I know what you're thinking. Why in the world would you need a whole post on cooking a steak? It's simple right? You season it, you either put it in a pan and fry it or you grill it. Done and done. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! Over the years, I've grown to love steak but are loathe to visit steakhouses as I don't think I found many that have been really tasteful. So, I've tried to find a tried and true method on how to cook a steak at home and since I've been living in apartments for most of my adult life, the method I usually use involves a stove top and oven. So, here goes!
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Washington, DC 20016
There's a wonderful old movie theater in the Cleveland Park area of Washington DC called the Uptown. It's a throwback theater with only one screen with usually a pretty big hit. I love the atmosphere and the nostalgia it it evokes. I went there to go see the Hunger Games (there's a theme here, folks) which was very good and as faithful as a movie can be to a book without running 4 hours long. While the Uptown has its own charm, Cleveland Park itself makes the image complete. I would compare it to a less dense Upper West Side complete with pockets of shops to browse and, of course, good restaurants.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Alexandria, VA 22301
Tallulla and Rustico. I believe that Evening Star is their flagship or their first or I may be completely wrong about that. Regardless, when I was looking for restaurants near me, they were close, had some great reviews, and had fried chicken on their lunch menu which is ONLY on Fridays.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Alexandria, VA 22314
If you're going to eat in Old Town, Cathal Armstrong's restaurants have to be on your list of places to visit. I've tried two of them (Eammon's and Virture Feed & Grain) and today I decided to have lunch at The Majestc. It was a gorgeous Spring day and I had just gone through two pretty harsh days at work so I decided to put some time aside for a nice leisurely lunch of good book and some catching up on my reading I'm reading Catching Fire which is the 2nd book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I can't put them down and they are so much more than just teen reading. And no, I've never read Twilight. Really, no.
I chose The Majestic for lunch because while I was looking over menus for places to go, The Majestic had three of my all-time favorite ingredients in three different courses. They offered a fried oyster appetizer, a pasta dish with morel mushrooms and a vanilla panna cotta for dessert. For the appetizer, I ordered the Fried Local Oysters with what is described as a creole caper remoulade and chives. Besides the slightly pinkish color which maybe indicated some creole spices, I didn't taste the kick I would expect something labeled as creole. The capers seemed to take over the sauce and was more akin to a smoother tartar sauce which worked quite well with the oysters and reminded me of the sauces at Eammon's. The batter on the oyster was lighter than it looked (still no Pearl Oyster Bar like I mentioned in my post about Hank's Oyster Bar) and there was little enough as to not mask the oysters. There were some soggy bits of the batter but overall a lot of different flavors from the savory oysters and crunchy batter to the sweetly tart sauce, made this dish very successful.
For dessert, I got the Vanilla Panna Cotta with a rhubarb passion fruid coulis. The panna cotta was sitting in a rich red coulis with raspberries and blueberries interspersed around the bowl. On top there was a twig of basil and what I'm guessing to be a strip of the peeled skin off of the rhubarb. I didn't eat the basil this time but I tried the strip of rhubarb which was rather flavorless and I wasn't sure of why it was even included. The vanilla panna cotta was cool and creamy without being overly heavy and the vanilla component was just right as to not override the creamy flavor of the panna cotta. I did like how it paired with the coulis and fresh berries which gave a nice balancing tartness to the panna cotta. The color of the coulis, though, was a bit off-putting and along with the consistency reminded me of a spaghetti sauce which wasn't a pleasant association for dessert for me.
