Tuesday, October 27, 2015

DC's DEL CAMPO does it deliciously (10-26-15)

Last night we headed downtown with Samuel and two friends of ours for our first trip to Del Campo's (www.delcampodc.)dining room. I've been several times before for events, but really wanted to eat there as Chef Victor Albisu is our honorary chef chair of this years March of Dimes Signature Chefs event (of which I am co-chair of the chef's committee) three weeks from now. Chef Victor is very generous to the DC community when it comes to charity and indeed all events, the least we can do is give back to him for that.
We arrived at 630pm and the restaurant was fairly empty, but the bar was heaving. The dining room was almost full by the time we left and the noise levels were high, but not unbearable. One huge arty of about 30 at the rear was quite loud, but we were way up front at the window. The dining room is elegant and warm and most comfortable as well. Our server, Dmitri took our wine order and quickly delivered a bottle of Muga Viura barrel-fermented 2013 from Rioja an earthy white that actually had little oak taste due to the barrel, but was superb as an aperitif alone, or with starters.
Some of us were attracted to the set $45 menu which has a choice of salad, the Provoleta melted cheese with bread and then a huge Asado selection from the grill of Short Rib, Flank Steak, Chorizo, Grilled Greens and a choice of Sweetbreads or Chicken with Chimichurri and Salsa Criolla. Sadly, the whole table must do this, so we have to go back again for that option which I am so game for.
Two starters arrived in the form of a huge portion of Hamachi Ceviche with Sweet Potato, Aji Amarillo, Radish &  Brown Butter(well, thats' what the menu said online, but it also had a Leche de Tigre or citrus marinade that had a lemon curd consistency) which was superb, especially with the small slices of jalapeno for extra spice. A revelation was the Grilled Pear and Pecorino Salad with Arugula, Hazelnuts & Burnt Onion that was one of the best salads I think I have ever had. The vinaigrette was tasty and exciting and the pears were grilled to perfection.
We had moved on to a superb Valsacro "Dioro" Gran Reserva 2005 Tempranillo from Rioja as well that Dmitri suggested and was smooth and easy to drink. The starters were varied and the wine was divine with all:
Grilled Octopus & Crab Causa with Grilled Scallion, Piquillo & grilled Avocado (after a while you do realize that almost everything is grilled here!) which was also a huge starter (well, they all were)
Provoleta was a huge cast iron pan of seared provolone cheese with oregano served with lots of crispy country bread for dipping
My Seared Iberico Pork Loin was as tender as it gets and truly worthy of the name from which the famous Spanish ham also comes. It was served with Grilled Brussels Sprouts, Baby Eggplant, Smoked Yogurt, Salmon Caviar and a nice Romesco sauce.

While we waited for our main course we finished off the superb Valsacro and Dmitri suggested a lighter Malbec from Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Lujan de Cayo 2012 from Mendoza in Argentina that was much bigger than I expected but again superb with the grilled main courses, even the fish! Samuel had the 10 ounce Prime Hanger Steak with Steak Frites and Salsa Golf (aka Argentine Ketchup or ketchup with mayo, hence Russian dressing-ish, but with more oomph) which was a s tender and delicious as it gets. Two of us had the Grilled Tuna & Calamari with Smoked Tomato, Espalette and Grilled Olives, while the Peruvian Chicken with Crispy yucca, Aji Amarillo Alioli & Green Chili Puree was declared moist and superb. My Cast Iron Seared Prawns (photo on my FB page) were huge with head on and served with Chorizo, Mussels, Chillies, Ink Citrus Spaetzle and Mint (which I could not taste at all) as well as a Corn Salsa. It was perfect indeed and while a lighter dish, quite filling. Delicious green Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes arrived that were creamy and divine as was the Grilled Cauliflower with Raisins and Salsa Verde. Don't skip these fantastic sides as they are all superbly tasty and novel.

Desserts were inevitable so we tried several and shared, except for Samuel who would not let anyone have a bite of his Warm Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Toasted Cashew Ice Cream. He seemed full after eating about 1/2 and finally allowed us to taste the yummy dish. The one not so great dish all night was the Coconut Caramel Crepe SoufflĂ©  with Grilled Pineapple & Canela , but the Grilled Key Lime Pie with Lime Espuma made up for it and the even better Grilled Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream & Dulce de Leche was beyond excellent. As if this was not all enough a plate of Nutella Donuts with Grilled Banana Ice Cream magically appeared which were easily the winner overall and simply decadent and oh so tasty.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

doin' the whole darn dinner @DINO's in Shaw (10-12-15)

