Category Archives: Restaurants

Filomena — Lunch on 1 May 2019

Filomena

Filomena

This week I took the newly-free shuttle from Dupont Circle to Georgetown for a return visit to an old favourite. Filomena has been around since 1983, and any restaurant that can still fill the house after 36 years must be doing something right. At Filomena, that means serving consistently good food and providing consistently good service at a consistently good price.

And the portions are huge. I have what I euphemistically call a large appetite, but I had to call for take-out containers for the two-thirds of the starter and the main. I couldn’t even think about touching the dessert until 12 hours later.

Calamari

Calamari

At Filomena, the Calamari Fritti is marinated in milk for 24 hours before being and quick-fried and served with spicy Marinara sauce.

Rigatoni

Rigatoni

According to the menu, when Bono, from U2, ate at Filomena, he liked the Rigatoni con Salsicce so much that he ordered seconds. While I’m sure that’s true, I can’t imagine how he—or anyone else—could do it. Perhaps he took a nap between servings.

The sausage is made in-house, with mushrooms, onions, Chianti, and herbs.

Chocolate Truffle

Chocolate Truffle

Insanely rich dessert. Chocolate cake between layers of chocolates-ganache.

So there it is, the opposite of trendy. And I hope they never change a thing.

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Lunch at Le Café Descartes at the French Embassy

I’ve roosted in Washington, DC, for most of my life now, and I’m still making wonderful new discoveries about the possibilities for living well in the city. Until a few weeks ago, I was unaware that I could apply for entry to Le Café Descartes at the French embassy. All it took was an email request and a selfie. Last Thursday, I got my response:

Bonjour !
Your Frequent Diner Membership badge will be available in Le Café Descartes Coffee Bar, which is located in Building C of the French Embassy.

Building B

Building C, or maybe B

The embassy isn’t a single building, it’s a complex. Le Café Descartes is in Building C, or maybe B,* and serves lunch to embassy staff and visitors. The café consists of a small outdoor dining area, a coffee bar, a lounge, and a big open room that could probably hold a couple hundred people. To be clear, this is not white-tablecloth haute cuisine, it’s an informal, cafeteria-style lunchroom.

But it’s a lunchroom where tomorrow’s mains will be Escalope de Poulet Viennoise and Haddock Beurre Blanc, followed by Filet de Bronzino and Saucisse de Toulouse on Tuesday. We’re a long way from tater tots and cube steak.

Best of all, one of the choices for Friday was Confit de Canard, my long-time favourite French treat, and a perfect selection for my first Le Café Descartes meal. So late Friday morning, I grabbed my passport for identification, put on my red souvenir cap from the Château de Chenonceau, and headed for the embassy.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

And there it is. Confit de Canard with Brussels sprouts and endive. The duck leg was on the small size, but I was in heaven. (I knew it was heaven because everyone around me was speaking French, and that’s what they do there. That, and eat French food.)

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart

And a blueberry tart for dessert. Perfect.

I have a feeling I’ll be lunching here a lot.


April Lunches at Le Café Descartes


*The email said it was Building C, but the guard at the security gate said it was Building B.

Scenes from the Alice Waters Yard Sale

You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant


 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)

People started showing up outside Chez Panisse in Berkeley hours before the official 10 AM start of the Great Alice Waters 2019 Yard Sale last Sunday. By the time it began, the line stretched around the block.

Waters herself was on hand to sign books, posters, and old menus.

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

The opening of Chez Panisse in 1971 was one of the key events in the history of California Cuisine and the Great American Food Revolution. Almost 50 years later, the restaurant is still going strong.

 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)

 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)

Alice Waters Is Having a Yard Sale

Alice Waters, Master Chef, founder of Chez Panisse, and all-around National Treasure, is having a yard sale.


Alice Waters and her daughter, Fanny Singer, are hosting the sale on Sunday, 31 March 2019, from 10 AM to 3 PM, in the car park at Chez Panisse at 1517 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California.

Chez Panisse

The yard sale will offer “vintage and designer clothes, antiques, crafts, ephemera, and more…decades’ worth of treasures, from the high to the low… plus bargains and Alice’s hats.”

Waters will be there, to sign books, posters, and those famous hats.


Alice and Friends

Breizh Pan Crepes — The Reason I’m Going Back to Charleston Next Year

Breizh Pan Crepes

Breizh Pan Crepes

Well, one of the reasons.

The last time I  was in Paris, back in 2016, I had a very memorable experience at Breizh Café, which, according to people who know such things, makes some of the best galettes in the city. So when I saw that there was a little cafe called Breizh Pan Crepes* a few blocks from my hotel, I had to check it out.

The hotel was next to the College of Charleston, and the area reminded me a lot of Georgetown, here in DC—a mix of small independent shops and restaurants and bars, dotted with some of the trendier international brands. Like any big city college neighbourhood, I suppose.

The owners of the shop, Patrice and Celine, are natives of Brittany,  the region where crepes originated. At Breizh Pan Crepes, French music plays softly, and imported French culinary treats are available for purchase.

But enough background. Here’s an example of why I returned—twice—after my first visit:

La Charleston

La Charleston

No words needed, really. I mean, just look at it.

This one, my favourite of three I sampled, is called La Charleston. It’s made with blueberries, raspberries, Chantilly cream, and homemade salted butter caramel., and it tasted as good as it looks.


* No relation to the Breizh Café in Paris. “Breizh” is the Breton name of what English speakers call “Brittany”.

Lunch at Swig and Swine

Swig and Swine

Swig and Swine

I couldn’t leave South Carolina without sampling the barbecue, and one of the best places to do that is at the downtown Charleston location of the eloquently named Swig and Swine restaurant.

Sauces

Sauces

I had a choice of five sauces. I tried a bit of each of them, but kept going back to the sweet red.

Barbecue

Barbecue

Here’s what I ordered: A half pound of Beef Brisket and Beans with Brisket as a side, plus a small salad and a large serving of Mac and Cheese. The brisket and the beans with brisket side were extraordinary. I can see why Swig and Swine’s barbecue is rated as the best in Charleston, but I think I’ll have to go back next year to confirm it.

Lunch at Hominy Grill

When I started researching Charleston restaurants, the first thing I did was call up the Charleston entry in Tom Sietsema’s Washington Post series, “The Search for America’s Best Food Cities”. In describing the city’s “all-stars”, Sietsema wrote that “…if there’s a single dish you have to try, it’s shrimp ’n’ grits at the cozy Hominy Grill”.

Good enough for me. Hominy Grill went right into the day plan.

It turned out that the restaurant is catty-corner* from R Table, the site of the previous night’s dinner.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

I started with fried green tomatoes. I wasn’t impressed.

I’d never had fried green tomatoes before, so I have no basis for comparison. Maybe it was because tomatoes are out of season, but the tomatoes had the texture of cucumbers.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Wow! Tom Sietsema was right about the shrimp and grits at Hominy Grill. Nobody else makes them like this. Unlike the traditional version of the dish, this one came without a creamy sauce, and those are bits of bacon scattered among the shrimp and mushrooms.

Excellent.


*Is “catty-corner” a mainstream word, or is it one of those terms that allows a skilled linguist to identify your hometown, because it’s only used colloquially in, say, rural northeastern Pennsylvania? It’s easy to guess where someone grew up, depending on whether they call a certain kind of sandwich a sub, a hoagie, a hero, a grinder, a po’boy or an Italian sandwich. Is “catty-corner” the same kind of indicator?

And what about “daresn’t”? Common where I come from, but I haven’t heard it since.