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A Return to Corduroy

16 Oct

One of the very first restaurants that introduced us to the world of District fine dining was Corduroy. If memory serves me correctly, it was probably six years ago when we were first introduced to Tom Power’s exquisite cooking. It was oddly located inside a Sheraton off of K Street with a no-frills dining room. The kitchen, however, left a lasting impression. I can still recall my entrée after all these years – lamb sirloin with miniature goat cheese ravioli. Rachel, too, can still remember their incredible seared sea scallops.

If only we started this blog six years ago. Since then, this city has seen an unparalleled explosion in dining establishments. Somehow, Corduroy got lost in the shuffle and we have not make a return trip since. In 2008, the restaurant relocated from the downtown Sheraton and situated itself right across the street from the convention center.  We kept meaning to visit the new location but never got around to it.

That was until a few months ago when I noticed Chef Power himself posted on Don Rockwell informing members that he would be offering a special five-course tasting menu for two days only with an incredible price of $40 per person. Considering that the majority of their entrees are normally in the 30s, we basically made a reservation on the spot.

First of all, the new location is a vast improvement from its previous locale. The entrance is nearly hidden while the interior carries a warm, inviting atmosphere. No longer sterile like the Sheraton location, the new address feels modern but not stuffy. The bar is located upstairs where diners can partake in one of the District’s best deals for dinner: $30 for a three-course meal.

Chilled eggplant soup

Anyway, Rachel was about nine months pregnant at the time, so when we informed the waiter we here for the special menu, we made sure to tell him not to bring anything raw (much to my chagrin). Our first course was their chilled eggplant soup. Rich and creamy, the soup was very flavorful and was a refreshing course given the humidity at the time (remember, this was back in August).

Alaskan salmon accompanied with corn relish

Our next course featured a beautifully-cooked piece of Alaskan salmon accompanied with corn relish. Both Rachel and I really enjoyed this dish, and I’m not even a big fan of salmon.

Roast and confit guinea hen with savoy cabbage

Up next was roast and confit guinea hen with savoy cabbage. Another fantastic preparation, the hen was wonderfully succulent while the crispy skin was a delight in its own right.

Wagyu beef strip loin with garlic mashed potatoes

As if this evening could not get any better, our next course was Wagyu beef strip loin with garlic mashed potatoes. We haven’t had Wagyu since Rachel’s birthday nearly two years ago at Sushi Taro, and good heavens, was this a legitimate piece of beef. It really doesn’t need an explanation as a picture says a thousand words.

Broken Arrow Ranch antelope with scalloped potatoes

Just when we thought we had reached the dessert course, our waiter informed us that since he had noticed that Rachel was pregnant, the chef thought we should have one more course to make sure she was well-nourished. Then out came a piece of Broken Arrow Ranch antelope with scalloped potatoes.  Yes, antelope! I honestly could not believe anything would top the Waygu, yet the antelope was one of the most delicious, most tender pieces of meat the two of us have ever come across in our years of dining. I’m not joking – imagine filet mignon, but even more succulent. Yeah, I was nearly taken aback by its lusciousness.

Sorbet Trio

Our meal then concluded not with one but two desserts. First was a trio of refreshing sorbets while the other was a chocolate tort accompanied with caramelized banana and caramel ice cream. Guess which one was our favorite.

Chocolate tort accompanied with caramelized banana and caramel ice cream

Our meal at Corduroy was simply outstanding. We seriously cannot believe it has been at least five years since our last meal there, but it is undeniably one of the District’s best restaurants. It may not receive as much publicity as other places, but Chef Power is a treasure and Corduroy is a gem. We were already trying to figure out when to come back to take advantage of their $30 bar special. No wonder we started blogging about restaurants – our experiences at Corduroy are the reason why.

Corduroy on Urbanspoon

National Peach Month at Blue Duck Tavern

23 Aug

Prior to last week, Rachel and I have only been to Blue Duck Tavern once, and that was over three years ago. While it’s been a long hiatus between then and our most recent visit, the food has remained exceptional.

In what turned out to be one of those rare summer evenings where the humidity was nonexistent, we opted for dinner out in the restaurant’s patio that overlooks the corner of 24th and M Street.

