Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rolling Thunder

Here's the thing: I hail from cow country. I love steak, refuse to think about barbeque as "seasonal food," and commiserate with Anthony Bourdain when he expresses his disdain for the vegetarian lifestyle. Comeuppance can take many forms, and for me, it has appeared in the form of gallstones. Too young to part with any of my internal organs just yet, I've had to adjust my diet and cut out fats whenever possible. In this new fat and spicy food offset modality of eating, I have to look for alternatives that will not deprive my dining companions of the good eats they so rightly deserve.

As burger places are giving cupcake shops a run for their money in our fair city, I've decided to try the leanest thing on the menu at several places, including vegetarian patties (the one I'll happily eat again: the house-made patties available as any of the Band of Burgers at DC9). But alas, something was always missing. The lean burger (be it turkey or veggie) was an afterthought, underwhelming and barely seasoned.

Last week, A., B. and I wen to check out Thunder Burger and Bar, sister restaurant to Bodega, at the site of the well-intentioned but often unfocused News Cafe on M street. Anyone familiar with Bodega will see the same designer's hand at work: bold colors, dramatic lighting, dark wood and, to drive the biker motif home, graffiti. Except for the narrow door, you'd be hard-pressed to remember what News Cafe looked like (as DC-Wrapped Dates nailed it, Ed Hardy-esque). The design, flatware and sheer size put it in the realm of restaurant, (though its burgers are at a similar price point to BGR, except for the tip). Service is attentive, but not overly fussy. Condiments are served with the burgers or brought out on request.

Thunder has an extensive beer list with the usual suspects and some brewers I had never seen in DC. As it was a hot summer day we all ordered draft beers on the lighter side of the spectrum.

For starters, we ordered Buffalo Wings and some breaded oysters (which seem to go on and off the menu). The oysters were fine, but nothing special. The real standout were the wings, which are both grilled and fried. We ordered them medium (again, in deference to my gall bladder) and the grilling gives them a hint of smoke, coupled with a wonderful crunch from the lightly fried skin. The blue cheese is on the less pungent side and serve its purpose of cooling off the wing. I would happily go back to Thunder just for these.

For our main course, A. and B. dutifully joined me on my quest for lean options. Aside from 4 different types of salads, Thunder offers venison and buffalo burgers as well as salmon and crab cake alternatives. For the sake of methodology (it pained me to ignore the Love Me Tender, a kobe beef burger), we ordered Expecting to Fly, a turkey burger, and the Portobello Road. The Portobello was wonderful-in a nod to tradition it is served with roasted red peppers and swiss cheese, but the zucchini and walnut pesto makes this a true original. To my delight, the lettuce (Boston Bibb) and tomato were fresh and flavorful. The turkey burger was missing some salt, but made up for this shortcoming with its toppings: avocado, paired with the acidity and crunch of endives and apples. Burgers come with a side of fries (which came close to imperiling the good efforts on my behalf to cut fats but the ones I did have were lovely and piping hot).

Desserts are American classics, but what drew our attention was the Banana Split. Caramelized bananas, with three scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream. The best one by far was the chocolate, which had the consistency of frozen pudding. The strawberry was remarkably fresh, and it was topped by chocolate croutons and shave almonds that gave the plate some crunch. An ideal and very fun dessert to share, and one that could well warrant its own trip to Thunder.

A burger bar with a well-rounded menu within walking distance from my house makes gallstones seem less like a cosmic joke.

Thunder Burger and Bar on Urbanspoon
Thunder Burger and Bar
(202) 333-2888
3056 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meringue Dreamin'

Maybe it's the humidity, but I cannot stop thinking about meringue-based desserts. A roundup of my favorites:

1. Absolute food lust: Strawberry and Hazelnut Meringue cake.

2. Remembering Sym's Sydney wedding with Nigella's take on Pavlova.

3. Sachertorte, one of my favorite cakes.

4. Team Pie forever!

5. Argentina's take: Imperial Ruso.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Happy Hour at Urbana

Oh Urbana, it seems like only yesterday we were checking out your subterranean wine wall and Peugeot Salt and Pepper grinders for the first time--and cribbing your lobster, chorizo, peas pasta (gone but not forgotten) to impress the folks at dinner parties. Now I can scarcely remember a time when we didn't toddle down P St on Sundays after the farmers' market for an unlimited champagne-cocktail brunch and ensuing hijinks.

