Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodness Gracious

I love fine dining and holes in the wall in almost equal measure. Born and raised in cattle country, I often crave hamburgers: Central and Matchbox are among my favorites in DC, Five Guys is great for a quick fix (the fries, however, are overrated) and alas, I have yet to try Ray's Hell burger in Arlington (I keep meaning to go, B. has yet to take me). Good Stuff Eatery probably owed it's initial buzz to Top Chef Fetishists (a chance to try a contestant's food!) but after a year, it's still going strong in a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that's packed with restaurants.

The shakes are sufficiently thick, the fries crunchy and seasoned and the atmosphere jovial and quick without feeling rushed. The burger I keep going back to is the Prez Obama: applewood bacon, red onion marmalade, horseradish mayo, and roquefort cheese. The overtone is distinctly horseradish, paired with the smoke notes of all the other ingredients. The burger is warm enough to have the cheese be somewhat melted. With such a play of strong favors, I've never felt like I had to add condiments (though there's a mayo bar for the fries). The burger fits comfortably in my rather small hands - it leaves you full, but not overwhelmed.

The salad options look interesting, but the line at Good Stuff is where all diet resolutions should go to die. Walk it off with a power walk around Capitol Hill if you must.

Good Stuff Eatery on Urbanspoon

Good Stuff Eatery view menu
303 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-8222

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eat, Drink and be Merry

August is a particularly hard month at work, the one time of year where I don't observe the sanctity of the lunch break and eat at my desk (thankfully, Pret makes this better than it ought to be). But half the fun of going to a restaurant is the company, and in these impossible weeks I always make it a point to meet the near and dear for brunch.

Firefly, just south of Dupont Circle has become one of my favorites. It's signature indoor tree (complete with lanterns) isn't as striking by the light of day, but the dinning room (a fine study in maximization of space) is just as welcoming: stone, brass, and wood. You'll feel like you're visiting someone's impeccably designed cabin. The service is some of the most attentive I've had in DC - our French press coffee was promptly refilled, and our server pointed us in the direction of the $1 mimosas, answered questions about the menu items and, most importantly, weighed in on the important issue of protein v. carbs that all brunch patrons must face.

Chef Daniel Bortnick's menu is focused but abundant in choices (divided into cold things and hot things), with local farmers and purveyors listed at the bottom of the page. I tend to order brunch items with a marked tendency towards breakfast foods (though I've had the seared yellowfin tuna BLT for lunch). I chose the Snake Eyes, 2 soft-cooked eggs baked in a bread basket (growing up, my mom did a fried version of this and called it Eggs in a Frame). The baking makes all the difference - the bread basket had a distinctively different texture from the eggs without being too crispy. The eggs were set upon potatoes, with a side of country sausage and red-eye gravy (normally made with the dripping of pan-fried country ham but in this case it was probably sausage, mixed with black coffee), which added to the Southern flair of the dish. This is a layered and sophisticated egg dish that plays on both textures and temperatures, and a great alternative to staples such as eggs benedict.

A. went for Pop Pop's French toast - thick slices of challah bread dipped in orange and vanilla. The citrus does a great job of cutting the eggy smell present in most French toast, and the apple-raisin compote brings traditional flavors in a different form. The maple syrup was just warm enough.

Firefly had plenty of patrons that morning but our server made sure we took our time and enjoyed the best part of brunch - lingering and catching up over your remaining coffee (and a second round of mimosas).

Firefly @ Hotel Madera view menu
1310 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 861-1310
Firefly - DC on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ladies who Lunch

Tucked away behind the Four Seasons Hotel, facing one of the less picturesque sections of the C&O Canal, Executive Chef David Varley and his staff keep an extensive herb garden. This fragrant landscaping, scheduled to be moved up to the roof in a few months, serves as a reminder that one of the many pleasures in Georgetown is slowing down to smell the flowers, or in this case, varietals. If you are persuaded to stay, the steps will lead you to the Four Season's renovated patio - complete with bar menu, ample shade, and fire pits.

The charms of the patio could not negate that it was, in fact, high noon in August. Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina's outpost in the District, is at the end of the hotel's lobby, it's dining room flowing into the bar and the aforementioned patio. A group of us were there to sample offerings from the Lunch menu. We started with a house cocktail - peach schnapps, house made peach syrup, bourbon, and a touch of basil. I am not much of a bourbon drinker (or whisky, for that matter) and was pleasantly surprised with its ability to be mixed into a refreshing summer drink other than a mint julep. As we waited for our orders to be taken, a trio of duck fat fries (from the Lounge menu) were brought out, with ketchup, barbeque sauce and horseradish sauce as condiments. A few cast iron skillets dotted the table, holding savory rolls with truffle butter that were piping hot and very fragrant.

I started with the chilled white gazpacho, served table side. This is an almond soup, thicker and creamier than a traditional gazpacho, that couples grapes with cucumbers, offsetting the distinct but delicate tastes of almonds and garlic. Toasted almonds and basil gave it some depth. For my main course, I had seared yellow tuna in a deconstructed version of a Nicoise Salad. The tuna, sliced into two portions over green olive tapenade, dominated the plate (if you prefer a lot of green on your plate, go for the Shrimp salad), and the kitchen's attention to detail was evident right down to the placement of a boiled quayle egg and two fresh anchovies. For wine, we had a Dry Moscatel from Malaga, a citrusy white, and an excellent shiraz.

I am always weary of ordering dessert at steak restaurants, but the beautiful tropical panna cotta (topped with a whirl of avocado) was a thing of beauty. The coconut candy bar, pictured, is the kitchen's take on an Almond Joy (a fresh made Almond Joy, that is), topped with milk chocolate a smoky and salty praline caramel. It would give Central's Kit Kat Bar a run for its money in the "Homage to Candy from our Childhood" Category.

A wonderful meal in a beautiful space.

Bourbon Steak on Urbanspoon
Bourbon Steak @ The Four Seasons Hotel view menu
2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007