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Drive-by Critic

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  1. Menu from Mary's FISH Camp in NYC, which is famous for its lobster roll (though I can't see why - the lobster is indeed top quality and tasty but the one time I was there, it was drowning in the mayo-based sauce). STARTERS Raw bar selections are listed on the board in the restaurant Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with Nicoise Olives and Mint • 10 Raw Kale with Lemon, Red Pepper, Pine Nuts and Grana Padano • 10 Fried Green Tomatoes with Bacon Buttermilk Dressing • 12 Deviled Eggs with Scottish Smoked Salmon • 7 Wild Salmon Crudo with Citrus Vinaigrette • 12 Canadian Steamers with Drawn Butter and Lemon • 16 Grilled Calamari with Papaya, Peanuts, Chilis & Mint • 12 Fried Oysters and Clams with Fish Camp Tartar Sauce • 12 Salt Cod Fritters with Harissa Yogurt • 11 Colorado Smoked Trout Dip with Celery, Radish and Toast • 11 Boquerones with Orange, Almond and Olive • 12 Spicy Chilled Gazpacho with Lobster Knuckle • 10 MAINS Fish Camp Oyster Po Boy • 15 (Open-Faced) Ahi Tuna Melt with Gruyère • 18 Portuguese Sardine Bánh Mì • 15 Market Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo, Chipotle Aioli, and Pickled Jalapeño • 18 Pan Fried ‘Hook and Line’ Atlantic Cod Sandwich with French Fries • 18 Fried Clam Roll with Celery Root Remoulade • 14 Herb Marinated Shrimp with Asparagus and Summer Tomatoes • 20 Seared Wild Striped Bass Filet with Farro and Lime Curry Sauce • 22 Whole Market Fish Served Grilled or Fried • M/P 1 1/2 Lb Maine Lobster- Grilled, Chilled or Boiled • M/P Lobster Roll (Limited Supply) • M/P
  2. I go to Freddy's which is in a much higher-rent location. For $2 more than I paid at Fishnet, I can get a lobster roll with fries (so basically, the same price). I get full table service. So I don't know that having the table bussed would force them to raise prices.
  3. I really wanted to love this adorable place tucked away on a quiet street in College Park. Even before entering, though, I was put off by the fairly strong odor of fried fish. That fried-two-days-ago smell. It just hung in the air. There was no such smell indoors. The place was maybe half-full but the noise level was uncomfortable, and all due to one child speaking in a loud voice. The sound ricochets off the hard surfaces. I can't imagine how loud it must be when full. We definitely must have mis-ordered because our meals were truly unsuccessful. The lobster rolls had no discernable taste of lobster. The spicy gazpacho bore no resemblance to any gazpacho I've ever had. Frankly, it looked as though someone had opened a jar of Herdez salsa verde, maybe doctored it a bit, and then poured it into a cup. It had an odd, off-putting flavor, nothing identifiable as a piece of vegetable. My mother and I each tried it and it was really bad. Then one of the cooks walked over, said he'd forgotten to add the vinegar, and poured some vinegar into the cup. After a thorough stirring, I tried it again. Now it was even worse. Inedible. We both agreed that the cole slaw was very good. I have to say that for $46 for two, I don't really appreciate having to bus my own table. Flame away.
