Tag Archives: cocktails

Lounging at The Source

31 Mar

Prior to the Brightest Young Things Night at the Newseum party last Saturday, us and a few our friends went to the adjacent Source for a few appetizers and drinks.

Rachel and I have been meaning to go to The Source for awhile now, so we felt by checking out the bar portion of the restaurant that it would give us a preview of what a full meal in the dining room would be like.

Spicy Tuna Roll

We found a table in the lounge portion of Wolfgang Puck’s Asian fusion venue which features a Japanese Izakaya-style menu. The five of us started the evening off with some cocktails, and after glancing over the menu, I went with The Hemingway. A concoction of rum and grapefruit, I’m not sure what was stronger: the actual drink or the gargantuan slice of grapefruit that was atop the rim of the martini glass.

Rachel ordered the Asian Pear which consisted of Absolute Pear, sake and pear puree. Served in a martini glass, she was a little worried that it would be a too sweet like the Pear Sangria she had the other night at Sei. Fortunately, you could taste the fruit as it was more refreshing than overwhelmingly sweet

As for food, our group decided to split two orders of the Kobe beef sliders. Arguably the circumference of a half dollar, The Source instantly reminds you that the “small portion for high price” mantra is alive and well. Each order only came with two, and for $8 per dish, we were hoping that these would meet expectations at the very least.

Thankfully, they did. Prepared with onion marmalade and sandwiched between miniature brioche buns, the quality of the beef was excellent. Were they that delicious enough to justify the $8 price tag? Maybe if they had thrown one more on there.

Up next was the spicy tuna roll, and it was simply wonderful. Eight pieces of fresh cut tuna topped with aioli really gave us a glimpse inside the Asian-inspired kitchen of The Source. And while it was priced at an exorbitant $13, you get what you pay for.

Sichuan chicken dumplings

Our final dish was the Sichuan chicken dumplings, and once again, The Source did not disappoint. The wrapping was delicate while the chili “dan dan” gave each of the five dumplings a healthy amount of heat.

Overall, we had a fun if not expensive pre-party meal at The Source. For a handful of drinks and only four orders of food, our bill came out to well over $100. You’re probably better off having dinner in the main dining room than grabbing a bite in the lounge if you want to justify your expenses as well as leave the restaurant with a full stomach.

Thank goodness the Newseum cafeteria was open during the party. Who knew an order of chicken fingers could be so filling?

The Source is located at 575 Pennsylvania Ave NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.

The Source on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at Sei and an Encore Dinner at Carmine's

30 Mar

Before meeting a group for dinner at Carmine’s, we went across the street to Sei Restaurant & Lounge for happy hour.

The restaurant offers specials at the bar Monday through Friday from 5pm to 8pm, making it one of the longer happy hours available in DC. Considering it is difficult to get down to the Penn Quarter area before 6pm most evenings, Sei was very appealing.

Spicy tuna roll

We ordered drinks right away and I got the Asian Pear Sangria while Brett ordered a Sapporo. Although we were about to head to Carmine’s for a big dinner, Brett was a little hungry so we ordered the  to tie us over. I had one of the rolls and can say that they were incredibly fresh and had a nice kick to them. We have been to Sei for happy hour several times now, and I definitely want to go back at some point soon for dinner.

Sapporo and Asian Pear Sangria

We then headed to Carmine’s and somehow managed to order the perfect amount of food for 14 people. This was a dinner through a group at our synagogue, and I volunteered to help plan the event. We had to find a place that could easily host large parties, but didn’t want to worry about itemizing everything on the bill. Carmine’s was a no-brainer in that sense. We split the costs for the family style meal, and then everyone added in what they owed for drinks.

Somehow, each person only owed $18, and that included tax and tip (at least for the food bill)! We all shared Caesar salad, mixed greens, eggplant parmesan, chicken marsala, Penne alla Vodka, spaghetti and meatballs, spinach, and broccoli. Everything was delicious, and we both agreed that some of the dishes even tasted better compared to our first visit a few months ago.

