Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lamb with Lavender and Blueberry Sauce

I hope you enjoy this tasty and easy lamb recipe. It doesn't take long to prepare and it is a really satisfying dish. It pairs well with any variety of veggie side dishes and goes gorgeously with crisped whole wheat pita wedges served on a bed of fresh rosemary with some fresh cheese and a balsamic dip or fruit preserves. As far as wine goes, the lamb goes perfectly with a nice Pinot Noir as the earthy quality of the meat is enhanced and so too the fruit in the wine goes well with the blueberries in the sauce. Enjoy.

Lamb with Lavender and Blueberry Sauce
6 lamb chops
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh lavender
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season lamb all over with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the chops on both sides, about 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the lamb to a roasting pan and roast until medium-rare, about 12 minutes. Let stand to let the juices settle for about 10 or so minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. After transferring the browned lamb to the roasting pan, pour off all but a tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Place the pan over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook until fragrant, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red wine and lavender, increase the heat, and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar, blueberries and balsamic vinegar and simmer 2 minutes. Add the butter and swirl to incorporate it into the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice the lamb and serve with the sauce.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar in the OBX

Just a quick recommendation if you are in the Kill Devil Hills area of the Outer Banks - pop into Awful Arthur's on Beach Road near Mile Post 6 and check out the views in the upstairs bar over a nice cocktail, and then do the Fresh Oysters and Steamed Lobster dinner, both of which are market price but more than reasonable for sure. The seafood is totally fresh and gorgeous, and the vibe is relaxed and perfect for the surroundings.

Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar
Kill Devil Hills area in the Outer Banks, North Carolina

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tuesday Tasting at EatBar

The wine club met at EatBar for their Tuesday Tasting Series this week. On offer was a flight of Zins, each a nice match to hearty, grilled meats and veggies often served at summertime barbecues. It was a hot day so I wasn't sure if I was ready for the flight immediately upon arrival, so I ordered a glass of Big Tattoo White ‘05, Germany, which was a nice blend, slightly sweet and perfectly refreshing. More of the group arrived and we endeavored to start the flights. The wines were: 2004 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel from Amador County, 2005 Sin Zin from Alexander Valley, and a 2004 Quivira Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. All top regions for Zin for sure. I actually did not enjoy the Four Vines Zin at all - I found it off-balance and strangely woody and sweet. The Sin Zin, however, was gorgeous - ripe with fruit and smooth on the palate. Very lush. The Quivira was nice as well though I think the hands-down favorite was the Sin Zin. We lingered with our wine and ordered several other varieties and enjoyed a variety of EatBar's small plates. Chris had the Ribs and the Housemade Fries with Ketchup. Looked greasy and delicious. I had a slice of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog cheese which was served with toasted baguettes. The cheese was rich and creamy and went very well with my wine. I also had the County Ham, Tangerine and Pea Shoot Salad which is lightly dressed and really a great flavor combination. Other standouts folks enjoyed included the Mushroom Ragout, Bacon-Wrapped Figs with Mascarpone Cheese, fresh Blue Point oysters, Chorizo and Goat Cheese Piquillo Peppers and Jambon Serrano which is part of the Charcuterie menu. I enjoy that EatBar's menu features a variety of sweet and savory small plates for nice prices, as well as the wine list of course. If you haven't had a chance to pop in yet, I would recommend doing so.

EatBar in Tallula Restaurant
2761 Washington Boulevard in Arlington, VA (near Clarendon metro)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend in Virginia Wine Country

The gorgeous, sunny and mild weather this past weekend was ideal for a trip out to Virginia wine country. On Saturday we went to Linden Vineyards in Linden, VA. We did the regular tasting which is complimentary. On offering were a 2006 Seyval, 2006 Rose 2005 Cabernet Franc, 2003 Claret and 2006 Vidal Riesling. As usual, the Seyval and Claret were my favorites. The dry Rose was nice too and a refreshing choice for the warm day. We were early enough to be able to grab a table on Linden's beautiful patio. We ordered a couple of cheeses, including the Mountaineer, a rind ripened, raw milk cheese made from Jersey cow's milk and similar in style to a Dutch gouda, and a Derby, or an aged-cheddar style made from the milk of Brown Swiss cows. We also had a Venison Sausage and several baguettes and lots of wine of course. Lovely day. We were scheduled to spend the night in Winchester so we made our way in that direction in the early evening.

