Monday, February 26, 2007

Saturday at Linden Vineyards

The wine club that I assist in organizing decided to do a lovely Saturday at Linden Vineyards. Linden is a family-owned vineyard, and is absolutely my favorite winery in the (somewhat) close-to-DC region of Virginia, because I enjoy their wines quite a bit but also due to the really gorgeous location and relaxed ambiance found in the tasting room. Allan and I arrived a bit later than the rest of the group, who already had found a perfect table on Linden's beautiful patio and were enjoying a couple of bottles of wine, venison sausage, baguette and several varieties of cheese. During the colder months, Linden encloses most of its patio area, which is mostly glass walls which allow visitors to enjoy the view of rolling hills and countryside. The space is open air when the temperatures allow it. We did both the regular tasting, which is complimentary, as well as the cellar tasting which is $12 a person. The regular tasting features both varieties that are my favorites at Linden - Seyval (I usually don't like whites but this is a great one) and Claret, as well as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Vidal Reisling. The Claret is absolutely gorgeous - ripe with juicy fruit, and nicely well balanced. I didn't enjoy the Chardonnay, but I almost never like Chardonnays, the Cabernet Franc was slightly flat, and the Vidal Reisling was sweet but not overly so. We ordered a bottle of Claret and joined the rest of the group. We also ordered a venison sausage and a couple of cheeses - a lovely cheddar-style Derby, Merry Goat Round Chevre and Shiitake Leek made from Jersey cow's milk. Yum. The cellar tasting is held in the lower level, and features two Chardonnays - 1999 Hardscrabble (one of the winery's vineyards) and 2002 Hardscrabble, 2004 Boiseau and 2004 Avenius (the other two names of the winery's vineyards), and a 2004 Late Harvest. I actually loved the 1999 Hardscrabble Chardonnay, as it was bursting with pineapple and tasted almost nothing like a typical Chardonnay to me, and also enjoyed the somewhat light-bodied 2004 Boisseau and more heavy 2004 Avenius. The guide we had for our tasting runs the Avenius vineyard and was knowledgeable regarding Linden's vineyards, wines and history, as well as grapes and wine generally. We enjoyed the Late Harvest with a Gorgonzola Cheesecake - oh my, what a pairing and wow what an amazing creation. Sweet and savory for sure, but just wonderful really. We returned to the group and enjoyed a lazy day of wine, snacks, gorgeous scenery and good company for the remainder of the afternoon and early evening. Really, just a lovely spot.

Linden Vineyards
3708 Harrels Corner Road in Linden, VA

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rosemary's Thyme, and Crepes at L'Enfant

Lisa and I decided to catch up last night. We started with wine and snacks at Rosemary's Thyme. I soon will be doing a "best happy hours" entry, and so don't want to chat too much about the place (as it will most certainly be on the list), but they have a fabulous happy hour which is available seven days a week. The spot is a true neighborhood gathering place and the food is inexpensive and tasty - not much else you can ask for eh? Every day from 4:30 or 5:30 (4:30 on Saturday and Sunday) until 7:30 p.m. various drink specials are available, including my favorite - half-price wine by the bottle. We split a great bottle of Sangiovese. The fruit was juicy and delicious, and the texture smooth and velvety. We ordered the Trio Med for a snack, which is hummus, baba ghanouj and a spicy red sauce that I think is too salty, so we did double hummus instead of the red sauce. The dips come with grilled pita wedges and chips, and it is a really nice pairing with a nice, light- to medium-bodied red wine. The staff is super friendly, and they will know you by name if you pop in on any sort of regular basis. We then walked up 18th Street to L'Enfant, one of my favorite cozy spots in the area. They offer a nice and well-priced wine list as well as traditional European cafe offerings, including a nice selection of salads, grilled meats and both sweet and savory crepes. Lisa ordered the Nutella and Strawberry Crepe, which arrives like a thick line of heaven on a plate, liberally dusted with powdered sugar and with wafts of butter and delicious melted chocolate. I was enjoying a nice glass of Pinot Noir, and just had one good-sized bite of the crepe (I usually am not one for sweets at all), but ahh - such a nice sensation for the senses. I think there also was almond paste mixed in as we both detected a sweet note of almond essence. The crowd was great as well - a nice mix of folks enjoying libations and tasty bites, and all generally having a nice start to the weekend. We enjoyed ourselves quite a bit, and I would highly recommend stopping by both Rosemary's Thyme and L'Enfant when you are in the neighborhood.