Carmine's Titantic

The spaghetti and meatballs was a proven hit, and everyone really loved the eggplant parmesan and chicken marsala. We definitely didn’t need dessert, but decided to go big or go home, and ordered the monstrous Titanic.

Yes, it’s called that for a reason. Think of it as a colossal banana split sundae, complete with fudge brownie, countless scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and of course, whipped cream. We all attacked the sundae and then cried mercy. The evening turned out to be a fun time with good food, great conversation, and all at an incredibly affordable price.

Sei on Urbanspoon

Palena Cafe Continues to Impress

17 Mar

It’s amazing that after living in Cleveland Park and routinely walking by Palena for several years, I’ve only been to the Cafe once, and that was about four years ago. I remember the food being excellent back then, particularly a delicate pasta dish I ate, but it was the famous roasted chicken and burger that I had always heard about. It was definitely on our list to return to, especially now that they expanded into the old Magruder’s space.

My friend Livya and I decided to try our luck and head to the Cafe for dinner on a Tuesday night. When we walked in, it was almost a shock to see that the old neighborhood grocery store space has been completely transformed into a dining room with an open kitchen in the rear. The front entrance is closed off for now, and the plan is to open a market there soon.

Palena Chicken

Since they do not take reservations, we hoped it would not be too much of a wait. Fortunately it wasn’t (that is once the hostess finally paid attention to us and remembered to get us a table). I have to admit, after reading some Yelp reviews I was prepared for the food to be excellent and for the service to be spotty at best. Unfortunately, many of them were right.

Once we did sit down, with only drink menus presented, our waiter finally came over with dinner menus and asked for our beverage order. We decided to each try a different cocktail, and I ordered the Stormy Monday. It comprised of El Dorado spiced rum, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lime, and Prosecco float. It was very refreshing and tasted like a refined margarita martini. It definitely hit the spot after a long day at the office.

After some debating, and a long absence from our waiter, I decided I had to try the famous roasted chicken, and added roasted sweet potatoes as a side. Livya ordered the burger, fries, and the Cafe Salad. Given that the Palena Cheese Burger was ranked among Food and Wine Magazine’s Best Burgers in the U.S., she couldn’t really go wrong.

Stormy MondayNow I had been told that the roasted chicken takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to prepare, but it felt even longer because we were sitting for quite awhile before we actually ordered. By the time our dishes finally arrived, we were starving. But I have to admit, it was well worth the wait.

I had never seen nor ate a more flawlessly cooked chicken, with crispy skin on the outside and perfect tenderness inside. Maybe it was the presentation, but this chicken was more refined and meant to be savored. At $16, this entree was a steal for basically half a bird with lemon braised greens. The entire dish had a lemon aroma to it and it was very comforting. The sweet potatoes were a nice complement, but didn’t stand out in their own right.

I was able to try some of the burger too, and I will definitely have to order that the next time I go. The meat was incredibly juicy, if not a little rare, and went perfectly with the buttered toasted bun and truffle cheese.

Spring Ahead Sundae

Of course, we had to get dessert, and we opted for the Spring Ahead Sundae. This shows how often some of the menu changes, since daylight savings was just this past weekend. It was a nice twist on a carrot cake sundae, with a scoop of carrot ice cream, one scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, and then topped with shaved carrot ribbons, raisins, and nuts. It essentially tasted like carrot cake and proved to be light and refreshing.

All in all, we loved the food, and would definitely come back to sample something different. Brett happily ate my chicken leftovers at home since that dish is definitely meant for two people. I’m not sure if the service was just off that night, or if it’s to be expected. Considering we were there for three hours, it seemed a bit excessive at the time. This isn’t the Inn at Little Washington now!

Palena Cafe is located on 3529 Connecticut Ave in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Palena on Urbanspoon

Trummer's On Main: Modern Fare in a Small Town

10 Mar

During our Virginia wine tour last weekend, our first stop led us to Paradise Springs in nearby Clifton. Not only is the winery the closest to the District, but it is also one of the newest. At just 14 months old, Paradise Springs was a great way to kickoff our wine weekend.

What was even more appealing, however, was that Trummer’s on Main was just five minutes down the road.

We have been meaning to go to Trummer’s for what seems like ages now. We first came across the restaurant back in 2009 when they were sampling their outrageously delicious “Chocolate Soup” at the Best of Washingtonian party.

Shrimp Po' Boy

It was always on our list, but its location wasn’t always ideal. Given that we live in Bethesda, we could never muster enough motivation to make the trek. Fortunately, that all changed on Saturday.

Because we were going to the Inn at Little Washington the following evening, we wanted to keep our expenses limited and decided to have dinner in the downstairs lounge. They recently started offering entrees in their bar menu, so the timing could not have been more perfect.

From the outside, you would never imagine that the former Hermitage Inn would house such a modern restaurant based on its historic exteriors. But once you stepped inside, a chic bar was on your left with a contemporary dining space with several lounge tables on the right.


After finding a table for two, Rachel and I started off the night with the restaurant’s renowned cocktails. I ordered the T-Float, an alcoholic take on a root beer float. It was downright terrific. Refreshing and not too sweet, it incorporates homemade peanut foam which gives the drink a nice bite. Definitely one of the better cocktails I’ve had.

Meanwhile, Rachel ordered Trummer’s signature drink – the Titanic. And I thought the T-Float was good! This concoction of champagne and vodka was truly outstanding, and I hadn’t even talked about its witty presentation yet. With a mound of ice floating in the glass with muddled grapes sunk at the bottom, I can see why this cocktail is so popular. Rachel would have ordered two if we had not just come from the winery.

The bar menu at Trummer’s is a great value when compared to their regular dinner menu. For example, the lounge offers a selection of four appetizers to choose from that are priced at only $5 a plate. The thick bourbon glaze that coated the eight or so wings made for a messy albeit enjoyable first course.

Chicken Wings

We decided to split a spinach salad, and for only six bucks, why not? Topped with pistachios and served with pomegranate dressing, it was the thick chunks of bacon that really made this dish worthwhile. It’s hard to envision that a few pieces of meat could make a salad, but I’ve never had bacon like this before.

For our entrees, I went with the pulled pork shoulder sandwich. For $10, it proved to be a very generous portion. Served atop slaw and a homemade bun, the meat was literally falling out of the sandwich while I was trying to eat it. I don’t want to say it was quantity over quality, but I honestly wasn’t too crazy about it. Despite its tenderness, the pork just tasted a little off at times and lacked overall consistency. For the price, it’s hard to complain, but given that everything else leading up to it was solid if not spectacular, it was a tad disappointing.

Spinach Salad

Turns out Rachel had the better of the two sandwiches – the shrimp po’ boy. With a crunchy texture but not overly heavy, this was one of the better po’ boys we’ve had outside of New Orleans. The delicately fried shrimp and fresh roll (the same kind that came with my pork sandwich) proved to be a winning combination

It was a good thing we didn’t order the housemade potato chips as an appetizer. Each of our sandwiches came with at least two handfuls of them, which made it that much harder to try and not every single one. There were actually two varieties found on our plates as some were made with sweet potato while others were made with regular/white. The former were far more addicting than the latter.

Pork Shoulder Sandwich

Midway through dinner, the restaurant’s PA began playing Ariel Pink Haunted Graffiti’s “Round and Round”. Turns out it was the bartender’s iPod, so I complimented him on his musical tastes. Minutes later, the waitress comes over with two shooters, compliments of the indie music-loving mixologist! We made sure to leave him a nice tip for the kind gesture.

Overall, we had a great night at the lounge at Trummer’s. The bar food was very reasonably priced given the quality of ingredients as well as the portion sizes, and the drinks were even better. Meanwhile our waitress could not have been more helpful. And while the Chocolate Soup wasn’t on the menu this time around, it certainly won’t be the last time we make the trip to Clifton.

Trummer’s on Main is located 7134 Main Street in Clifton, Virginia.

Trummer's on Main on Urbanspoon

Unlimited Pre Fixe Brunch at Masa 14

10 Jan

Daily Petite QuicheI recently heard about the deal at Masa 14 for Sunday brunch, and upon first glance, it seemed too good to be true. My friend Livya and I decided to check it out for ourselves and indulge on unlimited tapas and drinks for $35.

We decided to order some drinks first, with Livya choosing the Masa Mimosa while I got the Lychee Bellini. Both were very refreshing and we hardly noticed when they would come by with pitchers to refill. I think we each had about four glasses, but it was hard to tell since the servers never let our glasses go empty.

To start, we ordered the Daily Petite Quiche, Hijiki Seaweed-jicama Salad, Petite Mushroom Escabeche Omelet, Veggie Benedict, Black Bean Puree, and Spiced Tuna Steak. Granted, this may appear like an excessive amount of food, but Masa 14 specializes in Latin-Asian tapas, so these smaller plates are meant to be shared.

Masa Mimosa and Lychee BelliniHijiki Seaweed-jicama SaladPetite Mushroom Escabeche Omelet

Overall, everything was delicious, with some standouts like the seaweed salad, tuna, and omelet. Some of the dishes were definitely heavier than others, and before we knew it, we were getting full with all the plates in front of us.

The rare tuna steak came on a sandwich bun along with a small but thick piece of bacon, avocado, and wasabi. The bread wasn’t really necessary so we discarded it to focus on the high quality piece of fish. The Veggie Benedict was actually a variety of roasted vegetables with a poached egg atop a piece of challah bread. Again, a nice dish but the bread seemed to overpower the rest of it. The black bean puree was a perfect bite with a scoop of the puree with poached egg on a tortilla chip.

Black Bean PureeSpiced Tuna SteakVeggie Benedict

We decided to order a few more items to stretch out our relaxing and gluttonous Sunday. Up next was the Fruit and Granola with yuzu yogurt, the Pan Dulce with ancho whipped cream and pineapple syrup, and to top it off, the Crunchy Shrimp. I know looking at these selections, you might think, “dessert, dessert, and shrimp?” Yes, it definitely did not belong, but with unlimited options to choose from, it was simply too hard to resist. The sesame crusted shrimp came with a chipolti aioli sauce that went perfectly together. We only ate one or two, and then it was on to dessert.

The fruit, granola, and yogurt combo was nice and light, and definitely the healthiest thing we ate all day. The large chunks of homemade granola were nice and crunchy and elevated the dish to more than just a bowl of fruit. The Pan Dulce tasted just like French toast and was a perfect way to end the meal.

Crunchy ShrimpPan DulceFruit and Granola with yuzu yogurt

All in all, brunch at Masa 14 is a great opportunity to try lots of different items on the menu without feeling limited by price. It’s hard to tell how much of a deal it was, since we didn’t individually add up each dish to see if we would have spent as much or less compared to ordering a la carte.

However, the unlimited drinks alone makes the $35 brunch worthwhile. If we went with a larger party we would have been able to try more dishes, but regardless, we undeniably left satisfied. I could potentially see us going with a group of 10 and basically ordering the entire menu, with everyone being able to have more than their fair share of food while already knowing up front what the bill would amount to. Hmm, this year’s birthday idea perhaps?

Masa 14 on Urbanspoon

Culinary Adventures in New Orleans: Day Four

14 Dec

Bloody MaryFor our final day in New Orleans we knew we had to go out with a bang, so we decided to treat ourselves to the Jazz Brunch at the renowned Commander’s Palace.

Know for its alumni of famous chefs and southern hospitality, Commander’s Palace was located in the heart of the Garden District and fit in right in along the stunning mansions found on the neighboring streets.

We were seated in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms, but not before cutting through the kitchen in order to get there. Each of the tables had several balloons as a centerpiece while a jazz trio was making its rounds around the room, taking requests from diners. It was quite a scene to say the least.

We started the morning off with some cocktails. This was brunch, after all.

