Archive | March, 2011

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

Hill Country Barbecue Market: Texas Love from New York

29 Mar

Meal TicketJust a couple of weeks after its grand opening, Rachel and I finally had the opportunity to try NYC import Hill Country Barbecue Market. That’s right, I said NYC. And while Hill Country features Texas barbecue, this isn’t your traditional BBQ stand.

The space is completely massive, with the upstairs being completely dedicated to a huge dining room as a well as a bar in the front of the house. Meanwhile, the downstairs “club level” features more tables, a bar, and a stage for live bands.

When we arrived, we were greeted by our hostess who then handed us a “meal ticket”. Each person who dines at Hill Country receives a ticket as it is required by the restaurant to keep track of all of its orders. Even if your party only uses one ticket for the whole table, make sure to hang onto them regardless. Otherwise, you might get penalized with a $50 fee!

We arrived right in the heart of their happy hour which runs from 3pm to 7pm, seven days a week. Considering it was a Sunday evening, it was an added bonus. Hill Country featured specials on pitchers of Shiner, $5 margaritas, and two-for-one bottle specials. But as much as we want to discuss drink specials, we were here for one purpose: to eat some Texas ‘cue!Collard greens and campfire baked beans (with burnt ends)

The thing that sets Hill Country apart from other BBQ restaurants is that the waiter only serves you drinks, not food. You’re wholly responsible for ordering and picking up your BBQ from the “market” located on the main floor. Customers get in line and then tell the pitmaster what meats they want, ordering by the pound. Then, patrons head over to a different counter where sides and desserts are served.

Being the incredibly indecisive couple that we are, we decided to go all out and order the Pitmaster’s Combo instead of individually select certain items from the meal ticket. For $24, you receive a quarter pound of lean brisket, one pork spare rib, one beef rib, a quarter chicken, and two 8oz sides. It’s an additional dollar should you choose sides from their “Hot Favorites” portion of the menu.  We did just that as we got both the campfire baked beans (with burnt ends!) as well as the collard greens with applewood smoked bacon. Still, for $26, it’s A LOT of food.

And how was it, you ask? Well, I was big fan of the brisket. Smoked for hours, it was incredibly tender and, despite receiving lean instead of moist (less fat versus more), it was delicious. It was the star of the show and some of the best brisket I’ve had in DC proper. The chicken was incredibly juicy, and while it didn’t capture the smokiness of the brisket, it was still very good.

Pitmaster's Combo

While the beef rib tasted great, I’ve had much larger ribs elsewhere. The pork spare rib was even worse as there was barely any meat at all on the bone. Let’s put it this way: I’ve found more meat on spare ribs at Chinese buffets than what Hill Country served me.

I also have to admit, I was pretty disappointed with the baked beans. Considering that they were prepared with burnt ends, one of my favorite BBQ dishes (and a Kansas City specialty), these beans just weren’t very good. Too watery, barely smoky, and just not a whole lot of overall flavor. Considering I’ve had Jack Stack’s version of the dish, there is just no comparison. If you’ve had it, you know what I’m talking about.  Rachel thought they were good, but then again, she hasn’t been to KC. The collard greens weren’t bad, but it’s kind of difficult to mess those up.

Despite all the hype, I wasn’t really blown away. Sure, the brisket and chicken were great, but the mediocre spare rib and baked beans brought things down to earth. The meal ticket was also kind of a nuisance as we only ended up using one for our table but still had to hang on to the others when checking out at the register. It’s a similar gimmick Vapiano uses that I’m just not a fan of.

All and all, it’s nice to see another entrant in the DC barbecue market, but I think I’m just going to stick to Urban Bar-B-Que Company for now.

Hill Country Barbecue Market is located at 410 Seventh Street NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Hill Country Barbecue Market on Urbanspoon

March Madness at Redline Gastrolounge

28 Mar

‘Tis the season for games, games, and more games. My friends and I decided to meet up for dinner and drinks last week, and what better place to watch some March Madness games than at the new Redline Gastrolounge right across from the Verizon Center. My friends Alicia and Matthew got there early and we were able to secure a table after waiting a bit at the bar.