Rosemary's Thyme
1801 18th Street in NW DC

2000 18th Street in NW DC

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy Hour at PS7

I have been meaning to check out the relatively new PS7 for a little while now, so I was excited to hear that they were having a happy hour last night. It actually is located only one block from the heart of the action in Gallery Place, but it's location on I Street actually is somewhat quiet. You enter through a large glass door and pass the foyer and are greeted by a couple of friendly folks at the host stand. To the left is the restaurant area of the venue and to the right is the bar area. The bar area space is minimalist yet the dim lighting, granite bar and warm and rich brown tones of the fabric on the couches and seats lend a somewhat cozy feel. The wine list is fairly pricey, but until 7pm each weeknight the bar has happy hour specials, which include a red and white wine from the list. I had the red, which was a Santa Maria Merlot from Chile, and it actually was delicious and almost juicy with fruit. The stemware is fabulous by the way - definitely a fun sight to see folks standing and chatting with a beautiful wine glass in hand. Various snacks are on offer, and crispy crackers with lots of pepper and Asian spices as well as caramel popcorn with nut clusters are complimentary. The snacks are served in hefty, square metallic bowls which makes for a pretty presentation and also compliments the decor nicely. I met a few really nice folks last night, and it seemed like the group generally had a great time.

777 I Street in NW DC

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fat Tuesday at Mezza Luna

Mezza Luna doesn't really have anything to do with New Orleans or Mardi Gras in so far as cuisine or anything else goes, but they had a Fat Tuesday happy hour, so a few friends and I gathered there yesterday evening. The space is more like that of a club than a bar - just a few high tables, dim lighting and sparse decor - but it wasn't too crowded when I arrived so I was happy to get a little area to reserve for later. The happy hour menu has several food options, all for $4, as well as $4 house wines and rail drinks. I ordered a glass of the house Merlot which was totally fine - well-balanced and nothing really stood out, which is what I hope for in a house wine. I also ordered Hummus and Pita Wedges, which actually was quite good. The hummus was thick and rich and topped with diced tomatoes and chopped roasted garlic. The pita wedges were thin and grilled nicely. Janet and Mer had not eaten all day so they finished up the hummus and most of the pita, and joined me in enjoying the house red wine. Soon Sharon, Patrick, Lisa and Lisa's friend Matt all had arrived. We attempted to order the Spanish Omelette and Pork Croquettes, but unfortunately they were out of both items. They did have the Calamari, which was crispy and tasty but had much too much breading for my taste. It came with a nicely herbed marinara sauce which I enjoyed. I also should add that Sharon showed up with about 30 extremely intricate and ornate beads around her neck, and it was fun listening to her share stories from being at the "real deal" in New Orleans several years ago. We actually all had a good time and the bill was fairly sweet thanks to the happy hour prices. If you are in the area, the hummus and $4 house wine selection is worth popping into Mezza Luna for.

