Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to Brasserie Beck

On Friday I was lucky enough to get a few folks together to check out Brasserie Beck, for me as a second time. I was there on its third day of operation in April for a birthday dinner and had a wonderful experience, and was very pleased to be back. The bar was quite crowded, particularly for an evening in late August, but the crowd was bubbly and fun and the vibe was very positive. I ordered a glass of Melon Muscadet "Sur Lie" Domaine la Quilla, Sevre & Maine Loire. The taste was just slightly sweet but overall fresh and crisp. Perfect for a steamy night in late August. My Dad loves Belgian beers and was more than excited when he took a peek at Beck's really quite phenomenal beer list. He made a plan to sample several varieties over the course of the evening and to start with a lighter Saison. I had a taste and it was light and delicious and reminded me of a Hefeweizen with a bit of spice. I got a bit or coriander and orange peel on the nose. Really a nice choice. Others arrived and we were seated at a table toward the back of the space. I was a little disappointed we were not in view of one of the flat-screen tv's throughout the restaurant that showcase the food going out to the restaurant, but no worries. We started off with a bottle of the Muscadet and my Dad went on to order one fo the three Rocheforts on the menu. This was darker and much more full-bodied. Very delicious though. We ordered a dozen oysters and this evening got four each of Miyagi, Gold Creek and Kumamoto. The Gold Creeks were quite large and creamy - nice but I prefer small, briny oysters generally speaking. The Miyagis and Kumamotos were more to my liking and fresh and delicious. I ordered the Spinach Salad with Caramelized Shallots, Blue Tag Cheese and Mustard Vinaigrette. The salad is quite large and also has a nice amount of egg and bacon bits and the vinaigrette it is served with is beautifully light and mustardy. I also had some of the Curry and Apple Mussels which were delicious. Others ordered the Napoleon of Vine Ripe Tomato with Pipe Dream Goat Cheese and Scallion Balsamic Dressing. It looked beautiful, and note for vegetarians the salad comes with a slice of dried meat as a garnish. The Frissee Salad with Lardons, Poached Egg and Sherry Vinaigrette also got a good review. All in all great food and drink and a really nice newish venue I'd recommend popping by when you can for sure.

Brasserie Beck
1101 K Street in NW DC

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dinner at Proof

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of returning to Proof, this time not just for wine but for dinner. It being late August, the place was fairly crowded but not nearly as cramped as it was when I was there about a month ago. We were seated at a cozy table near the back of the space and next to a window looking out onto G Street. Defintely a little distracting but a nice spot in the venue for sure. The menu is quite seasonal and prices are certainly not cheap but not super pricey either. Appetizers average $8 a piece, entrees comes in around $24 for the most part and sides are around $7. I do, however, think that the wine list is a bit pricey. There are no options by the glass under $9.50, and I just don't think you need to spend almost $10 to get a good glass of wine. It was a rare somewhat cool evening in August, so I broke the white wine trend I have been on and ordered a Cote du Rhone which was a nice red blend and fairly light as well which I always enjoy in the beginning of a meal. My friend had a Syrah which was quite a bit bigger than what I was having, but very tasty indeed. To start, at Proof diners receive toasted flatbread with a side of very creamy goat cheese with chopped cilantro and olive oil. The combination may sound a bit different but it actually works well. The goat cheese is very smooth and the consistency is more like a tartar sauce than a soft cheese. The flavors are all savory and a bit tart, which certainly gets the taste buds primed for the meal as well. I apparently needed to fill up on veg as I was most tempted by a starter of french green beans, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, and also was in the mood for a side of bok choy. The green bean salad was really delicious - the green beans were tender but firm, the tomatoes gorgeous in their flavor and almost purple in color, and the Parmesan cheese was a nice nutty and rich flavor to end each bite with. The seasoning was good and the olive oil used was quite fruity and delicious. The bok choy was well-cooked and served with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. A very simple preparation but one that works beautifully. My friend had roasted pork tenderloin served with a corn vegetable medley. The pork was cooked very well - a bit pink in the center and very tender - and the corn medley was actually quite sweet, which worked well with the flavor of the meat. I think there was a bit of sweet cream cooked in with the corn and red peppers. The presentation was nice as well - the pork was thickly sliced and arranged in a wheel sort of fashion atop a nice pile of the vegetable medley and the dish was garnished with chopped parsley. We finished with a cheese plate featuring a goat cheese, a blue and a Comte. The plate comes with thinly sliced and toasted raisin bread and golden raisins. A great way to end the meal for sure, and also a perfect pairing with more wine if you so desire. As to other food options, the menu offers several other salads to start as well as several different types of flatbread served with a variety of vegetables, fruits, cheeses and sauces. There is a sablefish entree which features a nice Asian preparation and miso sauce which looked very nice, and also a roast chicken which was appealing. I think we both enjoyed the dinner very much, but I do wish Proof would add a few inexpensive by the glass and bottle offerings to its wine list.

775 G Street in NW DC

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fabbioli Cellars

Just a quick plug for a winery I visited over the weekend. It's much smaller than any most of you probably have been to, but the wine is delicious and the setting quaint and really lovely. We tasted the Sunset Hills Vineyard 2006 Chardonnay, which unlike most Chardonnays is fermented in stainless steel and not oak, so the flavor is balanced with hints of floral, apple, pear and citrus. Really nice and refreshing. We also had the Fabbioli 2006 Chambourcin, Fabbioli 2006 Cabernet Franc, Fabbioli 2005 Tre Sorelle, and Fabbioli Raspberry Merlot. The Chambourcin was my favorite - really light and just fruity and yummy. Perfect for the cooler weather we had this past weekend. The Cabernet Franc was peppery but not overly so and was a bit hit among the Franc lovers. The Tre Sorelle is Fabbioli's signature offering, and was a bigger wine than the previous two reds, but still fruity on the nose and the palate and had a nice structure as well. The Raspberry Merlot is really a feat - it smells like ripe raspberries and is sweet but not overpoweringly so. Doug Fabbioli, the owner of the vineyard, serves this up with chocolate and it's a great match. If you have a group of 15 to 20, the porch on Doug's house is a perfect place for a celebratory gathering. Just be sure to call in advance. Currently the tasting room is open Fridays and Saturdays. Enjoy.

Fabbioli Cellars
15669 Limestone School Road in Leesburg, VA

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Corkage Fee at Dino, Revisited

The wine club went to Dino again for one of their no corkage fee nights, which until the end of the month is every Monday through Wednesday. A heads up that starting after Labor Day, the no corkage fee nights will be Tuesday and Thursday. Everyone brought a really great bottle, nice job folks. The bottles ranged from a 1990 red from Alsace to a gorgeous Ridge Zinfandel, several Syrahs and a couple of dry whites. We were seated in the back room in the upstairs area which makes for a cozy evening and is a great little mini-ambiance for a group of size. I ordered the usual fare for me. I split with two others the Tris di Crostini, which is crisp breads topped with one of heirloom tomato, ragusano cheese and pesto, or white bean and mushrooms. The flavors were nice, but there wasn't enough of each topping to really enjoy them. Not sure why they aren't doing the topping of bleu cheese and caramelized onions anymore either, but it was a nice way to start the meal nonetheless. Numerous other of the group ordered several appetizers and made it dinner. Favorites were Burrata, or Bufala Cheese air-freighted from Campania every Sunday & Thursday, and fresh ricotta stuffed fresh mozzarella, with olive & red pepper tapenades, oven tomatoes, olio, and basil; Antiapasti della Casa, or a meat and cheese plate featuring an assortment of marinated and grilled or roasted vegtgies, cured meats, and cheeses; Fiori di Zucca, or fried squash blossoms stuffed with smoked mozzarella, panko, spicy tomato coulis, and pesto; Polenta all’Estate, or summer polenta made with milk and grana with your choice of: grilled sausage in rich pomodoro or: pancetta or: roasted wild mushrooms (the sausage option seemed to be the favorite); and Crespelle con Pollo e Carciofi, or Dino's modern take on a traditional Tuscan crepe showcasing chicken, artichoke, roasted tomato, smoked mozzarella, pesto and tomato sauce. For my main I had Insalata di Fagioli e Farro 9Traditional Tuscan Grain & Bean Salad, with fava, borlotti and cannelini beans, peas, farro, roasted veggies and artichoke, lemon olio herb dressing and I topped it with grilled chicken. A fairly healthy and definitely satisfying option every time. I have never been on one of these outings when the group actually finishes the wine everyone brought, but then again I always tend to leave earlier than many folks. This night was no different, but I think a good time was had by all. Thanks again to Dino for another great evening.

3435 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Couple of Local Events

Wanted to share details regarding a couple of local events that sound fun for the foodies out there. Enjoy.

5 Million Burritos Sold Celebration
California Tortilla is celebrating selling its 5 millionth burrito this Wednesday, August 15. Apparently rigorous calculations have led to the conclusion that the 5 millionth burrito will be sold this Wednesday. At each California Tortilla location, the first 100 customers to purchase an entree on Wednesday will receive a commemorative t-shirt as well as a coupon for a free entree.
For locations and more information, check out http://www.californiatortilla.com/

La Dolce Vita at CakeBar
Indulge your taste buds with a sampling of luscious, sweet wines - from a rich, honeyed Sauterne to a crisp, refreshing ice wine. Rich pastries, carefully chosen to bring out the best notes of the wines, will be flavored with oranges, caramel and spices. And to balance your palette with something savory, a selection of artisan cheeses.
This event's featured Cake Cocktail is Orange Cream - orange cake layers squeezed between orange marmalade and orange creme fraiche frosting, all saturated with Grand Marnier.
Event Information
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Reflections Studio631 Pennsylvania Avenue SEWashington, DC 20003
1/2 block from the Eastern Market metro
Tickets: $25
Purchase tickets in advance via http://www.thecakebarandlounge.com/events.html

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quick and Easy Recipes

In “SUMMER Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less,” the Minimalist column of the New York Times which was published on July 18, numerous simple and tasty recipes were set forth. Earlier this week The Times listed a few simple and tasty recipes suggested by readers in response to the article. I tried several of them, and a few favorites of mine include:

The Greek fried egg: Heat olive oil gently in a skillet with fresh oregano; fry eggs in it. Pour into a bowl and top with crumbled feta cheese and a handful of olives. Serve with country bread.
Bean-and-tuna salad: Good, olive-oil packed tuna is a must here: Combine two cups of cannellini beans, drained, with a minced red onion, a can of tuna, olive oil and salt and pepper as needed. Chopped sage is great in this, as are rosemary and basil.

Check it out if you get a chance...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Restaurant Week Dinner at Sette Bello

I think Restaurant Week is a really great thing in that it gets folks out to new spots, and encourages trying new cuisines and thinking and talking about food. Since I dine out fairly often anyhow and also don't generally eat dessert, it isn't really the best deal for me. But I usually do at least one outing during each Restaurant Week. Last night I dined at Sette Bello in Clarendon, the sister restaurant to Sette Osteria in Dupont and Cafe Milano in Georgetown. Sette Bello may be my favorite of the three - it's casual and airy space lends itself to the fairly simple menu and the vibe is always upbeat. The Restaurant Week menu is actually quite generous in that you get four courses, each of a healthy size as far as portion goes. You start with a choice of Fiori di Zucca Ripieni con Salsetta al Pomodoro, or stuffed zucchini blossom with tomato sauce and field greens, or Vitello tonnato con Capperi, which is roasted veal in a tonnato sauce and Pantelleria capers. The zucchini blossoms got rave reviews. Then there is an interlude featuring Tagliolini con le Vave Pancetta e Pecorino, or tagliolini pasta with fava beans, pancetta and pecorino cheese. The fava beans were deliciously fresh and really a beautiful burst of green in the dish. Each dish was generally reviewed positively. For the entree, the two choices are Incontro di Agnello al Forno, or roasted lamb two ways with potatoes and aglianico red wine sauce, or Rana Pescatrice in Guazzetto di Zucchine e Patate, or monk fish with a zucchini and potatoes guazzetto. The dessert is Torta di ricotta con Salsa alla Vaniglia, or Italian-style ricotta cheese cake with vanilla sauce. The thick and rich ricotta made for a really tasty and filling dessert, for the few who had any more room left for more. I opted for my standard Calamari Panarea, or sauteed calamari with capers, olives and tomato for a starter, and had the Campagnola Salad, which features arugula and shaved fennel with pecorino Campano and lemon vinaigrette, and topped it with grilled chicken. We all enjoyed a few bottles of crisp Pinot Grigio with the meal. The service wasn't quite stellar, but we really enjoyed the other elements of the evening. A great choice for Restaurant Week for sure.