I ordered the Adelaide Swizzle (rum, lime juice, bitters, soda water) while Rachel went with her go-to, the ol’ Bloody Mary. This time, however, the vodka was freshly poured into her glass from a bottle of Finlandia that was enclosed in an ice block!

Our waiter delivered our drinks then served us a basket of their complimentary garlic bread. It was delicious, but that could be because it was drenched in butter. Nonetheless, we went through it rather quickly, and, unsurprising, I asked for seconds. Shocking, I know.

Turtle SoupGarlic BreadHarris Ranch beef tips with poached eggs and grits

Their brunch is a three course format where the price depends on what entree you order. You also have a choice of an appetizer or soup and dessert.

I kicked the meal off with their signature turtle soup after asking for the waiter’s recommendation. Once it was served, the waiter took a bottle of sherry and poured some in the bowl in the shape of a heart. Nice touch.

The soup turned out to be an excellent choice as the tomato base was rich and hearty while the pieces of turtle (and pork, as the waiter described before ordering it) really added to the overall texture. It was almost like a bisque, and I would not hesitate to order it again if I’m ever back in town.

Poached OystersRachel decided to get poached oysters in a champagne cream sauce topped with caviar. She had been talking about getting oysters during the whole trip, and we never quite made it to ACME Oyster House, so this seemed like her last opportunity in NOLA to get some.

The dish was very different from what she had anticipated as the sauce was a little heavy, but the oysters were huge and unlike anything she had ever tasted. They were so plump that you could eat them with a knife and fork. Considering that she was expecting something more like traditional oysters, she might have ordered something else if the dish was described to her a little better.

For the main course, I ordered the Harris Ranch beef tips with poached eggs and grits. I hate to say it but I was honestly disappointed with the entree. It was not anything special as the beef did not necessarily stand out. In fact, it tasted rather bland and could have used some more seasoning. The grits were decent but the overall presentation really missed the mark.

Crawfish, Crab, and Seafood CourtboullionI’ve seen poached eggs served a handful of times, but in this particular occasion, one of the eggs was already severed with the yolk running into the beef and grits below. Considering the elegant presentation of our first courses, it was kind of surprising to notice this gaffe.

Rachel’s entree was a crawfish, crab, and seafood courtboullion served with two poached eggs and cakes of goat cheese grits underneath. She asked for the hollandaise sauce on the side, which was probably a good idea since it was easily one of the richest breakfast dishes she’s ever had.

The combination of the eggs on the grit cakes with the seafood broth and various types of shellfish made each bite incredibly decadent. If she wasn’t already fairly full from the appetizer and garlic bread, she would have easily cleaned her plate, but the whole dish was just too much to handle. I helped a little but I was so full myself.

I concluded the meal with another southern staple, pecan pie. Commander’s Palace certainly redeemed themselves with this dessert. Between the accompanying vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce, and candied pecans draped atop, it was a delicious ending to a very filling brunch.

Pecan PieCreole bread pudding souffléJazz Trio

Rachel decided to go with the dish Commander’s Palace is best known for, and got the Creole bread pudding soufflé, served table side with a whiskey sauce. It had familiar flavors of a bread pudding, but it was so light and airy that it was almost hollow when she dug into it. She was definitely glad she had the opportunity to try it, but wasn’t so sure if it was worth the three dollar up-charge.

While Commander’s Palace is described as one of the places you must visit while in New Orleans, it may have been one meal too many, as we were beyond full by the time we were ready to head to the airport. Let’s just say we didn’t need to eat dinner that night.

Commander's Palace on Urbanspoon

Culinary Adventures in New Orleans: Day Three

8 Dec

After spending the first day or so in the French Quarter, we had the opportunity to walk around the Garden District on Saturday. We could not have asked for better weather while passing by all the historic mansions on our way to lunch.

We had made reservations at Coquette after reading such glowing reviews about the restaurant both on the Interwebs  (I diligently do my research, as you can tell). They also featured a prix fixe lunch menu which included three courses for $20.

Cochon de LaitThe drink list reminded me of something you would see at PS 7’s or The Passenger as Coquette is well renowned for its excellent cocktails.

