Category Archives: Restaurants

CNN’s Fantastic Images from Michelin Three Star Restaurants

Too pretty to eat!

CNN’s Travel section has posted a must-see gallery of breath-taking, mouth-watering images from some of Michelin’s Three Star Restaurants.

Included are pictures of works of art like the tomato confit with lobster salad and bonito from Eleven Madison Park, in New York (above) and the Sound of the Sea plate from The Fat Duck, in Bray, UK (below).

Time to start saving up for some high-end adventures, I think. I’ll start by cutting back on the avocado toast….

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Federalist Pig — Lunch on 17 September 2017

Sunday was a beautiful day in Washington, so I decided to journey up to Adams Morgan and try the new-to-me Federalist Pig for lunch. The restaurant has taken over the space formerly occupied by Döner Bistro, the awesome German-Turkish kebab place that I discovered much too late in its existence—it closed a few weeks after my first and only visit, and I’ve been craving kebab ever since.

Dining at Döner Bistro made me feel like I was back in Berlin.  A meal at Federalist Pig—Barbecue!—could only happen in the good ole USA.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the pictures, but Federalist Pig’s storefront is a painted image of a distressed American flag. It’s easier to see another of the restaurant’s distinctive features:  From what I’ve heard, there’s almost always a line out the door.

Sampler Platter

Sampler Platter

This is the reason for that line.

For my lunch, I ordered the Sampler Platter, which gives the diner their* choice of three meats and two side dishes. I chose brisket, turkey breast, and pork shoulder, with seasoned French fries and crispy Brussels sprouts as the sides.

The sprouts were deep-fried, and calling the fries “spicy” would be a serious understatement. For my taste, the brisket could have been a little more tender, but that’s a minor complaint. The serving size was generous—I couldn’t finish the dish.

Beautiful day, beautiful meal, beautiful new experience.


*Yes, I’ve surrendered. I’m now using the singular “their” and “they,”  because that battle has been lost. But I’ll fight to the death on the “hopefully” front, and I’ve got a restraining order to prevent anyone who uses the vile “pro-active” from coming within 30 feet of me.

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks — Final Notes

Although various Restaurant Week extensions in the Washingon, DC metro area run for another 10 days, my late summer adventure ends here. Once again, Life has gotten in the way. It has a nasty habit of doing that, at the most inconvenient times.

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I eat,” as Robert Frost didn’t quite say.

So here are the final notes.


I usually try for a balance between old favourites and new venues, but this summer tilted heavily toward the familiar. I was a first-time visitor to only three of the 10 restaurants on this summer’s list. That may partially account for why I was so rarely disappointed with my meals.

The only real letdown was Honeysuckle, with its tiny portions of less-than-memorable food. I may be judging them too severely, because I was so fond of Vidalia, the restaurant that used to occupy Honeysuckle’s space.

While almost everything I tried was good, certain dishes stood out.


Best Starter

Vermilion’s chilled corn soup with poached prawn salad was simply amazing. Beautiful to look at, extraordinary to eat.

Best Starter – Runner Up

The polpette at Bibiana were the best I’ve ever tasted. I only wish there had been more of these little Sicilian-style meatballs—I could have eaten a dozen.


Best Main

This was a three-way tie. There’s no way I could choose the best among these mains, because they were all perfection on a plate. (Oops. I just noticed that all of them were served in bowls, not on plates. I’ll update this if I ever think of an appropriate complimentary word that starts with the letter “B.” Gotta preserve that alliteration.)

The duck fricassee at Café du Parc, with slow cooked lentils, charred quince, pea tendrils, and those little roasted potatoes, was perfect for a rainy day meal.

Cioppino. At Tadich Grill. A classic.

Vermilion scores again, with pork tenderloin in a rich sauce.


Best Dessert

Café du Parc’s brilliant mixed seasonal berries with Grand Marnier sabayon was a clear winner in the dessert category.


Best All-Around Meal

Gotta be Alexandria Old Town’s Vermilion, for the flawless meal and the superb service.


That’s it for 2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks. I plan to spend a lot more time on home cooking now that it’s over. Starting after the long Labor Day weekend, my foodie project for September will focus on French bistro classics.

(Note to self: 2018 Winter Restaurant Weeks are only five and a half months away.)

Bibiana — Lunch on 24 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Three, Day Two

The restaurant of the day—make that the ristorante della giornata—was Bibiana, an elegant Italian member of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best dining establishments in Washington.*

(Years ago, Roger Price wrote a book that included a section on how to avoid people. He offered a list 10 sentences that were so profoundly dull they would immediately bring an end to any attempt to engage the speaker in further conversation. Two that I remember are “A girl I went to high school with works for the phone company” and “I used to live down that street.”)

I used to work in the building right across the street from this restaurant.

