Friday, July 30, 2010

Frazzled Friday Thoughts

Marcel's grabbed the top prize in the annual Zagat ratings for DC/Baltimore, with a 29 for food. I'm a little surprised; we were not all that impressed (I prefer Beck).


A couple of weeks ago, we attempted to have an impromptu Bastille Day dinner at Cafe du Parc. It was not entirely successful, and Cafe du Parc will not be making the little spies list. But, the experience gives me pause to rethink my qualifications for the list. Perhaps attempting to bring a stroller to dinner is just asking too much, of my son, and of the restaurant. We tried a 5:30 outing at Metro 29 this evening, with a waking baby, one who wanted to entertain his compatriots in cuisine. It seemed to work better than bringing a sleeping stroller babe.

Though we did not have the most spectacular meal ever, I did learn a few things during our meal at Cafe du Parc. I blog anonymously (though one very well-intentioned exception will be made soon; details to follow post-Restaurant Week), so I make an effort not to out myself while dining. That's just me though. We had a very ironic experience at Cafe du Parc because we were seated next to a blogger who dines as a blogger. I've attended events with this blogger before, and I was not surprised that she was taking notes and asking questions - hey, it's a good way to get information. Anyhow, our waiter, servicing both tables, shared some of the history of both the restaurant and the Willard Hotel, in which Cafe du Parc is located. We had the benefit of eavesdropping on the blogger's conversation. Many of us know that MLK wrote the "I Have a Dream" speech at the Willard in 1963. Far fewer know that the hotel was closed five years later (due to mismanagement - kind of popular in DC in that era), and remained closed until 1986. Imagine, the beautiful hotel practically next door to the White House being shuttered for almost 20 years?! DC really has come a long way.

I have never watched One Tree Hill, so I'm ignorant as to any of the character references in her letter, but Sophia Bush, yeah, I sort of love her this week.

If you have trouble selecting restaurant week destinations (it's pressure-cooker decision), Washingtonian has a guide (kind of reminds me of US News school rankings). For what it's worth, none of my choices (make the top tier.

I'm all about the classier version of jello shots.

LeBron, yes, he's at it again (being an utter schmuck, that is). Tisk, tisk ESPN. I'm a little ashamed to say that I paid attention to yet another LeBron story, but it pointed me to this website, and all its ridiculousness. 

Oops, I made a mental note to check this out today and then forgot/got too busy. Did anyone wander over?

We're off to vacation, but not without a stop at the Cranberry Twp. Primanti Bros., just off the PA Turnpike. Some pre-scheduled posts will be coming your way in the interim, and hopefully, a guest post towards the end of my trip. In the meantime, enjoy this refreshing weather (anything less than 100 degrees feels like heaven about now!).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Come As You Are, But Come Prepared: The Passenger

Craft cocktail bar The Passenger, located across from the convention center (1021 7th Street, NW), is a unique place. In a city full of bars trying be something, The Passenger isn't trying to be anything in particular. For instance, I had it in my head that a cocktail bar would specialize in a list of signature drinks. Nope, not here. A beer list of, count them, four drafts and many more selections by the can (yes, can) was complimented by a very short wine list. We were left going "huh", particularly when we spied a completely unadvertised German lager by the bottle. As it turned out, all we had to do was ask.

One of our group did just that and learned why there is no cocktail list. The bartenders (most of whom seem very involved in the management of the bar) at The Passenger like to "craft", but don't want to tell the customers what to drink. Hence, the "come prepared". For instance, had I realized the deal with 'ordering as you like it' earlier in the evening, I probably would have suggested that I like citrus-y beverages and anything with elderflower liqueur, and to stay away from rum. I kind of like the 'craft with assistance' concept, just wish I had known this going in.

Another example of The Passenger not trying to be anything is particular is felt in the vibe. I get the feeling that the regulars are not from any certain subset of society and the rest of the crowd is fed by whatever event might be ongoing at the convention center across the street. On this particular evening, the eclectic crowd was a mix of locals checking out the bar, neighborhood drop-ins, and a number of attendees from the tech conference that week (not altogether pretty). Lesson being, bring friends for an outing here.

Cuisine is not something that by itself will draw you to the Passenger. Most of the fare centers around hot dogs, and the offerings are a bit limited. We tried the house-made jerky, and it was good, for jerky. Other than that, I don't have much to say about the food. What I will say is the Passenger is a welcome change, a neighborhood gathering spot that in not trying to define itself finds its identity. A great place for a happy hour with friends, if you know your friends and know your drink.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brunching Barracks Row: Ted's Bulletin and The Chesapeake Room

As I noted in my recent NoVa restaurant geography post, I only recently made my first visit to Barracks Row. On a Saturday afternoon, we decided to check out Ted's Bulletin to take advantage of all-day breakfast. With a lengthy wait, we were forced to alter our plans.

