Happy Chanukah to us. Love, Todd Gray

See, even the White House was getting into the Festival of Lights! And you should, too.

You still have a few days to get yourself over to Equinox for the Chanukah tasting menu.  Even though they spell it "Hanukkah," my personal favorite involves the CH that comes with the CHET of Chanukah.  

The amuse was a double shot of warm & smoky cauliflower soup, accompanied by a spoonful of potato/leek/mushroom.  Pretty AND tasty.  Very nice.

Next, cured salmon on top of two latkes and a shaved fennel salad.  Not bad, Equinox, but I made latkes last night and if I do say so myself, mine were pretty darn good.  The salad was fresh and crunchy, a great contrast to the warm potatoeyness of the other side of the plate.

The 24-hour brisket (beef--is there any other kind?) was actually served two ways--one in the traditional chunk of meat super soft falling apart w/red wine-y finger-lickign sauce, you know, the usual.  And then two little cubes of chicken-fried brisket, battered and crispy on all but one side.  The veggies underneath were soooo good, too--not an afterthought.  Turnips, teensy onions, potato, carrot...

Oh, dessert.  How I love thee!  The apple cider doughnuts were pretty good, but to me the star of dessert was the vanilla bean custard.  It packed so much flavor and was super creamy.  Not just cream-creamy, but vanilla-creamy.  I'd do that again in a heartbeat!

The wine pairing was lovely, and a fair deal if you ask me (by reading, you impliedly asked me).  My favorite was actually the first--a Napa Valley 2007 Provenance Sauvignon Blanc.  I've been sort of "off' whites for a while, but this was a delight.

Happy Chanukah, everyone.

818 Connecticut Ave NW
Metro: Blue and Orange Lines to Farragut West
Equinox on Urbanspoon


Ray's News, Courtesy of WaPo

Ray's the Steaks, Ray's the Bar, Ray's the Classics, Ray's Hell-Burger, and coming soon Ray's the Glass, Ray's the Game, and Ray's the Catch.  Read about the news that Hell-Burger is moving down the street (I guess to the base of the Bennett Park Apartments, based on the address) to make way for Ray's the Game.  No clue when, but I'm sure our pal (jk, we don't know him) Michael Landrum will keep us posted somehow.  We've been waiting on the Catch for a while...

Thank goodness I follow @tomsietsema  on Twitter!


BGR The Burger Joint

This Bethesda (and Alexandria and Dupont) burger joi--er, outlet bills its offering as the" one burger you MUST HAVE before you die."  Now that's taking it a little far.  That said, PLEASE get to your local Burger Joint and have the shake of the month before November ends.  The flavor is pumpkin pie, and the results are OH MY GOSH delicious.  Really.  Just go.

J and B enjoyed the burger of the month on a recent voyage: Thanksgiving On A Bun.  TOAB is a deliciously moist and well-seasoned turkey burger topped with cornbread stuffing, cranberries, and gravy.  I had to do something other than ALL CAPS to show you how amazing I think those toppings are.  Variety is the spice of life, people!

TOAB was great, and the sweet potato fries (and regular for traditionalists) are pretty good, too.  Even the veggie burger is yum--smoky and full of lots o' bits of good stuff.

I didn't have a regular burger, but I'm sure it's good.  Better than Ray's?  I'll have to go back to render that verdict.  For now, the only advantage I see for BGR is that you can bring your vegetarian plus-one there without damning them to a mac 'n' cheese existence (LC i'm looking at you!). 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!!!!

BGR: The Burger Joint
4827 Fairmont Ave
Bethesda, MD
Metro: Red Line to Bethesda (and other locations in Dupont & Old Town, Alex)
BGR: the Burger Joint on Urbanspoon


Remember that time...

That I was really sad because I had to take the bar exam, and it kept me from blogging?

Well.  I PASSED.

Now for the real reason I wanted to tell you that: I celebrated with a DEEEEELICIOUS pumpkin custard and gingerbread crust PIE from The Dairy Godmother.  Thank you J, E, & C for being fabulous celebratory company!

I follow DG on Twitter, and there is no better way to give yourself a hankering for dessert than to get the early AM tweet with the flavor of the day.  Check out my pie.  I just ate the last slice for dinner this past Saturday.  You heard me right.  Dinner.


