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.
The kit came with batter mix, powdered yam, shrimp tempura crisps, and dried seaweed. Plus instructions in Japanese and English (thank goodness).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beef Tartare with baby kale, cornichon, Dijon mustard, fried potatoes. Those potatoes were pretty killer.
Tart with mangalica ham, creme fraiche, and onion. Good, but not great - I probably wouldn't order it again.
"Lobster Roll" with tomato gelee and avocado. Very light and refreshing.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Jasper choose the beet salad with burrata. Pretty standard combo, well executed.
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.
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.