Crispy fried veal sweetbreadsfried

August is also National Peach Month, and Blue Duck Tavern celebrated the harvest by offering a special appetizer – crispy fried veal sweetbreads. Featuring bourbon marinated peaches and roasted Path Valley Farm sweet peppers, the sweetbreads were delightfully crispy but not too heavy. The peaches complemented the veal and peppers and it was a nice contrast of sweet and savory. It was a very summery dish that was accentuated by the juicy peaches.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

We also shared an heirloom tomato salad which was prepared with aged goat cheese, basil, and olive oil croutons. Gorgeously presented, the colors alone were stunning let alone how refreshing the salad was. The slivers of goat cheese were strong but not overpowering at all.

12-hour roasted suckling pig

As for our main courses, I immediately went for the 12-hour roasted suckling pig. Accompanied with baby vegetables, mustard jus, and topped with what appeared to be homemade pork rinds, the pig was spectacular. A knife was not necessary as it was incredibly succulent. Now I know why it is one of Blue Duck Tavern’s most popular dishes.

Braised beef rib

Rachel ordered the braised beef rib with a housemade steak sauce. The beef itself was delicious and fork tender, a theme to our meal, but it was the sauce that took it to another level. Thank goodness Blue Duck’s dishes are presented family style since I was trying an equal amount of each entree.

BDT fries

Of course we had to get the BDT fries as one of our sides, which did not disappoint. They might be the best fries at a fine dining establishment in the entire District. The mustard aioli that accompanies them makes them a perfect side.

Dandelion greens grilled with fresh garlic and bacon

We decided to try the daily harvest vegetable, which were dandelion greens grilled with fresh garlic and bacon. It was definitely something different and we loved every bite. It was also a nice change of pace from ordinary vegetable sides such as spinach or broccoli.

Milk chocolate banana smores

We could not decide on which dessert to order since they all sounded appetizing, so in the end we tried the milk chocolate banana smores as well as the nectarine blackberry crumble. The former proved to be a little too sweet for our taste buds but the latter certainly made up for it, especially with the cornmeal crunch which added a nice texture to the dish.

Nectarine blackberry crumble

Despite not having been to Blue Duck Tavern in years, the kitchen has not lost a step. There’s a reason why it is considered one of the best restaurants in DC, and our most recent visit certainly validated that claim. On top of that, the service was top-notch. Our waitress was very helpful considering our patented indecisiveness on what to order, and she certainly steered us in the right direction in regards to the excellent braised beef rib. While summer is drawing to a close, be sure to enjoy their cucumber lemonade on the patio while you still can!

Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Pig: Pork and Fork

31 Jul

It’s not often where the name of a restaurant instantly grabs my attention, but Logan Circle’s The Pig had me by the title alone. The newest member of the Eatwell DC family, it is also the group’s most distinct, separating itself from sister eateries Logan Tavern, The Heights, and Commissary.

Incorporating a nose-to-tail approach, The Pig’s menu is a carnivore’s dream. While stepping inside the restaurant, an aroma of barbecue drifts through the air across the 80-seat dining room. Chalkboards hanging up across the space inform diners where today’s ingredients are sourced, including the restaurant’s farm in La Plata where they grow their vegetables.

The Pig does not accept reservations and only sits parties if everyone is present, but the wait wasn’t bad for the four of us on a Friday evening. We put our name down and headed across the street at Churchkey for a few libations.

The Pig’s menu mainly revolves around small plates, but they also feature some entrees as well. We debated ordering a charcuterie plate, aptly titled The Pig Platter, but instead went right for the main event.

Braised Cheek

Our first dish was the braised cheek, a popular item amongst diners according to our waiter. After taking a bite, I could see why. Sitting atop a bed of stone grits, and topped with Spanish sofrito, the cheeks were delightfully tender. The texture was similar to that of brisket, and of course a knife was not necessary.

Charred Belly

Up next was the charred belly. As good as the braised cheeks were, the belly might have one-upped it by just a nose. Succulent and smoky, the fatty piece of belly was complemented with a rich celery root puree, watermelon jam, and pickled rind. Both dishes thus far were stellar, but the smokiness of the belly tipped the scales.

Heirloom tomato farm salad

We took a reprieve from the pork and ordered their heirloom tomato farm salad. Featuring tomatoes grown from their La Plata farm, the salad was complemented with basil-goat cheese mousse as well as olive oil-poached tomatoes. It was a light and refreshing course considering what lay ahead.

Buttermilk fried chicken

And that brings us to the buttermilk fried chicken. Listed as a supper item on the menu, this was indeed a full entrée that was split between the four of us. And just because it’s a protein other than pork doesn’t mean it’s an afterthought from the kitchen. In fact, the chicken was surprisingly one of the meal’s highlights.

Situated atop Thai chili gravy and collard greens, and complemented with a pair of herb biscuits, the chicken was crisp, juicy, and had a nice kick thanks to the gravy. For a place that specializes in all things pork, the fried chicken is a worthy contender.

Mac and cheese

Of course, one has to order mac and cheese at a place like this, and it did not disappoint. Featuring a truffle crust, it added a little crunch to the rich side dish and really went well together with the fried chicken.

Herb gnocchi

The herb gnocchi, which was prepared with truffled corn and topped with crisp pork belly, was another solid dish although it was a tad too salty.

Wild boar ragu

Just when we thought we had enough, we ordered the wild boar ragu as our final dish of the evening. Prepared with pappardelle and Pecorino cheese, the pasta was soft and delicate while the ragu added some heartiness to the dish. It was another hit amongst the table.

Overall, The Pig was a home run. Not only were the prices reasonable, but our waiter provided outstanding service – breaking down each dish with the ingredients used, how they’re prepared, as well as offering some helpful suggestions. We would definitely come back not only to explore more of the menu, but also to be surrounded by that enticing aroma. Oh, and to order more of that charred belly, too.

The Pig on Urbanspoon

Founding Farmers at Park Potomac

17 May

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a trip over to Great Beginnings in Gaithersburg to check out the behemoth baby store with our cousins and start looking at furniture for our new addition. After being completely overwhelmed and famished, we tried to think of a place nearby that would be fun to go for an early dinner, and the recently-opened Founding Farmers in Park Potomac came to mind.

It’s been years since we have been to their DC location, and we have wanted to try to this suburban outpost for some time now. Because we arrived so early for a Saturday dinner, we were seated right away, and by a TV no less so we could watch the Caps – Bruins game. (Yes, we’re just a little behind on this post…).

The menu itself can be fairly overwhelming, with so much to choose from between the small snacks to share, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and more. We decided to share the popcorn of the day, which was ranch flavored, as well as the table biscuits with honey butter and tomato jam. The popcorn was tasty but the flavor was a little too overpowering, and while I enjoyed the biscuits, they were also a little dry.

Spicy ahi tuna poke salad

As for entrees, Brett decided to go for the spicy ahi tuna poke salad, which I jealously eyed throughout the meal. Prepared with cabbage, avocado, fried wonton, spicy cilantro-lime vinaigrette, and Kung Pao dressing, Brett was very impressed not only with the artful presentation but how satisfying the salad was. The rare tuna was very fresh while the crispy wonton added a nice crunch to the dish. He’s not a big salad person but he remarked how he would definitely order this again.

Roasted tomato soup

I had a baby shower earlier in the day at Black Market Bistro so I wasn’t that hungry (I know, poor me). I decided on their roasted tomato soup and an order of their Farmer’s Salad, which was comprised of baby lettuce, avocado, dates, tomatoes, red grapes, almonds, parmesan cheese, and a champagne vinaigrette. I was worried that it may be too small but it was actually a decent size, and I even took some home with me. I loved all the ingredients and if I was hungrier, I would have seen if it was possible to order it in a larger size. The tomato soup had a nice kick to it, and Brett gladly helped me finish the large bowl.

Farmer's Salad

What’s so great about a place like Founding Farmers is that you can go several times and never get the same thing. I have been to breakfast at the downtown location a few times and would love to come back here for brunch to try items such as the New Orleans French toast or the red velvet pancakes. Oddly enough, we happened to be there on a prom night for one of the local high schools, so there were lots of kids dressed up which made for great people watching.

Lobster macaroni and cheese

Some critics might knock a place like this for overreaching with too many items on the menu, or questioning just how “farm-to-table” the ingredients really are, but we were happy with our meal and feel like it’s a nice addition to the growing list of restaurants in Potomac. With the addition of the new hot spot Sugo, it might be harder to find parking in that lot than at some places downtown. Oh and in case you’re wondering, our cousin tried the $28 lobster macaroni and cheese and while it was decadent, it would definitely be better as a side dish than as an entree. A whole cast iron plate of lobster and a gouda-cheddar gratin with pasta is just a tad too hearty.

