Ethio Express Grill Introduces Fast-Casual Ethiopian to Silver Spring

21 May

When one thinks of fast-casual, the first thought that crosses your mind is Chipotle. But the Washington area has taken that successful model one step further and applied it to salads (Sweetgreen), pizza (&Pizza), and even Greek fare (Cava Grill), all with rousing success. So what happens when you take one of the area’s most beloved ethnic foods and transform it into an affordable, quick meal? You get Ethio Express Grill.

As much as the District has developed over the past decade, one downside of all this gentrification are the rising rents resulting in the smaller mom and pop eateries either closing up shop or moving out to the suburbs. Just several weeks ago, Ethiopian staple Meskerem shuttered its doors in Adams Morgan; representing the sea change of clientele that now frequents the Northwest neighborhood amidst newer, more upscale restaurants (this blogger still mourns the loss of Pharmacy Bar). Washington Post writer Tim Carman even wrote a eulogy for Meskerem as it was the oldest operating Ethiopian restaurant in the U.S.

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So it goes without saying that D.C.’s loss is Silver Spring’s gain, especially now that Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has dubbed the Montgomery County suburb “the new Little Ethiopia” in his Spring Dining Guide. And he’s absolutely right – with at least half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants in downtown Silver Spring alone, you don’t have to go far to get some tibs and kitfo.

Enter Ethio Express Grill. Located off of Sligo Avenue and sandwiched between several auto repair shops and Jackie’s, Ethio Express Grill offers diners a “build your own meal” menu that is comprised of four steps: a base (injera, pita, spaghetti, mixed greens, or brown rice), protein (grilled beef [tibs], chicken, lamb, or tofu), a choice of one of five housemade sauces, and then a choice of nearly a dozen hot and cold sides that range from ayib cheese to yellow split peas. All of the ordering is done at the cashier as opposed to watching it being constructed in line as the meat is cooked to order, but the wait time between placing your order and having it served to your table is minimal.

Injera Plate

The result is fresh, vibrant flavors in an efficient, cost-effective setting. The menu even offers half a dozen preconfigured plates which make it helpful for first-time visitors that get overwhelmed with the a la carte construction method. I ordered the Injera Plate, which was comprised of grilled beef, Ethio hot sauce, gomen (collard greens), spicy lentils (miser), yellow split peas (kik), and two pieces of injera. For $9.29, this was a considerable amount of food that is not only filling but also just as authentic as a meal from a full-service Ethiopian restaurant.

Grilled chicken plate

Rachel went the creative route and ordered grilled chicken, yogurt honey sauce, kik, green lentil salad (azifa), quinoa salad, and cucumber salad.

We were both impressed by our meals, and we’re so glad a place like this exists just down the road from us. If we could offer any critique, it would be to offer a paper menu with descriptions that someone can review before ordering. The list of sides to choose from could be somewhat daunting for a newcomer to Ethiopian food, and since you can’t look at an open counter to point at them, it would be helpful to have that option before going to the counter to order. While the location is a little off the beaten path, Ethio Express Grill has a lot of potential and makes for a terrific quick lunch or dinner should you be in the downtown Silver Spring area, or should I say the new Little Ethiopia.

Ethio Express Grill on Urbanspoon

Ananda: Indian Delight in the Suburbs

30 Apr

When you have friends that live in Baltimore, it’s a bit challenging trying to determine a restaurant to meet in the middle between Charm City and our nation’s capital. But then I remembered reading Todd Kliman’s glowing review of Ananda, an Indian restaurant located in Howard County, last fall in Washingtonian. Only a few months later, Ananda was named the 16th best restaurant in this year’s Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list, prompting Rachel to book a table for four a few weeks ago.

It turned out that Ananda was nearly equidistant from Fells Point and Silver Spring in terms of travel time, and while the restaurant is nestled within the Maple Lawn planned community of townhomes, storefronts, and traffic circles in Fulton, Maryland, once you step inside you nearly forget that you’re dining in the ‘burbs.

