Thursday, October 30, 2014

DC's DISH still does it deliciously (10-29-14)

We were at DISH ( , two blocks from the Kennedy Center in the River Inn, back in June for a huge post-opera party and had a great time. Last night, I returned for dinner with the hotel's Sales Manager whom I have worked with for years, as well as the hotel's new General Manager, whom I have known for what it seems like decades! We had a super time in the small dining room that was full for KenCen pre-theater diners. Keith, the manager, has been a fixture there for years and does his job superbly, offering us a bottle of CLINE Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2012 from Contra Costa County in California that was not even on the menu! It was jammy, yummy and totally fulfilling with all our hearty dishes on the first chilly night of the coming winter.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP here has crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds and a swath of Roasted Pumpkin Oil for excellent flavor. It is definitely one of the best of its kind in town.
The DUCK BREAST was a huge dish and cooked perfectly as requested to medium rare with Baby Bok Choy, Sweet Potato Puree and a delicious Orange Grand Marnier Sauce. How I have missed these heavy cold weather dishes.
The Lamb Chop with Confit of Sweet Potato (I always wondered how this differs from the puree?!), Butternut Squash, Andouille Sausage, Onions, Arugula in a Red Wine sauce was a big hit, not to mention the gorgeous Pork Chop.
There is a set pre-theater dinner which includes most items and is a bargain, but dining here after 730pm will insure more quiet for sure. DISH is indeed DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

James Beard Foundation TASTE AMERICA takes the tour to DC and the Mandarin Oriental (10-17-14)

Last Friday evening I headed over to SW DC and the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental where The James Beard Foundation brought Taste America, it's fundraiser on wheels, so to speak.
We had a 90 minute cocktail party with the best food of the night prepared by awesome local chefs, followed by a four course sit down dinner with paired wines.
I made my way down the cocktail area first trying the fun sparkling rose from Lucien Albrecht which went so well with many of the options at each chef's table. I then moved on to a wonderful Jordan 2011 Chardonnay (there was also a Provenance 2011 Sauvignon Blanc). The reds were even better with a divine Newton Claret 2011 and an awesome Grgich Hills 2007 Merlot. Lots of love went into these choices. Bacardi had sponsored the beverages and there were three quite sweet mixed drinks using their rum which I avoided.
I first came upon Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Ripple (where we had just eaten a couple of weeks before) & Roofer's Union who was assembling CARROT CAVATELLI with Lobster & Chanterelles that was so good I went back for seconds and thirds!
Next to her was one of Washington's newest faces, Chef Ed Scarpone of DBGB Kitchen, Daniel Boulud's first DC spot which is apparently so hot, reservations for months ahead are virtually impossible. He was serving a Truffled BOUDIN BLANC with Pomme Puree, Apples & Pork Jus, which was nice, but my least favorite item of the five chefs present. I guess I won't have to worry about getting a table there, as I would choose the others first!
Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia was there and the only James Beard winner of these five as well. It was obvious as he had a luscious creamy and divine Low Country SHE CRAB Soup (really bisque) with the most adorable and tasty Old Bay Marshmallows (although the menu said it was a Deviled Crab Benne Seed Cracker--nope!).  Fourth was Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya, who I think is one of the most fun chefs in a DC kitchen. We had such a ball at his place a while ago that it made me want to return to his big smile and great demeanor. He had a wonderful dish of Buttered BREAD(really black bread toasted) with Fire Kissed UNI, Aged Ponzu and Jalapeno. He was torching the uni just a tad and delicately layering it on each piece of tiny bread with the ponzu and jalapeno slice (the menu said it was a Japanese Hot Pepper, but it was not). I must have had six or seven of these awesomely tasty tidbits. Finally was Chef Anthony Chittum of Iron Gate, where we also went for the first time last month. He prepared Melted CABBAGE Tortelloni, Surryano Ham & Red Onion Marmalade. which was super with the little piece of Virginia made crisped ham (a la Serrano) and the tasty pasta and sauce. I am glad I had multiples of all but one dish(the boudin), as the dinner was much less impressive than these superb creations.
There was a silent and live auction and I went home with two fun silent packages for dining out as well; I could not resist buying dinner with Chef Marjorie at Ripple!
I had a fun group at my table and we all talked about all the great dishes as the wine was poured. Our wine server had two bottles of the first wine, a Trimbach Rielsing from Alsace, but one was 2010 and one was 2011. I asked him to pour both (he did not realize they were different vintages) and immediately fell in love with the 2010 as it was much fuller than the fruity 2011. James Beard Winner CHARLES PHAN of The Slanted Door in San Francisco was flown in for the event and presented us with Banh Boc Lot PORK & SHRIMP TAPIOCA DUMPLINGS in Banana Leaves which was quite nice, but nothing more special than a really good dumpling (and while plural, there was just one on each plate). The wine was perfect with it and I would have had more, but the meal moved along steadily to the second course cooked by DC's own VIKRAM SUNDERAM where his work at Ripple has won him his James Beard Award (well, no surprise there!). His Baked BLACK COD was Marinated with Honey, Chili, Dill, Star Anise, Cream & Cheese and was the winning dish at the table for sure. The anise was barely evident (which made me happy) and the cheese was a crispy piece of Parmesan atop the dish like a little hat. Seguinot-Bordet Chablis was the paired Chardonnay and another superb wine.
For the main course Chef Phan was brought back with a Braised DUCK LEG, Shitake Mushrooms, Bamboo Shoots & Chinese Dates which again was okay, but not a bowlover, especially since the duck was slightly dry (always a problem with hundreds of people at a large event). The wine was an amazing Grenache/Syrah Gigondas from Gonnet in the Rhone. I kept drinking this for the remainder of the night as I did not really take to the 2007 McKinley Springs Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Horse Haven Hills in Washington State that was served with dessert. Chef Didier Pouzier of the Mandarin Oriental in DC was allowed to prepare dessert on his own turf and gave us a refreshing Coconut Tapioca, Cucumber Meringue, Fresh Pineapple & Coconut Sorbet that sent us home feeling quite good as it was not heavy or overpowering at all after some of the very rich dishes that preceded.

