Well Dined


Broccoli and Potato Gribiche

Well Dined | Broccoli and Potato Gribiche

When I was assigned Melissa's blog last month for SRC, I was reminded of all the recipes of hers that I had been wanting to make.  And I couldn't get my mind off of this warm potato salad with roasted broccoli and an egg vinaigrette.  That vinaigrette is called "sauce gribiche", which I had never heard of before.  Melissa says, "It’s an eggy French vinaigrette, apparently friends with mayonnaise, that is made from hardboiled eggs, oil, vinegar, capers, and fresh herbs."  Sign me up!

Well Dined | Broccoli and Potato Gribiche

First step - roast the potatoes and the broccoli.  Why do I only have a photo of the potatoes?  I don't know.  Melissa used purple potatoes, which looked gorgeous.  I couldn't find any, though, so I used red.

Well Dined | Broccoli and Potato Gribiche

Meanwhile, boil the eggs.  Hello, lovelies!


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.


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


Grapes of Spain Wine Dinner at Marcel’s

You should know by now how much we love Marcel's - the restaurant where we got engaged and where we spend many of our special occasions (previous posts here and here).  So when I saw a post about an amazing looking wine dinner on their Facebook page, I immediately called and made reservations.  The dinner was four courses (plus Amuse and cheese) designed to pair with seven wines from Grapes of Spain, a Spanish wine importer with a focus on new talent and modern wines.  Grapes of Spain president Aurelio Cabestrero, and winemakers Javier Candon and Isaac Fernandez were in attendance.  For each pairing, we were given an in-depth description of the wines from the type of land the grapes are grown on, to how they are harvested and prepared, to the tasting notes.  It was incredibly informative and a lot of fun, especially as we got to know the other people at our table.  The best part?  These wines are incredibly reasonably priced, I would even say cheap - most were between $15-$20 a bottle!  And we got a discount for being at the dinner, and an even bigger discount for buying a case (mix and match, too).  Such an insanely great deal!

Without further ado, I present to you the pairings:

Amuse Bouche - Lobster Egg with Osetra Caviar.  This was a lobster bisque topped with custard and caviar, served in an egg shell - delicious.

Biutiful Cava Brut Rose NV - 100% Garnacha.  A delicate, subtle, dry, sparkling rose with notes of raspberry and citrus.

First Course - Diver Scallop Tartine, Aged Sherry Shallot Butter, Smoked Trout Roe.  Excellent, my favorite course.

Adras Godello 2012 - 100% Godello.  My favorite wine of the night - earthy and funky like my beloved French whites, but with more floral and citrus notes making it super balanced and perfect for pairing with food.

Second Course - Saddle of Rabbit Stuffed with Cumin Scented Rabbit Sausage, Butternut Squash Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms.  Very earthy and yummy (I think we can acknowledge that all the courses are going to be yummy).  I was starting to get tipsy already at this point, yikes!

Adras Mencia 2012 - 100% Mencia.  A light bodied but velvety fruit-forward red.

Third Course - Breast of La Belle Farms Duck, Duck Confit, Valrhona Chocolate, Brandied Cherries.  I really liked this course, and boy were those cherries boozy!

Acentor Garnacha 2012 - 100% Garnacha Tinta (Red Grenache).  Dry and spicy, Jasper preferred this wine with the duck (and overall - it was his favorite).  We both thought it was the most drinkable of all the wines (meaning on it's own, not necessarily with food).

Bovale 2011 - 100% Bobal.  Jammy with ripe berry and chocolate notes.  I thought this was the better pairing with the duck because of the chocolate in the dish, but I was definitely in the minority at the table.

Fourth Course - Herb Brioche Encrusted Rack of Border Springs Lamb, Scarmoza Polenta Cake, Madeira Lamb Jus.  I think I ate this really fast because I needed food at this point, haha.

Finca La Mata 2011 - 100% Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo).  Medium-bodied and fruit-forward with depth.  Very satisfying, but not a standout in this group, especially since it was more classic versus unusual.

Arrocal Selection 2010 - 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo).  This was deep and rich with notes of black cherry, vanilla, and spice.  This wine was the outlier in terms of price point - at $40 it is well above the others.

Cheese - Reblochon Cheese Cake with Green Gauge Plums.  There was no wine paired with this course, so we all took our time finishing whatever we hadn't been able to yet.

Then came a few petite fours and the filling out of the order forms.  The wines were ready to pick up in just a few days.  We got ours yesterday and I am so excited!  The dinner was lovely and I highly recommend looking to see if any of these wines are available near you.  The quality is wonderful on they're own, but paired with the price they're unbeatable.