Potomac's Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon

The Majestic Bar and Grille

3 May

7141 Wisconsin Avenue has hosted many restaurants throughout the years. Located next to the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market, this address has seen a handful of venues open and close, Vegas Bar & Grill and Gaffney’s being the latest causalities. The Majestic, which opened a few months ago, hopes to buck that trend.

Rachel and I met up with The Bethesda Foodie and her husband in what was to be our first blogger meal together. The Majestic bills itself as a “gastropub”, but when looking over the menu, it’s a mish-mosh of pub fare, small plates, and even ramen. With the Caps game broadcast on the restaurant’s two flat screen TVs above the bar, the guys kept things simple with burgers and beers while the wives both ordered crab cake sandwiches.

Chopped sirloin burger

Speaking of beers, The Majestic has a pretty good beer selection, with local breweries Heavy Seas and Flying Dog on-tap. I asked for the chopped sirloin burger to be cooked medium and topped with bacon (of course). When the plate arrived, it was nearly overflowing with the kitchen’s delicious hand cut fries. The burger itself wasn’t bad, although it was cooked more on the well side. Thankfully, the nicely-seasoned patty gave it enough flavor that it wasn’t much to make a fuss about. Oh, and the thick slabs of bacon helped, too.

Crab cake sandwich

Rachel liked the crab cake overall, but while the waitress said there was little filler, there was definitely some extra seasoning or binding that made it fall apart and took away from the crab itself. All she could taste was mustard, and after starting to eat it with the bun, Rachel wound up picking at the crabcake itself since the bun overpowered it.

Overall, The Majestic seems like a nice place to meet for happy hour or if you’re looking for some traditional pub fare. The oxtail wontons and ramen seem a bit out of place when you’re also serving up poutine and chicken wings, but we’ll have to come back and eventually try those dishes out. Either way, it seems like a nice, low-key spot in a very good location. Hopefully it sticks around.

Majestic Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Spring is in the Air at Seasons 52

3 Apr

Last week, we had the opportunity to attend an event at Seasons 52 where they would be debuting their new spring menu. Brett and I have wanted to try this place since it first opened, so this provided to be a good introduction to the restaurant. While we were not seated in the main dining room as this was a private event, just from walking in, we could tell that the ambiance was very inviting. We even noticed a piano man at the bar by the entrance. Anyway, we could not wait to see what we would be trying that night.

Seasons 52

If you weren’t already aware, Seasons 52 is a chain operated by Darden Resaurants (their brands also include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Capital Grille) but the large space definitely didn’t have the atmosphere of one. Their whole concept is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and they change their menu four times a year. Also, nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories, and that includes their “mini indulgences” desserts.

We were able to try several items on the new spring menu, which ranged from starters to entrees to those decadent desserts, as well as wine pairings for each course. Let’s just say I stared at my wine while Brett indulged.

Plum tomato and artichoke & goat cheese flatbreads

We arrived a little late to the event but the servers were very accommodating and still let us try their well-known flatbreads to start. I particularly enjoyed the plum tomato flatbread, which included fresh basil, roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese. Someone detected a hint of lavender in there and they were right, as that was mixed into the crust. The artichoke and goat cheese flatbread was very light and perfect for spring.

Tomato and Haas avocado salad

Next came the tomato and Haas avocado salad. The server mentioned they use Haas avocados because they are available right at the start of spring and have a higher fat and taste content. I loved the combination of tomato, avocado, balsamic, and arugula, and would definitely come back and make a meal of that with the add-on of chicken or another protein.

Columbia River steelhead trout

For our entrees, we all shared the Columbia River steelhead trout, lamb t-bone chops, and spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms. I really liked the trout, and had no idea that that particular type was part of the salmon family. It paired well with the spring vegetables, basmati rice, and lemongrass sauce. I’m sure it also balanced well with the recommended Botani Moscatel, but I digress.

Lamb t-bone chops

I know that Brett’s favorite was the lamb t-bone chops as he had three of them and couldn’t get enough. He commented how he generally doesn’t order lamb because it is so fatty and gamey, but these pieces of meat were incredibly lean and flavorful. Even more amazing were the truffle mashed potatoes that accompanied the chops. We all asked how it was possible for them to be low-fat, and they answered that the chef uses fat free sour cream instead of butter or cream. Amazing!

Spicy snow peas with shitake mushrooms

The snow peas were a nice side dish and we enjoyed the contrast of the crunchy peas together with the meaty mushrooms and almonds, but I don’t think I would call them spicy, more like sweet and savory. That dish was paired with the Lioco Indica Rose from Mendocino which we were told is 100% natural with no additives. This is a wine that is hard to obtain on the east coast, and we will definitely look for it when we are out on a trip to California in a few months.

