Monday, September 5, 2016

Pineapple and Pearls - A lot of talent in a little place

Pineapple and Pearls
715 8th St. S.E.
Washington, DC

I finally had the time, luck, and wherewithal to hit one of the most talked-about restaurants in the country. Above is the first cocktail of the evening created by legendary stick-man Jeff Faile. Jeff has worked with NRG, Fiola, and Frank Ruta. This spin on what would normally be the second cocktail of the evening is a non-alcoholic version of the Fennel and Absinthe Bonbon. You don't have to be a drinker to have a good time at P&P. All of the cocktails you'll see in this post are crafted specifically for the non-tippler.
The first bit of the evening was pineapple and country ham over asparagus. While very pretty to look at, it was not my favorite of the evening. The flavors/textures didn't meld. They were there, but didn't complement each other and it was difficult to eat without the topping falling off.
Dish number two was a little more playful. Baby elotes with some smoke coming up from underneath.
There were many NA bevs served to us over the course of the dinner. Some better than others, and I can't remember them all. However, what I do remember is the care taken in their crafting and the presentation. Look closely and you'll see this is a bud with tiny flowers all over it. Very cool.
Caviar with horseradish and avocado was beautiful. I should have asked for seconds of this. This is where things started to get interesting for me.
This was the bread presentation. Note the fruits to the left and the fois gras mousse on the right with hazelnuts. It brought to mind Michel Richard's faux gras plate.

Summer garden egg drop soup was a punch in the face of beautiful umami. Awesomeness in a bowl.
Fluke Veronique was very pretty and the fish was perfectly done.
Sweetbread stuffed chicken wings were interesting. I loved the presentation. Not my favorite dish, but it was fun to eat.
Another of Jeff Faile's booze-less creations. Yes, we ate some of the coconut too.
This was the condiment portion of the Summer Red Curry and Coconut Rice dish. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the finished dish as I was enthralled with the process when chef Scott Muns prepared it table-side. It involves a using a high-school science lab vacuum that some over-the-top types now use to brew coffee. It was very entertaining and Chef Scott is always a pleasure to chat with. I'm not sure how much of the flavor of the dish is developed during the process, but it's fun to watch. The dish itself, once composed, is excellent. The curry broth is creative and just spicy enough to keep your taste buds entertained while not ruining them for what's next.

Blueberry Shortcake and Brillat-Savarin was a lovely start to the end of the meal. Brillat-Savarin is a triple-cream cow's milk cheese named after the 19th century epicure who's quote was the basis for the name of my blog...little factoid for you there.
This is the Crispy Buckwheat and Honeycomb Ice Cream presented with the chocolate soufflé below. They stick the landing after this dinner.

The chocolate soufflé was a 10. Bitter chocolate to go with the honeycomb ice cream. We didn't leave anything for the porter to clean up on that one.

Closing thoughts are that this place is like Disney World for foodies without having to leave your seat.  It's definitely a good choice for any birthday or special occasion.
The talent here is undeniable and well-sorted. I recommend taking the time to score a reso here (do your research long before you try) and get thee an Uber. The cocktails flow, and there is no financial penalty involved for enjoying them to the fullest.
Well done Aaron Silverman & team. Well done.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Return to The Shack - New Impressions

