We went back to Taro in October to see what it was like on a regular night (as opposed to a holiday). We both ordered the sushi tasting menu which comes with come cooked dishes and some sushi. I won't go into too much detail this time because, frankly, the cooked dishes were forgettable. Sure they were savory and good (except for the frequent use of large, chewy matsutake mushrooms), but they were not really special - not like that incredible sukiyaki from February. The sushi, however, was fantastic - the standouts being fatty tuna (of course), white salmon, and the wagyu beef (I realize this is not a fish, but my goodness it was amazing). We have decided to skip the tasting menu the next time we go and just order sushi a la carte, because the fresh fish is definitely the star of Taro.
I suppose it is about time for me to review OUR restaurant, the one where Jasper proposed to me, where we spend most of our anniversaries and special occasions - Marcel's. It is a romantic, old world, French restaurant. Marcel's gives you the ability to choose how many courses to have in your tasting menu - 3,4,5, or 7. You may chose multiples of a dish, choose all appetizers, all desserts - whatever you want! You may also order a la carte, but I wouldn't recommend it. You will want to be able to try many things. The Pre-theater 3 course menu is also a wonderful option (remember that you will have an amuse bouche and several additional sweets in addition to the 3 courses). If you valet your car, they will arrange to drive you via towncar to the Kennedy Center, and bring you back after the show. You can even opt to have the dessert course when you come back after the show. The wine list here is, of course, impressive. Leave yourself in the hands of the excellent sommelier - he knows what he is talking about.
The absolute best thing on the menu is Chef Robert Wiedmaier's signature Boudin Blanc - a fluffy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, mousse filled white sausage. I get this absolutely every time I come. If there is foie gras on the menu, get that too - they know how to do it right. Usually it will be served on top of brioche, which is good for sopping up all that blackberry or truffle sauce - yum. Jasper loves the Diver Scallops, I love the raw fish crudos. Anything with lobster, especially if it is with pasta, is fantastic. The cooked fish courses are consistently good (especially turbot), as are the snails, when they are on the menu. The entrees are always good - I typically go for lamb, duck, veal, or anything involving phyllo pastry. Jasper tends to go for the beef. Sometimes I skip the entree entirely and order everything from the beginning of the menu. Sometimes I don't even get dessert *gasp*! Though, of course, they are very good. They change constantly, so I can't offer any specific review, except to say that I have never been disappointed on the few occasions I have chosen sweets over cheese. The cheese course is top of the line with cheeses like Roquefort and Taleggio, and accompaniments like honeycomb and Sauternes syrup.
I know that this review is a bit vague, so the next time that we go, I will bring back a report of exactly what we ordered to give you a better idea. Trust me though, this is a special restaurant, and special things will happen to you here.
By the way, Chef Wiedmaier practices the philosophy of using the whole animal. His other restaurants include Brasserie Beck, BRABO, The Tasting Room, and Mussel Bar.
Last weekend, we decided to visit a few wineries along the Potomac River, north of Leesburg, and end up at Patowmack Farm for dinner. The first winery we stopped at, Fabbioli Cellars, was by far our favorite. There were plenty of people there, but it didn't feel crowded. The people were really genuine, laid back, and fun - they were even wearing costumes in honor of Halloween. For tastings ($5), you sit down at one of several small tables (4-6 ppl max) and get basically one-on-one attention from the staff member in charge of your tasting. Our server, Melissa, was one of the winemakers - so we got to hear a lot about what went in to each wine. We got generous pours of 8 wines, plus one that we requested that wasn't on the tasting list. The wines are very good, we particularly liked the lighter Chambourcin - a variety that I had never had before; the Tre Sorelle Bordeaux; and the Reserve Cabernet Franc. The real stars of the winery are their dessert wines, though. They have a Raspberry Merlot made with raspberries that they grow themselves. They also have the Rosa Nera - a fortified wine (think port) with black raspberries - again grown by Fabbioli. The Raspberry Merlot is sweeter and lighter, the Rosa Nera is richer and goes wonderfully with dark chocolate. They had some nice fires going outside, so we bought some bread, cheese, and salami, corked one of the bottles we bought, and had a little picnic by the fire. It was lovely.