I always have fun when I go to the James Beard House in NY and attend their events here in DC. I anxiously await the next one!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Come into NYC's KINGSIDE for some swell cuisine (10-11-14)

I've run up to NYC for a quick two nights of opera, musicals and the Tucker Gala and since I'm staying at the one-year old VICEROY hotel in midtown, I decided to try the restaurant in house called KINGSIDE (120 W 57th Street near 6th Ave). guess Saturday night in mid-town isn't the busiest time for Kingside.
My server, Stacy, said it might pick up later, but that weekdays are busier.

I settled into my cozy brown leather booth and was a bit dismayed by the loud music. The décor here is quite nice with B&W tile floors and white tile walls. There are cool chalkboards on the walls with quite wonderful drawings of various vegetables (very Audubon-ish) which Stacy explained are redone periodically. The lighting is deco-ish and muted and there are lots of votives on the tables.

The bread is sesame seeded and warm and comes with a timbale of tomato jam which tasted like pasta sauce panna cotta, an interesting flavor sure. The white bean puree was a winner for sure.
The menu is simple with some crudos, small plates, large plates and salads. I did not want a lot so I started with the amazing Shaved Kale with Goat Cheese, Olives, Toasted Almonds and a superb Lemon Vinaigrette. I had a very nice "quarto" (small carafe) of Tenuta Rapitala "Campo Reale" 2013 Nero d'Avola from Sicily which worked with the lemon.
Next I went a whole different route based on Stacy's suggestion. The Crispy Baby Artichokes are cooked to perfection and come with juicy lemon slices. All it needed was some fresh pepper which was on the table. Two silly deep fried slices of zucchini were not welcome with the crispy tangy veggies.
The Lobster Toast is a treat with four small squares of toasted brioche topped with lobster salad with mustard seed, fennel and almost no binder; think aioli gone very light. YUM.
A super cappuccino finished my meal, but I was not done for the night.
I returned at midnight where Stacy was tending bar and had a post-opera snack of a 1/2 dozen Chesapeake Oysters with a boring cocktail sauce, but superb jalapeno mignonette and a novel marinated beef mignonette. A small plate of Shaker Blue cheese was a treat which came with yummy port-roasted grapes.
Owen Roe(Yakima Valley, Wash) Rosa Mystica Cab Franc  was an awesome wine choice as well. Now, I was ready for bed.


