Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the Road!

Pissaladiere a Provencal appetizer with caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes,olives and anchovies.

Friendliest service ever. Modern decor featuring hens, roosters, and a funky wine list. A wonderful spot to enjoy good company, great food, and nurse jetlag.

Les Fous de L'Ile
33, Rue Deux Ponts
75004 Paris

Mushroom Quiche, Spinach and Salmon Quiche, Green Salad with fresh herbs mustard dressing Ice Tea with Lemon, Orange, Honey and Spearmint

This place reminded me of Milk and Honey in Chicago. Similar vibe (but formal aprons) in a great location half a block from the Luxembourg Garden. The tea is a great way to beat the relentless heat in this city that hates A.C.

Bread and Roses
7, Rue de Fleurus
75006 Paris

Friday, June 19, 2009

Shelter from the Storm

I'll admit to having eaten spoonfuls of Illy espresso straight out of the can on more than one occasion, but even a die-hard fan like me is impressed by the care put into every cup at the fabled Italian roaster's outpost (ceramic for those of us who choose to duck in from the summer rain and stay awhile, additional seating in the hotel lobby). When I inadvertently tilted my cup, the barista insisted on wiping the rim of my Viennese (espresso, foamed milk a touch of whip cream, and a light dusting of cocoa). S. still remembers the lemon poppyseed muffin, all the way from Rio.

Illy Caffe @ Renaissance M Street Hotel
1143 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 775-0800
Illy  Coffee House  (at the Marriott) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our inbox runneth over

Some standouts from our dedicated e-mail account:

Cookie + Gourmet Kids’ Restaurant Week is coming to Washington, D.C. June 13 – 21. There will be a KRW kick-off event at Eastern Market on Saturday June 13th, where Chef Danny Bortnick and his 4-year old son Jonah will lead a banana bread cooking demo. At Firefly in Dupont Circle, Kids 11 and under will pay their age, with $29 three-course offerings for the over 12 set. Zola in Penn Quarter is also participating, and their starter of “Fried Rice” (creamy sausage risotto rolled in bread crumbs with tarragon dip) makes me want to introduce my two-year old goddaughter to fine dining. For a full list of participating restaurants, please kick here.

To celebrate the new grill at the Poste Garden, the kitchen is launching ‘Poste Roasts,’ served at the new outdoor Chef’s table. The dinner is available for a minimum of six people and maximum of 12, and is priced at $27 per person (excluding beverages, dessert, tax and gratuity). Call a week ahead to choose your protein - whole suckling pig, baby goat, beef brisket, peking duck, baby lamb, or smoked squab. An upscale barbeque in the middle of DC.

On Friday, June 19th, Zola Wine and Kitchen is hosting a dinner with Silver Spring's very own Wine Guru Guru Terry Theise. The menu, created by Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello, is priced at $115 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity, and will consist of creative trio preparations of scallops, rabbit and veal each paired the Austrian and Champagne estate selections including Minges Gleisweiler Holle Riesling, Spatlese 2005, Schrock Furmint 2007, Pierre Gimonnet Champagne, NV Blanc de Blancs Cuis, NV and the Hexamer Riesling, “Quartzit” 2006. Seating's at 6.30 PM and required reservations are taken at (202) 654-2855.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Come Again

Last week a post-conference dinner for 4 quickly turned into an 8 people affair, and I had no time to call for reservations. Since everyone else had been travelling all day, a 40-minute wait was not an option. I shepherded the group down New Jersey Avenue, hoping the views of the Capitol would stave their hunger. The host at Bistro Bis was gracefulness personified – he welcomed everyone (the nametags were a dead giveaway) and had a round table set at the far end of the wood, steel and glass dining room, which allowed me to split my attention between musings on legal anthropology and the vintage food posters in French.

Bistro Bis, a sister restaurant to Vidalia, is a few blocks away from Union Station at the George Hotel. Split into three areas that flow into each other, the rooms are tied together by the use of natural cherry wood and soft lighting. Though its location says power lunch, the feel is cozy, and there were plenty of dates going on around us.
As a quick starter for the table (aside from the bread basket, devoured in record time) I ordered mussels in curry cream for the table. The mussels have a wonderful kick from the piquillo peppers, and where it not for the consistency of the curry cream I would have thought I was at Brasserie Beck.

Since everybody was having different entrees, a bottle was impossible. I had a glass of Gamay, a fresh and floral wine that hails from the Beaujoulais region and is also served slightly chilled. The fruit notes were cherry, with the acidity of strawberry. For an entrĂ©e I had the Duck au Rhubarb, two of my favorite tastes. The duck breast was crusted with pink peppercorns, which added color and flavor to the meat while keeping it from drying out. The rhubarb was present as a compote as well as a gastrique. I’ve had duck with cherries on several occasions so the rhubarb is an interesting twist, highlighted by the fact that using breast instead of leg and thigh keeps the fat and its smoke away. A second cut sat on top of thinly sliced slightly fried potatoes and a touch of salad.