I ordered the Coquette Collins which featured bourbon, Pimm’s, Cherry Herring, lemon, and soda. It was so clean and refreshing given how warm it was outside.

Rachel went for the traditional Bloody Mary which was made with house-infused black pepper vodka. She remarked how it was one of the best she has ever had, and after I had a sip, I could not agree more, and I don’t even like Bloody Marys!

I started the meal off with the Burrata appetizer. Severed atop pieces of crostini and layered with roasted tomatoes, the burrata and its creamy texture really worked well with the rest of the ingredients. The cheese had a mild flavor, which was perfectly fine with me as I am not the biggest fan of strong cheeses, while the tomatoes were simply savory. It was quite the enjoyable first course.

Burrata CrostiniFor the entrée, I opted for the Cochon de Lait, another one of New Orleans’ specialties. After tasting the first bite, I could see why.

The dish’s main component is the suckling pig that is marinated and then pit-roasted. The presentation made it appear like a variation of pulled pork, but regardless of how it looked, it was simply fantastic. Accompanied with pepperonata, fingerling potatoes, and pork jus, the tenderness of the pork combined with the well thought-out seasonings made this one of my favorite dishes of the entire trip.

Rachel ordered the drum fish since, after hearing about it at NOLA the night before, she wanted to try a local, regional fish.  The filet was served over a mushroom broth with some pieces of smoked ham and leeks. Much to her delight, it was moist and not too heavy for a lunch meal.

Beignets with Chocolate Coffee Pot de CrèmeAs for dessert, I ordered the beignets with chocolate coffee pot de crème. The beignets were light and fluffy, but the pot de crème might have stolen the spotlight from its fried counterparts. Between being not too heavy and possessing such a fresh, potent chocolate flavor, this item could have been served by itself. Not that the beignets weren’t bad, but I preferred the ones we had the night before at Café du Monde instead.

Dinner, on the other hand, would be much more casual that night.

As stated before, I am a big Maryland fan, and since they were playing Florida State in a rather important matchup, I wanted to find a decent place to watch it as well as enjoy some good Louisianan bar fare.

I recalled walking past a place called Tracey’s in the Garden District when we were heading over to Coquette earlier in the day, and the place was jam-packed with LSU fans who were watching the Tigers take on Ole Miss.

Turns out that it is a rather popular sports bar (used to be named Parasol’s), and since it appeared like more of a local hangout as opposed to tourist central on Bourbon Street, it was right down our alley.

First off, I was in love with their beer selection. Three dollars for Abita bottles? That alone won me over.

Roast Beef Po-BoyThe restaurant didn’t really have waiter service per se, but instead you just went up to the kitchen and ordered your food off of the blackboard menu hanging on the wall. While I was scrolling through my list of options, there I saw it: roast beef po-boy.

Rachel and I split a sandwich knowing it would be huge as well as ordered a side of gravy fries, because, well, they’re gravy fries.

We had no idea, however, how good the roast beef po-boy would actually be.

Now, I despise mayonnaise on my sandwiches, burgers, you name it. I didn’t realize the po-boy came with mayo, but you know what, it was pretty frickin good.

I think that can be attributed to how the hot roast beef au jus, gravy, and mayo combined together inside the po-boy and created a sauce I can only describe as purely delicious.

Gravy FriesThe bread played a crucial element as well as it held up rather well despite the greasy, appetizing mess that was stuffed inside. Observing the fresh loaves stacked in the back of the kitchen further emphasized why the sandwich was on such a level of greatness.

As for the gravy fries? They went hand in hand with the po-boy. Freshly fried and topped with the same gravy found in the sandwich, you could not ask for a better dinner at a reasonable price.

A day later, I found out that Gourmet Magazine had named Tracey’s roast beef po-boy the best roast beef sandwich, ever. And we had gone there on a whim! I love it when stuff like that happens.

Oh, and the publication was absolutely right by the way.

Stayed tuned for Day Four of our New Orleans adventures…

Coquette Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Tracey's Irish Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon