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  1. For a short time only (I would guess), but very good right now at 2 Amys: Durham bread crostini with fava bean puree, olive oil and shaved pecorino. Bonus -- watching every member of staff variously set to skinning fresh favas at each lull in their other duties.
  2. A'ight kids, put yer reading caps on Friday was our 7th wedding anniversary. That means its been 7 years since some generous friends took us to a meal at the Inn at Little Washington as a wedding present. Our gustatory urges had been slowly awakening over the previous year, driven in part by our release from the penury of graduate school into gainful employment, and we had wined and dined ourselves at Obelisk, Cashions and DC Coast to name but a few. Fine restaurants all. But "The Inn" was the big kahuna. Remember that in DC in 1998, there was no Maestro, no Laboratorio, no CityZen, no Eve, a reminder of how spoiled we are for fine dining options now (I think Citronelle was there but for some inexplicable reason we have yet to dine there). The passage of time, the loss of brain cells and a couple of years of sleep deprivation have taken their toll, and memories of the meal are hazy, but we remember literally being *blown away* by the whole experience. The setting, the service, and most importantly the food were all superlative - we had never experienced anything like it - I remember a sublime molten Valrhona chocolate cake before it had become a tired cliche. Two years later we returned, flush with the proceeds of a Harry Potter arbitrage scheme on eBay, and left wondering whether The Inn had changed or had we changed. Were our expectations too high after our first visit? Had we become more discerning as diners? Or was The Inn standing in place, content to serve a menu eerily similar to two years beforehand to those willing (and there were still many of them) to make the two hour trek from metropolitan DC, or even further afield? Some of the dishes were very good, but lacked the wow factor of our previous visit, and the service seemed a little detached and rote. As we left, the prevailing sense was that for $120+ per person BEFORE wine, tax or tip was it just wasn't good enough. Based on the comments on several other food sites it seemed as if we were not alone in this opinion. Time passed and we concentrated our fine dining adventures closer to DC, enjoying spectacular meals at Maestro, Laboratorio, and Eve, or overseas (Arzak, McNean Bistro). Last Christmas, my sister, remembering our raves from our first visit generously gave us a gift certificate for The Inn. While grateful for the gift, we honestly were not that jazzed about going back to The Inn and sat on the gift cert for a while (and in the "We do it because we can" category, shame on The Inn for voiding gift certs after ONE year). We finally decided to go in late-September and turn it into an anniversary celebration both for us, and my parents who would be visiting. My mother has a garlic allergy which can make dining out a difficult process so I mentioned it as I made reservations, and was assured it would not be a problem. Then the day of the meal, our babysitting fell through and I called The Inn to find out if it would be ok to add a 4-year old to our reservation. Again, they said it was not a problem (to be honest I was surprised at this, as an ultra high-end restauranteur, adding a 4 year old into a dining room full of boomers spending $200+ per person seems to have lots of downside). We arrived just in time for our 6.30 reservation and were shown to a circular table overlooking the courtyard (the same table as our first time there, maybe a coincidence, maybe not). Our amuse bouche arrived quickly, with about 8 for the non-garlic allergites (is that a word?) on one place and 3 or 4 on a separate plate for my mother which I thought was a nice touch. The amuse bouche included a mini-BLT (still on the menu after all these years) a red wine risotto filled ball, parmesan crisps, a rabbit turnover, a mini-ham sandwich and one or two others which I have forgotten. In general the amuse were good but not earth shattering. In ordering for the rest of our meal, our waiter took scrupulous care in accommodating the garlic allergy, to the extend of tweaking the making and presentation of dishes to ensure there would be no garlic but that my mother could still order just about whatever she wanted. I was very impressed. After the amuse came a complimentary cup of chilled watermelon soup with a hint of tequila. The soup was excellent - creamy, yet light, tasting of summer, and with the tequila giving its just the slightest kick. They even brought a cup of the soup (minus the tequila!) for our daughter, which she loved. For the first course proper, me and my mother had Prawns and Charred Onions with Mango Mint Salsa, while my wife and dad had Maryland Crabcakes Sandwiched between Fried Green Tomatoes with Silver Queen Corn Salsa. In general both dishes were excellent, but I think the prawns shaded it. Three large, succulent prawns paired nicely with the sweetness