"Mini indulgences" desserts

Finally, the desserts. We had heard about these small desserts, but until you see them all together it is hard to grasp just how many varieties and indulgences there really are. They had everything from mango cheesecake to rocky road to pecan pie. We tried several of them and I have to say that my favorite might have been the key lime pie, but the chocolate peanut butter was pretty amazing too. Bottom line – none of these are more than 300 calories, so indulge!

Their menu changes every 13 weeks, so you have plenty of time to check out some of these new items, plus some staples. I could definitely see us going back for the flatbreads and desserts alone. But I know Brett is still thinking about that lamb t-bone too, so a return trip is definitely on the horizon.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Eleven Madison Park

22 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, we went to New York City for the weekend to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Why NYC, you ask? Well, we wanted to be tourists for a change. Seeing as how we have friends and relatives around the area, we have never stayed in Manhattan, at a hotel, just the two of us. Instead of trying to make the last bus to Jersey or catching a late train back to Queens, we were on our own schedule, absorbing the sights and sounds of the Big Apple like we had never visited before. We saw a show on Broadway (Memphis – which was outstanding), walked the entire length of the High Line, and frolicked around Central Park… the whole nine yards.

And then of course, there was the food. I surprised Rachel that Saturday night with dinner at one of the city’s top restaurants – Eleven Madison Park. One of the toughest tables in NYC, their reservation system is very similar to that of Minibar: you can only make a reservation exactly 30 days to the date starting at 9am (Jose Andres’ phone line opens an hour later, but I digress).

However, Eleven Madison Park also takes reservations not only by phone but also via OpenTable, which made things a lot easier. While vigorously pressing the F5 key, I grabbed whatever slot was available. As soon as the clock struck 9, a 6:15pm table for two soon showed up. I clicked, and it was booked. Certainly beats hitting the redial button 100 times. Patting myself on the back, I had to keep our reservation a secret for an entire month.

Fast forward to March 3rd. We grab a cab from the hotel and make our way down towards Madison Square Park. Rachel still has no idea where we’re going, and when we arrive, she admits she has never heard of it before. Nonetheless, the friendly host greets us at the door, takes our coats, and congratulates us on our anniversary while showing us to our table.

The sommelier then comes over and hands me their wine list while providing Rachel a menu of “soft cocktails”. You see, Rachel is… well, you guessed it (surprise!), and I gave the restaurant a heads-up when I originally made the reservation. We were already wowed by the service with that gesture, and we hadn’t even ordered anything yet.

Then comes their fascinating menu concept – the meal is set up as a four-course tasting menu, but the menu lists 16 main ingredients arranged in four rows of four. Diners choose one main ingredient from each row which represents that course, and each dish revolves around said ingredient. For example, the first row had a choice of hamachi, octopus, fois gras, and sunchoke. Needless to say, but we have never seen anything like this before. No descriptions, just the name of the ingredient.

Black and White Cookie Box

And despite that the menu lists only four courses, the restaurant also provides an array of amuse bouches and small plates along the way. For instance, the meal started out with the kitchen’s take on a New York staple, the black and white cookie, served in a wrapped box. This rendition, however, was savory and comprised of parmesan and black truffle. From there on out, we knew we were in for a memorable evening.

Savory Black and White Cookie

We then received a cup of smoked apple-thyme tea accompanied with a sunny side up quail egg on toasted brioche with applewood smoked bacon.

Our next amuse bouche was a mackerel and scallop crudo. Unfortunately for Rachel, she was unable to have it since she obviously has to avoid raw fish, but the waitress was very accommodating and offered to bring her a cooked version of it. She returned with a new plate within a matter of minutes, leaving Rachel and I very much impressed by the outstanding service.

Mackerel and scallop crudo

Our fourth and final amuse was perhaps the most impressive – frozen Greek yogurt lollipops with curried lentils, as well as a plate of panisse (chickpea fritters) with yogurt. Yes you read that correctly, frozen Greek yogurt lollipops!

Frozen Greek yogurt lollipops with curried lentils, panisse (chickpea fritters) with yogurt

We were then served a pair of their croissant rolls, which were accompanied by fresh cow’s milk and goat’s milk butter. The goat’s milk butter was irresistible as we both kept spreading it across the warm, flaky rolls. They reminded us of the ones you can find at Fiola.

