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Showing content with the highest reputation since 06/27/2009 in all areas

  1. 41 points
    Thank you Frank. And to the stranger at Tonic in Mt. Pleasant who, in January of 2006, upon overhearing my conversation of where to work next, kindly urged, without hesitation, "go to Palena. It's the best place in the city." I just re-read the first 10 pages of the Palena thread and with the exception of the Pojarski detractor (a dish you will have trouble finding anywhere else, in this century, and is representative of Frank's scorchingly low heat classical repertoire) and grumbles of service, long waits for a table (for a damn burger) and other bullshit white whines there was near universal and effuse praise for the food, on a weekly basis. We all misfire from time to time but on Frank's watch those fumbles were rare exceptions. Frank's tenet #1. Anything worth fucking up once is worth fucking up twice. Jonathan and I (Logan, Brian, Sarah, Carl (now CdC at Craigie on Main)) and quite a few more are fortunate to have fallen through that door to culinary Narnia and been able to work at Palena. After 8 years cooking for grand fromages Laurent Manrique, Charlie Palmer, Gerry Hayden, Buben, Cathal and Bryan Voltaggio I thought I knew a bit, as most young-ish cocky cooks are wont to do, but all the while we were playing brash checkers to Frank's brass chess. We unlearned some clumsy, bastardized -though standard- practices and were exposed to an entirely new reality of deliberate discipline, finesse, proper technique, sound theory, resourcefulness, professionalism, practicality, humility, layering of flavors and elegant compositions that highlighted traditional techniques of yesteryear, seasonality, regions and well established combinations that made sense and had exceptional flavor. Never anything that was purposely random or conceived because of the pervasive "it sounds cool" variety of insecure ideas. Decadent, but no gimmicks. Nothing left out in the sun to softly spoil and call it our own clever sleight of hand. We learned to make everything that was worth the while. Tenet #2: Anything worth doing is worth doing right. We were treated to premium, tippy-top shelf products. We had the privilege of cutting up and cooking wild Atlantic loup de mer, glass eels, abalone, live urchins, live snails, periwinkles, crayfish, turbot, Dover sole, shiimaji, fresh anchovies, the Kraken, fresh Alaskan king crab, all types of things with wings, cockscombs, wild game, the best beans, olive oils, grains, luxury mushrooms, truffles, all sizes of animals all in raw state and then all the stuff from his garden which you can't really make out from Google Earth, but probably rivaled Le Potager du Roi. We learned a better way to make pasta (a well made dough never, ever needs eggwash for sealing ravioli), a better way to make stocks and sauces, a better way to cook rice and grains (stirring risotto is folksy and romantic but totally unnecessary if you do it how he learned in Italy), the proper way to butcher, season, cure, brine, marinate, sear, grill, simmer, roast, poach, braise; to turn vegetables and glaze them; to taste, test, feel, smell, and cook until tender; to be patient, to make breading, doughs, condiments, soups and an ethereal consommé; assemble stews and ragouts; to be efficient, be professional, make use of everything and waste nothing, to stuff things, to better use collagen, fats and proteins to thicken or emulsify; to use recipes, proportions, percentages, formulas, to measure, calculate, take notes, to write recipes and be remarkably consistent without sacrificing soulful cookery. Seeing how the butter was cubed on the stations was the first of 5 1/2 years of revelation and immeasurable inspiration. Frank is said to have learned from stalwart Olympic heavyweights at that White House during the gilded salad years (Messrs. Haller, Raffert, Flay, Messier), bonafide masters of the trade who knew how to do everything better, faster and slicker than the rest. A flabbergasting amount of skill and craftsmanship to be exposed to, and 50 ways to cook a potato. He regaled us one day with some pictures from his White House tenure (needlessly apologizing for the barely distressed 20 year-old photos). Drive-in theatre sized glasses, an unruly soup strainer under the nose and one of those unfortunate mini-aprons that wouldn't conceal one of those random workplace erections. There was a nougat cauldron with sherbet flowers courtesy special pastry tips from the WH engineers, lobster Bellevue, elaborate centerpieces with stuffed this and jellied that, monkfish ballotines, booties on crown roasts, a dozen of hundreds of sweet potatoes whittled into Santa's boots for the Christmas party "L'Art Culinaire Moderne" and Escoffier's whimsical highlight reel revisited by Kodak. I sucked up that inspiration like a depraved tick. Palena was DC's premier seminary for learning crucial fundamentals and essential practicum (then go to Cityzen for a proper polishing) and I'll never know another chef personally that so heavily influenced my passion and who's style was in my immediate, hopelessly dated orbit. I helped in a retrospective dinner that celebrated the White House years back in 2010 and Frank made the following salmon bavarois with stuffed artichokes. There aren't many others, if any, who have the diligent digits and formidable mind to fabricate such a professional old timey composition, these days. Frank can do it all; baking the breads (all antique starter based, naturally), butchering, curing, puff pastry, vinegar, mostarda, donuts, savory tarts, occasional plumbing, pies, even torrone nougat petit-fours. And all the fancy napkin folds cradling the even fancier canapés. This a working chef who cooked something every day for almost 14 years gracefully, with composure and absolute pleasure. Tenet #3: Perfection doesn't happen by accident. I am eternally grateful for Frank's particular flavor of tutelage and congratulate his remarkably quiet reign. Palena's untimely expiration is a legitimate bummer. That's life.
  2. 24 points
    I admit we had the inside track from the get-go. But there was always something more. Stephanie and I met Eric at a boozy Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Jarad Slipp and his charming and exceptionally tolerant wife Anna "“ a dinner highlighted (for me, if not for the impressionable teenagers I had in tow) by a loud and often obscene discussion of the personal and professional proclivities of a number of industry leaders "“ a discussion led by a certain food website host and joined by a couple of industry vets and regular high-end diners. Eric largely abstained from this free and frank exchange of views, but was charming and polite "“ no hint of the hot-shot chef showed through. We had coincidentally made a reservation to celebrate Stephanie's birthday at CityZen two days later and we always appreciated the chance to meet and suck up to someone whose restaurant we had on the agenda. But Stephanie's major takeaway seemed to be: "that Eric Ziebold, he's such a cutie-pie." The subsequent meal ("Spain gave us Dali, Surrealism and Jose Andres, who took clam chowder apart and spun cotton candy around foie gras. France gave us Monet, Impressionism and Michelle Richard, who puts tradition in the sous-vide and brings it back with brighter colors and softer edges"¦. And Iowa gave us Grant Wood, Prairie Style and Eric Ziebold, who serves pizza and boiled beef on his $120 tasting menu") goddam near killed us with the extra stuff Eric sent out but we were awed and charmed by the chef and the food "“ maybe more charmed than awed, much to Eric's credit -- and CityZen became the go-to for major life events for many years. It wasn't just the food, though the food always impressed and occasionally astounded -- even the lowly bar menu. Especially when she was working at home, I was working in jeans, the kids were still around, and money was tighter, we enjoyed the fuss and circumstance "“ the last minute pressing of critical garments for the Big Night Out, fighting for mirror space, bumping into each other as I tried to hop into my trousers and she wrestled with her hose"¦. It seemed that all the frantic preparations followed by the anxious dash for the cab actually heightened the endorphin-stroking elegant calm we encountered as crossed the threshold (late) handing off coats, bags, cares en route to a chilled martini or crisp Champagne. There were celebrity sightings, too: Thomas Keller at the next table (and Don Rockwell at the bar); sitting with HillValley when Harvey Keitel and family picked up something for their room and his buddy Bobby D. looking in to see when he'd be back upstairs; a certain famous ice cream socialist (and friend of a friend) who arrive stoned and tieless and flirted shamelessly with Stephanie all night, which she hated not at all. And always the food "“ dishes you never forget, especially the odd ones: the chili consumee or the truffle pizza or those weird, deli-inspired treats that kept showing up on the bar menu, pickled lamb flank or some such thing. Of course, we got schmoozed. We knew Eric, kind of. And when Jarad came on as Majordomo, it wasn't just the Rolling Stones bringing in Mick Taylor for the best albums ever by the best rock and roll band ever, was CityZen bringing on a guy who'd had had dinner at my house and had fed me at his. And I'll take that. A couple of middle class kids who loved dining walking into the best restaurant in town and being coddled by people who enjoyed seeing you "“ it felt like million bucks. And sometimes if there wasn't a place at the bar they'd stick the flowers somewhere else and make room. And we got the Parker House Rolls even if we sat in the cheap seats. It felt like a million bucks, and it didn't cost nearly that much. We mostly ate at the bar "“ though our bar tabs were pretty impressive. And I could never understand why Andy so damn nice to us. We spent a tiny fraction of what we could have spent on that carefully-curated wine card. And then, every time, I'd get too drunk to remember what the hell he was pouring anyway. His genius was lost on (or washed out of) me. And yet bottles and glasses were always appearing at the table and occasionally disappearing from the check. I can still see Andy coming through the crowd with a broad grin and a bottle of red held high, like a shark fin cutting through the waters off Martha's Vineyard and announcing "it's been a long night, your palates are tired so you need this Pinot. It's utterly lacking in subtlety and completely delicious." He could have poured us anything "“ it almost didn't seem like dinner if we weren't drinking something that was introduced with "you've probably never heard of this before, but"¦." CityZen was allegedly a formal dining room but Eric's food was never effete, our servers "“ though sometimes mystified "“ never distant and Andy and Jared brought a barely concealed and slightly deranged glee to the whole show. It wasn't just good, it was fuckin' rock and roll and we liked it. And I guess they liked us. Three days after Stephanie's funeral, just before dawn, I was alone in my house when someone woke me up by shoving a pistol in my face and yelling "where's the fucking money?" I poured Stephanie's jewelry into a pillow case and poured myself a pre-dawn vodka and thanked the Lord (with whom I don't much chat) that the kids weren't home and that they weren't orphans and reflected on a pretty tough week. By sunset I was surprisingly sober and feeling pretty kicked around and my son had come into town and we needed to go to ground "“ I needed a drink and a decent meal and somewhere very, very civilized where I could hide from life for a couple of calming hours. I called Jared and promised a great story if he'd break the rules and hold the last two seats that I knew were open at the bar "“ shamelessly playing both the regular cards and the death card in the same sentence "“ and he said he would. Dylan and I sat down and Jarad dropped both the dining room and the bar menu in front of us and said not to worry about anything. Andy dropped by to let us know that we were in her hands. And, of course, Eric came by when he had a chance. For a little while we ate and drank well, and talked about every damn thing in the world except what we didn't want to talk about any more --with friends. We left the restaurant that nigh warmed and nourished and grateful. I was back again the other night -- back to good friends, with good friends. The dinner was delicious "“ as a friend says, playing chords rather than notes on the palate. I was pleased and surprised to see Sharon back for the wind-down, she was part of many great meals and used to make Stephanie a little jealous (not that Stephanie didn't have a huge mom crush on EZ). It was great to see Michael, who was our waiter for that first birthday dinner, in charge. Dave (whose first week was, a faulty memory suggests, that tough week that I was talking about) was running the wine cellar and sold us some excellent Riesling and a stellar Spanish whose name I drank too much to remember. Plus í§a change... This new dynamic duo doesn't yet bring a deranged glee to their jobs "“ I told Dave that he could pick up a lot of credibility points if he'd just take a few cheap shots at Andy's wine list, and he wouldn't take the bait. But they have their own style and they'll have their own dining rooms and cellars and clippings soon enough and they'll see me strolling through the door and say, "I thought I ditched that guy." I'm pretty sure Eric doesn't tell me anything he doesn't tell everybody else, but I was reassured to hear that he hopes to keep doing what he does well, and there won't be any gourmet burgers or faux gras in his future. Nothing wrong with Michel Richard's Centrale. It was just never nearly as good as Citronelle. I suppose everybody knew that Eric would move on someday. I'm just glad he's not going to New York. And I guess I've moved on in some ways too. Not everybody loves the pomp and elegant excess of fine dining. Nothing is more tedious than retreating into the good old days, chasing a moment that won't and shouldn't ever be cast in amber. There are new things to discover that you can't find sitting around a table saying "remember when"¦?" But it was a moment. And am glad I was there. . When Stephanie was angry at the kids --who each rotated through a couple of years when their job was to set the places for dinner -- for flinging the silver and the napkins and the glasses into random sullen arrangements, she would scold: "LaLa [grandma] always said that you should set the table with love." Eric's team, the team he created, trained and led, loved what they did. And you felt it whenever you sat down to dine at their table.