I ordered the Petit Fours for the table – a selection of confections, cookies and chocolates that on this particular night featured macarons, peanut butter and dark chocolate triangles, and lattice cookies. My favorite on the menu, though, is the spiced carrot cake topped with buttermilk panna cotta, a wonderful combination of acid, warmth, degrees of firmness, and a refreshing side of mandarin orange sorbet.

We poured into E street happy, well fed, and fully recovered from the first day of the conference.

Bistro Bis @ the Hotel George
15 E St NW
Washington, DC 20001
Bistro Bis on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brainfood Grill-Off 2009

DC-based nonprofit Brainfood uses food and cooking as tools to teach life skills and healthy living to teenagers in a safe and positive environment. For their annual Grill-Off, top chefs (including Central's Cedric Maupillier) team up with amateur cooks, including amateur aficionados and Brainfood program graduates to compete for top honors in a grilling competition.

The event will also include hors d’oeuvres, open bar and live auction. 100 percent of ticket sales ($75 per ticket and $3,000 per team entry) will support Brainfood after-school and summer programs, including hands-on instruction, educational field trips and guest chef demonstrations.

The Grill-Off will take place on Thursday, June 11, 2009 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Decatur House on Lafayette Square (1610 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20006). For more information, please click here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Amo Gelato!

One of the foundational myths in my family is that my maternal grandfather opened up the first (and for the longest time, only) soda shop in Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon. My grandmother would go in every day, and her love for ice cream became a +50 year marriage. At least that was the story we got when we would ask grandpa why he would go into the kitchen exclusively to make milkshakes and smoothies, and why grandma persistently ditched her own touring kin to make gelato-stops all over Rome. Is it any wonder why it is one of my favorite comfort foods?

Last week I was invited to to Pitango Gelato's new shop across the street from Whole Foods on P. S. and I sampled a flight of Gelato - from custard to nuts to sorbets - that was a welcome respite from an overwhelmingly humid Memorial Day. The Pitango space is decked out in green, it's signature color, dark wood, stainless steel and custom-made blown glass light fixtures. There is some seating in a bar with 8 stools that runs the lenght of the back wall (there are plans to add outdoor seating soon).

While many gelato shops in the area favor the mound presentation (one does eat with the eyes, after all), Pitango keeps its offerings under stainless steel drums. While you won't have your eyes to make up your mind, the staff behind the counter will be happy to offer you a sample, and the drums, which used to be an Industry standard before air became a primary mean of cooling, not only look sharp and clean, but also keep smells and flavors from mixing, while keeping ice chips from forming. I've never been so aware of the smell of gelato and sorbet, and how that aroma can bring the flavor to you while your palette concentrates on its temperature and texture.

S. and I were very lucky to have Founder and CEO Noah Dan guide us through our flight. His philosophy is simple: with a single ingredient, you can't cheat. Pitango sources its milk and eggs from an organic, family-owned Mennonite farm in Lancaster County. When possible, the fruit is local and in peak season, so the offering change several times a month. The coffee (an espresso for me and a capuccino for S.) is a custom-blend of Latin American coffees, roasted in Baltimore, a bright floral with just a touch of smoke.

We started out with Crema, an Italian custard. Eggs, milk, a hint of vanilla. A very delicate taste in a very rich texture. We moved on to Nocciola (hazelnut), one of the few imported ingredients from Italy. This is where the smell really hit me - I normally associate hazelnuts with Nutella, which is processed to no end. These hazelnuts are smokey, and made me think of the top note of Jabugo ham, made from hazelnut-fed pigs. Pistachio is one of my favorite gelato flavors, and the Pitango version did not dissapoint - instead of tasting the milk first, you can both see, taste and feel the roasted Pistachios di Bronte, flown in from Sicily. My favorite - and it was hard to pick - was the Creme Fraiche gelato because it combines the tang of yogurt with the texture of gelato - the best of both worlds and a perfect summer treat. In the interest of quasi-journalistic integrity, we moved on to Sorbets, where we found S.'s favorite - White Grapefruit, which we sampled along with tangerine. The sugar is organic, but the fruit is not sweetened to oblivion.

By the time we left, the after-dinner crowd was making a line well outside Pitango's shop. Having had gelato for dinner ourselves, we took our leave, but not before I noticed the take-away containers. I toyed with the idea of buying one to take home but opted against it in hommage to my family history - what would become of love stories put away in the freezer?

Pitango Gelato - Washington, DC
1451 P Street, NW
Washington, DC
(202) 332-8877