After a wonderful array of small plates, we then began our first course. Rachel ordered the octopus, which was poached and prepared with chorizo, onions, and lemon.


I went with the hamachi, which was marinated with horseradish and peppercress. It was a lovely piece of yellowtail.


For our second course, Rachel ordered the lobster. The beautifully presented plate featured poached knuckle and claw meat with Meyer lemon beurre blanc and was accompanied with charred leek, leek puree, charred bay leaf, and dehydrated squid ink. The lobster was impeccably poached in the lemon sauce and each bite was heavenly. Amazingly, the charred bay leaf had the flavor of toasted bread.


I, on the other hand, decided to be a little adventurous and opted with… a vegetable? Seeing as how I typically stick to proteins, I’m very much a fan of potatoes and felt that the kitchen could wow me with such a simple ingredient. The plate featured several smoked miniature potatoes on a bed of potato puree, topped with bacon crumbles and black truffle shavings. It was good, but I was definitely eyeing Rachel’s lobster for a good duration.


It was then onto our main course. Rachel ordered the rabbit, which was prepared two ways: loin wrapped in pancetta, and rabbit rillette. It was accompanied with mustard seed au jus, endive, and fried tapioca balls. Now Rachel isn’t one to normally order something like rabbit, but she thought she’d try something different, and it was certainly of the most unique dishes she had.


I ordered the beef, which turned out to be a 55-day dry aged rib eye. It was an exceptional piece of steak, prepared medium-rare and delightfully tender. Lightly drizzled with sorrel sauce and served with picked mushrooms, it wasn’t the largest cut of beef but it was satisfying nonetheless.

55-day dry aged rib eye

Just when it couldn’t get any better, our next course was the restaurant’s take on another New York classic — egg cream. Prepared tableside, our waitress mixed whole milk infused with cacao nibs, orange syrup, and seltzer poured from a classic soda siphon. We loved every second of it.

Egg cream

Then came the deconstructed New York cheesecake. Prepared with goat cheese and situated in a glass with blood orange sorbet while topped with vanilla “snow”, this dessert was simple divine. Oh, and we hadn’t even got to our actual dessert course yet.

Deconstructed New York cheesecake

Speaking of which, that came next. I ordered the chocolate dessert, which was a combination of sweet and salty. It featured crunchy mounds of chocolate atop of layer of crème, lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Chocolate Dessert

Rachel went with their renowned “milk and honey” dessert, which featured milk sorbet with a honey center, dehydrated milk foam, and milk snow.

Milk Dessert

Our waitress soon came by pouring me a glass of cognac, leaving the bottle at the table in case I wanted to refill it. Yeah, they left us alone with the entire bottle! The restaurant was probably fortunate in that I’m not a huge fan of cognac, so the bottle was left untouched, but still, that’s one incredible gesture. And of course they one-upped themselves by serving Rachel a glass of sparkling cider so she wouldn’t feel left out.


And to top things off, the meal ultimately concluded with black and white cookies, but this time they were actually sweet, prepared with vanilla, chocolate, and lemon. A fitting end to a fabulous meal.

Sweet Black and White Cookies

Just when we thought we were done, they not only handed us a jar of granola to take home for breakfast, but also gave us a box of chocolates with a “Happy Anniversary” insert placed inside. Talk about leaving your customers with an everlasting impression. Chef Daniel Humm even stopped by our table to say hello. The staff at Eleven Madison Park went above and beyond and truly made our anniversary a memorable one. If you’re ever in the city for a special occasion, Eleven Madison Park is highly recommended.

Chocolate Box

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

Stardust Cafe Sparkles in West Virginia

14 Feb

A few months ago, my coworker told me about this great special at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia where, during the offseason, local residents can book a two-night stay for a fraction of the price of a regular visit. Brett and I hadn’t heard much about the resort, but we decided to go as a nice winter getaway for the weekend.

It was definitely a relaxing trip and we were glad we went, but we were a little disappointed in the dining options. Two of the restaurants at the Greenbrier were closed for winter cleaning, so that left us with a stuffy formal dining room, an extremely pricey steakhouse, or a mediocre comfort food restaurant (Draper’s). After a dinner at Draper’s, we decided that there had to be more options, so off we went to explore the nearest town of Lewisburg. We decided to try Stardust Café because of its universal praise on TripAdvisor as well as its eclectic menu. Needless to say, we made the right choice.

