Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tasting History at America Eats Tavern


There are times when even in August, the cruelest month in DC, when I think, wow, I am still so lucky to live here.  Dinner at America Eats Tavern last Sunday was one of those times.  Where else but in Washington can you learn about the far-reaching effects of government policies on food consumption and then walk a few blocks to taste the history?!

I have twice before in this town tried eating history, and on one of these occasions  thought I would have been a much more svelte human being if I were to have lived through colonial times.  But dinner at America Eats Tavern is making me question my original judgment of early American fare.

A partnership between Jose Andres and the National Archives exhibit, What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?,  America Eats is a “pop-up” restaurant which (appropriately) debuted on July 4th and is slated to remain open until January.  The menu is the result of countless hours of historical research (and is akin to reading, in a fun way, a history textbook) and reinterpretations of American classics dishes from cocktails to desserts.  More casual fare is available in the open-seating bar area on the first floor.

Pictures of Americans eating through the ages adorn the former (and still cramped) Cafe Atlantico space.  The menu explains the origin and history of every dish and the wait staff provide thorough detail on their modern interpretation.  Highlights of our meal included "vermicelli prepared like pudding," which was topped by a salty parmesan crust and accompanied by meaty mushrooms and de-boned buffalo wings, which were thus totally appropriate for white table cloth dining.  Crab cakes were paired with a salad of juicy watermelon, pungent goat cheese, and pickled rind.  And for dessert fresh strawberries were hollowed out and filled with strawberry gelatin and sandwiched between flaky, thin shortcake.  And all our cocktails--from the Martini to the Moscow Mule to the Whiskey Sour to the Brooklyn--did not disappoint.

Several dishes are only available certain days of the week, so I now have the perfect excuse to go back and try the rest of the menu!  I also cannot think of a more fun way to expose out-of-town guests to DC.  While the service was a bit slow at times (though I've found this is not unusual for Sunday night dining), the wait staff was responsive and knowledgeable.  Reservations fill up a few weeks in advance, so plan ahead.  Dinner for two with way too many appetizers, entrees, dessert, four cocktails, tax and tip was $200.
America Eats Tavern on Urbanspoon

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