Sunday, June 26, 2016

Capitol Hill's GRANVILLE MOORE's seems to give more and more (6-25-16)

The H Street, NE corridor is humming every night with so many new hot dining spots, but last night before heading to the In Series Opera "Fidelio" at the Atlas Theater, we decided to try one of the first places to open when the neighborhood began changing almost a decade ago. GRANVILLE MOORE's ( St, NE) is about as unassuming a place than can exist, with a small door and sign, narrow entry to a lower level of a townhouse (if u can call it that) with a long bar and tables),  a steep staircase to another narrow upper floor with bar and wooden booths that would benefit from a cushion. The feel here is definitely less than casual, shall we say come as you are, neighborhood pub. The specialty here is what the sign says on the front, "FRITTES-ALES-MOULES," and I must say while I am not a beer person, the ale menu is impressive while the 6 wines by the glass/bottle are just adequate. The fries here have to win a city-wide prize for some of the best. Served in a basket with paper tray they are spiced up with sea salt and seasonings and come with two dipping sauces per each huge $6 order (extra sauces are a ridiculously low 25cents each!). They are crispy, crunchy and tasty and even without the sauce win my prize. We chose Kalamata Aioli which was rich in the salty Greek olive taste, but the Truffle Mayo wins a prize as well. The mussels also win prizes for the ingenuity in flavor blending such as "BLEU" having Hook's Blue Cheese, Pork Belly, Shallots, Spinach, White Wine and Lemon which immediately attracted me. The pork belly is crisp and meaty in little squares and the spinach leaves abound as well. The broth is light but rich with blue cheese flavor and ideal for mopping up with the thick slices of French bread. Thai Mussels have a huge kick with Curry, Coconut, Lemongrass, Ginger, Chilies, Basil, Cilantro and Peanuts.
If you desire starters, they tend to be rich, so we just had mussels while one of us tried two starters: Arancini are Fried Parmesan Risotto Balls with Mushroom, English Pea Pesto for dipping, Aged Ricotta and Lemon Zest and come on a small excellent salad bed to boot. Grilled Shrimp are head on with Pineapple Glaze, Cucumber-Pepper Broth, Mango Salsa and Summer Radish.
Chef Teddy Folkman is splitting his time these days between ventures and was sadly not in house, but the staff was super friendly, helpful and just plain nice, so his team is in good hands for sure, and the food was all top notch.
A bottle of I Basalti Soave was a dry minerally choice for the mussels and worked fine. Erin helped us choose, but steered us away from the Corn Chowder Mussels (she does not like corn, she admitted) which sounded very rich with Leeks, Onion, Garlic, Celery Cream, Clam Juice, Thyme & bacon--perhaps on a cool autumn time.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Peking Gourmet Inn is just ducky!(6-22-16)