Sesame Ahi Tuna

I should mention that Lewisburg is this cute little town with one main street. You’ll know you are close when you see a sign that says: “Lewisburg, Voted America’s Coolest Small Town!” We had made reservations earlier in the day, although it clearly wasn’t necessary as there were very few people in the restaurant. Granted, this was also a Monday night in January. The place was small, romantic, and just what we were looking for. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, and everything on the menu sounded appealing. Their philosophy to only use local and sustainable ingredients was definitely apparent throughout the menu. They also had a great drink list as well, as I got their concoction of a “wine fizzy” while Brett ordered a Rogue Mocha Porter.

Trust Me Salad

After eating a heavy chicken pot pie the day before, my eyes lit up at the description of the “Trust Me Salad”: fresh greens with local spring mix, tomatoes, red onion, chevre goat cheese, sprinkled with crunchy grains, nuts, seeds, and topped with avocado. I added shrimp to top it off and it was the perfect dish. They were right, you really had to trust them on how the ingredients go together, but they really did. Between the creamy avocado, goat cheese, and the crunch of the grains, I was a happy camper.

Brett’s ordered the seared sesame ahi tuna to which he immediately fell in love with. There must have been at least two dozen pieces of center-cut filet on the plate, beautifully arranged and flawlessly cooked. When one thinks of excellent fish preparations, land-locked West Virginia typically doesn’t come to mind, but this was one of the best tuna dishes we have come across. The attention to detail was a nice touch as even the wasabi was formed into miniature leaves.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

We were full but couldn’t pass up dessert as they are all made by the Crazy Baker, aka the owner’s twin brother. We had to try the sticky toffee pudding as they claimed it was his signature item. In one word: wow. We were blown away by how simple the dish looked yet how wonderful it tasted. Essentially a date cake topped with hot caramel sauce, we were scraping every last bit off the plate.

Grass-fed beef burger

We loved the food and atmosphere so much that we actually decided to come back and have lunch before we made our way back to Maryland. Between the local grass-fed burger and the curry chicken tacos, Stardust once again did not disappoint.

Chicken Curry Tacos

Granted, this may not be a place you would drive four-plus hours out of your way to go to, but if you are ever in the Lewisburg area of West Virginia, we highly recommend the Stardust Cafe. It’s a great place to go for Valentine’s Day, or any day of the year!

Stardust Cafe on Urbanspoon

America Eats Tavern

27 Jan

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a staycation and have some fun in our fair city of DC. We had been curious to try America Eats Tavern since it first opened and thought it would be fun to see the corresponding exhibit at the National Archives that was about to close. Additionally, we had a gift card to use for any ThinkFoodGroup restaurant, so we figured what better way to spend it than at Mr. Andres’ newest establishment (trust me, we tried calling Minibar… no dice).

Anyway, after a rainy afternoon at the Archives, we made our way over to the restaurant. We got there just in time for their happy hour, which is great and kind of a hidden secret. The Thomas Downing Oyster and Cocktail Hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. and then again from 9 to close. Of course, we had to try their oysters so we started off with half a dozen and then ordered some more because they were that good, and a steal at a dollar apiece.


What makes their oyster hour really fun is their house made vinegars.  Between the two of us we tried the pear vinegar, the sparkling wine, the pear and raspberry, the red wine, and the lemon. It was nice to mix and match the vinegars with the different types of oysters and see which paired well together. Their cocktail list looked awesome, but we couldn’t resist Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald on tap for $4. That’s just too good to pass up.

Housemade Vinegars

Moving on, we were seated upstairs for dinner in their more formal dining room. We didn’t realize till we got there that there were two different menus. The downstairs menu was more casual and had more sandwich options while the upstairs menu featured more entrees. Upstairs we went, even though based on what we ordered, we could have sat anywhere.

The menu itself had an incredible amount of detail in that each item came with a story of the origin of the dish. I have to say what makes the menu confusing is that many of the entrée items are only available on certain days of the week, so you need to pay attention to see if what you are in the mood for is available. Looking at the options, we were definitely drawn to many of the appetizers over the entrees, so we decided to start with a few of those and go from there.


The first two appetizers we tried were the hushpuppies with housemade sorghum butter and the fried chicken with catsup. I have to say, I’m not sure which I loved more.  One of my favorite bar snacks I had in 2011 were the hush puppies at Food Wine and Co., and these blew them away. They were warm, buttery, and somehow incredibly light and crispy. They tasted even better when dipped in the corn butter that accompanied it.

