Well Dined

8Sep/151

Try the World Review, Sardine Butter

Well Dined | Sardine Butter

I really want to tell you guys about this delightful sardine butter that I made with lemon and fresh herbs, but first I need to tell you how I happened to acquire some sardines.  (Also -check out my delicious Seeded Peasant Bread in the photo, there.)

Well Dined | Try The World (Marrakesh)

I recently signed up for a subscription service called Try The World, which sends me a box of international goodies every other month.  The boxes are themed, so that everything in each comes from one country - my first box was Marrakesh (Morocco).

Well Dined | Try The World (Marrakesh)

Lemme walk you through what it is like to get one of these boxes in the mail.  You open up the cardboard cube, and inside is an adorable print and your beautiful box.

3Aug/152

Launch Pad Culinary Entrepreneur Competition

Last month, I wrote about a competition that I was invited to attend as a media person, and the breakfast meet and greet that went with it.  Well, the finale event of the competition was 3 weeks ago, and it was wonderful!  I apologize for the delay in writing about it, but 2 days after the event I flew to Texas to keep my mother company while she recovered from surgery, and I just got back!  So let's talk about this thing!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

As I mentioned before, Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market to give culinary entrepreneurs a jump start.  The winner of the competition would take over the Ris stall in Union Market for 6 months.

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

I had never been to Union Market before this, so I got there early in order to wander around.  This place is so cool!  They were having a farmers market outside, with live music, and inside is a series of stalls with all kinds of food.  What a foodie dream!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

I really wish that I lived closer to this market, because it is really cool.  I hope that you DC dwellers are appreciating this!

Well Dined | Launch Pad Finale

The Launch Pad event took place in Dock5 - the event space at Union Market.  It really is a big industrial loading dock that you can set up any way that you like for your event.

13Jul/150

Springfield Town Center Restaurant Week

This week, July 12-19, is Restaurant Week at the newly renovated Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA.  You can check out the menus for the 5 participating restaurants here.  As a member of the NoVA Yelp Elite Squad, I was invited to try out the restaurants ahead of time.  We had such a fun time and ate SO MUCH FOOD, it was insane.  Check out what we were served below, and make sure to stop by Springfield Town Center this week for great deals on yummy food!

Our first stop was Yard House, an American restaurant with a huge menu including a big vegetarian section, and tons of beers on tap.

Well Dined | Yard House

They served us an Ahi tuna salad, mac and cheese, and a Moscow Mule. The tuna was really well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but I didn't care for the greens. The mac and cheese was AWESOME - the pasta was the perfect texture and it was loaded with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and truffle oil. So good - I definitely recommend it. The Moscow mule was light and refreshing, and really lovely on a hot day.

Well Dined | Chuy's

Next up was Chuy's - OMG CHUY'S!!!  Words cannot express my excitement.  You see, I am from Texas and this Austin based chain is my jam.  The fact that it has migrated with me to VA is just the best.  The manager here was super on point and spent a lot of time talking about how they make everything fresh in house.  And yes, that is a giant strawberry margarita and pina colada swirl you see there.

30Jun/150

Launch Pad Finalist Breakfast

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast in order to meet the finalists of the Launch Pad Culinary Entrepreneur Competition.  Before I tell you about that breakfast, I need to explain what it was for, and that may get a little convoluted - so stick with me!  Launch Pad is a competition sponsored by Mess Hall, Ris, and Union Market.

Union Market is a revitalized indoor market area and collection of restaurants near Gallaudet University in DC.  It opened in September 2012 and has about 40 shops.  There are plans to add multiple levels and expand it greatly to include retail, restaurants, hotel, entertainment, and incubator space for new food concepts, as well as wholesale space.

Mess Hall is the aforementioned incubator space for new food concepts, which opened in October 2014.  Their mission is to "support up-and-coming food entrepreneurs by providing commercial kitchens, combined with institutional knowledge and extraordinary opportunities."

Ris is a restaurant in DC that also has a satellite location in Union Market, it is owned/operated by chef Ris Lacoste.

Are you still with me?  Great!