The interior was rather lavish, with tables adorned with white tablecloths and formally-dressed wait staff bustling around the dining room as if you were having dinner in Penn Quarter.

We started our meal off by opening with the avocado and roasted corn salad. Blended with red peppers, white balsamic vinaigrette, and topped with a thin, crispy papadam, it was a refreshing appetizer to say the least.

Avocado and roasted corn salad

Up next was one of their appetizer specials, Gobinda. It was a roasted, slightly spicy cauliflower dish that was both crispy and delicious.

Roasted caulifower

Three out of four of us ordered the almond-crusted lamb chops as our entrée, not only because of the acclaim from Mr. Kliman’s review but also based on the waiter’s recommendation. The endorsements from both gentlemen rang true after the best bite. Accompanied with mint chutney and masala, the quartet of succulent lamb chops were perfectly cooked and praised as a terrific dish by the entire table.

Almond-crusted lamb chops

Meanwhile Rachel opted for the roasted wild salmon with a spicy tomato coulis (Fish Tikka). It was another excellent entrée which also had a good amount of heat. While it was probably at the upper end of Rachel’s tolerance for spice, I personally loved it. We also ordered naan for the table, which is always a given, but the cucumber raita was superb and really stood out.

Fish Tikka

To round out the evening, we got the saffron poached pear with cardamom ice cream for dessert. There’s nothing better than melted ice cream atop a pear cobbler, or any type of cobbler for that matter.

Saffron poached pear with cardamom ice cream

Our entire table was not only impressed by how good the food was, but that there was a restaurant of this caliber right in the middle of a suburban town center between D.C. and Baltimore. And that’s not a knock on Fulton – in fact, I’d be pretty jealous of being walking distance to this place if I lived there, especially for happy hour. Anyway, Ananda is worth the visit if you’re driving up or down 95 just for those amazing lamb chops.

Ananda on Urbanspoon

An Anniversary Dinner at Rasika

27 Mar

Like many in the D.C. area, Rachel and I have enjoyed wonderful meals at Rasika and its West End counterpart several times over the last few years.  But when we were researching a Washington restaurant to celebrate our five-year anniversary that not only offered exquisite food but also didn’t break the bank (date nights now require a babysitter these days), chef Vikram Sunderam’s Penn Quarter establishment was a perfect match.

Between the outstanding consistency from each prior visit as well as the countless dishes we still had yet to try from the menu, we felt that Rasika was an ideal destination. We started the evening off with some cocktails at the bar while waiting for our table. On top of that, we brought along a bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage 2000 that we received as a wedding gift five years ago. We felt that it was the ideal time to finally pop it open, plus the $25 corkage fee was rather reasonable and would pair up nicely with some of the dishes we would soon be having.

Before we even ordered, our waitress poured us two complimentary glasses of sparking rose since they knew it was our wedding anniversary – a very nice touch!

Mattar Pudina Tikki

We kicked off with the Mattar Pudina Tikki – minced green peas shaped into two patties and blended with mint and mozzarella. This was only our first dish of the evening but even with that initial bite we could tell we were going to have a memorable, enjoyable dinner. The combination of flavors works wonderfully yet you’re still able to distinguish all the ingredients with one forkful.

Mango shrimp

Next was another popular dish, the mango shrimp. Perfectly cooked, the quartet of shrimp was prepared with fresh mango, cashews, ginger, and coriander while the mint chutney made for a great dipping sauce.

Palak Chaat

The following dish was one that has been previously covered on this blog and needs no further explanation, the Palak Chaat. Fine, it was amazing. As always. Just an essential D.C. dish.

Chicken green masala

For our main course, we decided to be a little more adventurous and order the chicken green masala. Our waitress warned us that it was spicy, grading it a 7 out of 10 on the unofficial spice scale. While I’m a lover of all things spice, Rachel had some slight trepidation. Let me tell you, this dish is spicy! I would probably grade it an 8/10 myself in terms of spice, but unfortunately it was too much heat for Rachel. Having said that, I still really enjoyed it although I did need a few rehydration breaks (the champagne helped!). I sopped up the extra sauce with the garlic and truffle naan we ordered, too.

