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About KeithA

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    Cleveland Park, DC
  1. Last week I was in downtown Nashville for the first time for 2 days - loved the music scene and had a chance to sample some good eats too: 1. Husk - high end farm to table foodie mecca with James Beard winning/nominated? chef. It was a big group meal with mostly hits and few dishes that fell flat. Overall very good quality ingredients and creative dishes. The menu changes regularly but highlights - the plate of southern vegetables which is actually 5 mid-size vegetarian dishes that were excellent, good fish dishes, great cocktails. Dessert was weaker and skip the hot water cornbread which was meh. Worth a trip and only a short walk from the downtown area. 2. Martin's BBQ - downtown location, really good meats in a bright airy newly opened spot. Line was out the door for dinner on weeknights but it moves fast and it is counter service. Tasty chicken wings and good but a bit too fatty brisket. Slaw and hush puppies were good too. My companions thought the pulled pork was the best. They have a variety of BBQ sauces and all were pretty good but none outstanding. The meats only needed a bit so still good. 3. Pucket's Grocery - I went for breakfast and had a good brisket filled small biscuit. Brisket was so so but the biscuit and regular BBQ were great. I bought a bottle to take home. The spicy BBQ sauce was also good. A friend and I each bought a bottle to bring home (it was the best sauce of the 3 BBQ places' sauces I tried). Also very good were the sweet potato pancakes that look like normal pancakes but are stuffed with small chunks of sweet potato. Less interesting were the scrambled eggs and turkey sausage I also had. My friend liked her bacon and gouda grits. Depending on your perspective it is good/bad that when you leave you smell like BBQ since the smoker is right in the main dining area (it wasn't noticeable while in the place but when I left I realized the smell clung to my clothes). This place is also dirt cheap but still a sit down restaurant with waiters. 4. Jack's BBQ - this is on South Broadway, the strip with all of the honky tonk bars. I ordered poorly and got a smoked turkey sandwich. I should have gotten a different meat but I was distracted while ordering. It was fine but smoked turkey BBQ is pretty bland. Better were the sauces - mustard and white sauces were good on the sandwich. Super friendly service. No frills place too. 5. Goo Goo candy/dessert shop - off South Broadway across from the Johnny Cash museum, a store dedicated to this Nashville candy - the goo goo cluster candy bar. You can also get various decadent pies and other desserts here. I sampled all 3 standard varieties of the candy bar - I really liked the original (marshmallow nougat, caramel, peanuts covered in milk chocolate) and the peanut butter (same but peanut butter instead of marshmallow) but didn't care for the supreme (original but pecans instead of peanuts). Worth a stop for your sugar fix. But if you don't want the dessert specials, you can buy these candy bars all over the city and in the airport. I should have bought a big pack at the shop to bring home. 6. Savannah candy shop - also on South Broadway, huge store with many varieties of good looking gelato, homemade chocolates and all kinds of candies. However the free sample of their signature praline was meh. I think gelato may have been a better choice. I didn't get a chance to go, but I heard lots of good things from locals about breakfast at Biscuit Love in the Gulch area next to downtown.
