In my last post about our Miami trip, I talked about the Fontainebleau Miami Resort. But I didn't talk about any of the (numerous) restaurants on the property. There are a number of casual spots on the property, which I will talk about later. Then there are the four upscale "Signature Restaurants", which are the subject of this post.
First up is Stripsteak by Michael Mina, the most upscale restaurant at the resort. We are fans of Bourbon Steak (also by Mina) here in DC, so we were pretty excited to try this out. The space is pretty and modern, with a really cool glass wine room (and a really good wine list to go with it).
Like Bourbon Steak, Stripsteak serves buttery truffle rolls as it's complementary bread. So friggin good. Just give me 8 loaves. Also like Bourbon Steak, like the appetizers are on point. We ordered a burrata, asparagus, and duck prosciutto salad; a trio of oysters with salmon roe, paddlefish roe, and uni; and seared foie gras with strawberries, pickled fennel, and macadamia nut. They were all delicious, especially the foie.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
It's time for another collaboration with Smells Like Brownies (although we actually made this back in June, oops!) - not vegetarian this time, but rather pescetarian. A hearty tomato based broth filled with all kinds of seafood - Cioppino. Melissa actually chose this dish for her blogging group, the Secret Recipe Club. For more info on that, check out her post here.
Making the broth takes up the most time in this recipe, but you want to let it simmer and develop deep flavor, so it's worth it. Olive oil, garlic, shallot, oregano, and a bay leaf go in first; followed by bell pepper, tomato paste, and red wine. Oh yeah, and red pepper flakes - watch it here, this is where you determine your spice level. Next comes canned tomatoes in their juices, clam juice, lemon juice, and veggie broth (not stock). Let it do it's thing for 30 minutes before adding in some mussels.
I meant it when I said this soup was full of all kinds of seafood. While the mussels simmer away; prep the rest of the seafood - scallops, red snapper (or something similar, like halibut), and shrimp. Who knew a bunch of raw seafood could look so pretty?
After the rest of the seafood is cooked through, top with fresh basil and parsley and dig in. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and eat right away! This Italian stew is perfect for any time of year - hearty and warming, but not heavy - so enjoy!
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!
Bagel with cream cheese, pickled veg (celery, carrots, green beans), salmon, and sprouts.
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.
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.
I've written about my favorite lasagna recipe before, but it was years ago and I think it needs to be revisited - especially now that my neighbors confirm it is the best lasagna they have ever had.
The cast of characters is pretty simple, but I think what makes this lasagna stand out is the use of veal and white wine. It's a bit different from the standard, but that's what makes it special.
I really like for my veg to be finely diced for this ragu, so that there aren't any big chunks. But I did not make those perfect cuts on my own - I use a veggie chopper. It's fast and it makes everything uniform.
The other thing that makes this ragu great is that it is simmered for up to 5 hours. That low and slow cooking brings out all the flavor. I highly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes in this, they are just the best.
Americans might be used to the type of lasagna with ricotta and mozzarella, which is fine but not very authentic. This version has a creamy bechamel (aka my favorite food) and tons of Parmesan, and it is just so dreamy.
I really went all out for this batch and made my own lasagna noodles for the first time. It is certainly not necessary to do that, but I do think it took it up one final step to perfection. I did have several issues while doing this, though. The learning curve is pretty steep. Don't try to be clever when you roll out your own pasta and leave the sheets really long - trust me, it makes them almost impossible to cook. Now I know why the store-bought ones are short. I'm also going to edit the pasta dough recipe in the original post because it was awful and really soft and hard to work with.
Anyway, go make the best lasagna of your life. You will thank me. Recipe here.
Wednesday night's DC Wine Week event was an outdoor wine tasting at the Italian Ristorante I Ricchi. Venders offered tastings of 16 Italian wines, plus 2 full glasses of your choice. Cheese and charcuterie were served, as well as a few grilled dishes, while Chef Ricchi herself made the rounds to talk with guests.
Chef Ricchi managed a family restaurant in Tuscany for close to two decades, before coming to DC to open a restaurant here in 1989. She serves authentic, rustic Tuscan food and creates events like the weekly Women's Club - where women can enjoy 50% off while they network. We really enjoyed talking with her about Tuscany, where we spent our honeymoon.
The grilled food we were served at the event consisted of a decent chicken skewer and an outstanding bean and sausage dish. The later contained white beans with tomato and rosemary, served with a grilled sausage and a stick of (addictive) fried polenta.