Sadly, we did not get one of the coveted booths with table top beer taps. We were staring at the nearby tables in jealousy, as the idea of having the ability to pour as much beer as you wanted without having to wait for a server was very appealing, but also dangerous. We couldn’t tell if you had the option of switching the taps as we would have preferred Dogfish over Bud Light, but it was definitely a cool idea.

Pita Tuna Sandwich

With our drafts glasses in hand, we ordered our food and took took in the sensory overload of games and TVs all around us. I decided to get the pita tuna sandwich, with grilled Ahi tuna, toasted sesame seeds, avocado, and cucumber sauce. I asked if they had anything other than tater tots or fries, and the vegetable option turned out to be what looked like a bowl of fajita veggies.

The sandwich itself was huge, and although it was somewhat messy, it had a great combination of rare tuna with the spicy sauce and creamy avocado. The pita was more sandwich-like than a pita pocket, so it fell apart quite a bit, but it wasn’t too heavy or overpowering. The vegetables were okay for what they were, but I should have just stuck with the tots.

Pizza with pesto sauce, cheese, and tomatoes

Alicia got a make-your-own pizza with pesto sauce, cheese, and tomatoes, and while I didn’t try any, it looked like a respectable size for a personal pizza. Matthew ordered the pulled pork sandwich and I don’t think he had any complaints, although it looked quite small compared to my giant pita that took up almost the whole plate.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about Redline given the mixed reviews. However, considering we visited during one of the busiest sports watching periods of the year, our food arrived promptly and it was a fun, if not incredibly loud, atmosphere for checking out games with friends. Just don’t expect to hear too much of each other’s conversations!

Redline is located at 707 G St. NW in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Redline Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Burgers and Beers at The Black Squirrel

24 Mar

During my weekend-long search of the scarcely distributed Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing, it had turned out (thanks to the power of Twitter), that Adams Morgan’s The Black Squirrel had carried the rare brew.

Thus we set plans in motion to: a) get dinner at the new Logan Circle barbecue stand Standard, and then b) head over to The Black Squirrel and get my hands on some delicious KBS.

Great Lakes Eliot NessLittle did we know that the world was against us that evening.

When we arrived at Standard at about 7pm, the place was already locked up for the night! A piece of paper Scotch-taped to the fence indicated that the kitchen had completely run out of food and that they were closing at 6pm. Needless to say, I was furious. I was really, really looking forward to devouring some barbecued brisket. Like, all weekend.

Rachel suggested that we should just eat at The Black Squirrel instead since we were going to head over there anyway. She had also heard that the burgers were really good, so off we went.

When we got to the main level bar, there weren’t too many options to sit down, but we were able to snag a table by a TV to watch some of the NCAA Tournament. The waitress came by and asked us for our drink orders. Before she could even take her pen out, I immediately asked if they had anymore KBS. She went to the bar and soon returned empty-handed. Turns out they had sold their last bottles just hours earlier. I was devastated.

Thankfully, The Black Squirrel has one of the better beer offerings in the city. I ordered a Williamsburg AleWerks Washington’s Porter on draft, and while it was no KBS, it was still a very nice beer. We also split a 22 ounce bottle of Lagunitas’ Wilco Tango Foxtrot. It proved to be another solid choice amongst the group.

The Classic Burger

Without hesitation, I ordered the burger and had it topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, barbecue sauce, and sautéed mushrooms. Starting at $10, some toppings (such as the aforementioned pickles and sauce) are 50 cents while others (such as cheese, bacon, etc.) cost an additional dollar. It quickly adds up, and while I agree that a slice of cheddar or scoop of chili should cost an extra buck or two, there’s really no reason to charge for something like pickles which is typically complimentary at most places.

When it arrived, I was not only impressed by the size of the entrée, but also the quality of the beef. The kitchen uses Hereford beef which is grounded in-house. When I bit into the burger, I couldn’t help but be enamored by the juiciness and flavor of the beef. While I asked for it to be cooked medium, it was clearly more on the medium rare side. Not that I had a problem with that.