Back to Launch Pad - it is a competition for food entrepreneurs to launch a concept in a quick service space in Union Market.  The winner of the Grand Prize will receive (according to the Launch Pad website):

  • 6 – 12 month opportunity to launch a dream concept using a built out space in a prime location at Union Market
  • Free Mess Hall membership
  • Full Service Restaurant Pop-up opportunity at Mess Hall’s event space
  • Mentorship from Ris Lacoste
  • Consultation on lease negotiations with master DC restaurateurs the Hilton Brothers
  • Business plan vetting and design services from EDENS
  • A luncheon organized with successful restaurant investors
  • And a growing list of unique prizes and opportunities courtesy of our event Sponsors.
  • PLUS – All finalists will have their knives sharpened by DC Sharp.

Pretty great, right?!  This is the second year for the competition, and last year the winner was Mason Dixie Biscuit Company.

You know what else is great? The list of judges and advisers for the finalists:

THE JUDGES

Al Goldberg – Founder, Mess Hall
David Hall – Investor, Revolution
Ris Lacoste – Chef / Owner, RIS
Drew Nieporent – Restaurateur, Myriad Restaurant Group
Patrick O’Connell – Chef / Owner, The Inn at Little Washington
Aaron Silverman – Chef / Owner, Rose’s Luxury
Audience Vote – Each member of the live audience will receive a single vote. The Audience Vote will count as 5% of the overall vote.

THE ADVISORS

Richie Brandenburg – Directory of Culinary Strategy, EDENS
Terrell Danley – Chef, DC Central Kitchen
Eric and Ian Hilton– Restaurateurs
Kathy Hollinger– President and CEO, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington
Eric Kessler – Founder / Managing Director, Arabella Advisors
Mike Lenard – Owner, Takorean, Former Head of the Food Truck Association
Winston Lord – Co-Founder, Venga
Spike Mendelsohn – Good Stuff Eatery, DC Food Policy Council Chair
Nick Stefanelli– Chef / Owner, Masseria

Now, let's talk about the finalists and the meet-and-greet breakfast event at Ris restaurant!  There were lots of bloggers and media people there, but plenty of opportunity to speak with the finalists individually.

26May/150

NoVA Wineries

We didn't have any plans for the holiday weekend, but we heard that our favorite local winery (Fabbioli Cellars) was having a 10% case discount, so we decided to do a little wine trip.

Well Dined | Fabbioli Cellars

We started with Fabbioli, and got a tasting.  Apparently it's been 4.5 years since we last went out there, crazy.  We normally just order online or through Whole Foods.  In that time, their tasting price has gone up from $5 to $15, and the pours are much smaller.  But they now include a small bite of food with each wine, encouraging you to sip, eat, and then sip again to taste the difference.  I loved that.  And the bites were delicious, too!  So I'd say it all works out for the better.  The tastings are still run in small groups, so that you get personalized attention, and our girl was very friendly and knowledgeable.

Well Dined | Fabbioli Cellars

The first wine was Una Pera - a sweet white made with Asian pears (they actually place the bottle around a young pear and let it grow inside the bottle, it's pretty cool).  This was paired with a pea puff topped with honeyed goat cheese and a sweet potato crisp.

Next was Something White (a joke from people asking the owner when he was going to start making "something white") - a Viogner and Vidal Blanc blend, paired with mascarpone and sea salt caramel on a cracker.

The first red was a light Sangiovese, that is good for hot weather and as a table wine - pared with grilled asparagus and garlic cheddar, wrapped in prosciutto.

Next was a dry Zinfandel (our least favorite), paired with a roasted beet crisp and salted ginger thyme butter.

The Tre Sorelle was also dry - Jasper liked it, I didn't.  It was paired with goat cheese, rosemary, and smoked sundried tomato on a saltine.

The first of the dessert wines was the Raspberry Merlot, made with raspberries grown on property.  I'm fond of this sweet table wine, Jasper is not.  It pairs beautifully with chocolate, and the bite they provided us was, in fact, a dark chocolate truffle.

Last was Jasper's favorite (he orders it by the case, and has been known to drink a whole bottle in one evening) - Rosa Nera, a black raspberry port.  They served it with a lemon honey truffle - I wouldn't have thought to go with such a bright lemon flavor, but it really worked.

I love the small bite tasting idea, it makes me really want to host a tasting at my house and do something similar.

We brought some salami and cheese with us, to have a picnic lunch before moving on to the next winery.  We got a late start, and spent so long at Fabbioli, that we only got to visit one other place before heading home.

That place was Sunset Hills Vineyard, which Jasper chose because it had won some awards.  It was hopping when we arrived - people camped out everywhere, picnicking, listening to live music, playing frisbee.  The grounds are large and beautiful, so it's a great place to hang out, plus they had a BBQ truck!  There was a wedding going on in the main building, too.

