Other appropriate names for this post:
We're Number One
How The Other Half Lives
Hm--I Don't Know What It Is But It Tastes Great
Foie Who?

The experience I had at Michel Richard's Central last spring, while very pleasant, does not even fall upon the same map as what happened to me yesterday. We arrived at Citronelle and our friends were stuck in traffic--we later found that this doesn't matter when your dinner is 5 hours long, because they aren't expecting to ever turn your table over. Until tomorrow. Hah.

When you walk through the doors you are at the bar, and down a few stairs a friendly-looking man is smiling at you, wondering if he can lead you to your table downstairs. And he did.

We had the nine course tasting menu, and I wouldn't have done anything differently. The idea of fifteen was a little scary, and any less than nine would have sacrificed the experience of tasting more of the kitchen's magical creations.

As a whole, the menu was fantastic. I tried foods I'd never had before, and even if I had, those foods took on a completely new and unexpected form. The wine was incredible (we shared two bottles, one white and one red, instead of doing the pairings), the sommelier was so adorable we wanted to take him home with us (yes, and he was very learned in the ways of wine selection), and the thick pieces of crusty bread kept reappearing on my plate all night long. At first I was confused, because I was sure I had eaten it all, but BAM there it was again.

While everyone had a different opinion about what was out-of-this-world, I'll give you my highlights from the complete menu, or at least my favorite part of each dish.

1. Amouse bouche: The escargot crumble (crumble being mainly pistachio nuts) was the most incredible item on the plate, but best presentation goes to the egg surprise (cauliflower mousse topped with tiny pieces of smoked salmon, inside a perfectly-lengthwise-cut hollowed eggshell with a tiny round handle glued (?) to the top half).

2. The chestnut-peanut soup was smooth and rich, not too peanut-y.

3. I liked the abalone, but can't explain why. Leave me alone!

4. The sablefish was marinated in miso for three days, and you can taste that fact. The top had those delicious flavors, while the inside was creamy and just melted in my mouth. The temperature was nice and hot, but the fish was still so moist.

5. My favorite part of the fun lobster burger was the incredibly tiny and perfect fresh bun and the homemade potato chips that tasted like a piece of heaven. A friend said they were "salty" but I respectfully dissent!

6. The veal steak was tender and flavorful, and the sweetbreads, despite their happy sounding name, come from a strange place--but they tasted great to me, almost in a crispy outside--it seemed like if you had breaded and fried something with the consistency of a soft fresh mozzarella, very smooth and creamy.

7. The imported cheeses were great, I loved the goat and the blue (bleu?) in particular. J & I were surprised at how well the dark raisin/pistachio bread slices we received complimented the cheese so well. How can we be skeptical of these people, they clearly know best, but still--he's not the biggest fan of raisins OR nuts. If there was ever a time for us to trust the chef, it was last night.

8. Jolie Pomme: This deconstructed caramel apple might have been my favorite dish--definitely my favorite "dessert." The most real tasting mini-apple-shaped granny-smith-apple sorbet with a vanilla/cinnamon piece of bark for a stem, sitting on just enough caramel. Those are paper-thin slices of apple in the photo. which tasted almost like a sugary-candy that melts on your tongue, but we were assured they were real apple. Photo credit to Washingtonian magazine.

9. The chocolate three ways had one piece I found bland, the white chocolate panna cotta, but the middle piece was a gem--very cold chocolate-shell-covered chocolate mousse on a mini popsicle stick. It was good AND fun to eat.

10. The petit fours gave me an unexpected (and unwanted) surprise in the chocolate/raspberry malt ball. But another, what seemed to be a ball of white chocolate with a lemon meringue pie explosion inside, was very fun. Dessert in one bite.

Will I go back? If I can, I will--but it may take years. I had never been exposed to a tasting menu before, and it's everything I've ever wanted (besides good health, world peace, safe families, etc etc). You can have just a bit of everything without being wheelbarrowed home. The food was like art--luckily I didn't think it was too beautiful to eat.

I don't know if they read the blog, but I want to thank our hosts for providing the best company a couple could ask for, and inviting us to the best meal we've ever had.

Michel Richard Citronelle
3000 M Street NW
Metro: Get to Georgetown (walk/shuttle from Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn Metro, or take the DC Circulator)
Better off in a cab or valeting.
Citronelle on Urbanspoon


Brasserie Beck

A few years ago J and I visited Brussels and went to this brewery. When we learned that Brasserie Beck was serving up Cantillon Geuze, we knew we had to get over there quickly, but then we got, er, delayed by life.

Geuze? Is that like gauze? The medical stuff? Geuze is a lambic beer aged in oak barrels that has less bitterness than other beers and more of a cider-y taste. The first sip may seem a little sour, but in a good way. It's light and delicious, and was just as I remembered at Brasserie Beck.

While my favorite part of Belgium dining was the beer, frites came in a close second. Beck's crispy frites with fresh parsley were perfectly hot, flavorful, not too salty, and not greasy at all. I wanted more. The trio of mayo that came alongside was fun, our favorite being the tomato mayo. The others were curry and garlic, we deduced.

The saltiness of the veal cheek meatballs in J's pea soup married nicely with the mild green soup. My leek and potato soup was creamy and delicious without ruining my appetite for dinner, and I love how the soups were poured into our bowls from mini copper pots at the table.

The lamb shank was enormous, and very tender--it didn't require much chewing. The accompanying white beans in a light broth was good. Belgian fare is known for its heartiness, and I chose salmon with fennel curry sauce as a lighter option. My nice-sized fillet was hot with a nicely crisped top and a perfectly-done creamy soft inside. The sauce was tasty but not overwhelming at all, and I used it in moderation.

The waffle with flambeed raspberries was good as expected, but the cinnamon honey ice cream it came with was particularly delicious. The creme brulee was all right, a little thinner than I expected and with an inconsistent temperature--some bites were colder than others, and I prefer it at total room temperature or slightly warm.

Our service was friendly but not overbearing, we were seated promptly as per our reservation (unlike at Hook), and the bathrooms get an A+. We'll be back, but not too soon--our gastronomic adventure was a little expansive, thus expensive. It's possible to eat at a little lower price sans drinks, apps, and dessert, but that just wouldn't be as fun. Beer is where this place shines (they have a beer list that's separate from the wine list) and the appetizers/sides may be your favorite part of your meal. Next time I'll have a glass of kriek for dessert.

Brasserie Beck
1101 K St NW
Metro: Orange, Blue, or Red Lines to Metro Center
Brasserie Beck on Urbanspoon


Postcard from LA

There are plenty of fancy shmancy restaurants to check out while you're in LA, but for quick, casual or just-delicious dining in the area, I give you...The Postcard. We would have loved to have followed Mr. Sietsema's advice to visit Pizzeria Mozza, but unfortunately (fortunately for Mr. Batali, though) reservations need to be made a few months in advance. Set goals for your trip. My #1 goal was to eat avocado every single day. What can I say? I reach high.

Some of the places we'd "heard about" to eat in Santa Monica were unfortunately closed for lunch. We hunted for that juuust right snacky sandwichy lunchy cutesy place. Enter Jack 'n' Jill's (of Beverly Hills, but with this SM outpost). Sandwiches, soups, baked goods (including fabulous looking cupcakes), and most importantly, breakfast. All. Day. I enjoyed the House Scramble, an omelet with goat cheese, basil, avocado, spinach, and sun-dried tomato, with a plateful of still-hot mini blueberry muffins. Spectacular. J had the Chicken Pomodoro panini, with mozzarella cheese, gouda, tomato, and basil on rosemary bread. Iced green and tropical teas were both notable.

Jack 'n' Jill's
510 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Jack n' Jill's on Urbanspoon

Nestled in the village of Westwood with UCLA is a cookie shop with no web site. While I usually am skeptical of such establishments, Diddy Riese cookies has my blessing regardless. It's simple--pick two fresh-baked cookies (I chose one peanut butter and one chocolate-chip) and an ice cream flavor (I went with espresso chip) and the quick staff makes you an ice cream sandwich for $1.50. There's a constant line, and I understand why. Cheap and decadently delicious, our unexpected stop at Diddy Riese was a highlight of our week-long trip.

Diddy Riese Cookies
926 Broxton Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese doesn't look much from the outside. Too-few tables in front of what looks like a tiny, cave-like wine shop. Luckily, we were with someone in the know, cousin A, who showed us the way it works. You get on (a sometimes LONG) line and pick one of the 6 sandwiches before paying around the corner (made up of shelves of wine). While waiting you can look around at the fun imported candies and chocolates and pick your beverage and chips. I got a turkey sandwich with avocado (by request) sun-dried tomato spread, greens, Swiss gruyere, balsamic, and oil. You can get a half or whole sandwich on either ciabatta or baguette (get the baguette). Sit outside and enjoy your nosh before walking over to the cute local stores (and ignoring the Pinkberry).

Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese
223 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese on Urbanspoon

In-n-Out is the Five Guys of the west coast, with these differences: INO has inferior fries, FG has a larger menu (including HOT DOGS), INO has shakes, and of course INO is famous for its "secret" menu. I personally enjoy the hamburger animal style, although for hungry hippos out there, it's rumored you could ask for up to an 8 X 8 (that's Meat X Cheese)--but don't get that, it's gross. Don't leave the west coast without visiting In-N-Out, please.

IN-N-OUT Burger

Various West Coast locations

I hope you've enjoyed the iPhone picture stylings in this post.