  4. Wouldn't have gone here had the location not met our needs. Won't go back. We'd heard it was so-so at best except for breakfast. What I found was that for breakfast, it is just so. We had car trouble and they were nice enough to push our reservation back an hour. We had a table that had some round thing hanging over it. It had a speaker and we wondered if it was a white noise speaker. In any case, it kept the area quiet in what was otherwise a noisy restaurant - all glass and hard surfaces. The menu is standard breakfast stuff, but no omelettes. The waiter would not leave the coffee carafe which really irks me. We had three people drinking coffee and we each knew we would want more than one cup and why have to try to keep flagging down your waiter in a busy restaurant? Why not just leave the carafe? And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. We had to keep hunting for him. They will leave a pitcher of water but not a carafe of coffee. It was an insulated carafe so it wasn't as though it would get cold and have to be pitched. I ordered scrambled eggs, wet, with bacon and hash browns. The eggs arrived barely lukewarm and it looked as though they'd scrambled the whites and the yolks separately. Very unappetizing appearance. The bacon was also barely warm and just ordinary even though it was billed as Niman Ranch. I've purchased Niman Ranch bacon from the grocery store and it was considerably better than this, so I wonder. The hash browns were good. We had to beg for butter for the various breads that came with the meals. No jams were offered, though the menu said they were included. All who had ordered eggs/bacon found the meals to be substandard. The blueberry pancakes, by contrast, were stellar. Light as air and filled with very plump blueberries. I'd just as soon go to the Parkway Deli where they know how to prepare eggs and bacon, for a much lower price. However, it just wasn't convenient to our starting point.
  5. I couldn't find a separate thread for this place. We've had some mighty good meals at the Clyde's in Tysons but most have been meh and we otherwise don't have reason to visit any of the other restaurants in this local group. We wouldn't have gone to Tower Oak Lodge were it not for the fact that we were dealing with an elderly relative who doesn't like to drive more than 10 minutes for a meal and other relatives with unknown food preferences/restrictions. This place has a reasonably wide selection and it was very close by. The service, the decor, and the noise were the problems. For instance, you can't book on Open Table for parties of more than four, yet the place is full of tables for six. The reception area is chaos. They have no idea which tables are open and ready, sending waitstaff running all over the huge restaurant to check. We had a wonderful waitress who was patient and friendly, but the rest of the service was terrible. We had the auctioning off of food, we had runners handing plates across people instead of walking around the table, we couldn't get more iced tea, etc. The noise level was very high. And the decor is just ridiculous - all dark wood, oil paintings with hunting scenes, a taxidermied fox, hunting bugles, etc. The food was mostly fine. There was a chilled peach/goat cheese soup that failed miserably in flavor and texture but the other dishes were tasty. I had a turkey burger with some kind of spiced apple-flavored sauce. It was served with a very good fresh fruit salad. My husband had a rigatoni with Italian sausage that wasn't quite spicy enough but very good flavor. One relative had the Baked Maine Haddock and said it was terrific. My mother loved her crab cake. I would not return here and wouldn't recommend it to anyone because the service (other than the very good waitress), the decor, and the noise really made it an unpleasant experience.
  6. SYTYCD is the only reality talent show we watch (unless you count Top Chef). The cheesiness can be annoying (i.e., the backstories) and they stretch it out with all kinds of irritating filler. The critiques can be over-the-top. If Lil C yells "that's sick" one more time, if Mary Murphy screams "off the hot tamale train" one more time, if they have more idiot guest judges like Zooey Deschannel....if they keep one more totally untrained guy doesn't actually dance but just twitches in a self-created style called "robot" while they dismiss a brilliant dancer...I am going to stop watching. But I don't. Because. The love of dance is so evident and so buoyant. In any other context, Nigel Lythgoe would be a complete a-hole but here he is a true champion of the art of dance. He was a dancer and on occasion, he gets up out of his seat and dances. His face is radiant when he sees a brilliant performance. His critiques are knowledgeable. Mary Murphy may be irritating but look up her performances on youtube. She floats. Some of the choreography is beyond. Mia Michaels' "Park Bench" is incredible (won an Emmy; you can see it on YouTube). Some of the performances have been breath-taking. Neither one of us would ever go to a live dance performance of any kind, and yet we are spellbound by twitch, Will Wingfield, Travis Wall, Danny Tidwell. We have a snack while watching the show. Cherries are very good this year. Sometimes we don't have a snack, but we think about food during the commercials.