Town House

Town House in Chilhowie got plenty of buzz from the New York Times and Washington Post. But who in their mind would schlep more than 5 hours (I'm talking past Roanoke) to eat what the proprietors call "destination dining."  Us!

What we ate is similar to what others have had.

The course selections at Town House varied between 1-3, 4, and ten, but we were told we could get pretty much however many we want.  We ended up going with 10 just to say hey, we're on vacation, let's celebrate.  Why not?

It was a really interesting meal that was an adventure, but I can't say that the majority of dishes made me crave more.  I was more like hmm, what an interesting flavor/combination/texture.  In two cases I really didn't dig what I ate--both involved a little too much "essence of the sea" for me.  Part of it is that I don't have the most sophisticated palate (why must I be so self-depracating?).  I'm just looking for good eats.

I appreciate what the chefs are doing at Town House--there is no doubt that they are on the cutting edge of culinary creativity.  They are bravely playing with flavors (and nitrogen) in a way that would scare a lot of people, but it's cool.  The service was amazing, another group at the restaurant was super-friendly and chatty (even gave us some Asheville recommendations), and we did indeed see the chefs' faces (ahem, where are you Jose Andres???).  Maybe if we're ever driving to North Carolina again we'll go back.  We'll definitely recommend the exciting adventure to friends (at least those who are up to it).  I'll label the dishes below and note the favorites. 

No food in this picture, just an action shot of downtown Chilhowie, population 1,746, right across from the restaurant.

I don't have a photo of the amuse, but it was the black olive cookie sandwich with a lemony olive oil inside, and grated parm-reg on top. It was wonderful.

 Chilled vegetable "minestrone."  We liked this light broth with fresh, thinly rolled vegetables.  And it was beautiful

Brulee of Smoked Salmon Roe.  The description says "coconut, mustard, avocado and banana, celery, cilantro confit, and let me tell you, I was not looking forward to this.  But the surprise was that I really liked this dish--it might have been my favorite.  It was sweet and salty, the crunchy glass-like top contrasted with the soft squishier inside, and it was just fun.  Party in the mouth.  Not fishy at all.

The Orange from Valencia.  OK.  This I don't know about--there were cold mussels and other items inside this orangey orange-shaped hollow shell.  It was interesting, but not for me.

Foie Gras Butter.  Watermelon radish, hazelnut, dark ale, lovage, rye.  Not as exciting as it sounds.

 OMG.  These piping hot black pepper potato rolls were AMAZING.  Seriously, they appeared mid-meal and our server was all, "would you like more?" and we were like, "do birds have wings?"  I would love the recipe for these and then I'd just keep trying it until it worked.

I don't have a photo of the Scrambled Egg Mousse with birch syrup & sweet spices, but I rather liked it.  It was like a foamy pureed omelet, but not in a gross way, and it was kind of sweet, served in a martini-ish glass if my memory serves me right.  I definitely liked it, but didn't need quite so much.  One or two spoonfuls would have sufficed.

 Chorizo Boillon ("with various Spanish influences").  This dish (described here) confused me.  The broth was good, and then there were all these little bits--cheese, chorizo oil, cuttlefish, ink (!).  Let's just say I found out the hard way that ink is NOT for me. J liked this dish.  I get parts of it--the cuttlefish melts in your mouth--for a second you think, was that fish or cheese?

Ah, the sea.  Cured Hamachi & Bev Eggleston's Pig Tail.  This is the dish that scared me the most just from the name.  But so did the brulee of smoked salmon roe, and that turned out fine!  So I'm glad I didn't cross both off the list by judging on the names, but I ended up splitting the difference--liked the roe, but didn't care for this one.

Thorntree Farms Lamb.  Why not?  I bet I would have loved this lamb if I hadn't already been stuffed to the gills.  After eating so much I almost felt sick (I don't remember feeling this way at Citronelle, but maybe the portions were smaller and spaced out further??? Anyone?)