The tastings were in a barn-like structure with some big fans that I appreciated greatly in the heat, making it shaded and breezy.  They were $10 and featured 6 wines.  Unfortunately, we weren't a fan of any of them.  There was one white that I liked (Sunset White - tasted like a sweet Gewurztraminer) and one red that both of us liked (the Cabernet Franc blend), but not enough to warrant buying anything or returning to the winery.

They had these big frozen slushee machines making "wineritas" with Chardonnay and margarita mix.  So I tried one of those and it was actually pretty good.  We also got some ribs at the BBQ truck and they had good flavor, but weren't very tender.  So I think this would be a fun spot to have some wineritas with girlfriends and listen to live music, but it's not really worth it for the wine alone.

31Mar/150

Inn at Little Washington – Birthday Surprise

You guys - I have a computer again!  Yay!!!  We are still in the process of settling in, but I at least have a place to post from now.  Right before we moved was my 30th birthday, and I was kind of bummed because I had wanted to do a big trip to New York but the timing with the new house meant that we couldn't.  Jasper told me that he was going to plan a smaller trip to a surprise location, so right in the middle of packing we hopped in the car and head to... The Inn at Little Washington!  What a great surprise!

Well Dined | Inn at Little Washington

Welcome Cocktails

It also worked out nicely as a pre-anniversary trip because it was almost to our 5 year wedding anniversary!  I can't even believe it - time flies!

Well Dined | Inn at Little Washington

We arrived just in time for afternoon tea, which was lovely.  Both the sweet and savory bites were delicious and I love that they make all of their own accompaniments.  I had a delicious caramel tea that I ended up buying from the store because it was so good.

25Feb/150

Volt – Valentine’s Day Menu

I know I've been really slow in posting, but that's been because of traveling and (drumroll please) buying a house! We are in the process of moving and decorating and all of that, so posting will still be delayed for a bit.  But then I expect to be back in full swing, and with a much better photo set-up.  So until then, here is a review of the Valentine's Day menu at Brian Voltaggio's Volt in Frederick, MD.

We've been wanting to try out Volt for years, in particular their Table 21 chef's table, but just never made it.  But we finally made a commitment and braved the icy conditions and  hour drive to come for Valentine's Day dinner.  We were a little disappointed to see that they did not offer valet, especially because of the weather, but we were able to find street parking 1 block away (free after 5 on Sat).  The decor is sophisticated and clean, and the staff are very professional.

For the holiday, they had a 7-course prix fixe menu with optional wine pairing (7 2oz pours).  The pacing was perfect, as was the amount of food - just enough to allow you to explore the flavors, but not enough to grow tired of the dish. I wasn't struggling to finish at the end like with some tasting menus.  I was driving, so my husband ordered the wine pairing and I had a sip with each course to test the pairing. They were all excellently paired, though my favorites were the whites in the beginning.

Amuse Bouche - oyster with salmon tartare, "tartar sauce", dill. Paired with Sparkling Rose.

Beets, burrata, celery, lemon - very nice, bright, fresh. Paired with Gruner Veltliner (Austria).

Black bass, sunchoke, apple, fennel - very interesting, German flavors I would normally pair with pork or chicken, perfectly cooked. Paired with Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre).

Lobster, celery root, abalone mushroom - lovely, perfectly cooked. Paired with Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast).

Foie Gras, truffles, arugula, salsify - a decadent mousse, the favorite course. Paired with Pinot Noir (Ladoix) - we were concerned when we saw this on the menu, because we thought the foie would be seared, and we prefer it with Sauternes.  But the light Pinot was actually perfect with the chilled mousse.

Beef short rib, coffee, chocolate, guajillo - described as a take on mole, each of our least favorite course, but still good (just not as good as the other courses). Paired with a Granche blend (Chateaneuf du Pape) - also our least favorite wine (but again, still good).

Dried cherry, elderflower vinegar, buttermilk - pretty cool, a cherry macaron frozen with liquid nitrogen and shattered with a St Germain gelee (yum) and a sweet buttermilk. Loved this. Paired with a Rose (CA).

Almond cake, banana, caramel, yogurt - wasn't impressed by this one. The cake was moist, and sitting on creme anglaise, but there wasn't a ton of flavor and I didn't think the caramelized banana frozen yogurt (good on its own) went with it very well. Paired with a Sauternes.

