Thursday, August 28, 2008

If it ain't broke...

As I've noted previously, DC has become quite the trend-loving town. I fully embraced the boutique burger influx, but now, I'm faced with the decision of which DC trend to explore next.

I mean, we've got the Fro-Yo craze, with TangySweet and Mr. Yogato following on the heels of SweetGreen, and a long-rumored Pinkberry. Also, a la Arlington's EatBar, gastropubs have popped up in the Columbias - Heights and Maryland. And most indicative of DC's need to embrace trends, bitches watch out, because cupcakeries are the new black. I mean, Holy Cupcake Batman, if not our everyday citizens, our local media and bloggers are game to prove that Washingtonians sure can embrace a trend.

In addition to following in the footsteps of other city's trends, it seems we're also perfectly happy to welcome their chain casual-dining destinations as well. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I think it's all great - I'll just use this opportunity to shout out that the 22201 is willing to welcome new culinary commerce as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the Road Again...

So, as you may have noticed, my blogs have been less than frequent as of late. Traveling will do that for you. It will also provide lots of material about which to blog. So, a summary of my recent tour of five Eastern locales....

Lake Michigan's Eastern Shore

Ok, you're right, this is not so much a city, but rather a region. Indeed, it is the region of my roots. One of my favorite treats when returning home, apart from the plethora of breakfast-only diners that dot mine and other small towns in the area, is fresh water fish. Whether grilled, broiled, or fried, such varieties as bass, walleye, pollack, and bluegill are always scrumptious. None, however, compare to perch. After enjoying a plateful at the local Elk's Lodge for less than $10, this tasteful memory of my travels is the most vivid. If you ever find yourself in the Great Lakes region, this is a must.

Now, a short bonus lesson for you city-dwellers. In case perch ever adorns a menu around these parts (which sadly, it never seems to), remember this simple rule. Lake perch is one of the most mouth-watering delicacies you may ever enjoy; ocean perch is a overly salty, mushy excuse for fish. The distinction often seems lost in this area, but the difference cannot be stressed enough. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME - I'm talking to you, fish monger at the Maine Avenue fish market - you need to know the difference between perch from the Atlantic, Lake Michigan, and whatever you pointed out that had found it's nasty way out of the Potomac. Not all perch are created equal, but if you choose carefully, you will be rewarded.

On to the Windy City....

Chicago

There are two foods I always associate with Chicago - deep dish pizza and Polish sausage. Given that I was in town for a day and a half, I judged that my stomach lining could not handle both in close proximity, so I was forced to choose. I went with the deep dish. One could debate one deep dish joint over the next for years. Don't worry, Chicagoans will continue to carry that flame on our behalf ... Personally, I usually choose Lou Malnati's. There are several reasons for this - their sausage is served in large chunks, you can call ahead to order for purposes of reducing your wait time before that first bite, and finally, with so many locations, you're likely close to at least one outpost.

Really, deep dish is pretty simple. I mean, when we are talking about this many calories, it's bound to taste good, right?! What makes a Chicago-style crust different, in addition to the obvious increased depth, are cornmeal and lots of butter. Not too much sauce, not too much cheese. Keep those pointers in mind, and you are bound to find pure joy. Just one other thing to remember.... don't pretend to order spinach thin-crust and then place your grubby paws on my sausage pie. It will not end well for you!!

Philadelphia

With my whirlwind visit, I did not have a lot of dining opportunities. While I'd hoped to visit Morimoto, the timing just didn't work out. I did walk by, and the oddly-shaped nature of the exterior was not particularly inviting. In the end, I wasn't all that disappointed. Instead, I was treated to a catered hoagie lunch. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up a nagging question that has continued to bother me - Practically speaking, what is the difference between a hoagie, grinder, hero, submarine, deli sandwich??? Any insight would be appreciated.

Atlanta

A work-related trip took me to the ATL, land of strip clubs and CNN. While I wasn't generally impressed with the prices or offerings of Atlanta, at least in the city itself, we were able to locate a couple of finds. Our per diem for the week was spent at Richard Blaise's Home. On par with local destinations such as 1789 and L'Auberge Chez Francois, Home is Atlanta destination dining. Rather than going through a course by course analysis, I'd rather talk about our experience as a whole. It can be summed up in two words - Southern Charm. The ambiance in the wine cellar for our group of 15 was intimate and warm. The service was friendly, polite, and knowledgeable. We were even treated to a short visit with the chef, whose main concern genuinely seemed to be our pleasure with his food. Order heavy southern treats here, and you'll leave with a smile.

My only other stop worth noting was one of the least expecting. While out running, past several strip clubs mind you (notice the recurring theme?!), I was intrigued when I passed by Gladys Knight's and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles, and immediately decided to return. Reasonably-priced, this was a great treat. The name says enough - the fried chicken and waffles are the stars of this celebrity-owned show. And you can enjoy the offerings as well - there's a location in Largo.