Wild mushroom korma

We also ordered sides of the broccoli cashew nut poriyal and wild mushroom korma. The latter was very rich but helped balance the spice of the green chicken masala thanks in part to the coconut milk base.

Apple jalebi

For dessert, we opted for Rasika’s bestselling dessert, the apple jalebi. Basically an Indian beignet, it’s the cardamom ice cream that’s the real star of the show. They also threw in a complimentary dessert to celebrate our anniversary which was another nice touch.

There’s a reason why Rasika is continuously rated as one of the best restaurants in the District year in and year out: the food is consistently exceptional. This is probably the fourth or fifth time we have dined at Rasika and after each visit we are wowed by the cooking. It also helps that they not only take reservations, which makes it much easier for when we have to hire a babysitter, but that it is also very reasonably priced. Honestly, I would be happy rotating visits to Rasika, Red Hen, and the Corduroy bar whenever Rachel and I have a date night in D.C., because these are the places you know you’ll have a good, filling meal without spending an inordinate amount of money. I’ll just make a mental note that the green chicken masala is really, really spicy on our next visit.

Rasika on Urbanspoon

Vidalia Still Shines Amidst an Influx of Competitors

11 Feb

We have to come clean: After living in the Washington metropolitan area for over a decade, neither of us had ever dined at Vidalia until a couple of weeks ago. And after a superb Restaurant Week lunch, we both wished we had eaten there sooner.

As the D.C. dining scene has blown up exponentially over the past five years, Vidalia has been a staple since opening in 1993 when James Beard award-winning chef Jeffrey Buben opened up shop and introduced diners to his wonderful blend of modern American cuisine and down-home Southern cooking.

And while Restaurant Week isn’t as popular as it once was now that there’s an overabundance of dining options to choose from, Vidalia still offers an exceptional value with a three-course menu priced at $20.15 per person while being able to present its full menu (with minimal up charges on select dishes). It’s an even larger menu than their regularly offered prix-fixe lunch special (a great value in its own right).

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Our meal began with their much raved about bread basket, and let me tell you, it’s worth all the praise and is arguably one of the best bread baskets in town. A trio of corn bread, dinner rolls, and onion focaccia (our personal favorite) was accompanied with a side of onion butter and made for an impromptu appetizer as the basket was devoured in seconds.

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For the first course I ordered the Shenandoah beef tartare. Prepared with garlic chip, pickled peppers, porcini steak sauce, and deviled egg aioli, it was beautifully presented while both rich and tender.

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Between the indulgent bread and dessert still to come, Rachel opted for something lighter with the Shady Lane salad. The bowl of Bibb lettuce was topped with watercress, radishes, almonds, apricots, bleu cheese, and onion vinaigrette.

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I went with the pan-roasted Carolina mountain trout as my entrée. Situated on a bed of succotash, crawfish, and bits of country ham, it really complemented the crispy skin of the trout. Unfortunately the fish was a tad dry but the Creole mustard butter helped counter that to an extent.

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Rachel’s Atlantic salmon dish proved to be the better entrée choice. It came with sweet potato puree, country ham, lentils, frisee, and whiskey vinaigrette, and each bite was a treat.  There’s always a risk of salmon being too dry, but this piece was medium to medium rare and cooked perfectly.

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I could not help but order the Peanut Better S’more for dessert. Artfully arranged pieces of chocolate ganache cake and milk chocolate feuilletine were topped with chocolate cream and cookie crumble which made a wonderful if not decadent ending to lunch.

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You can’t go wrong with Key Lime tart, and this lighter dessert that Rachel ordered hit the spot. She was plenty full after, but was so glad we went with the Restaurant Week deal because otherwise we would have passed up on these amazing desserts.