of the charred onion and the salsa. In another nice touch, they brought our daughter some macaroni (penne pasta to be precise) and cheese between our first and second courses so we could concentrate on feeding her and still be able to eat ourselves. This was seriously tasty and I'm guessing they used several different cheeses in its preparation. For the second course, I had A Marriage of Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Homemad Quince Preserves, my mom had a Morel Dusted Diver Scallop on a Cauliflower Puree, my wife had A Fricassee of Maine Lobster with Potato Gnocchi and Curried Walnuts, and my dad had A Warm Salad of Stone Church Farms Seared Duck Breast with Baby Arugula, Pine Nuts and Parmesan. In general, I adore foie gras and ordered this dish mainly for the seared foie with aged balsamic and it did not disappoint, but was pleasantly surprised at the "Cold" part of the dish, which was a delicious pate served with a small piece of toasted bread. For our main course, myself and my dad Medallions of Rabbit Loin Wrapped in House Cured Pancetta Surrounding a Lilliputian (!!) Rabbit Rib Roast Resting on a Pillow of Pea Puree, my mom had Prime Angus Tenderloin of Beef on Silver Queen Corn Saute with Wilted Baby Spinach, and my wife had Sesame-Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Silver Queen Corn Succotash. I don't think I'd really eaten rabbit before and it was excellent. The pancetta added a good deal of flavor and it was surprisingly tender. The sea bass was also good, and the corn succotash was very flavorful. For dessert I had cheese, my wife had a trio of chocolate desserts (Black Forest Mousee Bombe, Chocolate Creme Brulee, and Bitter Chocolate Souffle), my father had the "Seven Deadly Sins", and my mother had a trio of peach desserts (Peach Melba, Peach-Champagne Sorbet and Peach Cobbler). In general I thought the desserts were good but not outstanding, although I think I was more in the mood for savory than sweet that night. Our daughter had a scoop of mint ice cream (that was as good as 2 Amy's and that's saying something) with chocolate ribbons. At The Inn, the cheese is served from the back of "Faira", a wheeled cow that must be (somewhat arkwardly) manouevered around the dining room - its cute, kind-of, but let me tell you when you're a 4-year old nearing the end of a 3 hour meal and its an hour after your normal bedtime, it's the coolest thing in the world! I had a nice back and forth with the cheese guy (earning a "you know your cheese" by the end of it all), and ended up picking a Montenbro, a crumbly blue from the Asturias region of Spain, a wonderfully ripe Tallegio, an even more wonderfully ripe Epoisses, a pungent cheese from Switzerland whose name escapes me and an award-winning American cheese that, much to my chagrin, I had never heard of. Now we were really starting to wind down, and Reinhardt Lynch came by and asked if we wanted the doors opening out onto the courtyard to be opened. Again, a great idea for a rapidly tiring 4-year old, and while we enjoyed coffee, tea and cookies, we took turns peering into the courtyards coy-filled ponds with her - several other tables were enjoying their desserts outside. After dinner, we had a quick tour of the kitchen and observed those willing to pony up the addition $300 ($450 on weekends) for the chef's table, exchanged pleasantries with Chef O'Connell (always easy when you have a cute kid), and made our way into the night air for the drive back to DC. Total bill for 4 people, a nice but inexpensive bottle Pinot, and a "kids meal" plus tax and tip was $775. The regular menu is $128 per person, our wine was $60, and our daughters meal was $28 (note that the tasting menu is $168 and the tasting menu with wine pairings is $243!!). We tipped 20% on the total bill including tax because the service was exemplary. Neil is a true professional, always there when we needed him, sensitive to the particular demands of our table, friendly, and good with our daughter. So, was it worth it? I would have to say yes. Its not the kind of place where you should go all the time, and it may not even be the place where you go for groundbreaking cuisine, but for a special occasion, the combination of ambience, service and food is hard to beat. I think they deserve credit for regaining their focus and maintaining a general level of excellence as they enter their 28th year in business. A final note on our superstar daughter. Yes, she's used to being taken out to restaurants, but she excelled herself this time around. By the end of the night, complete strangers were coming up to talk to her, clearly awed but her ability not to ruin their evenings! A final, FINAL note on the one teeny-tiny sour note for the evening. A young female member of staff loudly chastised my wife for reading one of Patrick O'Connells cookbooks that had apparently been already purchased by someone else but left on a table in the common area directly outside the kitchen. Honey, she wasn't trying to steal it, she didn't know it belonged to someone else, and your tone was not appreciated.
