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About KeithA

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    Cleveland Park, DC

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  1. Finally got to Sababa last night with friends and thoroughly enjoyed it. Very nice cocktails to start - a bit on the sweet side (which I like) - I had the gin Phoenicians Frappe and tasted two of my friends. I noticed though that the cocktails are basically spiked versions of the house-made sodas and juices. Next time I may try the non-alcoholic versions. We also enjoyed their light white Georgian bottle that paired well with the food. Servers were friendly and knowledgeable about the dishes. The complimentary small dish of pickles was very nice with a variety of cucumber, carrot, and also radish I think. We started with the salatim which came with nice whole wheat pitas and also the hummus tahina which also comes with 2 pitas. Hummus was nice and passed the taste test of the 4 diners, all of who have lived in Israel at some point in our lives. The salatim were explained to be side dishes to eat along with other dishes and not really meant to serve as a separate app. I think you could do it either way, but were nice grab a bite of later in the meal so I'd probably order them again at the start to whet our appetite but only eat half and save some to eat throughout the meal. We then had the charred eggplant which was one of the standouts. Big rounds of charred outside, creamy inside that paired very well with the pomegranate seeds and herbed green sauce. I would definitely order this one again. Next was the hallomi which was good but not too excited (it may be that hallomi is just not my thing). We also got the Not for Faint of Heart - hot sauces and chili pepper dish which really is blow your mind hot. The green zhoug is very nice and the red harissa is pretty hot, but those chili peppers has us all tearing up and my dining companions are some chili heads. We were pretty stuffed at this point but gluttons that we are we also ordered the lamb shank and veggie coucous tagine big plates. These are both sizeable dishes that could be shared by 2 people as a sizeable meals or like us enjoyed by more. The lamb shank was really excellent - crispy in places on the outside, super tender inside - lots of great meaty flavor balanced with the sweetened red cabbage. The tagine was only so so - the charred veggies in it were charred a bit too much that a lot of their flavor was lost and overall the dish lacked flavor. Our friends had been once before and thought we ordered better this time as except for the above noted couple of less flavorful dishes, it was all really good. It is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood and now my tough choice will be whether to go to Bindaas or Sababa.
  2. I recently had this new sandwich and it was good, but not as good as other items I've had here in the past. A few weeks ago I ended up going there for back to back lunches with several work colleagues. Everyone was very satisfied. I still love their Shouk salad - perfect combo of fresh and cooked veggies with good crunch. Sweet potato fries and polenta fries were spot on. Also still great cardamom chocolate chip cookies. My real lament is that they seem to have taken the beet tahini dip off the menu when it was SO good. I hope they bring it back. I'm also excited that Doordash will now deliver to me in upper NW - stupid Ubereats said I was outside the deliver zone for a long time.
  3. I haven't been to Mama Ayesha's in a long time. I wasn't very impressed on my prior visits. What do you like there?
  4. All are good and slightly different. I recommend trying all and figuring out what you like. Naf has the most options, then Yafa, then Little Sesame (which is really hummus focused).
  5. Now this means that there will be three good quality eats casual places to get Israeli/Palestinian/Middle East food within 2 blocks when you add in Naf Naf and Yafa Grille. Lucky people who work downtown.
  6. KeithA


    I agree that in finding a good bagel to one's taste you need to consider the size and hole/bread ratio. However, I've found all types of NY style bagels that vary on these parameters. The key difference IMHO is that a real Montreal bagel from Montreal is sweeter - it has honey water as part of its baking process vs. NY bagels do not. The few times I had bagels from the classic Montreal bagel shops, I thought eww that is so sweet. Whereas I know others love that style. It is a matter of personal taste. I will say though that many Montreal-style bagels in the US don't seem as sweet but without that sweetness, there isn't much difference in general regional style. The differences then fall to the particular bagel shop. In DC, you can get smaller, bigger hole bagels at Baked by Yael or Breadfurst or you can get good big chewy on the outside, but fluffier/thicker bagels at Bethesda Bagel in Dupont. For medium sized but really nice chew, Timber Pizza is a good option (not sure when the bagels are available, maybe not be all the time). Oh and the NY water thing is BS! I lived in NY and DC and it is such a blown out of proportion myth.
  7. So I see there hasn't been a lot of posts on Le Diplomate in recent years and I too have made the mistake of not going there in a long time. I fixed that problem last weekend and you should too. The place is still packed but for good reason - great quality food, service, and huge portions. I was lucky and noticed a last minute opening for a reservation for an early dinner and we jumped on it and rushed over. Really excellent experience. The staff was very friendly and nice to our 2 young kids. Cocktails were good but leaned toward more classic then innovative. I had their riff on a French 75 and my wife had the vodka based one - hers was better. The bread basket is still really great - I loved that nut and cranberry bread. The good bread continued with a really nice cheese course appetizer - the goat with the spiced honey and marcona almonds went especially well with the blueberry nut toasts that came with it. The applesauce like spread in the middle of the cheese plate was ok but all 3 cheeses we had were very nice. The kids shared the half roasted chicken which is not only cooked nicely with moist meat and crisp skin but has a really flavorful pan sauce (went great with fries dipped in it). We subbed the mash potatoes that come with it for the excellent haricot vertes coated in butter. Perfectly crisp flavorful beans indulgent with butter - hmmm. My wife's main was the huge steak frite. The steak was charred nicely and cooked to a perfect medium rare. She really enjoyed it. It comes with a whole huge plate of fries enough for 4 people. I opted for 2 appetizers for my entree which was completely over-ordering. The apps are really large and depending on which one you get, 1 could be an entree. My luck - I ordered 2 large ones. The salt cod brandade whipped with mashed potatoes and served warm in a skillet with a baguette was very good. I saved the best for last and really loved the mushroom tart. It is basically a mini-pizza but on flaky tart crust spread with truffles, topped with small rustic mushrooms and heavily sprinkled with cheese. It was divine. I could eat this once a week. We were stuffed and skipped dessert but it was tempting. It was a pretty reasonable price too since I had the most amazing leftover lunch of the second half of my 2 apps the next day. So if you haven't been or haven't been in a while and like French bistro - head back again soon. The only word of caution is be prepared to have an awkward conversation with your kids when they see the naked lady photos in the bathroom.
  8. I read through the thread but have never been to Convivial and now am bringing a large group of 17 for a business dinner in a couple of weeks. What are the best dishes/drinks/desserts to not be missed?
  9. Lebanese Taverna is very consistent across their many restaurants. It is a shame the Bethesda spot is closing - it was a go to midway meeting spot for meals with family who live in upper MoCo and us in NW DC. The baba is still my favorite of anywhere in the area and the lamb dish with the lamb stuffed grape leaves is killer.
  10. KeithA