What I did have a problem with, however, was the seasoning they used to prepare the beef. It was just too damn salty. I had to keep reaching for my water, in addition to my nicely-paired porter, since I was ingesting an overabundance of sodium. Had the kitchen laid off the salt, it would have ranked among the better burgers I’ve had in the District.

Tomato bisque soup, grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, and side side salad

Rachel ordered the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, and the waitress bought out a bottle of Eliot Ness instead. She didn’t mind or complain as she likes both beers, but it was just a slight oversight by the busy waitress. Rachel was originally looking at the veggie burger but decided in the end on the soup, salad, and sandwich deal of tomato bisque, grilled cheese, and a side salad. It was ideal for someone like her who can never decide what to get. The grilled cheese and tomato soup undoubtedly hit the spot on a late Sunday evening. She opted for tomato instead of bacon in the sandwich, and the thick white bread was perfect for soaking up the bisque.

Overall, The Black Squirrel is a nice little hangout if you’re looking for some choice brews as well as some good bar fare to pair it with. I’m already looking forward to coming back and checking out their recently opened basement bar. If they are going to be tapping Canadian Breakfast Stout in the near future, you can rest assured I’ll show up within the hour.

The Black Squirrel is located at 2427 18th Street NW in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC.

The Black Squirrel on Urbanspoon

Geste Offers Convenience for Commuters, Quality Wine and Food for Locals

22 Mar

When Crossfire closed down at the corner of Edgemoor Lane and Old Georgetown Road, we were curious as to what would replace the mediocre burger spot. About a little over a month ago, Geste Wine & Food opened its doors to downtown Bethesda.

Geste is another welcome addition the neighborhood. Not only do they offer sandwiches and salads, but also calzones, Panini, and even some Indian dishes such as a Chicken Tikka Roll.

Furthermore, the store offers a New York style pizzeria with 10″ and 16″ sizes to choose from.

Geste Pizza

Lest we forget the name of the store is Geste Wine AND Food, and the former part of the description sets it apart from other wine stores in the area. Geste offers a vast selection of wines to choose from – modern labels along with reasonable prices. You can even pay a $3 corkage fee should you want to drink your bottle inside the store. Cork and Fork this is not, and that’s a good thing.

In addition, Geste offers a variety of beers as well. Patrons can also buy wine or beer by the glass and sip on them at one of several tables in the dining area.

Rachel and I ordered a 16″ Gourmet Veggie Pizza to go as it is always hard to turn down a new pizza place. Being originally from New York myself, it didn’t quite match up to its city’s brethren. While the toppings were very fresh, the crust was rather flimsy and the slices overall didn’t just capture the flavor nor crispiness of our pizza benchmark – Pete’s New Haven.  That’s not to say it wasn’t bad by any stretch, but just okay. We’ll have to try their other menu items on our next visit.

Overall, it’s hard not to imagine Geste as a great lunch spot. Conveniently located next to the Metro as well as the Tripper bus stop to New York City, it’s an excellent location for commuters and office workers alike.

Geste Wine & Food is located on 4801 Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda.

Geste 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

Beer Wine and Co. Slated to Open in Bethesda

14 Mar

Looks like downtown Bethesda will be welcoming a new beer and wine store in the near future.

Francis Namin, the owner of Food Wine & Co., told us he plans to open the cleverly titled Beer Wine & Co. at the former McCormick Paints store located on 7029 Wisconsin Avenue and is aiming for a May 15 opening.

Namin, whose brother owns nearby Cork 57, said that this store will be bigger than its Bethesda Avenue counterpart, and will feature a larger selection of microbrews.

Considering that Cork 57 is the only place I have found Troegs Nugget Nectar in the Bethesda area, it sounds rather promising.

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

The Inn at Little Washington: A Tale of an Anniversary, Redemption, and Closure

8 Mar

Before we get into today’s post, I have to recount a story that will help explain why this post is titled as such.