Of all the Cathal Armstrong restaurants I've visited so far, The Majestic was by far the best meal of them all. They gave me three nicely composed dishes which all melded flavors very well. It was fortunate that they featured three of my all-time favorite foods but they presented all of them in a manner that reminded me why they were my favorites. I would come back here any day but after this meal, I've set my sights on eating at the flagship called Restaurant Eve.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Washington, DC 20007
Ah brunch! There probably isn't a better meal than brunch especially Sunday Brunch. The implication is that it's a special event during the week to be savored and guilt-free. Every brunch menu is a murderer's row of food cravings with savory egg dishes, sausage, bacon, pancakes with sweet maple syrup, and french toast or waffles for breakfast and burgers, french fries and friend fish for those who like lunch for brunch. This particular Sunday, I found myself looking at a long day of work due to a day-long meeting the next day so I wanted to start it off right with a proper meal. I went to BlackSalt which is just right over the Potomac river in DC from Arlington.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Annandale, VA 22003
I have this new app called Chef's Feed which shares recommendations of where to eat from local chefs. So, if you're in DC, you set your location and you click the Feed Me Now link on the app and you're directed to recommendations for places near you. I decided to try it since I was working late on this night and just wanted to grab a nice bite to eat on my way home (well, in the general direction of home). So, I pressed the magic button and was directed to Honey Pig by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
95 Allen StreetNew York, NY 10002
Unintentionally, my birthday weekend spent in NYC turned out to be a tour of Italian joints from Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria to Osteria Morini and finally to Sorella for a Sunday night dinner. The restaurant is located way down on the lower east side, very close to Chinatown and the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. The neighborhood, on Sunday at least, is mostly closed shops with iron grates over their facades and if you didn't see the big red sign outside Sorella, you'd almost think that it wasn't open.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
New York, NY 10012
So for my birthday, a bunch of us went to Osteria Morini for dinner. We had made a reservation for 8 people and got a family style dinner. The restaurant lives up to its billing as a casual Italian restaurant with an emphasis on a home-style family meal. The furnishings were eclectic, mismatched and you really did feel like you were sitting in someone's dining room just off the kitchen. Even the serving plates and dishes had that floral pattern that everyone associates with your grandparents or something you grew up with.
New York, NY 10012
The Wren is a relatively new bar in the East Village just across the street from the Bowery Hotel. While it offers food (good food at that!), it is more of a specialty drinks establishment like Little Branch or Lovers of Today but with more of a light and airy feel instead of the subterranean vibe that other "speakeasy" places evoke. We decided to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon enjoying a few drinks and our first drinking hole was The Wren.
New York, NY 10012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Considering that I called Hoboken my home during my last few years in the City, I thought it was appropriate to start off my birthday weekend eating in one of Hoboken's classic restaurant bars. The Brass Rail is slightly more elevated than your average pub but not by much. There is still the big bar top, the flat screen TVs and the waitresses in tight fitting outfits but the food is purported to be a bit better. I've heard that the brunch, especially, is something worth trying.
New York, NY 10017
I mentioned this a bit in my post about Volt when I was pleasantly surprised that they offered PBR on their menu. In recent years PBR has become somewhat popular and accepted throughout a variety of venues. I'm not going to say that I buy into the "hip"-ness of the beer or that it has some fantastic flavors that you can't find anywhere else. What I do know about PBR is that I really enjoy the taste of the beer since I can consume a good quantity without feeling weighed down. I also know that some of my fondest experiences while in NYC involved long afternoons of drinking tall boys of PBR. There isn't a better place than Doc Holliday's, in the East Village, to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon while drinking PBR. Among the trendy and chic in TriBeCa, you can find The Patriot Saloon and it wouldn't be a complete visit unless you had some PBR and tequila. Automatic Slim's near the MPD wouldn't be the same without some PBR. I guess this is not only a nod to one of my favorite beers but also my affinity for dive bars. In all my experience, I just think it's hard to beat having a few PBRs with good friends in a casual atmosphere.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Frederick, MD 21701
When I think of my top five favorite restaurants, I'm certain that a place like Volt would never make it on that list. But, I think that's mainly because the criteria I use is not just the quality of the food but whether or not it is reasonable to come back over and over again. For the restaurants on my top five list, I can see myself going back repeatedly and I have. For a place like Volt, you need to plan it out well in advance and it certainly does not evoke the casualness that I like in my top five. That being said, Volt definitely makes my top five if I were just rating the best meals I've ever had in a restaurant. It may even be at the top of that list.
