Author Archives: bcarter3

Charlie Palmer Steak — Lunch on 18 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Five

Charlie Palmer Steak, a short walk from the Capitol, is made for power lunches. The number of fellow diners that you might recognize is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend watching C-Span.

The rooms are airy and beautiful. The food is first-rate.

Organic Pork and Beef Meatballs

Meatballs

A small serving of organic pork and beef meatballs, with house-made cavatelli pasta, roasted garlic marinara, pecorino, and oregano.

Beef Short Rib

Beef Short Rib

The beef short rib was glazed with smoked chili and citrus, and supported by olive oil crushed potatoes. I’d just had short rib at Honeysuckle a couple of days ago, and I was a little leery about ordering it again so soon. I’m glad I did. This combination really worked.

Dessert

Dessert

Lavender Pot De Creme, with a brown butter sable cookie. You could really taste the lavender.

All in all, a very good meal.

I’d planned on a visit to the nearby National Gallery after lunch, but the day was brutally hot, and I was full, so I made my way to the subway instead, went home, and took a long nap.


Inside Charlie Palmer Steak. Pictures from the Web.

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

Wine Racks over Interior Pond

Tadich Grill — Lunch on 17 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Four

Tadich Grill, which traces its origins to the Gold Rush days of 1849, is a San Francisco institution. Just a few years ago, it opened its first offshoot, on Pennsylvania Avenue, here in Washington, DC. (In the above picture, the Brutalist building across the street from the restaurant is the FBI headquarters.)

OK, let’s get the quibbles out of the way first.

The salad was uninspired. It was a simple lettuce-tomato-cucumber combination that wouldn’t have been out of place in a college cafeteria. The dessert was a slim slice of carrot cake, not much thicker than a quarter. The service was friendly, but inattentive and glacial.

I didn’t much care. I was there for the Cioppino.

Cioppino

Cioppino

Cioppino is a classic, and Tadich Grill is famous for its execution.

This hot, spicy fish stew originated among Italian immigrant fishermen in San Francisco during the late 19th century. It’s the real San Francisco treat.

It contains pretty much everything:  Scallops, shrimp, crab, prawns, clams, and mussels. The sauce is made with tomatoes and wine.  It comes with two pieces of toasted garlic bread, which you can use to mop up the last few drops of the incredible sauce.

Tadich Grill’s Cioppino is about as close to perfect as a dish can be.

Honeysuckle — Lunch on 16 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Three

After three French restaurants in a row, it was time for a change.

Honeysuckle is a New Southern restaurant a few blocks from home. It opened about a year ago on the site of Vidalia, another restaurant that was one of my long-time favourites. After some personnel changes, Vidalia declined during its last few years, and finally closed in 2016.

Now one of the chefs from Vidalia’s glory days has opened this new contender in the same location. This was my first visit.

Chesapeake Sugar Toads

Chesapeake Sugar Toads

Yep. They’re called “Chesapeake Sugar Toads,” but no toads (or sugar) were harmed in the making of this dish. First of all, “Sugar Toads” are not toads, they’re fish, blowfish to be specific.  The Chesapeake version is sometimes called the Northern Puffer. They’re small, not much bigger than jumbo shrimp. Honeysuckle served them with popcorn grits and pickled okra.

Sugar Toads have long been considered “trash fish,” but they’ve recently entered the mainstream, and I’m really sorry for that wordplay, but I’m leaving it in anyway.*

Tasting Sugar Toads for the first time was not a life-changing experience.The most I can say about this starter is that now I’ve tried it.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Braised Beef Short Ribs were the best part of the meal. Fork tender, they came with grits, smoked onion jam, and turnip greens.

“Peach Tart”

“Peach Tart”

The menu put “Peach Tart” in quotation marks, and the dessert itself was a deconstructed version of the traditional dish, composed of pecan shortbread, slow roasted peaches, peach ice cream, and rye whiskey caramel.

The verdict on Honeysuckle: Not as good as Vidalia. Nothing blew me away.

One of the differences between Southern cooking and New Southern cooking is that the new version shrinks portion size to a fraction of the old. I left hungry.


*Some other former “trash fish” that have become popular: Barramundi, Rockfish, Anchovies, Sardines, Arctic Char, and Monkfish.

Café du Parc — Lunch on 15 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Two

On Tuesday, I went upscale, with lunch at Café du Parc. Café du Parc promises “…a truly authentic bistro experience where traditional French food fuses with a modern, casual atmosphere in the heart of the nation’s capital.” It’s at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, just across from the Treasury Building. That location might come in handy, because staying at the Willard requires easy access to a good deal of money.

When I’ve lunched here in the past, I’ve always opted for a table in the Café’s pretty al fresco dining area on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it was a rainy Tuesday, so I watched the street scene from indoors.

Café du Parc’s Sidewalk Seating


Chilled Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup

The Chilled Strawberry Soup combined pureed strawberries with herbs and Chablis. Something in the greenery gave it a slightly bitter taste that was a little off-putting. In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen the alternative appetizer, Calamari Frites, but I always seem to choose the Calamari Frites, and Strawberry Soup sounded interesting.

Duck Fricassee

Duck Fricassee

But the main! What a rebound this was! Perfect Duck Fricassee, with slow cooked lentils, trumpet mushrooms, charred quince, and pea tendrils. And don’t forget the snowy roasted Parisienne potatoes.

Duck Confit has been my main-of-choice since I had it done right at a small, crowded bistro near the Louvre last year. This duck was outstanding—the best main course so far this summer.

Mixed Seasonal Berries

Mixed Seasonal Berries

The dessert was as brilliant as the main. I had Mixed Seasonal Berries, which included all of the usual suspects: Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. What made it a stunner was the Grand Marnier sabayon. Sabayon is a light custard dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and, in this case, Grand Marnier.

Excellent main, excellent dessert. And excellent service, too. So despite my slight disappointment with the strawberry soup, I’d still rank Café du Parc as the best lunch so far.


To get from the Willard’s F Street entrance to the Café, I had to walk the block-long length of the hotel. It was quite a spectacular trip.

The Corpse Flower Strikes Again

Actually, three of them are about to bloom.

The U.S. Botanic Garden has announced that three of its corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) plants are expected to bloom during the next week. It will be the first bloom for all three of the plants.

The plant gets its name because it emits a disgusting, repulsive, nauseating odor when it blooms, which has been likened to, among other yucky things, that of a rotting corpse. The smell attracts pollinators to the plant during its one-day bloom. After that, the corpse flower becomes dormant for a period that can range from a few years to more than a decade.

That same disgusting, repulsive, nauseating odor also seems to be irresistible to humans. The picture at the head of this posting is a CBS News photo of a 2013 corpse flower bloom at the Botanic Garden. The event was visited by more than 130,000 people.

As with earlier blooms, the Botanic Garden Conservatory will be open for extended hours. On peak bloom days, visitors will be admitted until 10 PM.

Or you could watch this 24-hour live stream from the Conservatory. It’s guaranteed odorless.