Fried chicken with catsup

The fried chicken could have been a meal in itself, if only we could have ordered a larger portion. The chicken had a nice crispy crust along with incredibly tender and juicy meat. What was different was the blackberry catsup that came with the dish. Apparently catsups back in the 1800s were much thinner, more vinegary, and came in a variety of flavors before Heinz standardized it. They have several to choose from off the menu, but we were very happy with the blackberry mixture.

Next up was vermicelli prepared like pudding, a dish I had read about which proclaimed it as basically a fancy version of mac and cheese. It had a nice crispy crust and was tasty, but it was almost too small to really enjoy and was probably the least memorable dish we tried.

Vermicelli prepared like pudding

Finally, we decided to continue with the appetizer trend and got the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We had heard so much about this from various reviews complaining how something so simple could cost $8 (I think it used to be $10 but they lowered the price). But yeah, it really is just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You could add foie gras to it if you want (for double the price), though just imagining the combination of PB&J plus liver doesn’t seem too appealing.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

The only difference was that everything was housemade. They even cut the crusts off like mom did, and it came with a small glass of milk with a straw. They definitely got points for presentation with that. It was a tasty sandwich, but the peanut butter overpowered the jelly a little too much.

After all these fun apps, we were pretty full and decided to go straight to dessert. In the end we chose the pineapple upside cake, which was warm and delicious, and I guess pretty fitting since Dole is a sponsor of the restaurant.

Pineapple upside cake

Although we had never been to Cafe Atlántico before, we definitely love what they did to decorate the place for America Eats. It really does mirror the exhibit that ran at the Archives and the restaurant itself looks like something out of a museum, filled with historic pictures and artifacts and decorated in red, white and blue colors. As a final touch, they presented our check inside a book. I definitely appreciate when restaurants get creative with the check presentation.

There’s still time to check out America Eats if you haven’t yet. They were supposed to only be open until January 4th but we were told they extended their run through July of this year. While the food we tried didn’t blow me away, it was definitely fun and felt like a history lesson at the same time. I would go back and maybe share some entrees too, or see what their brunch is like. Who knows what Jose Andres will decide to do come this July?

America Eats Tavern on Urbanspoon

A Pre-Theater Dinner at District Commons

20 Jan

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I were trying to figure out where to eat dinner before seeing Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center. While several restaurants in the Foggy Bottom area offered prix-fixe pre-theater menus, we weren’t necessarily looking to have a three-course dinner let alone spend over $30 per person.

We were simply looking for a venue where we could have a decent meal without breaking the bank. Rachel then suggested that we try out the newly-opened District Commons. Given its proximity to the Foggy Bottom Metro station as well as their modest prices, it made perfect sense.

Pretzel Bread

Jeff Tunk’s latest venture opened back in October, and since we don’t frequent the Foggy Bottom area that much, it was an opportune time to try out the restaurant. We made our way towards the lounge area and found plenty of tables available. Even better, we made it before happy hour ended (6pm), so we were able to enjoy a couple of $4 drafts before ordering our food.

A few people suggested that we try the hot pretzel baguette, and we did just that. For only two dollars, we received a piping-hot loaf of pretzel bread, complete with their “beer mustard” butter. Warm and soft, it doesn’t get much better than pretzel bread and beer after a long day at work.

Lamb sausage flatbread

For our entrees, we decided to share the lamb sausage flatbread as well as the white mussels. The flatbread was prepared with roasted eggplant, Kalamata olives, Feta, and pomegranate molasses. The Mediterranean-style ingredients worked really well together while the crisp crust had a nice char to it.

Meanwhile, the white mussels featured house limoncello, oven-cured tomatoes, and lemon thyme cream. I enjoyed the sauce, but the overall quality of the dish fell short compared to mussel pots found at Granville Moore’s or Brasserie Beck. Then again, for only $12, you certainly get your money’s worth as it was a generous portion of mussels.

White Mussels

Considering that our entire meal cost under $30 for two people (excluding drinks), District Commons was exactly what we were looking for before heading down to the Kennedy Center. The food was good, the prices were modest, the atmosphere was laid-back, and the service was pleasant. For those looking for a casual dinner before a show, or just to have a few drinks for that matter, District Commons is an ideal destination.

District Commons on Urbanspoon