So, instead of going to Woodberry Kitchen for my birthday this year (like I thought I would), I managed to get a reservation for Volt on short notice (someone happened to cancel). So, eight of us made the drive up to Frederick, MD. Having eight people go was good and bad. It was good because we have the opportunity to try a good variety of the dishes on the tasting menu. It was bad because you could only choose either the four-course tasting menu ($80 per person) or the seven-course tasting menu ($95) so either way, it was not going to be an inexpensive meal. The best part about it was that my two young nieces came so that they could have the opportunity to taste such great food at such a young age (9 and 11).
We decided that all of us should go with the four-course tasting menu (even though they did have a kids' menu) and even though I linked the menu above, it changes constantly and you may have most of the items you find on the website but there also may be one or two changes. So, the best thing about dining with your family is that the meal really becomes a family style meal even though each person is given their own individual portion. This allowed for me to taste just about every dish that the table ordered. We were started off with an amuse bouche macaroon with a soft foie gras mousse center. Right then, we knew we were in for a culinary experience.
For appetizers, we ordered four out of the five selections. One of the quirky things about the restaurant is that the menu only lists the ingredients of the dishes but not how they are prepared. So, the four dishes we ordered for the first course were listed like:
- kampachi blood orange, nasturtium, ginger
- venison horseradish, green apple, rye
- jonah crab cucumber, green mango, coriander
- beet walnuts, blue cheese, watercress, sherry vinaigrette
I ordered the kampachi which was sliced somewhat thinly and served raw with the nasturtium (a type of edible flower), fennel, and dried ginger with a drizzling of a blood orange reduction and some olive oil. The fish was light, very fresh with some sweet notes. It was balanced off by the crunch of the ginger and the acidity of the blood orange. All in all, a great palate cleanser to start off the meal. The venison was served as a tartare with a horseradish reduction and what looked like bread crumbs piled on top. You would coat the tartare in the bread crumbs and run it through the reduction which provided a great bite of rich venison flavor, a good amount of crunch and the slight kick of the horseradish. The Jonah crab was packed together with some corn and sat beside two reductions (green mango & cucumber). It was yet again another refreshing bite with a choice of sweet dipping sauces. The beets were a revelation. They were marinated in sherry vinaigrette and sprinkled with goat cheese and watercress. The sweetness of the beets really came through but were tempered enough by the vinaigrette. The highlight of the dish was a beet sorbet in the middle of the dish which really emphasized the beet flavors with sweet creamy overtones.
For the second course we ordered:
For the second course we ordered:
- ravioli black trumpet, celery root, goat cheese
- turbot butternut squash, brussels sprouts, radish
- foie gras ruby beets, blood orange, fennel
- sweetbreads sunchoke, black kale, bacon
I wasn't able to get a bite of the ravioli but it looked very interesting especially with the foam on top and some sort of ash sprinkled on the side. The turbot seemed like it was poached sitting on slices of radish, brussels sprouts and what I believe were toasted seeds from the butternut squash. The liquid seemed to be a mixture of the poaching liquid and a butternut squash reduction. The fish was tender and creamy almost while the seeds added a very interesting texture somewhat like crunchy oatmeal. They served the foie gras as a mousse and it sat on a ruby beet sauce with slices of blood orange and fennel leaves on top. Mixing the sweetness of the fruits and beets together gave it a nice blend of sweet and savory but the dish was really made complete when you spread everything on top of the accompanying slices of toasted hazelnut wheat bread which brought yet another level of savory sweetness to everything else. I ordered the sweetbreads (which is the hypothalamus gland) and it was probably my favorite dish of the night, though that's a really tough call. What I do know is that when I passed it down to share with my father, it never came back to me. The sweetbreads were grilled to a golden brown and were meaty and rich with no aftertaste (which I've experienced before when I ordered sweetbreads). They sat on a bed of black kale that had been sauteed and cooked with the bacon and finally the sunchokes were deep fried and came out almost like a potato wedge but much sweeter in flavor. Overall, it was a rich and earthy dish that left me wishing for more.
