Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's the food like at The White House? Read on...

Marrying up has it's perks. I was able to ride coattails into the White House Correspondant's Holiday Party this year. This was a shot I took on the way out afterwards. Nice miniature of a diningroom. Must be the west wing because I didn't see anything quite so homey in the rest of the place.

You never know who you'll meet at these kind of events. Derek Brown is an old friends who is a very successful mixologist. He specializes in hand-crafted cocktails, home-made mixers, and classic drinks. Great guy. He is co-owner of The Passenger in Penn Quarter and another place coming soon.

Here's the outside of the gingerbread version. Pretty neat.

Cheryl and me in front of the tree.

So what was the food like?
First of all, it was top-notch. It seemed like most of the folks working the party were well-paid and the chefs they had working the buffets were on the money.
The drinks (as crafted by Derek) were great. The bars all had top shelf liquor and the eggnog was definitely spiked with some Kentucky windage.
They had sushi displays, tenderloins, turkey and fixin's, a nice smoked salmon layout...
These buffets, btw, were all over the place too. It wasn't just in one room. As the line to get your picture taken with POTUS it went past several bars and food stations so no one got thirsty or tired.
All in all, a neat event.
Maybe next year you can just show up and say you were supposed to be on the list too.....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ray's the Steaks in Arlington...worth the trip....

Here's a shot of me and my friend Mark Slater, formerly of Citronelle and now with Ray's. Michael Landrum has hit the nail on the head with that hire. Mark has more knowledge of wine than anyone I've ever met. We showed up at 6:30pm on a Saturday night. No big wait, no rudeness. Just politeness in informing me that we wouldn't be seated until our entire party was there. I can understand that.
Mark's suggestion for wine was very nice for the price. He's got a large choice of bottles for less than $50.00, but he's also got some special occasion wines on the list. Nice options to have.

Now, I have to say, this was one of the nicest steaks I've had in a while. Topping it with fois didn't hurt either. It was done as I requested and had a very nice flavor. I'd rank this right up there with BLT, Bourbon Steak, Lewne's, and the rest of the bigger guys.
The entrees came with a couple of family-style sides including spinach and mashed potatoes. No extra charge for that.

Desserts were good. I forgot to take a pic before we dug in, but this was the standard here. I'd go with the dark chocolate mousse.
The check hit the table with the desserts, but it wasn't done in a "get out" kind of way. They want you to enjoy yourself and come back. We will.
Bottom line? Definitely worth a visit. It's the best value you can get in a good steak house around here.
Well done folks.
Ray's the Steaks on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Founding Farmers...

I decided to visit my friends at Founding Farmers. Luckily it was a few days before the most recent Washingtonian came out, lauding them with the following:
  • Best Value (#3)
  • Best American Restaurant (#1)
  • Most Overrated (#3)
  • I disagree with the last one (FYI)
We sat in the upstairs dining room. The ground floor was packed with all of the seats at the bar taken and quite a few people waiting for tables and reaching in for drinks.
We started with a Farmer's Smash, which is kind of like on Old Fashioned, and a Knob Creek and Ginger. What was nice about this was that they either make their own ginger ale, or they use something that is very far removed from Canada Dry. It was very tasty.
We had the assortment of deviled eggs. I'm not sure what was in all of them but there weren't any that weren't good.

Nice presentation on the deviled eggs.

Paul had the Rockfish Provencale as suggested by our very friendly waiter. I was actually going to order this myself, but since Paul did, I could pass on the fish and go for the meat.
The fish was done perfectly. Moist, flaky, and tasty.
This was my dish. I got the prime rib, mid-rare natch, and it came with homey mac n'cheese. This is the best prime rib I've had since my days as a waiter in Lexington, KY. The outside had a nice savory rub and the inside was roasted to perfection.
We were in a bit of a hurry, so I can't comment on dessert. What I can say is that these guys have their formula down. The food is good, the place looks great, service is well above average for the DC metro, and the prices are not out of hand.
Best wishes for a happy holiday friends.
I'll be posting about creating dinner with my photographer friend for Thanksgiving.
Until next time.....
Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Washington Reality at its Best...The Fundraiser for a good cause.

Michael Mina of Bourbon Steak
Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin, 10 Arts, Westend Bistro and others..

Morou of Kora and Iron Chef

Mike Isabella of Zaytinya and Top Chef

Sometimes I don't just work when I work. Sometimes it's actually fun to do my job. Last night was one of those times.
I got to go to the DC Central Kitchen Food Fight. Chefs battle in a mini-Iron Chef-type competition. The food and drink is good, the company is great.
The cause is stupendous.
DC Central Kitchen not only feeds the homeless, they train people to produce the food, thereby giving people skills they can use to break the cycle of whatever it is that has put them at risk to begin with.
Very noble effort.
If you only attend one charity event next year, try to make it this one. Tickets sell out early, but they are worth it.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lot of stuff going on in DC Metro these past few weeks...