Polpette

Polpette

I had a special reason I wanted to eat at Bibiana.

When I was in Venice last spring, I had lunch at Ca’ D’Oro, a restaurant where, according to the Michelin Guide, “…the meatballs are…legendary.” Those legendary meatballs are called “polpette,” and Ca’ D’Oro’s were said to be the best in Venice.

I wasn’t impressed. I thought they were nowhere nearly as good as the polpette I’d had at Bibiana.

Had my memory been inaccurate? Time for a taste test.

Bibiana’s Sicilian-style meatballs with tomato sauce and white polenta won, hands down.

Dentice

My main was pan-seared Atlantic grouper. I had a little trouble identifying the vegetable component, which was eggplant caponata. I liked the slight lemony taste of the carrot purée, and the fish was perfect.

Dessert

A nice Baba al Rum for dessert, made with rum-soaked sponge cake, vanilla bean Chantilly fIlling, and pistachio gelato.


*The Oval Room and 701 are Knightsbridge restaurants. So are Rasika and its offshoot, Rasika West. Rasika has a good claim to being the best Indian restaurant in the US.

Vermilion — Lunch on 23 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Three, Day One

I have two or possibly three more places to try over the next few weeks, but my lunch at Vermilion, on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, has a lock as the best meal of 2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks.

Vermilion has always been wonderful. Since the last time I’d visited, though, the restaurant hired a new chef. Would he maintain Vermilion’s high standards?

Oh, yes!

Soup

Soup

This is a work of art. When the server placed it on my table, it looked so…so beautiful that I was reluctant to disturb it with my soup spoon.

At the center of this Chilled Corn Soup is an island of poached prawn salad, flavoured with lemon verbena leaves.

It tasted every bit as good as it looked. A phenomenal dish.

Pork

Pork

The main was perfectly cooked Pork Tenderloin, in a rich buttery sauce with summer shelling beans.

I’d thought that any dish following that soup would suffer in comparison. I was wrong. This was another stunningly good course.

And then came desserts.

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake

Yes, desserts, plural. I’d ordered the Olive Oil Cake, with its perfect strawberries, mascarpone, fennel pollen, honey, and sea salt.

In New Orleans restaurants, you occasionally get rewarded with something called a “lagniappe.”  A lagniappe is a complimentary bonus, like the 13th doughnut in a baker’s dozen.

At Vermilion, the chef, who may have overheard my sighs of delight and squeals of pure joy as I devoured the first two courses, sent out a second dessert as a little lagniappe.

What can I say? This was a perfect meal.


My Lagniappe

Lemon And Poppy Seed Fritter

Lemon and Poppy Seed Fritter with blueberry compote and whipped cream.

Texas de Brazil — Lunch on 20 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Two, Day Six

And now for something a little different…

Texas de Brazil is a chain of Churrascaria restaurants with branches in 18 states and a half-dozen foreign countries, from Aruba to Saudi Arabia. “Churrasco” is Portuguese for “barbecue,” and churrasco-style grilled meats are a staple in Brazil.

At Texas de Brazil, guests pay a fixed price, which entitles them to all they choose to eat. The meal starts with a visit to the salad bar.

From the salad bar

From the salad bar

That’s where the first rule of churrascaria dining comes into play:  Tempting though some of those 50 items at the salad bar might be, don’t overdo it. You’re here for the grilled meat, and if you fill up on potato salad and Imported artisan cheeses, you won’t be hungry when the herb-marinated pork loin comes around.

I tried, with moderate success, to limit my selection to only those things that were irresistible:  Grilled red peppers with capers, artichoke hearts, salmon, heart of palm, and roasted garlic. And bacon. Who can resist bacon?

First up

First up

With the starter out of the way, I was ready for the main event.

Here’s how it works:  At the beginning of the meal, you’re given a coaster-sized disk. One side is green, to let the passadores—the “meat waiters”—know that you’re ready to have a look at what’s available.  The other side is red, indicating that your plate is already overflowing, or that you’re resting between nibbles, or that you’re waiting for your cholesterol level to drop out of the red zone before taking another bite. You can start and stop service as often as you want.

The passadores constantly navigate the room, each with a different selection, which is speared on a big skewer.  The selections are things like leg of lamb, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, pork ribs, garlic picanha, and Brazilian sausage.

Over the falls we go…

From that point on, it’s a hedonistic feast, which only ends when you decide you’ve had enough.

It’s not haute cuisine, but it’s helluva fun.


The Washington branch of Texas de Brazil is huge. I went on a Sunday afternoon, and the crowd was a typical Washington mix: Millennials in casual clothes sitting next to a group of about 20 people who looked like they were coming from a church service, gay couples and extended Latinx families, and the inevitable tourists.

Here are a couple of pictures of the interior:

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