Foggy Ridge's Pomme Gris.  Similar technique to the hollowed "Valencia Orange" but this time it was actually dessert--phew.  A spicy but creamy chocolateyness was on the inside ("aerated milk chocolate, yellow curry, roasted peanut, cumin") but the frozen shell just didn't do it for me.  I didn't want something so cold.

I don't have a photo of my favorite dessert (and favorite dish??), Purple Mountains: latte, anise seed, black sesame oil, yogurt, poached fig.  It was rustic looking and richly delicious.  A perfect note to end on.

Chefs love their nitrogen.

Town House
Town House Blog (Just because you won't be back for a while doesn't mean you want to miss out on the new creations--they are like art.)
132 E. Main Street
Chilhowie, VA (Note to the city slickers: if you think Ballston is far, you ain't seen nothing yet.)


Straits of Malaya

Wow, we had way too much fun at Straits of Malaya.  We were joined by J&J, and after getting a private tour of their new abode we headed into the neighborhood to find some good eats.  First: the weather.  That day was AMAZING.  I know you may not be able to recreate that for your first visit (the season is basically over), but keep in mind that Straits has lovely rooftop seating.  Second: the service!  Our problem was typical: we wanted everything on the menu and didn't know where to start or what to choose.  Our server was so helpful--we basically gave her the list of things we wanted and she told us which dishes were similar or had similar sauces so we could have more variety.  Yay!

We enjoyed (and correct me if we're not remembering right--it was a while ago and I didn't take notes because it tends to embarrass my friends) the following:  the curry puffs (less puffy than you might imagine, still delicious), five spice roll,  chicken with basil, curry Chinese eggplant with chicken, and cha kway teow, a noodle dish billed as the chef's favorite.

We had a lot of flavors and textures going on, and I'd recommend everything we tried, which leads me to think a lot of the other items are worth trying on our next trip to the Straits. The place had a reliable, neighborhood feel where you know you'll get a good meal, you won't be rushed, and you also won't need to wait for hours to experience some mediocrity. Would I drive to Vienna Metro, head into the city on a Saturday evening, and hit Straits up as a date night destination?  Probably not.  But if me and my guy were strolling around the city on a temperate evening, wondering where we could have a quiet, yummy dinner that wouldn't break the bank, and by the way can it be outside?  And we don't want to wait?  Straits is that.  We'll be back, but not before we explore the rest of our pals' new neighborhood.

Straits of Malaya
1836 18th Street NW
Metro: Red Line to Dupont Circle
Straits of Malaya on Urbanspoon


Postcard from Denver

A while back we hit up Denver and were pretty surprised about how young and hip that town can be.  Every which way you look you'll see a converted warehouse that's now a funky loft, and compared to D.C. prices it's a steal.  Below are some things to eat on your next trip to the Mile High City--we stayed in LoDo, and that's where all these places are!

Lime is a local chain that looked pretty fun, so on our first night we figured it would be a good quick bite.  The freshly made chips were pretty addictive, so be careful not to fill up.  The Southwest Eggrolls were lightly fried and filled with beans, corn, etc.  My salad with shredded beef was good but relatively uneventful, and J had the margarita chicken with beans and rice.  The portions were pretty huge, as was that bowl of chips.  Yikes!
Lime on Urbanspoon

For J's birthday we had reservations at Rioja. Named after a region in Spain, this place doesn't actually specialize in Spanish food--surprise! We enjoyed a half pasta with peas and morels--it was perfect for the season. Peas scream springtime, and we'd been enjoying their presence in our pasta dishes lately. Next, the chorizo flatbread and pickled melon with fresh basil--great flavors and textures, and not too bready (a legitimate fear). Lamb medallions w/tricolored lentils--AMAZING. My exact notes are "Unbelievable. Best ever. Crust/crunch outside, perfectly cooked middle. So tender. So smoky." OK, so now I'm sort of hungry. I loved the pan-roasted halibut with Romesco sauce--it was sitting on asparagus and artichokes, all things green and happy. The chilled smores pot de creme with graham cracker sticks was like a childhood camping trip gone chic. For his birthday, J enjoyed free dessert with a candle and a card signed by the staff. Maybe the real joy was perusing the tea list. The after dinner mints were homemade sugar-coated mint leaves.
Rioja on Urbanspoon

Coors Field has a lot to offer you--beers like Blue Moon round out the typical ballfield choices, and "Infield Greens" serves up salads to go with your Rockie Dog (all-beef foot long). And if you want hot chocolate with whipped cream, just ask one of the wandering vendors. YUM.

