Author Archives: bcarter3

Taberna del Alabardero — Lunch on 12 August 2019

Taberna del Alabardero

Taberna del Alabardero

It’s a True Fact© that Taberna del Alabardero, a couple of blocks from the White House, is Washington’s best Spanish restaurant. As its website notes it’s “the most authentic Spanish restaurant outside Spain since 1989”.

The restaurant is part of Grupo Lezama, which has operated in Spain since 1974, when it opened the original Taberna del Alabardero next to the Royal Palace in Madrid. The Madrid restaurant continues to thrive.

My meal at the Washington outpost was a delight, from start to finish.

Ensaladilla de Cangrejo con Espuma de Mahonesa de Zanahoria y Brotes de Guisantes

Ensaladilla de Cangrejo con Espuma de Mahonesa de Zanahoria y Brotes de Guisantes

I didn’t even try to approximate the pronunciation of the names of the dishes on the menu. This starter was described as a crab and potato salad with carrot mayonnaise foam and pea shoots. Interesting dish, but I tasted only a hint of crab.

Chipirones a la Parrila con Cebolla Confitada al Oporto, Alioli de Tintade Calamar y Patas Crujientes

Chipirones a la Parrila con Cebolla Confitada al Oporto, Alioli de Tintade Calamar y Patas Crujientes

This was a brilliantly-plated work of art. It was so beautifully done that I was reluctant to disturb its symmetry, but, somehow, I managed to cut into the grilled squid and take a bite. And another. And another….

The menu described it as grilled baby squids with oporto caramelized onion, squid ink allioli (the Spanish version of the French garlic sauce aioli), and crisp potatoes. Before my waiter served the dish, the “grilled baby squids” part of the description had me expecting tiny pieces, but the squid sections were huge—the largest I’ve ever seen.

Tierras de Chocolate con Yogurt, Frutos Rojos, Pistachos y Sorbete de Mango

Tierras de Chocolate con Yogurt, Frutos Rojos, Pistachos y Sorbete de Mango

Loved the dessert, too. Chocolate crumbs with yogurt, berries, pistachios, and a mango sorbet. The berries were a mix with one or two berries of each type, which made eating this dessert something of a happy treasure hunt.

Service throughout was impeccable and friendly.


About Those Grilled “Baby” Squids

As I noted above, what the menu described as “grilled baby squids” were, in fact,  gigantic. I thought the meaning of the Spanish phrase had been incorrectly translated until something happened shortly after I left Taberna del Alabardero.

I was walking home, past the branch of the Potomac River that flows down the middle of 17th Street, when I saw this:


It was the enraged mother squid (technically, the “Queen Squid”) attacking one of the restaurant’s supply ships. I’d always thought the “The Giant Squid of the Potomac” was a myth or an urban legend, but here I was, seeing it with my own eyes. As the Giant Squid dragged the vessel beneath the waves, I quickly snapped the above photograph. There was no time for a second shot, as the squid, the ship, and the unfortunate crew were swept over the 17th Street Falls and deeper into the river, which flows under the White House and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Thank goodness I was able to get a clear photograph as proof of what I saw!

(I’m available for media interviews, with reasonable compensation.)

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PassionFish Bethesda — Lunch on 9 August 2019

PassionFish

PassionFish

It’s that time of the year again, when restaurateurs counter the industry’s traditional late-summer slump by offering special deals to attract diners. Between late July and mid-September, you can find a Restaurant Week promotion in almost every American city where “going out for a good meal” implies something a little more exciting than having dinner at Burger King.

Washington, DC, and its suburbs have three overlapping Restaurant Week programs: one based in Bethesda, featuring restaurants in suburban Maryland, one in Alexandria, Virginia, and one covering the entire metropolitan area. It’s not unusual for some restaurants to extend their Restaurant Week specials for a second week, or even longer, which means that in August, I tend to dine very well, at a relatively low cost.

First stop for me this summer: PassionFish Bethesda.

Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque

Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque

I’ve gotten into the habit of almost always beginning RW at one of the Passion Food Hospitality group’s restaurants, like PassionFish Bethesda, District Commons, or the now-closed and much-missed Acadiana, and I’ve never had any regrets.

This time, I started with a Lobster and Carrot Ginger Bisque, with lobster (duh), carrots, and peas.

Red Thai Curry and Golden Pineapple

Red Thai Curry and Golden Pineapple

The Red Thai Curry, with a hint of Kaffir lime, had just the right heat for my Western tastes, and the golden pineapple was a nice complement. Served with shrimp over jasmine rice.

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

A wonderful dessert, but I kept thinking that it looked like it belonged with another meal. It was a very “European” dessert following an Asian main, resulting in a slight culture clash. That didn’t stop me from enjoying this Chocolate Mousse Crunch with strawberry coulis.


At the Bethesda Metro Station

It was good to see the waters flowing again at the entrance to the Bethesda Metro Station. In its earlier years, Metro put a lot of effort into making some of the approaches to station entrances architecturally interesting. That’s no longer a priority, unfortunately.

The Cats Trailer We Need. The Cats Trailer We Deserve

When the grotesque trailer for the movie version of Cats was released a few weeks ago, the reaction was near-universal horror. Remember that scene in The Producers when the theatre audience responds to the first song from the musical Springtime for Hitler with stunned disbelief? It was like that.

For anyone who has (understandably) suppressed their, uh, memories of the disaster, here it is again:

YouTube to the rescue. A YouTuber mashed up shots from the trailer with clips from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, and has given us a trailer for Stephen King’s Cats:

Vast improvement, isn’t it?

King himself has tweeted his approval.