  2. Anyone been to this place more recently? I'm thinking of taking a large group from work there for dinner - thoughts?
  3. I'm shocked no one has started a topic on Preserve. This place easily is one of the best in the area, and I include DC metro. After having their chef's 5 course tasting menu there last weekend, it is no surprise that they are included in the Washingtonian list of best restaurants. It is in a great location right on Main Street directly across from Chick and Ruth Deli. We had a large group and a fabulous meal with great service. The place is rather small only 40 or so seats in total including a bunch of bar seating. There is an open kitchen right in the back of the long narrow dining room. It is a husband (chef) and wife (FOH manager) team. We started with a round of cocktails - my gin-based one was great accompaniment to the first snack course. $65 for 5 courses (not including drinks/taxes, etc.) was a steal as each course was really 3-4 items with sides. First, we had the Chicken Caesar Skins which was very inventive and delicious. You make your own sandwich of small strips of fried chicken skin, mini romaine lettuce leaves, and spread a bit of Caesar dressing on it (I think I'm forgetting one component too). Also in the first course was their potted, soft goat cheese with warm slices of bread. This was one of the few items that was only good, not great. Most were great. The cheese is topped with oil and possibly some pickled vegetables. ALSO for the first course was a great variety of different quick pickled vegetables - radish, carrots, and 3 more I can't remember. Each one had been brined in a different way - some sweeter, some spicier. I'm a pickle lover and maker and these were superb. Second course was individual bowls of pan-seared scallops with a bit of sausage in a fennel broth and family style plate of head on shrimp with butternut squash salad with a lime-serrano vinaigrette. I don't eat shellfish so I didn't try this course but everyone loved it. Third course was three family style dishes: 1) glazed porcini trumpet pasta with roasted mushrooms, preserved lemons, capers and parmesan - great for mushroom lovers and rich, 2) cheese and potato pierogis with caramelized onions and sour cream - very well made but a bit bland compared to the other bolder flavored dishes, and 3) crispy kale with cumin yogurt, sweet pepper jelly and red onion. This last one is their twist on Rasika's crispy spinach (or Bombay Club's crispy kale) with more mid-atlantic/PA dutch flavorings. The kale was awesome and like Rasika worth a trip. Fourth course was a bucket of delicately fried catfish, with various sides - creamy mashed potatos, Brussel sprout and carrot slaw, bread and butter tomato pickles, cornbread with honey butter and 4 different sauces - regular remoulade, spicier remoulade, and a green and red hot sauce (all house made). The fish and hot sauces were very nice, the pickles were excellent and the cornbread also really decadent with the honey butter. Mashed potatoes were good, but nothing special. Fifth course was dessert - individual portions of Tandy cake and shoo-fly mousse pie. The tandy cake is dense yellow cake with a rich chocolate/peanut butter icing. It was only ok. The shoo-fly was better with sweet but not cloying mousse on top of a thin crust. We also had them pair a white wine with the first 2 courses and red for the second two. I didn't catch the names but they were good and paired nicely. I highly recommend going to Preserve if you are near or passing through Annapolis. Despite the overwhelming amount of food described above, they are mostly an a la carte menu and have a nice mix of vegetarian and meat/seafood items. If nothing else, go for the pickled items and crispy kale.
  4. Lately, I've used the caviar delivery service a couple of times to get DGS matzo ball soup and sandwiches. Last weekend, the pastrami on rye was perfect. Their meats really are my favorite - moist, the right amount of fattiness, and the thick cut gives you all of that meat deliciousness. Plus they have great rye bread. Soup arrived pretty warm too. Kudos.
  5. So I feeling pretty happy that I got to try Smoked & Stacked for a late breakfast this morning, but now I'm pissed I didn't read the forum here first and ask for a pickle. I guess they don't give them with the breakfast sandwiches, but as a pickler I always want to enjoy a good one. Oh well, next time. I had the New Yorker sandwich which was rather good - the pastrami was good, but not spectacular, also hidden somewhat under the runny egg and pepper jelly - a good combo nonetheless. I think the milk bread was a decent bread option to make this sandwich less messy, but it was not really my thing for pastrami or even an egg sandwich. Toasted rye or even an English muffin would probably be better for breakfast and I don't think I'd like milk bread for a pastrami with mustard. My verdict is that it is pretty good but only if you are nearby. The staff was super friendly to me and the few other customers. Also, I will say as I lingered in the restaurant that the pastrami smells were great.
  6. Stopped by Shouk today for lunch and I was wowed once again. This is great fast casual food. Today I went with my favorites the Shouk salad and a cardamom chocolate chip cookie. I've had both before and they are great. I especially like the salad as it is vegetarian, filling, and a really well thought out combination of different textures and flavors. The salad has diced fresh tomatos, cucumbers, thin strips of peppadew peppers?, olives, kale? and baby lettuce along with roasted chopped cauliflower and eggplant and is topped with pita croutons and pistachios for crunch. As you can see, there is a lot going on in this salad. I still need to try the other two salads but imagine they are also very good. The cookie - oh the cookie - it is divine if you like cardamom. It is a simple, rich fresh baked chocolate cookie but with the added kick of cardamom. Too make sure it was really good, I did a taste test against a Buttercream Bakeshop chocolate chunk cookie just because :-) The Bakeshop cookie was very good, but the Shouk cookie won hands down. The salad also came with a very nice whole wheat half pita. In the past, I've enjoyed the polenta fries (a bit odd but good) and some of the pita sandwiches.