It was the last dinner before the six visiting family members and friends headed home for the UK after Samuel's Bar Mitzvah and we were graciously asked to join our dearest friends at one of their favorite places, Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, VA which has been a steadfast fixture on the DC dining scene for decades.
We love going here as everyone seems to be celebrating (they sing Happy Birthday in Chinese to so many tables!) something and we all had so much to celebrate: Samuel's 13th birthday and hugely successful Bar Mitzvah, our family visiting the US for the first time, great friends we have cherished for decades and decades and so much more.
Many of the Brits wanted Bud Lights, but we also had a tasty Snoqualmie Sauvignon Blanc from Washington's Columbia Valley which was delightful with those spicy chili pastes and hot mustards on the appetizers as well as a yummy J. Lohr Seven oaks 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Our server Alex was delightful and sweet and made me laugh each time we ordered another bottle of what he called, "the Sauvignon Blanc from Columbia PIKE," which for those of you not in our neighborhood, is a street just around the corner from this restaurant!
If we did not fill up enough on the thick tasty Chinese noodles with thick garlic sauce, we might have eaten more of the many dishes to follow.
Starters included Vegetarian Spring Rolls which are so crunchy the pastry falls apart and my new favorite Fried Leek Dumplings. Of course, Samuel wanted his own order of Fried Pork Dumplings, even though he loves leeks!
We left the starters to move on to what is always a loving and true production at Peking Gourmet, the Peking Duck. We had two ducks and our host explained one was prepared Peking style, with crunchier skin and one Hong Kong Style with less fat rendered and thicker less crunchy skin. Well, I'm a crunch guy so I gobbled up the legs which nobody seemed to want while everyone else enjoyed their pancakes stuffed with Duck, Hoisin, Scallions and/or Cucumber. I have to say it was as good as the duck we had in Beijing, maybe better. Each duck is lovingly carved tableside all the way to the bone (you can ask to take the carcass home to make soup!) and it seems that the production yields enough to serve dozens and dozens! It's a miracle.
One of our favorite dishes is the Jeo-Yen Shrimp (see FB photos) which are huge, crunchy and succulent and then there is the Lamb Chops Peking Style which are crusted and seared New Zealand lamb chops cooked to order (ours were spot on not quite medium rare as requested!) and of course, we keep the tasty garlic sauce for dipping all of these.
Other dishes at the table were Szechuan Beef, Orange Beef, Vegetable Fried Rice and the Gourmet Pan Fired Noodles with Beef, Jumbo Shrimp, Chicken and Vegetables, a veritable meal in itself (I know because we took so much home!).
A side dish of Baby Bok Choy with Japanese Mushrooms was also superb.
The service here is so friendly and welcoming, and the staff is very attentive; we were sorry to disappoint their friendly faces when we had to turn down dessert menu! No wonder!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shirlington's new HULA GIRL Bar & Grill gets you going (6-21-16)

I had the pleasure of meeting Chef/Owner Mikala Brennan at a James Beard event earlier this month. She opened Hula Hurl earlier this year in Shirlington (4044 Campbell Ave, Arlington, and I had not even noticed it with our many jaunts to Signature Theatre. So it was the perfect place to grab a bite before taking the whole family to see La Cage Aux Folles at Signature(which you should not miss).
We got tied up in traffic and the huge storms so by the time we arrived it was just for a main course making a return necessary to try the various starters of ribs, poke and Hawaiian treats--I will skip the spam!
Burgers were in order for the most part with most of us ordering variations of the Hula Girl Teriyaki Burger made of chuck and sirloin with Grilled Onions. Each main course comes with two good-sized sides as well. My Maui Onion Rings with dipping sauce and Grilled Baby Bok Choy were superb. Only my burger was a bit overcooked at medium. Some went for the Applewood smoked bacon, cheese and/or fried egg toppings as well. The fries all disappeared and the Wood Ear Mushroom Salad was a huge veggi treat!
I have to praise the wonderful drink menu loaded with spicy treats. I had the Hula Girl Mai-tai made from Appleton Rum, Ginger Liquor, Tiki Bitters, Roasted pineapple puree, Macadamia Nut Orgeat Syrup, Lime, Goslings Black Rum Float and Chile infused pineapple on a skewer with a jalapeno! The Margarita got spicy raves as well.
I wish we had more time to dine and enjoy, but alas the weather ruined us and the theater called.

Dino's in Shaw shows the Brits Italian food, American style (6-20-16)