Mezza Luna
1140 19th Street in NW DC

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friday Trifecta

It was a bit of a long one this week at work, and no but of course we don't get Monday off, so I was more than ready for a glass of wine after work on Friday. I met Amy at Belga Cafe on the Hill - a really cozy spot with an amazing selection of Belgian and other beers as well as interesting cocktails, a decent wine list and tasty food. I had Belga's house red wine, a Vin du Gard D'Orange, which was well-balanced and just slightly fruity. A perfect house wine. Amy arrived later and ordered one of Belga's beer cocktails, the Orangutang (is that the way the animal name is spelled - cute!), which is Stella Artois, orange juice and a dash of grenadine. The color is a gorgeous juicy pink and served in a traditional Stella glass, and the drink looked and tasted delicious. I hadn't really eaten all day, so even though we were joining our weekly dinner group afterwards, we ordered Belga's frites. They arrive in a cone with faux newspaper lining, and were piping hot. After a quick bite we decided the fries actually needed a bit of salt, which we added, yielding tasty bites of deliciousness which were crispy yet tender and decadent. The texture of the fries varied quite a lot as some were fairly soft and some quite crisp, but it was a treat we were glad we ordered and the strong savory element paired very well with our libations. We had only to walk a few doors down the street to Trattoria Alberto for dinner. You walk upstairs one level to enter the restaurant, and on a chilly evening the cozy atmosphere, dim lighting and scents of rich Italian food were absolutely perfect. We were a large table so our host ordered carafes of the house red and white wine for the group. The red was a Chianti, which I usually don't care for, but this variety actually worked for me, and the white was a Pinot Grigio. I started with a Caesar Salad which was good, but certainly not anything great. I enjoyed the tangy and peppery dressing and the generous helping of Parmesan cheese, but the croutons were definitely out of a box and the lettuce was chopped a bit too finely to be able to make nice, meaty bites. For my main I had Pollo Marsala, which also came with a large portion of Alberto's freshly made pasta. I am not much of one for carbs so I just enjoyed the chicken, which was tender and juicy, and the mushroom and wine sauce it was soaking in added a lot of flavor. The sauce was a bit thick for me, perhaps too much cornstarch, but it was tasty and almost slightly sweet. Folks around me for the most part ordered one or another of the pasta options, and were pleased all around. I had a taste of Amy's Pasta Carbonara, and it was creamy, eggy and yummy but I didn't see or taste much bacon. Alan, who was hosting the group this week, had a veal cutlet which he said was well-cooked and not too saucy. All together the group had just about one of each of the dessert options, including Ice Cream Cake, a Flaming Chocolate Torte with Rum, traditional Tiramisu and Strawberry Cheesecake. I enjoyed my vino and my decadent bite of the Ice Cream Cake, which came with a lovely drizzle of caramel, nuts and a rich and moist chocolate crust. After dinner we walked yet another few doors down to Banana Cafe and topped the evening off with a fun cocktail. Most folks opted for a mojito, which I tasted and enjoyed but they almost always are too much of a mint garden sensation for me. I had a glass of red Zinfandel. Not a bad way to de-stress after a long week eh?

Belga Cafe
514 8th Street in SE DC

Trattoria Alberto
506 8th Street in SE DC

Banana Cafe
500 8th Street in SE DC

Friday, February 16, 2007

Les Frites

There actually is a bit of a lack of spots that do happy hour in the U Street neighborhood, so I find myself dropping into Saint Ex after work on a fairly regular basis. The bar area upstairs is and warm and cozy, I love the jazz usually playing in the background and the food and drinks are great. It can be a bit of an Adams Morgan like scene on weekends, but it usually is fairly mellow on weekdays, and a perfect spot to meet a friend or two to catch up. For drinks, I almost always go with the happy hour house red wine, which for the last month or so has been a delicious Pinot Noir. Thank you to my friend Patrick who I met there for drinks earlier this week, and who ordered Saint Ex's somewhat famous Fried Green Tomatoes BLT. Fried green tomatoes, cheddar cheese, lettuce and applewood smoked bacon arrive open-faced on thick, lightly toasted bread. On the side you have a choice of fries, sweet potato fries or a salad. He got sweet potato fries which were thick cut, crispy and salted with a fabulous coarse finishing salt that made the flavor pop in your mouth without tasting overly salty. I only had one or two fries but will remember the delicious flavor for a while, actually probably until I am at Saint Ex again and I can convince someone to order les frites.

Cafe Saint Ex
1847 14th Street in NW DC

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Romantic Recipes

Whatever your plans are for Valentine's Day, I think it always is romantic and special to cook for someone you care about, so I wanted to pass along a couple of my favorite easy and succulent recipes. I must say the first time I started an evening with a Sgroppino was a few years ago with an ex on New Year's Eve, and I still remember the drink, the venue and most certainly the evening (and yes the guy of course too). No promises the same will result for you, but I advise serving these dishes with your favorite bottle of wine, a mixed green salad and a nice, decadent dessert and voila - a fabulous, as well as hopefully romantic, evening is on upon you.

