Well Dined

27Sep/151

Yelp Event – Tupelo Honey Cafe

Well Dined | Tupelo Honey Cafe

I am on the NoVA Elite Squad this year, which means that I get invited to awesome events!  Back in July (I'm so far behind on posting, lol) - I was invited to a tasting event at the (then) new Tupelo Honey Cafe in Arlington.  We got to hear about the menu and try several dishes and drinks.  It's a really great way to get an impression of a restaurant without having to visit several times in order to try a lot.  That's our fearless leader, Gretchen, in the photo there (check out her blog here).

I thought the location was really cute, on a corner near Ballston with a nice patio.  The decor was warm and inviting, and the staff handled the madness of the event quite well.  We got to try several drinks, starting with the happy hour special of sparkling sangria.  I actually did not like that drink, though many others did, because it tasted more like a vodka and soda than a sangria.  After that, I ordered the Violet Beauregarde (props for the cute name) with vodka, St. Germaine, blueberry puree, fresh mint, fresh lemon, and sparkling wine.  I LOVED that one.  I also loved the non-alcoholic blueberry spritzer that they passed around, but not the rosemary lemonade (too bitter).

Well Dined | Tupelo Honey Cafe

As for food, we tried the Goat Cheese Grits Poppers with Jalapeno Apple Salsa (4:00, my favorite); Fried Green Tomatoes with Grits (1:00, also really liked); Country Ham Wontons with Shaved Brussels Sprouts (10:00, very good); Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese with Apples and Figs (not pictured, pretty good); Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pesto (6:00, disappointed with this one); Pimento Cheese Dip (too spicy for me); Mac and Cheese with Cajun Shrimp (also too spicy for me).

My takeaway was that this is Southern food, get the fried stuff and the cheesy stuff and the grits - if you try to go healthy, you will be disappointed.  Everything we tried was from the small plates menu, so I would like to return to try an entree.  Or better yet, bunch - I hear the brunch is fantastic.

My thanks to Yelp and Tupelo Honey Cafe for their generosity!  You can read more about the event here.

You may be interested in: Yelp Progressive Brunch at Springfield Town Center

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.

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.

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

27Jun/142

Ted’s Bulletin

I had heard of this place in some magazine or other because of the homemade poptarts.  So when I was in Reston and craving some mid-day breakfast, I decided to try it out.  It's kind of like an upscale version of an old-fashioned diner.  If that makes any sense.

Well Dined | Ted's Bulletin

The menu is a mini newspaper (or bulletin, if you will) that also has some articles on the namesake and how the restaurant was founded.  They have boozy milkshakes (very on trend right now), so I tried the Bananas Foster with banana rum and caramel.  Very good.

Well Dined | Ted's Bulletin

Then I tried the signature breakfast combo - The Big Mark - which comes with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, hashbrowns, toast, and a poptart (I chose the brown sugar bacon flavor).  Everything was great except for the sausage, which was way too spicy for me.  The poptart was indeed tasty, but I thought it needed a higher filling to crust ratio.

Well Dined | Ted's Bulletin

I brought a couple more flavors of poptart home (blueberry cheesecake and strawberry, I believe) to sample a range and so that Jasper could try them.  Again, they were good but we both agreed they needed more filling.

Here's the fun news for breakfast-loving me - they are opening up a location at Mosaic, which is very close to me!  I might even sample some non-breakfast items... maybe... probably not.

2Jun/140

Matchbox Merrifield

So, I'm kind of obsessed with the new shopping area called Mosaic District,  I spend a lot of time there.  It has a lot of restaurants, but not many of them are sit-down type places.  Of the few that are there, I like Matchbox the best.  The food is good, the drinks are decent, and it's right next to the movie theater.  For these reasons, it tends to always be crowded.  But don't let availability on Open Table fool you - every single time it has claimed to have no reservations, we have walked in and been seated in less than 15 minutes.  It's billed as a pizza joint, but more than half the menu is other types of food.  I'd say it's pretty comparable to Chef Geoff's, but in a better location.

One thing that is pretty cool is that they have wines on tap, so you can order by the glass pretty easily.  But what's even cooler is a deal with Swirl and Sip where if you buy a bottle of wine from them, Matchbox will waive the corkage fee!

Well Dined | Matchbox

This is one of my favorite pizzas - the prosciutto and black mission fig with black pepper, arugula, and honey.

Well Dined | Matchbox

 

Another favorite (for Jasper, as well) is the chicken pesto pizza.

Well Dined | Matchbox

 

This is the crab and avocado salad with roasted corn and tarragon aioli.

16May/140

Sweetgreen

Well Dined | Sweetgreen

I have an obsession... with a salad shop.  This must be what being an adult feels like.  I never used to like salads AT ALL, and then I tried Sweetgreen and now a salad is my treat to myself after working out.  Not like, "oh don't wanna ruin that workout, so here's a salad;" but like "good job, now you GET to eat this salad."  Weiiiiiiiiird.  Who am I?

Well Dined | Sweetgreen

Anywho, Sweetgreen is awesome.  It's like any fast food joint (Chipotle, Subway, etc...) where you travel down the line and build your meal, in this case - a yummy salad made with local ingredients (check the blackboard to see which vendors they use).

Well Dined | Sweetgreen

They have a number of pre-designed salads (my favorite is the District Cobb) and one seasonal salad per month (above photo is the May 2014 salad), or you can go custom.  You can also customize a menu salad.  For example, I like to get the District Cobb but swap sweet potatoes in for tomatoes and change the dressing to balsamic vinaigrette (which is super good).  You get to choose how much dressing you want (light, medium, heavy) and also if you want bread (the bread is really good, but I try to resist).