The Shack
105 S Coalter St, Staunton, VA 24401

An opportunity to eat at a good restaurant shouldn't be passed up. This is especially true when the restaurant is hours away from your home. As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to drop my son off at Boy Scout camp in Goshen, VA, which happens to be very near to a restaurant that holds a favored position in my book - The Shack.
If you'd like to read my previous post about it here's a link.
I'll start by saying that the pictures are much better in this post because I actually at there while the sun was out! Normally I'm travelling through there late at night, but this time it was around 6:00pm and the patio was open. Al fresco was the choice.
We got the 4-item tasting menu...because you should.
Cheryl started out with the pimiento cheese and benne biscuit crackers. I've never heard of them, but they were perfect with the cheese. Yes, that is a lot of cheese.
 I had the corn with queso fresco. It was slathered with spicy mayo and scallions. It was as good as it sounded. Note: this is not first-date approved food. I was only one course in and asking for extra napkins.
 From there we moved on to the starters. Fried green tomato with burrata and garlic confit. The garlic and cheese were excellent slathered on the crispy tomato. I would like Chef to mail me a mason jar full of that garlic please. Thx.
 This dish knocked my socks off. This was the first time I had been at The Shack during the summer. Chef has a way with fresh, local produce that you have to experience yourself. The dish was fresh pea salad with Esmontonian cheese (made at a farm not too far from The Shack), soft egg, and pickled onions. Great combination of flavors.
 Cheryl's entree was the crispy pork confit with creamed corn, leeks, morels, and sweet peas. There was a very Asian-vibe to the pork, but Southern to the sides.
 My entree was a work of art. Shrimp and fermented grits with pickled chilis and soft egg. The grits were a little too wet for my liking, but that's a personal thing. It had heat, and the twang from the fermented grits was stupendous.
Dessert was off-the-hook, as I've come to expect here. Last time I had an apple hand-pie that brought me right back to my childhood, but with a much higher level of gustatory finesse. This marvel was caramelized banana ice cream with miso banana bread and chocolate pudding.  The banana bread and pudding were both dark and bitter, while the ice cream was as sweet as could be. When you got a spoon full of all three ingredients at once it was heaven. Seriously. This ranks in the top 5 desserts I've tasted. That's saying something as I've had more than my share.
 Last, but not least, was Cheryl's dessert: Whipped cheesecake with Bing cherries, cucumber/lime granita and spruce syrup. These cheesecake wasn't overly sweet and played well with the granita. 
So what's the lesson learned? Eat at The Shack while there is fresh, local produce available. It's in a beautiful part of the state and isn't far from the highway. If you go be sure to tell Chef I said hello and that you read about it here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Table & Main - Simple, Southern, Local and Good!

Table & Main
1028 Canton St.
Roswell, GA 30075
I've been busy. Sorry for not posting for so long! I've had these pictures in a draft and have been meaning to get to them.
Enough about that, how about Roswell GA? It's quaint. The main drag has a bunch of interesting restaurants and shops. This trip I got to eat at Table & Main.  Chef Woolery Back is at the helm here and he's got some chops.
Hey, I've got some dining companions! My son and friend.
Pork belly with cauliflower puree and pomegranate honey. it was very pretty. More akin to bacon than what I would consider pork belly. Same piece of the pig, just a different preparation. It wasn't melty and unctuous like I was expecting. More firm, but no less tasty.
The cream of crab soup was excellent. It was a bit too spicy for my wife, but that just meant more for me. Nice touch with the chili oil and sherry. 
The fried chicken was up there with the best of the best anywhere. I've never had Keller's, but it couldn't be that much better.
My entree was caught-yesterday swordfish with fresh local veg. Very nice.
This would have been my second choice: The Shrimp and Grits. The tomato-bacon sauce had just the right amount of heat.
Cheryl's dish was my favorite of the evening: Local trout with Creole-mustard spaetzle and lemon trout roe vinaigrette. 
Nothing like homemade dark chocolate pudding.
The carrot cake with pureed carrot. Nice cream cheese frosting.
Winning dessert of the evening: a hand-made honey-bun with orange royal icing and cardamom ice cream. Just like the ones you used to buy in the plastic wrapper in the gas station when you were a kid but 1000 times better. Nice.

There are so many restaurants in this little strip of bliss in northern Georgia. If you find yourself anywhere near there make a detour. You won't be disappointed.
Hope you enjoyed!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ted's Bulletin - A Jewel in the Downtown Crown

Ted's Bulletin
220 Ellington Blvd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

If someone else has already used that tagline about a restaurant in Downtown Crown I apologize, but it's mine now and I'm not giving credit...sorry/not sorry.
Now that I've taken care of that, let's talk about the restaurant.
Ted's Bulletin is pretty cool. The building looks like a train depot from the outside and is one of the few free-standing restaurants in the neighborhood. Speaking of the neighborhood, if you haven't had a chance to check it out, you should. It's part of the new ideal for Rockville/Gburg, the Walkable Neighborhood. it's similar to Mosaic in VA or Reston Town Center. Lots of restaurants and retail on the first floor with offices and residential above. There are also a lot of condos, townhouses, and single family homes within walking distance. Prices run from the 400's to 1.5m+ for residential.
There are a still a lot of empty spots for restaurants/retail on the ground floors, so if you're in the market for some space, this isn't a bad place to look.
Back to the restaurant. This concept is brought to you by the folks from Matchbox. I've known these folks for 12 or 13 years and have watched them grow since the start. Very impressive group with big plans. They do it right. They are exactly what they mean to be. 
This ethos is reflected in their build-outs as well as the food they serve, and the service attitude with which they execute. All in line, all pleasant, with some unexpected surprises.