We decided to instead stop in to the almost vacant restaurant next door, The Chesapeake Room. (Little did I know that others were taking advantage of the neighbor spot as well.) May I first say I love the plates (below), the website (I should also probably note that I adore old maps, so it's a given with the theme), and the decor here, which I would describe as nautical eclectic. The plates are straight out of the Eastern Shore summer home in Wedding Crashers. I thought for a minute about trying to fit a set in my bag, and then remembered that I had baby in tow, and needed to set a good example. (And for anyone who thought I was being serious, please, you need to read more of my blog.) Speaking of the baby in tow, the Chesapeake Room, while they tried to accommodate us, will not be making the little spies list. Our waitress was really baffled by how to handle the situation, and we had to encourage her along a bit.




But, TCR is the positive part of the review, so I should point out now that things were not all bad. These shiny, happy thoughts on TCR are largely attributable to the offerings on those aforementioned adorable plates. Going with the in-crowd concept, TCR focuses on local, sustainable seafood, and other seasonal ingredients. Everything is quite yummy here, particularly if you enjoy seafood. For our first course, we split the Lena's Eastern Shore Salad, full of smoked chicken, duck confit, and dried cherries, and lightly dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. It's the best salad I've had in recent memory, full of delightful smokey flavors. With the bounty of local seafood apparent on the menu, my tastes directed me to the seafood omelet for my entree. Stuffed with crab, shrimp, and mushrooms, it was scrumptious. The light hollandaise was a perfect compliment to add runny egg goodness whilst topping the otherwise in-tact omelet (I don't like my scrambled eggs or omelets even slightly loose). I even fought off an aggressive eight month-old to finish it. The special bison steak and eggs caught C's eye, and he raved about it as well. The cuisine here is simple, fresh, and unpretentious. It works for us. On the libations front, I also took advantage of a lemon-infused Bacon Mary. While the bacon doesn't add much to the drink, it is a tasty slab of fat for dipping. All in all, we have very good things to say about The Chesapeake Room and likely will return, perhaps with a more definitive child care plan.

Really thinking I had missed something special given the wait at Ted's Bulletin, I gave it another shot for a weekday lunch. As we had originally planned to brunch, I ordered a heavy takeout meal of biscuits and gravy, and the signature house-made pop-tart (no, I did not finish everything in one sitting). Granted, this was takeout, so judge the food accordingly, but I for one was not blown away. Biscuits and gravy should be a greasy treat, so I don't feel like this is a dish that should warrant criticism on holding back, but that's how I felt about Ted's version. The biscuits, dry and cakey, definitely lacked adequate fat content. And these are biscuits here, so we really shouldn't be having a philosophical debate about too much butter (or lard); there is no such thing with biscuits. The gravy was equally eh, pretty flavorless really. And, even my poached egg ended up a loser - I ordered it hard, and it came out runny (generally, I don't want my eggs poached too hard, but I wanted to preserve the integrity of the gravy in this dish, which in the end, was fruitless for multiple reasons). The dish was not a success. 

There was still a chance, however, with the much-buzzed-about pop-tart. The pastry, however, is not something I can recommend. This may have something to do with the fact that I'm not a particular fan of pop-tarts out the box, but I think it's more that I expected something a little better than the foil packaged variety. The icing was tasty on Ted's version, but the filling lacked flavor (which is saying something given that it's fruit) and the pastry itself was rather dry. Other than the novelty, I'm curious why others are such fans.  I will say that the service behind the bar at Ted's was fantastic. I was promptly taken care of, and the bartender continued to make eye contact to make sure I knew he had me in mind while I waited on my takeout. Even though he was nice, it's not enough to overcome the ho-hum food.

In the future, I will not be shy about exploring Barrack's Row. Nope, I know my directions now and I'll drive on over, walk right past the crowds streaming out of Ted's Bulletin  and plop into a leather booth at the The Chesapeake Room. Okay, if I'm being honest, I really want to like Ted's, so maybe I'll get a to-go milkshake on the way home, but for brunch, my recommendation most definitely goes to The Chesapeake Room.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lunch Liaisons: Pizzeria Orso

(Lunch liaisons is a regular segment wherein C and I meet for weekday lunch dates. The associated posts are not nearly as cloak-and-dagger as they may sound, but instead are reviews consistent with the quick and painless lunch hour theme).  

C's office was renovated over the weekend, so he had an alternate work site day Friday at home.  We took the opportunity to enjoy Pizzeria Orso for lunch.  The chef is formerly of 2Amy's, and it shows in the pizza.  It also obviously leads to comparisons.  I didn't realize at the time I was eating (or more accurately, devouring) it, but someone informed me later that the crust at Orso is actually made with sourdough....sshhhhh....I think that it might be better than 2Amy's.  Other than that, it's actually hard to tell the difference between the pies at the chef's former oven location and here.  I went with the basic Margherita DOC and C tried the special stuffed pizza of the day (with adequate meat content).  Both were on par with the best Neapolitan delights in the city.  We also had the seafood salad, which had a nice flavor and texture.  After pizza and salad, a rather large lunch for me, I was certain that I would have no room for dessert.  I was mistaken.  The pistachio cannoli was a perfect flavor combination; it really hit the spot at the end of the meal. 

I think the menu selection and service are lacking compared to 2Amy's, but there is the matter of the lack of a two-hour wait.  Have a feeling that our visits may now outnumber those to 2Amy's.  Most of that has to with convenience.  (I should note the restaurant was nearly empty for Friday lunch, and I would hope traffic picks up for the Orso folks.  That said, convenience is likely to suffer as a result.)  Pupatella will likely continue to get their share of the action as well.  I think the conclusion to be drawn is there is yet another Neapolitan gamer in town.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Commonwealth: A Guided Tour


View NOVA Restaurant Geography in a larger map

I have a confession to make. I pride myself on having a sense of adventure, especially when it comes to food. But, there are times I don't want to make the trip to find new places. Sometimes it's because the neighborhood might be sketchy, and sometimes it's because I don't know exactly how far something might be, or what the parking situation may be when I get there. Whatever the excuse, I probably have not earned my "Have empty belly...will travel" tee.

I am embarrassed to admit that I finally stumbled upon Barracks Row only a couple of weeks ago (a post on Ted's Bulletin and The Chesapeake Room will follow shortly). I had heard of the neighborhood, obviously, and walked pretty much every block in the surrounding area, but just never took the initiative to look up directions. I thought it was quite a bit further north, so when we finally headed over and found just how easy it is to get there, I decided I needed to get over myself.

This got me to thinking, perhaps there are some District-dwellers who don't make it to the Commonwealth for the very same reasons. So, for their reference, and if I'm being honest, for my own, I've created a Northern Virginia culinary directory of sorts. Done on the Google Maps program, this directory includes directions, travel times, and culinary options for many areas in the Commonwealth. It's quite Arlington-centric because, well, I'm Arlington-centric. I hope you will find it useful. I also hope that if you have potentially helpful content, that you will collaborate. Please follow this link.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wait, is Dave Coulier still alive?

While I am diligently working on banking and other official matters earlier today, I read a tweet that perhaps Dave Coulier has died. And then, my morning is shot. Obviously, must do research to determine whether Uncle Joey (not really uncle, but lives in the basement) is still hanging on - Celebitchy: nothing; people.com: nada. A Google search brings up no recent hits, so I'm left to assume that he is quietly still living in oblivion. But, in 2008, he conjured up some PR - did you folks know this?

My search did reveal one interesting link: it brings me happiness to know that others were so connected to 90s sitcoms that they feel the need to blog as well.

So, this got me to thinking about the Full House crowd and how they've respectively fared...I think we've got Coulier covered.


Other Full House alums in the news this week: We thought John Stamos was working out, what with the ER run, but it appears things have not been going well. Ewww.....

Bob Saget...well, he has an incredibly crude comedy routine. Funny, but crude.

Obviously, the Olsen twins (well, Mary-Kate, specifically; Ashley seems to have preserved some dignity; wait, I take that back) are a train wreck. Everyone knows that.

Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) has also had her problems.

I'll leave out Aunt Becky and Kimmie as they are more tangential characters. As far as I know, both are doing quite well.

DJ appears to have it together. In fantasy world, I like to think she married Steve and is living happily ever after. In reality, she married a hockey player, had kids, and appears to have escaped the Tanner girl drug addiction curse. Good for her. A little note: Dear Hollywood, let's take a break on criticizing those who practice their faith - it kind of seems to work out for them. #I'mjustsayin'.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind that this post is in jest, and these are real people, with real lives, and real problems. Sometimes in our celebrity-obsessed (guilty! right here!) culture, we seem to forget that.

Oh, and for those of you who wanted to see the (semi-failed, as in semi-freddo) peach bourbon sorbetto, looky here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Mash-Up

Mash-up, as in baby food, as in Top Chef?! I generally have been leaving my comments for this season's Top Chef to tweets, because generally, I have not had that much to say. But, as resident baby mama of my food blogger posse, I feel it's my duty (and right) to say something here. And that something is - what the ^&<# were you thinking Top Chef producers?! Let's see, tonight I fed baby H, who I'll point out is really developing his palate at almost 8 months old, red lentils, green beans, and oatmeal. There was no Panang curry, no ribeye steak. In defense of the chefs, I agree with @foodwanderings, the task was utterly bizarre. This isn't my favorite season of Top Chef, and I'm sad because it's the DC season, but at least I feel better about the lack of invites to any events. I'd much rather enjoy our local talents.

