Well Dined

31Mar/160

Try The World – Japan; Okonomiyaki

Well Dined | Okonomiyaki

It's time for another Try The World Post!  Finishing up my Japan box, I used the okonomiyaki mix to make... okonomiyaki, of course!  It's a savory pancake made with flour, yam, eggs, scallions, and cabbage; and topped with all kinds of things, but most commonly pork belly, bonito flakes, seaweed, okonomi sauce, and mayonnaise.

Well Dined | Okonomiyaki

The kit came with batter mix, powdered yam, shrimp tempura crisps, and dried seaweed.  Plus instructions in Japanese and English (thank goodness).

Well Dined | Okonomiyaki

First step, chop cabbage.  It really should have been finer than this, like shredded, but I was lazy.  Add scallions.  In a separate bowl, make the batter according to package directions.  Then combine it with the veggies, tempura, and eggs.

25Feb/160

Try The World – Japan; Zaru Soba

Well Dined | Try The World Japan

It's time for another Try The World review (see my first here)!  In my Japan box, I had: Otafuku Foods okonomiyaki kit; Aoi Tea blueberry match tea; House Foods ginger paste; Takaokaya seaweed snack; Akagi soba noodles; Kasugai gummy candies; and Morinaga milk caramels.  I thought that those butter coconut cookies came in the box, but I actually must have picked them up at the Asian grocery store.  So, ignore those (but really don't, cuz they are super awesome and yummy).

The caramels are are firm and not super sweet, I like them a lot.  I haven't tried the tea, gummies, or okonomiyaki kit yet; but I used the rest to make Zaru Soba.

Well Dined | Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba is a cold soba dish usually made in the summer (whatever, don't judge me).  The noodles are cooked, then rinsed, chilled, and drained.  Normally, you would serve them on a woven bamboo mat that lets the extra water drain out; but I don't have those!  So I dried them on paper towels.

Well Dined | Zaru Soba

The noodles are topped with seaweed and sesame seeds just before serving, and dipped in a sauce made of dashi, soy, mirin, sake, sugar, and ginger paste.  Wasabi and scallions are served on the side and mixed into the sauce to taste.

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

7May/140

2941 as of 4/25

Seasonal restaurants like 2941 change their menu all the time as new products become available (for example, here is a post from last Summer), so I like to try to keep stopping in and see what is new.  Here is a look at the menu as it was at the end of April.

Well Dined | 2941 Restaurant

Beef Tartare with baby kale, cornichon, Dijon mustard, fried potatoes.  Those potatoes were pretty killer.

Well Dined | 2941 Restaurant

Tart with mangalica ham, creme fraiche, and onion.  Good, but not great - I probably wouldn't order it again.

Well Dined | 2941 Restaurant

"Lobster Roll" with tomato gelee and avocado.  Very light and refreshing.

23Apr/140

Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro

I actually ate here a while ago, but the experience was so bad that I have been putting off writing about it for a long time.  Vinifera is located inside a Westin hotel near Reston.  I decided to head out there for some wine and tapas before picking my husband up at the airport, and it ended up being a huge mistake.

I sat out on the patio, which was totally gorgeous, but it took 20 minutes before I could flag down a waiter to take my order.  I put in an order for a whole bunch of tapas at once, and also some wine.  The wine arrived pretty quickly, but the food didn't even start arriving until 40 minutes later.  40 minutes!!!  And then it was only the little one bite skewers; the rest of the food took even longer.  That is totally unacceptable.  And the food wasn't even that good.  Less than average, I would say, and I tried a whole range of things.  I won't even break down for you what I ordered, because it was all so forgettable.  The $1-2 "pintxos" seemed like a great bargain, but they are literally tiny toothpick bites like you would find passed around at a party.  Tiny, not that good, not worth $1-2 each, and definitely not worth a 40 minute wait.  The rest of the food (and wine) was also overpriced.

I would maybe, MAYBE, say that it would be a nice place to grab a glass of wine on the patio, but not if you are on any kind of a timeline and watch out for a steeper than average mark-up.

28Mar/140

Pearl Brewery, San Antonio TX

pearl_02

Photo credit: Nick Simonite

San Antonio has become a really hip place since I moved away, and that is due in large part to the Pearl Brewery area.  The original brewery was opened in 1881 and ran until 1985 when Pabst Blue Ribbon took over, and then shut down in 2001.  The land was purchased and slowly developed into a shopping area, which is now booming.  With a weekly farmers market, boutique shops, new apartments, and amazing restaurants - this is now the place to be.  It reminds me a lot of Mosaic District, actually.  They even built a new section of Riverwalk nearby!

Anyway, when I came to visit - all the places my family wanted to take me to ended up being at Pearl, so I have lots of reviews for you!

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exterior-cured

Stock Photo

The night I flew in, my family took me to Cured, located in the historic administration building of the brewery.  As you can guess from the name, cured meats are a large focus of the menu, but they also have cooked main dishes under the categories vegetable, seafood, fowl, pork, beef, and goat or lamb.  My dad ordered a selection of cured meats for us, and they were delish - especially the country style pate and lamb/citrus terrine.  I also had the pork cheeks poutine, which was AWESOME.  The pickled cauliflower they put in there is totally unexpected and is what makes the dish, I think.  For dessert I had a beet twinkie with meyer lemon curd - yum.  The drink menu includes cane sugar sodas from much-beloved Dublin, TX; craft cocktails; and a killer beer list.  My brother is going to have to get on here and tell me what local beer I had, because it was fantastic.

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TwilightExterior1

Stock Photo

The next night, we went to The Granary - a modern BBQ joint located in the original brewmaster's house.  I have never seen a concept like this before - super modern, artistic BBQ - very cool.  Apparently my father comes here for lunch at least once a week, because the waiter greeted him by his nickname and knew his favorite dishes.  We thought that was pretty funny.

17Mar/140

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.

28Feb/140

Range by Bryan Voltaggio

Another belated Restaurant Week post brings us to a somewhat new Bryan Voltaggio concept in Chevy Chase - Range.  Located inside Chevy Chase Pavillion (across from Mazza Gallerie), the interior is huge and split into multiple dining rooms.  Unfortunately, we were sat in the far back in the most remote and boring corner.  We still had pretty decent service, though, especially considering how packed it was.

The New American menu has a lot to choose from with a raw bar, charcuterie, wood fired pizzas, and a range of cooked dishes.  The cocktails are innovative, and the wine list is good (our server recommended a wine from a vineyard that has a personal relationship with the restaurant and is hard to get elsewhere).

Well Dined | Range

There was a cheese course on the restaurant week menu, so we went ahead and got that.  But we also wanted charcuterie, which wasn't on the RW menu, so we ordered that a la carte - you can see the portion difference in the photo.  Both selections were great and the housemade accompaniments were topnotch.  I especially liked the mostarda and the fig jam.

Well Dined | Range

My second course was the kale caesar salad with egg emulsion that everybody is always posting about, with good reason!  It's a caesar, but it's one of the best you are ever going to get.

Well Dined | Range

Jasper choose the beet salad with burrata.  Pretty standard combo, well executed.

Well Dined | Range

For my entree, I choose the goat cheese ravioli with meat ragu.  Yummy, but the filling was pretty much just goat cheese, and a lot of it.  I like goat cheese, but I would have appreciated a better balance.

Well Dined | Range

Jasper choose the lamb with carrot-jalapeno romesco, which he said was awesome.

We had a good time and enjoyed everything we ate.  I would like to return to try out more of the menu, especially with a group since the menu seems to be suited for it.