Monday, August 27, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Football?

What about football snacks? The last time we visited DC we stopped by Arrowine in Arlington and picked up a bottle Cidre Bouche Brut Pierre Huet. A very dry sparkling apple cider weighing in at 4% alcohol. I'm not a beer fan, but I now have a wonderful substitue when snarfing up Virgina style peanuts and watching football.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I went to dinner at Zuppa with SMO and SS last week. I had not been to this establishment since they had moved. We arrived right before the end of Happy Hour with $2 rail drinks. Unfortunately my Whiskey Sour contained about a thimbleful of whiskey and so much water that I knew it was watered down. This glass wasn’t even worth the 2 bucks!

At least dinner was yummy. We all selected the Zuppa Grilled Cheese – fresh basil pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, dill havarti, and proscuitto served on grilled homemade bread. Pasta salad, fries, or soup accompanied the sandwich. We all choose a different soup. The bread, pesto, and fresh mozzarella were the winners for this sandwich. Very tasty. As for the soups – I ordered She-Crab which was chocked full of crab meat. SMO had the Vegetarian Black Bean. She liked this one because of the spiciness. SS experimented with one of the soups of the day – a chilled Avocado-Cucumber about which she raved. The soup and sandwich was $8 and very filling…

…but not so filling that we skipped dessert. We did skip dessert at Zuppa and headed down to Gutenberg Café for some Tiramisu and Affogato.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bin 22 Tasting and Dinner on Tuesday

Bin 22 is hosting a wine tasting on Tuesday. Here are the details:

Our next tasting will take place on Tuesday August 28th at 7pm. Our guest speaker will be Terry “the Silver Fox” Shiple, director of French imports for the Country Vintner. We will be serving the following wines:

2005 L’Idylle Savoie “Cruet” (the Muscadet of the Pre-Alps) blanc

2006 St Andre de Figuiere (Alain Combard) “Atmosphere” rose

2004 Cassan Beaumes-de-Venise rouge

2003 Cazes Cotes de Roussillon “Marie Gabrielle” rouge

2005 Ferraton Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “La Matiniere” rouge

Todd will be preparing a fresh fig & proscuitto tart to go with the white and rose, and a salad nicoise for the reds. The cost will be about $32. Please call the shop if you'd like to attend.

Bin 22

3200 w cary st


Monday, August 20, 2007

Domaine de la Mordoree Tasting at J. Emerson

Prepare your palate for some fabulous Rhones at J. Emerson on Wednesday, August 22 from 5:30-7:30 PM. The wine shop on Grove will host a free wine tasting. The line up includes:

2006 La Dame Rousse Cotes du Rhone
2005 La Dame Rousse Lirac
2005 La Reine Des Bois Lirac
2002 La Reine De Bois Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 La Reine Des Bois Chateauneuf du Pape

For years both my husband and I have drooled over several La Reines, but alas, we could never afford the steep price tag. Thank you J. Emerson for giving us the opportunity to at least taste.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

What a fantastic weather day yesterday! The only option for dinner was to grill. After perusing I found a recipe for Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. Just the ticket. We grilled the steak instead of broiling. I also halved the oil and vinegar amounts (using white wine vinegar) and added three cloves of garlic. I love this sauce. It’s flavorful and fresh-tasting and really pairs well with grilled meats.

I served it with a medley of sautéed corn (from our backyard!), onion, and red bell pepper. I used olive oil for the sauté and added some ground cumin and salt. Delicious!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yummy Bacon Finds

If you are in the mood for great house-cured bacon or for something a little unsual in the cured bacon department, head over to the Belmont Butchery. The folks there enjoy experimenting with different flavors and will be happy to discuss techniques.

Old Friends and a New Acquaintance

My husband and I visited some old friends recently and introduced ourselves to a new acquaintance that is sure to become an old friend.