We had a fantastic lunch at Vidalia, and I have to tip my hat to them for not cutting corners during Restaurant Week. While other restaurants tend to slack off in service or not offer their entire menu during this promotional period, it’s refreshing to see a restaurant actually embrace Restaurant Week and show diners what they’re missing out on places like Vidalia. And isn’t that what Restaurant Week is all about?

Vidalia on Urbanspoon

Our Favorite Dishes of 2014, Part II

19 Dec

Ok, my turn. Here’s what I would call my favorite, or most memorable dishes of the year.

Mushroom Tart – Le Diplomate

We finally made it to Le Diplomate earlier this year, and we made sure to do our homework to see what people recommended the most. We settled on the mushroom tart for our appetizer, and it could have easily been a meal in itself. Arriving to the table at room temperature, the buttery, flaky crust combined with the pioppini mushrooms and grated truffle pecorino made for an outstanding first course. Perfect to split between two people, it’s a great if not filling dish.

Mushroom Tart

Faux Ribeye – Corduroy

This dish has a bit of a story to it: Brett took me out for my birthday dinner, and we wound up at the bar at Corduroy. Little did I know that the main event was a surprise party that Brett had planned for me at City Tap Room. We have wanted to do the bar menu at Corduroy for years, and I was so glad we finally did. It’s seriously the best deal in the city. For the entrée, I decided to try the “faux ribeye,” which was a shoulder cut that was prepared like a ribeye. This was easily the tenderest piece of meat I had this year. It was perfectly charred on the outside and was paired with creamy mashed potatoes and Bok Choy, and was a huge cut of meat. I’m not sure how often the dish appears on the bar menu, but I believe it’s sold with a side of fries at Baby Wale.

Faux Ribeye

Primavera Pizza – Campono

If I could choose my favorite or most unique pizza of the year, it would be the primavera that we tried at Campono, the pizza and sandwich spot tucked away at the Watergate near the Kennedy Center. Topped with asparagus, favas, broccoli, leak cream, parsley, scallions, and a mozzarella blend, this is not your classic white pizza. But that’s a good thing as this was a terrific, unique combination of ingredients and really hit the spot.

Primavera pizza

Herban Garden – City Burger

While we love a great burger, I’m always up for trying unique veggie burgers too. My favorite has been the popular version at Woodmont Grill, but City Burger’s Herban Garden may be a new front runner. The patty is a blend of fried quinoa and black bean, and topped with lettuce, pickled red onion, and herby mayo. The result is a crunchy, satisfying alternative that isn’t greasy or bland. Now my biggest dilemma will be whether to get the Classic City Burger or Herban when we visit.

Herban Garden

The Chessie – Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland

While you won’t be able to get this item till next fall, if you happen to be at a Maryland football game next year and with a group of people, do yourself a favor and get the Chessie. We had heard so much about it we knew we had to try it, so seven of us split this colossal pretzel topped with mounds of crab meat and cheese. It came in a pizza box and, and despite everyone in our group having at least two bites, we still couldn’t finish this monster. It definitely lived up to the hype.

The Chessie

Saffron Zucca – Red Hen

Whenever friends ask what would be a great go-to restaurant for a night out, I almost always say the Red Hen. The last night I went with some girlfriends, we each got a pasta dish and everyone agreed mine was the best. The Saffron Zucca with came with a butternut squash puree, wild mushrooms, sage, and toasted almonds. Each bite was perfect, and it was so rich that I was able to save a few bites to take home so Brett could see how amazing it was.

Saffron Zucca

Spicy Crunchy Tuna Roll – Moby Dick Sushi

Tucked within the Wheaton Triangle, Moby Dick offers top quality sushi and creative rolls. Their spicy crunchy tuna roll is now a must every time we order from there. It’s not like any other roll of the same name we’ve ever had. Instead of a tuna roll dusted with tempura flakes on top, the entire roll is battered tempura style. And yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

Moby Dick Sushi

Chocolate Ganache Torte – Fresh Baguette

The torte at this authentic French bakery on Bethesda Avenue, tucked behind the crowded Giant, was easily one of our favorite desserts of the year. But I could say the same thing with their chocolate tart, or even the amazingly simple but perfect butter croissant. Bottom line, PAUL better watch out for some steep competition when they open in Bethesda.