We were also each given a box of 4 chocolates (2 of which were awesome, 2 of which were okay) and I was given a rose.

I was very impressed by the food, the service, and the price - very reasonable.  I also really liked the atmosphere - old townhouse turned serene and modern inside.  I would love to come back and try Table 21 (but not when the weather is that bad - nightmare).

20Jan/151

San Antonio Country Club Chef’s Table

Well Dined | SACC Chef's Table

While we were in San Antonio for Christmas, my father (from whom I inherited my love of food) set up a special dinner in the kitchen of the San Antonio Country Club with Chef Nelson Millán, a Puerto Rican native who has been working at SACC since 2010.  Chef Millán specializes in Latin flavors, but is versed in a variety of cuisines; so when I told my father that I'm not a huge fan of Latin cuisine in general he was able to put together a menu combining two of my favorite cuisines - Asian and French (or Frasian, they joked).  My parents, my brother and his fiance, my sister, my husband, and I were set up at a big metal table inside the kitchen with a close up view of the action and a very dedicated server who made sure our glasses were never empty.  Let's begin our Frasian adventure!

Well Dined | SACC Chef's Table

First up was a White Bouillabaisse with Clam, Mussel, Lobster, White Fish (I can't recall what kind), Prawn, Potato Puree, and Roasted Fennel with a Togarashi Rouille.  This was accompanied by a 15 yr Oloroso Sherry.  Beautiful.  Each piece of seafood was perfectly cooked and the broth was packed with flavor.  I liked the modern way the chef incorporated the traditional potato and fennel into the dish, and the togarashi (Japanese condiment with chili, citrus, ginger, seaweed, and sesame) in the rouille (sauce of olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron, and chili traditionally served with bouillabaisse) was a fun way to bring in Asian flavors.

Well Dined | SACC Chef's Table

Here we see Chef Millán arranging the seafood over the potato puree before pouring in the broth.  I should add that we also had all kinds of bread to munch on, my favorites being the sweet potato biscuits and the cornbread drops that I loved as a kid.

20Nov/140

Atelier Crenn – San Francisco

While we were in San Francisco visiting family, Jasper and I wanted to have a nice date night to ourselves to try one of the many Michelin rated restaurants.  We choose Atelier Crenn, a 2-star restaurant with a seasonal and locally sourced menu written in the form of a poem.  Yes, it is a little bit silly and pretentious to present your menu as a poem, but chef/owner Dominique Crenn seems to have some reasons for doing it.  Crenn hails from Versailles, France, where her father had a painting workshop (called an "atelier").  She considers her restaurant to be her own artist's studio (hence the name), with the plate as a blank canvas, and the ingredients as the paint.  So perhaps we can consider it to be more artsy than pretentious.  And it did provide a fun game to try and figure out what would be in the next course based on the poem.

From the website: "Poetic Culinaria: Atelier Crenn, a painting. An empty white canvas. With tools... a brush, paint and a vision, creativity is given its breath. Here, from this place, the artist can suggest emotion. A lasting moment from childhood... little drawers of heartbeats."

Crenn seems to be inspired by her childhood and her father, whose paintings decorate the restaurant.  Playfulness and nature are the overriding themes of the menu we received, which I have copied below:

Summer has come and is full of sweet surprises
Under the midnight glow, I can taste the sweetness of the sea,
hear mellow serenades of colors licorice and orange
I touch the earth and play
Where the broad ocean leans against the Spanish land,
I remember an oceanic feeling
Here, the earth proffers its juicy, vermilion gifts
and above, the half moon floats, silky and smoky
In its cool, milky light,
the forest still radiant with possibility
Nature rejoice! chasing childhood memories
Feeling the black sand under my toes, I dreamed of
these creatures' languid movements
Walking deep in the woods, as the earth might have something to spare
bird song, see the water rippling from their visit
a token of the summer
Summer has come, the sea beckons
sweetness, bounty, thanks

6Nov/140

San Francisco

Well Dined

You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation.  I don't know what is going on!  But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on.  Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots.  But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos.  So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!

Well Dined | View from Hotel Drisco

View from our room

Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it.  We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city.  All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning.  Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night.  The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins.  They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings.  Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies.  In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order.  It is a very nice perk.  They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Well Dined | View from Hotel Drisco

View from our room