Well Dined


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.


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).


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


Bend, OR Restaurants

In addition to our awesome holiday meal (read more here), we also ate out a lot while we were in Bend, OR last week.

We ordered breakfast from room service at our hotel, The Oxford, a few times and it was really good.  The french toast with berry compote, in particular, was awesome.  Right next door to the hotel is a brand new doughnut place (as in they opened their doors for the first time the Saturday after Thanksgiving) called Luvs Doughnuts.  They make small batches and sell the day-old doughnuts for 50 cents!  I had a glazed-yeast raised and Jasper had a chocolate-dipped blueberry cake doughnut - they were pretty good!  I also enjoyed my chai latte from there - nice strong flavor.

We also ate at a local breakfast/brunch institution - Chow, which is open every day from 7-2.  They focus on local vendors and sustainability and accommodate pretty much any diet.  They are happy to make up a unique dish just for you if nothing on the menu suits you.  They also have some killer guava mimosas (or man-mosas if you want a bigger drink).  This is the only restaurant I thought to take pictures at, so enjoy!

Well Dined | Chow

Blurry - sorry!

 Bagel with cream cheese, pickled veg (celery, carrots, green beans), salmon, and sprouts.

Well Dined | Chow

Chow has a number of signature egg dishes.  This one is the blackstone - with poached eggs, cornmeal crusted tomatoes, spinach, bacon, and bearnaise over polenta.  Super yummy.

Well Dined | Chow

This was the omelette of the day with house potatoes.  They make their own hot sauces here, and from what I heard the Carrot-Habanero was amazingly hot and tasty.


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!


Valentine’s 2013 Pt 1

Yes, yes - I know I am way late in posting this, sorry.  This year for V-Day we went to Sushi Taro for their special tasting menu.  It's what we did for our first Valentine's together in DC 3 years ago and I wanted to go back.  I loved the whole meal, but Jasper was a little disappointed.  I think he wanted more sushi, but I liked the combination of hot dishes and raw fish.  Anyway, here's what we had:


Taro's signature tofu with uni.  I love this stuff, it has the best texture.  I always look forward to this dish at Taro.


This was a mixture of different raw and pickled vegetables with some gelees and monkfish liver.  I thought it was playful and interesting; I think this is one of the ones Jasper was disappointed with.


Labor Day 2012 Inn at Little Washington

Last year we made our first trip to The Inn at Little Washington over Labor Day weekend and we had a wonderful time.  This year we were debating whether to spend the holiday weekend at the beach, or return to the Inn.  Eventually our taste buds won out and we decided to head to Washington, VA.

Unlike the year before, we decided to stay at the Inn itself (instead of one of the less expensive B&B's nearby) and our room was absolutely gorgeous!  We stayed in the Norman House Garden Room with a living room, wet bar, huge bathroom, and private garden - just wonderful!  We also upped the ante this year by having 2 dinners at the restaurant - one of which was at the chef's table in the kitchen!

Here we are with Chef Patrick O'Connell in the kitchen!


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.


Minibar (4/100, 2012)

Set at a six-person bar on the upper level of America Eats Tavern, Minibar is a restaurant within a restaurant.  It is also consistently one of the highest rated restaurants in DC - usually within the top 5!  It is just as much theater as it is dining while you interact with the chefs and watch them prepare a parade of tiny, one-bite dishes that are clever, whimsical, and above all - delicious.