Denizens Brewing Company

4 Sep

Rachel and I have only lived in Silver Spring just shy of three months, but Denizens Brewing Company has quickly become one of our favorite neighborhood spots after just two visits.

The brewery, which opened in July, currently features two of its own beers as well as a variety of local brews on tap such as Port City, Flying Dog, and Devil’s Backbone, with all pints priced at $6.50 (you can also get sample pours for $3.50 or a flight of four for $9). A full lineup from Denizen’s is expected soon as their in-house brewing started last week.

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The two beers currently available are their Southside Rye IPA and Lowest Lord ESB. The former was my favorite of the two – it had a nice balance of grapefruit and spice, so much so that it’s a quality contender for a locally brewed IPA.

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The food, meanwhile, is provided by the guys behind BBQ Bus. Their preview menu (an updated menu is expected later this fall) features pulled pork, brisket, and chicken which can you order either as a sandwich or platter. They also feature baby back ribs and four sauces made in-house which pay homage to North Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis. My suggestion? Try the brisket paired up with Sauce #5 as there’s nothing better than smoky brisket smothered with a sweet, tomato-based sauce. The pickled onions are a nice touch, too.

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And while the beer and food is great, it’s the atmosphere of the beer garden that really stands out. It’s just incredibly refreshing to not only find a biergarten with a wide open layout, but one that is accommodating to both families and pet owners. Each time we have visited, the outdoor patio was packed with families and dogs, all enjoying the summer sunshine while partaking in a pint and some ‘cue.

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In fact, it’s quite possibly the most baby-friendly brewery we have ever been to. Not only do they have changing stations in the restrooms, but there’s even Diaper Genies! As a family with a two year old, we greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into this when Denizens opened up shop. They know who their clientele is and know how to cater to it.

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With cornhole playing areas as well as being walking distance from the Silver Spring Metro, this is a great spot to have a brewery. And even if you have to drive, the Kennett Street Garage is right nearby and free after 7pm and all day during weekends.

Between the great beer selection, terrific barbecue, and super-friendly service, Denizens Brewing Company has already become one of our go-to places in downtown Silver Spring. It’s a great addition to the neighborhood and we can’t wait to see what’s in store once they launch their entire beer lineup and full-service restaurant.

The DMV Dining Guide to Wheaton and Silver Spring

28 Aug

We have to admit, the amount of content on DMV Dining has diminished quite a bit since we moved to Silver Spring. Between chasing after a toddler and moving to a new house, our dining adventures these past few months have mostly been relegated to delivery and takeout. But rest assured, that’s not a bad thing.

You see, the move has also given us a chance to explore the abundance of excellent ethnic eateries up the road in Wheaton and Silver Spring. And let me tell you, there’s a plethora of options to choose from. The best part is that all of them are affordable if not downright inexpensive.  We’ve mostly stuck to Wheaton, but have checked out a few places in Silver Spring and know we’ve only barely scratched the surface in terms of cheap eats.

Having said that, Rachel and I have composed a breakdown of all the places we have visited thus far.

El Pollo Rico

It’s no secret than I’m a huge fan of Polla a la Brasa, so when I found out we would be moving less than a couple of miles away from one of the most highly-acclaimed Peruvian chicken restaurants in the area, this place was at the top of my list. And let me tell you, the chicken at El Pollo Rico is as good as it gets. Wonderfully crisp and delightfully moist, it is right up there with Sardi’s as one of my favorites. While most of the sides are an afterthought, the sweet corn tamales are highly recommended (they’re cooked to order so I would call ahead if you plan on doing takeout). The Wheaton location also offers delivery, too. - Brett

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2517 University Blvd W
Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 942-4419

Goldberg’s New York Bagels

Being walking distance to Goldberg’s, who in my opinion make some of the best New York style bagels in the area, is quite the perk come Sunday morning. Our new Sunday tradition involves running a few miles around the neighborhood and finishing at Goldberg’s with a bagel and a schmear. - Brett

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9328 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(240)-450-4177

Hollywood East Café

While we have written about Hollywood East Café in the past, now we have even more reason to frequent their terrific dim sum given that we’re that much closer to them. - Brett