For our next course, we ordered:
For our next course, we ordered:
- lobster black forbidden rice, coconut, madras curry
- sturgeon jerusalem artichokes, maroon carrot, fennel
- lamb cauliflower, chick pea, golden raisin
- pork potatoes, baby turnips, hickory smoke
There seemed to be about 4 orders of the lobster on the table (my nieces can't get enough of lobster) and I had no trouble sampling all parts of it. The lobster was butter poached and sat on a bed of black rice mixed with a hint of curry with a coconut reduction sauce. If you wanted some kick, there was a good dose of curry sprinkled on some fennel on the side. The lobster was a touch overcooked and a bit tough but the flavor was buttery rich and sweet and paired beautifully with the sweet stickiness of the rice and coconut. I felt that the kick from the curry was needed to balance it out a touch but most at the table were content not to try it. I ordered the sturgeon which was pan seared with a crisp coating on one of the edges. There were pieces of sauteed sunchokes (jersualem artichokes) and carrot mixed in a broth made of the sturgeon's pan juices and butter. They placed the sturgeon directly in the broth and while the sturgeon was flaky and had a great crispiness to it, the best part of the dish was the wonderful broth which was rich with a depth of flavor that was hard to fathom. The vegetables soaked up all these flavors and it added wonderfully to their natural sweetness. I wish I could write more about the lamb but I only got one small bite before it was gone. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare but I didn't get to mix it with the grilled cauliflower or any of the other ingredients on the plate. The pork was smoked with baby turnips and placed beside two small beds of mashed potatoes. The pork turned out juicy and soft with just a hint of smokiness (frankly I wanted more of that). The mash was creamy and smooth with a rich reduction of what seemed to be juices from the pork mixed in. The dish was wonderfully rich and a uplifted play on your classic pork chop and mashed potatoes.
Our final and dessert course consisted of:
Our final and dessert course consisted of:
- banana black sesame, coconut, pineapple
- chocolate marshmallow, caramel, peanut
- apple cinnamon, rosemary, almond
After the dessert, they brought out a french vanilla & hazelnut semifreddo with a candle on top to celebrate my birthday. Normally, I'm loathe to have any sort of public display like that for my birthday but the semifreddo was simply amazing. It was rich, creamy and decadent and I would celebrate my birthday every day if I could have that every day. I also washed down my meal with a PBR. I have very fond memories of PBR and any restaurant that serves that beer already has a leg up in my book. Too bad they didn't have tall boys.
I don't think Volt is the neighborhood restaurant that I would go back to on a regular basis. It is, however, a very worthy food experience that I would put at or near the top of my list of all-time meals. It barely squeezed in on my bucket list but only because of the hype surrounding it and the proximity to where I live. But, after having gone there, it should have been placed higher on the list simply because they make great food in a great setting with great service that if you have a chance to enjoy, you should take that opportunity every day and twice on Sundays.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Volt and Sorella just to name two) that could very well be some of the best meals I've ever had. So, here's my first take on ranking all the places I've posted about. Unfortunately, there are some places like Mas Farmhouse, WD-50, and Babbo that I've had the pleasure of visiting but never wrote about. One day I'll get back to them. So, here goes, my first official top five:
My guess is that this becomes a top 10 or top seven after the next couple of week. Can't wait!
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Annandale, VA 22003
There are very few restaurant chains that I would think about writing a blog post for (I've been meaning to write about Five Guys for a while now) simply because I don't really enjoy the food from many chains. Bon Chon Chicken is a welcome exception. Bon Chon is a Korean friend chicken chain that has migrated to the United States with a few locations on the east coast that are mainly around New York City. Over the years, I've heard quite a bit about the goodness that is Korean fried chicken (heck, even David Chang at MomoFuku Noodle Bar offers a version of it though you have to order it 24 hours in advance) and combined with my extreme penchant for fried chicken, I was really looking forward to lunch at Bon Chon.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Arlington, VA 22203
You're probably wondering why I'm writing about Starbucks since it's just Starbucks, after all. I've already professed my affinity for Starbucks when I wrote about Boccato and heck I even have a gold level membership from them (not sure what that is but I did get a shiny gold card in the mail). In recent years, Starbucks has made a push to offer more than just coffee, offering a wide array of pastries, prepared foods and they recently bought a juice bar chain. Now, I've tried most of their offerings and they're better than your average fast food chian and when they first introduced old-fashioned doughnuts (from Top Pot in Seattle though that partnership may have ended), I was an absolute junkie.