  7. Had a burger craving on Friday and knowing that mid-summer traffic would be relatively light, we headed across the Key Bridge to Ray's/Ray's/Ray's. Turned out that traffic was nonexistent. It can take 20 minutes to get from the end of Canal Road/MacArthur Blvd to the DC end of the bridge on most evenings, but on Friday, it took about 3 minutes, and only because we hit the red light at the Whitehurst ramps. And there was plenty of parking in the parking lot. That was confusing. For a second, we wondered if maybe Ray's had abruptly closed again. Chose Hellburger Two because I wanted a flame-grilled burger and table service. We walk in. Now it is not table service. It is counter service. We were confused. Place was empty except for a guy sitting in the corner who apparently worked there. Very nice guy. We asked about the reason for the change. No real reason offered. But he did suggest we cross the street to Ray's Todatoid. I said I had wanted flame-grilled and I, being a summa graduate of the dr.com School of Landrumology, know that the burgers over there are griddled. No, he says. Now they are flame-grilled. More confusion. We decide to stay put but turns out that they no longer take credit cards and we have no cash. No prob - they have an atm right there. But it isn't working. So we stroll down to the original Ray's and it too has been "updated." Far fewer tables, the counter is now enclosed in a box-like structure and not sure why but the vibe is different, too. ATM is now out in the main room and it is no longer fee-free. Actually the whole thing was kind of entertaining. Burgers are still fantastic so no worries there! Nice addition to the strip - a tiny frozen yoghurt shop called IceBerry. They say that all yoghurt is fat-free. There is actually only one berry flavor - strawberry. They also had plain (tart), taro, chocolate, peach-mango, and honeydew melon. We had the honeydew melon and it was quite refreshing and had good flavor - really tasted like a melon. The tart yoghurt was also good. We were puzzled (consistent with the theme of the evening) by the lack of berry flavors given the name of the place and the pictures of various berries. But the girl told us that the flavors never change. Which is also quite unusual for a fro-yo shop. They also have smoothies. For my money, Red Mango is still the best frozen yoghurt by far but all the stores in this area are locations inconvenient for us. Continuing the confusion theme, we drove over to the Howard Theater for a Johnny Clegg concert. For once in my life, I actually looked into parking options before visiting a venue. Well, that was about as productive as reading a manual. They tell you about a lot at the corner of 7th and and T, and indeed, there is a tiny lot on that corner, but nothing to indicate that it is a lot for the Howard Theater. No attendants in sight and the name on the sign is for some other building. However, they are kind enough to tell you that it is self-park and they explain how that works (you park your own car and retrieve it yourself). We walk over to the theater and we find that the main floor is set up as a supper club. There are traditional theater seats upstairs. We ask if dancing is allowed downstairs. Yes, in the aisles. But they hadn't known what kind of act this was, so they didn't know if anyone would want to dance. Huh? You book acts without knowing anything about them? OK, whatevs. There is a menu "designed by Marcus Samuelson." Except that what is actually on the menu bears little resemblance to the Samuelson menu on the Howard Theater's website other than the burger and the short ribs. It is very heavy, traditional southern food. Not something you want to eat in the summer, much less a 100-degree day. Very few people are ordering. The woman sitting next to us ordered crab cakes. She got three absolutely miniscule things that looked really awful. I saw no visible evidence of crab meat. BTW, I didn't start a separate thread as we didn't eat so I couldn't write a real review on the food. There is a $10/person minimum. They have two bars but apparently too few bartenders. We had three drinks - two Mt. Gay and Tonics, both lacking the requested lime and the first being incredibly sweet. Way too much rum, too little tonic. The drinks were very large. One Stella. Total = $37. Service was excellent, especially given that the waitresses had to dodge dancing bodies. The venue is beautiful and acoustics were excellent on the main floor. Concert was great. We retrieved our own car, glad again to be living in DC and in a state of confusion.