Last but CERTAINLY not least, we waited a very very very long time to enjoy brunch at Snooze.  I read that it was a must, and besides the fact that it was Mother's Day, it was still a shock to see moms and kids and babies and elderly folks OUTSIDE on this drizzle morning in a huge line.  Where I come from we make reservations for Mother's Day to avoid this kind of mess.  Or make her breakfast in bed.  Something like that!

The 3-egg omelet with spinach, salsa (which they forgot), and chicken sausage was really tasty--the sausage wasn't chunky, it was almost ground up.  The toast seemed grilled, not toasted, which was a huge plus.  Even though I'm a fan of a fruit-filled, chunky jam/preserve/spread, the strawberry jam here was thin but delicious.  Even J dipped his bread in it, and he's not so jammy.  His corned beef hash was AMAZING--super thin and fresh, more shredded than chunky/piecey.  It was almost sweet, and according to him, it tops Good Enough To Eat--CRAZINESS.   On the drink side, the hot chocolate at Snooze isn't too rich--instead, it has a pleasing cinnamon thing going on.

OK, and you cannot and will not (promise?) go to Snooze without getting a pancake.  If you think pancakes are dessert (hi!) and would rather have eggs, then make a friend split ONE with you--you can order single pancakes (they are still huge btw) on the "Ahh...la carte" menu.  We had the caramel cinnamon swirl pancake.  It was thick yet fluffy and light, almost spongy, but in a good way.  It had a little bounce!  This things was the thickest pancake I've ever seen.  It had pecans, cinnamon butter, white chocolate chips...it was insane, and also majorly delicious.  The decor was funky, with round tables and benches, cool lights, and bright colors.  And have I asked you yet, how freakin' cute is that coffee mug?  Seriously???
Snooze on Urbanspoon


Fojol Bros. of Merlindia - Insights from Guest Blogger LB!

[Note: I know, more food from trucks?  Even though I don't work downtown, I don't want to keep you all from being informed about your options on wheels here in the District.  Below, the fabulous and generous LB guest blogged her recent food truck experience. Thanks, LB!!!! And thanks to Fojol Bros. Twitter Page for the picture.]

If you're anything like me, then deciding what to eat for lunch is the most difficult decision of your day.  No later than 12:01 p.m., M-F, the emails start filling up your Outlook inbox, asking about your lunch thoughts, or, if the time is getting late, offering up a hunger-themed haiku (or does that just happen at my office?).

Then the negotiations commence: "Not again--we just ate there last week!"; "The weather isn't cold enough yet for soup"; "I am so sick of sandwiches." ; "That place is too far to walk in this rain." "I am not paying 9 dollars for another crappy salad!"

Today's decision was made remarkably easy by the arrival of the Fojol Bros. of Merlindia, a self-described "Traveling Culinary Carnival."  That description is fairly accurate, if your impression of a carnival involves being served curry from costumed, mustached men in a food truck while your body involuntarily moves to the catchy music blaring from the speakers.

They have three size options: a "dingo" (one pick--$2), a "meal" (two picks--$6) or a "feast" (three picks--$9).  You make your picks from a rotating selection of offerings, and each includes basmati rice.  Today's meat options were curry chicken and chicken masala, and the vegetarian options were lentils and chickpeas.  I opted for an all-veggie meal of lentils and chickpeas, and one of the Fojol brothers said my mother would be proud.  

I'm no expert on Indian food, but I did spend three months in London, which makes me sufficiently credentialed.  The chickpeas were my favorite--great texture and flavor.  The lentils were a little mushy, but once I mixed them into the rice, I didn't notice the mushiness anymore.  However, I do like my Indian food spicy, and this meal was on the mild side--it could have used more heat. I also missed naan, but I guess that's too hard to prepare from a truck. Overall, though, it was a solid meal--one option I'll definitely suggest again, when next Tuesday's lunch negotiations begin.

Fojol Bros.
Location: changes daily