA di NOVACELLA from Alto Adige 2010 in Italy is a Sylvaner Grape that has an unripe honeydew flavor and again paired wonderfully. With each bite, the wine changed and Will got more creaminess,
while I got citrus and acidity!
Here we veered to the GRILLED SPANISH OCOTPUS with Fingerling Potatoes, Piquillo Peppers, Olive Oil & Balsamic Glaze which was the dish with the most spice all evening, yet treated the tender octopus with great respect. Our server Greg, brilliantly if I may say so, suggested we split a glass of the BURGANS ALBARINO 2011 from Spain that was just right to fight the spice. I could not help remarking that I had discovered that Chef Harper did not have a fear of spice, despite the fact that his cooking style is so traditional, yet so wonderfully American and novel.
SEARED DIVER SCALLOP brought us back to the tasting menu served with a light Sweet CORN RISOTTO with Mascarpone and Lemon Butter. This was the dish we feared the most for on our diet, but it
was handled with care and perhaps Chef Harper lightened it a bit for us with consideration. No matter, the flavors were simply superb and the MESTRE-MICHELOT, Domeain de Montmeix, 2009 Chardonnay
from Burgundy was a treat. The top of the scallop was cooked just to a super crisp and the inside was just right and Red Vein Sorrel graced the dish.
LA BELLE FARMS SQUAB came just past rare with a Roasted Breast touched lovingly with Maldon Sea Salt, moist & luscious yet crispy confit leg, Pearl Barley, Epazote & Cherry-Rhubarb Jus that was not sweet at all. The wine was a virgin treat for
us as it was our first one from SERBIA: FRANCUSKA VINARIJA 2009 "Obecanje" is from Rodljevo and is made from Grenache but has a soft and smooth in the mouth finish like a good Burgundy Pinot Noir.
The last meat course was ECO FRIENDLY FOODS PORK LOIN served with a Summer Cassoulet, Chanterelle Mushroom & Pork Jus. The Michele Laluce "Zimberno" AGLIANICO from Basilicata, Puglia 2007
was not a typically spicy (like Zinfandel) Aglianico and we liked it a lot.
The cheese course was BURRATA with Balsamic Glaze and garlic Croutons which comes from Murgella also in Puglia and was creamy rich and everything burrata needs to be.
RASPBERRY SOUP with Mint Sorbet & Crème Bavarois is the perfect light and refreshing dessert after a meal like this that lasted 3 hours. Genius was at work as I normally do not like mint, and it was simply sublime here.
Elio Perrone "Bigaro", a sparkling BRACHETTO/MOSCATO 2012 from Piemonte is also as refreshing as it gets. Lots of love went into thinking how to do a large yet not overindulgent tasting menu in the heat of a DC summer.
We were treated to Chocolate Caramel Squares Walnut Cherry Brownie, Pate de Fruit, and an unexciting Lemon Spritz Cookie before heading home praying that the scales did not explode today (and we each only gained ONE POUND!)
Back on the diet! HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!