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  1. I attended a large business dinner at Urban Farmer recently. The hotel looks really nice and the restaurant has a good vibe, but the service was slow and generally terrible, the steaks (grass fed NY strip) were noticeably under seasoned, and the rest of the food was nothing out of the ordinary. I did have brunch here on a different occasion and had a much better experience.
  2. Could this have anything to do with the fact that ... "Franchaise Operators Wait, Watch As Quiznos Files For Chapter 11 Reorg" by Steve Raabe on denverpost.com
  3. As someone who watched things being assembled at a Chipolte Grille yesterday, I'm unimpressed at a myriad of things on the health-front. Even with the bowls - unless you, the diner, are very careful about pointing and saying "No," they'll ladle on sauces that are extremely high in sodium and dairy. Does anyone know about GMOs here? I'm assuming that they're opting out based on their latest (very powerful, well-crafted) ad campaign, but it never hurts to ask. One thing's for sure, they sure make a tasty burrito - skimpy as all-get-out on the meat - they appear *large*. In fact, *very* large. Is the wheat, corn, beans, tomatoes, good for you? Does anyone know? What about the chips? If you go all-in at Chipotle Mexican Grill, you'll get one heck of a tasty burrito for $6.75 in perhaps less the time it takes to get a Big Mac and Large Fries at Mc'Donalds - I was in-and-out in less than two minutes, perhaps less than one minute. It is sterile, measured, and extremely fast. And boy does it taste good.
  4. Interesting piece by Tim Carman on Ambar. It reads a little like Richard Sandoval (one of the owners!) thinks Balkan food kinda sucks. Anyone eaten there yet?
  5. Smashburger is in Fairfax now, on Fairfax Blvd. - between the Fairfax Hooters and P.J. Skidoos. Website and menu: http://smashburger.c...vd-marketplace/ AHT review: http://aht.seriousea....html?ref=thumb I should have a review ready either tomorrow or sometime during the week, since I tend to breeze *by* that area but not necessarily through it. This place is sort of like the Five Guys version of Steak n' Shake (big difference: they serve beer), and similarly, they use the "smashing" method of cooking burgers (if you couldn't divine that on your own ). Pretty soon In-'n-Out will be FORCED to come to DC simply because *every other goddamned premium burger chain* will be here.
  6. I went today, picked up a few things for a group. It is even less "authentically" the cuisine of any particular country or group than Chipotle is, and the people who are bothered by that sort of thing will be very bothered. But if you don't mind that, the food was pretty tasty. I got what they call the "banh mi," with tofu. The tofu, which is closer to a scramble than to big chunks, has something close to a Malaysian curry flavor (in my non-expert opinion). They add a sort of slaw, and some cilantro, and some crushed peanuts. The bread is fine, for fast-food sub roll bread. So it's a good sandwich, again leaving aside arguments about whether it's a banh mi. Bowls are made with your choice of brown rice, white rice, or cold rice noodles. Then you add your choice of a meat or tofu, your choice of a vegetable (chinese brocolli, long beans (which may or may not be actually long beans as contrasted with regular green beans, I don't know), etc.), your choice of sauce (a couple of different curries or a tamarind vinaigrette), etc. Perfectly tasty, and spicier than I would have guessed the mass market was ready for. Everything costs somewhere around seven dollars. Bottom line - significantly better, in my view, than what you would get at some rice-bowl sort of place in your average food court. Perfectly nice.
  7. With an opening planned for late this week, El Centro D.F. looks to be another fun addition to the 14th Street lineup. Each of the three levels will offer a different experience - slightly more formal dining/drinking in the underground tequileria, more casual eat-in or carry-out in the main level taqueria, and two bars for drinking on the rooftop. (Rooftop bars seems to be this year's "cupcake".) I'm looking forward to yet another good reason to head down to 14th Street! It sure has come a long way from what it was 15-20 years ago.
  8. Last Thursday my wife and I had dinner at Richard Sandoval's restaurant in Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Isla. This is similar to Zengo his restaurant which is scheduled to open this month in D. C. http://modernmexican.com/rs.htm Isla won the "best of Vegas" award for 2004 from Las Vegas magazine. His Denver outpost won a similar award from Denver magazine and his San Francisco restaurant is highly regarded. Maya, according to that harbinger of excellence and taste Zagat, in New York, is given 24 points for food ranking ahead of Rosa Mexicano and only two points behind the city's highest. Isla made me long for Rosa Mexicano. I am not a fan of Rosa Mexicano. Isla is known for tableside guacamole and 90+ tequilas. Costco has a remarkably good guacamole which is sold in translucent packets, four to the package. Each of these is superior to the green glop that we were served in Vegas. The chips that accompanied these were unusual in that they were considerably thicker, more irregular fried corn curiosities that neither of us cared for. Salsa that accompanied them was imaginatively presented on a two tiered bowl with the top tier housing three different salsas, the best of which was a watery chipotle. I am obsessed with tortilla soup. I have eaten this all over the United States from El Paso's Camino Real cafe (the best) to (insert name of city). From supermarkets to dumps which have never had another gringo stumble up to their counter to upscale white tablecloth Southwestern temples of hoity toity excellence I have pursued Great tortilla soup. The search did not stop in Las Vegas. Certainly not at Isla at Treasure Island. Shrimp ceviche was decent, several steps below the excellent ceviche at Coastal Flats or Guajillo. Queso fundido was good-but not as good as what we had at the nondescript Mexican at the Venetian the next night. A red snapper special disappointed while a boneless pork chop sauced with driblets of cream corn interspersed with mole was actually delicious-almost a Great dish! Side dishes of rice and pedestrian beans made me long for Rio Grande/Uncle Julio's though. A signature dessert which incorporated very good commercial Cinnamon ice cream and excellent bottled caramel was an appropriate finish to this $150 dinner for two. Three watered down "uptown" margeritas with Grand Marnier and top shelf tequila factored into this. What can I say? Las Vegas should have great Southwestern food-it's not that far from Phoenix or L. A. Albuequerque's Garduno's has an outpost there (benchmark guacamole and chili colorado that clears any nostril) as does Bobby Flay who some have called New York's best although I'm not certain what this means. Anyway, Isla/Zengo is coming here. My experience in Vegas was not one to make me stand in line on 7th street until it opens. Hopefully, because our standards are above those of Las Vegas (!) we will be gifted with a restaurant that lives up to the excellence Denver and Las Vegas magazines and Zagat honored their outposts for. Of course I am assuming that Denver, Las Vegas and New York know what exemplery Southwestern and Tex Mex should taste like. Perhaps remarkably, over the years, I have found that great Tex Mex is extremely difficult to find in these cities. San Francisco does have this. But I doubt that any of the taco trucks there which are truly excellent are listed in Zagat or any restaurant guide. And the several mom and pop restaurants in their version of our Riverdale are rarely written about in any review just as the best of Amarillo, Lubbock and El Paso are rarely reported in English in any publication. I have lowered my expectations for Zengo. I hope I am wrong to have done this.
  9. I'll piss on the party, and come right out and say it: McDonald's! The sodium content is horrific, and the food lacks depth and soul, though I admit to having enjoyed it in the past. Nevertheless, hidden salt often serves as the devil's mask. I won't overstir this pot because I don't have anything so terrible to say about Chipotle Grill (just yet), but I do think a healthy degree of skepticism about the future is in order. Look at this article. Can this level of care be exercised when the chain grows tenfold? Many years ago, I used to mail order my coffee beans from Starbucks in Seattle, and they were pretty darned good, too. What will happen when there's a Chipotle on every streetcorner? Dilution of quality? Inconsistency? Dumbed-down fare? It's worth noting the long-term trends for an exercise in sociology. Double, double, foil and trouble, Rocks. P.S. To avoid being labeled a nattering nabob of negativism, I enthusiastically concur with any recommendations of The Well-Dressed Burrito!
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