Last night eight of us headed to our friend Dean Gold's DINO's for what was an event we purchased last year when he was raising money for his move to the new place. Little did we know this would be an over-3 hour long event starting with cocktails and snacks including Tapenades & Crostini(Yogurt,Garlic,Cucumeber with Roasted Red Pepper; Corona Bean; Kalamata Olive), Fried Crab Balls with Remoulade, and the always so deadly and indulgent Deviled Eggs with Crispy Parma Prosciutto, Anchovy Sriracha Aioli & Salsa Verde. I had a Fuego Verde again which was even spicier than last time, but loved it.
We moved upstairs for the main event which commenced with pours of a Sparkling Rose Fiorini Corte degli Attimi, Lambrusco di Sorbara which I can't say is one of my favorite sparkling wines as I prefer it drier, but paired very well with the multiple plates of salamis, pates, etc. These included the best Testa ever(pig head) with a to-die-for ginger mostarda, sliced Fagatini with a very mild horseradish cream, and a Prok & Mushroom pate. Also in evidence was Boar Salami, Andouille Sausage and a superb creamy Rillettes.
If we weren't full enough, we were when the first pasta arrived which was a delicious vongole (clams) and then another full plate of Linguini in Pesto with vegetables came. Well, we have plenty of leftovers this week to eat at home. The wine was a superb Soave Classico, Vigneto du Lot 2010 from Inama which was creamy and intense. I joked with our server Roberto about the name as it had a Greco-clad couple on the bottle which was supposed to be the Biblical Lot and his wife, who turned to a pillar of salt-odd choice for a wine.
We asked for a long rest and ordered a bottle of Ridge 2012 Estate Chardonnay, Monte Bello Vineyard which Dean's wonderful wife, Kay, recommended as one of her favorites. This was a ddeal as wines ar 33% off Sundays-Tuesdays! It was a superb California chard, full of huge fruit flavors and as far as I can recall, the first American wine I have ever had as Dino's is so Italian-centric.
The rest was over and the Castello dei Rampolla 1999 from Samarco, a subtle yet full bodied Tuscan red arrived to truly set the stage for the meat course of Pork Belly with a yummy Tuscan Mole Sauce that packed a nice spicy bite and a plate of roasted potatoes with several slices of the Teres Major Steak with Salsa Verde that we discovered earlier this year and is a real treat for meat-aholics.
After this another amazing red arrived that was much bigger than I expected from a Sudtirol (South Tyrol, near the Austrian border) wine. De Silva Lagreine Edizione 2010 from Alto Adige which indeed impressed us. It was a delight with the excellent cheese plate of Ubriaco al Pepe (aged cow with a punch), Moliterno al Tartufo (an intense aged sheep with truffle) and a new cheese for all of us, St. Stephen which is a triple cream cow from upstate NY that is oh so creamy and salty at the same time. There were spiced almonds and an apple compote that disappeared oh so fast.
Some folks opted for desserts and while I was full, I told everyone that my favorite was the poached peach which may be gone soon as autumn is indeed upon us. A glass of frozen Limoncello, that was unctuous beyond belief, sent us away very happy and we have to thank Dean for his undying kindness to us in oh so many ways, as well as his generosity to all who know him in DC. We
were happy to help make this move possible, even if only with a small contribution, but boy was this a meal to remember.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

HUNTING CREEK STEAK simmers & steams in Alexandria (10-7-15)

Hunting Creek Steak has been open most of this year, but we only found out about it a month or so ago. We know the owner, Michael Nayeri, who also rules at A La Lucia in Alexandria, as well as the Chef, Will Greenwood, who actually cooked our first honeymoon meal in the Jefferson Hotel 22 years ago this last week!
These guys have put together an adorable spot at 1106 King St. (http://www.huntingcreeksteak.com/) with plenty of room and plenty of choices. You all know, I am not a steak nut, but this has to be one of the best steaks in the area for the price; a worthwhile venture for sure for steak lovers and others.
Samuel and I went while Will is away, and he wanted to sit outside since it was such a nice evening; it was a great idea and the brick enclosed patio facing the street was jammed with folks, but not noisy at all. There is a cute cabana if you want to spread out and enjoys drinks and snacks and lots of tables with umbrellas. The service outside is superb (it can often be bad when you are there alone and the waiter is AWOL) and we were looked after excellently by the entire team, but Eric was always on with the wine as was our server Shawn.
Speaking of wine, you get 25% off any bottle Mondays-Wednesdays, which I am a big fan of, so I ordered the Numanthia Termes 2011 Tempranillo from Tot, Spain which was smooth, yet intense and would be a superb steak wine for sure. My only complaint for the entire night was that the glasses are on the heavy side; but then this is ahuge palce with an outdoodr, so they need to be sturdy. Samuel had his coke.
Out came a small plate of pinwheel wraps stuffed with smoked salmon and boursin cheese, which Samuel declared inedible as he detests cream cheese; they were delicious, but filling, so I will have the rest for lunch today. I ordered the Lemon-Ginger Infused Salmon Tartar with Jerusalem Artichokes which is a great starter to share. The plate is laden with thinly sliced chokes that are deep fried and come out like thickish potato chips and are seasoned perfectly as the tartar is mild and can be scooped onto the yummy chips. There is also tasty housemade focaccia.
Every day there is a 3-course menu deal with many choices as this is not just a steak place, but we were drawn to the Roseda Farms Butcher's Cut Wagyu Beef Bavette from the start. The steaks are hormone and antibiotic-free at this grass-fed farm and dry aged 21 days in Maryland, which won me over from the start. The Wagyu cut is 12 ounces which is huge and rings in at an amazing $32!! Sam had his with Bernaise which he barely used as the steak was so tasty. My chimichurri was superb and there are many sauce options, although they are not needed at all! The steaks all come with tasty just spiced-right frites, so we skipped ordering any sides as we were indeed stuffed and managed to take home about 1/3 of each steak anyway for tonight! When Chef Will came out, we were all praises and he explained that the steaks are cryovac wet-aged for even longer in house which has to be the secret as well as the superb source.
A glass of tasty Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold Alcoholic Cider from Dougspur, VA was brought around and I fell in love with this sweet treat before we headed home, knowing full well we will be back to HUNTING CREEK for steak or not....maybe duck and the chocolate desserts...or whatever.