The second winery, Lost Creek, was seriously unimpressive. It was very crowded, and they only had 2 people serving tastings, so they were rushing around a lot. We had to wait a long time for our next pour, occasionally, and had to keep reminding the server which wine we were on. The pours were ludicrously tiny, barely a sip, which was perhaps a good thing considering how bad the wines were. Save your $5, do not go here. We were originally thinking about trying Hidden Brook, next door, but I had read reviews about it saying that Lost Creek was better. And we didn't want to go to anywhere WORSE than Lost Creek.
Our last winery was Tarara (Ararat spelled backwards in honor of the Biblical story of Noah). It is a very large property with a lake, pavilions for parties or concerts, trails, etc... They are more structured here, perhaps because of volume of visitors. They have a large counter at the entrance for buying tickets to tours or tastings. We had wanted to do a tour of the cellar, but they had already sold out of tickets. After paying our $5 for a tasting, we were told to go into the next room. It was extremely crowded in the tasting room, we had to wait for a couple to leave before we could get a space at the counter. Our server was not as overstretched as the one at Lost Creek, but it was definitely not the intimate experience of Fabbioli. Her comments on each wine sounded very rehearsed, she would pour the wine (a decent size pour), give her speech, and move on to the next person. The wines were ok, nothing to write home about. Our favorites from the tasting were the Charval - a white blend, and the Long Bomb Edition 1 - the signature red. Tarara offers a wine club that includes 3 bottles every quarter, 20% discount on purchases, free tastings, and tickets to summer concerts.
At the end of our day, we headed of for dinner at Patowmack Farm - a literal farm to table situation focused on sustainable foods. Reservations are required here, by the way, no walk-ins allowed. We arrived a little early for our reservation, so we wandered around and got a look at their vegetable garden, chickens, and goats, before heading to the glass greenhouse like structure for dinner. We were seated (by the owner) with a gorgeous view out to the hills and the Potomac, and got to enjoy a lovely sunset. Our menus were printed with a welcome and our last name at the top - a wonderfully personal touch. Our server, Bill, was enthusiastic about the philosophy of the restaurant and the ingredients used. We got detailed descriptions from him at each course explaining where the ingredients came from and how each vendor practices sustainability.
We each ordered the tasting menu, and Jasper got a wine pairing - several of the wines were from Fabbioli Cellars! We were served an amuse bouche of a mini flatbread pizza, with pumpkin puree, organic feta, and olive. This was followed by a gougere - a cheesy bread puff - that was incredible. It made me want to try out the gougere mix we sell at Williams Sonoma. The first course was a raw crudo of swordfish with pickled carrots and celery, saffron, and fresh anchovy. It was very fresh and flavorful. Both the menu and Bill were careful to point out that the swordfish came from Linda Greenlaw, whose name you may recognize from The Perfect Storm. She is the only female sword-fishing captain on the East Coast, and only uses rods (not nets) to catch fish, insuring that she is not damaging the ocean floor and that she can throw back anything that is too small. Anyway, the next course was a green apple consume with butternut squash tortellini, puffed barley, and sage. The broth was sweet and tart and very clear, the barley adding a little crunch. I wished there was more than one of the tortellini. The third course was our favorite - braised veal ragu with potato and pumpkin gnocchi, ricotta, and nasturtium leaf (similar to watercress). The ragu was tender, rich, and flavorful, and the gnocchi were tiny and perfect. This was followed by a frozen spiced pear palate cleanser, and the main course - Venison Leg with autumn greens, marinated apples, rosemary pear sauce, and juniper spice pesto. The venison was good - not tough or gamey. However, venison is not my favorite meat, and the veal ragu from the last course was so delicious, that it was a little disappointing. The greens, and rosemary pear sauce were very good accompaniments, and I was fascinated by the juniper spice pesto - it was an incredibly strong blend of spices. We were warned that a little of the pesto went a long way, and it was very true. I ended up dipping the tines of my fork in it to get the right amount for each bite. The venison came from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, where they take a mobile processing center around to cooperating ranches to hunt and process wild animals on site. The animals are not trapped or transported, so they never become stressed or afraid - it is very humane. For dessert, I had the butternut squash cheesecake, which was creamy and delicious. Jasper had a mocha souffle, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Overall, it was a lovely experience, and one that I would definitely recommend if you have time for a bit of a drive and a relaxing dinner.