Dim Sum Cart

11160 Veirs Mill Rd
Wheaton, MD 20902
(240) 290-9988

Ghar-E-Kabab

This past rainy Saturday, we were staying in after failed babysitter attempts and had a hankering for Indian food. We looked for places that would deliver and came upon Ghar-E-Kabab. After a long but expected wait for our food, the payoff was worth it. We choose traditional (boring) items of Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer, and of course Naan. It certainly hit the spot and we’ll plan to order different dishes for variety the next time we crave Indian cuisine. - Rachel

944 Wayne Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 588-6656

La Casita Pupuseria & Market

We knew the Silver Spring/Wheaton area was full of fantastic pupuserias and Salvadorian restaurants, it was just a matter of which one we wanted to try first. We opted for La Casita based on its popular Yelp reviews, and judging by the crowded dining room at 5:30pm on a Sunday, we clearly chose the right place. We tried one of nearly each type of pupusa offered, and they were some of the best we’ve ever had. Our son ate them up too, in addition to the delicious mango smoothie. Next time we’ll have to try some of the other dishes on the menu, but you definitely can’t go wrong with any of the pupusas here. - Rachel

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8214 Piney Branch Rd
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 588-6656

Marchone’s Italian Delicatessen

A void needed to be filled once we left Bethesda and could no longer walk to Vace, which used to be our local Italian grocery. Thankfully Marchone’s has filled that emptiness with their delicious Italian cold cut subs. A family-owned business since 1954 and housed next door to Moby Dick Sushi, do yourself a favor and order a Panino and top it off with one of the many Italian pastries on display at the front of the house. They even sell cannoli from Vacarro’s! We have also heard great things about Santucci’s Italian Deli too, so that’s up on our list to try and then compare the two. - Brett

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11224 Triangle Lane
Wheaton, MD 20902
 (301) 949-4150

Max’s Kosher Deli

After living in this area for well over a decade, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never frequented Max’s until a few months ago. Rachel, on the other hand, last visited when she was an undergrad at the University of Maryland. Needless to say we’ll be making plenty more trips after devouring their schawarma and falafel when we stopped by last month. The matzo ball soup is as authentic as it gets, too. - Brett

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2319 University Blvd W
Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 949-6297

Moby Dick Sushi

This quaint sushi shop seems unassuming at first but in reality serves up some high quality fish at a very affordable price point. Their spicy crunchy tuna roll is arguably the best I have come across in this area, not only because of the quality but also how they prepare it – instead of being dusted with tempura flakes it is instead embedded in it, basically tempura style. The result is a satisfyingly crisp roll that is always included in each and every one of our takeout orders. - Brett

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11220 Triangle Lane
Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 949-3910

Nava Thai

First of all, not only are we a short drive to one of the best Thai restaurants in the area, we’re a short drive to three of the best Thai restaurants in the area (Ruan Thai and Thai Taste by Kob being the other two, all within a few blocks from one another). Nava Thai just happens to deliver, so we tried that one first. In fact, this was officially our first meal at our new house after an utterly exhausting day of moving. The Floating Market Soup is extraordinary, both in spice and overall flavor, and in my opinion is a quintessential must-try Thai dish. Even traditional items such as Pad Thai and Pad See Ew are refreshingly composed in a manner that makes you want to toss out all those old Thai takeout menus. The steamed dumplings stuffed with ground pork, shrimp, crabmeat, and water chestnuts are a real treat, too. On on a recent delivery order they convinced us to order the mango sticky rice dessert, which was a delicious summer treat that our son loved as well. - Brett
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11301 Fern Street
Wheaton, MD 20902
(240) 430-0495

Ren’s Ramen

While Rachel and I have still never been to Toki Underground, we’re both perfectly content getting a piping hot bowl of ramen up the street instead of waiting outside for an inordinate amount of time on H Street for the same exact thing. And trust me, I’m not dogging Toki here, it just so happens that Ren’s is conveniently located a couple miles from us and serves up some tremendous ramen without the long queue and hip interior. Yes, parking can be difficult and they only accept cash, but these are small quibbles for a place that makes some outrageously good ramen. With a bowl large enough for leftovers (though I always finish mine) starting at $10, it’s a guarantee our visits will exponentially increase once the weather starts getting cooler. - Brett

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11403 Amherst Ave
Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 693-0806

Thai Taste by Kob

Tucked literally in between Nava Thai and Ruan Thai, Thai Taste by Kob stands out in that it offers an array of Thai street food in addition to more traditional fare. We stuck with items like Pad See Ew and Chicken with Chinese Broccoli, nothing too adventurous but delicious nonetheless. We discovered Thai Taste also delivers, and with its extensive menu we now have our pick of amazing Thai food to choose from. Thai Taste was recently given a favorable review by Todd Kliman in the May issue of Washingtonian, and we can definitely see why. – Rachel

11315 Fern St
Wheaton, MD 20902
(301) 942-0288

City Burger Unveils New Expanded Menu

31 Jul

Rachel and I have been to City Burger several times and have really enjoyed Chef Michael Harr’s burgers since opening back in May. The executive chef at nearby Food Wine and Co, Harr has now expanded his menu including a revamped version of their veggie burger as well as a variety of hot dogs and hand-spun shakes featuring house-made custard.