Chocolate Ganache Torte

Our Favorite Dishes of 2014, Part I

18 Dec

This year was not only about revisiting old favorites in the District, but also discovering new culinary destinations (at least to us) in Wheaton and Silver Spring after moving to Forest Glen earlier this summer. While there’s plenty of amazing items from more formal venues, there’s just as good dishes from unassuming, inexpensive places as well. With that said, Brett takes a look back at some of his favorite dishes of the year. Be on the lookout for Rachel’s favorite dishes tomorrow.

Cacio e Pepe – Fiola

First of all, how great is the Presto lunch deal? For $22, one can partake in a beverage and lunch entrée at the bar of Fabio Trabocchi’s flagship restaurant during the workweek. Anyway, I ordered the traditional Cacio e Pepe just earlier this week and it’s arguably one of the best pasta preparations you will come across in the District. Prepared with homemade spaghetti, Roman Cacio cheese, and crushed black peppercorns, the pasta was exquisitely light and creamy yet packed with robust flavor. While Cacio e Pepe is one of the simplest Italian recipes, Fiola takes this classic to new heights.

Cacio

Boudin Blanc – Marcel’s

If there’s one dish to order at the elegant Marcel’s, Robert Wiedmaier’s crown jewel of his local restaurant group, it’s the Boudin Blanc. The meticulously-prepared handmade sausage, stuffed with a blend of chicken and pheasant, is wrapped in a lightly-browned casing yet melts in your mouth after one bite. Topped with black truffles and situated under a bed of butternut squash puree, caramelized onions, and Madeira sauce, this is fine-dining at its, well, finest.

Boudin Blanc.

Cream of Corn with ramps, pesto, and soft shell crab – Roberto’s 8 at Al Dente

It’s such a joy to not only have Roberto Donna back in the District, but also offer a personal cooking experience akin to his Laboratorio del Galileo days. Roberto’s 8 was an incredible meal, full of whimsical cooking and gorgeous presentations, but it was Donna’s cream of corn with ramps, pesto, and deep-fried soft shell crab that made us sit back, take a collective breath, and simply say “wow”. Rich, creamy, and accompanied with a crunchy soft shell crab, the soup was just heavenly.

Cream of corn

The Brisket Champ – DCity Smokehouse

While I’ve already written about how The Brisket Champ was arguably my favorite sandwich of the year, it deserves mentioning yet again. The smoky, tender brisket is piled high and topped with crispy onions, housemade pickles, and sandwiched between two slices of Texas Toast. This is legitimate barbecue, folks.

The Brisket Champ

Fried Chicken – Boss Shepherd’s

There’s fried chicken, then there’s fried chicken. Chef Jeremy Waybright’s takes great care in preparing this immensely popular dish at the recently-opened Boss Shepherd’s. Brined for 12 hours, the half chicken is artfully presented on a wooden plank with not one but three dipping sauces (housemade smoked egg yolk sauce!) as well as a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit. Enough food for two, this is some of the best fried chicken you will come across in D.C.

Fried Chicken at Boss Shepherd's

Bamee Moo Deang – Thai Taste by Kob

Since moving to Silver Spring, we’re a stone’s throw from Wheaton which hosts not one but three of the best Thai restaurants in the metropolitan area. The newest entrant, Thai Taste by Kob, carries its own niche by offering a stunning array of authentic Bangkok street food. The Bamee Moo Deang, one of nearly 100 dishes that Thai Taste offers on its lengthy if not intimidating menu, features egg noodles with succulent honey roasted pork, fish ball, and wonderfully spicy bok choi. Needless to say that I’ve never had a dish like this before, but now I can’t wait to try the restaurant’s other countless offerings.

Bamee

Room 11 – Taco Choco

Columbia Heights’ Room 11 is best known for its outstanding cocktails and cozy atmosphere, but they also make one hell of a Taco Choco. A spinoff of the ice cream truck classic, Room 11’s version takes it to a whole other level. Large enough to split between two people, the crunchy seven inch waffle cone is stuffed with rich vanilla ice cream and dipped in chocolate and peanuts. Not only was it one of our favorite dishes of the year, but it was also our favorite dessert of 2014, too.

Taco

Floating Market Noodle Soup – Nava Thai

Every time we get carryout from Nava Thai, we always include an order of their renowned Floating Market Noodle Soup. Full of complex flavors, ranging from tangy to sweet to ultra-spicy, the rice noodle soup is topped with bean sprouts, watercress, and fried pork rinds. It’s one of the most authentic if not unique broths we have come across, and while I’m fan of all things spice, I still have yet to venture ordering the default spicy (three pepper) version. The medium spice preparation still requires me to take a breather or two before the next spoonful, but rest assured, it’s always finished.

FloatingMarket

Be sure to check DMV Dining tomorrow for Rachel’s favorite dishes of 2014!

DC Brew Tours Launches in the District

26 Nov

In just a few short years, Washington, D.C. has become a beer-lover’s destination. Between the plethora of breweries that have opened in the Washington metropolitan area since 2011 and the ever-growing list of regional breweries distributing their product in the area, D.C. has slowly become one of the best beer cities in the country.

Enter DC Brew Tours. A newly-launched division of the City Brew Tours family, which has had enjoyed much success in Boston, Burlington, and Portsmouth, the company has made touring and visiting breweries as effortless as possible. No longer will you have to worry about finding a designated driver nor finagle with Google Maps trying to find the address of the next brewery you plan to visit.

DC Brew Tours

DC Brew Tours offers guests a VIP experience with exclusive tours, intimate tastings, and even lunch or dinner at a local brewpub. It’s an all-inclusive, all-day event with roundtrip transportation amongst local and visiting beer enthusiasts celebrating the District’s ever-growing brewery culture.

Port City Brewing

Rachel and I were invited to check out the Brew Tour a few weeks ago. We were so impressed not only by the wealth of knowledge by our tour guide/driver Chad Brodsky, who also happens to be the CEO and founder of D.C. Brew Tours, but also the coordination between all the breweries and brewpubs that we would do this with a group of friends in a heartbeat.

Having fun at Port City

Transportation could not have been easier. The van was parked a few blocks away from the Metro Center station, and once the entire group was assembled we made our way towards Old Town to check out Port City Brewing Company. While on the way to Virginia, Chad gave us a brief history of beer and its beginnings, the basic ingredients used for brewing, and even quizzed us to make sure we were paying attention.

Port City BrewingPort City BrewingChad giving us a tour of Port City

Once we got to Port City, we got to take an exclusive tour of the brewing facility while one of their brewers would stop by offering samples of some of the brewery’s beers including their excellent holiday ale, Tidings.

Capitol City Brewing

We then hopped back into the van and headed over to nearby Shirlington for lunch at Capitol City Brewing. Once we arrived, we took a tour of their brewery and then sat down for lunch which included a beer flight of all of Cap City’s offerings. Chad encouraged us to try and pair up the beers with our lunch, which ranged from wings to chips and hummus to and southwest keg rolls.

BardoBardoBardo

From there we headed back into the District for perhaps the most interesting brewery of the day, Bardo. The outdoor brewery and beer garden recently added an indoor tasting room to its facility allowing guests to enjoy the breweries’ tasty offerings both inside and out. Meanwhile, Bar Dog, the brewery’s resident dog and security guard, was seem roaming around the grounds when he wasn’t busy playing with other four-legged friends (which are welcome at Bardo). Chad gave us a tour of the outdoor complex then brought over pitchers of Bardo’s brews including the outstanding Dremo Tibetan Sasquatch, an imperial IPA.

Atlas Brew Works

Our final stop of the day was at Atlas Brew Works. Having just opened over a year ago, Atlas has already gained popularity within a short time with the release of its very popular Rowdy Rye. We got to sample several of Atlas’ beers and even bought a bomber of Saison Des Fêtes after enjoying a tasty pour at the brewery.

The group headed back to the van where we were eventually dropped off near Metro Center in the late afternoon. We thanked Chad for a wonderful time as well as providing some great knowledge not only on beer but also exposing us to breweries we never thought we would have the time nor luxury to visit (on a side note, it also helped that the grandparents were in town to help watch our little one while we were out).

DC Brew Tours is a fantastic way to try many of great, local breweries the Washington area has to offer and makes for a great outing in our nation’s capital. Not only do you not have to stress about who’s going to drive, but it’s also a great way to make friends with fellow beer geeks as our group did as the day went on. We cannot recommend it enough.

DC Brew Tours tickets can be purchased on their website. They offer tours Thursday through Sunday both during the day and evening. Tickets are $85 and include tastings, roundtrip transportation, and lunch or dinner.

Holiday Extravagance at Capella's Grill Room

20 Nov

Last week I was invited to check out the Christmas and New Years Eve menus at The Grill Room, located in Georgetown’s posh Capella hotel. Hosted by Marco Bustamante, the general manager of Capella, a group of us were welcomed into the luxurious dining room to sample an array of decadent dishes to celebrate the upcoming holidays.

Oyster topped with caviar

And things got indulgent right off the bat as we kicked the evening off with a glass of champagne and oysters topped with caviar. Spreading the warm bone barrow over the crunchy, housemade bread was a real treat, too.

Bread and bone marrow

The baby beet salad featured luscious amounts of firefly goat cheese, hazelnut, and arugula, and was accompanied with verjus vinaigrette. Meanwhile the Little Gem Lettuce with blue cheese and bacon lardons was an upscale (and much better) take on the classic wedge salad.

Baby beet salad

Moving onto the main courses, the Salmon Wellington with chicken mousse and wilted spinach was a slight departure from the more traditional beef preparation, while the Carnaroli Risotto featured rich flavors of roasted pumpkin and complemented the seared scallops.

Heritage Turkey

The headliner of the evening, however, was the Heritage Turkey. Glistening from hours in the oven, the warm, moist slices of freshly carved turkey were accompanied with chestnut stuffing and apple-rye chutney.

And then there were the amazing sides, most notably the Brussels sprouts with Asian pear, aged soy, and wild flower honey – just a wonderful preparation. I also enjoyed the applewood smoked mashed potatoes with crème fraiche and chives. The smokiness really enhanced the flavor of this otherwise staple side. Finishing off the trio of sides was the creamed kale with grated nutmeg – an always reliable green dusted with a hint of holiday spice.

Baked Alaska

My favorite course of the evening went to the kitchen’s holiday rendition of Basked Alaska. Gorgeously presented, the flourless chocolate cake was topped with freshly torched flavors of cinnamon, cappuccino, and vanilla. Each bite left me clamoring for more and was one of the best desserts I’ve had in quite some time.

If you’re looking to go out to dinner for this Christmas or New Year’s Eve, be sure to keep The Grill Room at Capella in mind when making your holiday reservations.

The Grill Room at Capella is located on 1050 31st Street NW in Georgetown.

The Grill Room on Urbanspoon

Quick Bites: The Fried Chicken at Boss Shepherd's 

24 Oct

DMV Dining is introducing a new feature called Quick Bites where we profile a popular menu item from an area restaurant. It’s also an excuse to use grainy cell phone pics when Brett forgets to bring his (bulky) camera. 

Boss Shepherd’s has received a lofty amount of praise for being open less than two months. The Penn Quarter restaurant was recently featured in Tom Sietsema’s Fall Dining Guide in the Washington Post as the food critic gushed over Chef Jeremy Waybright’s exquisite fried chicken.