Food ‘n Flix: Babette’s Feast


The January pick for Food 'n Flix is the 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast (now included in The Criterion Collection), chosen by Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  This is the story of two deeply religious and puritanical sisters who live on the remote coastline of 19th Century Denmark.  They give up much in their lives in order to live the way that they were raised and to help the people of the village.  Late in their lives, a French refugee comes to stay with them for many years and cooks them a fabulous meal to thank them.  The sisters and villagers are afraid to give in to the decadence of the meal, but it ends up healing many of their wounds and rifts.  It is a story about the healing power of food and how it can show love and thanks.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

The food cooked in the movie is quite extravagant and I didn't think I could take on turtle soup or quail stuffed with foie gras and truffles, so instead I decided to just go French in general.  I must have been influenced by all the soup that the Danish villagers ate (and the stew meat in my freezer), because I made a French stew with beef and red wine - cooked low and slow in a crockpot.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

Beef is seasoned with salt and pepper and placed into a bowl with onion, garlic, shallot, celery, carrot, thyme, bay leaves, and lemon zest.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

This is the fun part - a whole bottle of red wine is poured over the ingredients and then left to marinate (refrigerated) overnight.  The wine is the stock for this stew, and the flavor permeates everything.  So make sure that you use a good one!  I suggest a Cotes du Rhone for this.


Marcel’s – with pics!

I have written about Marcel's before, but not extensively enough considering it is our special occasion place.  It is where Jasper proposed to me (and I said yes) and where we spend most of our anniversaries and New Year's.  It's also where we go every time we see a show at the Kennedy center.  The provide a special Pre-Theater menu (though you can also do 3 or 4 courses off of the tasting menu), make sure that you get out on time, and provide a car service to and from the theater - brilliant!  They also have just the best people working there - from Adnane Kebaier, the Maitre d' who always greets us by our names and seems happy to see us (here is an interesting interview with him about the ins and outs of the job), to Moez Ben Achour, the fabulous Sommelier, and especially our usual server, Jonathan Crayne, who is also the Senior Captain - everyone is just amazing.  Anyway, I've never been able to show you photos of their food because it's usually very dark by the time we get there.  But we recently went for a Pre-Theater (for Book of Mormon, which is HILARIOUS by the way) and because it is summer, the sun was still out!  So I am able to show you some of the gorgeous dishes from our favorite restaurant!

Well Dined | Marcel's Restaurant

An amuse bouche from the chef - smoked salmon with creme friache, chives, and caviar.

Well Dined | Marcel's Restaurant

An elegant take on Crab Louis - crab, avocado, and tomato gelee with remoulade.

Well Dined | Marcel's Restaurant

Alaskan salmon - smoked in house - with red onion, chives, pine nuts, and croutons.

Well Dined | Marcel's Restaurant

The melt-in-your-mouth signature dish - Boudin Blanc.  This is our absolute favorite, we both order it every single time (even though they have started adding a $12 supplement).  It is a white poultry sausage that is more like a mousse - so light and creamy, but also rich.  It usually comes in a truffle sauce of some sort - this time with bits of foie gras in it!

Well Dined | Marcel's Restaurant

Steak with mushrooms, potato puree, bone marrow.  This was Jasper's entree so I don't know much about it except that he let me eat the marrow.


We both ordered the same dessert - peach souffle with peach ice cream and blueberry sauce.  You can't get more summery than that!

I'm so glad I was finally able to share photos with you from a place that is so special to us!


Mintwood Place (Top 100, 2013)

This fairly new Adams Morgan located bistro was crowded and noisy when we went on a Sunday night.  The decor is all rustic farmhouse and the tables are crammed in to fill up all available space like some kind of massive game of tetris.  So I was a little nervous when we sat down, despite great reviews, but the attentive service and stellar food soon made me forget the crowd.  Here, plates and utensils are cleared and replaced after each dish - service I would expect from a much more upscale joint.  A well-stocked and well-priced wine list and unique cocktails (hello, "Farewell to the 20's") are icing on the cake.  As usual, I was more excited by/impressed with the small plates, but the mains were very good as well.  Some of the dishes are reminiscent of the style of DC star Michel Richard, which makes sense because Executive Chef Cedric Maupillier apprenticed under him.


First up - the beet and goat cheese "mountain pie".  This was so delicious - thinly sliced beets layered with buttery lettuce gained depth from shallots and chives, while toasted bread served as the crust for a warm goat cheese and beet tart.  I eat beet and goat cheese salads all the time, but this one is truly special.


Bacon and Onion Flammekeuche - an Alsatian style flatbread that seems simple, but is just awesome.  Crisp, smoky, creamy - I could have eaten 5 of these.