  3. 22 points
    I should chime in here to provide a little more information about this article. While I do that I might romantise the whole situation because I am very much emotionally connected to Fishnet. I also appreciate the support from you people. you have been great, giving a lot of information, very much needed constructive criticism and your hard earned money. When I opened the doors in Shaw, I had the intention to serve the same high quality fish, mostly as a sandwich, simply prepared with homemade sauces and sides. I started with the same exact menu from Cpark, same prices and same counter service. I did not have much time to train my staff and some mistakes were inevitable. I probably offended some and am very sorry. However, what started as a very promising business, died down in a very fast pace. I'm talking about 130-150 people daily to 30-40 people, in a very short period of time. During that time I also experienced some of the worst comments and behaviors from some people. Sending food back to kitchen became a daily habit. Nobody liked the crab cakes I made(actually they were hated by most). Apparently if a catfish is fried, it had to be in corn meal. Using a tempura batter was a big sin. Many of the fried catfish was also sent back because it was not cooked enough for many. Charging $3 for a homemade coleslaw seemed offensive not to mention the $5 local tomato soup was a bigger offense. To top these, I personally had people came to the kitchen wishing me a 'I hope you fail and close your shop soon'. I still can't believe these but trust me all these happened. These were the offensive ones. I also had many people asking for plated fish items because not everybody wanted to eat bread and not many people wanted to pay more. Looking back in my life, I grew up eating this stuff. Somehow Shaw had a different idea than I did. (Gordon Ramsay would be furious if people told him how to make fish and chips). And when I say Shaw, that is the local people who had been living there for a long time. Many of these people have connected roots in south. That was the time I wasn't able to figure out on my own and started seeking professional help. I doubted my self and the identity of Fishnet. I had many talks with Tom Power and other professionals from the restaurant industry. They were helpful but did not remedy the situation so I emailed Todd Kliman. I did because he has been very supportive of college park Fishnet and gave good reviews. He was quick to respond and we had a phone conversation close to 2 hours. He in fact gave me thoughtful ideas and some other restaurant examples who had faced the very similar challenges. It was about bringing the neighborhood together and relaying the message starting from the kitchen, how I use high quality fish and local produce which at the end effected my prices. I never really advertised my local, sustainable, fresh, sometimes organic, seasonal produce/fish/homemade sauces..etc which highly effected my $12 fish sandwich. At the end of the conversation, Todd asked me to do a follow up with him to see how it effected the business. He was very interested and sincere and curious. I said I would update him. My investor had a different route in mind. She simply thought we needed more exposure and a PR person. She loved the food and the way I operated. When the PR person came on board she tried mostly everything on the menu and convinced us that we needed more exposure(what a shocker, right!). She is well connected and had a team of consultants. The problem was going to be solved with an addition of a bar, switching to table service and education of what we do, how we do the food. Maybe it did help a little but after 6 months of her work, we didn't see much of a business increase. I also started Fishnook in that time which created more confusion of the identity of who we are as Fishnet. So I, once again,very frustrated and stressed , started to look for help which lead me to find the current consulting company. We had few initial meetings and they started their assessment. It was a 30 page report. Which got me into a huge shock. It was clear that I lost the sight of what I wanted to do. Very next week after I had the report, I was in touch with Todd. I felt that he should know. The whole article started that way. I don't believe it was in his agenda to write this article. After reading the story online my emotions hit a new high level. I was a little confused, as well. After digesting for few days, I now think it couldn't have said or written better. Todd nailed how I felt and what I have been through. He was also very gentle so the article would not hurt the business. The story is, as he said, not about the bread and filling. it is what it means to local people in Shaw. So respectfully, I disagree when somebody thinks this story is not related to the neighborhood. Fishnet is in Shaw. I would have very much loved if I was able to connect with locals. I did in college park and the local community has a huge support of the restaurant. It is getting late as I try to type this on an iPad which I find it very difficult and I spent a lot of time thinking and writing. I did not mean to be disrespectful or hurtful to anybody. Personally or business wise. To sum it up, I will have a new operation with a new direction on the identity, in few months. It might be called Fishnet or the grill from somewhere on an unknown island. It may be more fish sandwiches or none on the menu. But it will not be a fine dining priced place. I would love to make it accessible to everybody. It is also very ironic, as I am finishing up, on the radio it is playing ' don't let me be misunderstood by Santa Esmeralda'.
  4. 21 points
    Okay, time for a new spin on an old favorite. I know this is late for this week, but we will be doing this every week until we change it. The Dr.com tasting menu Discount Edition II. Now, the tasting Menu every Friday and Saturday Night, regularly $55 for the unclean masses, will be $40 for Dr.com types AND we will donate $10 per purchased dinner to the Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF is also the Charity we and other Bethesda restaurants are supporting During Restaurant Week from July 29th to Aug 4th) http://www.gazette.net/article/20130712/NEWS/130719482/1124/bethesda-chevy-chase-restaurant-week-to-support-yellow-ribbon-fund&template=gazette I will post, at the end of the month, the total that is donated.. So we will see in three weeks how much you all care about our injured soldiers. We will still do the wine pairings for 1/2 price as well. Menu without wine pairings: Amuse Bouche Shrimp Etouffee, Rice Fried Chicken , Waffle, BBQ Sauce Hanger Steak Frites Choice of Dessert
  5. 20 points
    I've been moiling over the last hand full of post this week for the last couple days trying to organize my thoughts and figure out how to say what I'd like to say, as a lot of what's been said has been on my mind for sometime now, and I think this might be the perfect forum to say it. Instead of pre righting and reading over it several times I'm just going to go for it, so please excuses my terrible spelling and grammar as I'm a cook not a writer"¦. Just prior to opening The Shack I had been working for another company that more or less opened a restaurant for me. As I did not see eye to eye with this group on vision or business I realized that working for someone else wouldn't be in my cards. There was a restaurant down the street from our house in Staunton that I had done a pop up at and it was for rent. My thought was to open a temporary restaurant in that space to have some income to support my family and myself while a wrote a business plan for a larger built to suit restaurant and hopefully entice some investors in the mean time. Yes The Shack was supposed to be a temporary spot for 8 months, hence some of our issues with HV/AC which we didn't have at all, noise, limited work space in the kitchen and limited space for check out etc. Things do change! Our third service open we were excited and honored to have Joshua Ozersky dine with us, and everything changed!!!!! Over the last nine months The Shack has gotten more media attention then I have gotten over the course of my 23 year restaurant career. As you may or may not know this is a blessing and a curse. People speak of hype a hell of a lot when talking about The Shack. The reality is that we did not create the hype, that was created by people whom have enjoyed there time with us and of course the media. That's not to say that I'm not grateful for every thing that's been said. I get a bit emotional about it quite honestly every time a read anything about it. Especially because this place is such a personal restaurant to me and my wife. It's named after the little shack that my wife's grandma Tissy's raised her 5 kids out in Swoope VA about 20 miles from here. Unfortunatly I never got to meet her, but this place is an homage to this woman that meant so much to my wife and her family. Look I tell this to every reporter, food writer, blogger that every speaks with me, the press is great and I feel blessed, but it doesn't mean shit. I still wake up every morning come to work and run a restaurant. If i don't love what i do then non of this means a damn thing. The attention is gravy but it's not what drives me on a daily bases. I didn't open the shack to be on the cover of a magazine or wine awards or get recognized. I did it to do what I love, which is cook food that makes people feel good and hopefully they connect to it. Thats it! Once again I feel very fortunate for all of the attention, but if it all went away I wouldn't be upset as long as I can run my business and support my family doing what I love then every thing is good in my book. Some realities that we are currently dealing with. We have already taken steps to fix our lack of HV/AC, so things will get better. We are hoping to expand our kitchen in the next several months so we may deal with issues as far as timing of courses. We hope to deal with some dinning room noise issues in the near future to help with the sounds as we are only 400 sqft and a brick building that's close to 100 years old. And of course we strive every day to put to the best food we can. Yes as a chef your only as good as your last plate, but everyone has an off day. I hope this helps people understand what and who we are. In the future if there are constructive things to say about what we do please do not hesitate to contact me, as I'm not an ego driven chef and will not disregard criticism. Thanks for reading this. Ian Boden Chef/Owner The Shack
  6. 20 points
    I started writing this response 3 different times and then deleting it, but everytime I come back to this thread I get annoyed and start it again. So here I go.......... I don't. What's the point of this thread? Are we playing "I've got a secret"? Is the whole point of it to be able to brag about being first to break the story once there is an actual story? So far here's what we know (excluding the post about Palena which everyone seems to be ignoring): "Something is about to happen somewhere around here to someplace that some of us like. And it's probably not good news since grieving will be involved." I guess my issue/point/complaint is: Either tell us or don't tell us! Don't dance around in tease-ville!! Thank you, I feel better now.