Winchester actually has a ton of charm and lots to do in the downtown area. The shops were closed by the time we arrived, but we walked around the Old Town area which was quaint and really just lovely. We went to The Village Square for dinner, and decided to dine in the VSquared Piano Bar area. The ambiance was great - very dim lighting, old school big and heavy furniture and the piano player was great. I had a Hummus and Flatbread appetizer as well as a Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (yes sort of boring but two of my faves for sure). Others enjoyed Veggie Wraps, Seared Ahi Tuna with Greens and a Soy Dipping Sauce, a very rich Mushroom Soup, Salmon On Potato Gratin with Spinach and a Soy Glaze, and a large and moist Beef Tenderloin served with Mixed Green Vegetables. I continued the lighter style wine theme we all had going and had a nice and crisp Pinot Grigio, which was perfect with the creamy hummus and peppery and tangy dressing on the salad. We decided to check out Sweet Carolines afterwards, and let me tell you, Winchester certainly is a hot spot for nightlife if that bar is any indication. We had a great end to the evening.
The wine club went to Veramar Vineyard in Berryville, VA on Sunday. On offering that day were a Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Riseling/Vidal blend, Rooster Red and D'Ora (a dessert wine). They also were showcasing two of their newer wines - Pink Chicken and Red Chicken. I enjoyed the Seyval but the Pink Chicken, a dry rose, was the hands-down favorite. We ordered a few bottles and enjoyed a great day filled with great wine, snacks, company and views of the rolling hills. Allan even brought some raspberry-flavored brownies for the group to enjoy. Afterwards, Allan and I went to Ray's the Steaks. We actually didn't have to wait more than 20 or so minutes, which was great, and were seated in a cozy table in the middle of the small restaurant. Allan had the view of the open kitchen which he enjoyed. I started with a Caesar Salad and also had a side of Broccoli and the Strip Steak Served with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms. I ordered it medium rare and it was moist and pink in the center - absolutely melt in your mouth delicious. I thought the onions were gorgeous, though perhaps there were a few too many of them. The mushrooms were firm yet soaked in the caramelized onion juice and were delicious. The broccoli was nice too - slightly rich but not too buttery. Allan had the Rib-Eye which came with large slices of fresh garlic on top and with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach on the side. The steak was beautiful and tasty and the spinach was rich and a bit salty but certainly quite tasty. It is also really nice that sides comes with some of the steaks and are no extra cost. We decided to buck the usual match and had a bottle of Pinot Grigio with the meal. I thought it worked nicely actually. It was a great meal to cap off a really fun and certainly decadent late-spring weekend.

Linden Vineyards
3708 Harrels Corner Road in Linden, VA

Village Square Restaurant
103 North Loudon Street in Winchester, VA

Veramar Vineyard
905 Quarry Road in Berryville, VA

Ray's the Steaks
1725 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wine Wednesday at Dino, An Encore

The wine club met last night for Wine Wednesday at Dino in Cleveland Park. This was our second time at the event, and it was fantastic yet again. Last night's flight featured Sicilian Reds. The first wine was Tasca d'Almerita "Lamuri" 2005, which was a bit tannic on the nose but actually was soft and well-balanced on the palate. Very nice choice to start the tasting with. The other two wines were Messapicus Nero d'Avola 2004 and Cusumano Benura 2005. The Messapicus was nice, but nothing remarkable in my opinion. I absolutely loved the Cusumano though - gloriously fruity and just the right touch of oak. The flight changes each week and is $15, and for another $10 you can sample a trio of appetizers. Last night's offering was Porchetta, or roasted pork loin and belly flavored with herbs, Salsiccia, or pork sausage with spices, and Agnello, which is leg tidbits grilled with herbs. Fred decided to sample the trio and really enjoyed everything. The plate was artfully presented as well (see photo). Chris the Mixologist for Dino always serves up a good time at the bar too. (See the background of the photo).