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The new version of the veggie burger (the previous incarnation was basically a fried cheese patty), cleverly dubbed the Herban Garden, 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 to its beefy counterpart. It’s comparable to the famous veggie burger at Woodmont Grill, just half the price. We both particularly enjoyed the pickled onions since it was not only a unique topping but really complemented the crispy veggie patty.

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And while turkey burgers aren’t certainly exciting on paper when beef reigns supreme, Harr’s version delivers. The Suburban features a seasoned turkey patty topped with a slice of Swiss, roasted peppers, alfalfa, avocado, lettuce, and herby mayo. For a white meat alternative, it’s one of the better turkey burgers we have come across. Oh, and it pairs up nicely with a side of fried green beans, which are sprinkled with Parmesan and sesame seeds. Of course you can’t go wrong with their crispy sea salt fries, but it’s nice to see a greener alternative.

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One of the most intriguing additions was the Brooklyn Deli burger. A succulent beef patty is topped with Swiss cheese, crispy pastrami, coleslaw, and deli mustard. It’s like pastrami on rye after taking my first bite. The ingredients work effortlessly well together, especially the pastrami and bright yellow mustard. And while it’s a little on the greasier side (I mean it’s fried pastrami after all), it’s a nice take on burger meets delicatessen.

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And then there’s the hand-spun shakes. Prepared with rich, thick custard made in-house, City Burger has not one but six different specialty shakes (in addition to the traditional vanilla, chocolate, and black & white preparations). Rachel tried the City Slicker, which was made with vanilla custard, Nutella, banana, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel. It was just as delicious as it sounded and was quite refreshing for a summer treat.

I opted for the D.C. Grasshopper – chocolate custard, mint Oreo cookie, and mint chocolate. The mixture was heavenly, so much so that a spoon is recommended as you’re going to run out of oxygen using a straw given how deliciously thick the custard is.

City Burger is a great addition to Bethesda, and as you can tell, isn’t just another burger joint.

City Burger on Urbanspoon

A Memorable Birthday at Roberto's 8

30 May

Rachel and I have dined at Al Dente several times and had some great meals there, but Roberto’s 8, Chef Roberto Donna’s multicourse tasting menu, is one of the best dinners we have ever had in the District. Rachel upped her birthday game by surprising me with dinner there last week, and the bar has been raised so high that it’s going to be difficult to top it once her birthday rolls around.

I’m not kidding when I say that this meal was right up there with Komi and Marcel’s, but because Al Dente isn’t in a hotspot like 14th Street or Adams Morgan and instead in the primarily residential Wesley Heights, it (unfairly) gets lost in the shuffle. That’s a shame because it boasts one of the District’s most famous chefs in Donna, who if you recall was named Chef of the Year in 2012 by Esquire Magazine.

With a front-row view of the kitchen, Roberto’s 8 was recently doubled to accommodate eight diners, and is held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with a 7pm seating. And while you would think such an event would command an even higher price point, it’s actually very reasonable compared to other tasting menus in the region. With a dinner that will feature at least 12 courses, the cost is $85 per person (alongside an optional $45 wine pairing). That, at least in my opinion, is a tremendous value.

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Our first taste of Roberto’s 8 was a gelatinized rendition of Aperol, an Italian aperitif, topped with orange and crystal basil.

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Next was a pizzetta, presented in its own miniature box, and topped with Taleggio cheese, sweet onions, and a creamy quail egg.

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The presentation for the poached asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, a thin slice of prosciutto, and wrapped in translucent Piadina was simply stunning. Oh, and it was a great dish too.

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Just as delicious was the smoked octopus salad with fingerling potatoes, celery, and green sauce. Our waitress lifted the lid from the plate releasing a cloud of smoke which added a bit of a fun and flavor to the wonderfully-cooked octopus.

