A.G. Kitchen Opens in Silver Spring

23 Jul

While several New York chefs have imported their restaurants into our nation’s capital, chef Alex Garcia decided to open the second location of his popular A.G. Kitchen in downtown Silver Spring.

Chef Alex Garcia

The original, which is located the Upper West Side, offers an array of Latin American fare in a casual, colorful setting. The Maryland location continues that theme of vibrancy in the heart of Silver Spring with a menu full of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.

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Rachel and I were invited to a preview event a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to sample some of Chef Garcia’s menu.

Seafood Ceviche

We started the evening off with a seafood ceviche that featured a medley of shrimp and lobster, blended with tomatoes mango and avocado.

Braised short ribs arepa

The braised short ribs arepa prominently showcased Garcia’s Cuban heritage with the traditional sweet yellow corn cake.

Seafood paella

The gorgeously arranged seafood paella was overflowing with crab laws, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, chorizo, rice, and last but not least, calamari salad.

Ultimate potato skin burger

Meanwhile, the “ultimate potato skin burger” fuses some American elements into the Cuban-inspired menu with a ribeye patty topped with crispy potato skin, cheddar, bacon, and crema.

Ultimate potato skin burger

The table even got to sample the full-size version of this behemoth as the smaller plate didn’t do it enough justice – there’s a reason why it’s listed under the menu as one of chef Garcia’s favorites amongst nearly a dozen burger offerings.

Chocolate empanadas and salted caramel milkshake

We concluded the evening with a trio of chocolate empanadas, complete with chocolate dipping sauce, as well as a miniature salted caramel milkshake. In fact, all of the milkshakes can be made boozy for an additional $5, because who doesn’t love boozy milkshakes?

ViewMaster

One of the most memorable if not creative moments of the night was reading the dessert menu off of a 3D View-Master. Certainly brought back memories of our childhood (P.S. we’re officially old now).

A.G. Kitchen not only offers another exciting option in the ever-expanding dining scene of downtown Silver Spring with its first NYC import, but also brings a lively atmosphere complemented by a colorful backdrop of Latin American fusion.

A.G. Kitchen is located on 931 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.

The Room at McGinty's: Fine Dining within an Irish Pub

1 Jul

One of the newer concepts we have observed in the Washington dining scene are restaurants within a restaurant. We’ve seen Bryan Voltaggio do it with Aggio inside Range, his behemoth Chevy Chase restaurant (he even opened a standalone Aggio up in Baltimore). And to a lesser degree, there are also tasting menu experiences like Nonna’s Kitchen within Alphonse and Fishnook at Fishnet, separating diners from the bustling activity in the main dining room to a secluded part of the restaurant for a more intimate experience.

Now Silver Spring gets in on the action with The Room at McGinty’s. Wait, McGinty’s Public House? You mean that Irish bar across the street from the Regal Cinemas? Yep.

Unbeknownst to this writer, executive chef Nico Amroune, who has been helming the kitchen at McGinty’s Public House since 2011, has previously worked with famed D.C. chef Roberto Donna at the original Galileo, as well as at Tosca, Teatro Goldoni, and M Café. And while he’s been cooking classic Irish dishes the past few years, the newly-opened Room at McGinty’s has given Chef Amroune an opportunity to let his talents really shine.

Ahi tuna tartar

Take for example the ahi tuna tartar. Prepared with avocado, spicy radish, poppy seeds, and a ginger marinade, this isn’t exactly pub fare. What it is, however, is a deliciously fresh, gorgeous preparation of raw fish in the upstairs of an Irish bar. (Don’t worry – the large, separate dining room isolates a lot of the noise from the Public House patrons).

Burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad,

The burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad, adorned with roasted beets, quinoa fritters, arugula, and a blueberry vincotto immediately wowed Rachel, who remarked on the freshness of the locally-sourced ingredients.

Spring lamb Provençal

As for our entrees, the spring lamb Provençal was simply outstanding. Perfectly cooked at medium-rare, the herb-crusted lamb was complemented with an olive-oil potato puree, a wonderful ratatouille, and then capped off with a savory mint lamb jus. I had to do a double-take while eating this in the upstairs of an Irish pub – I can see why this dish deserves its very own dining room!

