Friday, February 07, 2014

Blowin' around DC at Chef Jeff Black's brilliant bistros (2-4-14)

Last year at a charity event we purchased a wonderful restaurant crawl here in DC with friends of ours and finally got around to scheduling it this past week.
It included transportation from our homes to Chef Jeff BLACK's five restaurants in the DC area where he has a miniature empire (BRG-Black Restaurant Group) that always provides good food, good service and good fun. (www.blackrestaurantgroup)
We started the evening at our local spot BLACKSALT which we always love. This was the least impressive course of the evening, perhaps because we had been delayed and we were starving. We polished off more than a bottle of yummy Nicholas Feuillatte Brut N/V and gobbled up the tasty bread served warm with a seasoned olive oil. Our first course was actually two amuses:
Potato Basket with House Cured Gravlax topped with American Paddlefish Caviar on top of a Cauliflower Veloute and
Fried Ipswich Clamwith Fried thin lemon slice and Tartare sauce.
These were quite yummy indeed, but we just craved more.
We hauled from Palisades to Takoma Park, where REPUBLIC reigns and has been open just over a month. Like most of the BRG spots, the oysters here are important and we got four each:
a mild yet tasty GOOSE POINT from Washington state
OLD BLACK SALTS from the Chesapeake were next and gave us a mouthful of intense flavor
Next were the other two Virginians: SEWANSECOTT and CHINCOTEAGUE.
These were all divine, so much so that we begged for seconds!
The dining room here is a bit noisy with wooden tables and floors and red velour accents. It's a fun place, but not great if you seek quiet.
A plate of WOOD GRILLED OYSTERS also arrived which were Barcat from Virginia as well and very tasty; I think we all agreed, raw reigns.
These oysters were indeed perfectly shucked and lots of love goes into each plate before it arrives.
We were treated to two drinks here: a bottle of BREATHLESS North Coast sparkling wine which saldy paled next to the Nicholas Feuillatte, but the treat was the PORT CITY REVIVAL OYSTER STOUT. I am not a beer person, but this drink was ideal with the oysters. It is made locally in Alexandria with oyster shells (so beware if you have shellfish issues!) giving it a slight brininess I loved.
Our next stop was in the tiny hamlet of Garrett Park in Maryland (just west of Kensington and outside the beltway) where Black Market Bistro is a true find. It is like a country inn and just near the city, yet quiet and relaxed; indeed adorable!
We were treated to a rich warm (what a chilly night it was) BUTTERNUT SQUASH SHOUP with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds that Chef Jaquie explained was peppered with a good amount of white pepper which we loved. Next to it was an ARUGULA Salad with Red Onion, Roasted Beets,
Candied Walnuts and a Maytag Blue Creamy Dressing. These two were the perfect pairing and the white wine that came with it from manager Debbie was divine: UBY Ugni Blanc/Colombard from Cotes de Gascogne. She explained the Ugni Blan is a sister tot eh Italian Trebbiano; who knew? Don't miss the Irish soda cracker bread here!
Our last stop outside of DC was BLACKS in BETHESDA where we have been before. Things had quieted down and we were the last to arrive and leave as the team welcomed us and brought out a wonderful AUKA Don Alfonso Malbec 2010 from medoza, Argentina that warmed our insides along with a huge portion of Braised SHORT RIBS with gremolata crust, Parsnip Puree, Brussels Sprouts, Ricotta Gnocchi and Ball Carrots. The gnocchi were actually fried for extra crunch and the reduction red wine sauce was made from the same wine we were drinking--BRILLIANT!
The last stop was back in the city center at PEARL DIVE OYSTER PALACE where we met Chef James Huff whom Will knew from his days at Kinkead's. How nice to find an old friend in a new place! He treated us to  SECUA 2009 Vino de la Tierra Castilla, a sweet Spanish chardonnay, along with a Moist CHOCOLATE CAKE with BLOOD ORANGE, Curd and Chantilly Crème. The dish sounds heavy, but it was delightfully refreshing and we went home very happy, full and knowing that Chef Jeff Black runs a tight ship with beautiful results all around town!