On a Tuesday we headed to Tarrant’s Café to once again take our medicine. I ordered the same thing that I did the first time – Grilled Cheese (with ham and bacon) on Texas toast with the out-of-this-world potato salad. And as always, the garlic bread knots were extremely scrumptious. My husband tried the Manicotti special and enjoyed the thick, gooey cheese as well as the drizzling of pesto. I adored our waiter – he of the tall bearded sort with a very pleasant deep voice. And on this weeknight, custom was slow. If you want an inexpensive, very delicious meal – go to Tarrant’s Café on a weeknight and order a sandwich. And I promised myself that the next time I go, I’ll order the Talapia with Lobster Cream Sauce…

On the opposite end from Tarrant’s Café lies Texas de Brazil. My husband had a birthday coupon – buy a meal, get a free meal. The last time we had been there the service was sub-par (the newness was wearing off and our waitress was not hitting on much). This time we probably had the best service we had ever experienced at the place. Used plates were promptly whisked away and the waitress continued to be attentive in refilling our wine glasses and refolding our napkins when we headed for the salad bar. And a new wine was added to the wine list – 2002 Oberon Merlot Napa Valley for $36. A great pairing with the filet and the flank steak. If you go to Texas de Brazil, sign up for email alerts on their web site. The coupons make this high price place a little more affordable. You can also make reservations via Open Table.

The last place was an old friend, indeed. Mekong has been enjoyed by us for years. And its transformation into a specialty beer and ale hub as well as possessing a decent wine list makes dining there all the better. On this night we perused the red wine list a little more thoroughly and discovered a rare gem – 2000 Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyards Napa Valley. The $45 price tag was very reasonable. The 2005 version is selling for $48 at the winery. And the wine was silky smooth, bursting with cassis, accompanied by black cherry undertones. I ordered Banh Hoi Thit Nuong - Grilled pork with steamed rice vermicelli – one of the house grill platters. My husband had the beef sautéed in a light brown garlicky sauce with green beans and onions. When we go back we might take a gander at the Chateau Gloria…

Despite a wealth of old friends, new acquaintances can also be fun. And the new Italian ice cream place at Gayton Crossing Shopping CenterDeLuca Gelato was delightful. They carried a variety of gelato and sorbetto and encouraged tasting before deciding (which is good since the flavors are listed in Italian). The chocolate hazelnut was yummy, yummy and jam-packed with flavor. And if you are really craving the stuff, try a Frappel – a gelato milkshake.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Watermelon Festival Images 2007

A few photos from the Carytown Watermelon Festival.

Of course, there was plenty of watermelon to be found.

Carytown Teas had the best non-alcoholic beverages.

The Byrd Theatre opened its doors for tours.

We ate fried shrimp and fries from one of the countless vendors.

And we could not leave until we had shared a limeade.

Next year we'll come better prepared to sample some of the alcoholic watermelon concoctions that Weezie's Kitchen and Bin 22 served.

Virgin Corn

This was our first attempt at growing corn. Not perfect, but definitely local.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Art and the Old City

On Friday we drove down to Shockoe Bottom. We were fortunate enough to find a free parking spot close by and wandered over to House of Lukaya – a cool little shop located at 1717 East Main St. offering handcrafted items, including some marvelous aprons from Modern June. On this night the House featured paintings by Edward Alan Gross. I loved the vibrant colors; the big eyes on the faces; the rabbits that were in a couple of the paintings; and the use of tea cups, old clocks, and broken rulers in some of the other works. My favorite portrayed a man and a woman in a boat and was titled “all is fair.”

Afterwards we headed over to the Old City Bar. Of course, no one was sitting on the patio; it was just too damn hot. We traipsed up the stairs hoping that the place wasn’t packed. We had no reservations and it was after 7 PM. While the bar was packed, the dining area was practically empty. Seemed unusual for a Friday night, but we celebrated our good fortune with a Cosmopolitan and a Mojito. As we sipped our cocktails in a large booth we admired the surroundings – dark wood, high ceilings, old political cartoons hanging on the wall, etched glass chandeliers, and a few old Asian sculptures. Back in the day, men would have smoked cigars here (thank goodness that is not allowed now!).

We began our meal in earnest with salads – Romaine with Roma Tomatoes, Basil, Fresh Mozzarella, Croustades, and tossed with a Classic Caesar Dressing and garnished with thinly sliced Red Onion for me. While the salad was decent, I did not see or taste much in the basil department. The amount of dressing was generous in the extreme and, thus, overpowered the more subtle taste of the mozzarella. I ended up placing the mozzarella cubes on the croustades to experience them sans dressing. My husband fared much better in his salad choice – Shenandoah Salad with Baby Greens tossed with Fresh Apples, Cashews, and Swiss Cheese with a Sweet Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette. A refreshing salad for a hot day. And the dressing garnered extreme raves.