  3. No, but it's now open, and here are the website and current menus. Note that there's a pop-up window advertising heritage turkey dinners (complete dinners) to go for Thanksgiving this year - they're asking you to order early (note to NRG: That window is showing up every time you click on something on the website - it would be nice if you saw it only once). Dinner: Charcuterie: Beer: Drinks and Wine:
  4. I've visited Grapes Wine Bar in Annapolis at least three times in the past month as we are closing on a house nearby. We had a great dinner there Saturday night and prior times have enjoyed food and wine at the bar. This is a wine bar with a great selection of wines by the glass and bottle. Lots of chalkboard specials and special pours that night. Small but reasonable menu with good cheese slections and all good entrees. The whipped Goat Cheese with Fig jam is amazing. This is a locals spots on Forrest drive outside of downtown Annapolis. Thus the crowds aren't there and there isn't a wait to get seated. The prices are not upscale DC or Bethesda but reasonable and laid back Annapolis. I saw a bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose Champagne for $90, retail is not much less. I'll be drinking the Friday night after we close on this house.
  5. After a soft opening on Sunday afternoon for friends and neighbors The Red Hen officially opened last night. Menu is not on the website yet, but Washingtonian has a scan. We were hoping to walk down right around 5:00, but never made it out the door; it was apparently packed (as expected given the neighborhood excitement for this place). Early Comments I've read so far are very good on the food, so-so on the value (although no cocktail is over $10, so hooray?). Portions size comes up most, but there are lots of small plates. We're very much excited to try it out. Has anyone been yet?
  6. We stay at the Ashby Inn on a regular basis, and were there last weekend. It is far more casual than genteel, although there's a bit of that in horse country. Sitting on the balcony and listening to the cows lowing will quickly convince you that the city is not too close. They recently changed chefs, and have, at least for the moment, shortened the menu because of decreased dinner traffic in this stuttering economy, but the food remains wonderful. I know that they have an eight ounce filet listed, but believe that's the only steak offered. Note, too, that the Inn is quite close to the Sky Meadows State Park, which has very nice hiking trails and beautiful views. One of Paul Mellon's finest contributions to that part of the world.
  7. WARNING: Shameless plug for Evening Star Cafe & The Wild Grape (JParrot)... This Monday, April 24th, the Evening Star Cafe is hosting Richard Weiss of The Wild Grape at our monthly wine dinner. If you like small production wines from South Africa, this is most definitely a not-to-be-missed dinner. Chef Matt Cordes and his staff are pairing their creations with seven wines from The Wild Grape. Menu Vischysoisse with Parsley Froth paired with a 2005 Louisvale Unwooded Chardonnay (Western Cape) Seared Scallops with Farmer Greens, Fennel & Articoke and a Lavender Vinaigrette paired with a 2005 Monteroso de Franchi Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc Pan-Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast with Savory Sour Cherry Bread Pudding, Minted Duck Jus and Micro Greens paired with a 2003 Avondale "Amira" Syrah (Coastal Region) and a 2003 Hartenberg "Ecurie" Cab, Shiraz, Pinotage, Merlot Blend (Stellenbosch) Caraway & Herb Crusted Lamb Round with Red Onion, Parsley & Black Pepper Creme paired with a 2003 Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Blend and a 2001 Vergenoegd Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) Raisin Tart with Port & Muscat Drizzle paired with a 2005 Vriesenhof Melelo Muscat d'Alexandrie, Tinta Touriga (Stellenbosch) Price is $85 per person (includes tax & gratuity). RSVP by calling Planet Wine at 703.549.3444.