The wines served were as follows:
Prosecco – Canella N/V
Ribolla Gialla Sparkling - Colutta
Lambrusco Amabile - Ca’ Montanari
Vernaccia di San Gimignano – Montenidoli
Pinot Grigio – Jermann
Chardonnay – Antica, Antinori
Soave Classica – Suavia
Greco di Tufo – Loggia Della Serra
Valpolicella Classico – Nicolis
Dolcetto – Marcarini Boschi di Berri
Il Bruciato – Guado al Tasso, Antinori
Chianti Classico – Il Molino di Grace
Cabernet Sauvignon – Antica, Antinori
Col Solare – Antinori/Chateau Ste. Michelle
Barbera d'Asti – Damilano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Fattoria del Cerro
The standouts for us were the Soave Classica (a funky, earthy white) and the Col Solare (predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec). We were offered the opportunity to purchase the showcased wines at a discount from Schneider's of Capitol Hill.
The weather was gorgeous, the piazza was lovely, and the wine was flowing - truly a lovely night.
We finally got to try out Top Chef Alum Mike Isabella's DC restaurant Graffiato. Of course by now the buzz has died down and he has opened 2 other restaurants, doh! But that's okay, it means it was easy to get a table, even on the weekend. The restaurant is trendy and urban and almost a little hipster, with rustic wood tables and graphic, cartoon wall murals. The cocktails are inventive and the wine list is good; they are even using a new type of device that let's them pour from a bottle without removing the cork and without introducing oxygen, so that they can do wines by the glass that never would have been available before. Nifty. The food is Italian style small plates, which overall were quite yummy. It is overpriced, though, which is what you get with "celebrity" chef's in already pricey places like DC. So just be prepared for sticker shock if you go.
First small plate was burrata with kumquat and shaved smoked pork loin. A beautiful mix of creamy, sweet, tangy, smokey, and salty - A+.
Next up was the charred octopus, which was good but wasn't as charred as I would like it and definitely wasn't better than Nostos's.
We also had the focaccia with Mike's famous pepperoni sauce, which I didn't get a photo of. I was surprised at how good the sauce was, considering I am not a fan of pepperoni. Jasper, who loves pepperoni, was a big fan.
Ravioli special - chicken and mushroom. This, along with the sweet corn agnolotti that I didn't get a photo of, was the best dish in my opinion.
This pappardelle with rabbit was good, but not great.
It was the same story with the seashells pasta with snails and bone marrow - good, but not great. Here I think the problem was a mint pesto that was overwhelming.
We were focused on ordering small plates to get a sampling of the menu, so we weren't able to order a pizza. I hear that they are fantastic, so I would like to return to try one (the countryman, in particular). I would say that the stuffed pastas are smaller portions than the other pastas, but have much better flavor; the burrata was a standout; and the pepperoni sauce is worth the hype. If I hadn't been with my meat loving husband, I would have loved to try some vegetable dishes. Isabella treats his ingredients with care, so I imagine that he could make a simple vegetable dish amazing.
Overall, worth a try if you can afford it. Valet is available, but it is right next to the Chinatown Metro stop.
I really love authentic Italian pizza. The kind with the thin crust that gets blistered and charred in the wood oven. My favorite place to get it around here is Pizzeria Orso, but I have been trying to make it at home. Step one is to get a pizza stone. I leave mine on the bottom rack of the oven. As long you are heating it with the oven (not sticking a cold stone into a hot oven) it will be totally fine to leave it in there all the time. In fact, heating it frequently will help keep it clean by burning any spills to dust. I've even left it in there on the self clean mode - totally fine and now very clean! It will take longer for your oven to preheat with the stone in it, but it will help keep the temperature even and constant. You will also need a pizza peel to transfer the pizza to the stone.
Step 2 for great pizza - great dough. I have tried many doughs, including whole wheat ones. For authentic pizza - this Jim Lahey dough is the best. It takes a long time to make though, so be prepared. The idea behind this dough is that the tenderness and pocketed texture come from fermenting the dough (for 18 hours, I told you it takes time!), and then handling it as little as possible. That means no kneading!
After letting the dough ferment (like sourdough starter), you carefully remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Then you separate it into four parts and gently fold (not roll, or knead) the parts into balls. Use them quickly or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. This dough is only good for a couple of days so plan to make a lot of pizza!
When you are ready to make the pizza (the oven and stone should be preheated at this point), carefully and gently stretch the dough. Either in the air on your knuckles, or on a floured surface. For some technique tips - check out this video. See those bubbles in the dough, there? That's what you are trying to achieve. Those will blister up and make your pizza awesome. Here's another handy trick - I always have trouble getting my pizza off the peel, no matter how much cornmeal I put on there. So I have started putting the pizza onto parchment paper and sliding that onto the stone. Then after about 2 minutes (you will smell it starting to char), I slide the parchment out from under the partially set dough - easy!