Kellari, by Stavros Aktipis of NY, Masa 14, by Richard Sandoval, Kaz of the eponymous Sushi Bistro, and Latif Guler of Jacks, Birch and Barley by Michael Babin of NRG, American Flatbread, Kabab-Ji, BGR, and a few others either opened in the past few weeks or will open in the next week.
Busier than a one-legged man in an ass kickin' contest!
That's all good though. It gives me more experience dealing with the trials and tribulations of restaurant ownership so that one day, when I finally grow a pair, I too can open a restaurant and, if the gods are smiling upon me, be successful with it.
I went to Kellari for dinner with friends on Friday. We were treated warmly and the dinner was nice. We got the chef's selection, which was $45.00/per person. It included plates to share for the table. Very nice.
That same day, I was lucky enough to enjoy a lunch with one of my friends at Bourbon Steak. This restaurant in the Four Seasons in G-Town has it down.

A trio of duck-fat fries. Generally, duck-fat fries are limp and greasy, but here Mr. Mina has figured it out. Very crisp, nice presentation, and nice dipping options.
This was my flat-iron steak. Very tasty.

This was a tough call here. Was the burger better than the steak? It was close. The burger had some very nice flavors to it and was prepared perfectly. Cave-aged cheddar, tasty beef. Yum. Was it broiled in butter a la Mina? I'm not sure, and probably don't want to know in any event.
Anyhow, thanks for reading. Help the country eat its' way out of the recession! Dine often.
Until next time...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking for the freshest seafood this side of Crete? Try Kellari

Stavros Aktipis is the man from Manhattan with his eye on the prize of having the freshest seafood in DC.
He took over the old Restaurant K by Allison Swope at 1700K St. N.W.
His crew got the place finished very tastefully in record time. Nice fixtures and warm, cozy touches abound.
Stavros himself is a family man who loves to have kids in his restaurant. He says kids make him feel lucky and invulnerable, like nothing bad can happen when his family is around. Nice guy.
Anyhow, on to the food! I only tasted a couple of dishes as I already had plans that night, but what I had and saw was good. This is a view of the fish display. You choose what fish you want, order it by the pound, tell them how you want it prepared, and it's done family-style. You can order a couple of whole fish or shellfish for the family.
The light was a little dim, but as you can tell here it's very cozy. I like the cut-outs with the Greek words that are back-lit. Not sure what they mean, but it's nice looking.

Stavros and me. I deal with a lot of restaurant owners in my line of work and I have to say that he is one of the nicer guys I've met. He's above-board and does what he says he's going to do. At the end of the day that's what you're left with. Did you keep your committments or not?

This is the flaming cheese. Pretty fuzzy picture, but the waiter was about to dowse it with lemon juice to put it out so I was in a hurry.

These are the sardines, grilled simply and quickly with lemon, olive oil, and parsley. Crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on this inside.
Bottom line, it's worth the trip to DC. Bring your family. It's that kind of place. Tell Stavros, or the General Manager, Yacine, that I sent you!
Thanks for reading folks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Restaurant week at Vidalia

Boy am I behind on my's not that I haven't been eating, I promise you. It's that I've been way buys at work. People keep opening restaurants, people are re-opening closed restaurants, and my competition is responding by cutting staff and reducing service personnel...Bad for them. Good for me.
Anyhow, enough about work. Let's talk about passion. Let's talk about Jeff Buben and R.J. Cooper. The owner and Exec Chef, respectively, of Vidalia. One of my favorite places in DC. My friend Matt and I went to Vidalia last year and had a Truffle Extravaganza

This year, we were not so fortunate, but what we did get was restaurant week pricing. Jeff has the distinction of being one of the few owners that actually let you choose from their regular menu. There is surcharge, natch, for the lobster or the steak entree, but it's still one of the best values in town. Reservations go QUICK. As soon as I saw the advertisement for Restaurant Week in my inbox I booked a table. I was blessed with the preceding Gumbo, shown above, and the following items, below, all for a very reasonable price.
It's been so long, I'm not sure if this was the pork loin or not.
I believe this was Matt's Monkfish.
I thought this dish was the winner. Lobster Tail with Lobster Foam with Braised Pork Belly. This was done perfectly and tasty as you could want.
Frog Legs. Never had them before, but I figured if I was going to try them I might as well have R.J. Cooper cooking them for me.

A favorite of mine: Country Pate. Yum.

This one you'd have to fight me for. Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Kind of like Michel Richard's Kit-kat. In any event, it sounded good enough to make me stray from my usual Lemon Chess Pie here, which is one of the best desserts on the planet. This was pretty good too. Jeff, whenever you're ready to give me the REAL recipe for the Chess Pie I'll take it... This was the Bourbon Pecan Pie. Matt seemed to like his better than mine, so I'd say we did well.

Until next time....thanks for reading.

Please feel free to hit me with comments, suggestions, and rude remarks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home Cookin'....6 Pound Butts

So, my friends ganged up on me and said, "Hey, when are you going to smoke some butt again?".
Well, how could I refuse? So, here's the secret. Buy a smoker. They're no expensive, but it sure makes smoking meat easy if you've got a digital thermostat and a timer on it.
First off, you find a couple of Boston Butts. You score the skin just down to the meat so the rub and smoke can get in. Then you rub your meat...with mustard, then your favorite dry rub. I used a Dr. Smelly's Southern Succor rub.

