Author Archives: bcarter3

All Set — Lunch on 17 January 2018

2018 Winter Restaurant Week 1, Day 2

Wednesday was a brutally cold day in Washington, the kind of day that’s perfect for staying inside and researching winter vacation packages for Charleston and New Orleans. But I had a lunch date as part of Bethesda Restaurant Week, and I wasn’t about to cancel, due to my fear of being put on OpenTable’s No-Fly List and never being able to make a reservation again.

Bethesda has no official boundaries. It’s a pleasant, upper-middle class area—I suppose that description is redundant—north of Washington.

Despite its name, Bethesda Restaurant Week is not limited to restaurants in what most people think of as Bethesda. Some of them are in very rich Potomac, to the north, and some are near the District line, to the south. And one of them is in Silver Spring. It’s called All Set, and that’s where I was headed.

And I’m oh-so-glad I did.

Grilled  Octopus

Grilled  Octopus

I started with Grilled  Octopus, on a bed of chickpea purée, with chorizo butter, smoked paprika oil, and a sprinkling of celery leaves. No way could I ever duplicate this one at home, although I wish I could. Excellent!

Short Rib Ragu

Short Rib Ragu

With time and a lot of effort, though, I might be able to make something like this main of Slow Braised Short Rib Ragu. The pasta is called “Campanelle”, and is designed to work with thick sauces like this one. If you look closely, you can see the brunoise-cut carrots and celery.*

Fried Oreos

Fried Oreos

This was karma, or irony, or coincidence, or comeuppance, or some combination of the four.

When I was writing about the high quality of the food at Budapest Christmas Market a few weeks ago, I made a sneering reference to the “Deep-Fried Peanut Butter Banana Cheeseburgers…at the Texas State Fair.”

My dessert at All Set was Tempura-Battered Fried Oreos with a Chocolate Ganache.

I was wrong. I’m a convert. They were crunchy and delicious.

In summary, the food at All Set was exceptionally good, and the friendly service was excellent.

This one’s a keeper.

*I’m flaunting a newly acquired culinary vocabulary word here. I just this week learned that a brunoise cut is one that gives you cubes 1/8th inch in size. My intensive home cooking research is rewarded.  All those hours spent reading Cooking for Dummies finally pay off!


Love, Simon — New Trailer

“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.”
—William Wordsworth

Yet another reminder, as if I needed one, that I was born decades too early. There was a time when I could really have used a movie like this.

Love, Simon stars Nick Robinson, probably best known to most people for his role in Jurassic World, but most familiar to me from his part in a long and incredibly irritating series of commercials for Cox TV. (He was fine, it was the characterization of his TV father that was bothersome.) Robinson was Spielberg’s first choice to play Parzival in Ready Player One, a part that eventually went to Tye Sheridan.*

Anyhow, this looks like fun. Simon’s parents are played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel. I don’t know what role Tony Hale has in the plot, but it’s always good to see Buster from Arrested Development.

Here’s the original trailer:

The US release date is 16 March 2018.

*Tye Sheridan was a member of the cast of The Stanford Prison Experiment, a movie that I’ve never been able to watch all the way through, but probably should. Other Stanford Prison cast members included Miles Heizer, of 13 Reasons Why, Logan Miller, and Nicholas Braun, all of whom are also in Love, Simon, as well as Johnny Simmons and the great Ezra Miller, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which also featured the aforementioned Nicholas Braun).

♪ It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world… ♪

Stanford Prison is shaping up to be a 21st century equivalent to 1983’s ensemble film The Outsiders, which was a key step in the early careers of Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, and Patrick Swayze, among others.

This footnote should really be a standalone posting. Maybe in a year or so, I’ll do a whole Six Degrees item about it.

PassionFish — Lunch on 16 January 2018

The PassionFish Mermaid

The PassionFish Mermaid

2018 Winter Restaurant Week 1, Day 1

Looking back, I noticed that during 2017 Summer RW I’d revisited more restaurants that I already knew and enjoyed than new places. For 2018 Winter RW, I’ve made a conscious effort to correct that failing. About 75% of the places on my tentative list are new to me.

My first stop, though, was someplace that I just had to try again: PassionFish, in Bethesda. Was it really as good as I remembered it?

Turns out, it was better.

Crab & Corn Chowder

I was able to narrow down the choice of a starter to the Crab & Corn Chowder with jumbo lump crab meat and green onions or the Lobster Butternut Squash Bisque with toasted pepitas and pumpkin oil. The excellent server said he’d choose the chowder, and I have always relied on the kindness recommendations of strangers waiters, unless they’re clearly trying to up-sell me.

It was a good choice.

