Thursday, December 30, 2010

Have Yourself a Tasty Little Christmas: 1789

The Tombs Decked Out for 1789 Christmas Eve Patrons

Though we have called DC -- okay, technically, Arlington -- home, for five and a half years, this was the first Christmas that we have spent in the metro area.  After a warm, delicious, and festive Christmas Eve dinner at 1789, this dining experience may become a new yearly tradition.

Given its proximity to Georgetown's Holy Trinity Church, 1789 is a tough reservation to be had for Christmas Eve, and we were lucky to secure a table at 8 about three weeks prior.  We have dined at 1789 before, but never during the holidays.  The festive decor, garlands, and greenery throughout its series of dining rooms exuded holiday comfort.  Add to that the surprise of carolers and the space transformed into a Christmas scene right out of a Charles Dickens novel!  And despite what sounds like an excess of holiday cheer, 1789 managed to be festive without being cheesy.

From start to finish the experience was exceptional.  The restaurant was well prepared for the crowds and opened the cozy--yet normally filled with Georgetown students--basement bar, the Tombs, exclusively for 1789 patrons waiting for their reservation.  The blazing fire, and gratis beer, wine, and champagne, was a wonderful start to the evening, and kept everyone in the holiday spirit!

The service upstairs was attentive, and with the exception of a slight delay in our entrees, spot on all night. It being a holiday, we we did not exercise restraint, so please do not be alarmed by the bevy of food photographs and descriptions that follow.

1789: Beef Carpaccio with Hard Boiled Quail Egg, Garlic Chips, Capers,
and Chili Oil

This split portion of the carpaccio was decadent with a silky, smooth texture and overall richness enhanced by the quail egg.  The capers and the garlic chips were a nice salty contrast.

1789 Mushroom Tart

The amount of wild mushrooms crammed ever so carefully into the puff pastry was quite the feat.  This earthy dish was my favorite of the night.

1789: Raspberry Point Oyster Gratin 

The oysters were plump and juicy topped with house cured bacon and tangy gruyere cheese.

1789: The Christmas Goose

The carolers propelled me to go Dickinsonian and order the Christmas goose.  I had actually never eaten goose before, but was quite impressed with this grass fed option atop a turnip puree.  The meat was not overly gamey, but tender and almost like a cross between chicken and a fillet (for lack of a better comparison).  The caramelized dark meat atop the breast melted in your mouth.  Long live the Christmas goose!

1789: Prime Rib

B opted for the prime rib, a thin cut which he described as succulent and rich in its au jus.

1789: Eggnog Bread Pudding

We of course had to have dessert, but after all that food decided to share.  The eggnog bread pudding was a delicious take on a holiday classic, amped up with housemade chocolate ice cream, butterscotch roasted pecans, and sour cherries. Even more rich!

1789: Cocoa Dusted Hazlenuts

And to make the evening and the following day a little bit sweeter, Christmas Eve diners left with a present of cocoa dusted hazlenuts.

1789 provided a delightful atmosphere and delicious food from start to finish.  Entree prices hover in the mid to high 30s, and our dinner, with $20 corkage (we brought an amazing 2000 Margaux that was gifted to us), the myriad of food described above, tax, and tip came to $190.

1789 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Oprah, you can always pre-order!"

Stop in the Name of Cupckaes -- July 2010

The crescendo of DC cupcake madness is about to hit an even higher decibel.  None other than the infamous cupcake sisters of Georgetown Cupcake appeared on Oprah today to make a slightly terrifying combination of champagne, cupcakes, and chocolate -- all in a champagne flute -- which was oh-so-cleverly named Strawberry Champagne Sparkler Cupcakes.  And you thought 2010 was the height of the DC cupcake madness.

We also learned some facts better left unsaid -- did you know Katherine wore two pairs of Spanks to the Oprah show?

Did you want to know that?  Not I.

We can also breathe a sigh of relief, as DC will once again be front and center in the reality TV world since  DC Cupcakes will air new episodes on TLC in February. 

Until then, heed the advise that Katherine nervously gave Oprah when Oprah lamented  not being able to get into the shop on a recent visit to DC (like you, I highly doubt the validity of this statement)... "you can always pre-order!"

Georgetown Cupcake on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

...but chocolate is always delightful.  If you need a pick-me-up before the holiday, Gallery Place has two sweet options.

Before browsing the downtown holiday market (which continues through Thursday), I recommend you head to Co Co Sala, belly up to the bar, and order one of their utterly indulgent, rich, and delicious cups.  You can choose from dark chocolate, salted caramel, or pumpkin spice.  For $6, this shareable cup of richness is a treat.  I wish they would sell these concoctions at their to-go shop, or, at the very least, in smaller portions to-go. But you can opt for any of these choices frozen in the rare event of a holiday heat wave.

Co Co Sala Dark Hot Chocolate

Co Co. Sala on Urbanspoon

If you want a bit more oomph with your chocolate, walk up a few blocks to Poste.  Their chipotle spiked hot varietal ($11) couples smooth chocolate with a stiff kick of rum and bourbon.

Poste Modern Bistro Spiked Chipotle Hot Chocolate

I highly recommend either option for a treat that will definitely put a smile on your face, and provide just the right amount of liquid heat to brave the cold.

Poste on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lunch Break: Merzi

Merzi: Chaat with Tandassori Chicken and Potato Tikka

Think Chipotle, but inspired from an altogether different continent.  That is pretty much the idea behind Penn Quarter's Merzi, the first of what the owner intends to turn into a chain of accessible, healthy Indian food outposts across the country.  Whether I like to admit it or not, I really like Chipotle (yes, I know it is was owned by McDonald's parent company), and thus far, the same is true for Merzi. 

The food is fresh and healthy with options ranging from chickpeas and black-eyed peas to grass fed lamb, spicy chutneys, tangy yogurt sauces, and baked samosas.  I suppose there could be hundreds of combinations.  And on two visits so far, while the service speed is not yet up to the Chipotle standard, the ingredients are just as consistently fresh and delicious.  The owner is on-site, engaged, and actively taking feedback.

On my first visit I enlisted my Indian friends T and S for help navigating the menu and to get their fellow-foodie take on this concept.  Given the sparse menu board descriptions, I was very happy to have their help, but I also discovered there are printed menus for the more novice eaters.  While I was taken with the concept and the food, they were not so sure -- this was in no way traditional Indian food -- but, to me at least, it was pretty darn good, and we all raved about the tenderness of chicken.  I brought B along on my second visit, and he could not get enough.

For about $7 a fast, Indian-inspired, healthy feast is all yours.  I hope this concept catches on because let's face it, fast food lunch options could use some spice!

Merzi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revisiting Ris

Ris Rush Hour at the Bar from 4 - 6:30pm
$5 wine options and $6 speciality cocktails

I wonder if the conundrum of where to eat before a show at the Kennedy Center might plague other food-minded theater-goers.  On the high-end, there is Marcel's, which even comes with complimentary car service.  But where do you go if you are looking for something nice without breaking the bank?  Our answer last week was the West End's Ris, which is a nice stroll--or a very short cab ride--away from the theater.

This past trip, we were happy to experience the same attentive service, relaxing ambiance, and playful takes on classic American fare that we had seen during our pilgrim voyage to Ris last winter.  Another constant, given its location adjacent to the lobby of the Ritz residences, is that the fellow dining room clients (at least at 6pm) can give the atmosphere the twinge of an upscale cafeteria for the geriatric set.  But youthful playfulness returns with the first sip of a creative cocktail: Harvestini anyone?

Ris: Charcuterie Plate

We started with light, plump, salty oysters on the half-shell (not pictured), before moving onto to this rich, but playfully presented plate.  I adored the smooth duck liver parfait, and the foie gras torchon with port poached figs came in a close second.  The dish also included pork rillettes with Dijon potato salad, veal terraine, and prosciutto with grilled pear and blue whipped cream.

Ris: Monkfish Ossobuco over Lobster Risotto

This bone-in monkfish got a treatment often reserved for veal.  The lobster risotto added to the richness, making this fish-centered dish fit for a cold evening.

Ris: Braised Lamb Shank
This is my favorite preparation of lamb shank anywhere in DC.  A caramelized crust gives way to succulent and juicy meat, while the chickpeas, tangy yogurt, pita, pomegranate, mint and pine nuts lend a Mediterranean flair.  And it tastes as good as it looks.

Dinner for two with a half dozen oysters, charcuterie plate, two entrees, two glasses of Prosecco, two glasses of wine, tax and tip was $165.  To make this an even more affordable theatre dining experience, check out the Marquee menu available before 6:30 and after 10 featuring three courses for $35.

Ris on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lunch Break: Fireworks 3 "g's" Grilled Cheese

Fireworks: 3  "g's" Grilled Cheese Sandwich

As readers know, Fireworks is one of my favorite new neighborhood restaurants this year, owing to the fabulous wood-fired pizzas, rotating 30 plus tap beer selection, and consistently friendly, engaged, efficient service.  On this past, rainy Sunday, my fondness for the restaurant grew even more thanks to their 3 g's grilled cheese.

Craving comfort food on a raw Sunday afternoon, B and I originally thought of hitting Tallulah, which used to have a grilled cheese/tomato soup combo on their brunch menu.  Alas, this is no longer the case. So walking by Fireworks we were happy to see that they do offer a grilled cheese sandwich.  We ducked out of the rain and went in to give it a whirl.

Fireworks 3g's grilled cheese sandwich is an utter indulgence, perfect for a cold day.  It oozes with smoked gouda, goat, and gruyere cheeses.  The buttery toasted bread provides the perfect vehicle for this triad of cheeses.  And the tomato jam has just enough acidity to cut the sweetness.  The accompanying side of housemade potato crisps are addictive, but the sandwich is more than an ample lunch in and of itself.

Fireworks also offers a tomato soup -- wouldn't it be great if they started a soup and half sandwich combo?  Hint, hint. 

Until then, when I am seeking the gooey comfort of a grilled cheese, I will be back for this $7 delight.

Fire Works Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cocktail with the Blue Light On: PX

PX: Two Cocktail Hunters Outside the Infamous PX Blue Light

It is hard to believe that PX has been open since 2006 and harder to believe that it has taken us over three years to try it out.  That is not to say that we haven't enjoyed the mastery and pageantry of Todd Thrasher's cocktails at Restaurant Eve, toasting to our 30th birthday, as well as at other events around town.  We have always been impressed with his unique creations and takes on classics.  Thrasher elevates both simple and complicated cocktails to an art-form, which are all center stage at his homage to the cocktail, PX.

Todd Thrasher Cocktail Master at Taste of the Nation 2010

The reason for our hesitancy in heading to PX was a combination of not wanting to trek to Old Town Alexandria for a cocktail as well as my continued failure to understand the speakeasy trend -- new a few years ago, but now a mainstay in the DC going-out scene with places like the Gibson and the Columbia Room.  Yes, Eating Around DC can be a late adopter.

PX is open from Wednesday - Saturday at 6; when the blue light is on, cocktails are flowing.  PX takes reservations for tables and walk-ins can ring the doorbell and see if space is available at the bar.  This strict policy means no one standing over you ordering a drink, which results in a fabulous, non-cluttered bar ambiance.

Entering PX is like stepping back in time.  You climb a narrow, creaky, candlelit staircase, to a very dimly also candlelit series of rooms in an Old Row House (upstairs from Armstrong's Eamonn's Dublin Chipper).  The darkly-lit wooden bar looks like a pharmacy with viles of hand made tonics and mixers.

The menu is a bit difficult to see by candlelight, but offers about 30 creations which range from the classic gin and house-made tonic, to the exotic including such ingredients as egg creams and burnt orange peels.  The bartender carefully makes each drink, served in rounded martini glasses or tumblers with perfectly square ice cubes.  It is nothing short of a shaking, stirring, flaming, cocktail pageant.

B adores gin, but was equally as enamored (excuse the glowing adjectives, but they are warranted) with a twist on the classic Manhattan.  My latest drink involved the aforementioned burnt orange peel and about seven other ingredients.  Since taking pictures or notes would have ruined the atmosphere, those are the only details I can recall!

Drinks average around $12 including the free cocktail show that comes with every order!

PX on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Georgetown Dessert Wars Loom

It is no secret that Manhattan's Serendipity will open an outpost sometime this year/early next on the corner of Wisconsin and M, in the old Nathan's space.  I think the trademark larger-than-life frozen hot chocolate sounds like a great antidote to the nasty July and August DC heat.

Future Home of Serendipity DC

But it also appears a West Coast transplant is soon coming to M Street too, with a Sprinkles location set to open in January a bit further down the block.  Direct cupcake competition!

Future Home of Sprinkles Cupcakes DC

Are the reality-show inspiring divas and/or hipsters of more subtle national acclaim ready for the invasion?  Based on the adorable mini-cupcakes gracing Merriment in Georgetown Sunday, it appears they may kill the competition with cuteness.

Georgetown Cupcakes Mini-Red Velvet with Rudolph Fondant

Get ready for some major dessert choices, Georgetown!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Name's Bond, Bond 45

The prospect of going outside the Beltway to dine is not a decision I take lightly; in fact, I am almost always opposed to battling traffic and enduring the cookie-cutter, soul-sapping quality of many a DC suburb. That is probably why it took B and me so long to venture to the National Harbor, which, to be fair, is just outside the Beltway and about fifteen minutes from DC without traffic. The reason for this adventure, a new culinary conquest: Bond 45.

I am happy to report it was worth the trip!  The National Harbor is anchored by the enormous, garish Gaylord Hotel, but includes what seems to be a growing compound of shops, restaurants, and other hotels.  What surprised me most about this area were the views.  The lighting of the several bridges is actually quite a nice contrast against the Potomac.  You really get a different perspective, actually appreciating the Wilson Bridge for its architecture verses cursing it for its traffic.

After enjoying the view, briefly, due to a blustery winter wind, we headed to our destination.  Stepping inside Bond 45 was like entering an old New York institution.  You can feel the NYC influence of the original Bond 45 in this, its second iteration.  Dark wood, tiled floors, a dimly lit bar.

Bond 45 is foremost a steakhouse and offers extremely flavorful, corn fed, 28-day dry aged beef aged on salt slabs.  But unlike your standard steakhouse, Bond 45 also has a talented Italian chef, Enzo Febbraro.  The toughest part of the night is to decide whether to go with the steak or opt for one of the many traditional (and non-traditional) Italian offerings.

Bond 45: 28 Day Dry Aged Steak

Every dish at Bond 45 was larger-than-life. Huge popovers akin to BLT Steak start the meal.  And while bigger is not always better, that is not the case here.  A prime example and my favorite dish of the night is the Fravoli.  These raviolis are the size of your head.  Breaking into the buttery prosciutto de Parma encrusted treat reveals gooey and addictive stracchino and mozzarella cheeses.  For me, this indulgence (along with a glass of prosecco) is worth the trip alone.

Bond 45: Fravoli Grande

Readers may know my love for a good cheese course.  I thought the star of the sampler, which is definitely meant for sharing with a group of at least 4 people, was not the mozzarella, but the spicy, housemade ricotta.  The contrast between the sweetness of the ricotta and the what I think was jalapeno bites, made for a great before entree palate pleaser.

Bond 45: Mozarella Mista Platter

Remember: everything is big and shareable. The veal chop parmigiana would easily feed two if not four.  This classic Italian-American dish is tender, beautiful, and as you will see below, there is no shortage of cheese (just in case you didn't get enough in that cheese sampler!).

Bond 45: Veal Chop Parmigiana

The 101 layer lasagna alternates a purported 50 pasta layers with 51 layers of bolognese sauce.  The pasta was tender, but still stood up to the rich sauce.  I was worried  that given all the layers, this might congeal into a mass, but you could actually see and taste each layer.  Though, let me honest, I did not count, so I can't actually verify that it had all 101 layers.

Bond 45: 101 Layer Lasagna

I am no stranger to chocolate mousse, though this is the first time I have been served from a bucket.  I am not going to lie, this over-the top presentation was fun, and the mousse airy, rich, and decadent, though Ray's the Steaks still takes the cake on this dish.

Bond 45: Chocolate Mousse Presentation
Bond 45: Chocolate Mousse

Bond 45 is not an inexpensive evening.  Appetizers range from $6 - 19, and entrees at steakhouse prices $29 - $58.  It is worth the splurge to experience the traditional fare as well as innovative twists on Italian classics.  And in case you failed to notice: THE PORTIONS ARE HUGE. And yes, it is outside the beltway, so somewhere between DC and a Food Field Trip, but worth the drive for a special occasion or as a great diversion if you have guests in town.

Bond 45 on Urbanspoon