For dinner we ordered a 2004 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley. Yummy wine. Slight tannin upon the first sip; medium to heavy in weight, yet very smooth; lots of dark dried red fruit flavor, particularly black cherry. To eat my husband selected Steak Diane – Peppercorn Crusted Twin Tournedos with Cognac Dijon Cream. I ordered one of the specials – Pork Tournedos with Garlic Confit and Sweet Onion Sauce. Both dishes were accompanied by sautéed sugar snap peas and mashed potatoes with chives and smoked Gouda. Both entrees were very tasty. My husband liked the fact that the peppercorns had been crushed more finely than usual. The beef was a perfect medium rare. I had two generous portions of extremely tender pork tenderloin. The garlic and sauce were divine. The sugar snap peas were indeed sweet and ever-so-slightly crunchy. The regulars who read this blog know that I love me some mashed potatoes. Sometimes restaurants get it right; sometimes they fail miserably. Old City Bar did not let me down and they provided a new twist that I had not experienced before – smoked Gouda. These potatoes were fantastic. I loved the smoky flavor and the chives. The peas and potatoes were the sides of the day. I hope that the potatoes are a regular feature.

We had no room for dessert and, in fact, left with some of our beef and pork tournedos in a box (I'm already looking forward to leftovers). I would like to go back in cooler weather and experience the patio. It looked like a wonderful spot to watch the comings and goings of the Bottom. There were other menu items that also peaked my interest – Smoked Duck Wellington, Crab Harrison, and Roasted Quail stuffed with Hunter’s Sausage.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

South of the Border Braised Pork Chops

South of the Border Braised Pork Chops

2 boneless pork chops, about an inch thick

8 ounces tomatillo salsa (I used the Fronterra brand)

Fresh cut corn kernels from four ears of corn

1 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pour olive oil into frying pan with high sides. Turn burner to medium high and heat oil until hot. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. Place in hot oil and sear, about 3 minutes per side. Pour in chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spatula. Stir in salsa. Simmer on low for about an hour with frying pan partially covered; turn pork chops over after 30 minutes and stir occasionally. Add corn kernels. Simmer for another 30 minutes; turn pork chops over after 15 minutes and stir occasionally. Uncover the frying pan, turn up the heat slightly and reduce the liquid for about 15 minutes stirring frequently (the salsa should be fairly thick). Serve immediately with margaritas on the rocks.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

DC Dining

Last weekend we took off on Friday and headed up to DC to eat and wander. Our first stop landed us at Mount Vernon. We wanted to eat lunch early because we had early dinner reservations. The Mount Vernon Inn (the sit down restaurant at the entrance to the historic site) is an interesting place with one foot in the 18th century and one foot in the 1950’s. It reminds me more of the Colonial Revival era than anything else. I knew we were going to have a big meal in the evening so I stuck with a bowl of Peanut and Chestnut Soup. The Inn produced a very tasty version with whole peanuts as garnish. My hubby ordered a mug of the Potato Leek Soup and Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes. He really liked the soup because of the potato chunks in it. The meatloaf was typical and the mashed potatoes were real. After taking a gander in the gift shop we headed up to Ballston to check in at the hotel, rest up, and change clothes for the evening.

On Friday night we had reservations at Dino. (Yes, we have liked this place so much we seem to be making it a routine stop.) But we were a little early and decided to have a cocktail before dinner. And since DC has gone non-smoking all the bars are fair game. Yippee! We headed into Bardeo, a wine bar just a few doors down from Dino. Bardeo is also connected to Ardeo, the restaurant, and probably an eating place we need to check out in the future. The wine bar offered several specialty cocktails, including one with watermelon infused vodka and one with mixed berry infused tequila. The infusions were house made and the berries were handpicked. We opted for the Sherry Sidecar. An interesting concoction containing Belle de Brillet (I have waxed rhapsodic about this pear cognac in the past) and a house made sour mix. We were able to distinguish each of the flavors and while I would not order this frequently, it did satisfy our quest for something different and unusual.