The Crown — Series Three Date Announcement

I dunno.

Is Olivia Colman up to playing a British Queen? I thought Helen Mirren had the right of first refusal for all movie roles based on female British monarchs.

The Crown returns to Netflix, but not until 17 November 2019. Olivia Colman, winner of this year’s the Academy Award for Best Actress* for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite replaces Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II.


* And the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

“One Thousand Miles Apart” and “A Million Miles Away”, with 34 Years between Them

My music streaming service of choice these days is SomaFM’s “Indie Pop Rocks!” playlist, which plays “new and classic favorite indie pop tracks”. Mainly new; I’ve rarely heard anything more than five years old on the channel.

It was SomaFM that introduced me to a Seattle power-pop band called A View of Earth from the Moon, and to the band’s 2017 release, “Closer to a Ghost”. Here’s an audio-only version of “One Thousand Miles Apart”, a song from the album that I’ve been playing repeatedly the past couple of weeks.

Play it loud.

The imaginary DJ who lives somewhere in the far recesses of my brain instantly knew the best possible segue to follow “One Thousand Miles Apart”. It had to be The Plimsouls’ 1983 classic, “A Million Miles Away”.

Play it louder.

Could that video have come from any era other than the 1980s, a decade famous for its superb music and its horrible, horrible hair? I think not.


Here’s a live acoustic performance of “One Thousand Miles Apart” by Seattle singer/songwriter Jonathan Fickes, the artist behind A View of Earth from the Moon:

2019 Cookery Project — Pork Loin with Cherries and Shallots

Pork Loin with Cherries and Shallots

Pork Loin with Cherries and Shallots

This one is significant because it’s the first serious homemade meal I’ve cooked since The Flood that trashed my condo on Memorial Day weekend. I’ve spent the last three months dining mainly on takeout, deli, and leftover Easter candy, which gave me first-hand proof that the old adage is right: “Man shall not live by rotisserie chicken alone.”

Pork loin is ridiculously easy to cook, easier, even, than boneless skinless chicken breast.* I blended elements from a recipe for Pork Loin with Cherry Vinaigrette that I found in Bon Appétit with a complementary one for Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce from Epicurious, and came up with this.

Despite appearances, btw, the pork was not overcooked. It was much pinker than it appears in the photo.

Underappreciated gadget: I have to give special credit to the little plastic cherry-pitter that spends 99.9% of its time sitting on a shelf, ignored and unloved. I use it maybe three times a year, but when I need it for something like the pitted cherries in this recipe, it’s absolutely essential. Ever try to pit cherries manually?

The way this story should end is with the Pork Loin with Cherries and Shallots declared a culinary masterpiece, and everybody applauding like they do in r/ThatHappened.

Maybe next time. This was just OK.


Rating

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.


* But boneless skinless chicken breast is much more versatile.

90210 Revisited

I missed it!

I lost track of time and completely forgot that tonight was the premiere of Fox’s BH90210 miniseries. Even worse, I can’t find the show playing on any of my video-on-demand accounts, as if it’s, I don’t know, 1990 or something, so I’ll have no idea what happened in the first episode unless I can find somebody who videotaped it. Hope they have VHS.

But having no idea what I’m talking about has never stopped me from posting here in the past, so what follows are my thoughts on the Return to 90210.

As I’ve previously written, I’ve always blamed Beverly Hills, 90210 and the even more horrendous Saved by the Bell for making the Millenials the way they are. Those two shows were originally broadcast at the exact point in time when gullible young Millenials—and are there any other kind?—were in search of role models, and at their most suggestible.

It’s no coincidence that the Peach Pit’s specialty of the house was avocado toast.

But enough about the past.

Unfortunately, the new version of 90210 is without the one actor who held the original show together. I’m referring, of course, to Joe E. Tata,* aka Nat Bussichio, the owner and operator of the Peach Pit.

You probably thought I was referring to someone else. And you’d have a point: Where is Tiffani-Amber Thiessen? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made a surprise guest appearance in a later episode. Maybe she’ll bring Screech along for a visit.

And what about Carly Reynolds, played by Hilary Swank, who was reportedly dropped from the show because her performance wasn’t up to 90210 standards? I haven’t heard much about her since she left the show, and I’ve always wondered what became of her. Did she ever do any more acting?

Also MIA,  Jim and Cindy Walsh, who are probably still in Hong Kong, leading the demonstrations against the oppressors on the mainland.

Anyhow, since I missed the first episode, I have no idea whether the producers used the plot outline I’d submitted for their consideration.

In my version, which may have been slightly influenced by the fact that I’d recently binged on 16 slasher movies on Netflix, we discover that Scott Scanlon, David’s friend in the first season, survived his famous gun accident, but was left horribly disfigured, and was sent to a Mexican sanatorium by his guilt-ridden parents. While there, he met two other patients undergoing court-ordered therapy: Dylan’s deranged stalker, Emily Valentine, and the embittered and violent Ray Pruit, Donna’s abusive ex-boyfriend. The three of them escape together and hide out in the attic of the Peach Pit, where they plot revenge and design scary facemasks. One by one, the main BH90210 characters meet grisly fates, until there’s no one left except for The Last Girl….

It’s gotta be Shannen Doherty, right?

I mean, who else stands a chance. Not Brian Austin Green. Not The Ziering, that’s for sure.

if you saw the premiere, I’d love to hear from you about how close I came to the final product.


*If Tori Spelling had married Joe E. Tata, she’d be Tori Tata. If Tiffani-Amber Thiessen had married Joe E. Tata, she’d be T.A.T. Tata.