So two months after we started, Keerin and I finally managed to get another Vegan friendly restaurant under our belt and part of our self-assigned challenge. This time, we hit up Science Club near Farragut Square in DC.
A while back I tried afghan food for the first time and I LOVED it. I went to Faryab in Bethesda, which despite having no website and a hard to find location made it into the Washingtonian's top 100 restaurants. That was a fantastic place to try afghan food for the first time, but certainly a tough act to follow. A recent Washingtonian article mentioned Panjshir in Falls Church, which is much closer to me, so I was really excited to try it. I ordered a selection of dishes (for take-out), and while the food was not as good as the food at Faryab, it was still pretty decent and certainly much more convenient for me.
We went to two Italian restaurants while we were in Bend for Thanksgiving. One of them was, unfortunately, pretty disappointing. But the other, Ariana, was fantastic!
The restaurant is inside what looks like an old house, so the dining room is small but cozy. The service was great, and the waiter liked Jasper's request for Champagne with St Germain so much that he said he was going to add it to the cocktail menu.
We were so excited about our appetizers that I didn't get a chance to take pictures! We ordered beef carpaccio with truffle oil and burrata with tomatoes; both were fantastic.
My friend Keerin, who is a vegan, recently sent me a list from the Washington Post of the best restaurants for vegans and vegetarians in the area. She challenged me to try them out with her, and we hope to get through the whole list at some point.
Surprisingly, my favorite pizza place was on the list - Pizzeria Paradiso! They celebrated their 20th anniversary last week and were offering special deals, including all-you-can-eat pizza and beer for $20! We hopped at the chance and met up at the Dupont Circle location. We found out that while the AYCE pizza part was true, they were only including two $6 draft beers in the deal - which is only half of their draft list, and half of those they were out of. So we only had 3 or four beers to choose from, but they were also having a happy hour with 1/2 price drafts so we were fine.
Last weekend I attended the Metro Cooking & Entertaining Show at the convention center, and I took the opportunity to try a few restaurants in the area. One of those was Kushi Izakaya and Sushi, a restaurant I have been dying to try ever since I read that the sushi was on par with Taro. Kushi is also an Izakaya, which is kind of like the Japanese version of a pub or tavern, and features a robata (wood) grill and a charcoal grill. We definitely wanted to try some of the grilled items, but decided to focus overall on the sushi so we sat at the sushi counter (versus the robata counter or a table).
One of the many things that I love about my neighborhood favorite, Chef Geoff's Tysons, is that the menu changes seasonally. The Fall menu that is being featured right now is pretty fantastic. Some of the standouts are:
The duck confit appetizer - a nice big piece of duck on the bone, served over spatzle in a whole grain mustard cream sauce. The meat can be a bit difficult to cut off the bone, so just pick that sucker up and gnaw on it rib style. The spatzle is perfect - light with no hint of gumminess - and the mustard sauce is nicely balanced.
The apple and butternut squash bisque - this is your classic fall soup combo, with some unique garnishes in the form of ginger crème fraiche and crispy, fried, sweet, and a little spicy lotus chips.
The duck confit pizza - with roasted pears, blue cheese, and balsamic caramelized onions. It's a great balance of sweet and salty, and they are not fooling around with the confit - there is a TON piled on there. This is definitely a two-person pizza.
The pear and gorgonzola agnolotti - with Swiss chard, in an Amaretto butter sauce, topped with amaretti (Amaretto cookie) crumbles. I am crushing on this dish in a major way - I long for it. The agnolotti are fantastic, of course, but I want to talk about the chard - drenched in that sweet butter sauce with chunks of pear and the crunch of the amaretti cookies. Oh my goodness, I have honestly never had better tasting Swiss chard. I want to develop a recipe for this sauce just so that I can use it with chard.
There a few great looking dishes that I haven't had the chance to try yet: a burger topped with barbequed short ribs, Havarti, and green tomato; a butternut squash risotto with Taleggio; a rabbit bolognese with black pepper pappardelle, fennel, and grana padano. I will update this post after I have eaten more of the Fall dishes!
And let's not forget the drink menu - CG's is always coming up with great new cocktails. The Fall standout is the Saint Rosemary Sour, combining my favorite liquors - Pisco and St. Germain - with fresh lime juice, egg white, house made citrus syrup, and rosemary tincture, and topping it off with bitters and a rosemary sprig. Absolutely fantastic.
I had a massive craving for Nostos last week, and I ended up going two days in a row for lunch.
On the first day, I got the cold appetizer platter with skordalia, Greek beans, tzatziki, taramosalata, imam baildi, and pita. This was definitely enough food for an entire meal! The skordalia (potato and garlic puree) was so garlicky it was difficult to eat, and the beans were undercooked (read crunchy), but everything else was fantastic! The tzatziki was cool and creamy and perfect, the taramosalata (whipped fish roe and lemon) was briny and creamy and fresh, and the imam baildi (eggplant with tomatoes, raisins, and pinenuts) was sweet and delicious with some salty feta cheese.
The next day, I started with the avgolemono soup - chicken soup with egg and lemon. Oh my goodness, this was so soothing and wonderful. I like my chicken soup creamy with a lot of acid (I add lime juice and coconut milk at home) and the creaminess of the egg plus the kick of lemon was just perfect.
To go with the soup, I got the dolmades avgolemono - grapeleaves stuffed with rice and ground beef and topped with an egg lemon sauce. I normally don't like dolmades, as they can be bitter and tough, but here they are tender and lovely and the avgolemono sauce is just heavenly.
To finish off, I tried the saganaki - pan fried kefalograviera cheese (a hard, salty, sheep's milk cheese) that is then flamed table side and doused with fresh lemon juice. It forms a crust on the outside that reveals melty cheesy goodness on the inside. Fried mozzarella has nothing on this! I spread it on some bread, but I think you could just eat it as is.
The Inn is one of the most highly praised restaurants in the country, and certainly one of the best in the area. A one hour drive west from the beltway into rural Virgina finds this gem nestled amongst quaint B&B's and wineries. Reservations are highly sought and can be hard to get on the weekends, especially holiday weekends, so we were ridiculously lucky to be able to get a table on short notice during labor day weekend.
The room rates at The Inn are quite steep though, starting at $425 a night and increasing rapidly by room category. That is not even including the additional $245 for Saturdays, $145 for Fridays, and $75 for Sundays plus seasonal increases. In short - yikes!
We decided to save our money for what really counted (dinner and wine) and stay next door at the Middleton Inn.
For the price of a basic room at The Inn at Little Washington, we got a whole two-story cottage complete with jacuzzi tub and fireplace. It was just gorgeous! And the owners offered wine and cheese in the afternoon and port after dinner. While we were enjoying our wine and cheese, we met a couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. They had come down all the way from Michigan just to eat at The Inn, and had made their reservations a year in advance. They had eaten there the night before and tried to prepare us for what we were about to experience.
What we were about to experience was dining perfection, from the food to the quirky humor of the menu to the service The Inn knows exactly what it is doing. We only experienced one minor hiccup that night - we had asked in advance if we could bring in our own Champagne and they had said - of course! We had a bottle of Dom Perignon that was given to Jasper by his superiors as a gift for a job well done and brought that in. The sommelier chilled and opened it for us, but he also chastised us for bringing in something that they had on the menu. The policy makes sense, of course, but it should have been mentioned when we first asked if we could bring a bottle in. We were a little embarrassed but moved on quickly from that and ordered a bottle of wine by way of an apology, and the rest of the evening was flawless.
We were greeted by a menu that has a personalized greeting printed at the top, a list of local vendors, and a list of produce grown in The Inn's own garden. We were tempted by the ten course "Gastronaut's Menu", but found that the most exciting dishes were only on the three course menu so we opted for that.
I began with a carpaccio of lamb with Caesar salad ice cream that was just fantastic and incredibly innovative. Jasper had the "tin of sin" - a tin of crab salad topped with caviar - which was absolutely divine!
For my second course, I had the macaroni and cheese with Virginia country ham and black truffle. Absolutely decadent and rich - we both agreed that it was better than Jasper's dish, which is saying something. Because Jasper's dish was seared foie gras with frisee, house made bacon, lamb confit, poached egg, and truffle.
For my main, I had the veal sweetbreads and Virginia country ham on pappardelle with a grilled local plum sauce - perfection. Jasper had the pepper crusted tuna "pretending to be filet mignon" with foie gras and burgundy butter sauce, and you can probably guess how amazing that was.
Dessert was such a hard decision! Eventually I settled on a triple cream cheesecake with roasted local figs and champagne-berry sorbet. I was sad that it was so little because it was so divine. Jasper ordered the chocolate menage a trois - black forest mousse bombe, chocolate creme brulee, and bittersweet chocolate souffle.
This was one of the best dining experiences we have ever had and we are dying to go back. Especially because there are so many more dishes that we want to try: a "marriage" of hot and cold foie gras with sauternes jelly; roasted beets from the garden with beet mousse; day boat scallops with gnocchi, tomato, lemon, capers, and brown butter; duck breast with sweet corn pudding and peaches; veal loin with bone marrow custard and fennel; a "painter's palette" of sorbets for dessert; and the "seven deadly sins" dessert sampler.
This is a trip we will definitely be repeating!
I recently visited Jaleo (Crystal City), which is a short and beautiful walk from the metro, for restaurant week.
Bread was served with high quality olive oil with rosemary and garlic - very good. I ordered spinach with pinenuts, raisins, and apples and pan con tomate (rustic bread topped with crushed fresh tomatoes and manchego cheese) - both were very good. The fried, bacon wrapped dates are my favorite thing ever (though they are better at the downtown location). On the menu it says "como hace todo el mundo" (that you will want to eat every day) and they are not lying! They are the perfect combo of salty and sweet. The calamari was decent but not outstanding.
Every year, Jasper attends a pair of conventions in Las Vegas and I like to tag along. He attends lectures while I lounge by the pool, indulge in a spa, or go shopping. Afterwards, we meet up and head out to eat at one of Vegas's many excellent restaurants. I could write volumes about hotels and shows and sightseeing, but here it is all about the food.
I'll begin with the casual restaurants inside Caesar's Palace, where we stayed (and which I recommend - one of the best pools on the strip, the best spa, and some of the best shopping).
This bakery and pastry shop was my first stop of the day, every day. With a design that looks like Willy Wonka's factory and a clock that spits out free truffles every hour, this place is a chocolate lover's dream.
The pastry case is magnificent and filled with artful delicacies that are almost too pretty to eat... almost.