We just broke a 24-hour fast (needed a little enlightenment for balancing life) with El Pollo Rico. Mmmmm....Can I tell you how difficult fasting is for a food blogger? I shouldn't complain, I know - there are things to be learned, ideas to be discovered. C kind of encapsulated my inner hunger when he arrived home tonight: "I was on metro and this Asian tourist family got on, and they had packed their own sushi. They had sushi, babe, on metro!! I...am...so...hungry..."

Also a difficult adjustment in our household - balancing our desire to eat out often with the significance of the accompanying stroller. We are very slowly trying to find our way back to restaurants. We love to eat out. And, we don't plan to leave our child with a babysitter every week in order to do so. Thus far, we've largely headed into the realm of suburbia, knowing that crying babies are acceptable behavior outside of the Beltway. As a result, we've kind of been compromising taste in case the little guy wakes up and wants to meet the patrons (he's a curious one). [And, I'm not saying that we are not willing to adjust our lives, entirely, for our child. We are. We love him and recognize that life will never be the same. He comes first - period. That said, we remain passionate about food and hope to share that passion with him someday. With that in mind, we hope to continue to dine at desirable and more importantly, delicious restaurants]. So, along with some additional technical edits (see below), I have created a new blog list - kid-friendly dining options for your own little spies. Let me clarify this - I do not mean restaurants that will merely grin and bear the appearance of a child, and perhaps offer you a high chair for an obviously sleeping infant (there is a reason I note "stroller" on the open table reservation, and no, it is not to have my kid scream in a high chair). I mean restaurants that maintain their culinary standards whilst welcoming families at large. If anyone has a suggestion, bring it in the comment section.

No more octopi for Jose Andres' restaurants.

Really, Thomas Keller?! You felt that the next Bouchon Bakery had to be within 15-odd blocks of one of its sister locations. Really?!

I expect a photo album of my peach bourbon sorbetto will appear on my facebook page sometime this week.

I added two new blogs to my Google Reader repertoire this week; my friend Anna shared a review of Brothell, Washington's Preservation Kitchen (I'd been salivating over her pics pre blog post - she takes really wonderful photographs - and I will definitely be fitting in a brunch on our next trip west) on her blog, Charm and Adventure; also, a colleague introduced me to The District Domestic.

Finally, I can officially announce my move to www.dclovesfood.com. You should still be directed from dclovesfood.blogspot.com, but old comments no longer appear (sad; those meant a lot). Along with the aforementioned additional list, I decided that my template isn't too bad as it is (just a bit of tidying up needed). Heartfelt thanks to IEatDC and 2Washingtons for your suggestions and advice.

Up this week (and I can make this promise as I've already been working diligently on the post) - NoVa restaurant geography, for those who fear the Commonwealth.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Testing, 1, 2, 3

To my regular subscribers, I apologize for making guinea pigs out of you. But, I'm in the middle of transferring over to www.dclovesfood.com and need to check a few things, and well, here goes...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quick, Cheap, & Fresh Summer Dinner

As recipes are more ideas for me, this is my version of the NY Times Salad Lyonnaise. I didn't go too far off book with this one, just a tad. I added white truffle oil (be incredibly sparing) for flavor rather than shallots or onions.

Ingredients (serves two)
1 head green leaf lettuce, medium chop
2 fresh eggs
1/4 cup diced pancetta

White truffle oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon reserved
Ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt

First, I prepared my dressing (in a large stainless steel bowl) with one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of white vinegar. I added literally two drops of white truffle oil (see below; I picked mine up a cute touristy grocery in Williamsburg, but I think it's available at Whole Foods or other fancy pants grocery stores - I did not mean to sound like Rachel Ray there). I've added a drizzle before and that was far too much, so I'm not kidding when I say be sparing. About half a teaspoon of course salt and three or four grinds on the pepper mill will finish off the dressing.



I then crisped up my pancetta (the Citterio pre-diced variety, available at Trader Joe's). I should note that the NYTimes recipe allows for the substitution of bacon, but I would not recommend it with my version of the salad. After the pancetta is well cooked, place it on a folded paper towel to absorb the grease, and once absorbed, add it to the dressing.



I moved on to the poaching of my eggs, one at a time. 