It just so happened that Rachel and I were a few blocks away at Taste of DC a few weeks ago, and while walking back to the Metro, we noticed that Boss Shepherd’s was directly across the street from the annual food festival. Considering that we’re not downtown much these days, we had to take advantage of the situation. Despite the fact it was only 5pm, all the tables in the dining room were already reserved for the evening. Needless to say word travels fast in this city!

No matter, we were able to procure a couple of seats at the bar. And despite sampling a variety of foods at Taste of DC, we were on a focused mission to try this fried chicken. And let me tell you, both Rachel and I agreed that it was the best fried chicken we have had in our nation’s capital. 

Fried Chicken at Boss Shepherd's

A wooden plank arrives at our table carrying a gorgeously fried half chicken that was brined in the kitchen for 12 hours. Incredibly crispy without being overly greasy, each bite of the delectably juicy chicken left a pair of smiles on our collective faces. The bird is not only accompanied with a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit, but a trio of dipping sauces – a housemade smoked egg yolk sauce, honey, and a housemade hot sauce, the latter of the three being my personal favorite. In addition, the platter also came with a pair of sweet corn cobs.

But what’s truly amazing is that you really don’t need any of the sauces to enjoy this incredible chicken – that’s how good it is. For $24, it was a large enough entrée to split between the two of us resulting in a terrific early bird dinner (no pun intended).

Boss Shepherd’s is located on 1299 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Boss Shepherd's on Urbanspoon

DCity Smokehouse: Best 'Cue in the District

2 Oct

It’s no secret that I love all things barbecue, but let’s face it, up until the last few years the District has been devoid of some really good BBQ joints. That’s not a slight on mainstays like Rockland’s or Hill Country, they just don’t particularly move the needle for me. And considering that I have had some outstanding barbecue in places like Austin and Kansas City, I’ve been craving a place that can really fill that niche here in the D.C. area. (On a side note, I really need to check out KBQ in Lanham, which I still have sadly not been to and have heard wonderful things about).

Anyway, I had recently read Tim Carman’s review of DCity Smokehouse in the Washington Post and quickly made it a priority to check out this establishment, so a coworker and I headed to NoMa during our lunch hour a few weeks ago. Firstly, this is strictly a carryout venue. Sure there are four seats nestled inside the small storefront, but chances are that they’ll be occupied given the amount of people waiting for their orders near the pickup counter.

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It’s hard not to fall in love with the aroma of smoke and hickory as soon as you walk in, making the choice of which of their 14 sandwiches to order from that much more difficult. On top of that, they offer combo platters, meats by the pound, wings, and even chicken and waffles.

The Brisket Champ

I opted for the first sandwich listed on the menu – The Brisket Champ, because you can never go wrong with brisket when it comes to barbecue. The sandwich featured generous layers of sliced brisket topped with crispy fried onions and housemade pickles, and was sandwiched together by two slices of Texas Toast. After the first bite, I had fallen in love.

The Brisket Champ

The brisket was some of the smokiest, most flavorful ‘cue I have come across in the District. A bit fatty in places, each bite was a mouthful of succulent, tender brisket gorgeously complemented by the crispy onions and crunchy toast. And that brisket crust, my goodness. This is how brisket is done, folks.

Crispy Brussels sprouts

I also ordered a side of their crispy Brussels sprouts which made for a great side dish, though between the greasiness of The Brisket Champ and this, it was a little too much oil in one sitting. That’s not to say I still wouldn’t recommend them because they’re a great preparation, right up there with Red Hen’s in fact, but I would probably pair the sprouts with one of their sampler platters instead.

Meanwhile my coworker was raving about their BBQ chicken but didn’t really care for the smoky brisket chili. I tried the latter, and while it sounds decadent, you’re better off just ordering the real thing instead of its soup variant. Speaking of which, you should just order it by the pound. It’s that good.

DCity Smokehouse has been only open less than a year but already features some of the best barbecue you will find in the city. My coworker and I are already debating what to order on our next visit. I’m personally eyeing the Meaty Palmer, a sandwich of smoked turkey and pork belly with smashed avocado and jalapeno aioli. Tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

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