Monday, March 26, 2007

DC , Yes - Cow Poo, No

Over the weekend we got away from all things Richmond and found all things DC. Washington, DC, of course. We experienced rain showers; hot and cold temperature swings; sore legs from pounding a lot of pavement; incredibly prolific flowering sweet magnolias; an extremely yummy merlot; smoke-free restaurants and bars; a taste of “cow poo;” and a honking piece of ribeye.

Our first stop was the National Zoo replete with lions, tigers, and bears…and hippos, apes, elephants (you get the picture).

From there we headed up to Cleveland Park to Dino.

We ate at Dino the last time we were in DC. They continue to live up to and exceed our expectations. The menu contained a whole heap of appetizers – we wanted to order everything. They also featured a cheese plate. What to do? What to do? We looked at the wine list – a multi-page affair on a clipboard. The Brunellos and Barolos were too dear for our pocketbook, so we opted for the next best thing – 2004 Rosso di Montalcino Collemattoni. Full body and tannin balanced against dark fruits of cherry and cassis. Can you say yummy? We sure did. Once we had our wine, we found out the special of the evening – a 2 pound ribeye for 2. That did it. We dropped our other appetizer plans. Well, my hubby ordered a small plate of the meatballs (3 small ones in a delicious tomato sauce), and I ordered an Acciuga salad (Caesar-like), complete with anchovy filet. The steak was a honking piece of beef. Bone in, charbroiled with herbs, and drizzled with olive oil. It was served on a butcher block. Medium rare. Great with the wine. Served with a very tiny portion of fingerling potatoes and sautéed greens (we could have done with a few more potatoes). We ended up taking the whopper of a bone home, so I can make stock. For dessert, I chose the sinful chocolate route with Tris di Cioccolato – warm chocolate soufflé cake, bittersweet chocolate gelato, and chocolate crema Inghlese – washed down with a glass of Dow’s 2000 Late Bottled Vintage Port. While my dessert was pure dark chocolate heaven, my husband’s dessert (actually dessert drink) was a tasty discovery. He ordered Gelato Affrogato – house made vanilla gelato “drowned” in espresso. To drink he made a bold move and ordered a glass of Altri Grappa – Nardini Cedro (sweet Sorrento lemon). This was not a take-the-roof-of-your-mouth-off-turpentine variety of grappa; it was smooth, sweet, and lemony. What a lovely surprise and it paired well with the vanilla and espresso. Needless to say, once we got back to our hotel room, we slept very well.

We awoke to a cloudy, drizzly day with much cooler temperatures. We headed over to Georgetown with the obligatory stop at a corner Starbucks for a latte. After window shopping we walked over to The Fairmont on M Street. About 10 months ago my husband and I had a miserable dinner at Chateau Frontenac (a Fairmont property). They eventually sent us a nice gift certificate. We used it for lunch at Juniper in DC. For the majority of the time we had our own private dining room. This place does not draw the Saturday brunch/lunch crowd. We asked for the wine list and was first handed what looked to be the abbreviated lunch list. We were relieved that they did have a full wine list. After lots of wrangling we selected the 2003 Neyers Merlot, Neyers Ranch – Conn Valley, Napa Valley. This has got to be one of the best merlots that we have had in quite a while. Chewy, thick, fruity, in fact, gulpable. This is what good California wine is all about.

So, as we drooled over our wine, we ordered lunch. My hubby had to have the Hanger Steak with Frites. Good choice, given the wine. I decided in favor of brunch – Eggs Benedict with crab cakes and sautéed spinach instead of Canadian bacon. The crab cakes were all sweet crab. And the wine was so yummy, it paired well with all food choices (maybe, I was a wee bit enamored over this bottle?).

A long walk around the Washington Monument and then to the Freer and Sackler Galleries rounded out the afternoon.

For dinner we returned to Cleveland Park to Lavandou, an intimate boite with Provencal-style table cloths and charm. Unfortunately, the charm stopped here. We ordered a 2004 Chateau Martinet St. Emilion Grand Cru to drink. Somewhat weak in strength and flavor (but the Neyers was a tough wine to follow). The restaurant did have Salade Frisee – poached egg, frisee, bacon, and dressing, with a tiny wedge of brie. There was so much bacon in the salad that even I grew tired of it. My other half ordered Petit Basque cheese in pastry with salad greens. The heated cheese was extremely rich, but good. For an entree I chose the Medallions de Boeuf in a Brandy Peppercorn Sauce. While a traditional French dish, I’ve always enjoyed it. On this night it was mediocre. A pity. My husband went with the Fleur de Mer special with mussels, shrimp, scallops, and clams. The shrimp were nice and meaty, the slightly spicy sauce was a tad gritty, the mussels were so-so, and the clams “tasted like cow poo.” As the evening progressed, the service slowed to a snail’s pace. We were quite happy to leave without considering dessert.

Despite the misstep at Lavandou, we had a lovely weekend away from workday worries. Next time we will avoid the cow poo.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of DC...

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