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The Leaver

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    Arlington, VA
  1. I have driven past this place for years and finally stopped in based on the comments here, and I am so glad I did. My wife and I ordered the eggplant dip appetizer and the lentil and bean soup. Both were very good to kick off the meal and came in generous portions, along with the tandoori style bread that is as great as everyone says it is. My wife's entree was a kabob mix of lamb cubes and the ground beef. The lamb was savory, delicious and melt in your mouth tender. Beef was perfectly spiced and perfectly cooked. I'm not so well versed in Persian seasonings that I can describe it beyond the fact that it just works. My entree was the orange saffron marinated sea bass kabob. It was life-changingly amazing! Subtle tastes covering perfectly cooked white fish. My experience with the service matches others' here. We were made to feel like royalty even though we'd never been before. I'll try to get back often while I can still roll in at 7:00 on a Friday evening and get seated right away. Count me a fan.
  2. I'll second the recommendation for Cecile's. The store is small, but they rotate stock pretty well and always have something new to try. The staff have been invariably pleasant and knowledgable every time I've been in.
  3. People are always on the lookout for well-priced bottles and up and coming wine regions and producers, but here are some story ideas for when there are none of those to report... 1. How about a varietal/price point taste test. e.g. "We lined up 12 cabernets that all cost $20. Here's what our panel found..." 2. Or a store pairing test. Go to 10 different wine stores in the area. Say, "I am serving X dish prepared in Y style. What wine should I serve if I can spend up to $15/$30/whatever a bottle." Report what they say and their rationale for the recommendation. 3. Or a points test. Have a panel blindly compare a number of varietals that cost the same but have a significant spread in rating points. Do people overwhelmingly prefer the 91 point riesling to the 86 point riesling? Or can people tell any difference between a 90 point merlot and an 89 point merlot? 4. Interview wine service professionals about the customer from Hell; e.g. the person who sends back the 20 year old Bordeaux because it has sediment. People always love these kinds of stories. And the following week you can write customers' revenge, culling stories about incompetent servers and somelliers. 5. Wine preferences by demographics. Ask around to shops and restaurants and bars whether certain wines are more popular with young or old folks, men or women, city dwellers or suburbanites, etc. Nothing stirs up controversy and site traffic like pitting half of the population against the other half. 6. Wines that people hate. Lead in with the "anything but chardonnay" notion and do a column about wines that people for whatever reason do not like, whether varietal or region. What makes it so? Wine magazine profiles always ask people what their favorites are...this would be a nice flip side to that. Personally, I am not fond of Rhone whites. 7. The humor of wine descriptors. This may already be a well-worn path; people have always poked fun at the imprecision and sometimes pomposity of wine language. But I think there is a real issue in the fact that most people have never tasted a lot of the foods used as wine descriptors, e.g., fresh black currants, which is the lead descriptor of Cabernet. Similarly with lychee, gooseberry, saddle leather, cat pee, etc. You could do a story about trying to find black currants or other obscure food descriptors in a grocery store and seeing if they really taste like Cabernet, Sauv blanc, Gewurtztraminer, etc. 8. How about a taste test of locally produced (VA, MD) wine vs. benchmark, nationally available wine. Or local wine against wine from other up-and-coming states like New York or Michigan.
  4. My wife and I stopped in about 7:30 pm on Saturday and were lucky to snag one of the last remaining tables. I went with the pierogies. They were tasty, but weren't cooked to crispness as stated on the menu. My wife ordered the lasagna. Half of it was quite delicious; the other half of it was scorched beyond being edible. Unfortunately, the waiter did not circle back to give us a "how is everything?" until after I'd already finished my food, obviating her desire for a replacement slice. Once we were able to have a bus person flag him down for us, the waiter profusely apologized and said he'd take the burned lasagna off the bill, which he did. I was impressed the waiter had on-the-spot authority to do so without covening a management tribunal. He also thanked us for being mellow about it all, and taking things in stride. I am chalking it up to the place still trying to work out staffing levels and hit the marks on a crowded Saturday evening dinner service. I really like what they are trying to do and will be back in hopes that they get the execution down a little better.