With the bar Mitzvah over, Will's family and friends are still here from the UK so 9 of us hopped over to DINO's IN SHAW on Monday for a veritable feast which started with Mortadella wrapped parmigiana reggiano; Vadouvin Deviled Eggs which I still declare the best on earth with their crunchy Prosciutto, anchovy sriracha aioli, salsa verde and silk road spices; Squash Blossoms with ricotta, parmigiana reggiano, egg, herbs, garlic and a diviner light summer tomato essense; Fried 'Not Green' Local Tomato which is a new treat for me made from local tomatoes fried with parm, panko and served with pickled green strawberry, onion and balsamico--a delightful different treat and Spicy 'Forte' Salad.
Our first wine was a sparkling red Lambrusco and that was followed by Oregon's Eyrie Rose for the above starters.
The next wine was an earthy Graci Etna Bianca from Sicily that I loved and this arrived with multiple pastas:
4 Cheese Risotto Primavera with cherry tomatoes, snap peas, spring onion, broccoli, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, lemon paste and 24month aged Parm that was a veritable veggie garden of delight.
Fungi with  Pappardelle (Sage roasted mushrooms)
and then Sam had a yummy Pappardelle with Cinghiale-wild boar sauce with rosemary, cocoa, cream and pecorino cheese.
Free form lasagnette came as one of the main courses for Will's sister with Prok & Veal Ragu, bacon, fonduta and that 24 month aged Parm. Pasta Overdose? Never.
We enjoyed a superb Brunello from Sasetti Pertimale "La Querciolna" (sp?) Montecucco in Montalcino that was quite hearty and demanded food. We each chose a main course and had plenty to take home for leftovers:
Duck Breast is Dr. Joe's Heritage Pekin Duck seared and pan roasted with rare Tuscan Mole that was a it as were the Lamb Chops with Balsamico & Ramp Butter.
Some folks were so full they just ordered starters of Grilled Artichokes with roasted shallot/lemon/herb aioli and silk road spices or
Octopus Cooked Under a Paper Bag that I never did get to taste!
Tiramisu arrived for dessert but I just had the Apple Asian Pear/Saffron Limncello which was delilsh and I preferred to the Bergamnot Orange Limoncello....which others preferred; to each his own!
No matter we all loved it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

RIPPLE really treats your tastebuds (6-11-16)

Samuel's 13th birthday week began with a special menu created for the adults by Top Chef contender this past season Marjorie Meek-Bradley who has created a niche and name for herself in the Washington restaurant community; we are all glad she chose this city!
Will and I started with cocktails: his was "Pour it Up, Pour it Up" a refreshing mix of Campari, Doulin Rouge (Sweet Vermouth) and some bubbles while I went colorful fancy (see the FB fotos) with The Vex made from lavender Mezcal, House Limoncello, Sherry & Black Pepper Shrub & Egg White, which had a beautiful aroma but a mild not sweet taste that was quite yummy coming from my newfound favorite mezcal. How appropriate it was lavender for Gay Pride Weekend.
The amazing Parker House Rolls arrived with soft butter and the four were gone in seconds flat and Will could not resist the Gribiche Deviled Eggs so he ordered a small plate of those as well.
Samuel started Lamb Tartare which disappeared so fast we couldn't even think of tasting. It had fried green tomatoes, Old Bay Aigre-Doux, Capers & Pickled Mustard Seed.
Our first course was Marinated Blue Crab with Fresno peppers, Celery, Cucumber, Ginger & White Soy Vinaigrette which was superb, refreshing and tasty in the 96 degree heat! A yummy Tesco Blanca "La Zorra" from Spain that was yet another new varietal for me was a perfect match with rich minerality.
The second course was Rye Flour Malfatti (Italian for "made bad") which is a kind of large pasta that is kind of thrown over the ingredients which here was Braised Path Valley Rabbit Sugo with Roncal Cheese(aged sheep). This is one of the best pastas I have had in a long while and Samuel looked and glared and begged for a taste then he ordered a whole portion as his second course! the pairing was a Guild Lot 10 Red from Columbia Valley that is a blend of 68% Syrahm 19% Mourvedre, 8% Durif (another new varietal) and the rest Grenache and Cinsault which was slightly earthy but also not too heavy and brilliantly matched the richness of the meat and pasta.
I have to give great credit to manager Caroline for finding these amazing wines and to our server Kristen for doing such a superb job pairing them.
The third course was a Seared Branzino with perfectly crispy skin, Wild Rice (puffed and al dente), Tamarind Aioli, Pepitas and Treviso (a type of radicchio). I loved the aioli and the fish was perfect as well making the entire dish truly a brilliant combination of flavors. Coenobium 2014 from Lazio was a white made by Trappist nuns from Trebbiano, Malvasia and Verdicchio that was slightly earthy funky yet again ideal with the tamarind and big flavors of the fish.
Samuel had ordered the Roasted Amish Chicken Breast with Sofrito Braised Thigh, Chickpea Hummus and a side of, naturally, hand Cut Fries with House made ketchup.
Our main course was a gorgerous Roseda Farms NY Strip with Shitake Steak Sauce, Maitake Mushrooms, Celery, Carrots and Sous Vide Shallots; the vegetables alone deserved a prize. An Orben 2008 from Rioja in Spain was the perfect Tempranillo pairing yet again.