  7. 18 points
    [My goals here are straightforward – First, I wanted to put together a primer on Middle Eastern food so that Rockwellians don’t walk into a Middle Eastern restaurant and scratch their head like I do when I walk into a Chinese or Korean or Thai or Martian restaurant. May you all place your orders in a slightly more informed manner from this day forward. Second, I wanted to encourage the rest of our experts to do the same in each of the cuisines they happen to be experts in, so that this site can have a respectable ethnic food guide. Please pile on.] The topic of Middle Eastern food is as broad as the topic of Asian food. There are regions to be discussed, then countries within regions, and then localities within countries, all of which bring differences and nuances to the discussion. To frame it properly, I’m going to focus on the 20 Arab countries across North Africa (the Magreb), the Levant and Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula or Gulf States. I will also touch on but not dwell on the related cuisines of Iran and Turkey, although each has a sophistication and complexity that requires its own treatment. In passing, I will touch on Kurdestan and Armenia, although they no longer exist as geopolitical entities. I will generally avoid Israeli food except for Palestinian food and the food of Yemeni and Moroccan Jews who came to Israel in the past 70 years or so. But the rest of Israeli food that was imported from Eastern Europe will not be addressed. And up front, if you like pork you won’t be satisfied at most Middle Eastern restaurants. Islamic Halal and Jewish Kosher laws prohibit pork. And if you want alcohol with your meal, you can also avoid Halal restaurants like Mount of Lebanon. However, a very good alcohol enjoyed by the Christians of the Middle East is Arak – Raki in Turkey, Ouzo in Greece. The best Arak available to us is the Lebanese Al-Massaya, an almost artisanal version available on the Web (and in my liquor cabinet). Next, consider the geography and history of the region. It sits at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, and therefore has sent traders and conquering armies to all of those regions, and in return received traders and conquering armies from all of those regions. As a result, refined cuisine like Lebanese reflects the influences of Byzantine raiders, Crusaders, Ottomans and French. Similarly, the Turkish meat sandwich Doner is as prevalent in Germany as Bratwurst, and Couscous with a spicy sausage called Merguez was recently voted one of the most popular foods in France. Any discussion has to begin with bread, the staple of the Middle East. The Arabs claim that they cannot taste other foods without bread and the bread types they have to choose from are numerous and varied. Arab bread comes in many textures, sizes, and shapes. Without question, the mother of all these Middle Eastern breads is pita — by far, the most popularly found in the Middle East. Called Khubz Arabee among the Arabs in that part of the world and once called flatbread or Syrian bread in the United States — until Syria became a country of dubious political behavior — it is now widely known as Pita Bread — a Greek name. Pita bread, like all types of Middle Eastern breads, is usually soft and pliable — perfect for the Arab way of eating. One of the greatest advantages of this type of bread is picking up meat, vegetables, and salads and as a scoop for sauces, dips, yogurt, and just about anything else. When the loaf is cut into two, the top and bottom of the loaf separate easily and the halves form pockets that can be filled with hot falafel, shawarma (barbecued meats), kafta (the Arab version of hamburgers), kebabs and/or salads to make delicious sandwiches. There are other Middle Eastern breads as well – Yemeni bread, Bedouin bread (Chubab), Injera (more around the Horn of Africa) and Lavash. The point is that you’ll have bread with every meal you order in a Middle Eastern restaurant and it will probably be fresh, warm and good. For some regional distinction, consider that the northern African countries use Couscous, which is actually a pasta, as the most common carb. In the Levant – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and what would be Armenia and part of Iraq – the common carb is cracked wheat, or Bulgur. In the Arabian peninsula and around the Gulf, rice is the carb of choice. Of course, that rule is general and you’ll find plenty of rice dishes in the Levant and plenty of Bulgur dishes in Egypt and Tunisia. However, the spices will be different depending on the region. Which brings me to a dish like Mujaddarah (Arabic for “smallpox” because it looks like the effects of smallpox). It is the rice and legume dish of the Levant, with plenty of fried onions on top. In Syria and Lebanon, brown lentils with rice is the base of the dish. In Jordan and Palestine, red lentils with Bulgur define the dish. And the version you’ll find in Egypt is Koshary, the national dish. Mujaddarah and Koshary, in all of their variations, also reveal another feature of Middle Eastern cuisine – you can eat quite well on the Vegan side of the menu. Speaking of national dishes, they are widely varied, and often differ within localities in the same country. My grandparents were Syrian immigrants, and my moniker reflects the national dish of Syria and Lebanon, Kibbeh. Kibbeh Nayeh (colloquially pronounced Kibbee Nayee in northern Syria) is the raw and most delicious version, my death row meal. Our best on-the-menu versions around the DC area are at Mount of Lebanon and Me Jana. The best order-ahead version is available from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, although Layalina has been known to prepare a very good version as well. [My son gave me a Christmas present of 2 lbs. of Kibbeh Nayeh from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, and it was gone in about an hour!] Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan, made of lamb cooked in fermented and dried yogurt, served over flatbread, and topped with rice and pine nuts. A variation is Mansaf made with fish in the southern part of Jordan around Aqaba. The national dish of Saudi Arabia is Kabsa, which is a hodge-podge of rice, beef, chicken, vegetables, raisins and nuts – the Saudis eat more chicken per capita than just about any place in the world. Maqluba is the national dish of Palestine, an upside down rice and eggplant casserole with lamb and lots of yogurt. Machboos is the national dish of Kuwait, which is nicely flavored mutton, chicken, and/or fish (variations depend on whether you live near the gulf or inland towards the desert), over rice. The Egyptian national dish is Koshary, a hearty carb-loaded dish of chick peas, lentils, rice, macaroni, tomato sauce and fried onion, followed closely by Ful Madames, which is fava beans in olive oil with parsley, garlic, onions and lemon juice. Cairo Café in Lincolnia provides some of the better Egyptian dishes in our area. Iraq’s national dish is Maskuf, which is an impaled trout dish. Across northern Africa, the national dish is each country’s version of Couscous, although Tagine and Pidgeon Pastilla share the honor in Morocco. Tagine is named for the conical clay braising pot that produces tender, juicy stews. The Moroccan version of Coucous is “Fez style” with seven vegetables plus lamb shanks. Tunisian Couscous is considered the best, cooked in a couscoussiere and consisting of a mound of Couscous covered in steamed onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, chickpeas, chili pepper, harissa, celery, cinnamon, black peppercorn, carrots, turnips and squash, then topped with meat such as mutton or chicken. But in the areas close to the Mediterranean, bass or red snapper is used. And if you’re thinking about having 100 Bedouins over for dinner, the Arab version of turducken is a whole camel stuffed with four lambs and 20 chickens! I’m not making that up! Now I’ll focus in on the Middle Eastern foods and restaurants in our area and what to order when you step into one. The sequence generally flows from Mezze to Mains to Sweets, with detours to sandwiches and pizzas or tarts along the way. Mezze – You can either fill your table up with an assortment of these small plates – consider them the Tapas of the Middle East – or you can order a few as appetizers before the rest of the meal. Remember, it all starts with Pita Bread, sometimes with olive oil and za’atar as a dipping sauce. The vegan side of the menu is an incredible combination of flavor, satisfaction and good health. Try Tabouleh (parsley salad), Hummus (chick pea and tahini dip), Baba Ghanouj (eggplant and tahini dip), stuffed grape leaves (the vegan version has rice and pine nuts or chick peas in them, and the meat version has a nicely flavored rice and meat stuffing), Labneh (strained yogurt with olive oil and garlic), Lubieh (green beans) bil Zeit and Bamieh (okra) bil Zeit (either one, stewed in garlic and tomatoes), Ful Madames (fava beans) and Fattoush (salad served over toasted Pita Bread). The meat dishes include some amazing flavors and textures. Try Hummus topped with Shawarma and Pine Nuts, Soujouk (spicy sausage), Ma’anek (mild beef and lamb sausage), Kibbeh (shaped like footballs, stuffed with meat and nuts and then fried, or if you’re lucky, raw Kibbeh Nayeh), and Warak Enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat). Also, most places offer combination Mezze Platters, which are usually good deals. Don’t forget accompaniments like olives and pickled turnips, which are standard. The Lebanese serve a whipped paste of garlic with dishes like Kibbeh Nayeh. These are the highlights – pay attention to any daily specials, because they are likely to be good. And at places with their own butcher connections like Mount of Lebanon, try the Lamb Brains or the Lamb Testicles. Trust me. Mains – Here is where the dilemma lies. I can easily order Mezze and be satisfied at just about any Middle Eastern restaurant. Alternatively, I can go with a sandwich or a few meat pies. But the main courses in Middle Eastern restaurants are rib-sticking comfort food with incredible flavors. You can start with Shish (“skewer” in Turkish) Kebab (“meat” in Turkish), flavorful grilled meats – lamb, beef, chicken, or mixed – over rice pilaf. You can argue all day long over whose Kebabs are best between the Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghanis and Pakistanis, but they’re all good. Kafta is the ground meat version, formed over the skewers and grilled the same way, considered the hamburger of the Middle East. Lamb is probably the most common meat in the Middle East, so ordering it in any of a variety of ways – Lamb Shish Kebab, Lamb Chops, Lamb Shanks (braised), Lamb Shawarma (see sandwiches, below), Lamb Ouzi (rice and lamb platter), Lamb Stew, Lamb Feteh (lamb with yogurt sauce), and on and on. Also, the Arabs are damned good at stuffing things (“mahshi” in Arabic and “dolmas” in Turkish), so when you see stuffed grape leaves, stuffed squash or stuffed cabbage/eggplant/peppers/onions, just order it and you will also be stuffed! Stuffed Cabbage, or Malfouf Mahshi, was my father’s favorite. The closest I’ve found to it in this area was at Kazan, the Turkish restaurant in McLean. Sandwiches, Pies and Pizzas – Think about it, if Pita Bread is the staple of the Middle East, and if they’ve been making it for many millennia, you would think they have developed a few tricks to turn it into a meal, right? Shawarma is by far the most popular (“Doner” in Turkish), similar to the Greek Gyro (but with different seasonings and bread). It’s strips of lamb, skewered with seasonings and herbs in between layers, and then placed on a skewer to rotate upright against a heat source. The best version I ever had in my life was in East Jerusalem about 20 years ago. And then there’s anything you can stuff into a Pita, including Soujok, Ma’anek, Kafta and Falafel. Yes, Falafel is Arabic street food, and probably originated in Egypt. All of these Pita sandwiches include lots of veggies and usually a tahini or yogurt sauce, and are served wrapped in foil to keep the yummy juices in. As for Pies, meat, spinach, yogurt and cheese, mixed with spices or vegetables, are variously baked inside small open-face pastries or closed dumplings. If you see Sambousik, it’s a fried Lebanese lamb dumpling. The Mediterranean Gourmet Market makes the best and most varied versions, as they do Lebanese Pizza – Lahmeh B’Ajeen (baked with beef, onions, tomatoes and herbs), Manakish bel Za’atar (my favorite pizza on the planet!), Spinach Manakish, Manakish bil Jibneh (various cheeses). Sweets – You probably didn’t know that Syria consumes more sugar per capita then any other country. This part of the meal starts with Turkish coffee – the Ottomans ruled the Middle East for four centuries, until World War I – and almost always includes Baklava. In this case, the Greek version is far inferior, too heavy-laden with honey. The Syrian and Lebanese versions are washed in a simple syrup cut with cinnamon and rose water, and it is the perfect end to the feast. Kataifi is a shredded wheat version of Baklava, and Ma’amoul is a nice shortbread and almond cookie stuffed with dates, pistachios and/or walnuts. And now, Kibbee Nayee’s first-ever ranking of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Washington DC Metropolitan area: Mediterranean Gourmet Market in Franconia – More of a mini grocery with a few tables, but George and Lilian turn out the best Lebanese dishes in the area. This is my go-to Lebanese restaurant. Me Jana – Climbing my list because of consistent quality. The food is good, but they reach for general patronage with Calamari, Chilean Sea Bass, and Crab Cakes, but they deserve special credit for Potato Kibbeh, a Lenten version of Kibbeh. Mount of Lebanon – No alcohol, but the best Kibbee Nayee at the best price in the DC area. Whenever I’m missing, you can probably find me here. Lebanese Taverna – The original on Washington Blvd. in Arlington is still turning out quality food, but the rest of the kitchens are lagging behind. However, I had a few good meals at the Tysons Corner location in the past year. Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria – A nice but over-priced grocery, with the area’s best Pita breads fresh out of the oven, and the best selection of olives anywhere in the DC area. The food that comes out of the back is good, and the Za’atar Bread is first-class. Jerusalem Restaurant in Falls Church – Frustrating service, but pretty good food with somewhat of an emphasis on Palestine. Layalina – The only place that actually advertises that it serves Syrian food, with the area’s best selection of Hummus (Hummus bil Flay-Flay is a spicy version with Aleppo peppers, and it’s really good) and some of the best lamb shanks in the area. Cairo Café in Lincolnia – One of the only places where you can get real Koshary, so it has to be on the list by default. Shamshiry – I don’t want to ignore the Iranians here. Their food is really good, but just a little bit different than some of the Arabic dishes. Zaytinya – Lower on the list because it lacks some authenticity and throws in Greek and Turkish to make it seem like “Middle Eastern fusion” cuisine, but let’s face it, this is a good restaurant. Mama Ayesha’s – This place has its ups and downs, but it’s been around for a long time and its daily specials are damned good. Cedar Café in Burke – Serviceable neighborhood Middle Eastern lunch counter. Consider this a once-over, to be updated as the mood or new information strikes me. Hopefully, the members of our community who shy away from Middle Eastern food because they don't understand it will now partake with some confidence. May you have your meal with gladness and health! (bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā') بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا
  8. 17 points
    There are three people in the DC area whose lack of James Beard Awards show what a travesty the entire process is. One of them is Cathal Armstrong, whose time may now have come-and-gone, but who should have absolutely won the award sometime during the past six or seven years for Restaurant Eve. Another, perhaps even more egregious oversight, is the great Peter Pastan, chef of what was easily one of the Top 3 restaurants in Washington, DC back in the 1990s: Obelisk - ahead of its time, and with *Frank Ruta* as its Sous Chef. Perhaps even more importantly, he opened 2 Amys, arguably the most important restaurant in the history of Washington, DC. Between these two restaurants, Peter Pastan deserved to have won Best Chef - Mid-Atlantic, if not the National Award for Outstanding Chef. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the pantheon of DC-area chefs, and our young demographic has forgotten what an influential trailblazer he was (and continues to be) - he was perhaps the very first chef in the area to truly care about deeply regional Italian cooking. It had been too long since I'd been to 2 Amys, and while driving up Nebraska Avenue yesterday, I gave a brief glance down New Mexico Avenue, thought momentarily about Al Dente, and then continued driving towards 2 Amys. I found a great parking space on Macomb Street, walked in, and grabbed a seat at the bar, where the always reliable Debbie Johnson was, just as she seemingly always is. 2 Amys is a wine restaurant, but I really wanted to refresh myself with a beer, so I started with a draft of Reissdorf Kölsch ($7), brewed by Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf in Köln, and it was exactly what I wanted - low in alcohol, high in taste, cold, and refreshing. I finished it before taking a single bite of any food, then getting a 1/4-liter carafe of the 2 Amys House Rosé ($11), currently from the 2012 vintage, and made from 100% Sangiovese grapes - it's not quite a rosé so much as it is a "bled red" (only a wine geek would chuckle at that), but it went perfectly with every single course I ordered, and I ordered with gusto - the fascinating items on their menu made sure of that. Look at this awesome selection of small plates! In no particular order, because they were all served within minutes of each other, and I nibbled and picked at each, all of which, by the way, were served at room temperature and assembled before my very eyes. This is the strategy of dining at 2 Amys' bar: Look things over, point at what looks good, and ask questions. You'll be as happy and as amazed as I was: Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart ($7) - I saw, in front of me, a rectangular tart, perhaps 15 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches high - uncut - and knew I had to have it. It was flaky pasty crust, filled with goat cheese which hadn't been whipped into air, and topped with slices of heirloom tomato. This was primarily a goat-cheese dish, as that comprised probably 75% of the tart, and it was a healthy slice - perhaps about 1/5th of the entire tart, so it was very rich (as quality goat cheese generally is). Considering the powerful, unctuous nature of my other three dishes, this served not only as a wonderful vegetarian plate, but also as a much-needed palate refresher between bites of the other three dishes, which were even richer and more filling. "What is that with sage on it?" I asked Debbie. It was noisy, so I didn't hear every word of her answer, but she said it was fennel (I thought sure it was yellow pepper, but sure enough, it was fennel), and when she added, "It's actually a lobster dish," she had me. Lobster Salad with Fennel Braised in Orange and Saffron ($10) was the food-lover's dish of the night - it was awesome, the barely cooked (if cooked at all) lobster accented with vanilla, and added to the yellow-pepper-looking fennel just before serving. I'd never seen this dish before, and come to think of it, I'd never seen any of the four dishes I had last night before. How does someone come up with this? Is it in some obscure cookbook? Does Chef Pastan just think of these things? My goodness, it was ... amazing. These final two dishes are where things got over-the-top rich, as they were finished with really good olive oil, but were also extremely rich to begin with. This is my fault for being an overzealous food maggot, but there's no way I wasn't going to order them, so sue me: Romanesco Cauliflower with Capers, Olives, Pine Nuts, Spicy Bread Crumbs, and Tuna Spuma ($7) was just downright evil, and was most likely illegal in several states. It was *so* rich, and along with the three slices of delicious, homemade bread I received, could have easily been a meal by itself, especially a lunch. It was all-over decadence, and hard to believe that the only meat in it was tuna in the spuma. Quality ingredient followed quality ingredient, all mounded together into a large pile on the plate, and it was just so rich that I struggled mightily to finish, but finish I did. And finally, Oven-Roasted Swordfish Belly with Lemon, Bay Leaf, and Green Sauce ($9), the green sauce resembling something of a *very rich* pesto, the slice of swordfish belly - perhaps a 3-inch by 2-inch rectangle which didn't look like much, but it was - sitting innocently on top, with two lemon slices beneath. The richness of this dish forced me to pretty much wave the white flag of surrender, and only eat the fish, just barely dabbing it into the green sauce. The last time I had swordfish belly even resembling this, it was at Woodberry Kitchen, but even there, it was grilled. These four dishes came to a *total* of $33, and was more food than I could finish. How much is Restaurant Week again? If you're a Restaurant Week pigeon, you owe it to yourself to read this post over, and over, and over again, until it finally hits you that you can get a meal that is better than 99.99% of Restaurant Week dinners, in terms of quality - absolutely - but also in terms of *quantity*. I had not eaten a thing all day when I arrived, had exercised earlier in the day, and could not finish my meal. I only ate one piece of bread, and while I finished the "big ticket" items such as the swordfish belly and lobster, there was just no chance of me being able to swab up all the rich sauces - something which I *always* do. No chance - this was just too much rich food. As my mom always used to tell me, "Donald, your eyes are bigger than your stomach," and boy did that hold true in this case. You know, lately, I've been saying that Oenotri in Napa, California, where I've now been at least four times, is "like 2 Amys, but a little better." But that's not true; it's "like 2 Amys, but a little less rustic." Another restaurant I recently went to that reminds me of 2 Amys is Pizzeria Bianco (for the second time) in Phoenix. And I have no doubt that Chef Pastan is flattered by these two comparisons; one thing that surprises me is that, although I've seen Johnny Monis here in the past, I've never seen Frank Ruta here, and this is exactly the type of food that Frank Ruta respects and enjoys. 2 Amys is one of our city's great treasures, and is arguably (not definitively, but absolutely in the conversation), arguably the greatest and most important restaurant in the history of Washington, DC. And if you don't think so, think again, keep educating yourself, and keep coming here. The stroller crowd is pacified, yes, but the toughest of culinary critics are, too. Thank God for Peter Pastan.
  9. 17 points
    I apologize for the website being offline - I have some personal things going on right now, and I know that an unmoderated website will quickly spiral out of control. At some point this month and next, I'm going to have to take a few days of personal leave. Maybe instead of putting the site offline, I can make it read-only. Unless you're working with this, day-in and day-out, you don't realize how precarious the balance is, and how much work is involved in keeping things civil and organized without appearing heavy-handed. Please trust my decisions in terms of titling, tagging, and moving posts to other threads that are more appropriate. If anyone has a question about a post, please send me a PM and ask me; writing about it in the forums can be extremely disruptive, both to me and to the community. Almost always, if someone thinks a post was deleted, it has simply been moved to another topic - members can click on "Find Content" in their profile, and the post will be there. Please re-read the sentence in the Everyone Is Welcome Here post which begins, "You may as well begin hating me now" - I wrote that over ten years ago, and for the most part, it has remained unchanged. I'll be happy to print out a listing of every single post I've deleted in 2015. In ten years, I haven't deleted one single post without a very good reason - the vast majority of times, it's because it's a duplicate, or because the member asked me to delete it, or because it was an off-topic one-liner that didn't make the Laugh Committee laugh; less often, it's a personal attack against someone for voicing an opinion, or a strong opinion that has already been stated several times which prevents others from making theirs; in a very, very small percentage of cases, it's because the post is nothing more than a public chastising of a moderation decision I've made - moving a post to another topic, for example. That's about it - I can scroll through the deleted posts and see if there are others, but in ten years, I've never deleted a post that shouldn't have been deleted, and I don't think I've ever had someone write me, asking me to restore something, and haven't accommodated them - I said in 2005 that this is something I take very seriously, and I mean it to this day. There aren't many things I know how to do, but moderating a community is one of them - all I ask is that I'm allowed to do my job, which is essentially to organize things, keep things civil, and then stay out of everyone's way. I have a lot of things going on right now, and it's impossible to run the website the way I know it needs to be run, but I'll try my best. Thank you to everyone for checking in on me; I greatly underestimated the impact of not having the website online - I guess even if I'm completely unavailable, the website must remain online.
  10. 17 points
    Three years ago, I lopped off the top of a grocery store pineapple, trimmed off the remaining fruit and stuck the spiny top into a glass of water. Several weeks later roots sprouted, so I planted the thing to see what would happen. Now I am fortunate to live in a big old DC apartment building with a lovely sunroom. We are above the tree line so even though it is Northeast facing we receive abundant sunlight. In fact we joke that the growing climate in the sunroom is such that it is several growing zones south of DC. We can't grow herbs to save our lives, but citrus no problem. The pineapple took right away. Soon new spiny growth was shooting up. Soon we had spines that were 3-4 feet long. It was almost becoming a health hazard...watch out for your eyes when watering, you might get poked. Fast forward three years to January 2013. I was watering the pineapple plant one morning and saw the most curious thing... Why I think we have a baby pineapple! And the baby pineapple grew and grew... By March we had what was looking like a real pineapple... This past weekend it was time to harvest. So what does an a DC apartment grown pineapple taste like? The best damn pineapple ever. Super fragrant, a long lush pineapple flavor that washes over your tongue. None of that harsh acid one gets with an unripe supermarket pineapple. I suppose like most fruits and vegetable, one that is grown on plant and harvested at full ripeness just tastes better than one that has been picked early and shipped across the country. So now we are starting again. Maybe in three years we will have another pineapple to enjoy.
  11. 17 points
    First, he didn't have an enjoyable experience, and that means a lot. Over the past 8 years that I have known him, I have read many of his reviews, spoken to him about many meals, even sharing some, i have learned a lot about his taste, so it means something to me. That doesn't mean that I would agree, as we dont always, but that is why it is good to have this kind of historical relationship. Second, he loves the decor and thinks the kitchen in the center is cool (as do I). But some people want a visible kitchen so they can watch food prep, like at Rose's. If that is what you are looking for, this wouldn't be the right place. I agree with that completely. Third, he likes fully composed dishes and didn't find that here. My step-father often has this complaint and would find it useful. I don't really, but whatever. Fourth, he felt the wine pairings were not a good deal. He explained exactly why he felt that way. It seems he may not have had the standard service in this regard. He can't be blamed for that. But I know him well enough to know that he isn't some chump that thinks the glass should be filled to the rim. Fifth, he listed the menu and described some dishes, which is very helpful to give people an idea of what to expect. Sixth, he thought the oyster was overpowered by the cucumber. Clear criticism. Seventh, he really liked the avocado dish and thought the presentation was cool. Eight, he thought the potato and lime gel overpowered the sepia and smoke. Again, very clear criticism. Ninth, he thought the urchin was good and creative. I certainly wouldn't have understood that the coffee was crumbled but not for his description. This one really piqued my interest. Tenth, the pigtails were in springroll form and good. Although he liked it, I don't much care for spring rolls, and I seem to recall that he does, so this tells me it is probably very good but I doubt it would be my favorite as it is more his bailiwick. Eleventh, although he had a predisposition against the snail dish, it was good and interesting enough for him to enjoy it at least moderately. Sure there were a lot of words that weren't that descriptive, but he clearly wasn't trying to write a masterpiece. He was trying to give his impression and some take aways. I think he did that extremely well. It would be wonderful if all posts had this much detail and were written by people who have allowed us to have so much insight into thier tastes (note, I only know MDT though DR and DR-related events).
