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Ice House Cafe, Elden Street in Herndon

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My husband and I had lunch at Ice House Cafe (in Herndon) for the first time today, on our way to dropping him off at Dulles Airport. It's a very convenient spot for that, being about 15 minutes' drive from the airport.

We both had one of their soups du jour: gazpacho with a pile of lump crabmeat in the center of the shallow bowl. It was refreshing, and the lump crab was very good quality, but was overwhelmed by the spiciness of the soup. Although I am genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap, (and didn't know what cilantro was doing on gazpacho anyway,) I enjoyed the soup.

I had the salad du jour: steak on a bed of mixed greens, with roasted brie (?) and bleu cheese dressing. The steak was perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned. I really enjoyed the house-made bleu cheese dressing.

My husband had the Havana pork loin sandwich. He said he liked it very much, but would probably try something different next time.

Service was friendly, professional, and unobtrusive.

We'll definitely make a return visit next time we are heading for Dulles.

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I hadn't been to Ice House Cafe in years. When I was strolling over to the bar last night, I couldn't help noticing, "this jazz band is surprisingly good."

Ice House Cafe is a wood-heavy saloon, but the service staff is dressy, my (friendly, efficient) bartender Jeff wearing a vest and a tie. By far, the best beer they had - and really, the only beer they had worth drinking - was the fine Duck Rabbit Milk Stout ($6.50) on draft (anyone who doesn't like stout should give this a try - it's brewed with milk sugar (lactose) which has a slight effect of putting light cream and sugar in your coffee, cutting the bitterness).

This place is Vegetarian Hell, but I did find a Vegetarian Delight ($15.95) which was a decently cooked, boxed linguini with a whole mish-mash of fresh-cut veggies on top (grilled asparagus, zucchini, portobello, and several others), topped with a pretty good basil pesto sauce. Afterthought pastas such as this are usually drab, but this one wasn't at all bad, mainly because the saucing was a backdrop and not anything gloppy. Along with a basket of surprisingly good, warm bread and real butter, this somewhat expensive dish was more than enough food for the average person.

But I'm me, so I got the Warm Brie ($7.95) for my cheese course, a pan-seared Brie coasted with a few bread crumbs, and served on top of "wilted" spinach that was really just fresh spinach leaves, barely warmed, and topped with a little sweet basil vinaigrette. I'm a sucker for warm Brie, and this was one of the best versions I've had in awhile (the pan-searing and the breadcrumbs added a lot, and there was seemingly very little rind).

Back to the jazz band: On this evening, there were three capable musicians: a drummer, a bassist, and a pianist. When they were between sets, I walked over and told them how much I enjoyed listening to them. The pianist - who was struggling on Ice House's brown wooden grand, laughed and mentioned that it was a tough instrument to play on. It turns out he's a pretty serious musician: Robert Boguslaw, who not only plays in the U.S. Marine Band, but also has several jazz groups called The Way, The Rock Creek Trio, and this one, Real Live Jazz. (3-zero-1) 385-sixty-nine-ninety-three if you're looking for a capable jazz band.

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