  8. Dönnhoff

    Google "underpriced wines."
  9. Pennsylvania 6, a moderately upscale Modern American restaurant with locations in Philadelphia and New York City, will be opening SepNov, 2015 at Franklin Square. Among other things, diners should anticipate a strong wine program.
  10. Last night, I had a great meal at Charlie Palmer Steak. The menu had just been updated for spring/summer to add some seasonal elements. There's a chilled corn chowder with lobster and avocado, for example, as well as buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomato "composed salad." I had been to CPS before and liked the whole experience, the food, etc. but this time, I came away loving the place. Everything about our meal was more personal which added to the experience, IMO, greatly. The visit didn't start off all that auspiciously. I found that our bartender wasn't very friendly, but she made my mother a rave-worthy vodka martini so...whatever. Not long after we arrived a drunk and loud rowdy crew (in jeans, no less) rolled in and caused a little commotion in the bar area. Some members of the party seemed to know the other (male) bartender and I could see that he was uncomfortable. They were seated in a quiet part of the restaurant quickly in order to get them out of the way. About our food: IMO, the bread service could be improved. I like having options (ciabatta or kalamata olive last night), but the bread is served almost cold and with unsalted butter. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar came later, but was probably intended for the salads. Warm bread makes a big difference, I think. Mom had the romaine salad with fried pancetta and blue cheese. I had some of the crisp bacon and it was delicious. Dad had the mixed greens. My friend and I shared the buffalo mozzarella. It was fine (my friend really liked it), but I've had some really excellent buffalo mozzarella lately and this just wasn't on par with the best of that lot. Perhaps it was bland? Maybe. Mom and Dad both had the CPS surf & turf, filet mignon with butter poached lobster and loved it. I tried the lobster - unusual for me, yes I know - and really enjoyed it. I had the marinated hangar steak (at $29, it's one of the lower priced entrees) and had zero regrets. It was SO GOOD, a cut of beef I pretty much always enjoy cooked a perfect medium rare and full of flavor. My friend had the lobster, also butter poached, and ate every last bit of it. Our sides were great - the most buttery (buttery-est?) mashed potatoes, asparagus and a new-to-the-menu creamed corn. When I was last at CPS, I had the bittersweet chocolate dessert and wasn't crazy about it, but I remembered enjoying my companion's sorbet a lot; I steered the group in that direction. Instead of the mix of ice creams and sorbets we had last time, we were served six little scoops - two each of mango, blueberry and rasperry. So delicious and perfect for summer. At the end of the night, we asked the wonderful host Martin if we could see the view from the roof deck (used only for private events). Upon exiting the elevator, you have a lovely view of the Capitol, brightly lit against the night sky. I suspected it would be a very enjoyable experience for my visiting parents, which is why I made the request to go up there, and I am so happy I did. It was an enjoyable end to a special night.
  11. Jonathan Gold's review makes me want to hop a plane and go *right* *now* to Dudley Market: "In Venice Beach, the Place to Eat is Dudley Market, and the Dish to Try is Uni-Topped Black Risotto" by Jonathan Gold on latimes.com
  12. Metropolitan Coffee House and Wine Bar is great. Federal Hill, not Inner Harbor, but close by. Casual, coffee shop atmosphere, but nice friendly spot with good breakfast foods. 902 South Charles at Henrietta.