To celebrate four years, Urbana is rolling out a lovely new happy hour menu featuring a collection of small plates to be available for 5$ from 5-8pm. Even better, the price of these tasty bites is just 4$ through Sunday.

Our favorites? Crispy seafood rolls are a fresh take on the fusion spring roll, with just the right kick from their green curry aioli. Duck meatballs are moist, meaty, and perfect for sharing with a friend whose who has snagged the falafel with pickled red onions and tahini.

Happy hour also features 1$ oysters, and--for 4$ through Sunday and 5$ for the rest of the summer--beer, sparkling, red, and white wines as wells as a daily rotating selection of punch-style cocktails, including rose sangria, ginger punch, bourbonade, and a peach spritzer. Lorena and I made short work of the bourbonade--one of those delicious, deadly concoctions that goes down so refreshing that if you fail to be mindful of the punch it packs, you can turn the walk home into a stumble (not that that is always a bad thing). We'll also be back for the Spice-tini (mango, chile, vodka) and the sweet dessert-y Kentucky Picnic (more bourbon, peaches, cream, and corn, of all things (!)). These specials (and the 5$ small plates) will be available during Urbana's extended happy hour (5-8pm) for the rest of the summer.

Ready for a full meal? Through Sunday, Chef Bollinger will be offer a 4-course menu which includes a glass of Prosecco and a glass of house wine. The menu will be available for $40 between 5:30 and 8:00 p.m. and will feature selections from Bollinger’s newly launched summer menu--plus an Urbana birthday cupcake (with a candle of course).

The 5$ small plates and cocktail, beer and wine specials will continue to be available from 5-8pm for the rest of the summer, under Urbana's extended summer happy hours.

Happy Birthday Urbana! Many happy returns--hugs, your well-fed neighbors.

Urbana on Urbanspoon
Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar at Hotel Palomar Dupont Circle
2121 P St NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 956-6650

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 24th is Tequila Day

We are huge fans of tequila Over here at DCGastronome, so we take Tequila Day very seriously. The folks at Riazul are doing some interesting things with pulque, and now that the World Cup is over we need to find other excuses to indulge in tequila-based cocktails.

Riazul Octli (Nectar of Gods)
• 1 1/2 oz Riazul Silver Tequila
• 1 1/2 oz Pulque
• ½ oz Agave Nectar
• 1 oz Lime Juice
• 1 oz Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

Shake tequila, pulque, agave nectar, lime juice and hibiscus syrup with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Help for a Healthy Gulf at Hudson

Time to raise a glass to celebrate that the gusher in the Gulf appears to be capped (crossing fingers) and raise a little cash for a region and an ecosystem likely to be suffering for a long time to come.

During the week of July 19 - 25, 2010, Hudson Restaurant & Lounge will feature Gulf Coast and Louisiana inspired dishes and will re-create Classic New Orleans cocktails from our bar, to increase awareness to this area’s fishing communities. A percentage of all restaurant sales will be donated to help restore the region’s natural resources through the Gulf Restoration Network. Founded in 1994, the Gulf Restoration Network (, has been committed to protecting and restoring the natural resources of the Gulf area.

The kickoff cocktail party on Monday, July 19 from 6 - 8pm will feature seafood pearls straight from the Gulf of Mexico along with three handcrafted cocktails including the Classic Ernest Borgnine Hurricane featuring Cruzan Rum, Bloody BP Oyster Shooter with the best bloody mary recipe in DC, and the Sazerac Cocktail.

We're assuming the seafood will be coming from the unaffected parts of the Gulf.

Tasty cocktails, fresh seafood, and a good cause? Sounds like a good reason for a happy hour to me.