Red Thai Curry

Red Thai Curry

I’d decided on a main of Red Thai Curry Shrimp and Golden Pineapple with jasmine rice and kaffir lime as soon as I saw it on the menu. My server suggested bringing an extra portion of rice, because this was a hot, hot dish. He was right again.

A note on the sloppiness of the presentation: That wasn’t the restaurant’s fault, it was mine. The curry came in a separate bowl, which you can see in the background. I served myself a small portion of the curry to start, and I wasn’t very careful plating the serving.

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

Chocolate Mousse Crunch

On the other hand, I had nothing to do with the plating of this elegant Chocolate Mousse Crunch with vanilla-bean anglaise and strawberry coulis. This was a stunner. It tasted even better than it looked.

All in all, the meal was about as close to perfect as it could be.

After cheerfully over-tipping that helpful server, I walked across the street to the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema, just in time for a matinee screening of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Much as I love film, I hardly ever go to the movies anymore. During 2017, fr’instance, I saw 6.75 times as many movies on airplanes as I saw in movie theatres, because what else are you going to do when it’s three in the morning and you’re somewhere over the Atlantic. (True Fact: I calculated that figure at three in the morning, somewhere over the Atlantic.)

Besides, 95% of the world’s movies and tv shows easily accessible for streaming, which is a good argument for staying at home, where it’s warm and you can pause or replay the action and you don’t even have to wear pants if you don’t want to.

But Three Billboards was written, produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh, and his In Bruges is one of my five favourite films of the 21st century, so…

He’s created another profane, violent, and hilarious classic. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give what might be their best performances.

2018 Winter Restaurant Week(s) in (and around) Washington (DC)

It’s that time again.

Twice a year, in January – February and in August – September, Washington and its suburbs hold movable feasts known as Restaurant Weeks. The celebrations begin with Bethesda Restaurant Week, which this year includes 35 restaurants, and runs from 12 to 21 January. That’s followed by the big one, Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, which features 250+ restaurants and runs from 22 to 28 January. Then comes Alexandria Restaurant Week, from 26 January through 4 February, with 60+ venues.

Since some restaurants extend the celebration beyond the official RW dates, and many participate in both the Metro and more local RWs, “Restaurant Week” in DC is actually more like “Restaurant Month”.

The  Restaurant Week concept has its critics. Most restaurants offer limited menus, heavy on inexpensive mains like salmon and chicken. In some cases, ordering a restaurant’s ongoing “specials” can be a better deal than the one offered during RW. “It’s for amateurs,” a friend of mine once said.

But if you choose well and know what you’re doing, RW can be an excellent way to explore new places and revisit old favourites, all at bargain prices. Over time, researching, planning, scheduling, and enjoying RW has turned into my big personal project for January and August.

I’ll be posting my RW finds over the next three weeks.

The Magicians — Off to a Good Start

On this season’s first episode of The Magicians, Elliot suddenly realizes that the Fairy Queen is magically using Margo’s missing right eye to spy on the Good Guys, and anticipate their moves. (Long story. Don’t worry about it, just watch the first two series, currently playing on Netflix.) To avoid revealing that he now knows he’s being constantly observed, he shares this insight through coded pop cultural allusions, which are helpfully subtitled for those of us playing along at home.

Warning: Possibly NSFW. The language is presidential.

It’s scenes like this one that make me love the show.

Altered Carbon — Two Teasers and a Trailer

Netflix has adapted Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan’s award-winning 2002 cyberpunk novel, into an initial 10-episode series. The company released a couple of teasers late last year, and a full trailer this week. Here are the teasers:

[No, I haven’t accidentally slipped a porn video into the blog. That initial image is just Netflix being Netflix. They call these things “teasers” for a reason.]

And here’s the new trailer:

Ah, the “old brains in new bodies” trope!

I don’t know about this one. On the one hand, Joel Kinnaman and James Purefoy are both solid performers. On the other hand, the CGI is less than dazzling. It looks on the cheap side.*

All 10 episodes of Altered Carbon will become available on 2 February 2018.

*On the third hand, some of the most impressive CGI-heavy trailers I saw last year were for Ghost in the Shell, and that didn’t turn out so well, did it? I’m still a little embarrassed about getting so overheated about that one.

More Game of Thrones Goes Postal — Giants and Direwolves and Dragons, Oh My

The British Royal Mail isn’t ignoring the non-human players of the Game of Thrones. In addition to the 10 contestants in the set of postage stamps that I wrote about yesterday, the Royal Mail is also issuing a sheet of stamps featuring some of the less hominoid characters in the Game.

There are direwolves, who are friends of the good guys…

…giants and dragons, who play both sides of the field…

…and, of course, the Big Bad himself, the Night King.

At the center of it all, the Iron Throne.

The stamps will be sold at UK Post Office branches starting on 23 January 2018, and are already available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.