Everyone seems to have a different method for poaching eggs. I used to not be able to pull it off at all, but I soon realized I was unnecessarily complicating things. Now, I simply boil 2-3 cups water with 1/4 cup vinegar and swirl (keep the swirl going) before adding my egg (about one minute, maybe 90 seconds will do it). Two tips: from my experience, the finished product tends to be better if you use a fresh egg (notice how deep yellow the yolks are on my Pleasant Hill Farm eggs) and if you break the egg into a bowl rather than directly into the water (this also helps for people with klutziness problems, like myself). Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place eggs in separate bowls to cool slightly.

With the eggs finished off, it was time for assembly. I use a large stainless steel bowl to toss salads with tongs (I think I may have learned this from Cosi); dressing and proteins in first, then add your greens. For this salad, exclude the poached egg until the end. Plate the greens, then delicately slide an egg on to each bed of greens. Here's your pretty finished product.


On this occasion, I served this lovely salad with Tuscan sausage soup, a standard in my house. I know, I must be crazy eating soup in this heat. I used dandelion greens instead of the usual Swiss chard in this particular version of the soup. For your reference, dandelion greens are very, very bitter. I think the greens may have to stew for a day or two to absorb the flavors of the broth.

I have also served this salad with grilled asparagus, which is almost the perfect compliment for a summer meal. With the help of The Frozen Fix, I'm going to work on a peaches and bourbon creamy sorbetto this weekend to compliment another summer meal.

With that, I'm off to my weekend (and to celebrate the two-year anniversary of my first blog post today!). Happy Friday. Eat well this weekend.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Free Agency: GS Scale Style

This one goes out to the ones I blog....after a fierce Tweebate yesterday regarding #thedecision (if you have not heard, he's not my favorite), I thought a little tongue-in-cheek bureaucrat post was necessary. 

I figure that DC now has a Real World, Desperate Housewives, and a Top Chef. And LeBron has clearly made free agency a reality TV show. So, why not the DC version of free agency?

For those of you in the civilian rank and file (I hope the non-government sector readers out there have fun with this too), a General Schedule free agency timeline for your enjoyment...

Sun., Sept. 5, 2010
12:01 AM: Debon Ames' three-year honors attorney program commitment with HUD expires - his free agency begins.

12:02 AM: Executive agencies, recognizing the legal talent and previous Supreme Court clerkship experience (footnote 1), consider their budgets and potential shift to SEC pay scale or early retirement initiative to fit in generous new attorney contract for Ames - really, this all began several months back, but now such can be done with 'transparency in government'.


(footnote 1) Yes, this is unrealistic; a SCOTUS clerk would never go to a government agency; they go for the big bucks. But, this made my timeline a little more fun.

Mon., Sept. 6, 2010
Obviously, no action on the contract negotiations today - it's a federal holiday for goodness' sake.

Tues., Sept. 7, 2010
7:32 AM: DOT gets in the game early, touting new office space as enticement; also creates SES position, with no management obligations, specifically for Ames.

7:48 AM: FEMA (New Orleans office) posting opens up on usajobs.gov, again targeted towards Ames. Offer includes payment of moving expenses. FEMA also offers to lobby OPM to annex San Franscisco as part of New Orleans P.O.D. in order to manipulate locality pay adjustment.

9:31 AM: Frenzy continues as State wants in on the action. Though there is no maternity leave available for federal employees, Hilary Clinton calls up her good friends in the Senate to see if she can get a paternity leave bill (specifically for employees of the State Dep't) quietly through committee.

11:00 AM - 2:00 PM: Ames is confused and a little shaken by lack of offers in this time period and then remembers that obligatory government lunch hours must occur between 11 and 2.

6:15 PM: Last minute offer from a firm, hoping to catch agency execs off guard as they have most certainly headed home for the night.

Wed., Sept. 8, 2010
6:23 AM: As his secretary, who arrives at 5:30 AM (to beat traffic), notified her boss of overnight activities, Treasury Secretary Geitner arrives at office to sway Obama to sign off on whopping 4% inflationary increase for FY2011 for purposes of recruiting Ames. After consideration, Geitner decides to retract this request in fear that Congress will veto. Instead, he thinks perhaps some Wall Street executives may 'sponsor' Ames' salary.

Fri., Sept. 10, 2010
8:13 AM: After allowing a sufficient cooling off period, Commerce offers full time work from home and metro subsidy for life 'perks' for Ames.

9:00 PM: With leaks from top-level staffers at Commerce that they are confident Ames will be matriculating (based on Secretarial swap negotiated in the meantime in order to get Kathleen Sebelius on board), Vegas lights up with wagers on additional GAO funding being siphoned to Commerce.

Mon., Sept. 13, 2010

3:31 PM: After Ames, because of restrictive internet usage policies at work, uses his personal iPhone to create a facebook account for purposes of announcing his choice, White House decides to get in the game. Offers to hire House's Olivia Wilde to work alongside Ames and unlimited rides aboard Marine One for commuting purposes.