Wrap them up and let them sit overnight. The next morning, bright and early, take them out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter while you prepare the smoker. HAACP rules don't apply here.

Get your smoker up to 225 and put the meat in. Leave it on for 2 hours, then start spraying with apple juice every hour. Bring it up to 145 (I use an electronic thermometer with a remote so I can monitor it from the comfort of my couch). Once that happens, you can do one of two things: either put it in a pan and wrap tightly with foil, or put it in your oven in a pan, wrapped in foil. Either way you get the same effect as you're not going to be adding any more smoke.

From here on it's all waiting and watching until you hit 205. Plan on 1.5 hours per pound for the whole shooting match.

So, think you're done? Not quite. Once it's at 205 turn off the heat, leave it in the oven, don't open the door, but turn it off. Let it sit for about 2 hours. Then tear a small hole in the foil and let it sit for another 1/2 hour.
I know you'll have a hard time not peeking as it's going to smell great just sitting there, but try and resist. The end product will be worth it and it will look like this:
12 Pounds of smokey, steamy meat!
And you get to hang out with your friends, drink beer, and pull your pork.
Kids dig it too!

Steamy pork goodness. Smoked to perfection and falling apart.
Thanks for reading folks.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Two meals, one post......

Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize how much fun I get to have for a living. Doing my job (regardless of what my boss says) requires me to be in close proximity to very talented people. As is the case with most talented people, some of them are a little wacky. Out of the wackness comes a few sublime moments. Below you'll see 1.5 sublime moments. Sorry about the 1/2, but I was in a rush and couldn't enjoy both experiences to the fullest.
Roasted duck legs and rice at Blue Duck Tavern Elegant presentation
Poached chicken breast salad at Blue Duck Tavern.
The first (the .5) was lunch at Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt, DC.

I took my friend Mike there for lunch for his birthday. He took me to Westend Bistro for mine, so I had to one-up him.

The first thing that strikes you is the building. Wow. Contemporary with lots of wood and glass. Slightly remeniscent of Founding Farmers. They actually walk you through the kitchen to get just about anywhere in the restaurant. Kind of neat. We sat on the patio outside. It was sunny and 75. We couldn't have asked for better weather. The fountain was burbling and the birds were singing. Very nice.

On to the meal. As I said, I was in a hurry so I didn't go whole-hog. Just an entree and the check please. I had the roasted duck legs in rice, and Mike got the poached chicken breast salad.

Both were done to perfection. Looking at the pictures, I can see details that make the difference. There is not a single piece of salad (in extreme macro close-up) that is anything other than uniform green. No brown. No mushiness. Just perfection on a plate. The fries, though big, were perfectly crisped and seasoned. The sucotash tasted like it came straight from the farm that day. Just goodness. It's all I can say.

As for the second meal, Ray's Hell Burger was the scene of the crime.

Mike Landrum is known for being the Soup Nazi of the DC restaurant scene (he holds the title now that Carol Greenwood is out of town). He tells you where to sit, how to sit, how long to sit, how to order, how to pay, and how to eat. If you don't like it, you can pound salt up your bum.
What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in food.
I went to meet an associate in Arlington and he suggested we get lunch at Ray's. We got there at 11:30 and the place was already packed. You'll recognize this building as the former home of Ray's the Steaks. Nothing on the wall other than Michael's rules. Crappy tables packed too close together. No credit cards, cash only. Don't take a table until you've ordered. No laptops.

Once I got my food delivered to the table though, it was bliss. I got the Fat Joe, which is a big burger topped with seared fois gras and fried shallots. Holy shit that's good! I got the mac and cheese as a side. Spicy, smokey, with either pancetta or tasso, I'm not sure. But nice.

The Fat Joe

I can honestly say that that was the best burger I've ever had, and I've had my share. So, if you can get in the door, put up with the crapola, and get a burger here, you are sure to not be disappointed.

Keep the letters and post cards coming folks.

I welcome your comments. Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adega Wine Cellars in Silver Spring

So you walk in. It's cozy. There is a good selection of wine, good food, and free WiFi. What else could you want? It's like the Starbucks of Wine. The proprietor is Walter Rhee, A veteran of some Northern Virginia restaurant groups. I've known him for eight years.

Take a look around. You'll see there are specials on various chalk and marker boards around. They've got a great selection of t-shirts too! I got my wife one that says, "Pick me, squeeze me, stomp me, Make Me Wine!"

Pretty good selection of wine and beer. Walter knows his stuff.
But let's not neglect the food, shall we? Last time I was in I had some calamari that was done perfectly. This dish however, the Softshell Crab, was awesome. It was literally the biggest softshell I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.
Just for perspective, the receipt in the basket is 3" wide. The seasoning was nice and the crab was done to perfection. It was served on a brioche bun with aioli. Plump, briny, and yummy.
If you get a chance, stop by and grab some lunch. If you don't have to go back to work, he's definitely got some by-the-glass specials every day.
There are also 1/2 price bottle nights and things like that.
Tell him you read about it on Pleasures of the Table!
Thanks for reading.

Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe on Urbanspoon