We also took advantage of Dino's no corkage fee on Wednesdays and we each brought a bottle of wine. I brought a dry, Portugese white which was gorgeously fruity and not too acidic. Cathy brought a Greg Norman Shiraz which was nice but not one of our favorites. The flavors didn't seem to combine in a way that worked harmoniously at all. We also had another dry white as well as Vino Verde, or green wine, which actually is really nice and refreshing. I liken it to a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc mix as you get the acidity and crispness of a Sauvignon Blanc but also the well-balanced and slightly fruity flavors of a Pinot Grigio. Lorena and I shared two appetizers - Asparagi, or grilled asparagus served on a piquant red pepper pesto with grana cheese, and Tris di Bruschette, which is grilled bread three ways - with white bean and mushrooms; caramelized balsamico cippolini and erborinati; and goat cheese, pesto and oven-roasted tomato. We had this dish the last time we were at Dino and it was again stellar. The sauteed mushrooms with the creamy white beans are absolutely fantastic. Kristin enjoyed the variety featuring caramelized cippolini onions and erborinati so much the first time around that she ordered the dish with this variety of brushette exclusively last night. It was a hit. Lorena also had a small portion of the Pappardelle ai Cinghiale, or wild boar pasta, and I had the usual Acciuga salad with roasted chicken which features long stems of fresh and crisp romaine lettuce, grilled Tuscan bread and lots of nutty Parmesan cheese. It was delicious and the crisp white wine was a great match with not only the salad but also the appetizers as well.
In addition to the bruschette, Kristin also had the Burrata, which is bufala cheese air freighted from Campania and served with fresh ricotta, olive and roasted pepper tapenades, olio, oven roasted tomatoes, and basil. A beautiful dish. She seemed more than happy making her meal out of a couple of the delicious appetizers. Cathy had Pio Tosini Prosciutto Crudo, which features beautiful and tasty ribbons of Prosciutto de Parma, and Croquette di Pitate, which is a trio of fried potato croquettes each with braised prosciutto, cheese, and breadcrumbs. The filling was creamy and rich and the croquettes had a thick and crispy crust which was a lovely mahogany brown in color. A bit rich though for sure. We were seated at a lovely booth toward the back of the first floor of the restaurant, and were able to linger a bit with all of the tasty treats on the table. We all really enjoyed the evening and I think most certainly took full advantage of Dino's Wine Wednesday.

3435 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC

Monday, May 14, 2007

Straits of Malaya

My friend Chan and I capped off the gorgeous day on Sunday by doing happy hour at Rosemary's Thyme. It really is the perfect neighborhood spot which features inexpensive Mediterranean food, happy hour seven days a week and a large outdoor patio. We shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio and enjoyed the company and the ambiance. We decided to walk up the street to Straits of Malaya for a bite as neither of us had been before. We were seated on the rooftop deck which is absolutely the perfect spot for people watching both inside Lauriol Plaza and on 18th Street, and yet at the same time is fairly mellow and relaxed. We ordered some more Pinot Grigio and decided to start with the Laksa soup, which is an exotic take on chicken noodle soup with shrimp, crisp bean sprouts, thin rice noodles, ribbons of chicken, cooked egg and coconut milk in a brown broth that tickles the throat with spices. The broth was actually quite sweet but we really enjoyed the combination of flavors, most especially the moist meat and tasty broth with sprigs of fresh cilantro as a garnish. We also shared Chicken with Basil, which features chicken and vegetables stir fried with fresh basil and chiles to create a delicious dish that has sweet heat that is perfection in the mouth. We finished our wine and enjoyed the conversation as well as the view. Definitely a lovely end to a great day.