Sette Bello
3101 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Menu Items at Zorba's

Last time I was at Zorba's I took the opportunity to try a couple of the new items on their menu - the Terokafteree, or "Fire Feta," which is a spicy feta cheese spread served with two large pitas, and Melitzanosalata, or "Baba Ganouz," which is Zorba's take on the eggplant dip with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice which is served with pitas. Both are gorgeous. The Fire Feta really is hot though, so keep the bites on the smaller side. The Baba is fresh and creamy and a great addition to the menu. My favorite items are still the Hummus, Aegean Salad with Grilled Souvlaki Skewers (chicken or pork tenderloin), the Pizza Santorini (which is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, yero meat, feta cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, red onions and Kalamata olives) and the Mousaka (layers of freshly pan-fried eggplant, potatoes, ground beef with herbs all baked with a top layer of bechamel sauce). Zorba's is fun and the food is tasty and inexpensive. Their patio is the perfect place to enjoy it all on a not too crazy hot summer's evening.

1612 20th Street in NW DC

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Les Moules at Bistro du Coin

Wanted to pass along an idea for dining during the August heat - step inside the spacious and airy Bistro du Coin ("corner bistro") and cool off with a crisp glass of Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps one of the cold Belgian beers on tap, and order one of the varieties of moules, or mussels. If you haven't been, Bistro du Coin is a great go-to spot in that the food is usually very good, the place is almost always crowded and has a very upbeat vibe. When the weather permits, the front glass windows are opened and you really feel like you are in a busy bistro in Europe. I usually pair the mussels with a salad, but there are also heartier meat options - think Steak Frites, Foie Gras, Smoked Duck, Beef or Lamb Stew, Boeuf Bourgignon, Tartines and the like - should you choose to do a bigger meal. I enjoyed the Salade verte au Roquefort, or green salad with Roquefort cheese and walnuts and a slightly creamy house dressing, and went for my favorite of the mussel preparations - Moules au Pistou, or steamed mussels with pesto, prosciutto and French ham. I also had a few of the Moules MariniƩres, or steamed mussels in white wine with onions, shallots, and parsley. They were delicious as well but I really enjoy the pungent pesto and the salty ham with the creamy and tasty bi-valves. You can order any of the mussels dishes in a small or large size. The large size doesn't afford you too many more mussels but you do get a sizeable bowl of deliciously crisp and golden frites. Hope you make time to enjoy the food and vibe at Bistro du Coin sometime soon.

Bistro du Coin
1738 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Proof, A New Wine Bar and Restaurant In DC

Some members of the wine club went to the new wine bar Proof last night. Located in the heart of Gallery Place on G Street, the space isn't much from the outside, but when you enter you are greeted with a minimalist and modern vibe with clean lines, white walls with little decor, largely tiled flooring and hues of medium-toned wood throughout. The bar area is just to your left and it seats around 10 and there are a couple of booths to relax on as well. The dining room is somewhat cozy and probably seats no more than about 100. Above the bar are several flat screen televisions which showcase portraits of various figures, new (such as Hilary Clinton) and old (George Washington), which actually seems a bit strange given the modern ambiance and the fact that they hang just above the cooling apparatus for all of the wines offered by the glass. The wine list is fairly extensive and there are around 30 options by the glass available in three pours (two, six, and eight and a half ounces) and claims of a 4,000-bottle wine cellar and champagne trolley. I found the options to be appealing generally, and enjoyed the Spanish Rioja I opted for throughout the evening, but I didn't see anything under $9 a glass and even in this day and age that seems a bit pricey. The group generally enjoyed the place and several folks ordered the cheese plate to snack on. The portions are small but the cheeses are beautiful and are paired with flatbread and jellied currants. Other menu options include small and large plates with options like tuna tartare, risotto, and mussel chowder. The food agenda is to hook the going-out crowd with the promise of an eventual late-night menu (grilled cheese, scrambled eggs). I would recommend stopping by for a glass of wine to check the space out, but be ready to pay a bit for the experience.

775 G Street in NW DC