  13. I am pleased to announce the A Day At The Beach Wine Dinner at Tallula on Tuesday, July 19th @ 7:30. The dinner will consist of a four-course meal with wine pairings plus a selection of the Amuse Yourself items from the regular menu. We have room for 12 people. The cost is $95.00 which covers everything - dinner, tax, tip and paypal fees. Prepayment will be required. Please email me if you are interested or have any questions. The menu for A Day At The Beach Wine Dinner includes: Starter Shrimp Broil - Carolina shrimp, baby corn, and fingerling potatoes seasoned with Sierra Nevada and Old Bay paired with a 2004 Domaine d'Eole Rose Second Course Duo of Chesapeake Crab - Jumbo lump crabcake and tempura softshell crab paired with a 2003 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Main Course Grilled Maine Lobster with lemongrass risotto and basil hollandaise paired with a 2004 Brampton Viognier Dessert Funnel Cake with fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream paired with a wine selected by our staff
  14. Another bombshell in that piece is that Gabriel Kreuther is leaving The Modern around the end of the year - he was the opening chef, and has been there since 2004.
  15. Please define mid afternoon? Rustic Canyon Wine Bar is superb and one of the hottest restaurants in L. A. right now (#6 in Jonathan Gold's top 100 L. A. restaurants) but it does not open until 5:00PM. Ten minutes from LAX in Santa Monica-we went a month ago and loved it. On par wtih Red Hen or Rose's; extremely creative. Superb wine list heavy on Central Coast wines. If the time works it would be my first choice of any. Press reports on Rustic Canyon including LA Times and New York Times:
  16. I visited The Breslin because I needed an early brunch, and it's open early for weekend brunch (7am according to their website, though I visited around 9am). I had the savouries pastry, which is a brioche bun sandwich filled with cheese custard and slices of bacon. Served warm. Really delicious. I also had the baked eggs with spiced tomato and chorizo (which came with two long slices of toasted bread). The tomato component had the consistency and concentration of tomato paste. The chorizo was in the form of slices, like pepperoni, laid under the eggs/tomato paste and also on top. A bit salty, but I also enjoyed this dish. It's a dark space. I found the suggested gratuity amounts at the bottom of the check to be very interesting. You know how the bill at some places automatically calculate the exact amounts for 15%, 18% and 20%? The suggested gratuity calculations on this check were 18%, 20%, and 22%. (Is 18%-22% now the accepted range?)
  17. For me Charleston still sits at the pinnacle of "fine dining" in Baltimore. For better or worse, the East Harbor location is now ultra-trendy, close by the water (ask to sit in the front if you want a view) and steps from several other chi-chi restaurants like Roys and Flemings and all that is Fells Point. Inside is serenity itself: richly appointed, comfortable and refined. Do not bring young children. Don't even think about it. The menu is split between prix fixe and a la carte. I enjoy Cindy Wolf's cornmeal crusted oysters - six or seven for a first course with lemon-cayenne mayonnaise are reason enough for me to go. The cornmeal fried soft shell crabs are amazing too. Sauteed and served in a bright lemony brown butter, they need and get nothing but the few dressed greens upon which they perch in oozing glory. Grilled gulf shrimp with Andouille sausage and cubes of salty tasso ham over stone-milled grits are a perennial menu favorite. I'm no Southerner, grits ain't me, but these grits is great! The fried green tomato "sandwich" (ok, stack) with lobster and lump crab hash includes tiny perfect cubes of Yukon gold potatoes and a healthy pinch of curry. Oh yes. Entrees are wonderful, but this time it was straight to dessert. Cheesecake with apricot compote. A ramekin-size light cheesecake on a bed of roasted chopped pecans was very good, but apricots are my favorite fruit and the intensely tart/sweet compote surrounding the cake was the best I've had.
  18. Saw this on the Washingtonian Best Bites Blog. Opened in Cleveland Park at 3714 Macomb Street (appears to actually be at Macomb and Wisconsin) David Ashwell and John Warner come from the Robert Wiedmaier empire. Washingtonian Website
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