As always Dino was great. I continue to be a fan of the little plates, appetizers, and half orders that many restaurants in DC now offer. This gives me an opportunity to try a number of yummy items. We began with an order of imported olives – the large green ones were the tastiest. And on this occasion I ordered a cold and a warm starter as appetizer and entrée: Carpaccio di Manzo (raw beef – all natural NY strip, arugula, capers, grana, olio) and Crespelle con Pollo e Carciofi (Tuscan crepe – chicken, artichoke, roasted tomato, smoked mozzarella, pesto, and tomato sauce). My spouse had the Calamari Fritti (fried squid with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce) and Fusili a la Ragu d’Agnello (lamb ragu with pork and veal on house made pasta). I basically sighed every time I put a bite of my meal in my mouth. The Carpaccio balanced nicely with the capers, cheese, and oil. The smoked mozzarella put the Tuscan crepe over the top. And hubby loved the lamb ragu. Unfortunately, the squid was not up to snuff. The rings were a bit rubbery and the tentacles (which are usually the best tasting) he did not like at all. To wash down the meal we ordered a 2005 Nebbiolo and while the wine was decently made, it did not pair well with my meal. I am woefully inept with Italian wines and need to learn more about them. If any of you have recommendations on classes or websites or books, etc., let me know. The wine, however, did go well with the lamb ragu.
For dessert I ordered the Tris Ciccolato – molten chocolate cake. Unfortunately, this was a heavy dessert and I would have been better off in foregoing this temptation. I did let everything digest while sipping Drambuie. My husband was smart and had the Sorbetti trio and the Nardini Cedro Lemon grappa.

The next morning we headed to the Smithsonian and wandered around the National Art Gallery for most of the day. We walked up to Café Berlin for lunch and had pounded and breaded pork with roasted potatoes and a salad. And a ½ liter of wheat beer. Café Berlin was set up for lots of outside dining, but, alas, it was way too hot and we headed inside to enjoy the cool air. In the afternoon the East Wing showed Charlie Chaplin’s A King in New York in their theatre. A nice way to relax and rest our feet at the end of the day.

For dinner on this night we went to Oyamel. The Cocina Mexicana has garnered a ton of great press. We were looking forward to eating and hoping that the hype was accurate. The interior featured Day of the Dead art work as well as brightly painted carved wood animals. From the ceiling hung large iron mobiles featuring butterflies. Most of the menu at Oyamel featured small tapas-like plates with a large Cerviche selection as well as a yummy-looking taco selection. We were overwhelmed. So we ordered a cocktail (an Oyamel margarita for me and Tamerind Tea for my husband) and the Guacamole (made at table side) and furthered perused our dinner options. The drinks were quite good. My margarita contained the peppery-licorice bite from good tequila balanced with Cointreau and lime juice. The Tamerind Tea contained Stoli O and passion fruit tea, with tamarind concentrate, simple syrup and fresh lime juice. Unusual, but extremely refreshing on a sweltering evening. And, of course, the Guacamole was superb. This was probably the most popular item on the menu and quite fun since our server mixed up the ingredients in front of our eyes. Almost every table ordered it. We spent some more time pouring over the menu and decided to order the Gruet Rose sparkling from New Mexico for dinner proper. We began with three small dishes to share – Camarone al Epazote (Shrimp sautéed with tequila, shallots and scallions, served with epazote herb oil and chipotle peppers in adobo tomato sauce), Arrachera con salsa de chile guajillo, piña y cacahuates (Grilled skirt steak in a sauce of smoky guajillo chili, tomato and onion, with thinly sliced pineapple and crushed peanuts), and Frijoles refritos con queso (Slow-cooked refried beans with melted Chihuahua cheese inside, served with light Mexican cream and micro cilantro served with fresh tortillas). We kept our menus so we could order tacos later. I really liked the black beans, especially with the tortilla chips that came with our Guacamole. I also enjoyed the shrimp that was action-packed with flavor. The skirt steak was good, but did not have that wow factor. Since we had basically exclaimed “Wow!” with every other dish, it was a bit of a letdown. After these dishes, we were heading towards being full and my husband really wanted to order dessert. He ordered the Café de Olla. (A Mexican custard of milk chocolate and Chiapas coffee, with a gelatin of Kahlua liqueur and spiced syrup of brown piloncillo sugar. Sprinkled with crumbled cookies and almonds and served with a scoop of star anise ice cream.) I had a cup of the Chocolate Caliente (Mexican hot chocolate with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla beans, cloves and very hot milk). Unfortunately, my supposedly steaming cup of chocolate arrived lukewarm and while the flavor was good, the lukewarm temperature disappointed.

We headed home on Sunday to rest up for the upcoming week.

Both Oyamel and Dino utilize the Open Table reservation service.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ruth's Chris - Upscale, Yet Unpretentious

For my hubby’s birthday we decided to use a gift card that we had for Ruth’s Chris and give it a go. We are not big on chain restaurants, but we were headed to DC right after his big day and would be spending some dining dollars up there, so we took a chance (gift cards always help!). And the Ruth’s Chris on Huguenot Road did not disappoint. We had been to other high end steak houses, most recently to Fleming’s. Ruth’s Chris did not come off as a chain-like high end steak house. Don’t get me wrong, the prices were up in the stratosphere and everything was a la carte, but the atmosphere was vastly different. At Ruth’s Chris we experienced attentive service in a quiet, comfortable, and unpretentious manner. We were able to take our time and peruse the menu and the wine list without the wait staff hovering over us to recommend what they would prefer. In fact, Martha, our waitress, commented on the fact that we took our time to read the entire menu before deciding on what to order and that not too many diners exhibit this behavior. We were pleased that she was so observant and tailored her timing to our needs.

To drink we ordered a Robert Pecota Kara’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($75). At first the wine was very tight and closed. It needed air. By the time our entrees arrived, it had begun to open up with both body and fruit. We were also pleased to see that the wine list had some reasonably priced selections and quite a few under $40. To eat, my husband began with the Fried Oyster appetizer ($10.95). He relished them. The eight breaded entities were small but sweet. Since oysters are not my thing I let him enjoy these on his own. I had the small Wedge Salad ($4.95) with creamy lemon basil dressing. The iceberg wedge itself was very crisp and fresh, but it was served on a bed of mixed green lettuces that had seen better days and made it difficult to cut through the wedge without dislodging the loose greens underneath. The dressing was creamy but lacked a lemon and/or basil flavor. And as Martha took our salad and appetizer plates away, she made a slight gaff – she asked me if I wanted to keep my steak knife. I had used my knife to slice through my lettuce wedge. It was covered with dressing. I had used my regular knife to butter my bread. I hesitated and she recovered quickly enough and offered to bring me another knife. For the prices we were paying, I think another steak knife was in order.

For entrees we stuck to the basics – a Filet ($34.95) for my husband and a Petite Filet ($30.95) for me. Both medium rare with the regular drizzle of butter. We also ordered a side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes ($7.95). And Martha was kind enough to tell us when we ordered that the side dishes were very large and one was more than enough for two people. Apparently serving steaks sizzling on a ceramic oval plate is a Ruth’s Chris tradition, but it can also be dangerous. These plates were extremely hot. We were warned and took care to heed to warning. The table next to us was warned as well, but out of habit the gentleman touched his plate to readjust anyway, and burned his fingers. We enjoyed our steaks, although my spouse’s seemed twice as large as mine. (Next time I might order the regular filet and take part of it home.) Our steaks were cooked and seasoned to perfection. We had the option of ordering sauces with our steak, such as peppercorn, etc. These sauces added $2 to the price of the entrée. We were tempted, but elected to see how the steak held up on its own. We were pleased. As we dined soft piano music played in the background and the musician during his break stopped by various tables to take requests. The manager also made the rounds inquiring about our meal. All of this took place in a very relaxed, low-key atmosphere which suited our tastes very well.

To cap the evening I ordered coffee which was presented in a French press ($3.95). The French press held about 3 cups of good, quality stuff. My husband, being his birthday, ordered Keoke Coffee ($7.25) – a mixture of coffee, Tia Maria, and brandy.

By the end of the evening we were relaxed and full and satisfied. We were also happy to have a gift card. We would definitely recommend this place to others for an upscale, yet low-key dining experience. And now that we’ve experienced the steaks, we can go back and try other slightly less expensive dishes such as the roasted chicken or tuna.

And one more thing, Ruth’s Chris accepts reservations via Open Tables.

Ruths Chris Steak House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Adelsheim Pinot Noir

Adelsheim Pinot Noir is a fantastic wine in any year. Produced in the Willamette Valley, we once again enjoyed this little gem last night. The first taste exudes cherries and other berry fruit. The mouth feel is weighty, but also silky smooth. The bottle is not cheap and is usually priced around $32. If you find a bottle under $30, make sure to snap it up! And, of course, I really like the wine label.