1 cup chilled Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
2 tablespoons chilled vodka
1/2 cup frozen lemon sorbet
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Pour the Prosecco and vodka into 2 Champagne flutes, diving equally. Spoon a scoop of sorbet into each flute. Sprinkle with mint and serve immediately.
Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons sea salt
2 boneless pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, toast white peppercorns and coriander seeds until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and grind to fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Mix the ground pepper and coriander with remaining spices, cocoa and salt.
Trim the pork tenderloins of fat and silver skin. Rub with a generous amount of the cocoa spice rub. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Sear each tenderloin on all sides until a rich brown color, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove tenderloins from heat and finish in the oven for about 12 to 14 minutes or until cooked through.
Let the tenderloins rest out of the oven for at least 10 minutes before carving.
Gruyere Potato Gratin
1 pound large red potatoes
3/4 cup coarsely grated Gruyere
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk, heated just to boiling
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-quart gratin or shallow baking dish. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Peel potatoes and cut into thin slices. Add potatoes to boiling water and parcook 4 minutes. Drain potatoes well in a colander. In a baking dish, arrange potatoes, overlapping them, in 3 layers, sprinkling first 2 layers each with 1/4 cup Gruyere and salt and pepper, to taste. In a small bowl whisk egg and add hot milk in a stream, stirring constantly. Season mixture with salt and pepper and pour evenly over potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and bake until top is golden and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. A nice bubbly or red wine is perfect with these dishes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Napoleon in Adams Morgan

On Saturday, my friend Amy and I popped into Napoleon, a really cute new spot on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, on our way to a wine tasting nearby. The decor is somewhat minimalist and sparse, but the space feels cozy, with lots of candles, warm and rich off-white walls, and hues of deep, ruby red, black and gold. A hefty granite bar serves as an anchor of sorts in the middle of the venue. We only popped in for a glass of wine, but I can't wait to return and try the Caesar Salad and one of the savory crepes on the menu. Other offerings include mussels, a white bean dip served with crostini, grilled fish and meats and a variety of sweet crepes. The wine list is somewhat abbreviated, but I found a few varieties I wanted to try. I ordered a Lyeth Cabernet, which was somewhat sweet and had a velvety texture. I enjoyed it. Amy had a Da Vinci Chianti Classico. I thought it was ok although a bit too tannic for my taste. I don't usually enjoy Chiantis anyhow. Napoleon is just off the 18th Street strip which keeps it a bit quieter than other locations in the neighborhood, and it seems like a perfect place to relax with a nice bottle of wine and linger over a tasty meal.

