Thursday, July 14, 2011

Medium Rare Heats up Cleveland Park

Medium Rare is an impressive one-trick pony.  For $19.95 you get an uber-fresh mixed green salad accompanied by rustic bread, prime, dry aged cap steak, thinly sliced, cooked to order, which is served with a secret sauce and flanked by hand cut fries.

The influence of Ray's the Steaks--where manager Brian Zipin had a brief stint following a very successful run at Central--is apparent in the stripped down dining room and limited menu.  Like the original Ray's, there is a warm intimate neighborhood feel, perhaps owing to the fact that Medium Rare's space is small and that it does not take reservations.  While a line reportedly starts forming at 5pm on weekends, B and I walked in for dinner last Wednesday with no wait.

The service was friendly and efficient.  Waiters note drink orders and steak preferences on the butcher block paper, which covers the table.  The limited wine and beer list is moderately priced and well-suited to the menu. 

What it does it does excellently.  I am pretty sure the crusty, warm bread is the same that is served at Central.  The mixed green salad's crisp butter lettuce is tossed with a lovely vinaigrette.  The steak comes out in two parts--so do not dismay if your original serving size does not meet expectations.  Upon completing your first course, a server will be back around--without you having to ask--with more steak and fries.  Trust me, you will want both. 

The dessert menu offers the only choice of the evening (unless you are a vegetarian and opt for the portebella mushroom in place of the steak).  With five alluring options (carrot cake, cheesecake, etc), I could not pass up the massive hot fudge sundae.  Rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream, and nuts top the luscious fudge and creamy vanilla ice cream.  Desserts are sized to share among two if not three or four people.

Medium Rare is just as playful with its soundtrack, which is somewhere between Five Guys and Mario Batali's rock-fueled NYC dining rooms.  And on a bathroom break you can learn French pick up lines akin to "my apartment has a hot tub," making it a great date option!

Medium Rare on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As the Heat Wave Subsides, the Races Begin!

Once this oppressive heat releases DC from its grasp and hungry Washingtonians can again leave their cubicles for lunch, try out a unique Bastille Day Celebration this Thursday.  Since I work in Tyson's, I will be unable to carry the baguette baton, but you can!  Check out the details below from Paul Bakery.

Remember when Les Halles used to have its Bastille Bartender Race down Pennsylvania Ave??? All of DC came out and had a blast watching the bartenders race down the street holding an open bottle of champagne on a tray. Well… now that Les Halles is gone, and there’s a new FRENCH establishment on Pennsylvania Avenue, PAUL Bakery and Café’ is creating a new Bastille Day tradition of its own! This Thursday, July 14th, PAUL will throw a “Bastille Day Baguette Relay Race” and the public is invited to join in the fun and participate!!!

To commemorate France’s National Holiday, PAUL – France’s leading bakery – invites the public to come have some fun and participate in a “Baguette Relay Race” which will take place in front of PAUL in Penn Quarter, where relay team members will take turns running a lap around the plaza of the US Navy Memorial with a fresh baguette in hand, in lieu of a traditional baton.

We'll divide up racers into teams of six people. Each team will be led by a PAUL employee. Each racer will do one lap around the circle of the US Navy Memorial and then hand off his/her baguette (baton) to the next teammate. All members of the winning team will get a $25 gift card to PAUL. We'll be encouraging relay racers to sign up in advance on our FB page.

When: Thursday, July 14, 2001 at 11:30am

PAUL Bakery and Café in Penn Qtr. (at the US Navy Memorial)
801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Tel: 202-524-4500/01

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fancy Food Show, Tired Feet

Thanks to Daphne, the mastermind behind Go Gastronomy, I had the opportunity to spend Sunday working the Skillet Bacon Spread booth at the National Fancy Food Show.  This massive annual trade event brings the nuts and bolts of the food industry together to see the latest and greatest 180,000+ fine food products.  Ranging from meat and cheeses to gelato to bacon spread (of course), the term fancy is a loose one.  But a chance encounter at this event is how Ben and Jerry's reached the masses.  Normally held in New York City, DC got lucky this year and next due to construction at NYC's Javits Center.

The scale of this conference is enormous. I was overwhelmed by the number of products and volume of people.  But, I had a job to do.  Along with bacon spread creator, Seattle street-food pioneer and burgeoning Food/Cooking Network celeb chef Josh Hendersen, fellow DC food blogger Bindesh of DesiGrub and I prepared bacon spread for thousands.  I quickly got up to speed on the Seattle foodie scene (perhaps my next food field trip?!) as well as all things bacon spread.  And soon I was busy preparing samples consisting of a cracker topped with a dollop of the spread capped off with brie and an arugula leaf.

This unique concoction, originally conceived as an indulgent spread for a burger, starts with non-cured Neiman Ranch bacon rendered down for hours with brown sugar, onions, and spices. The result is “spreadable bacony goodness.”  The spread is an ingenious yet simple mix of both savory and sweet.  It was incredibly exciting to watch people take a sample and begin to walk away from the booth; then the bacon spread hit their tongue.  Hundreds of people turned around and exclaimed their love of the product.  My short employment at the booth may have made me biased, but I think the Skillet Bacon Spread was the most unique item at this year's show.  And that is even after sampling hundreds of offerings and of course, preparing samples for hours. I think I may even still smell of bacon!

My foray into the industry taught me such key terms as "shelf stable" (a product that does not require refrigeration to ship or display) and the contrast between retail and wholesale sizing and pricing.  It also taught me that while my day job taxes my mind, it is nothing compared to standing up for eight hours doing food service work.  Picture something akin to the I Love Lucy episode where she is frantically wrapping chocolates.  It took me (Bindesh was much more adept) a while to get into the swing of things, and just like in I Love Lucy, it was so hard to keep from sampling (er, ensuring quality control).  

So alert the masses, Bacon Spread is here to stay!

Friday, July 8, 2011

IPA Anyone?

How does a cold IPA sound on a steamy July afternoon?  Domestic, International, Black, Imperial, or even a Wheat IPA?  Salivating yet... that is how B and I felt when we stumbled upon "JulyPA" at Pizzeria Paradiso last weekend.  All locations are offering the month-long special of nothing but IPAs on tap, but the cozy basement beer bar at the original Georgetown location remains my favorite.  You can indulge in individual pours, or if the decision is just too overwhelming after a long week, opt for a sample flight (three for $9, four for $11).  Short of diving headlong into an ice cold swimming pool, I can't think of a better way to beat the DC summer heat.

Birreria Paradiso on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hot Dog, Summer in the City

Shake Shack DC Shack-Cago Dog

Though not as quaint as the Manhattan original, Shake Shack has arrived just in time to satisfy Washingtonians' cravings for summertime classics, even if it is not the best choice for getting into bathing suit shape.  At first glance, the food looks like amped-up cafeteria fare, but do not be fooled, these snack stand indulgences -- from shakes to burgers to dogs to fries -- are the real deal.  Accouterments, such as garden fresh veggies and flavorful potato buns, take everything up a notch.

When Shake Shack opened its doors in Dupont Circle earlier this summer, the lines extended around the block.  Fortunately, last week at dinner time on a Wednesday, I found nary a wait.  As each item is prepared to order, there is however a ten minute lag time between ordering and your food hitting the counter.

The Shack Cago ($4) brings the hot dog to new heights.  A Vienna all beef hot dog is "dragged through the garden," where it picks up relish, onions, pickles, tomatoes, and hot peppers.  Packaged in a potato bun, this mess is not date food!  The richness of the hot dog is complimented by the sweet bun and crisp vegetables. 

The yukon gold French fries ($2.65 - $3.65) are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  And while great just plain, they are positively addictive with the addition of the cheddar and American cheese sauce.

A meal here is not complete without a frozen treat.  The DC location offers their famous"Concrete" (a custard based Blizzard type concoction) in half sizes.  DC-themed creations include the Washington Monu-Mint, a chocolate custard base flecked with minted marshmallow and the chocolate truffle cookie dough that I fell in love with at Manhattan's Shake Shack.

So if this heat and humidity is dampening your spirits, head to Shake Shack for a classic summertime pick-me up.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon