Thursday, November 09, 2006

DC Trip - Corteo & Dino

My husband and I traveled to DC this past weekend. Highlights included:

Best Show: Corteo – Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show now performing under the Chapiteau in the heart of our Nation’s Capital. A wild romp complete with lingerie bedecked acrobats swinging from the chandeliers.

The Place for a Cheap Martini: Medaterra – This bistro, located at 2614 Connecticut Ave. NW (near the Woodley Park Metro stop) boasts Happy Hour every day from 4-7 PM. This translates to $5 Martinis…and we are talking good-sized ones. We tried the French Kiss, a concoction of Ciroc Vodka (the one made from grapes), Chambord, and Cointreau. Nice, but we decided they were a little too sweet to have before dinner.

Our Latest Italian Find: Dino – The address is 3435 Connecticut Ave. NW (near the Cleveland Park Metro stop). Dino’s décor consists of faux stone and rustic touches adding to the warm and cozy atmosphere. Make sure to check out the one-of-a-kind light over the semi-circular bar. But the food and wine definitely steal the show. The wine list is many pages and changes on a regular basis. My head began spinning at the sight of so many Brunellos – in many cases there were multiple years from the same producer. And although all of the Italian wines looked tempting, many were $80-90 a bottle. A little over our price range for the evening. But Dino himself (actually, Dean Gold) appeared and made some recommendations. We went with a 2002 Judd’s Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for $55 and it was sheer heaven. We had never seen it in the Richmond area. And after our return from DC I discovered that the winery charges $42 for a bottle . I was pleased to discover that Dino does not overcharge for his wines. Cheers! And now for the food…wait one second. Before we had dinner, we stopped at the bar. Dino has a nice wine by the glasses list. Two different size pours are available: 3 ounces and 8 ounces. What a fantastic concept. I tried the 8 ounce variety of the 2005 Ironhorse Vinyard Rosato di Sangiovese. Once again, I had never had a rose made from the Sangiovese grape. A very nice prelude to our delicious dinner. In keeping with the concept of different size glasses of wines by the glass, Dino’s menu offers nibbles, small plates, and large plates. And a few of the large plates were available in half portions. I appreciated the flexibility since I wanted to order practically the entire menu. After many minutes of strategic planning we made our decisions – to start we had the Burrata (Bufala Cheese- fresh mozzarella wrapped around fresh ricotta, air freighted from Campania every Sunday & Thursday with olive tapenade, olio DiConciliius, tomatoes, basil) and Gamberoni alla Scampi (Grilled Shrimp- garlic, oregano & olive oil, seaweed salad, roasted garlic). The cheese was creamy and delightful with just the olive oil. We both thought that the olive tapenade was too overpowering. The shrimp were HUGE and very garlicy and since this was a small plate (only 2 shrimp), it was a perfect appetizer. Now, on to the main course. I ordered a half order of Pappardelle ai Cinghiale (Wild Boar Pasta – artisan ribbon pasta from Marche, traditional spicy Tuscan sauce of boar , onions, herbs, pecorino Toscano). I loved the spicy sauce and the pasta could have been served plain – it was that good (but I’m glad it was accompanied by the wild boar!). A half order was definitely sufficient. My husband had the Lasagnette al Ragu (Lasagne – our non traditional take: ragu of pork & veal, fonduta cheese & crispy smoked bacon). Probably one of the richest lasagnas either one of us has ever had. And, yes, we also had dessert – a rustic apple and dried blueberry tart with vanilla gelato. The tart was good, but our waiter had informed us it was an apple and pear tart instead, thus, an ever so slight disappoint at the end of the evening. Just perusing the menu again makes me want to go back. This could easily become our favorite place to eat in DC.

A Place to Avoid: Firefly – located at 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Very loud and supposedly catering to a “hip” crowd. This place also had small, medium, and large plates; unfortunately, the prices seemed to be exorbitant for generally mediocre cuisine. My tiny arugula salad with grated parmesan and 2 strips of average bacon set us back $10. The small plate of duck confit that I had next was only $9 and while the confit was not still attached to the duck leg it did satisfy better than the salad. My husband’s free range roast chicken turned out to be a tale of two temperatures – the leg was not done and the breast was over done and extremely dry. The only bright spot was the wine – a 2002 Auxey Duresses Burgundy from producer Christophe Buisson for $49. There are numerous restaurants in DC. Don’t bother with this one.

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