Tag Archives: Lunch

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!


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.

A Late Lunch at Fatál, and the End of Another Adventure

For my last meal in Budapest, I went back to an old favourite. The restaurant is called Fatál, and it’s just off Vaci Utci, a couple of blocks from my hotel. Despite the hint of Eastern European intrigue suggested by the name, “Fatál” simply means “wooden bowl” in Hungarian.

The entrance to Fatál isn’t very impressive, but good stuff awaits within. You descend a dark flight of stairs and find yourself in one of those dimly lit, arched underground dining rooms that are so common in the East.

I knew enough to order only a main course. Even in Hungary, with its notoriously oversized portions, Fatál is famous for its generosity. Servings come in pots and pans because they’re too large for plates. The American “doggie bag” concept isn’t all that widely accepted in much of Europe, but, as my server said, “It’s not only allowed here, it’s required.”

None of that would have mattered, of course, if the food hadn’t been so very good. My meal—meals, actually—of Roasted Pork Brasso Style with spicy fried potato was a perfect example of Hungarian home cooking.

Roasted Pork

The check arrived, effectively signaling the end of my Budapest adventure, and, clutching my doggie bag, I went back to the hotel to pack for the trip home to Washington. That’s always a bittersweet task.

There are too many unexplored cities, too many life-changing experiences, far too much beauty, and an infinite number of undiscovered pleasures in the world.

And never, never, never enough time.

2017 Cookery Project — Christmas Meal

Christmas Meal, 2017

Christmas Meal, 2017

I’m not sure what exactly this is, because it’s somewhere between lunch and dinner. Dunch? Linner?

Whatever we call it, it’s a very full plate of very good food. It’s also, almost certainly, the final meal of the 2017 Cookery Project.

Going clockwise, we have roasted pork loin with dried California peaches, pan drippings seasoned with orange juice, and cilantro. The potatoes were roasted with tarragon, and the Brussels sprouts were cooked with golden raisins and shallots, then sprinkled with crumbled bacon.

Not the traditional turkey or goose, but a nice change. Colourful, isn’t it?

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Venison Stew and Crème Brûlée at Ruben

So many restaurants, so little time.

My days in Budapest were dwindling, and I still had, oh, 40 or 50 restaurants on my Must Try list. That would be hard absolutely impossible to do in the remaining time, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take advantage of the Super Secret Foreign Travel Benefit that Nobody Talks About.*

Ruben, with its wine bar atmosphere, was at the top of the list.


I’d dined on wild boar and goose leg at earlier meals, so I finished the great Hungarian trifecta with venison. This spiced venison stew with red wine was served with toast to mop up the sauce.

Crème Brûlée

Not just crème brûlée. Raspberry-lavender crème brûlée.

You really can’t get much more elegant than that.

*OK, because you’ve read this far, here’s the Super Secret Foreign Travel Benefit that Nobody Talks About: 

No matter what I eat, I don’t gain weight when I’m traveling. I attribute this to the fact that when I’m in a foreign city, I actually spend almost as much time walking as I claim to do in Washington when my doctor asks me how much exercise I’m getting.

Either that, or it has something to do with the metric system.

Wild Boar Stew and Shrimp with Bleu Cheese at Károlyi Étterem

Károlyi Étterem

Károlyi Étterem, tucked away in a courtyard of the Károlyi Palace, is one of Budapest’s finest restaurants. My lunch there was superb.

Shrimp Appetiser

How did I miss this? Looking back, I honestly can’t remember eating a dish that mated shrimp with bleu cheese before this meal, but I’ve since found dozens of recipes that combine them. So two of my favourite tastes turn out to be complementary.

I suppose it would be pushing things to add raspberries to the mix.

The side of dill vegetables tasted as fresh as if they’d been picked minutes before I ordered them.

Wild Boar Stew

The stew in the center was made with wild boar, and it’s one of the reasons I was so eager to return to Budapest. It was served with quince and potato croquettes.

Chestnut Mousse

Dessert was an elegant chestnut mousse with chili cherry.

2017 Cookery Project — Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

It’s getting close to the end of the year, and this might be the last posted meal of the 2017 Cookery Project. Or maybe not.

I went to some old printed cookbooks for the recipes for today’s lunch. The Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion recipe came from a 1994 book called The Easier You Make It, the Better It Tastes. After carmelizing sliced apples and onions, I put them on top of chicken breasts that had been on slathered with sour cream and seasoned with basil. Each chicken breast went into a tightly sealed aluminum foil packet and baked for half an hour.

The glazed carrots came from a 1981 book called Dinner for Two, and featured Hungarian paprika—guess where that came from—and a bit of brown sugar.

It was a good meal, but it didn’t look v interesting.  The white-on-white-on-white of apples and onions on sour cream on chicken breast seems bland.

Needs a touch of green on the plate, doesn’t it?

2018 New Year’s Resolution Number 2

Work on more creative plating for food photography.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.