It was getting late (we had been there almost 3 hours) but dessert was included and two arrived. Samuel said he could not possibly eat anymore and packed up most of his chicken to go home.
Cheesecake & Mousse were the Miso Carrot Cake which I had on my previous visit with Strawberry Ice Cream, Candied Ginger and Toffee Chips. The Greek Yogurt Mousse came with Candied Pistachios, Pistachio Sponge Cake, Salted Caramel, Saffron Poached Oranges and indeed was a big winner in my book--well they both were. The wine was a BenRyƩ Donnafugata from Zebibo in Italy that was a rich orange intense dessert wine that paired so wonderfully with the poached oranges.
We were full, gave our gracious thanks to one of our most favorite chefs around, and then headed home to crash before the big weeks gets started!


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

the James Beard Foundation celebration culinary women with a super SUNDAY SUPPER at UNION MARKET (6-5-16)

I had attended the first James Beard SUNDAY SUPPER at Union Station 4 years ago and was thrilled to be able to return this past Sunday for another superb Sunday Dinner, this time benefitting both the James beard Foundation and Women in Culinary Executive Program with a slew of mostly women chefs making merry for the hundreds of us in attendance. On arrival the valet whisked my car away (superb service) and we were welcomed into a covered area outside the market where mixologists and chefs were at work.
My first stop was for a Blackberry Iced Tea which was very nice, but I craved alcohol and made my way to uber mixologist Gina Chersevani of Buffalo and Bergen (actually at Union market) who was whipping up T1 Exceptional Reposado Tequila with Grapefruit, Ginger, Cointreau and Passion Fruit in a magnificent drink that I fell in love with. For us tequila nuts, there was also a shot of T1 Anejo for sipping.
My first food stop was with Chef Jamie Leeds of Hanks Oyster Bar(and many more places now) who was serving a super Crab & Shrimp Summer Seafood Bisque into which she placed a yummy chunk of homemade Corn bread! YUM!
It was hot, but this soup was refreshing and rich and oh so delicious. I wanted seconds, but knew the night would be long and filling, so I refrained.
Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern of the newly opened CHAIA in Georgetown had a veggie dish as that is what Chaia is about: Spring Asparagus Taco with Green Garlic, Alleghency CHevre, Hot Cherry Pepper Spread and Preserved Lemon. I'll need to pop in to Chaia to see what's tasty on the menu there for sure.
Mikala Brennan of Hula Girl in Shirlington served up crispy wonton chips with Ahi Poke that was simple yet superb. I am in Shirlington all the time and failed to notice this new spot.
Next I visited Jordan Cotton, founder of Cotton and Reed which will open DC's first Rum Distillery across the street soon. He was mixing up several rum cocktails and I loved the one with allspice and Caribbean flavors. Once my run stash at home expires, I'll just have to buy local!
Chefs Ruth Gresser(of Pizzaria Paradiso/Veloce) and Janis McLean(Seasons Culinary Service) had a yummy Crostini con Fegato Escarola which was a simple crostini slathered with Escarole, Chicken Liver, Walnuts, Parmesan and Sour Cherry Drizzle that I could not stop eating!
Freshly shucked Chesapeake Oysters were also being served....I must have finished off a 1/2 dozen.

The dinner bell rang just as the rain started and hundreds of us hurried inside to the long tables and I had a table which was at one end next to the chef's serving area; how lucky for me(and you) since you can see some great photos of the superstar chefs on my FB page! You could spot well known faces in the food biz such as Chefs Haidar Karoum, Nora Pouillon, Ris Lacoste and more floating through the crowds.
Wines were poured and I settled in on the Williamsburg 2015 Viognier (most were from Virginia!) which went very well with a lot of the dishes. Everything is served family style, but there's plenty for everyone and two dishes arrive for each of the three courses. There was also a nice Alain de Treille Rose.
First at bat was Chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina with Charred Garlic Scapes, Roasted Shitake & Creamed Fava Bean that I fell in love with instantly. It sounds so simple, yet the dish was complex and flavorful. Opposite was the lone male chef of the evening (how did he get in?)Nick Stefanelli of Masseria with Burrata with Skinny Dipper Oysters, Caviar & Cippollini Onions. I love burrata and this was a superb presentation, but I felt it was the least innovative dish of the evening, though still delicious.
I moved to red wine and liked the San Elias Cabernet being served which was perfect with my favorite dish of the evening Macnhester Farms Quail Drummette l'Orange which was an entire deoned quail crispy fried and served with Thai Bird Chiles, Scallion and Orange Glaze. Top Cheftestant Jennifer Carroll, who recently opened her Requin in Fairfax was the source of this delicious dish and I could not compliment her enough. Chef/Author Elizabeth Falkner made the other plate of Carrot Top-Sunflower Seed Pesto, Roasted and Raw Carrots, Spiced Lentils and Seeds that had a flavorful punch and mixed so many different things to sublime veggie offering.

The "main" course was shared with one dish by Top Cheftestant Karen Akunowicz of Myers & Chang in Boston with a yummy Blue Catfish & Green Fried Rice--Peas and Tendrils, Ginger, Lime & Chile that needed more catfish and less lemongrass, but was as tasty as ever. I had to go back to the Viognier as there was no Riesling for this spice-packed dish. The other dish was from one of our favorites, Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley(watch this space for a super upcoming meal from her this weekend) of Ripple/Smoked & Stacked who pulled out all the strings with a "Tasting of Autumn Olive Farms Pig" consisting of Andouille Sausage, Glazed Shoulder, Roasted Belly, Braised Greens, Chile & Ginger. The dish was lean and tasty and the belly crunchy and flavorful; each element a treat.
By this point I had switched to RdV Vineyards 2010 Rendezvous which sells for close to $100 a bottle and I was surprised to see being served so flowingly. It is still a young Bordeaux blend, but since the bottles were opened on the table at the start of the dinner, by this time it was drinking very well and worked to perfection with all the pork elements!

We adjourned from the dining area back outside, where the rain had passed and temperature and humidity had dropped to a super comfortable evening and many desserts were being served. I skipped the long line for Dolcezza gelato and headed to the miniature pastries:
Christina Marie Chambers of BLACK PEARL in Dc had two and I tried the tasty Rhubarb Orange Crumble Tart with Rhubarb Orange Jam, Almond Poppyseed Crumble, Blond Chocolate and Poached Rhubarb which was nice but could not hold up to the amazing Milk Chocolate Peanut Bites and Valrhona Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Emily Luchetti of Marlowe/Park Tavern/Cavalier/Leo's Oyster Bar. Bluebird Bakery was represented by Camila Arango & Tom Wellings who served up Kouign Amann-Flakey & Sweet Pastry from Brittany and Strawberry Tarts with Tahitian Vanilla Cram, Wild Strawberry Preserved and Strawberry Meringue.

I was indeed full after a glass of Painous Cava Brut and completely forgot to try the Compass Coffee Nitrogen Infused Cold Brew everyone was raving about!
What an amazing evening it was and lots of money raised for such a good cause!