Friday, October 03, 2014

RIPPLE will tingle your palate and send your foodie senses soaring (10-1-14)

We celebrated our anniversaries on Wednesday evening at RIPPLE in Cleveland Park and had a superb time. I say anniversaries, as we have Oct 3 for our more recent (2010) legal wedding and Oct 1 for our first commitment ceremony which was 20 years ago! The menu is not too large and Devon, our terrific server, was most helpful in helping us negotiate the different choices. The wine list is amazing and we headed right to the Georges Vernay "Les Terrasses de L'Empire" 2008 Viognier, Condrieu from a winery we have visited and adored for ages. The Condrieu grape (a specific Viognier grown in the Rhone Valley in a very small steep region on the river) offered a creamy luscious and almost orgasmic flavor that we shall remember for a long time.
The dining room is long and narrow and there is a bar and lounge area in a similar long and narrow area where you walk in. The tables are wood with banquettes and decent comfy chairs opposite. There are several "pewter"-looking old-looking chandeliers and lots of cute artwork. We were seated towards the rear where there was one very large table with a very loud crowd, but they quieted down after a while. We arrived at 730pm, and by 8pm, the place was full and a bit too noisy for our tastes, but not awful. At one point a lady at a nearby table got so loud and screechy, I asked Will to re-relate the story of his ancestor who was murdered at a pub for being too loud! I was considering this option for a while until she left!
Our shared starter of HAMACHI CRUDO arrived with Edamame Puree, Crispy Ginger and Yuzu aigre-doux(sweet/sour) which was superb due to that crunchy ginger and the sweet/sour combo. It was also divine with the Condrieu.
We went on to separate starters and Will had the STUFFED BONE MARROW which is easily one of the not-to-be-missed dishes in DC. It is a huge bone filled with tasty marrow, house bacon, chimichurri and a slash of apple butter on the plate to temper the dish's intensity. The marrow and bacon are inherently salty, so I am not sure why there was a small pile of sea salt on the corner of the plate! I ordered the MATSUTAKE MUSHROOMS with DUCK EGG, Chanterelle Puree & Fontina Focaccia, and when a small plate of extremely tasty wild mushrooms arrived, I asked where my egg and focaccia were. I apparently was served the side order of Wild Mushrooms, which was great, Will and I split this and polished it off while I awaited my appetizer. Devon explained it was brand new on the menu and the kitchen had made a small error. It appeared in 4 minutes and was another superb dish that impressed me with its wonderful layered flavors and I loved the multi-colored radish slices and pickled onion.
We moved onto a divine red which the manager Caroline helped us pick. We had just been to Shea Wine Cellars in Oregon for a private tasting with Peter Shea and were wowed by their single block vineyards so we had the BLOCK 23 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2009 which is just drinking gorgeously after 5 years in the bottle. We tasted the more recent 2011 vintages at the winery, so we shall wait several years to drink the wine we purchased! Will loved the clove flavors in the wine; I just adored the whole damn thing!
On a trek to the men's room I adored the gigantic spoon, knife and fork decorating the wall and I was thrilled to return to find our neighboring screechy cantatrice (that's Italian for singer, but she really sqauked)
Will's main was HOUSEMADE SPAGHETTI with olive-oil poached Tuna Belly, Tilefish Cheek & Manila clams, a hearty dish for sure despite the seafood; any pasta lover would be impressed. My SEARED DUCK BREAST came rare and juicy with Roasted Beets, Baby Turnips, Celery & Watercress Puree that was the most awesome pairing with the Block 23! We were both very happy with our choices and by now, the dining room had quieted down so we could enjoy quiet conversation.
Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley arrived to greet us and we gushed raves as everything was indeed sensational. She has become probably the most famous up and coming female chef in DC and has really made a name for herself. She will be one of the challengers in the DC Central Kitchen Food Fight next month!
We had seen the cheese tray near the entrance and had our hearts set, so we chose several to share:
RONCAL-Spanish sheep from Navarre that was sharp and tangy;I called it Manchego-go-home
MONACACY ASH-a 90days aged goat from Boyds, MD> with vegetable ash rind that I always love for it's tanginess and goat creaminess
BABY HAZEN BLUE from Greensboro, VT that is also a creamy blue but so mild I felt I was not having blue
FELSA YAHR-a superb creamy  nutty sheep, cave-aged washed rind from Howard, PA
HARBISON-cow wrapped in bark from Harbison, VT that was the winner with an almost triple crème feel
 These came with tasty Clover Honey and Apple Butter as well as spiced flatbread which we promptly took a taste of and packed up to go so we could enjoy more.
Our dessert choices were PANNA COTTA for Will-Poached Pear, Almond-Oat Crumble, Ginger Coulis and Honey Jelly and my CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BAR with Dulce de Leche, Cherries, Buttermilk Sherbert that we shared and both enjoyed a lot; latter being a superb dense choco lover's dream and the panna cotta a lighter yet tasty option.
A glass of Smith Woodhouse 200 Colheita Port was nice with the chocolate bars!
We headed home having had a very happy anniversary meal.