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.

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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.

DCity SmokehouseDCity SmokehouseDCity Smokehouse

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.

DCity Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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

bagel

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.

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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.

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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.