1847 Columbia Road in NW DC

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Matchbox, Again

I realize I recently went to and wrote about Matchbox, but I have been asking the organizers of the dinner group I am in to do an event there for months now, so I was very excited to learn we were finally going to dine there. We actually had to do three reservations, as the group last night was about 30 in size, and any night at Matchbox, certainly a Friday night, is certain to be super busy. My group was the last to be seated, which was fine by me as I yet again somehow managed to score my favorite seats at the bar - those at the far end which are somewhat cozy and provide a perfect view of the pizza making. I opted for my favorite wine on Matchbox's list - the Stump Jump (how can you not love the name alone?) - for pre-dinner libations. The bar was quite crowded, and it actually worked out nicely that our tables were seated in a somewhat staggered manner. I got to catch up with folks even if I would not be dining with them. Once seated, my tablemates and I immediately decided to get nine mini burgers, which are a fabulous appetizer for the table. I think the restaurant must get the meat mixed specifically for them, because it is really especially juicy, delicious and rich in flavor. They also always manage to get that nice char-grilled quality without over-drying the meat out. I don't really do carbs, and so I had about half a burger with a sliced pickle and several fried onion straws - fabulous. Mer and Trish and I decided we should do a bottle of Stump Jump to pair with our mains, so we enjoyed that as well. I also ordered my usual Simple Salad, which was good, but I thought the Parmesan crisps tasted overly salty and were baked a few minutes too long. Mer and Matt enjoyed the Spinach Salad, which comes with fresh basil, roasted pear tomatoes, candied walnuts and warm apple smoked bacon vinaigrette. The salad looked beautiful with all of the varied and bright colors, and apparently the nut mixture had perhaps some Jalapenos? Mer and Matt both said the nuts had quite a kick. We were six at our table, which provides a nice opportunity to try several pizzas and other dishes. The Spicy Meatball pizza is my favorite, so I convinced Chris to share one with me. Mer does not eat red meat but loves chicken, so she ordered the Q Special, which comes with grilled herb marinated chicken, portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, zesty tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella. It was delicious. Trish likes spicy food, and she ordered the Fire & Smoke, which is described as very spicy, and comes with fire roasted red peppers, sweet onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, smoked gouda and fresh basil. It was very tasty and certainly quite spicy, but not one of my favorites. I only eat the cheese and other toppings (the no bread thing - just think it's sort of a waste of calories), so was able to sample a slice of each variety, so it was a pizza smorgasbord of sorts. So fabulous. We collectively finished our wine and decided to join friends at IndeBleu for after dinner drinks, to continue the lovely evening and hopefully work off a bit of our delicious dinner as well.

713 H Street in NW DC

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Satisfying Soup

With the recent cold weather I have started to have soup for breakfast. I just heat it up at work and it is actually a really satisfying morning meal. So far I have been doing mainly chicken and vegetables or tomato soup, which both are great, but wanted to try a soup with a little more pizazz and a hearty quality. This cauliflower soup is rich, delicious and a healthy way to start the day too. Breakfast is the most important meal, after all. So why not take a little time and enjoy it. The soup easily re-heats so if you make a full batch you will have a few meals.

Cauliflower Soup with Gorgonzola
1 medium cauliflower
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 smallish yellow onions, peeled and finely sliced
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock is ok too)
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1/3 cup creme fraiche
Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and break it into small florets. You can chop up the stalk and use it as well as it adds nice flavor. Set aside. Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat gently for 5 minutes or so until translucent.
Add the cauliflower, thyme and bay leaves. Season with little salt and pepper, to allow the flavors to adjust and open up. Pour in the stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Then cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is very soft. Crumble in the Gorgonzola and stir over a low heat until it has melted into the soup. Add the creme fraiche and stir to combine.
Pick out the bay leaves and thyme stalks, then blend the soup until really smooth. Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Add chopped parsley for garnish.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Italian Dinner on Saturday

My Dad was at baseball camp (of sorts) in Florida all of last week and returned late on Friday night, and my brother Aaron and cousin Karen were both in from out of town this past weekend, so we decided to get together for a casual dinner on Saturday evening. My Dad's girlfriend joined us as well. I picked Sette Osteria for it's convenient location, and more importantly the warm and casual ambiance and generally appealing menu. If you know Aaron the menu aspect is of special importance, as are prices. Karen and I met a friend of mine for drinks before dinner, and arrived at Sette a bit before the rest of the group. We were doing an early dinner, so it was easy to find a seat at the bar and relax a bit before the meal. Karen and her hubby are expecting (so exciting! can't wait to be informally "Aunt Leah"), so we ordered some bread for her to munch on while we waited. The bread was fresh and grilled so it was still soft but provided a hearty crunch as well. The olive oil it came with was fruity and was a beautiful golden color. The rest of the group arrived shortly thereafter and we were seated in a nice, round table in a cozy spot near the front of the restaurant. We started with a bottle of Farnese Montepuliciano. The wine was well-balanced and a bit tannic, and smooth and delicious. I started with Rucola e Finocchio with grilled chicken, a simple salad of arugula, shaved fennel, grated Pecorino cheese and lemon vinaigrette. The salad was fresh and delicious, and I particularly enjoy the way Sette does grilled chicken - it is pounded so it is super thin, and it is always light and moist. I also ordered my usual favorite, the Al Funghi pizza, which has a deliciously crisp crust thanks to Sette's wood-fired ovens, and is topped with zesty tomato sauce, wild mushrooms and lots of gooey melted mozzarella. The pizza was for the table really, and was delicious. My Dad had gnocchi served with a hearty tomato sauce. The gnocchi was melt-in-your-mouth rich and yummy. Aaron had Paccheri al Ragu Napoletano, which is large rigatoni with a Neopolitan meat sauce. The pasta was nice and al dente and the sauce was quite tasty and hearty. Karen and my Dad's girlfriend opted for one of the specials, which was spaghetti with a light red sauce with half a steamed lobster and prawns. The lobster was gone before I got a chance to try any, but I liked the simple tomato sauce the dish came with as it wasn't overpowering at all, and whenever lobster is in the mix I think a simple sauce is best. Everyone was happy with the dinner, and it was lovely as always to catch up with everyone.

Sette Osteria
1666 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Easy Entertaining Ideas

While watching the fabulous Nigella Lawson today on her weekly show on the Food Network, I just had to pass on a couple of her ideas for an easy yet delicious and healthy dinner party at home. The meal is Mediterranean in style, and features several items you can essentially pick up at the market but enhance a bit by adding a few additional ingredients. I absolutely adore prosciutto, and why not steam or saute green beans, dip them in balsamic vinegar and wrap little bunches of 4 to 5 beans in a strip of prosciutto. Serve on a large platter and voila. For a superb dip, buy your favorite hummus and add a cup or two of Greek yogurt (which is widely available now - look for Pace brand) and combine. Serve in a pretty, shallow dish and add chopped parsley and paprika as garnish. Serve with toasted pita wedges and sliced vegetables. For the main, shrimp is a delicious quick cook - saute frozen or fresh shrimp with tail on with red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and chopped ginger until the shrimp are pink. Add chopped fresh parsley and serve. Round out the meal with roasted olives, a simple green salad and a selection of cheeses. Enjoy everything with delicious vino. Entertaining should be fun, and making these simple yet tasty and beautiful dishes lends itself to that notion perfectly.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Chili Cookoff at Work

Yes Virginia, you can work at a huge law firm these days and still be surrounded by great folks who enjoy fun little events in the office from time to time. In honor of the big game on Sunday, today we had our annual chili cookoff. It's actually not only a great opportunity for everyone to feast on hearty, homemade cooking, and to catch up in a casual setting, but also a contest as each person votes for his/her favorite, and prizes are awarded for the chilis that place first, second and third. I didn't input the cookoff in my calendar, but no matter, as soon as all of the crockpots started to heat up, the wonderful and rich aroma of chili filled the air on the several levels of the building we occupy. Even a coworker who did dinner last night at Fogo de Chao, and who said she was still full from that, could not resist. There were a dozen or so offerings, and I managed to sample just a little of most of them. Interestingly, each really was unique, and had it's own main as well as lingering flavors. My favorite was a rich, beef chili with a dark brown and almost mahogany color, made with kidney beans, black beans, cubed beef, and stewed tomatoes all swimming in a deliciously rich and smokey sauce. I think cumin probably contributed to the smoky aspect of the flavor, but it's hard to tell what other spices and other flavorings were in the dish. There also was a more gumbo-like chili with andouille sausage and quite a kick of heat and salt, as well as some more "tomatoey" versions that were more red and less brown in color and which contained other vegetables such as corn and green beans. Another offering had very little sauce and almost looked like ultra moist pulled pork with a dark brown sauce. One of the chilis had lime crema to be served on top as a garnish, and it was a delicious accent which added a fresh and zesty bite to the dish. There was plenty of cornbread to round out the meal as well. I managed to fit in a few carrot sticks and ended by cleansing the palate with a nice chunk of herbed Havarti cheese. I am definitely glad I skipped breakfast this morning, as I was able to enjoy a hearty and fun lunch.

Meatball Madness at Matchbox

Matchbox is one of those cozy, cute yet certainly almost always busy restaurants where you can count on a good vibe, fun ambiance and tasty food. The restaurant opened up an expanded area several months ago, but the space is tall (three stories) but quite narrow, so it still can feel a little tight at least initially when you enter the venue in the bar area. Lighting is dim and the space is modern yet rustic - think exposed brick walls, visible metal beams. But, the ambiance still feels warm and comfortable. The bar area seats about 15 and has two flat-screen tv's to help occupy you during any wait time for a table. We actually got my favorite two seats at the bar - the two to the far end which are adjacent to the restaurant's wood-fired oven - so we decided to stay and eat there and watch pizzas being made while we enjoyed our own. Lee started with a glass of Steele Pinot Noir from Carneros. The texture was velvety smooth, and the taste earthy and slightly oaky. He thought it was very tasty. I opted for a recent and inexpensive favorite, D’arenberg “Stump Jump,” which is an Australian blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre, and which exudes a hearty flavor of berries and earth tones. Lee really liked it so we ended up sharing a bottle of this with our dinner as well. We started with the Simple Salad, which is mixed greens with pear tomatoes, red onion, dried cherries, a generous handful of pecorino romano, and parmesan crisps all lightly dressed in a nice balsamic vinaigrette. It's a great combination of flavors as the crisp lettuce and onion is cut by the creamy cheese, and the cherries add a nice sweet note to every bite. We didn't order them this time, but another Matchbox favorite of mine is the mini burgers, of which you can order a plate of 3, 6 or 9, and which are rich, delicious angus beef on toasted brioche with pickles and tasty, crispy onion straws. It's a simple dish but it really works well, as is usually evidenced by the numerous plates of burgers you are likely to see folks enjoying. We decided to share a pizza for our main, and the Spicy Meatball Pizza is amazing so we ordered that. The wood-fired oven yields a crispy and delicious crust, which is topped with house-made spicy meatballs, crispy bacon, crushed red pepper, fresh garlic, zesty tomato sauce, and mozzarella. The meatballs are rich, succulent and just a bit spicy with notes of red pepper and oregano. The sauce is zesty and delicious and goes well with the strongly flavored meatballs and the gooey, delicious mozzerella. One of my favorite pizzas in the area for sure. If you haven't sampled the fare at Matchbox yet, I would highly recommend doing so.

713 H Street in NW DC

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Wine Club Happy Hour

On Tuesday evening the wine club I am part of met for a winter happy hour at David Greggory. Tuesday is a great day to go to David Greggory, as they do happy hour until 10pm, so most folks have time after work to enjoy the friendly prices. The restaurant has a nice wine list in general, though it is a bit pricey. But, for happy hour, they offer a house white, sparkling and red for $4.75, and the selections vary but usually are good. Almost everyone opted for the red on Tuesday, which was a nice Grenache from Spain. The texture was soft and the flavor was fruity, almost a little jammy even, and well-balanced. The white was a Chardonnay, and the sparking was a Cava, which is sparking wine from Spain, and my friend Megan said her glass was delicious as well as a nice, full pour. (Megan does an amazing blog by the way called Wanna Be Wino, definitely check it out). For happy hour, David Greggory also offers snacks such as pizza, calamari, and chicken wings, each for $5, and friendly prices on beer, sangria and mixed drinks. The pizza is delicious and features a zesty pesto sauce and crispy crust which is topped with herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms and a nice, strong cheese. I sampled my friend Trish's wings and they were golden, juicy and delicious and had a bit of an Asian style flavor. The blue cheese dip they come with is tasty too. Frank sampled the calamari which was well-cooked but had a little too much breading for my taste. The calamari is served with a trio of dips - a roasted red pepper aioli, a tartar-like sauce, and a mignotette. The aioli was really tasty and the richness went well with the crispy squid. Lisa had smoked chicken empanadas, which were crispy and flavorful, but I couldn't detect much chicken - the filling was mostly well-seasoned black beans. The empanadas come with guacamole and pico de gallo. All in all a fun weekday outing for a nice price too.

David Greggory
2030 M Street in NW DC