  8. Bourdain always made it clear that the real cooking in most restaurants was being done by Latino immigrants, but would you have thought that was likely true of Vietnamese restaurants? According to this WaPo article, it is: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/at-vietnamese-restaurant-a-honduran-does-all-the-cooking/2012/07/01/gJQASPafGW_story.html?hpid=z4 My question is this - according to this article, this guy is slaving over a hot stove for 60ish hours a week, making about $7.35 an hour. The article alludes to exploitation, and it sure sounds that way to me, but I don't know what cooks in small, local restaurants ordinarily earn. It bothers me to know that some of the places I frequent regularly might be exploiting the labor and I would not want to continue eating at these restaurants if that proves to be true. At first, I thought, well these low-priced places can't possibly pay the same wages that high-end restaurants pay, but they serve far more many people in a day than do the high-end places. Does anyone know what the going rate is for cooks in small, local restaurants? I mean, it could be that the prevailing wage is itself exploitative, but I'd at least like to know if they are paying the prevailing wate.
  9. I haven't found any at Whole Foods that are NOT from China, but we've had luck at The Italian Store and at the Bethesda Co-Op at the intersection of MacArthur and Seven Locks. I had pine nut mouth so I'm really careful to check the source of the pine nutes I buy.
  10. In today's New York Times: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/vintage-m-f-k-fisher/?hpw A collection of Fisher's essays on beverages, mostly of the alcoholic variety, but also coffee and water.
  11. They say in the article that the reaction to the name is a gen gap thing. Guess you are on the Old Fart side of the gap...it's just the jargon du minute. Like yelling SHUT UP when something is really rad (70s?) instead of saying "far out" (60s?) or "way cool"(90s?) or "that's sick"(00s?). I guess the idea is to really get attention and buzz. But it is pretty in-your-face. As it happens, there is a place in LA called The Pie Hole as well as a pizza chain by that name out in Idaho. And another bakery in Rosewell, GA though really it should be in the other Roswell.
  12. So sayeth the City Paper: http://www.washingto...-to-georgetown/ The company, which is actually named Connecticut-Copperthite, once had a location at Wisconsin and Ohio (?) according to an old poster. The current owner is the great-great-grandson of the original owner. And for us Georgetown-averse types: "At some point in the future, Copperthite envisions a mobile phone app where customers can place "smart orders" and pick the desserts up at pie wagons near Metro stops around the city."
  13. Well there's decidedly something not-kosher here: ‘‘I’ve always liked the black Angus. They’re very gentile,” Carl Miller said. http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/101305/newmnew200251_31897.shtml
  14. This is a franchise; I am commenting only on this particular location. To me a car is transportation. Washing a car is a waste of time and water unless it is necessary to remove road salt. Because after all, the next day, it is covered with pollen and dust and dirt again. But the inside of the car was really in need of a cleaning and a household vacuum just doesn't do the job so we took it to Ecodetail. They don't use water. Who knows what kind of earth-killing chemicals they use. They claim of the franchisor Every time I read something like that, it is only a matter of time before I read that they are in fact using something that creates frankenfish and dayglow orange trees. I mean, the guy was a 22-yr-old pugilist who worked at a Shell station and he knows what does/not harm the environment? There's so much co-opting of the term green to sell stuff that it is hard to trust it anymore. So I hope it is true but wouldn't be surprised if it isn't. So lesson one - don't send husband to do this if your husband suffers from male-pattern blindness because he won't see the spots they missed and you will have to take it back. So the first try resulted in a gorgeous exterior and nearly spotless interior but they missed a couple of places that were just not touched. I took it back the next day. They apologized profusely, did not just the couple of spots they missed, but actually re-did almost everything. The interior is now spotless. The two owner, Dimitrios, is a truly delightful guy. Ellen Paul
  15. Was searching for something on the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and came across this interesting blog entry: The Meal that Ended My Career as a Restaurant Critic http://blogs.plos.or...taurant-critic/ Being a blog, there's a fair amount of well-written meandering before he finally gets around to describing this meal, which I had hoped was so perfect that no future meal could ever compare. In fact, it was just the opposite. I had a meal so perfect that no future meal could ever compare (in Merida, Mexico) and the only way I could do it justice in words would be "Go to the Hotel Xcanatun." Of course, who knows if the same chef is there now. But that would be my entire review: "Get on a plane and go to the Hotel Xcanatun."
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