    Williamsburg, VA

    Had a nice weekend in Williamsburg with some decent and good eats. Best food was lunch Two Drummers Smokehouse bbq restaurant in Toano (this is 20 minutes outside of Williamsburg about 10 minutes detour off the highway on the way toward Richmond/95 - I found it on yelp). I had the two meat combo for $15 for a large amount of food includes good cornbread and choice of 2 sides. Brisket was spot on - nice smoke, juicy, a bit fatty, nice bark. Chicken was juicy breast meat, but a bit plain. Both went well with the red memphis-style sweet Rudimentary sauce. On the table are also a mustard vinegar that was ok, a hot red sauce that wasn't too hot, and upon request a bit too sweet peach bbq sauce. The Rudimentary was good, the rest were ok - although the vinegar may have been great with pulled pork which I didn't try. The sweet potato fries were delish and cole slaw was pretty good (not too vinegary and not too laden with mayo or maybe none at all if I recall right). Hushpuppies were ok - a bit plain and dry. Kids liked their chicken fingers and wife like the pecan crusted chicken. Place is cozy, a bit dark with a bar and waiter service but very casual. It looks like some evenings they have live music. I'd go again for the brisket, cornbread, Rudimentary sauce and value meal. Another place we went was DoG Pub, which was rather good and is in the merchants square just steps west of the west end of the historic area. We had a very nice 3 cheese plate, pretty good/not great fish and chips (good quality fish but both fish and chips could have been crispier), washed it down with a very nice Mead from nearby VA. This place was very busy and I recommend getting a reservation. They had a huge beer and drink list. Very friendly and quick service. Also, if you are in the historic area and want some quick snacks that are not "historic", the Williams and Mary B&N bookstore is next to the DoG pub just west of the historic area - they have a cafe with all kinds of snacks and starbucks coffee.
  11. Trattoria Al Volo in Cleveland Park in the old Ripple space is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. It is still working out some slow service kinks but overall food is rather good, prices are on point for the neighborhood, and service is very friendly. The homemade pastas and sauces are very good quality and tasty - this is consistent at their Cucinia at Union Market, Osteria in Admo, and in this locations - all of which in the past year I've tried several times (mostly in anticipation of this new place opening near my house). The menus at all of the vary somewhat and the current menu at the CP location seems to fluctuate slightly each time that I've gone (3 times so far in the past 2 months). They seem to do best with the ravioli/mezzaluna/stuffed pastas which are the most flavorful and for an added bit of fun, can be seen being made in real time in one part of the dining room. Instead of an open kitchen, they have a window ledge where a nice gentleman is busy assembling raviolis much to the delight of the kids and foodies. The caesar salad is presented nicely and is a bit non-traditional but very good. Burrata and tomatos was only ok. Friends liked the big plate of calamari. The meatballs are all beef (good for non-pork eaters like my family) but only ok. The only secondi I've had is the branzino daily fish which was large and delicious - simple whole cooked fish with lemon and herbs. The various meat options look huge and enough to share for 2. Which is the overall vibe of these place - good quality, nicely made food but nothing too fancy and also priced a bit less than fancier places. Portions are also on the larger size. Overall a good neighborhood restaurant, not a foodie destination. The several reds and whites I've tried by the glass have been good (I'm not too fussy about wine though FWIW) including a surprisingly good house red. Desserts are mostly a bunch of different rotating cakes that they told me are made on the off hours by a pastry chef at a restaurant in town. I've only tried 2 of the chocolate cakes and both were like everything else well-made, tasty. Two dishes I had that were only ok - a bit bland - rigatoni with mushrooms and the manticotti (too much mozzarella cheese without enough flavor). The only real hiccup has been that on 2 of the 3 times we went there has been a rather long wait between apps and entrees. I think they are still figuring out their timing in the kitchen. Overall, if they fix this last issue, they'll have a very successful run here (hopefully).
  12. Definitely get the soup - it is good. Broth is flavorful but pretty clear with diced veggies. Matzoh ball is well made and is medium density - not super fluffy but not rock hard. This last point helps out families like mine where some like hard and some like soft. I still don't understand the allure of hard matzoh balls but some people are a bit meshugah.
  13. I have always said that the pizza is good at 2 Amys but I usually find the appetizers/small plates to be outstanding. I used to love their crostini but they seemed to have moved away from offering them. Lately, I've been enjoying their various fish offerings - the anchovies and peppers on the regular menu are always nice and on Monday I had great pickled sardines with olive tapenade off the special menu. On two recent occassions, I had the same eggplant with smoky/spiced tomato sauce with the lightest, freshest sheep's milk ricotta. The suppli telefono and my perennial fave the salt cod croquettes were very good on Monday. The kitchen has a great way with the fryer. One new twist after years of being the same, now the salt cod croquettes come with a bit of lemon aioli and the usual lemon wedge. I think I'm still partial to the lemon wedge but options are nice. Lastly, the roasted olives are great to share as a app.
  14. KeithA


    First off the best hummus is freshly made hummus and it doesn't get any fresher than when you make it yourself. If you have a food processor - it is super easy and quick to make. There are tons of good recipes and it is easy to tweak to your personal taste - add more/less lemon/garlic/cumin/tahini, add herbs, etc. The longer more complicated recipes like Zahav or Ottolenghi may taste a bit more refined but if you are in a hurry - my tips are: 1) do use fresh lemon juice 2) do use not-dead/old spices but dried are fine 3) use canned chickpeas and don't waste time trying to remove the skins - they taste very similar to soaking dried overnight. This last point is heresy to some but taste them side and side and you'll see the canned ones are a bit less creamy but remember you have hummus in 15 minutes and didn't wait overnight and then cook for the chickpeas for hours. That video was cool but it comes down to personal taste - I would never put that parsley in my hummus but I'm sure others love it. As for local places, go to Little Sesame - lots of fresh hummus with interesting toppings - it is in the basement of DGS Deli in Dupont. Also, I recently ate a few times at the chain Naf Naf - they do hummus bowls (also off-menu baba ganoush bowls) as an alternative to rice/pita or salad. On a side note they also make great pillowy pita bread in house (similar to the independent and reliable Yafa Grill a few blocks away downtown). The garlic hummus at the local Lebanese Taverna chain is also rather good. (they also have the my favorite baba ganoush in the area). I recently attended part of a whole conference at AU on what is Israeli cuisine: http://www.american.edu/cas/israelstudies/cuisine/index.cfm. Answer - no one knows but it is really a blend of mostly middle eastern/north african with some influences from Europe with a twist of kosher laws. If you want to check out more, watch the Netflix movie In Search of Israeli Cuisine starring Chef Solomonov of Zahav: https://www.netflix.com/title/80172948. There is a big political/colonialist element to debates on what is Israeli food (not dissimilar to any discussion of Israel). If anyone is actually going to Israel and wants to check out the food scene - an old friend and former Washingtonian runs food tours https://www.deliciousisrael.com/