The first time we ever dined at the Inn at Little Washington was exactly one year ago. Rachel and I had just got married and we went on a “mini-moon” in Washington, Virginia immediately following the wedding.

Staying at a nearby bed and breakfast, the main attraction was our reservation at the world-renowned Inn for dinner. As someone who not only loves food, but is also considered a “bottomless pit” to some, what happened next was, dare I say, tragic.

That morning, I had contracted some sort of stomach illness. Any desire of hunger had disappeared, replaced instead with sharp pains in the abdominal region. It wasn’t really the greatest trade off.

Since we were mere walking distance from the restaurant, and because there would be a cancellation fee for reservations changed within 24 hours, I felt that I could whether the storm and try to enjoy dinner to its fullest.

Amuse bouche of pork belly, "gin and tonic" foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball

While I recall the deliciousness of the herb-crusted baby lamb Carpaccio, once I had reached the second course, it was all downhill from there. The pain was intensifying and the sight of food was increasing my nausea. The waitress, who felt terrible about the predicament, kept graciously supplying me with glasses of ginger ale. I barely touched my entrée and had no recollection what it tasted like because I was so ill.

As someone who rarely gets sick, this was my worst nightmare realized.

Ever since that fateful evening, I have vowed to return to the Inn at Little Washington not only healthy, but with a hearty appetite. It’s eaten away at me (no pun intended) for a year now, and I was determined to come back and enjoy the best dinner we was supposed to have that night.

I wanted closure, dammit.

White bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit

With our one year anniversary coming up, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to return to the countryside of Virginia and dine at one of the area’s (if not the country’s) very best restaurants.

The service at the Inn is unlike anything else we have ever encountered. When we arrived in the pouring rain, attendants came with umbrellas to make sure we wouldn’t get wet from the nasty weather.

Once we were inside, one of the hosts noticed my camera and asked if he could take a picture of us in front of the warm fireplace, to which of course we obliged. Shortly after, we were escorted to our seats in the gorgeous dining room where another host asked us if he wanted to take our picture at the table.  To say that you are treated like royalty would be an understatement when dining at the Inn.

Chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette

We started the evening off with a bottle of chardonnay from the Winery at LaGrange, which is a winery we had debated visiting this past weekend.

Shortly after our wine was served, our first amuse bouche arrived. Delicately placed in four individuals spoons were miniature bites of pork belly, “gin and tonic” foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball. We obviously couldn’t share them so we each ate two. For such small portions we were enamored with how each tasted.

Our next amuse bouche was a small serving of white bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit. The two items flawlessly complemented one another. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded a whole bowl of the soup just for myself based on how rich and delicious it was.

Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream

For the first course, I ordered the chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette. The lobster knuckles were just as exceptionally good as the beautiful presentation. While it slightly reminded me of the lobster meat found at Red Hook Lobster Pound (yeah yeah, I’m well aware I’m referencing a food truck, but come on, their lobster meat is undeniably good), head chef Patrick O’Connell finds a way to take something and make it that much better. The orbs of avocado were also a really nice touch and melted in my mouth with each bite.

Rachel decided to get the Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream, and we both agreed that it was one of the prettiest dishes we had ever seen. It seriously looked like a painting, and the combination of the miniature ice cream balls, Carpaccio, homemade croutons, and spear of romaine lettuce with fresh cheese made each bite a perfect play on a classic dish.

Seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive

The second course featured a seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive. While the scallop was impeccably cooked, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed by the size of it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable piece of shellfish, but for the price we were paying, it’s a shame that it could not have been at least a somewhat larger portion. The way it was prepared, however, made me savor each bite more than I would have with a larger plate.

Always a fan of anything lobster, Rachel got the lobster fricassee for her second course as I had lobster for my first course, not to mention that she had the lobster entree during our visit last year. This is one of the Inn’s characteristic dishes, and once you put all the components on your fork, you get to relish a perfect bite of lobster meat, gnocchi, walnuts, and stem mushrooms in a light butter sauce. It’s a dish that could be very filling if you had a full plate of it, but the portion size was perfect as a prelude to what was to come.