October 2010 through February 2011
** Jeopardy theme music **

After two telephone screening interviews, and three call backs, Ames is invited to the White House to meet his prospective boss, President Obama, for a final in-person panel.

Mon., March 7, 2011
11:36 AM: At the conclusion of the final interview Obama reminds Ames that he really has an obligation to serve the nation because he's been taking advantage of the much-lauded federal government health insurance for the last three years. Ames decides immediately that Obama is right, and awaits offer.

Fri., April 15, 2011
4:30 PM: White House human resources director telephones Ames to notify him that he has been selected for the position and his 3 year clearance process will begin immediately. (Simultaneously, Joe Biden requisitions a hacker to infiltrate all .gov email accounts to announce Ames' hiring.)

4:34 PM: Ames cannot pass up the offer - in his excitement, he quits HUD effective immediately.

4:36 PM: Government-wide hiring freeze. Game over. Please try again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vegetarian Visiting: Farmers & Fishers

I don't know exactly what the technical term is for a vegetarian who still eats fish and eggs; it probably involves "ovo" and does not work alliteratively. So, this is what you get. That's not to say there aren't lots of good blogs out there for those of you seeking strict vegetarian and vegan sources; this post, however, is not one of them. My personal vegetarian, my sibling, K, eats fish, so we thought his recent visit would be a good opportunity to try out Farmers and Fishers on the Georgetown waterfront.

There are so many things about Farmers & Fishers that I want to like - their eco-friendly mission, menu selection, the location, for instance. The sustainability and farm-to-table concepts; those they've got down and for that, kudos is deserved. The food, we found, has some true highlights, but also some lackluster performances. I think the restaurant has promise, and I hope they are able to improve on some of the weaker dishes, because I don't want to have to choose between my (eco) conscience and my stomach - I want both to have a happy night out together.

Before I move on to the cuisine, I should first make a note about the beverage selection, presented in yet another treatise of a menu. The cocktail list invites diners to "imbibe" but at $12 - $14 per drink, I felt wine was the more economical option. (Though I should note that I suspect the F&F cocktails are quite tasty, as they appear very similar to the rather delicious libations at Founding Farmers). My brother and I decided to split what we expected to be a bottle of "Yellow and Blue" Argentinian Torrontes. Well, without prior warning, this is what was served:





As it turns out, this particular organic wine is served in, according to our waiter, not a box, but in environmentally-friendly carton packaging. Now, this is not all bad. In fact, it's really not bad at all. The carton is a full liter of wine versus your typical 750 ml in a bottle - allowing for take home wine even with two splitting the bottle. Plenty of amusement can be gathered from said carton, like say, when your waiter puts it in an ice bucket, or when you've had a couple of glasses and carry it around whilst referring, with a British accent, to Grey Poupon. And last but not least (teetering precariously on the edge of oversharing here), with the aforementioned take-home wine, the carton makes for a perfect bath-time drinking vessel - it stays cold, it floats, and it's not breakable. With that little tangent overcome, moving on to the cuisine...

The vast menu (just like Founding Farmers, its sister restaurant, which I enjoyed the first go round, but with which I have been subsequently less-than-wowed - with the exception of the aforementioned cocktails, of course) at F&F has plenty of options but the seafood and fish selections are quite limited, even more limited if you don't want said fish and/or seafood deep fried. In fact, the majority of the menu is made up of pizzas and pastas - what is this, the earth-friendly Cheesecake Factory?

Despite the limited selection, I was nevertheless intrigued by the signature preparations of the fresh fish(es) of the day. On this particular day, however, the only selections were salmon and tilapia, two fishes I would generally prefer to prepare at home rather than order from people who are paid to cook. K, however, decided that the Tilapia Chesapeake Style (Old Bay, etc...) would be worth a try. Given the number of pastas on the menu, I was swayed that perhaps these might be signature dishes, and I went with the crab ravioli. C, in a menu full of options, evidently couldn't decide, and went with the local standard, crabcakes. It's funny how I was the one criticizing the menu and others' selections, only to turn out to be the diner disappointed by her entree. K's Tilapia was had the triple fluh - flaky, flavorful, and flooring (maybe?!) - I dunno, I tried. C raved that the crabcakes were the best he'd tasted in quite some time. On the other hand, my ravioli was tough and chewy, and the butter wine sauce was lackluster. 


We were able to find a couple of seafood options as appetizers as well. (I know, reverse order here). The cracker-crusted calamari had a yummy and distinctive flavor, but the cracker crust did not stand up to the deep fry it underwent. The crab dip was pretty average, but it's crab and cheese, so who's complaining? We also shared a salad, which one I don't remember, so that says enough about that. Perhaps, instead, we should have gone with the truck-style tacos that caught my eye.