  7. I'm a little behind on my reviews but I went here for the second time a few months ago and then for the third time about a month ago. Both times I really enjoyed almost everything. I'm still really enjoying their cocktails and most of the food. One new dish I tried was the chicken kabob which was excellent - especially the bed of fragrant rice it came on. I think all of the kabobs come with this rice (menu isn't so clear on this) making these more substantial dishes than some others. I've really enjoyed the vegetarian pao - great bread and stew like veggies that are good with only a bit of heat. The chicken kathi roll was only ok - it is a bit oily as others have said above. The naan also is only so so - the other carbs on the menu are better. I also had the Bindaas fruit salad on both visits and really like its vibrant sweetness that is cut a bit by the spiced crunchy chickpeas. Definitely a nice contrast to the other richer, savory dishes on the menu. I also really liked the fish wrapped in the banana leaf - well cooked and tasty. My wife's favorite and one of mine is the corn uttapam - one of the best items on the menu. I also really enjoyed the masala spiced popcorn which has a real fiery kick but is seasoned well so you still taste the other Indian spices.
  8. Went to Chez Billy Sud for the first time last weekend for date night dinner. It was a really great experience. The ambiance is nice, a bit romantic, but not too formal. We had excellent service. We started with really good cocktails - I particularly liked the gin Bees Knees. My wife started with a delicious acorn squash soup with pieces of Asian pear (aka nashi) and I had a rather large Caesar salad that was perfect including very good quality boquerones/anchovies. For mains, my wife got the steak frite which was cooked to a perfect medium rare with a great peppery crust. It was also very hefty at 12 oz with a big mess of pretty good fries and a nice but not much needed bernaise sauce in a dish to serve yourself. I had a tasty seared duck breast with sour cherry, hazelnut and celery root? puree. It is on a bed of wild rice, which I'm not a fan of, but when all of the components were mixed together it was scrumptious. My wife thought her chardonnay was so so, but I really enjoyed the waiter's rec of the pinot noir to go with the duck. Dessert was the weakest part of the meal. I got the chocolate mousse bomb - thin layer of chocolate cake, top with good moouse, and covered in dark chocolate with a bit of raspberry sauce on the side. This was fine, but nothing really special. I also lost this dessert to my wife who had ordered the profiteroles but didn't like them so we traded. The puff pastry was pretty bland and a bit too salty. The three different fillings were ok - salted caramel became a salt overkill, strawberry one had no fruit flavor, and the other one which I can't recall was fine. Surprisingly the chocolate sauce you pour over didn't help revive this dessert much. Maybe we picked bad - and don't get me wrong the desserts hit the right sweet notes to end the meal but were a letdown from the rest of the excellent meal. Overall still a nice meal. Also, had a bit of DC celeb spotting when Madeline Albright was sitting at the table next to us.
  9. For non-staples like certain produce such as wasabi, it is always a good idea to call ahead because their inventory seems to vary. When I went a few days ago, there was no wasabi (although they have had it many times before), but they did have fresh lotus root which I haven't seen there before. Also, they have fresh yuzu fruit - but this time only a handful whereas a few months ago lots. On this recent trip, they were unloading a big shipment of super fresh bok choy, which was great in my yasai vegetable stir fry from the Morimoto cookbook.
  10. I have to give a shout out to Hana. This tiny, packed store is awesome if you need any ingredient to eat or cook Japanese food. I usually go about every other month or so and pick up a few things or if I'm nearby get a tasty onigiri riceball at the counter or crème-filled mocha treat. I recently received a great (and requested) gift of Morimoto's Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking cookbook. I highly recommend this book - I've made about 6 different dishes and all were relatively easy and delicious. However, without a place like Hana, I'd be lost as the recipes rely on certain Japanese staple - some like soy are easy to find and others like Japanese chile bean sauce or umeboshi/salted "plum" apricots are not. I went there yesterday and seriously stocked up on ingredients. The place has gotten more popular, a wide selection and even better labeling in the last few years. The staff is always helpful if you are looking for something particular. For instance, I needed usukuchi - light soy sauce - and they pointed me right to it hiding among the other regular soy sauce bottles.