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The next course might have had the best presentation of the evening: a deep-friend head-on shrimp with saffron mayonnaise. The batter was light and crispy as we picked up the mammoth shrimp with our hands (which Chef suggested) and dipped it into the creamy mayo.

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What came next was unanimously our favorite course of the night: cream of corn with ramps, pesto, and a deep-fried soft shell crab. The soup was incredibly rich and creamy and complemented the crunchy soft shell, making for an outstanding dish.

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While the soup was hard to top, the scrambled eggs topped with black truffle and burrata was another remarkable dish, and that doesn’t even include the gorgeous presentation.

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We then entered the pasta portion of the meal by kicking things off with some of the softest, light-as-a-feather gnocchi we have ever come across. Donna works wonders here as the potato dumplings were accompanied with flavorful Pioppini mushrooms, spring onions, and parmesan.

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Next was squid ink pappardelle with clams. The al dente pasta paired up nicely with the buttery clams.

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The risotto was personally my favorite of the three pasta dishes we tried that evening. Prepared with peas, pancetta, and onions, it was presented in a tin can. It was a little too rich for Rachel’s liking, so I had the pleasure of finishing both hers and mine.

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We then segued into the secondi part of the menu with lamb shoulder, fava beans, artichokes, rosemary, and egg prepared in a lemon sauce. The lamb was so luscious that you could cut it with a fork.

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The roasted squab was just as succulent and featured duck liver, sautéed spinach, and Brussels sprouts, making for a palatable, hearty dish.

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The cheese plate was artfully arranged with Pecorino di Fossa, Mostarda di Cremona, hazelnut, beets and a drizzling of Saba.

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The passion fruit granita was a terrific palate cleanser. Very sweet and robust.

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The panna cotta with caramel crisp and cookie crumble was a whimsical take on this Italian staple and was, just like previous dishes, beautifully presented.

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The second of four (!) desserts was a cream puff situated in saffron cream and topped with espresso foam.

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Next was a ball of chocolate, croccante (almond brittle), and cherries, held up by a fork which was supported by a port glass filled with sugar, and then topped with a birthday candle. Once again, Donna’s creative staging was just as good as the actual dessert.

Bicerin

The warm glass of bicerin was akin to hot chocolate, but richer and creamier. In other words, amazing.

Bugie

Our final dessert was the traditional Bugie di Carnevale, a fried pastry sprinkled with powered sugar.

In summary, our entire meal had 19, yes, 19 courses! And honestly, we cannot recall one bad dish. Between the preparations and arrangements, there was very little wrong and so much right with this exceptionally memorable dinner.

Coupled with the fact that it’s only $85 per person for nearly 20 courses, you are simply not going to find a better value in this city for such an extravagant tasting menu. Plus you’re sitting mere feet away from Roberto Donna himself! Watching him arrange each dish adds another layer to the experience while also providing some great interaction.

We cannot recommend Roberto’s 8 enough. Between the excellent food, warm service, and reasonable pricing, it’s one of the best tasting menus in town.

Campono Serves Up Quality Pizza in Foggy Bottom

23 May

Let’s face the facts: it’s slim pickings when it comes to casual dining venues near the Kennedy Center and the adjacent Watergate complex. That is until Campono, Bob Kinkead’s fast-casual pizzeria and sandwich shop, recently opened less than two months ago.

Situated next to the James Beard award-winning chef’s full-service restaurant, Ancora (which is now closed for renovations and aims to reopen in September), Campono’s main attraction is its outstanding wood-fired pizzas. We were recently invited to sample Kinkead’s casual Italian eatery and left very impressed. Campono is serving up some seriously good pizza, and we’re here to get the good word out.

The restaurant is setup like an upscale cafeteria, where diners place their orders and pay at the counter while they wait for their made-to-order food to be served at their table. Salads are served in plastic bowls, beverages in Styrofoam cups, an abundance of plastic utensils… you get the idea. But don’t let the disposable flatware dissuade you from the cooking because Campono is not your typical downtown DC deli.

Beet and goat cheese salad

We started the evening off with their beet and goat cheese salad. Topped with fresh crumbles of goat cheese, the salad was very good, though Campono might want to implement better containers for those that opt to dine-in versus carryout.

The stars of the show, however, were the pizzas. Employing natural yeast biga (starter) and ’00″ flour dough, the hand-rolled pies are cooked in a wood-fired oven at 800 degrees. The menu is divided between Rosso (tomato sauce) and Bianca (white pizza), so we tried one of each.

L'Aquila pizza

The first pizza we sampled was the L’Aquila. Prepared with housemade Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, mozzarella, and olives, the crust was crisp on the outside and soft in the middle without being overly chewy while the toppings were incredibly fresh and robust. And while it was more expensive than other options (pizzas range from $9 to $15), this is plenty of pizza for two people.

Primavera pizza

The same could be said for the Primavera. 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. Rachel enjoyed this one more while I preferred the former.

Gelato

Make sure to leave some room for dessert as Campono makes all of its gelato daily in-house. The two scoops of mocha almond and strawberry sorbet made for an excellent duo of flavors and a sweet ending to a great dinner.

While there’s plenty of good pizza to be had in the District, Campono officially has the Foggy Bottom area on lockdown.

Campono on Urbanspoon

Fish Taco Taqueria

8 May

We’re big fans of Food Wine and Co. in downtown Bethesda, so when we heard the news that the owners as well as executive chef Michael Harr would be opening a taqueria in Cabin John, we obviously had to check it out.

Located in MacArthur Plaza, Fish Taco is a little more upscale than your typical taqueria given the locale, but the food is well worth the trip to this suburban alcove.

Fish Taco is a fast-casual format where diners order and pay for their tacos at the counter, then wait for their food to be served at their table. The menu, however, goes well beyond this Mexican staple. Offering an array of rice bowls, quesadillas, burritos, and salads, there’s enough variety for even the pickiest of eaters. There’s even a kids menu, which worked out well for our toddler who devoured his cheese quesadilla.

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Rachel and I started things off with their grilled corn on the cob, otherwise known as Elote. Topped with cojita cheese and situated in a bed of their signature sauce, the corn was sweet, crunchy, and downright delicious. Highly recommended dish.

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As for our entrees, I opted for the blackened tilapia tacos. Served on a flour tortilla, the tilapia wasn’t anything remarkable (it’s tilapia, after all), but topped with the kitchen’s chili lime mayo, crispy cabbage, mango pico, and cotija cheese, as well as a side of rice and beans, it made for an enjoyable if not filling meal.

Grilled mahi mahi tacos,

Rachel ordered the grilled mahi mahi tacos, and after having a bite of hers, I slightly preferred her dish over mine. Maybe it’s because mahi mahi is a more flavorful fish than tilapia, or that it’s a little firmer, but overall both tacos were just fine.

I should note that Fish Taco sells its tacos in pairs, so bear that in mind. And not that it’s a bad thing, but if you’re looking to sample a variety of tacos from Fish Taco, it’s probably best to come with a larger party so you can share them all.

The pricing is fair if not a tad pricey – it just depends on what you order. For example, their beef, pork, and chicken tacos range from seven to nine dollars, but if you’re opting for fish, those start at $10. But given the quality of the food, we didn’t have any qualms about our bill.

Overall we were very pleased with our meal at Fish Taco. It’s especially great during the spring and summer months as there is plenty of outdoor seating, not to mention it is super kid-friendly to boot.

Fish Taco on Urbanspoon

Mark Your Calendar: Dining Out for Life is This Thursday!

22 Apr

Dining Out for Life

If you’re going out to lunch or dinner this Thursday, be sure to dine at one of the 100 restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising event where a percentage of your bill will be donated to Food & Friends to support its mission of delivering nutritious meals to children and adults facing HIV/AIDS and cancer. You can find a complete list of participating restaurants here, as well as a list of participating restaurants that accept reservations via OpenTable. So on Thursday don’t cook in, dine out for life!

The DMV Dining Guide to Passover: 2014 Edition

10 Apr

Now that we are officially less than a week away from Passover, we thought we would take the time to compile a list of DC area restaurants that will be offering Pesach-friendly menus.

After all, just because it’s Passover doesn’t mean you can’t go out for dinner! So put down that box of matzo meal and start reading…

Matzo Ball Soup

BLT Steak: A new entrant in the Passover scene, the DC steakhouse is offering some intriguing items such as deviled hen eggs with challah croutons and pike “gefilte” fish with English pea velouté. Guests can order items a la carte or create their own three-course menu for $60 per person. The menu runs from Monday, April 14 to Saturday, April 19.

Call 202-689-8999 to make a reservation.

Commissary: The Logan Circle eatery is offering one of the more affordable Passover-centric dining options with a $28 prix-fixe three course dinner that includes matzo ball soup, brisket, and sweet matzo kugel. The menu is also available a la carte and will be available from Monday, April 14 to Saturday, April 19.

Call 202-299-0018 to make a reservation.

Fiola: Chef Fabio Trabocchi introduces his “Passover Seder All’Italiana” with an exquisite six-course tasting menu that will be offered from Tuesday, April 15 to Tuesday, April 22. The dinner will feature an Italian twist on the Passover Seder with items such as baby artichokes salad, red mullet and fennel risotto, and a kosher rack of lamb. The dinner is $105 per person along with an optional $60 wine pairing.

Call 202-628-2888 to make a reservation.

DGS Delicatessen: Already one of the most popular restaurants in Dupont Circle, Barry Koslow’s kitchen will be featuring a spit-roasted lamb dinner for the first night of Passover on Sunday, April 13. The menu will feature spit-roasted lamb served family style, along with latkes, roasted beets, asparagus, and honey glazed donuts for $35 per person. Additionally, DGS will be offering a “Seder at the Delicatessen” four-course dinner from April 14 to 21 for $45/person, and will feature matzo ball soup, pan-roasted striped bass, Shenandoah Valley lamb, and charoset cake. There is also a $20 optional wine pairing.

Call 202-393-4400 to make a reservation.

Equinox: Chef Todd Gray will be offering a farm-to-Seder party on Monday, April 14. Featuring recipes from Todd and Ellen Gray’s cookbook, The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes, the $90 dinner will include matzo ball soup, short rib, and pineapple upside down cake.

Call 202-331-8118 to make a reservation.

Rosa Mexicano: It’s Mexican Passover over at Rosa Mexicano from Monday, April 14 to Tuesday, April 22. Their Penn Quarter, Chevy Chase, and National Harbor locations will feature a “Passover a la Mexicana” menu which puts a south of the border twist on traditional favorites. From tropical haroset to chipotle-marrow matzo balls, Rosa Mexicano offers perhaps the most eclectic selection of Passover dishes thus far. Menu is prix-fixe.

Call 202-783-5522 (Penn Quarter), 202-777-9959 (Chevy Chase) or 301-567-1005 (National Harbor) to make a reservation.

Mon Ami Gabi: The French bistro located in downtown Bethesda will be offering a prix-fixe Seder menu on Monday, April 14th and Tuesday, April 15th. Dinner will feature classic Passover dishes such as matzo ball soup, chopped liver with egg and onions, and beef brisket. Rachel and I went a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

$36.95 for adults and $15.95 for children under 12. Call 301-654-1234 to make a reservation.

Vince & Dominic’s Pizzeria: Just because it’s Passover doesn’t mean you can’t eat pizza. The Bethesda-based pizzeria will be serving up unleavened pies all throughout Passover. Make sure to place your orders ahead of time as demand will be high during the holiday.

Call 301-365-4190 to place your order.

Georgetown Cupcake: DC’s most famous cupcake outpost will be selling a variety of Passover Macaroon cupcakes at both their Georgetown and Bethesda locations. These flourless coconut macaroon cupcakes will be available with either caramel or chocolate drizzle.

Sprinkles: The latest cupcake import from Beverly Hills will be selling flourless chocolate cupcakes, topped with a blue Star of David naturally, from April 14 to 22.

If you know of any area restaurants not listed above that are offering Passover menu options, please let us know by either leaving a comment or emailing us at dmvdining AT gmail DOT com.

Urban Butcher a Meaty Addition to Silver Spring

21 Mar

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things meat, so when I heard that Raynold Mendizabal was going to open a butcher-themed restaurant in Silver Spring, my ears (and my taste buds) piqued with interest. Urban Butcher is the newest entrant in downtown Silver Spring’s restaurant scene, and it’s certainly one of the most interesting when you scroll down their long if not diverse menu.

Both a butcher shop and a full service restaurant, Urban Butcher features everything from steaks to crispy pig tails to… ratatouille? Why yes, surprisingly enough, the restaurant accommodates vegetarians quite nicely as they offer a handful of non-meat items, something which our vegetarian friend Katie was really surprised by.

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We started the evening off with some capocollo from their meat cellar. The house-cured meat was delicious, and with one bite you can easily tell that this is what they excel at.

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But what was more surprising was how good the ahi tuna and ginger ceviche turned out to be. For a place that specializes in meats, this was one of our favorite items of the evening. Light and refreshing, the sushi-grade tuna was beautifully presented in a shot glass situated in a mason jar of ice.

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Meanwhile, the winter chicory salad was overly salty and probably the weakest dish of the meal.

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The beef empanadas, however, are worth getting. Stuffed with tender meat in a delightfully crisp shell and accompanied with chimichurri, I could have had a trio of these for myself.

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Just as good was the thick-cut house pastrami. Smoky and tender, my only qualm was the small-sized portion.

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The grilled Brussels sprouts were another unanticipated hit. Prepared with soy butter and garlic, it’s one of the best preparations you will find in the area – right up there with Red Hen’s. A vegetarian’s, or even vegans, delight.

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Our party couldn’t resist ordering the crispy fries, which were accompanied with a side of mayo for dipping, as it was a good dish for sharing amongst the table.

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The four of us decided to split two desserts. The first was a chocolate soufflé with goat cheese gelato. While the soufflé itself was grand, the goat cheese flavor was too overpowering and didn’t really complement the chocolate as well as anticipated.

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On the other hand, the churros were simply fantastic. Served with an orange-cocoa dipping sauce, the fried dough was exceptionally crispy and was easily the better of the two desserts we ordered.

And while Urban Butcher is relatively new, the kitchen really needs to work on the pacing of their dishes. As soon as we were halfway done with the charcuterie, the rest of our dishes came out at nearly the same time. It was a mad dash to try most of them while they were still hot. Meanwhile, the desserts took an extraordinarily long time to come to the table after we had ordered them.

Hopefully management is trying to remedy that as they are producing some quality food in the kitchen, let alone in downtown Silver Spring. I’d certainly make a return visit, just for that ceviche of all things.

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An Anniversary Dinner at Marcel's

12 Mar

As is the tradition every year, Rachel and I always love to try out some of the very best restaurants in the Washington metropolitan area whenever our wedding anniversary rolls around. From the glamorous Inn at Little Washington to the gluttonous BLT Steak to the classical L’Auberge Chez Francois, we have always looked for a romantic backdrop to celebrate the occasion.

When choosing a restaurant, we always pick a place we have not been before, and considering that Marcel’s, chef Robert Wiedmaier’s flagship establishment of his ever-growing brand of restaurants (his Ballston branch of Mussel Bar being the most recent opening), has been a mainstay at the top of the charts, we thought it was an ideal venue for dinner this past Saturday night.

Marcel’s is the epitome of French-Belgian fine dining without the stuffiness and outdated dining room. Instead it felt homey and modern. When we walked in, maitre d’ Adnane Kebaier warmly greeted us by wishing Rachel and me a happy anniversary and seated us at a table for two while pouring us each a glass of celebratory champagne. Needless to say we were both taken aback by this gracious gesture and already fell in love with the place.

Our table captain Jonathan then introduced himself and broke down how the menu works. It is a prix-fixe format where diners have the option to choose four to seven items from each of the seven courses on the menu. For example, if you do a four-course menu, you can choose two items from the first course, one from the third, and then a dessert. Four courses start at $85 per person, five courses at $105, six at $125, and if you’re hungry enough, seven for $145.

For some odd reason, we had the preconceived notion that every meal included the dessert course, so we opted for the four course menu, not realizing that we were doing five courses at the time. That was our fault as we should have asked sooner, but I’m honestly glad we made the miscue as there was literally zero regrets about what we ordered once the meal concluded. Besides, this is a special occasion place, so you might as well go all out, right?

Jonathan was great as he was extremely familiar with the preparations and was entertaining to boot. Restaurants always carry a certain kind of charm when the staff has such great personalities, and Jonathan was no exception. Being the head captain of Marcel’s, it’s a big responsibility to ensure that his diners leave satisfied, so we knew we were in good hands all evening.

Lobster bisque

Before we got started, we were served an amuse bouche of lobster flan that was housed in an egg shell. Despite just being a teaspoon or two worth, the amount of flavor packed inside was tremendous. Just one taste and we knew we were going to be in for a very memorable dinner.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon

For our first official course of the evening, I had to go with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon. Served atop a slice of grilled brioche and situated on a bed of blackberries and port syrup, the foie gras was sublime and was one of the best preparations I had ever come across.

Nantucket Bay Scallops,

Rachel decided to go with the Nantucket Bay scallops, along with marinated octopus, black garlic purée, and smoked tomato coulis. The combination of all the flavors was outstanding, and she particularly loved the black garlic with the octopus. It was a light and lovely dish to start things off.

Seared rare 'big eye' tuna

For our second course, I went with the seared rare ‘big eye’ tuna. Topped with seared foie gras (because hey, you can never get enough foie gras) and accompanied with purple potatoes and a Cabernet reduction, the tuna, which was a generous portion, was actually cooked more on the medium to medium rare side. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the seared foie gras/tuna combination despite the slight overcooking.

Roasted monkfish cheek

Next for Rachel was the roasted monkfish cheek with white asparagus, mandarin, and a Maltaise sauce. This might have been the weakest dish of the evening, but she still loved the perfectly cooked monkfish and the decadent sauce. The mandarin added a nice tang as well.

Boudin Blanc.

While we were waiting for what was to be our third coach, Chef Wiedmaier surprised us with his renowned Boudin Blanc. If you are to ever dine at Marcel’s, I highly recommend you order this dish. In fact, we felt foolish not ordering it to begin with as it is one of their most ordered items. The housemade sausage, prepared with a blend of chicken and pheasant, was deceptively light and wrapped in a lightly browned casing. Topped with a generous amount of black truffles and placed under a bed of butternut squash puree, caramelized onions, and Madeira sauce, the savory, melt-in-your-mouth sausage is one of the very best dishes you will ever come across in the District. There’s a reason why it’s so popular.

Five Spice Beaver Creek Wood Pigeon Breast

Following that extravagant course was the Five Spice Beaver Creek Wood Pigeon Breast. The juicy slices of pigeon breast were complemented with a stuffed leg, Napa cabbage slaw, and Madeira sauce.

La Belle Farm duck breast

Rachel then had the La Belle Farm duck breast, with braised salsify, duck confit, chocolate, and brandied cherries. The duck was phenomenal, but the best part may have been the cherries. These deceptively small gems packed a powerful punch, and you could taste the brandy in each bite. What you would think is a traditional duck with cherries dish was anything but.

Border Spring lamb chops

I went with the Border Spring lamb chops as my final main course of the evening. Outside of the Boudin Blanc, this was my favorite dish of the meal. Prepared medium rare with a horseradish crust, the succulent lamb was simply extraordinary. Served with a smoked mozzarella polenta cake and rainbow chard, it was at this point that I began to hit the proverbial wall in terms of being full, but I marched on as I could not leave one bite of lamb behind. I just felt it would have been sacrilege to do so.

Martin's Angus filet mignon

The last savory dish for Rachel was the Martin’s Angus filet mignon, with Yukon gold potato purée, wild mushrooms, lemon zest, and horseradish. It may sound boring to have a filet, but how can you not? Of course it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and paired with the potato puree and sauce made for wonderful bites. Granted, she was slowing down too, but what a way to cap off dinner.

Melting hot chocolate cake

For dessert, each of our plates arrived with “Happy Anniversary” spelled out in chocolate, which was a very nice touch. Despite being absurdly full, I could not resist ordering the melting hot chocolate cake. Beautifully arranged with a scoop of salted praline gelato and a dollop of hazelnut coffee crema, the melting cake was as decadent as it sounded. The warm, rich chocolate cake paired incredibly well with the creamy gelato, which as it turned out was caramelized on the bottom! Just a transcending finale to a great meal.

Pineapple souffle

Rachel went with the special dessert for the evening, which was a pineapple souffle, served table side with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and pineapple sauce on the side. Jonathan had mentioned that the sauce was particularly sweet so to use it sparingly, and he was spot on. While you didn’t need much of it, the sauce added just enough to bring it all together.

And then there was the service. Part of going to Marcel’s is the white tablecloth experience, and the waitstaff operates like clockwork. Between the timing of the dishes, the highly knowledgeable sommelier, our enjoyable table captain, and the friendly maitre d’, the service was immaculate. It really adds to the overall experience and makes the evening feel that more special.

Miniature desserts

Overall this was arguably one of the best meals we have had in the District. Between the outstanding cooking and exceptional service, Rachel and I left with a smile on our (very full) faces. I was already joking with Rachel that I would gladly go back here for my birthday in a few months. With so many new restaurants that have opened in DC the past few years, Marcel’s is one that should not be overlooked. Wiedmaier works wonders in the kitchen and this is one place you should not pass up for your next special occasion.

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