Dessert meant it was time to head home, so we took the fried-to-order doughnut holes (Q: Does Deepthroat ever pass up doughnuts? A: No.) and bourbon sweet potato pecan tart to go. While the doughnut holes had a luscious chocolate glaze, I wasn't in love with them, and these are doughnuts we are talking about (I'm like Jessica Simpson to jerks for them). We were similarly unimpressed by the tart. It was the size of a mini-quiche, dry, and utterly flavorless. Perhaps a cup of Intelligentsia coffee is a better choice than dessert at F&F.


The service was also one of the lesser points of our meal. Our waiter seemed, well, either scared of us, or scared of life. He continued, after numerous requests to repeat things, to whisper to us despite the fact that we were sitting outdoors in front of a fountain and the Tony and Joe's outdoor bar. Also, after C asked for the third time for the Coke he had previously ordered, we were informed that the restaurant did not serve Coke (and no, this was not a Coke v. Pepsi confusion; just no mass-marketed sodas, period).

As I noted, we dined outside, so I cannot tell you what the scene is like inside the restaurant. But, it may be a better choice than the outside tables, unless of course, you want to people watch. It's the G-Town waterfront; there are always lots of choices for people-watching. It's a little difficult to separate one's self from the Tony & Joe's bar (we've all been there at some point) and the prom kids at the outdoor tables though. So, if you would appreciate a different scene, I would suggest dining inside.


Summary thought - F&F has some kinks to work out, but it has promise.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lunch Liaisons: The Oval Room

(Lunch liaisons is a regular segment wherein C and I meet for weekday lunch dates. The associated posts are not nearly as cloak-and-dagger as they may sound, but instead are reviews consistent with the quick and painless lunch hour theme).  

Our lunch at the Oval Room was exactly what it should have been. The food was great, the meal proceeded in a timely manner, and the service was unobtrusive. Our appetizers (pics below; try to guess which is which) were so pretty and colorful, I felt that pics needed to be included. My roasted beet salad, highlighted by passion fruit gelee and ice-wine vinaigrette, was refreshing and unique. C's tuna tartare, with coconut and chili flavors, was palate pleasing. Both of us were in a seafood mood; Thai curry prawns (nice flavor balance) for me, and crispy rockfish for C (rockfish is a hard dish to profile, but the herby ratatouille was a nice compliment). Apps were probably slightly better, but no complaints about the entrees. We debated whether to add dessert, and ended up splitting the almond toffee cake. I'm glad we did - the cake itself was bliss, but it was a wonderful adventure when paired with apple compote and salted caramel ice cream (likely too savory by itself, but perfect for the cake).
 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Goodness, this week just ran away from me. Tell me, how on earth is it Thursday? I could swear that yesterday was Monday. Wait, that also means that today is...July?! Perhaps this is how commentary-style posts happen. Or, more likely, I get ideas for posts and when I sit down to write, I realize that what I have to say is a little more abbreviated than I first suspected. Or, it could be laziness (or the latest Stephenie Meyer book I've been reading - I'm not going to pretend she's some literary savant, but she knows how to write addictively; I think it has something do with main characters who serve as vessels for the readers).

First, Penny wants to make sure to communicate her thanks to all who voted in Arlington's Cutest Dog contest. You probably have guessed by now that she did not win, but we did have some fun, and our friend Dustin's comments on the contest link, baiting some of the dog crazies out there, were both hilarious and appreciated. I love my dog, but some people need to get some perspective. Penny provided that perspective this week when she had a little slip and fall. She injured her hip, but with treatment of anti-inflammatories, seems to be doing much better. That said, there is nothing as pathetically heart-wrenching as cries of pain from a puppy. Penny, like many Berners, hides her pain as to not upset her humans. So, we knew she must have been in some serious distress last weekend when she winced at almost every vertical movement. It was a rough few days, and frankly, I surprised C and I both by being the strong one. Everything seems fine now, but it was a reminder to cherish the ones we love, including our canines.

Ok, on to more lighthearted fare...

Have been exploring the neighborhood a little more recently, and discovering some uncharted territory. Grabbed lunch at Caribbean Breeze, which is literally steps from our door, but never beckoned us in before. Their Cuban sandwich was pleasant enough. I would have enjoyed a higher alcohol content in the Sangria, but it was tasty. Enough motivation for a repeat visit. Also tried Pupatella's new bricks and mortar location. The pie is as good as ever, though I was struck by just how delicious their cart offerings (prepared, basically, in a glorified toaster oven) can be when compared to this mortgage-worthy brick oven. Point being, the Pupatella folks can make a tasty pizza, no matter what kitchen they are using. One welcome addition - their risotto balls are crazy good. Their new pizza box is obviously worth pointing out as well. How adorable.


I guess I'm a little more mainstream than I thought. Media outlets covered the heck out the opening of Harry Potter Land (properly referred to as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). But it was one of my favorites, IEatDC, and MSNBC that appropriately covered the amusement park cuisine (including, Butterbeer, the fantasy food I've been looking forward to most). This Muggle, for one, is really excited for her December trip to the park (the inlaws have agreed to accompany us to Orlando so babysitting services are available while mommy and daddy are kids at heart). Until then, C and I are putting down wagers on how long until Universal recognizes the potential lost profits in limiting sales of Butterbeer to the park.


At last, I tried myself a Rebel Heroes Banh Mi last week. Tasty, and with a nice kick, and in my uninformed opinion, authentic compared to its Eden Center competitors. But, for the wait (not sure why it takes quite so  long for a sandwich not cooked to order) and convenience, I'm inclined to go with a Sauca. I really enjoyed their buffalo chicken, with a little dill sauce, this week.

For those who have been following my gardening adventure, I'm guessing you are starting to wonder where those sprouts are at this point. Well...It seems our sprinklers were reaching every part of our yard, but for my garden row (Our lovely neighbor fixed the system. We live amongst retired folks, not quite as exciting as these people, but they still have lots of time on their hands). Thus, the zucchini and peas have dried out. I just planted a new basil plant, and I'm planning to pick up a tomato plant to put in the ground as well. My silver-haired garden guru at work tells me that I still have time.

While perhaps not in my garden, elsewhere, it's that point in the season where produce really starts hitting it's summer stride. I love it. My Washington's Green Grocer bounty this week includes dandelion greens, blueberries, peaches, corn, and other good stuff - I'll have to try out their roasted beet and blueberry salad - looks soooo good. I made sauteed ocra with tomato sauce for dinner tonight while the carnivore is on a golf trip. It was yummy, but better with a baguette.


A portion of this week's produce haul will soon be baby food as well; likely apples, green beans, and brown rice cereal (following up on carrots, peaches, and oatmeal from last week). I kept hearing about stage one and two baby foods, and feeling like a bit of an incompetent mother because I did not know the difference. I also kept second guessing myself thinking that I was either nearly poisoning my kid (no, he did not turn blue after having spinach - I went organic, which is supposed to reduce the nitrates), or feeding him too much, or not giving him balanced nutrients. I'm pretty sure that half of motherhood is second guessing yourself. As it turns out, it was a good idea that I buy a book about baby nutrition - it's difficult to figure all of this out on our own; some guidance is helpful.


When did St. Louis get cool? Not when I lived there. (Ok, the microbrews were there at the time - Schafly: thumbs up; Boulevard: thumbs waaayyy down).

Evidently, having shut down ten blocks worth of left turns off of Pennsylvania Avenue six weeks ago, the bike lanes are finally officially open. While this may not be the most popular point of view out there, I'm not happy. With Independence Avenue and Ohio Drive closed to traffic, it's all but impossible to get west in a vehicle after 5 pm. With Metro unsustainable, if I believed that the lanes would actually increase bike ridership or prevent cyclists from attempting to be vehicles, I would throw my support behind the concept. However, I think this is just an attempt to make a program look like it's making a difference, rather than actually doing so. Once in a while (once in a greater while, now that I have daycare stops in my commute), I bike to work. I stick to trails and error on the side of sidewalks rather than competing with cars. That doesn't seem to be the general custom, and I don't think these lanes are going to help anything. Maybe I'm just being selfish, but I don't think I'm alone in this view.


The aforementioned commute will soon be taking me to a different building.We are supposedly moving into the building in which Buddha Bar is housed. Early reviews don't paint a happy picture for that particular prospect, but other foodie destinations (in the City Vista building) are within the block, including the much-talked-about Kushi, Taylor Gourmet, and Busboys and Poets. I went on a recon mission and was intrigued by the idea of $6 parking lots, Henry's Soul Cafe ("Home of the Sweet Potato Pie" - yes, please), and both CVS and Harris Teeter (that's a new food frontier, easy groceries and pharmacy pick-up at work). Unfortunately, also during my mission, I noticed that the men leering from vehicles quotient is particularly high in this block as well. Any other notes on my new professional hood?


Must point out the recent trend of aesthetically-pleasing Sams in the foodie world. Sadly, the Sam Adams brewers don't count.


Speaking of swoon, though not his recent wiki photo, this post was originally scheduled for Monday (the title also worked better when it was mind-numbingly hot), John Cusack's birthday. Well, I'm a little late, but happy birthday every nerdy late-twenties to thirties something girl's dream. What's your favorite of his films? I vote for his take on serial killer for hire Martin Blank in Grosse Pointe Blank.