Category Archives: Restaurants

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.

La Chaumière — Lunch on 14 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day One

Monday was the first day of The Big One: The official Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, featuring more than 250 restaurants in the greater Washington area.

I took the shuttle from my place at Dupont Circle to La Chaumière, an old French charmer in the heart of Georgetown.

Moules Farcies à la Bourguignonne

Moules Farcies à la Bourguignonne

As you can see from the picture…. Nothing, really. If I hadn’t taken it myself, I wouldn’t have any idea what it is, either.

It’s a photo of Moules Farcies à la Bourguignonne, my starter at La Chaumière. The dish consisted of ~10 tiny, tiny mussels, baked in garlic butter with pesto. Savouring the sauce is always the best part of eating a serving of mussels, and I mopped up every bit of the garlic pesto sauce with the restaurant’s good bread.

Veal Marengo

Veal Marengo

Veal Marengo is a stew made with veal shoulder, tomatoes, and white wine.
For some reason, possibly because of the mound of rice in the center of the dish, it reminded me of New Orleans. Flavourful and filling.

Mousse au Chocolat

I ended the meal with a classic: Dark Chocolate Mousse, with a raspberry on top.


Old Man Shouts At Cloud

A Rant

I’m getting reactionary in my old age. There was a time when a restaurant dress code would have been enough to make me cross the place off my list. People should dress any way they wanted, I believed, and what the other patrons thought about it was irrelevant.

Now that dress codes are largely a thing of the past in all but the most upscale places, I’ve changed my mind.

The ambiance and cuisine at La Chaumière attract a refined, soft-spoken, well-dressed, rather elegant clientele, ranging from their early 20s up, but leaning toward the mature side. Shortly after I started my main, two women in shorts and sleeveless tops—basically beachwear—were seated at a nearby table. One of them was 50-ish, badly bleached, and wearing clothing designed for someone 30 years younger. They were joined by another similarly dressed woman. And then the phones came out.

It was just wrong.

Did she have every right to go to a fairly sophisticated restaurant dressed as if she was headed for the Jersey Shore? Of course she did.

Did I give her the evil eye and mutter rude comments in her direction? Of course I didn’t.

Did it ruin my enjoyment of the meal? Certainly not.

Did I have a right to be mildly irritated by the appearance and behavior of a fellow diner? I think I did, as long as I refrained from showing it in any way.

Until she put down the phone and started playing a tuba.


The interior at La Chaumière. Pictures found on the Net.

Le Vieux Logis — Lunch on 11 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week One, Day One

Bethesda Magazine Restaurant Week starts on the Friday before the much bigger Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, so it’s become something of a tradition for me—which means I’ve done it more than twice—to kick off the month-long moveable feast in Bethesda. And there’s no better place to start than at the refreshed and revitalized Le Vieux Logis, aka “The Old Lodge,” which is generally considered one of the best of the unincorporated area’s ~200 restaurants.

Terrine

Terrine

You can think of a “terrine” as being so similar to a pâté that the difference doesn’t really matter to most diners. They’re both made in loaf pans, and served sliced. This was a velvety Roquefort Terrine, with an apple, endive, walnut, and pear salad. The matchstick apple slices gave it a good tang.

Salmon

Salmon Pesto

The menu described this as a “Crispy Crêpe of Salmon Pesto,” but it seemed to me to be more of a puff pastry than a crêpe. I suppose this is similar to the fine line between terrine/pâté, and I defer to the chef, who knows far better than I. Crêpe or puff pastry, it was an excellent main, and came with a serving of ratatouille Nicoise and piquillo sauce. (Piquillo is a sweet-tasting pepper, without the usual pepper heat.)

Dessert

Dessert

Oh, yes. Dessert was a warm chocolate coulant, with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. A coulant is a soft-centered rich chocolate cake—it’s sometimes called a Chocolate Molten Cake. When you break the cake’s outer “shell,” melted chocolate floods the plate.


My two rules for photography in a restaurant: Never use a flash to photograph food, and never photograph other diners. The only exception is when you’re part of a large, celebratory occasion, and you know all the people in camera range. So, as is the case today, my photos are sometimes less than great, and I’ve rarely included interior pictures in these postings.

This year, I’m going to try to find those interior shots on the restaurants’ websites, and include a few if possible. Here are a couple from Le Vieux Logis:


Great start to a month of what I hope will be great dining!

Grapeseed — Bastille Day Lunch

Bethesda’s Grapeseed doesn’t identify itself as a French restaurant, but its menu features some dishes that would be at home in any Paris bistro. I thought it would be a good place for a Bastille Day lunch.

Besides, I’ve been dining at Grapeseed for ages, and wanted to make a final visit, because it’s closing at the end of July, after 17 years. Cleveland Park’s Nam Viet, another old favourite that dates back to the turn of the century, closed just a few weeks ago, and now this. Add the closure over the past year of other restaurants I’ve enjoyed like Vidalia, the Little Fountain, Panache, and Poste, and It’s like one of those teen slasher movies from the 80s, where random characters get knocked off for no good reason.

A person given to hyperbole might think my dining scene has turned into Camp Crystal Lake, and my homey restaurants are the horny camp counselors, but of course I’d never write anything that silly….

Anyway, back to lunch.

Wild Mushroom Fricassee

Wild Mushroom Fricassee

My starter was Wild Mushroom Fricassee, something I’d never tried before. As soon as I got home, I started researching recipes for this one, because it was definitely something I want to eat again. The mushrooms were served on truffle polenta, and the sauce was rich and buttery.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

What could be more French than Steak Frites? It was exactly what I wanted.


Au Revoir, Grapeseed. You’ll be missed.