  12. 16 points
    Today was certainly an adventure, friends. I spent the hours of 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM in a hospital emergency room after suffering a sudden onset of shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. Heart rate of 100+ and the early morning DC traffic did not help matters in the least. 9 AM, I get to the hospital, sign in, they take me within 10 minutes. Hallelujah, maybe this will be quicker than I thought. I fill in paperwork related to my allergies and describe what has me visiting. They take my height, weight, temperature and then I'm following a pretty blonde who was, I'm guessing, maybe two years my senior (I'm 22). She leads through several long winding corridors. At this point, I think to myself, "I'm not gonna be thrilled if their idea of a remedy for shortness of breath is a long, leisurely walk through the hospital hallways." After what felt like an hour, we arrived at the room that was going to be my personal hell for the next 9 hours. After settling myself down on the hard, ruthlessly uncomfortable torture device they have the balls to call a bed, an entourage of medical professionals bombard me. One wants to attach a blood-pressure cuff. Okay, fine. Another requisitions one of my fingers so they can put a sat probe on it. I briefly consider giving him my middle finger. No, better not. I've done this enough times to know that isn't how you get out of here quickly. Next, I'm asked to take my shirt off. Okay, probably to put on an EKG. I guess correctly. At this point, I entertain the fantasy of the pretty blonde nurse coming in and being enraptured by my shirtless body. Then I look at my scars and realize they aren't the macho war-hero scars, just the boring surgical ones. Shortly after, the doc comes in and starts asking me questions. What are you in for, what's your medical history, yadda yadda. He has a funny last name that ended with "gosh." I was immediately reminded of the previous night, when I had watched Anthony Bourdain travel to Budapest, where he ate authentic goulash made by the locals. It was at that moment that I realized I hadn't eaten all day and it was already 1 PM and normally I'm having lunch around this time and holy shit I could really go for some goddamn goulash right now. I interrupt the doctor to ask if I can order in delivery. His answer is no. Shit. Can I grab something from the vending machine, then? Still no. Shit. Okay, well, why not? Because the tests I'll be administering require your stomach to be empty, is his reply. I let out a yell inside my head to rival Charlie Brown's when he misses the football. His questions answered, he leaves. My questions were also answered. The difference between the two of us is I didn't get the answers I wanted. Next, the two right-hand men of Satan himself entered the room. This is what I had been dreading. The one on the left brandished a miniature sword from his pocket. This, I could tell, was weaponry of the finest quality. Hattori Hanzo himself would have prostrated himself in front of the steel this man wielded. What do you plan to do with that, I timidly asked the demon, although I already knew the answer. He explained in the infernal tongue long forgotten by men that this blade had been forged for the very purpose of extracting my blood. My face went white. The abomination on my right withdrew a similar cut of steel, although this one could not be called miniature by any standard. A long tool, I could tell from gazing at its tip that it had been formed from the tongue of an elder dragon. Mere legends, I thought. But the reality was as sharp as the weapon itself. This, too, thirsted for my blood, but the eldritch horror standing next to me explained that the cut would have to be much deeper than I was used to. Before I could steel myself, I was caught in a pincer attack. The demon to my left attacked the underside of my arm, striking gold. Hot crimson blood fell and was absorbed by the blade. At the same time, the one on my right went to work on the underside of the area where the hand meets the arm. The pain was unlike anything I had ever felt (no, really, I'm not exaggerating the description of how it felt). Despite my best efforts, tears fell from my eyes in copious amounts. I yelled bloody effing murder. I swore, I screamed, I thrashed. It was unbearable. Warm bile threatened to escape my mouth but I held it down. Finally, the demons had finished their work. The next trial was maybe worse: Boredom. Sheer, complete boredom. Boredom unlike nothing else. Not even my cell phone, with its apps and its whoozits and whizzits and whazzits could keep me entertained. The internet had done what I never thought possible: It bored me. And then, hunger. Thirst. And those goddamn tests still hadn't happened so I couldn't even do anything about it. Finally, the person who was to administer these "tests" I had been hearing about, and were beginning to suspect had been made up, arrived. His job, annoyingly, was simple. I needed an X-ray. A goddamn normal x-ray. I've had x-rays. You can eat food and have an x-ray. I've done it. But I wasn't about to argue. I wanted out of here. His job done, he left. Then he pops his head back in and says "There's nothing to eat really but I can get you a Gatorade. How's that?" YES, YES. GIVE ME EVERY GATORADE I AM SO THIRSTY. Minutes later, he returns and hands me the bottle. I thank him profusely and then twist open the bottle. The bottle is empty approximately 5 seconds later. Then I take a piss. Then I wait some more and the doctor comes back and goes over my results. I'm not being admitted to the hospital, hooray! Also he puts me on steroids for what he's pretty sure is an infection. The two demon hellspawn return but this time they've exchanged their grotesque appearances for angel robes and halos. They remove the needles for me and I am filled with intense love for these two men. At that very moment they are the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen. They leave. I get to leave. I GET TO LEAVE. I then realize I am extremely, ravenously hungry. I no longer crave goulash but now I have no idea what I want to eat. Bonchon chicken is nearby but it isn't on the way home and I really want to go home. Also they take a while if you don't order ahead in my experience. So I start driving home, looking out for somewhere to stop on the way. I drive by several fast food places, including McDonalds and *shudder* Arby's. For a moment I actually consider going in and ordering one of their items that they generously call "food." I keep driving. My GPS route takes me through Old Town Alexandria. Hey, that place has good places to eat, I think to myself. I'd really rather not sit down somewhere, though. I drive through, intent on making my way home. Stuck in traffic on King St, I eye Eamonn's on the corner. Eamonn's! They're good! I haven't been there in forever! Fish and chips it is! I go in and there's no line. God is smiling on me. So is the person at the counter. You look like hell, he says (I'm paraphrasing). Fucking A, I reply (paraphrasing again). I tell him I just got out of a 9 hour ER visit and I'm glad I tell him because he turns out to be very kind. I show him my fresh needle bruises. Thankfully he doesn't mistake me for a heroin addict and he says he'll put something extra for me in my carry-out bag. I thank him and leave with my order of cod after a short wait. Get home, heat the fish up in the oven according to the instructions that were in the bag, and dig in having added my choice of chesapeake sauce (old bay/mayo). I'm certain it was because of the hell I had gone through but that cod was the most amazing thing in the world at that moment. Perfectly crispy batter with a light flavor that blended excellently with the sauce. Delicious. I was especially surprised at how well it kept on the drive home and how well it it heated up in the oven. It hit every spot there is. My belly pleasantly full, I look into the bag to see what "extra" the man left me, thinking it was probably an order of chips that I could munch on tomorrow or as a midnight snack. Instead I hit the jackpot. The overwhelmingly generous man had left me a $100 gift card to use at Restaurant Eve. I cried. It was such an act of generosity and the thankfulness I felt at that moment, after having gone through such a long and troubled day, was too much to bear all at once. That's my story guys.
  13. 16 points
    I apologize for not responding earlier, I actually did not see Tony's first post until this morning. And Tony, thank you for graciously coming in to Ghibellina and eating dinner. I'm glad you enjoyed our pizza. I am not the owner of Ghibellina, and do think you have nailed it when it comes to our lack of recognition for our pizza. Ghibellina is intended to be a GastroPub with pizza. My enthusiasm, passion and dedication to the craft has made the pizza what it is today. Also, I do agree with your criticism of the pizza being a bit thin at times. Our pizza is not supposed to be true Neapolitan pizza. I have worked at Neapolitan pizza joints and worked with 900-1000 degree ovens. I wanted our pizza to be a bit crisper on the bottom and more developed flavors in the crust. So I use a mix of flours (one being 00); I do not cook my pizzas in a 900-1000 degree oven, and I cook them ideally for 3-3.5 minutes. Lastly, I do not consider myself a pizza snob, but more a pizza lover. When I worked at Franny's in Brooklyn, I ate pizza every day. And then on my days off, I ate more pizza. More often then not, it was slice joint NY style pizza. But I also frequented the Lombardi's style places and I also went to the Neapolitan joints sprouting up all over the place. I love pizza. No matter the style. Roman, Naples, Sicilian, NY, NJ (i bet I'd like good deep dish if I tried it). I too have studied pizza. I am aware of what constitutes Neapolitan versus NY. I am aware of why a deck oven operating at 500 or 600 degrees can't use buffalo mozzarella or 00 flour. That NY style pizza tends to use oil and sugar in their dough to keep it tender to make up for the long bake time, etc. My initial criticisms of Wise Guys probably had more to do with expectations, which is not your fault, Tony. Todd Kliman raved about it. And I read it. And I went. What I ate did not live up to the expectations of what a food writer expressed. And this, unfortunately, is what all of us in the restaurant community have to deal with. Sometimes trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. I owe you a second visit and will be in to try it. I promise. As for Grana and Pecorino. I love the cheeses. Parmeggiano is great too, the king of cheeses probably. I find them all to be delicious. As for the olive oil on the pizza: we use http://superolive.com/Frantoia-Italian-Extra-Virgin-Olive-Oil-3-Liter-FREE-SHIP-limited-time-P5101367.aspx It is one of my absolute favorite olive oils. We do use a different olive oil on the table. As for tomatoes, I use canned tomatoes as well. I don't know a single pizza joint that uses fresh tomato. We strain our canned tomato, mill it, add back some of its liquid, weigh it and add salt. Any spices go on the pie directly. I tried true red because a friend of mine in the know told me that a venerable pizza establishment that I respect uses it in their sauce. So I got a sample from my purveyor. Upon trying it, I found it not to my liking at all. More like tomato paste with spices than something bright and blank canvassy (for lack of a better descriptor). Any way you slice it....hehehe...pizza is amazing and I love how it elicits great passion in people here and around the world. Some people would crucify me for putting shaved raw fennel on a pizza (see Anthony Mangieri) or having a 2-3 day ferment. But I make the pizza that I want to eat and do not confine myself to any rules. Heck, even the pizza places that supposedly follow the rules (I'm looking at you 2 Amys and Pupatella) don't...they just probably find it a nice marketing strategy.
  14. 16 points
    The original Chefs have left...thoughtfully taking most of the kitchen staff with them. But I have it on a good authority that the kitchen has been placed in more than capable hands. Psst...it's me
  15. 16 points
    I would like to acknowledge the class act that Ted's Bulletin on 14th Street was this morning. My husband's son is visiting from Germany and he took him to Ted's for breakfast. Mark is a Green Beret who was seriously wounded a year ago in Afghanistan and still wears a sling and leg brace. Mark ordered 3 things off the menu: the breakfast burrito, 3 eggs and 2 pancakes. He asked that the eggs be put on top of the burrito. The server returned and said that the chef would like to know if it's ok if he gets "˜creative' with the dish. Sure. The chef himself delivered the finished dish to the table and struck up a lengthy conversation with Mark about the Wounded Warrior project. When the check came, it was for $0.00. My husband left a generous tip. Thank you so much to the chef and server (whose names I unfortunately do not know) "“ you are a credit to the Matchbox group and you really made a wounded veteran's day today!