Roast Icelandic cod

Not to be outdone was Rachel’s roast Icelandic cod. Prepared with English pea creama, heirloom cauliflower, zaatar, and pea tendrils, this dish was superbly executed.

Salted caramel panna cotta

For dessert, we decided to be adventurous and try both the salted caramel panna cotta and the strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp

Both proved to be excellent endings to what was an incredible meal. While The Room at McGinty’s has been only open a month, Chef Amroune is doing some amazing things in the kitchen. This is downtown cooking that just happens to take place in the upstairs of a pub in the ‘burbs.

A Birthday Dinner at Crane and Turtle

28 May

Let’s cut straight to the chase: Last week’s dinner at Crane & Turtle was my favorite meal of the year thus far. And as much as I want to preface about how Rachel and I surprise each other for where we’re going to dinner on our respective birthdays, I figured out the destination of our reservation rather quickly as the both of us have been wanting to try  Paul Ruppert’s latest restaurant since it opened last year.

Nestled in a residential area of Petworth and located directly across the street from sister restaurant Petworth Citizen, chef Makoto Hamamura skillfully blends his Japanese heritage with his French training, which makes Crane & Turtle’s menu one of the most unique in the District. And with only 25 seats, it’s also one of the most intimate, too.

Big-eye tuna tataki

Take for instance our first course, the beautifully-presented big-eye tuna tataki. The tuna, which was smoked over hay, added a new dimension to the dish as the smokiness really added some flavor to the already high-quality slices of fish. Atop a satay sauce and garnished with pieces of socca, which is essentially a chickpea pancake, the combination of crunch and smoke really won us over after the first bite.

Warm bok choy salad

The warm bok choy salad was another departure from your typical appetizer. Accompanied with a blend of bamboo shoots and snow peas, fried shiitake mushrooms, and a mild ban ban ji sauce, the salad made for a terrific dish for a warm evening.

Szechuan-style duc

The highlight of the evening, however, was the Szechuan-style duck. The pan-roasted duck breast was perfectly cooked as the meat was wonderfully juicy and tender. The duck was paired with with pea shoots, braised yuba (also known as tofu skin), and was brought together by a flavorful dan dan sauce. Overall it was an exceptional entrée.

Pan Seared Maine Scallop

Rachel had the pan seared Maine scallops with asparagus, mores, red pearl onions, couscous, and sauce cardinal. Perfectly-seared scallops are generally good wherever you go, but the accompaniments really made the dish, especially the fresh spring vegetables.

Mount Fuji

As for dessert, our mutual affection towards molten chocolate cake led us to ordering the aptly-titled Mount Fuji. Complemented with salted caramel and coconut ice cream, the warm, gooey chocolate cake made for a delightful sweet and salty combination.

And then there’s the atmosphere, an element which deserves its own recognition. A good portion of that is attributed to none other than floor manager Elizabeth Parker, formerly of Rose’s Luxury. It’s no coincidence that Crane & Turtle shares some of Rose’s charm not only due to its intimacy but also because of its inviting, unpretentious vibe, and Ms. Parker plays a substantial role in that. In fact, she was not only our waiter but also crafted the featured rose menu as she oversees the restaurant’s beverage program. Some fun add-ons to the tab were reminiscent of Rose’s as well.

Receipt

Oh, and they take reservations! I can’t stress how important this is since we’re parents that need to plan ahead when hiring a babysitter for the evening. Considering how en vogue it is these days with some restaurants only offering first-come, first-serve seating, it’s refreshing to see Crane & Turtle buck this trend. You won’t find them on Open Table though; they are using a new service which can be found through their website.

Birthday at Crane & Turtle

Another great component of Crane & Turtle is their patio menu, which basically offers all of their small plates and appetizers out in the front and can accommodate a little more than a dozen guests at time. It’s certainly a more affordable way to experience the restaurant given that the majority of the entrees start at the mid-20s.

There’s no denying the fact that Crane & Turtle has quickly ascended up the charts as one of my favorite restaurants in the District after just one visit. Between the homey atmosphere, wonderful staff, and inventive cooking, Mr. Ruppert’s latest venture might be his best yet.

Crane and Turtle on Urbanspoon

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.