Last night for Will's birthday we decided on a quiet family dinner at one of our favorite spots in the area, WILLOW (www.willowva.com) where two of the best chefs in town truly reign. Tracy O'Grady and Kate Jansen, however, both had the evening off and left their more than capable staff to treat us like royalty. With the government shut, and it being Tuesday, the place was indeed very quiet save for a corporate event in the back dining room which was quieter than DC on a Sunday morning at 4am!
We settled in with some superb Virginia sparkling Blanc de Chardonnay from Thibaut-Jannisson in Monticello which really shows how great Virginia wines can be! Samuel enjoyed a Rob Roy! We moved on to a SEGHESIO ARNEIS 2012 from Russian River, Sonoma which really has a gorgeous bouquet, yet earthiness and flavor not very much like its Italian kin. Many treats arrived and we adored the now world famous GOUGERES which come with a BLACK TRUFFLE BUTTER dipping sauce. I devoured at least 3-1/2 of these tasty treats. While Samuel enjoyed a small portion of the MARGARITA FLATBREAD with Large Cut PEPPERONI devouring every bite filled with tasty Garlic Tomato Sauce, Parmesan, Pecorino, Fontina, Basil & Scallions. The pepperoni is cut in a rectangle so that each bite of the flatbread has some meat on it to boot. We adored the CLAMS CASINO FLATBREAD with Little Neck Clams, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Leeks, Parmesan, Roasted Fennel, Preserved Lemon, Toasted Paprika Bread Crumbs and Chives. Next time we must try the LADY FROM BRUSSELS FLATBREAD if it's still on the menu (with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Creamy Brussels Sprouts, House Smoked Goat's Cheese, Aged Sherry Vinegar & Fried Brussels Sprouts "crisps").
More starters came in the form of MUSSELS a LA NORMANDY again with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Shallots, Brussels Sprouts, Local Apples, Calvados, Thyme & Cream--a divine concoction for sure. DAY BOAT SCALLOP & Late Summer RATATIUILLE GRATIN was also rich and divine with Basil Bread Crumbs on the ratatouille which was tasty and crispy as were the scallops.
BEEF TENDERLOIN TIPS "Weck" Style were explained by our server John as a variation on the Cumiweck Sandwich coming from Buffalo, NY (Chef O'Grady's hometown). These tender pan-seared beef chunks came with Caramelized ONION RAVIOLI, Roasted Carrots, Toasted Caraway, Sea Salt and Horseradish Beef Sauce which come from the original sandwich which I had never heard of. The bun is missing (and who needed more carbs after all those gougeres?!) but the dish is oh so tasty and novel.
We moved on to a wine we used to drink decades ago, but have not had in years: CLOS PEGASE "Mitsuko's Vineyard" 2011 from Napa's Carneros region is a BIG Chardonnay which has lost all that oak they used to have back in the '90's and now really is a perfect seafood chardonnay.
While Samuel gobbled up his WILLOW FRIED CHICKEN: Marinated in Buttermilk, Lemon & Thyme but would not even consider tasting the yummy Summer Corn & Lima Bean Ragout or the Sweet Corn Pudding. Well, at least he had a big salad for lunch!
Herb & Walnut Crusted Norwegian SALMON Filet is a great dish for salmon lovers with Tarragon Pesto Roasted Salmon with Roasted Fennel & Stewed Winter Greens, Smoked Shitakes, Lemon, Sweet Garlic & Gigante Beans in a Rich Vegetable Broth.
Pan Seared DAY BOAT SCALLOPS come with enticing and rich Smoked DUCK CONFIT Spiked French GREEN LENTILS, Baby Spinach, Rissole of Cauliflower with a Beet, Orange & Aged Vinegar Emulsion while
BUTTER POACHED LOBSTER TAIL & LOBSTER RAVIOLI is an amazing expansion of what used to be an appetizer (I think). I ordered this as Samuel said he would try it, but when it arrived there was no way he was going to try lobster. Oh well, more for me. There was a huge pastry square, flaky and rich, filled with Creamy Fennel Gratin and topped with a cooked just right Lobster Tail. On the other side of the plate was Savory, Asparagus and those divine raviolis with a Sherry Lobster Sauce. OMG! I think the garnish was tasty fresh Thai Basil?
Will received a Willow wine glass filled with take home cookies and macaroon but had to order his STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING with Caramel Sauce and Moorenko Vanilla Ice Cream. YUM. Samuel gorged his little face with the huge CHOCOLATE FLOURLESS BOURBON CAKE with Dark Chocolate Sauce & more of that Moorenko Ice Cream, while I partook of the monstrous sized LOCAL APPLE CRISP with more Moorenko and House Made Caramel.
We rolled ourselves out the door and home, of course, after we sang Happy Birthday to Daddy and he blew out the lone candle in his dessert. I guess the diet's over for now as we will report many meals from New Orleans soon!