Rosemary's Thyme
1801 18th Street in NW DC

Straits of Malaya
1836 18th Street in NW DC

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Axis Bar and Grill on U Street

Friends and I met for drinks and dinner at Axis Bar and Grill on U Street last night before heading to a party in the neighborhood. Axis has around 10 beers on tap as well as a full bar and a somewhat limited but really nice wine list. The ambiance is relaxed and neighborhoody but somehow classy too. The lighting is dim and the long, large bar features dark, oak-colored wood and has heavy mirrors behind it as well as two flat-screen tv's to keep patrons company as needed. Louise and I had their Pinot Grigio, which was crisp, light and refreshing. Tory had the Pinot Noir which was rich and purple in color and well-balanced and fruity to the palate. The food menu is well-rounded and included a nice selection of appetizers, meat and fish dishes and a bar menu with inexpensive smaller plates. We shared Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and the combination of the earthy mushrooms, tangy blue cheese and sweet caramelized onions is gorgeous. A side salad comes with the dish as well. Louise had the Chicken Wrap from the bar menu which is a real deal at $6. The flour tortilla wraps are large and are filled with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs, and are served with a nice side salad. I had the Caesar Salad which came with a nice amount of shaved Parmesan cheese and the dressing was nice and tangy. I think the croutons could have been a bit more hearty but otherwise the salad was really nice. Tory had the Duck which looked gorgeous and was served with a generous helping of the jus along side mashed potatoes and sauteed snow peas and carrots. More friends arrived throughout the evening and we enjoyed the wine, company and the pleasant and comfortable surroundings around us. Axis is a great neighborhood spot and one you are encouraged to relax a while and linger in. Added bonus, Rob the bartender will be sure you have a fun evening if he is around.

Axis Bar and Grill
1340 U Street in NW DC

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fresh and Easy Picnic

The pretty weather has started me thinking about fun and easy picnic meals that are tasty and simple to prepare. These simple suggestions only require fresh ingredients and a bit of love in the preparation, and serve with a nice, refreshing juice and/or a white or rose wine and voila - a lovely outdoors meal.

Simple and Savory Salad
Combine several cups of fresh spinach and 4 large, torn fresh basil leaves with a good drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 2 teaspoons of good Balsamic Vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Roughly chop 4 slices of prosciutto and add to the greens. Grill 4 halves of nectarines on a grill pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes, mostly on the flesh side. Add the nectarines to the greens and sprinkle on dabs of goat cheese and chopped, lightly roasted almonds.
Grill 4 whole wheat pitas over medium heat in a grill pan along side 12 sliced Cremini mushrooms. When slightly crisp, remove the pitas from the grill and set aside. Place a handful of fresh arugula on top of each pita and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add a few dashes of finely chopped fresh rosemary to the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper (wait until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid are browned a bit to season). Place the mushrooms evenly on top of each pita and add a slice of Fontina cheese. Return the pitas with arugula and mushrooms and cheese to the grill pan and cook on medium heat until the cheese starts to melt.
Chicken and Prosciutto
Pound 4 halved boneless, skinless chicken breasts until thin. Place 4 large slices of prosciutto on a cutting board. Place one chicken breast near the top end of each prosciutto slice. Put a fresh sage leaf in the middle of the top side of each chicken breast, season with salt and pepper and roll each proscuitto and chicken slice into a pinwheel type formation. Cook each pinwheel over medium heat in a sautee pan for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
Dessert - No-Bake Mock Butterfingers
3 cups corn flakes, crushed
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
6 ounces chocolate chips
Heat peanut butter, sugar and rice syrup over low heat to melt. Stir in cereal. Pat into a 8x8 lightly greased pan. Melt chocolate chips and spread over top. Let cool for 10 or so minutes, slice and pack into plastic wrap for the picnic.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Mio opened last Friday near my office and I was glad to check it out with Amy last night before heading to another happy hour. We entered the clean and cool space and really liked the vibe right away. Hues of various blues as well as light and dark wood and pale, tan granite permeate the venue. The lines are clean and the look is elegant yet casual and comfortable too. The blue and tan theme even continues with the staff. The bartenders were wearing royal blue button downs and khakis and the waitstaff was adorned in light blue button downs and khakis. A really nice look. We sat at the curved bar toward the entrance and Amy ordered a glass of 2005 El Primavera Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain. It was nice and fruity. It was a fairly warm evening and I have gotten back into preferring whites as of late with the season and all, so I had a glass of 2005 Domaine Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. It was crisp and refreshing and not too acidic. For those so inclined, Mio offers $4 cocktails - the standards as well as a few jazzed up treats - until 7pm on weekdays at the bar. The menu is tempting overall, but we opted to stay inexpensive and ordered two sides - we shared Caramelized Jerusalem Artichokes and Amy had Creamy Polenta and Picón Cheese. The artichokes were beautifully caramelized and were served with fried chives which was a nice touch. They were almost the consistency of a potato and were really delightful. I had a small bite of the polenta too which was creamy and yummy but not too rich. The cheese gave it the perfect amount of tangy and earthy richness. Next time I go back I want to try one of the bigger plates - perhaps Grilled Lamb Loin with Grilled Eggplant and Harissa Sauce, Sliced Sirloin and Melted Fontina on Mini Baguette with Sherry dipping Jus or 5 chili Braised Short Ribs with Chimichurri. Definitely a great addition to the downtown restaurant scene, and one I hope to return to soon.