Washington, DC

Finally, after altogether too much travel, including a 9 hour delay at O'Hare, I was thrilled to return home. Though I was out of town for most of restaurant week, we were able to fit in one reservation. I'd had Acadiana on my list for quite some time, so restaurant week seemed a perfect opportunity to try it out. All in all, I'd give it a C. If you've ever been to N'awlins, then you would likely agree that is far from authentic Cajun. The gumbo is not the Brennan family recipe, but that doesn't mean I left any on my plate. The turtle soup approximated what I had come to expect of the dish. The desserts were sweet and satisfying, but not memorable. What can I say? I have high standards for creole cuisine. That being said, this is the closest you're going to get in DC.

Ok, now I'm exhausted yet again. There's still more travel on the agenda (though Hurricane Gustav may put a kink in those plans), so look forward to more travel posts soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend in Review: Monterey Bay Fish Grotto
















For some time now, I've been excited to try Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, open since March, when the Lerners opened this outpost of the Pittsburgh chain. Washingtonian's recent review, of course, raised some concerns, but I'm a seafood fanatic, so I remained steadfast in my quest to try it. Last weekend provided an opportunity, and I'm quite pleased that we took that opportunity.

"The Grotto" captures the essence of Tyson's. Most tables enjoy views of the office buildings and areas cleared for potential development, several high-end sports cars are parked in the valet area, and most of my fellow diners were typical shoppers (you know the type) from the nearby Galleria at Tyson's, all indicative of quintessential Tyson's Corner. I was comfortable, nevertheless, in the appropriate space adorned with hanging wicker fish and glass waterfall murals. A section of the restaurant is free standing, and is reminiscent of the fish houses lining Monterey Bay in central California (the structure, not the atmosphere in the dining room).

The menu is extensive, and heavy for that matter, with twenty-three varieties of fresh fish available on this occasion. According to our waiter (who, while informative, was at times overly self-wise), all of the fish, including the Hawaiian-caught, is flown in within 24 hours. Diners are given recommendations in terms of preparation, though as we are told, fish can be done "any way you want it". Also on the menu for the evening was an $85 tasting menu, complete with five courses. While it sounded tempting, especially Black Squid Linguini, for which I'm always game, the options were limited. In the end, we wanted more choice than decadence, and chose to order a la carte. I was disappointed, however, to find that the linguine could not be ordered separate and apart from the tasting menu.

Among the guests at our table, the Artisan breads were a hit, including a pretzel roll, which I must say was FAB-U-LOUS. For appetizers, the Ahi Sashimi Quartet was heaven, including tuna-wrapped lump crab, and three seperate tartare presentations. I will recite this once, and only once - order a Hawaiian fish here. Yes, there are 23 varieties of other fish, and all sorts of other distractions, but save yourself the time, and do as I say. The Walu Escolar, Ono, and Opaka-Paka are all delicious, as are the Caribbean and Forbidden preparations. Dessert was also a treat, particularly the luscious Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake.

Really, I don't have many complaints. The shrimp cocktail, served with a presentation of dry ice, lacked a flavorful cocktail sauce. The Hot Chocolate Latte, though tasty, was a bit heavy to accompany fish. But, really, when these are your complaints, there isn't much to complain about. Evidently, other locals agree.

I would note is that if you don't eat fish, don't bother coming here. It would be a waste to order anything else (including the fried seafood offerings). We actually saw a large family march in, with six or seven kids ordering hot dogs and spaghetti - it seemed such a waste of the cuisine, and the occasion. Speaking of occasions, this is a great spot to celebrate. The prices are steep, so this destination is perfect for a celebratory treat (perhaps on mom and dad?!). The apparent Japanese and Hawaiian influences make this a unique dining experience from the sea - a must on my list.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Heart My Mango Slicer


I bought my OXO-brand mango slicer about a month ago, much to the dismay of my husband, who thinks it's inefficient to have a kitchen tool for one single solitary purpose. Well, I don't see why one has to purchase new versions of NBA Live and Madden every year - Can't the games just get an update for the new players ever year?! But, I bite my lip, and I'll continue to so. But, that does not mean I'll do without my mango slicer.

I used it for the first time today, and I must say, I love my mango slicer. It is awesome. I did not have to cut the pit, or eat around it, or generally make nearly the mess I usually. And at the end, the sweet satisfying taste of creamy ripe luscious mango. Yum - I'm a happy girl.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

THE LIST

Been out of town for a few days, so no new posts lately. Meant to add this before I left, but alas all things that one is supposed to do before one leaves are left by the wayside for the things that one has to do before one leaves. Anyhow, below, in no particular order, I've included THE LIST, the restaurants I want to try and keep in my little black book to visit some time soon. I'd love to hear what everyone thinks.....

Cowboy Cafe
Eli's Delicatessan
Zorba's
Plum Blossom
Kemble Park Tavern
Blue Duck Tavern
Marvin
Morrison Clark Inn
Bangkok Joe's
DC Coast
La Strada
Cassatt's
Flavors Soul Food
Buck's Camping and Fishing
Comet Ping Pong
Woodmont Grill
Cynthia's
Bistrot du Coin
2941
Redwood
Citronelle
Domaso
Bastille
CityZen
Obelisk
Soo Woon Gabi

Some in the city, others not. Let me know what you like. What's worth the trip? What's all hype? So, while I play catch up for a few days from my out of town trip (look for posts soon on my Midwestern favorites), comment amongst yourselves.