  16. 15 points
    The best thing about Masseria is their pasta bowls. At first glance, they're the same sort of inverted WWI Doughboy helmets that everyone, including probably most of us, use these days. Except these have a little lime-sized hemispheric divot just above the base where you can spin your spaghetti around your fork without resorting to a spoon. It's fuckin' genius. The other best thing about Masseria is that despite the bomb-shelter bones of the dining room, the lighting, staff, décor and guests come together to make the place feel not just 14th Street-trendy but a little stylish. Possibly even a little elegant. Some of the ladies seemed to think so. (Gents: time to up your game). The other, other best thing was that the food is pretty darn good. Available only in three "“ or five-course tasting menu, dinner emphasizes creative, fresh, modern Italian cooking. A first course of lobster and tripe in a tomato lobster broth reminded me of wearing my best broken-in blue jeans with a fine linen sport coat (which is what I was doing at the time, sometimes the similes just write themselves) "“ proletarian grub topped with something the swells might swill to umami-ish effect. Despite being cow guts, tripe is actually rather rich and subtle and by the third bite (of maybe five) I was pretty darn OK with the combination and oddly, now, it remains the most vividly memorable taste of the night. "Open ravioli" turns out to be an envelope-sized sheet of paper-thin pasta folded back on itself a couple of times, with its stuffing curled into the folds. With shrimp, fresh vegetable and herbs, it was light, summery and refreshing. I don't remember exactly what the XO sauce "“ a paste, really "“ is, but it certainly has a great deal of cured ham and garlic pureed into it and, spun with spaghetti around a fork in that lime-sized divot, it delivers an excellent dose of salty goodness. You can't really say "no" to cruelty-free (ie you can hardly tell it from lean beef) veal with a bit of bone marrow "“ if it was a little unseasonal it was a lot good. The cheese course offered cheese -- which I like in a cheese course -- at a $10 supplement, which I don't. At least it was served in good-sized chunks. If there was a disappointment (aside from the tastefully uncomfortable chairs) it was the half of the bread "course" served as charming breadstick ringlets hung on the upraised the tentacles of a smiling porcelain octopus. Dry, forgettable. The Focaccia was good, however and the tomato "fondue" was quite good. Sietsema mentioned a "hotel-priced" wine list and the list is quite pricey. I don't know enough about Italian wines to opine on the value it may or may not offer, and I was told that the list is incomplete -- though whether that means more $200 Barolos or more $30 Chiantis, I don't know. There were a few seeming values if you're not out to double the cost of your meal, though, and the wines by the glass ran a very reasonable $8-14. The ones we tried all tasted great, especially that white one that's not the Basque one (which we liked) or the Chardonnay (because why am I going to an Italian restaurant to drink Chardonnay?). I would be remiss if I did not mentioning our waiter, John (or maybe James -- I'm pretty sure it started with a "J"), who was charming and efficient in an understated sort of way. Or to put it another way, refreshingly professional in an era of amateur hour servers. There were a few hiccups early on "“ not John (or James's) fault "“but, like Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, the team seemed to work better as the place became more crowded. DC will always have sort of a penis envy relationship with New York "“ their grime is more grimy than our grime; their elegance more elegant. New York's people are more beautiful and its chef's more talented. But Masseria -- engulfed in the ambiance and perfume of decaying wholesale food warehouses and the drunks who piss behind them yet offering top-flight food in a sophisticated space -- matches Manhattan at its own game, without your ever feeling that it's trying too hard to be anything but itself. [Full disclosure: David Kurka, late of CityZen, is a part owner and the wine guy and a fond acquaintance, but he did not try to bribe me with free stuff (damn him).]
  17. 15 points
    When the chef asks for constructive feedback at the end of the meal and the best you can come up with is "charge more", you know the meal has been a success. Our first course was a red snapper ceviche with corn & avocado. Chunks of snapper with avocado & just barely blanched Georgia corn, marinated for only about 30 minutes but with a pleasant abundance of acidity that was balanced by a touch of sweetness from a drizzle of cream of balsamic. The second course was a parsnip soup with shitake mushrooms, the former of which was poured "tableside". As I dug in the questions started forming. First, what kind of stock did he use (a friend had noted a "meaty" flavor but I argued that was coming from a mushroom stock - the answer was dashi, aha). How did he manage such a smooth consistency to the soup? The answer, which became a sort of inside joke for the evening - a Vitamix. Honestly, this was one of the best soups I've ever had. The parsnips gave the soup a sweet but earthy flavor and the consistency was heavenly, incredibly smooth and creamy, but airy and light. Third course was a large scallop, perfectly seared and served over squash puree and baby bok choy. The squash puree was pure concentrated squash flavor, again with an amazing consistency and the dish was finished with basil oil, which brightened the dish and lent a nice contrast to the sweetness of the squash Fourth course was a risotto with Maine lobster, peas and parmesan cheese. There was a long wait for this course, but frankly it was needed as the meal in its entirety is a lot food. The risotto was well worth the wait. Not much for me to say about it except that it was excellent. Final savory course was a salt baked dorado - even in his experiments, Ferhat excels (this was the first time he had tried salt baking the filets, rather than the whole fish and he let us know there was a back up if it didn't work out, but the back up wasn't needed). There is some tinkering to make this dish as flawless as the rest, but the fish, once extricated from its salt casing was perfectly cooked - moist and flaky - and seasoned well with the dill, garlic and lemon and served on top of a turnip (I believe) puree with cubes of kohlrabi and daikon that while leaving the dish lacking in color created a lovely contrast in flavor. Dessert was a home made tiramisu. A delicious end to the meal, but with the major caveat that I am not a big dessert person, something that probably won't remain in my memory for long (I was also quite full at this point). We like others also had a few courses not listed on the menu. We started with homemade waffle chips with local thyme. While waiting for the risotto we had the aforementioned shrimp on top of garlic mashed potatoes. The shrimp, which tasted of the ocean, was seared on a salt block and then seasoned to perfection (who knew a salt block wouldn't actually lend a salty flavor to the food cooked on it). We also had a pre-dessert - a beer float. Mocha ice cream floating in Port City porter with a drizzle of Nutella on top. Honestly, heaven in a cup and as with all of the savory dishes I found myself scrambling to empty out every last bit. I plan to make this at home, with any porter or stout I can get my hands on and some Talenti salted caramel gelato. We all opted for the wine pairings, which went well and were generous. I was happy to start the night off with a glass of bubby. This was followed by an Albarino from the Rias Biaxas region of spain, a sauvignon blanc from France and a pinot noir from CA. Ferhat has a nice little list of scotch and bourbon available after dinner along with coffee and while I probably should have skipped it, I couldn't and ordered the Balvenie Doublewood 12 year. A relaxingly paced dinner along with the after dinner drink took close to 3 hours. At the end of the meal, Ferhat also asked what our favorite courses were. Again, a testament to how good the meal was that I honestly couldn't pick. This is a long ass post, with probably too much superfluous description. The bottom line is that I was scraping every last bit of each course from the plate or bowl and if there hadn't been a photographer from a local magazine there I probably would have been licking the plates clean. If you don't already have the pleasure of knowing Ferhat, he is warm, engaging and has a great sense of humor to boot and is happy to answer all of your questions. Add to all of that that the dinner is only $55 and as DanielK already said, if you aren't trying to get a reservation right now, you're making a huge mistake. Go. Now. Just don't make your reservations for the night I want to go back.
  18. 14 points
    I almost logged onto to Chowhound but was put off by creating yet another username/password. Thank you for all the work you do for this community.
  19. 14 points
    These came from Tar river North Carolina. I saw plenty of shad at Reading Terminal in late January, not sure where they came from. Provení§al culinary folklore makes charming, though disputed, claims that slow cooking the shad for 6-12 hours stuffed with sorrel (oxalic acid) and in brandy melts the bird's nest of 400+ tiny secondary bones (much like pickling softens herring bones) but the results were discouraging and left discomfort in the craw. The "y" shaped pin bones are as remarkable a choking hazard as they are irritatingly baffling. One set of roe doesn't have a practical yield so the sacks were opened up, the eggs cured like caviar and used to baste the garnish. The flesh was picked through and fish cakes were made; a somewhat common practice in Virginia 50+ years ago when canned shad roe was still available and the shad still plentiful. The second shad was butterflied through the stomach and entirely deboned. Deboning shad is an enterprise in another reality of fish butchering and the handful of old timers that still know how to do it cleanly and efficiently deserve a comfy repose somewhere between the Smithsonian's American History and Folk Art Department. It was stuffed with the roe and a forcemeat of shad trimmings, scallops and sorrel which, without contact to the air or too high of a poaching temperature stayed green after cooking. It will be treated as a ballotine; seared in lard and served with cured pork belly and a sorrel sauce thickened with onions and rice.
  20. 13 points
    On a rainy Monday evening I was heading downtown to have dinner somewhere - perhaps Purple Patch, or Thip Khao - but I thought to myself, at 7:45 tonight, this is my best chance to get into Rose's Luxury, so I went to Barracks Row, driving around-and-around for what must have been over twenty minutes, trying to find a parking space that wasn't zoned. Finally, I succeeded (anyone who thinks Rose's Luxury isn't a neighborhood restaurant only needs to try and go to it from another neighborhood - the fact that they don't offer valet parking almost by definition makes them a neighborhood restaurant). I walked in, and despite there being no customers at the host stand, the hostess told me there was still a short waiting list, but the bar upstairs might have seating - I walked up, and as I did before, grabbed the very last seat at the bar - this restaurant was now completely full on a rainy Monday at 8 PM. My bartender clearly demonstrated why Rose's has such a fine reputation for service - he was as friendly to me as he could have possibly been, and while I saw some professional service lapses when I was there (not from him), the service staff is absolutely there to please the customers. The service at Rose's really does make a customer feel like a welcome guest, and that the staff is glad to have you there. Why can't other restaurants use such common sense in dealing with their clientele? Wanting to unwind with a drink, I began my meal with a cocktail from the "everyday" section of the "Cocktails" menu: a Dry Rye Gin and Pumpkin Spice Tonic ($12), and despite it being stirred with a deft hand, it was like so many other pumpkin-based drinks are: overwhelmingly of pumpkin. Pumpkin, nutmeg, and sugar. Oh, it was a real cocktail, but if you get tired of pumpkin being the dominating flavor whenever you order something with that word in the name, I would advise turning your attention elsewhere. My kindly bartender advised me that even though the restaurant features "small plates," they add up quickly, and for me to get two or three, depending on how hungry I am. I made my meal nearly vegan, save for a bit of yogurt in one dish, some grated cheese in another, and of course the generous use of butter in the wonderful potato brioche that everyone receives who orders dinner. This is one of the best bread services in town, and is an early way to go straight to the diner's heart - a smart move, and a wonderful treat. The crust keeps the bread warm inside, so there's no need to tear right into it, if you want to wait and have it with your meal (although it's hard to resist the bacon, chives, and butter which come along side, just for one, little piece before the meal). The bread knife they supply is a good imitation of a Laguiole (but it isn't). Rose's Luxury was offering 13 plates total on this evening, 2 of them family style. From the "warm & grill" section, I began with Charred Carrots with Harissa, Housemade Yogurt, and Pearl Onions $12. In my limited experience with Rose's, I've noticed that they take seemingly disparate ingredients, and mix them together in a bowl, figuring the flavors will work when taken as an ensemble. In this case, they worked fairly well, but the execution is what fell short - my first bite of carrot (they were cut into bit-sized morsels) wasn't completely cooked, and was very firm, almost to the point of being crunchy. I didn't know if this entire plate would be al dente, but I didn't think this worked at all. My second bite of carrot, on the other hand, was cooked all the way through, and was the typical mushy carrot you've come to expect. The harissa atop the yogurt made this a fairly spicy dish, and the little pearl onions hidden underneath added a nice touch of sweetness. This was a good, innovative, and somewhat interesting dish, but not something I'd get again in the future, as the flavors didn't really resonate with me - even if the texture had been perfect, I would have merely "liked" this creative dish. Before my first course, I opted for the only Rosé on the wine list: a glass of 2014 La Grange Tiphaine, Tournage Riant, from Touraine in the Loire Valley ($12, retail price $16.99 a bottle). I had no idea what type of grapes went into this wine, but it was a fascinating mix of Grolleau Noir, Cot, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay - no Pinot Noir! Unfortunately, the wine is red and fruity, more in the style of a Spanish Garnacha, and I was hoping that it would be a typical, bone-dry, pale, French Rosé. Having clearly undergone malolactic fermentation, where tart malic acid (think: apples) turns into soft lactic acid (think: milk), this had a nose of yogurt, which I find off-putting in my rosés, and without the perceived acidity necessary to work well with food. I was wondering, after taking the first whiff, and knowing this would be a highly lactic wine, whether or not the yogurt-on-yogurt combination would work; it didn't - this dish, because it had sweetness from the pearl onions, needed a more neutral or acidic wine. It's a shame this is the only Rosé on the entire list. Of note: diners get a tasting pour before having to commit to an entire glass here, so I certainly had the option presented to me to change wines, and opted not to. This is yet another wonderful service touch that Rose's is so famous for. For my second course, I ordered from the "pasta" section: Hand-Cut Chitarra with Caramelized Cauliflower and White Wine Soffrito ($12), chitarra being a relative of spaghetti, and soffrito being the Italian cousin of a French mirepoix. This dish was very uninspired, if pleasant, and the caramelization of the cauliflower was the one thing that made it stand out from being something you might make at home. With the Rosé, it was actually somewhat ponderous, but when I switched to my final drink, a glass of 2014 Weingut Muller-Grossman Grí¼ner Veltliner ($11) from Kremstal in Austria, the formidable acidity took over, lifted the butter and herbs, and made the pasta dish better than it previously was - a perfect example of food-and-wine synergy, and a fine pairing. Weingut Muller-Grossman makes several Grí¼ner-Veltliners, and I don't know which this was; I suspect it retails for around $14. In summary, if youÅ•e going to get this pasta dish, have it with the Grí¼ner and not the Rosí« - the Grí¼ner stayed with me for the rest of the meal. My final small plate (my bartender was correct: three was plenty) was Vadouvan Curry with Sweet Potato and Caramelized Banana ($12), a typical, Rose's Luxury dish due to its unabashed use of sweetness as part of a savory course. In this case, it was something of a thick, squash bisque in nature, despite having no squash - it came in a bowl, was to be eaten with a spoon, and had distributed throughout it, bite-sized chunks of sweet potato and banana. Vadouvan is a French derivative of masala - essentially aromatic herbs to enhance the curry. This was another fascinating fusion of the Far East, the Near East, and Europe, all in one bowl, and I'm afraid to say it didn't work within the context of this meal - by itself, for a quick, healthy lunch, it would have been fine. I don't know what the base was, but I'm thinking there might have been some yogurt in it - regardless, this thick, sweetish "curry" went beautifully with my zippy, acidic Gruner, and was another match made in heaven. Once again, the execution had some problems - for example, my first bite of banana was actually cool, cooler than room temperature, but not cold, whereas everything else in the curry was warm. I was wondering if Chef Silverman was pulling a José Andrés and playing around with temperatures, but my other bites of banana, except one, were all warm, so it was a mistake in execution. Chef Silverman exudes confidence in mixing savory and sweet, and such disparate flavors from around the world into one melange. I applaud it, and I respect it, while not necessarily liking everything I have here. Wine selection is absolutely crucial, because with the right wine, these dishes either improve, or they decline - order wisely, or ask for help - and think: acidity, acidity, acidity: This food cried out for a crisp wine of at least medium body, preferably without any oak - my Gruner Veltliner. Out of 10 wines by the glass featured on the menu, my Grí¼ner was one of only 4 which were $11 - the least expensive price. You don't need to spend a lot here. That said, by the bottle, there are two slightly pricey examples of "orange" wine (I still want to know who coined the term, "orange" wine - it's appropriate, and I never saw it before the first time I ate at The Red Hen). I have yet to encounter one, anywhere, that's fairly priced - these are not expensive wines. In retrospect, I was wishing I had saved room for dessert, because I'm sure they were both fabulous and partly savory. My bartender handed me the menu, and I had to decline because I had been pleasantly sated. Midway through the meal, I ordered one item from the "Family Style" section of the menu to take home with me for lunch the next day: Smoked Brisket, White Bread [Actually, Texas Toast], Horseradish, and Slaw ($29) which was delivered and explained to me just as I was paying the check (perfect timing, Rose's, and a good all-around job with the service!) I was encouraged to make sandwiches, and so I did - I had enough for two full sandwiches: four pieces of Texas Toast, five generous cuts of brisket with a good proportion of fat attached, a tub of horseradish, and a tub of beautiful, red cabbage slaw. One of the two sandwiches is pictured, in two perspectives, in this post. You might be asking yourself two obvious questions: 1) with tax and a 20% tip, the price of each sandwich came out fo $18.85. Is this a crazy amount of money for a couple pieces of brisket on toast? 2) Equally as interesting, is this the type of thing you'd expect to see in an absolute, very best, top-of-the-top, lines-down-the-street, nationally recognized, restaurant that has critics fawning and assigning the highest possible rating? I have enough faith in our readers where I feel no need to answer either of these questions. Rose's Luxury is an excellent restaurant that does so very many things right. It's also not trying to be an elite, cross-town place to dine, or a destination restaurant like Inn at Little Washington. Rose's Luxury is to be lauded for doing exactly what it set out to do: Be a comfortable, exciting, neighborhood restaurant that exceeds the normal standards of that moniker. Aaron Silverman is to be commended for taking all the inexplicably lavish praise in stride, and for sticking to his guns. Although I've never met Aaron, we've talked on numerous occasions, and I think very highly of him as someone with his head screwed on properly. He won the lottery by opening Rose's Luxury, and should enjoy this ride for as long as it lasts - this is perhaps the single most successful restaurant in the history of Washington, DC., outdoing every queued-up place from Pasta Mia, to Georgetown Cupcake, to Little Serow (well, maybe not Little Serow) - my point is that there's no logical possibility that Aaron could have predicted, or should have predicted this extraordinary level of popularity, and from what I can tell, it couldn't happen to a nicer person. In the Don Rockwell Dining Guide, Rose's Luxury is maintained as "Excellent," and is ranked 3rd in Barracks Row behind Garrison and Sushi Capitol, although I can easily see how any informed, reasonable person could shuffle that order around. Though I most likely prefer The Red Hen (which opened at almost the same time as Rose's, and was completely drowned out in the publicity wars and social-media chatter - Rose's is a genuine cultural phenomenon), I have all four of these restaurants rated as "Excellent," and consider them all to be peers. Beuchert's Saloon and perhaps Montmartre (I haven't been since a recent change occurred) are not that far behind. On any given day, I could not say one is better than the others, and (this is important, so remember I said this) neither could anyone else. We're lucky to have all six of these restaurants, five on Barracks Row where Belga Café used to be the best game in town (and I could name a dozen more area restaurants on the same level, or even at a higher level) - Rose's Luxury is an excellent restaurant that will most likely remain in Italic for as long as it wants to stay open, and is certainly one of the Top 10-20 restaurants in the Washington, DC area - I say that as a high compliment and honor, even though people will read that and want to approach my house with pitchforks and torches, and burn it to the ground for committing heresy - to these people I simply say that Rose's Luxury was not, is not, and never will be aiming to be ranked in Bold - they are not *trying* to be the best-of-the-best-of-the-best. Nothing of the sort - I suspect that, like Mike Isabella (btw, have you heard anything at all about Graffiato lately?), Aaron feels as though he won the lottery, and if the press wants to rave about his restaurant and make him and the investors millions of dollars? Good for them, I say - I'm happy for them. I'm happy for them all. No, I can't explain it, but I can't explain a lot of things - I just hope that the quality, or at least the press, remains where it is so the dining public remains happy as well.
  21. 13 points
    I grew up in New Orleans, spent years in baton Rouge, and consumed enough episodes of Chef Paul (Prudhomme) and Justin Wilson on PBS to have an opinion...The following borrows heavily from the intro to "Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen," published in 1984, becuse it largely reflects what I'd always heard. 7 different flags flew over New Orleans, and each time a new nation took over, new cooks came in with their national influences. Lots of slaves or free black people did the cooking for the wealthy classes. Creole is the amalgamation of the cultures that populated New Orleans in the early days...African black people, Carribbean black people, Europeans (French, Spanish and later Germans and italians) and Native Americans, among others. African and Carribbean people brought spices, Europeans brought technique and everyone worked with local ingredients. Chicken, pork, veal, oysters, eggplant, fin fish, crabs were all available and/or raised nearby. More exotic ingredients came into the port, such as bananas and tomatoes. New Orleans is the geographical and emotional center for Creole cuisine. Cajuns were southern French people who went to Nova Scotia in the1600's, and were driven out by the British in the 1700's. Many of them ended up in Louisiana, but rarely in New Orleans. The group that settled in what we call "Cajun Country" cooked with what they found and farmed...crayfish, chicken, pork, rice, pecans. They used the french style roux, made boudin sausages and things that had a "French" bent. They lived along the bayous West and south of New Orleans. Cities to visit for Cajun culture are Opelousas, Lafayette, Crowley, New Iberia, Thibodaux. When I was a kid in the 60's, families who moved from these areas to New Orleans for jobs often still spoke French, but it was Cajun French. My mother's aunt and Grandma in New Orleans spoke French, but it was European French. So, just to say "French" is a source of confusion! Which French? When you grow up with it, you absorb knowledge or beliefs about differences without explicitly thinking about it. Redfish stuffed with crabmeat? Creole. Crawfish etouffe? Cajun. Oyster stew? Creole. Jambalaya? Cajun. Of course, the cultures blended because so many cajuns came to the city for work. New Orleans is only approximately 2 hours from Lafayette, so lots of cross-pollination occurred. And as far as I know, the big man himself, Paul Prudhomme, did more than anyone else to make Cajun food sexy and popular in New Orleans and everywnere else. Baton Rouge is (or was) sort of the bland buffer between Creole and Cajun, between the city and the bayous, between commerce and agriculture. As the capital and the home of a major university, Baton Rouge is an important city. Culinarily? Not so much...And north of Alexandria or so, up toward Shreveport, it's all very different. More like Texas (to the west ) or Mississippi (to the east). I love it all - from boudin sausage purchased at a gas station outside of Lafayette, to oysters bienville eaten in the fanciest of French Quarter landmarks - the food in that part of the world is glorious.
