Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Things to Eat on an Idle Monday

It's easy to walk right past Cafe Divan while running errands in Georgetown. Located across the street from Safeway, it is usually packed at dinner time and mostly empty for lunch. Too far away from M street to cater to the lunch crowd (their carry out counter delivers ) and with decor showcasing the long, backless benches that give the cafe its name, the place does not scream adventurous or ethnic. Regardless, Cafe Divan is a lovely space with courteous staff, cooks who know their way around the grill, a well-intentioned but mostly lackluster wine list, and very good Turkish coffee.

The Mezze list reads like anything at other Mediterranean restaurant - dolma, hummus, tabbouleh and adds kofte (a lentil dish) and borek (feta cheese with parsley covered in homemade pastry and deep fried). Though a lot of them are fried, they do not feel overwhelmingly oily.

For a rare lunch visit yesterday, I had a Sucuk Pide - stuffed bread baked in a wood-burning oven filled with Turkish sausage, tomatoes, black olives and kasshar cheese. It was a lot of bread, but I couldn't stop eating it. I've had better dishes at Cafe Divan - I love lamb, and their grill consistently puts out marvelous lamb entrees, but I had just come back from eating my way through Manhattan and wanted something simpler. The Rotisserie Lamb they serve on Thursdays is well worth the hike up Wisconsin Avenue. T had the Yogurtlu Kofte, which pretty much sums up the components of the menu: lamb, tomato, yogurt, and parsley. The meat for the skewers is ground, salted, spiced and grilled, served over fresh tomato sauce and yogurt. I am not sure how much bread the actual recipe requires, but this had some crouton-sized pita cut outs that soaked enough of the sauce to make it a nice counterpoint to the lamb's texture.

We skipped dessert to go downhill to Patisserie Poupon only to find it closed on Mondays. Luckily Dolcezza is down the street and yesterday's early thaw made it just warm enough for ice cream - at least for those of us hankering for dessert. Dolcezza is open year-round and also offers churros and alfajores, a traditional Argentinean dessert consisting of two merengue cookies encasing dulce de leche. If you cannot have ice cream during winter, they also have a good selection of teas and coffee. You may try as many flavors as you like before taking the agonizing decision of choosing just two (or three or four if you want the bigger sizes). The large influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina have given the country the best ice cream tradition in all of South America. Dolcezza is a proud steward of that tradition - my dark chocolate and tangerine combination yesterday had to be the best gelato I've ever had. Dulce de Leche consistently sells out and the sorbets are seasonal. As for the price, it will set you back slightly more than Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry's, with the additional benefit of having to trek uphill to get it.

Cafe Divan
1834 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007

Dolcezza Argentine Gelato
1560 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007

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