  5. This raises a good question. The patio at Poste is large; if there is rain, and assuming the inside isn't totally empty, there isn't enough table space in the bar to seat everyone coming in out of the rain if they all have food at their table. As the above anecdote (and my personal experience) suggests, flexibility or clear communication with patrons about seating policies does not seem to be their calling card. I'm curious to hear what those experienced in FOH matters might have done differently. Do the historic preservation/aesthetic police prohibit a canopy back there? All that said, "Poste Basil Lemontini for the win, Peter."
  6. Solution: when dining with companions who do not appreciate wine as much as you do, order a wine at such a price that you will either: 1) not think twice about an ounce or two of your companions' wine going unsipped 2) be able to afford a second bottle if you want more. I suppose with all the places still around whose drink lists describe the wine with no more specificity than "cabernet" and "chardonnay" and serve them at kitchen or beer fridge temperatures, respectively, that it is nice for him if this is Hitch's biggest problem with wine service.
  7. If I recall my experience with appetizers in the lounge from last winter correctly, portion sizes are about the same as Jaleo/Zaytinya. I think prices ran about a $2 +/- variance from a median of about $10, but commodities prices have risen since then, so YMMV. Also, as I further recall me experience at the Source, brace yourself for levels of upselling rarely encountered outside of car dealerships or mattress stores.
  8. Word. I pulled up in the parking lot about 6:00 pm on opening night and it looked slammed inside. Crowded enough that someone's behind was pressed against the front window. I decided to wait for another opportunity. Do you suppose there was any pent-up demand for something like this in the neighborhood?
  9. OK, I'll add to the pile-on. I was at the one in the "new" Silver Spring for someone's birthday about a month ago and the food was even worse than 2 years ago when I sensed the place was going downhill. I ordered a sampler platter and each item was nigh on inedible. Each item seemed to have a taste like it was 4-5 days old. Bland taste and mushy texture. The college cafeteria angle mentioned above sounds about spot on. Although the salsa still tasted OK, FWIW.
  10. I've been liking the Elizabeth Ros'e that I picked up at Total in McLean. It gives you some of that big California fruitiness taste without feeling like you just took a sip of Robitussin. If you know any red-only drinkers, this is a good first step to get them to lighten up, so to speak.
  11. I was there last September on the first Saturday of the college football season. I had never been, but I was looking for some place that was showing the game I wanted to see. At least on that day, at that time, the young female staff seemed as if it had been hired based on its looks, not its prowess at waiting tables, tending bar, or operating a satellite TV connection. After the manager was finally able to find my game, I saw my team suffer a horrible, humiliating defeat. I'll never say never, but I certainly have no plans to go back.
  12. Interesting. I wonder with all the lobby shop and law firm kitchens in town (not all of them have kitchens, but some of the big ones do) if an enterprising baker could lease time to bake when the kitchens are dark. Could probably get a rate if you allocated some tasty bread to the senior partners each day...
  13. I'm not in the baking business, but just off the top of my head, I'd guess that the cupcake has some advantages over slices of a whole cake. 1. You can eat a cupcake with one hand and no plates or utensils, so it is good for carryout = more $/sq ft of store. 2. People watching their weight will rationalize away one cupcake, rather than buying a whole cake and having to look at it in the fridge all week. As to why there aren't more bakeries/butcheries selling great food, I think it again comes down to economics. Making great bread or running a great butcher shop is very, very labor intensive and very exhusting, and people don't seem to want to pay for the difference. You can get an edible machine-made baguette in this town for $2.00 or so. Given that, how many are willing to pay $5.00 or whatever for one that is had-made and awesome? Probably a lot of us on here, but I bet not enough of us to make it worth someone working 16 hour days. You can only sell bread for so much.
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