Lamb tongue moussaka - this was good, but not as good as the other 2 small plates.  Part of that may be that it didn't actually taste like moussaka to me.  Chickpeas and heavy cumin (as opposed to cinnamon) made it seem more Middle Eastern than Mediterranean.  That being said, it was still tasty and interesting; the tongue was very tender and it had a nice subtle heat.


Tagliatelle Bolognese - signature dish, gorgeous presentation.  Unfortunately, I was not a big fan of this - heavy fennel made the ragu taste like Italian sausage, which I am just not that into.  Sausage lovers - this is for you.


Shad filet topped with shad roe and lardo, over a potato and broccolini hash, with brown butter and lemon demi-glace.  The roe topping was not my favorite, but the fish was well cooked and the hash and sauce were excellent.  I seriously want more of that hash right now.


Pine nut tart with vanilla bean ice cream.  I hate pecan pie, but I love this tart - the buttery pine nuts were so soft and just melted into the sugary base.  There was also a creme brulee that I didn't photograph because everybody knows what creme brulee looks like, right?

All-in-all this place was great.  I would love to come here for drinks and apps before hitting up Adams Morgan, but I don't know that I would go out of my way for dinner.  I would love to try brunch, though.

Mintwood Place Website - for more information


Kata Robata, Paris Crepe, and Rice’s Centennial – Houston, TX

I recently returned to Rice University, my alma mater, to celebrate their centennial - 100 years since the founding!  There were all kinds of events - a football game (which we won!), parties, galas, picnics, speeches, lectures, you name it!

And our first President - Edgar Odell Lovett - finally got his own statue!  About time!  William Marsh Rice (Willy) may have provided the money for the institution, but Lovett provided the vision for what it should be.

For something really incredible, click HERE to see a video of the Spectacle - an amazing work of art combining architecture, history, and technology into something the likes of which I have never seen before.  Seriously - watch it.  For real.

Ok - moving on.  Most of my food was provided for me at the events, but I did have the chance to eat out one night and was fortunate enough to go to Kata Robata - a sushi restaurant and Japanese grill.  Headed up by Manabu Horiuchi (aka Chef Hori), my favorite sushi chef from college, the concept is Japanese tapas and the food is AWESOME.  The service is pretty incredible, too.  Our server, Thai, was very knowledgeable and comfortable making suggestions.  The pacing was good and we always felt like we were being taken care of.  I tried to order a good balance between sushi and tapas to get a really good idea of the place.


Joel Robuchon Las Vegas

After years of wanting to go and not being able to due to finances or timing, we were finally able to make a trip to the best restaurant in Las Vegas.  Located in the MGM Grand, Joel Robuchon is one of the highest rated and most awarded restaurants in the country, including being one of only a dozen 3-star Michelin rated.  So, as you can imagine, it's kind of a big deal.

image courtesy of bestofvegas.com

And they certainly give you the start treatment.  Reservations are required and if you are staying on the strip they will send a golden limousine to pick you up and take you to the private entrance at the back of the casino.  Through a big set of iron gates is the entrance to The Mansions at MGM Grand (exclusive villas for high-rollers); here the hostess will meet you and escort you through the property to the restaurant, passing though a gorgeous temperature controlled atrium with custom scents piped in (I'm not even kidding).

image courtesy of lasvegasrestaurants.com

The interior of the restaurant is beautiful - opulent, but not old fashioned, and decked out in rich purple.  The flower arrangements and table settings change seasonally - ours were bright orange and gold.  There is also a lovely enclosed terrace with a vertical garden that I would love to be seated in next time.


Mockingbird Bistro, Houston TX

We recently went on a trip to Houston, TX to attend an alumni event at my alma mater - Rice University.  The trip happened to fall around the time of our 2nd Wedding Anniversary, so we wanted to have a nice dinner in Houston to celebrate.  We chose the Mockingbird Bistro as our location and had a wonderful evening.

We were impressed as soon as we entered by the hostess's greeting: "Are we holding a table for you?"  I thought that it was much more polite than the usual "Do you have a reservation?"  The manager brought us complimentary Cava in honor of our Anniversary, and they also knew our favorite (and hard to find) cocktail, Pisco sour, so we were quite pleased from the beginning.  Once we were seated, we had a chance to look at the decor and layout.  The main room is pretty small and divided into a bar/lounge area and a dining area, but there is another large room (which doubles as wine storage), and stairs to a balcony room (both of which are available for private events).  The style was very cool - hip, old Paris feel with a bit of a gothic edge - I was instantly in love with it.  The cool vibe, old-fashioned cocktails, and stellar wine list (one of the best in the city) makes this a place that I would definitely hang out at - if only I had known about it when I lived there!