Fricassee of Lobster with Potato Gnocchi, Green Grapes and Curried Walnuts

As for the entrée, it was only a matter of time that I would face the dish that simply teased me when we last met a year ago. Having no memory of what it tasted like, I wanted redemption on one of Patrick O’Connell’s classics: the pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon.

Topped with seared duck foie gras on charred onions with a burgundy butter sauce, this dish met its lofty expectations immediately after the first bite. Not only is the quality of the fish top-notch, but then when you add in the fact that you’re also having the most savory piece of foie gras your taste buds have ever encountered, you are in for quite the treat.

Pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon

What is amazing is that you really do lose sight that it’s not beef you’re enjoying, but rather tuna. Between the outstanding cut of fish, foie gras, and burgundy sauce, it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. When I finally put the fork down after the very last bite, I ultimately reached the feeling I had been yearning for so long: closure.

After some debating and suggestions from our ever-patient waiter, Rachel decided to steer clear from her usual choice of fish and get another Inn classic – the beef two ways. The two versions of meat were striking in contrast on the white plate. On one side, you had a braised short rib that was slow-cooked for hours and fell apart with the touch of your fork, and was accompanied by a delicious barbecue sauce that was sweet but not overpowering, along with mini walnuts and vegetables.

Beef Two Ways

On the other was quite possibly the most delicate piece of meat we have ever tried. It was a miniature filet mignon, cooked rare and wrapped in Swiss chard. When I tried a bite, I realized this is why people go to the Inn: to experience somewhat familiar foods in completely new ways. To top it all off, a small portion of potatoes au gratin provided even more indulgence to an already decadent dish. It very well might have been the best cut of beef I have ever tasted.

Nearly stuffed, we still had to order dessert! After glancing over the menu, I opted for the Seven Deadly Sins: a sampling of seven of the Inn’s richest desserts. When it arrived, I was not only floored by the presentation but also by the wide range of pastries found on the plate. If memory serves me correctly, it included an apple crisp, molten chocolate lava cake, panna cotta, a scoop of butter pecan ice cream, black forest mouse, mint chocolate cake, and a vanilla chocolate ice cream roll in the center. Unfortunately, I could only tackle six of the seven desserts (rest assured, the apple tart is in the refrigerator). Nonetheless, I was very satisfied with my choice.

You have to tip your hat to the staff at the restaurant. They go above and beyond in insuring that your experience at the Inn at Little Washington is one you will never forget. For instance, our waiter noticed that Rachel had only a few bites of her butter pecan ice cream sandwich with hot caramel sauce. He asked if she liked it, and as soon as she hesitated, he promptly asked what she would like instead. Moments later, a fresh plate of bread pudding appeared on the table. He could not have been more gracious.

After we settled the bill and received our personalized menu to take home along with a miniature version of the Inn filled with treats, we learned via The Bethesda Foodie that you could ask for a tour of the kitchen. We grabbed our waiter’s attention, and before we could even finish our question, he already knew what we were going to inquire about. One of the hosts soon took us to the back, and before we knew it, we were inside the Inn’s kitchen.

Soutern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich

As we were whisked inside the heart of the operation, Chef O’Connell himself greeted us, shook our hands and wished us a happy anniversary! We thanked him for providing such a great meal while our host showed us about the different stations. Before we knew it, we were outside the kitchen, starstruck. It didn’t even occur to us to ask for a picture with the Chef, but he did look extremely busy and we were grateful he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to meet us. We’re sure we weren’t the only people who asked for a tour that night.

Victorian lampsFaira the CowMiniature Inn stuffed with treats

Finally, it was time to go. Happily full and content, a hostess already had our coats ready at the door and a valet was warming our car for us before we ventured out into the sleet and rain.

If you’re ever thinking about going out to dinner for a very special occasion, we cannot recommend the Inn at Little Washington enough. Between the food, ambiance, and customer service, it’s not a meal, but rather an experience – one that you will treasure for a long time.

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