1110 Vermont Avenue in NW DC

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Umbria in Boston

After a busy weekend which included attending the Gold Cup (my first time - so fun!), lots of time enjoying the sunshine on Sunday and a birthday/bbq get together, I headed out to Boston on Monday morning for a quick work trip. I had an early evening event in the Boston Harbor area, which has changed dramatically in the past few years and now is really blossoming with interesting restaurants, shops and streetlife, not to mention beautiful views of the harbor. I read about Umbria on Franklin Street not too far from the reception I attended, so decided to pop by and take a peek. The space houses five floors and the ambiance generally is upbeat for sure yet also upscale too. There are fireplaces, exposed brick walls and light fixtures beaming gold on several levels, and the more "loungey" areas feature more modern lighting and industrial lines and fixtures.
Ristorante Umbria serves hearty, simple, yet elegant country-style food that features sauces and preparations that consist of delicious and fresh ingredients, and generally stays away from complicated processes. I sat at a cozy seat at one of the bars and enjoyed two items from the Antipasti menu - Involtini di Speck Tirolese, or imported smoked prosciutto rolls filled with truffled ricotta and goat cheese and served with warm chestnut flan; as well as Granchio in Carrozza al Bergamotto di Calabria, which is blue crabmeat salad scented with bergamot infused olive oil in a crunchy phyllo vessel. I paired the food with a couple of glasses of 2003 Rosso di Toscana, Avignonesi, which was light yet somewhat complex and matched the savory essence of each dish quite well. The prosciutto rolls were a perfect balance of the rich and tangy cheese flavors matched up with the fragrant and salty prosciutto. The plate was a beautiful presentation as well with each roll nicely formed and set against one another. I think I would have preferred just a simple crab salad as the meat was so fresh and tender I thought it would be best undisturbed, but the sweet meat worked well with the pungent bergamot (small and roughly pear-shaped citrus fruit) and the delightfully crisp phyllo shell. I was debating whether or not I should do something more low-key and casual (yet certainly authentic and delicious too) in Little Italy, but I am glad I explored a bit and was taken away to the Umbria region in Italy at least for the duration of the meal. Very neat spot.

Umbria Ristorante
295 Franklin Street in Boston, MA

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Friday at Panache and Sette Osteria

Friends met Friday to celebrate a birthday and relax and unwind a bit after the work week. Happy hour at Panache was certainly quite the scene with more than a few folks packed into most of the space. Luckily our birthday boy had thought ahead and reserved part of the bar for the group. Panache offers $4 house wines, cocktails and beers on tap until 7 p.m. I started with the Merlot which was too sweet and just didn't taste good. It was a fairly warm evening, and Panache's semi-open space in the bar area enabled us to enjoy it, so I opted to go white and ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio. It was crisp and light. My friends Amy and Chan and later my new friend Jackie arrived shortly and joined the crowd for a few more drinks, and we shared an order of Hummus which was actually quite tasty and served with large chunks of fresh tomato and nicely toasted flatbread. After a few hours, we decided to move onwards to our dinner destination. I was interested in trying the new Circa in Dupont, but the wait was over an hour and we were fairly hungry. We decided to go across the street to Sette Osteria, which as it turns out was a great choice as we didn't wait more than 30 minutes and were seated on their lovely patio. We settled in and ordered a bottle of Montepulciano Di Abruzzo which was fruity and light and perfect for the dishes on offer at Sette. To start, we ordered Guazzetto di Cozze e Vongole - mussels and clams stewed with white wine and touch of tomato; and Panzarotti - fried mini mozzarella calzone with marinara. I am not much for fried food generally, but did manage to have a taste of the cheese in the Panzarotti and it was creamy and almost sweet - very tasty. The mussels were large and delicious and the clams were on the small side but the dish was very nice all around thanks to a nice and tangy broth. We decided to share three larger plates for dinner - Rucola e Finocchio, or arugula and shaved fennel with Pecorino Campano and lemon vinaigrette; Quattro Stagioni pizza, which consists of a perfectly thin and crisp crust thanks to a high temperature wood-fired oven, along with tomato, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, fresh artichokes and porchetta ham; and Pollo alla Griglia, or chicken breast pounded thin and grilled, with mixed field greens and tomatoes. The pizza was absolutely delicious, and the toppings really blended together as far as textures and flavors go. The salad is a standby for me and I almost always order it when at Sette, and we all enjoyed the crisp greens and fennel sliced extremely thin along with the tangy cheese and it was a nice refresher for the palate in between bites of the other dishes. The chicken was absolutely gorgeous with meat still fairly moist but a crust rich and dark brown and perfectly crispy. The beautiful yellow, red and orange tomatoes that adorned the top of the dish made for a beautiful presentation as well. We had a great meal and certainly enjoyed the lovely summer evening and the good company. A nice start to the weekend for sure.

1725 DeSales Street in NW DC

Sette Osteria
1666 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC

Friday, May 4, 2007

Happy Hour and Casa Oaxaca

I am often interested in the events put on by the French Wine Society, and have been to a few, but last night's happy hour was the first of its kind that I have seen and I hope they decide to do them more often. The casual format and inexpensive price make such events approachable for more folks, and there are a multitude of venues to choose from for this sort of get together. Happy hour was at Leftbank in Adams Morgan and it cost $5 to get in for non-members (free for members), and for this wine tastings were free and glasses were $3. Quite a deal in my opinion. We started with a Fondreche Rose which was dry and really a perfect first drink of the evening. It warms your mouth up for more. I tried all of the whites - a La Hitaire "Hors Saison" which is a blend of 85 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 15 percent Semillon, a Rene Mure Pinot Blanc and a Calande Chardonnay which is fermented 70 percent in tank and 30 percent in oak, of which 1/3 are new barrels. The Hors Saison was nice and crisp but not overly dry or acidic. The Rene Mure was actually my second favorite wine of the evening. It was absolutely well-balanced and light and very refreshing. I am not much of a Chardonnay fan and this one didn't really do it for me. Next was a Domaine de Gournier Merlot which was ok but a little too tannic for my palate. Finally I finished up with a Mas de Guiot blend of 40 percent Grenache and 60 percent Syrah, and this was really fantastic. Very approachable and fruity and an absolutely gorgeous shade of purplish burgundy as well. All of the wines were from Robert Kacher selections, a sure bet for nice vino. The crowd was quite amiable and friendly, and there were lots of fluent French speakers as well as folks like me who are conversant when it comes to "food French" but otherwise not fluent at all.