 As this was a business lunch between appointments, I didn't have time to try anything besides my entree, but it was certainly an entree worth trying. Mark's Big Breakfast. 3 eggs, any style, with bacon, sausage and a hand-made Pop Tart. I don't know if you're actually allowed to call them that as it's a brand name, but that is effectively what it is. Everything about the breakfast was spot-on. The eggs were poached medium, exactly as requested, the sausage was unique to this group. Obviously not a brand you buy in the grocery store at least, and the Pop Tart was very good. I got the brown-sugar-cinnamon.
My dining companion got the short-rib sandwich. It had obviously spent a good deal of time in some red wine. The fries were hand-cut and just short of perfect only because they weren't as crisp as I like them, but hey, it wasn't my lunch, right?

Overall, a very nice experience at a good restaurant that you should try. Tell them I sent you. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Home Cookin' Smoked Brisket So Good It'll Bring a Tear to Your Eye

Ever go to a restaurant that isn't a bbq joint that had brisket so flavorful and tender that it rivaled the best BBQ restaurant brisket you've ever had? Here's one way to do it. There are others, but this way is pretty much fool-proof and the end result is so fantastic you'll sprain your arm patting yourself on the back. It's very impressive for a dinner party too.
All you need is meat, salt, seasoning, a smoker, a vacuum sealer, and an immersion circulator. It's not as bad as it sounds, promise.
 I started out with a brisket flat. It is about $6.99/lb at Giant. You can find it cheaper on sale. This recipe will work for a whole-muscle brisket as well, so if you've got an actual butcher who will get you one, give it a try.  I sliced it in half to start with as my vacuum sealer is on the small side. I salted it generously with flaky kosher salt and let it sit in the fridge for a few days.
 The day before you're going to serve, season the brisket with your favorite rub, then smoke it for 3 hours at 225. 
 Turn off the smoker, or kill the fire, whichever is applicable, and let the meat cool to room temperature. Once it's cool, vacuum seal it. Once it's sealed, you can put it in the water bath you've got waiting at a toasty 185 degrees.
 Set your temp to 185 and set the timer to 12 hours. If you want to go lower/longer that is an option as well. I was in the middle of a Gotham binge with my wife so I knew I'd be up until midnight, which is when the meat went into the bath.
 In the interest of having fewer single-use tools in my kitchen, I use a cooler that fits nicely into the small compartment of my sink for my water bath rather than having a lexan to store and keep clean. I line it with a trash bag, fill it 3/4 of the way with water that is as hot as I can get it out of the tap (@130), and then boil a pot of water to get the temp up to 185 quicker. The faster you get the water up to temp the less wear and tear you put on the heating element of your circulator...I think. 
Be aware: even though the meat is sealed in bags, the smell and some color leaches out into the water after 12 hours. Don't use your favorite tailgating cooler.
 After 12 hours at 185, I kick the temperature up to 203 and let it continue to cook for another 2-3 hours, then shut off the circulator, remove any covering you have on the water bath, and let the meat cool a bit. When you're ready to serve, cut off the corner of the bag and pour the liquid into plastic pint container. Put it in the fridge and the fat will rise to the surface so you can skim it easily. The liquid remaining is pure gold. It will eventually solidify as it's very gelatinous. You can use this for anything from gravy or a sauce for the BBQ to flavoring for greens.
 When you're ready to serve hit that shit with a torch! It looks cool and it will give you a crust, though it won't be nearly as thick/crunchy as you'd get with smoking it for 12 hours.
And there it is. Beautiful, tender brisket. The fat is fairly liquefied and isn't chewy at all. It's more like bbq flavored mayo. Get a little fat, a lot of meat, and slap that on some white bread. 
Don't say I never gave you anything.