Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kudos

Locals make good....Looks like The Bitten Word is world renowned folks, and Spike, still making DC proud with his Good Stuff at Food Network's Burger Bash at the SoBe food and wine festival.

Now, if only Maryland (hate those Dukies) and Carla on Top Chef can pull it out tonight...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

And The Winner Is....

....PassionFish!!

This year's restaurant week was full of pleasantries....seriously, not a bad pick in the bunch. All in all, I don't have major complaints about any of our meals. Amongst them, Adour, Poste, and Tosca as well. Adour offered a short but refined menu with tasty, well-executed dishes at a much reduced fare. Poste was also a nice experience, with a particularly satisfying striped bass, though the choices focused a bit too heavily on poached eggs. Tosca's food (especially the pasta) and service were exemplary, given a packed RW house, and the offerings covered almost the entire menu with only two upcharges. Yet, PassionFish established itself as the clear winner.

In terms of factors, I would consider value and taste to be my primary considerations, with service (given those special RW complications) following closely behind. So, let's get to the critical analysis...at this point, I should point out, if you don't like fish, you may as well stop reading now:

1) Value: Apps and desserts were slightly limited, but every entree on the menu was included on the list. Plus, the servings were very generous with and full of pricey goodies, like lobster and crab. Our table ended up adding a sushi roll, but amongst our group were some really, I mean really big eaters. BTW, the PassionFish roll, a rainbow roll with a twist, was a big hit with us.

2) Taste: Ok, this is the really the category that gets me every time. Crappy service and high prices can be overlooked (though not issues on this particular evening) when you reach bliss in a bite. I had several of these bliss moments over the course of our meal. First, the butternut squash and lobster bisque was heavenly, adding richness with squash rather than just cream (not that I can pretend that cream was absent, but a girl can dream!). That's not to overlook the "bread", which was a very accurate approximation of Win Schuler's bar-scheeze and schips...Michiganders know what I'm talking about... Also great are the classic ceviche and monkfish. The must-have dish would probably be the whole crispy flounder. Served in a thai basil sauce, the fish was flavorful and light. Dessert is included with a RW menu, but I would rather get my sugar in the form of cocktails here. There are some truly unique selections, including the Marie Antoinette and a variety of bellinis that sound fabulous.

3) Service: Also stellar. A busy night with RW craziness and large tables presented a challenge, but our waiter was definitely up to the task. Kudos for great recommendations and none of the RW snootiness that can sometime plague servers concerned about their "discount" tips. We also were seated immediately even though we arrived 15 minutes before our reservations. What a way to make guests feel welcome.

Still on the list...Cafe Atlantico, with a two-week Restaurant Week menu. I'll be sure to edit my post accordingly.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Best and Worst for Restaurant Week

Restaurant week is always an adventure. There are winners, and there are losers. Either way, it's always a great opportunity to determine just which restaurants are worth full price.

Dino is a great pick. With the option of a half pasta, or hot or cold antipasti for the first course, plus the availability of everything on the menu, their RW menu is full of delicious options. I would recommend any of the fish or pasta options for the main course here, particularly the tilefish. The option of adding a $4 cheese course seems like a bargain. However, with grappa and a satisfying dolce course still to go, the fromaggio may just be too much, even if the price tag is under $40.

In all fairness, Dino's "restaurant week" deal is available most of the time right now, not just the 16th through the 20th. There's also always the early-bird menu, for pre-theater or other dining prior to 7 pm ($24). Plus, their Valentine's menu shames other restaurants with a $59 price tag. So, while the RW deal is not the only way to take advantage of the tasty Venetian fare at Dino, you will not regret this reservation.

Other great picks include Capital Grille (yes, cliche, but just try the NY Strip salad), Bistro Bis, TenPenh, and Firefly.

Now, what to avoid. First, I have to put Mio on the list. During our last RW stopover, Mio's offerings were not inspirational, and lacked flavor. Looking forward to the relief of dessert, we found that this course was not only flavorless, but also lacked texture. Only two or three options were available per course. What's worse, nearly half of the menu was unavailable for our 7:00 reservation, hardly late night dining. The service also lagged, even though the restaurant was nearly empty. It was a disaster, and I couldn't fairly recommend Mio to anyone of whom I'm fond.

I also would skip Oya, Domaso, and Oyamel (at least for lunch) this week.

Looking for more recommendations: check out Todd Kliman's guide to restaurant week (v. helpful).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Anti-Valentine's Dinner

So, last night, I tried out Washingtonian's latest frugal foodie dinner, a beet roulade and pork loin with fantasy potatoes from the chef at Evening Star. As always, I edited a bit, adding some frugality of my own. Because I already had shrimp and pork loin (boneless, not bone-in as per the recipe) in the freezer, and my Green Grocer's shipment this week included beets, avocado, and gold potatoes, I was well on my way. I picked up a bit of Gruyere at the Whole Foods salad bar (a great place to look for smaller bites of cheese) as well as a couple of mushroooms and a fennel bulb. I skipped the oysters because I don't care for them and who needs their aprhrodisiac qualities when it's not Valentines, right?! I'm kidding, of course. I also subbed other items I already had in the fridge, ham for the bacon and carrot root for the spinach. Finally, I slightly caramelized some white onion to substitute for the shallots. For me, the cost was more like $4, pretty good for a gourmet dinner at home.

Now, what the meal lacked in cost, it made up for in preparation time. It took me 2 hours to complete the prep and cooking and I think my husband did appreciate my romantic efforts. The potatoes were great, frankly I think ham added a better flavor than bacon would have. The pork loin was quite tasty, but a bit dry. I'm afraid the boneless substitute was not a good choice. The beet roulade was the best course, the flavors mingling perfectly. I will point out that only plastic wrap will lead to a proper roulade. I only had press and seal wrap, which never got tight enough, and mine resembled more of a salad than a roll. One other note, I think this meal is portioned for plenty of leftovers dependent on the size of your beets and potatoes, so don't overload the plate. All in all, a great value and some very delicious courses. The randomness of refined quiet dinner at home, just like our random anti-Valentine's engagement a few years back, provided plenty of romance.

Look forward to losts of new posts soon to celebrate our new readership. I'll be blogging on our recent gastronomic finds in Vegas, restaurant week suggestions, and comparing grocery delivery services in upcoming posts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing


It's February!! Time to celebrate the peak of truffle season. Time to bust out those gourmet goodies and top everything with their delectable shavings. But let me warn you, at least from my own palate's sensitive perspective, limit your portion size. A lengthy meal at the eponymous restaurant of venerable Parisian chef Michel Rostang, one that ended well after midnight, taught me this valuable gastronomic lesson. While we look back fondly on our very expensive meal last February(what is the dollar versus the euro again?), perhaps six courses of truffles is a bit too much. I danced through courses such as truffle terrine, truffle sandwich, truffle salad, truffle soup...you get the point...at least the cheese and dessert courses were truffle-free. Now, don't get me wrong, this was probably the most decadent dining experience of my life. Everything was incredibly rich, flavorful, and the souffle may be the best I have ever had (a close tie with La Grenouille in New York). Our favorite part of the meal was perhaps when our waiter explained that dogs have replaced les couchons (or, pigs) as truffle sniffers because the pigs eat too many. It was wonderful, but it was just too much. I looked ridiculously bloated in my fancy dress, my belly hurt, and my senses were overloaded. When I left, I didn't want to see a truffle for weeks, and a year later, I'm still not sure I do. Perhaps I should have remembered when ordering, all things in moderation....