After the happy hour I stopped by a new place down 18th Street in Adams Morgan, Casa Oaxaca. I love Oaxacan cuisine because unlike traditional Tex/Mex it is relatively light and uses moles and interesting spices to enhance flavor rather than a ton of cheese and other greasy items. The venue has an upstairs dining level as well as a downstairs level with a long bar and a few tables as well. The lighting is dim and the colors of earthen yellows and browns on the walls and in the furniture permeate the atmosphere. There are several large, leafy plants that enhance the casual and festive vibe of the place. I wasn't too hungry so I had a glass of Cabernet (they only have Cabernet and Merlot right now as far as red wine goes) and their Ensalata with chicken. The salad was fresh with a variety of greens and nicely sauteed chicken, sliced tomatoes, cucumber wedges, an interesting variety of Mexican root vegetable of some kind and a light and citrusy vinaigrette. I also enjoyed the sliced jicama sprinkled with what tastes like a combination of smoked paprika and cinnamon and served with a slice of lime that greets you when you sit down at a table. The restaurant offers 10 or so varieties of tequila and has numerous mixed drink options. There are several varieties of Oaxacan tacos, some with meats such as pork and beef as well as a vegetarian option, and most tempting probably is Chicken Tres Moles which is chicken breast grilled and served with a trio of mole sauces. I can't wait to go back and try it.

French Wine Society

Casa Oaxaca
2106 18th Street in NW DC

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wine Wednesday at Dino

The wine group met last night for Dino's "Wine Wednesday" tasting series. I love Dino anytime, but Wine Wednesday is really superb as on offering is a flight of wines and a trio of appetizers for $25, or you can just do the flight for $15. They also waive their corkage fee for the evening, which is a superb opportunity to enjoy their lovely Italian smallish plates along with a bottle of your choosing and for no extra cost as well.

Last night's feature was Rosso di Montalcino, Toscana. The wines were lush and fruity and delicious. The appetizer trio looked tasty, but we had a table reserved for later in the evening so instead we ordered a cheese plate and their creamy and rich Burrata which is served in a lovely white mound surrounded by sliced baguette and an olive tapenade as well as roasted red peppers. I also had a glass of Valpolicella which was very nice. When we were seated we opened the bottles that everyone brought for the evening. I brought a Tempranillo thinking that it would be a little gauche to bring in an Italian varietal given that Dino has a really great wine list anyhow. Others had the same idea as there were offerings from California, Australia and other new world origins. For the table we ordered Tris di Bruschette which was absolutely delicious. Grilled Bread three ways - with white bean & mushrooms; caramelized balsamico cippolini & erborinati; and goat cheese, pesto & oven-roasted tomato. The mushroom variety was especially delicious. I ordered my usual for my main - Acciuga Salad which is crisp Romaine with black pepper & anchovy dressing, grilled Tuscan bread and roasted chicken. Very tasty and actually fairly filling as well thanks to the chicken and the creamy dressing. Amy ordered Gramigna ai Funghi, which is whole mushroom Pasta - house made pasta, creamy wild mushroom ragu. It was gorgeous. The mushrooms were definitely cooked in some sort of decadent oil. Allan and several others had Pappardelle ai Cinghiale, or whole Wild Boar Pasta - house made pasta, traditional Tuscan sauce of boaronions, herbs, pecorino. I tried the boar and it was hearty and rich and tasty. Kristin had Fusili con Aragosta e Gambretti, or Lobster & Shrimp Pasta - house made pasta, creamy lobster sauce, carrots, zucchini, and crispy shallots. She was very sweet and gave me a bite of the luscious lobster - not sure there was enough of it (as usual I suppose) but it was well-cooked and not too firm and tasty. I finished up my wine for dessert, but several of the group decided to share a trio of desserts - “Moccha” or moccha mousse (chocolate & coffee), and espresso foam; Tris di Cioccolato or warm chocolate souffle cake, bittersweet chocolate gelato & chocolate crema Inghlese; and Crostata or a rustic fruit tart with a crumbly butter crust, and gelato. They actually did a good job of sharing thanks to lots of passing of the dishes. It was fun to watch. Everyone enjoyed each dessert but the Crostata seemed to emerge as the favorite. The group all had a great time catching up and enjoying the delicious food and the wines we had brought in for free no less. Wine Wednesday at Dino is a really great event.

3435 Connecticut Avenue in NW DC