  22. 13 points
    I don't even know where to begin. I don't feel I have the writing skills to do justice to my experience at Marcel's last night. First off, the food wowed me. The seared ahi tuna with togarashi, the revered skate dish, and the infamous boudin blanc were flawless. The muscadet paired with the skate was my favorite pairing of the night and the bordeaux that Adnane chose for the boudin blanc a close second. The langostine and sweetbread dish was excellent as well - those perfectly crispy on the outside, melt in your mouth on the inside sweetbreads are something I could eat daily although I wasn't sure about the cook on one of the pieces of langoustine. I only wish the white burgundy paired with it would have been a bit warmer, but I have a bit of a pet peeve about the temps at which most restaurants serve their white wines, especially chardonnays (and I did not feel this way about the muscadet). The venison satisfied my craving to finish off the meal with red meat. Unfortunately the cube of sausage on the side of the dish was dry and heavily salted (I mean to the point that I found it inedible and I like salt) but the rest of the dish was excellent. Too often lately I've had beautifully plated, well executed dishes, that while I could find no flaws with them left me feeling less than enthused (my recent meal at Cityzen comes to mind). These dishes were not that. They were of course beautifully plated and well executed, but they were also generous, packed big flavor punches and really took me to a place where I was happy to sit quietly and relish every incredible bite. These dishes were, for the most part, more than the sum of their parts. But where I really want to give praise is Adnane. Waitman was right earlier to point out that he deserves high praise. I walked in and was immediately greeted by name and led to my seat at the bar, where there was a place setting already waiting for me despite the bar being empty (I had called earlier to check whether I needed to be concerned about getting a seat since the dining room was booked). That's just one of many little touches that add up to an exceptional experience. Throughout the night, I only needed to glance up and Adnane was there asking what I needed. I wanted to start the night off with a sparkling rose, but when I realized there wasn't one on the by the glass list anymore, I said no worries, just something bubbly. Adnane wouldn't settle for that and a bottle of brut rose was found and popped open. When I mentioned that I used to be a part of a blind tasting group, Adnane poured me a taste of a special wine to put my skills to the test. Later in the evening when he found out it was my birthday (I was purposely keeping that to myself as I didn't want special treatment) I was of course treated to a little dessert with "Happy birthday Jen" written across the plate. There were touches like this all evening, right up until I went to leave and I got a warm hug as if Adnane and I had been friends for years. And I think that's really where the exceptional experience comes from - that Adnane treats each guest like an old friend and has an amazing ability to read people and figure out what they need, when they want to engage, when they want to be left to their food, when something is off. The service too is more than the sum of its parts. And it's both of those things that leave me looking at my budget, trying to figure out how soon I can return.
  23. 13 points
    Don't know where to begin but I will start at the beginning of my time at 2761 Washington Blvd. I was young, 15 years old, and I had snuck into the back through a door left propped open by a dishwasher. It smelled of smoke and stale beer but it was awesome. Whitey's was named after the original owner who in fact had a long white beard. My father eventually became the second owners lawyer, a guy named Calvin Seville who went by the nickname of Fuzzy. That's not the whole story of my experience. Life's not that short. I had my first real bar experience at Whitey's which included a stale domestic beer served in a frosted mug, Onion Rings doused with Blue Cheese dressing and a celebratory cigarette while playing darts in the back room. The years went by and Whitey's became less of what it originally started out as, a bar. Calvin did everything to bring in business but there were no takers. He installed a $200K kitchen to cook $7 hamburgers. Times were not kind to Calvin and Whitey's in its last years, the building just felt empty because it was in fact empty. The good times of listening to Bill Kirchen and other local musicians quickly faded to large TV's, game boards and lousy food. Something that I always remembered about Whiteys in the early days was the fact that the food was always good, even in a dive. Whitey's used to have lines wrapped around the corner to get in, but no more in its final days. The neighborhood rallied around to get the liquor license revoked by the County board because too many times mailboxes were smashed or lawns were pissed on. Guess what? They won and the dagger went right to the heart of Whitey's. They closed the doors and the Eat sign went dark. Years later a young restaurant group tinkered with the idea of a wine bar that served a little bit of everything from Shortribs to Baby Burgers. Small plates meeting for the first time grown up food. But where? The paper went up in the windows, the old bar ripped out, walls came down, and the old often never used $200K kitchen was cleaned up, over and over again. Whitey's was getting a facelift, but no longer Whitey's, yet Tallula. The neighborhood of course was nervous that the old habits of young adults pried with the right amount of booze would soon be back to smashing mailboxes and peeing on lawns. The owners assured them something different was about to happen and it was in the form of wine. This wasn't going to be a place to pound shots of Jager, or crush 24 ounce Miller Lites, but instead a place to sip a glass of Viognier, or enjoy a bottle of Gigondas. This was an adult restaurant where adult behavior would be the norm, and the chugging history of Whitey's past was long gone. The day before Thanksgiving in 2004 Tallula opened its doors, albeit 4 months behind schedule. Maybe a sign of its future would be on that same very night the restaurant lost power. Guess what, only half of it did because the building is supplied by two power sources. The left side, restaurant, is powered by a grid that sits next to Mr. Days. The right side, the original Whitey's, is powered from behind the building. So on that night the restaurant closed halfway through, but the bar stayed opened. How do I know? I was behind the bar that evening as I was so fortunate to be a part of the opening team at Tallula. Over the year I left the bar and became the GM and Wine Director, something that to this day I take great pride in and realize how incredibly lucky I was to be in that position. I worked with some fantastic people and talent. When I think back to Tallula during the early years I fondly remember the place being packed on any given night, the hum of the kitchen under Nathan Anda's control, the clinking of Wine Bottles left and right, and a building that once again was breathing life after years of dormancy and neglect. I left Tallula in May of 2007 for a decision that sometimes I regret, but because of a greater influence, my family and the hopes of an easier life. Kids will do that to you. Tallula ushered in new blood, not just in my place but everywhere. The kitchen was turned over while Nate created his new passion with Red Apron, congrats Nate, job well done if I never told you that before. Some fantastic chefs came through the door including Andrew Market, Barry Koslow and now Robert Rubba. Matt Moleski took over the reins and seemed to be the leader for the FOH and from my interaction did a great job. The years passed by Tallula much like Whitey's as people change and grow older, sometimes the place they used to frequent becomes a distant memory. Tallula never stopped caring. I, along with 5 others last night, sat in the dining room talking about days past at Tallula. I stared at the fountain in the middle of the restaurant remembering the days of having to scrub the tiles and cursing at it. The six of us ordered food and from what I can remember it was just as Tallula had delivered on its first day of business, solid. The six of us all met at Tallula, and as one could imagine with the boys on one side and the girls on the other side we were perfectly matched up with our wives. You see I met my wife at Tallula. Granted we did not have a romantic involvement while we worked together at Tallula, that was way down the road, we initially met there as she worked as a cocktailer, and I as the GM. to be honest we didn't really get along that well with each other when we did work together. The guy I share an office with today, who has worked with me side by side for the last 10 years, also met his wife while working at Tallula. She was a waitress, and he a Bartender. The other couple met there as well and had their first date at Tallula. You know the phrase, small world. We laughed into the night but I couldn't stop thinking about Tallula. Where did it go wrong? I may never know that answer but I do hope that while we see the last week bring this version of Tallula to an end that some of you find it in your heart to give that old building one last send off. The 'Eat' sign will again go dark, but the memories for the six of us, who remain best of friends, will always be very clear to what Tallula means to us and hopefully to many others who enjoyed its passion over the years.
  24. 13 points
    Due to bad planning and fatigue, we did not make it out to Annandale to Kogiya until the waitlist was about three hours long, and a drive-by at Yechon revealed hungry Korean families spilling into the parking lot. So we pulled into the 7-11 next door trying to figure out if there was a Koream joint nearby that was lousy enough not to be crowded but good enough to eat at, when when the proverbial light bulb appeared overhead and we said "Isn't RJ's new place opening this weekend? And, where the fuck is 'Northern Virginia's Mosaic District, anyway?' (And, ultimately, "since when does 'mosaic' mean a 'soulless [except for...] fake 'urban' district composed of mass-produced chain stores?'") Turns out that the MD is six minutes by iPhone from the 7-11 next to Yechon, or twenty minutes via the more creative route we selected after we missed our exit on the Beltway, and just around the corner from Great Wall. Whoever had answered the phone at Gypsy Soul wasn't entirely encouraging, promising only appetizers, so we entered with limited expectations. The place is large, sleek without being cold (and further warmed as the night went by, by exceptional service) and centered on a truncated U-shaped bar (think long base and short arms) that embraces an open kitchen. The tables were virtually empty, the bar was virtually full, and behind the line in what I remember as being a slightly elevated cooking space, rogue maestro RJ Cooper was conducting a staff that seemed almost to outnumber the patrons. Turns out that his bad luck was our good luck: an errant coffee station installer had drilled through a water line, forcing cancellation of a friends and family dinner (my invitation to which had apparently been lost in the mail). So, when the water came back on at 8PM, the riff-raff was allowed in and we parked ourselves at the bar, scored a couple of glasses of Cali Viogner and looked over an abbreviated menu that did, despite small expectations, guide us into the land of the large plates. Briefly, the could-have-been-boring Bibb salad was curiously refreshing, tarted up just enough to be interesting without obscuring the chlorophyllic goodness that's often lost in the mix. I quite enjoyed the steak tartar, sort of a heavier-than-usual mustard prep (I'm sure RJ will correct me if I get this wrong) served with a bit of grilled romaine that had been lightly Caesared and garnished with a couple of high-end anchovies and a little Parm. Made me wonder why steak tartar isn't served with a Caesar Salad all the time, instead of those frites? Get that rich-tart thing going. Shrimp and grits were awesome. One suspects that RJ cheated by adding a stick of butter to every cup of grits, but it was hard do object as I was trying to steal as much crustacean-candy as possible from my friend's plate and she was trying to fend me off with a fork. Kudos to her -- despite her selfishness -- for pulling out "Frogmore Stew" to describe the what the menu at that time described as "Grouper Cheeks with Stuff" (or something like that) (btw, I note that the menu now actually calls it "Frogmore Stew") and what I thought was localized Bouillabaisse variation. It was, of course, not so much a Frogmore reproduction as a riff on that traditional recipe, which marries corn and potatoes to a spicy broth and shrimp (thank you, Mr. Google). Here it was a dish that came out of the Low Country via Marseilles, picked up grouper cheeks, saffron and clams (and toast with a killer rouille) without losing its New World starches, and landed in front of me topped by a metal dome which released a captivating vapor upon its removal. Spicy but refined, French and 'merican, I would kill for a bowl of it right now. I should mention that Rogue's frighteningly intense pastry chef is also helming the cold kitchen at GS, and I ate all of my milk chocolate pudding with caramelized bananas and rosemary peanuts and half of my friend's, so there's that, too. For a menu whipped up on the spot after the water came on, it was immensely satisfying. RJ looked a little beat up, but he and his crew turned in an outstanding effort under challenging conditions. Our meal was "simple," probably deceptively so; the menu on line now looks both longer an more elaborate. But a first glance suggests food that -- like ours, Saturday night -- is almost "hearty," but enhanced by the deft touch, unexpected ingredients (marrow with sea urchin) and attention to detail that marks R24. There's no question that I'm already in RJ's camp, so add grains of salt as you will. But I'd head over now -- even if the bar, coffee station and other less vital bits and pieces haven't quite congealed -- before half of Northern Virginia is trying to eat there. In two weeks, people are going to be staring at the lines out the door and saying, "damn, we should have gotten here earlier. I guess we'll just have to grab some Korean instead."
  25. 13 points
    I'm very pleased to announce that as of a few days ago, I am now Contributing Editor at Foodshed Magazine. Lots of exciting changes have happened, now that the re-boot from Flavor is complete. Foodshed is now a non-profit benefit corporation and is expanding its reach and coverage to the entire Mid-Atlantic foodshed, up through and including New York City and environs. Check out Foodshed's mission statement, and consider subscribing. (My picture and bio aren't yet up on the site, and I haven't gotten business cards or an email account yet--it'll feel more official when I have those, but I attended my first staff meeting yesterday and I have to say that I am really looking forward to collaborating with such an energetic, erudite and talented group of people.)