  11. Carnegie Deli was a great institution. 20 years ago when I lived in Manhattan, I used to eat there a few times a year and it was always good. Since it was closing, I made a final pilgrimage in mid-December with a bunch of co-workers. The line was down the block around lunch time so we got carry out. It was still nice being in the cramped space with all of the celeb pictures for one more time while we waited for our food. We went for the tried and true classics - corned beef on rye, pastrami on rye, jar of full sour pickles, matzo ball soup, coleslaw, and cheesecake. One of the best work lunches in a long time (and normally we go to pretty nice places ;-) The corned beef was slice thin and still steamed a ton to almost melt in your mouth. The pastrami was similar with some good spice and a bit of fat. Both, very different from DGS Deli, which I actually prefer that slices thick and has more flavorful meat and better slicing. Rye bread was fine, nothing special. The pickles were freaking good! I'm a real pickle guy and these were very good - nothing fancy but great sour kick to cut the richness of the meat. Matzo ball soup was good - although probably biased since it was utterly freezing that day. Still had the giant, extra fluffy matzo balls that I like (others like my wife's family swear by stiff/hard ones - but they are meshugenah in this regard). Coleslaw was fine - nothing special but good with the corned beef to add some diversity to the simple deli mustard. The one mistake even though I asked the deli guy 3 times was there was no Russian dressing included for the always great meat, coleslaw, Russian dressing combo. So only a B+ for service ;-) The cheesecake was super rich, dense and only ok. You can make or buy better from lots of places. Per the closing note, they will still have other locations and you can order their stuff by mail. I remember years ago I saw vacuum-packed Carnegie corned beef for sale at Brookeville Market in Cleveland Park. It probably will taste similar, but you'll miss out on the location's special ambiance. I lament Carnegie's passing but luckily for us a lot of new delis have sprung up in NY, DC, etc. which make good, if slightly different, deli meats and foodstuffs.
  12. This is horribly late and no longer the warm season for eating zaru soba - but since I'm also a big fan - another place that you can get it is Tono Sushi in Woodley Park and likely their sister restaurants in Yosaku in Tenleytown and Toku on U Street. I've had it several times at Tono Sushi and found it to be very good. They don't usually serve it with sobayu but if you ask when you order it, I bet they'd fill a little tea kettle with the cooking liquid and give it to you. These restaurants btw are underrated for their large Japanese menus in addition to the usually sushi offerings. They won't compete with the best sushi places in the city, but they turn out rather good quality and not overly expensive traditional (and non-traditional but I stick away from it) Japanese food.
  13. I just got back from lunch at Dolan. I had great service and delicious food. It was about 1/3 to 1/2 full and they had at least 3 waiters. I had scoped out the menu in advance and knew I wanted the Mom's Lagman (hand-pulled noodles with skinny stir-fried lamb strips and chopped vegetables). I quickly ordered after being seated and my food came out in 10 minutes. It was a large portion of lo mein shaped noodles but slightly thicker and with more chew to them - really good. It comes with a thin but flavorful brown sauce with a good amount of cumin flavor. The dish was similar to Chinese cumin lamb (one of my favorites) but slightly different seasoning and the really good noodles. My guess is the earlier services issues are new restaurant kinks that are being worked out. They also had a sign that they are still hiring staff. Also, they now have clearer hours - 12-3pm and 5-9 or 10 (sorry can't remember) - the key thing is they take a couple of hour afternoon break in service but are open everyday - including lunch (yeah more options for me in my neighborhood :-)). I would recommend checking it out and I'm looking forward to trying some of the other dishes.
  14. So what did you eat and like? I live nearby and haven't had a chance to get it yet but will likely try it for lunch this week.
  15. We are currently in the design phase to remodel our first floor which will likely include moving the small kitchen from a back corner to the center of our long, narrow row house. I've never had an island before but think we'll likely need/want a big one for extra counter space and storage underneath. Any suggestions on storage solutions - whether special types of cabinets for pots, good spice storage solutions, kitchen "essentials" beyond the basics? I'm think we may want to put in a wine fridge and maybe one of those pot filler faucets by the stove. Please tell me what cool things you love in your or other people's kitchens that we should consider. It is a blank slate right now.