News: Founding Farmers Isn't That Good

But is that really news? It is to anyone with a GWU email address! Tom Sietsema gave FF 1 star. Ouch. He had overly-zealous salespeople-like servers, while we barely saw our servers at all. In fact, we were starving. And waiting. Forever. For BRUNCH.

Here's what my few positive comments boil down to for FF: They have good jam, they can serve lox, and when they messed up badly they gave us a discount.

In the end, there is food that, as Tom said, is "not bad." But it's not cheap either, and it certainly does NOT come quickly (or hot, necessarily). The neighborhood is so desperately in need of restaurants that it'll continue to be packed and reserved well in advance. And green is so hot right now (as it should be).

Founding Farmers

1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Metro: Orange and Blue Lines to Foggy Bottom or Farragut West
Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon

Potbelly's: Smaller and Bigger Sandwiches Now Available

Remember when I said that Potbelly's sandwiches are not the most filling lunch? That was true. If you are starving for lunch, that little sucker won't last too long. BUT, it will cost you under $5, which is a small miracle in any city.

Potbelly recently rolled out "Skinnys" and "Bigs." The Skinnys are automatically on the thin-cut bread, and only have 1/3 of the meat and cheese that's on a regular. Supposedly. This is obviously kind of confusing. It reminds me of Starbucks, where if you get a "Skinny Vanilla Latte" it's made with sugar-free syrup and skim milk. I appreciated saving the breath it took to say "Non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte." But what if you want the regular syrup but skim milk? Then you'd say non-fat vanilla latte. They might double-check with you, as in, "The Skinny Vanilla?" To which you would reply, "No. Regular syrup, thanks." At Potbelly you'll probably be asked to clarify between just skinny bread and regular contents v. skinny all around--I was asked yesterday. Maybe if they called the new little guys Slims this bread-only confusion wouldn't happen.

MOVING ON. Let's compare cost and nutrition facts. My particular sandwich (hereinafter Sandwich) is skinny wheat bread with turkey, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. It has 5g of fat, 328 calories, 26g of protein, 1600 mg of sodium, and 45mg of cholesterol. It costs $4.50.

The TKY (that's Potbelly's slang for the turkey skinny) sheds 36 calories from Sandwich, along with 300ish mg of sodium, 4g of protein, and 15mg of cholesterol. The fat content is the same, somehow. I guess this sandwich could be more like a snack, or an accompaniment to a salad...or milkshake. I can't see myself ordering this little guy, but maybe it would be good for catering snacktime. Skinnys are $4.00 apiece.

On the other hand, if you enjoy building your own sandwich, you love Potbelly, but you are STARVING (or sharing with a friend), you can now order a BIG. The Big version of Sandwich would add 3g of fat, 266 calories, 16g of protein, 13mg of cholesterol, and 900mg of sodium. It'll set you back a buck more than the original. $5.50. Still a good deal.

I know it's not Cafe Atlantico, but we all need cheap lunch. We need to save our pennies and eat healthily so we can go to Blue Duck Tavern and eat their insane fries a couple times a year. OH MY GOSH THE FRIES. We'll discuss another day. For now, get over your shock that I actually care/think about calories/fat content to protein ratios.

Potbelly Sandwich Works
Around the Corner


Cafe Atlantico

Wow. Was it the amazing company we had? The beautiful weather? The creamy vanilla syrup-laden iced coffee? All I know is that when I look at the pictures from Cafe Atlantico and think about our meal, I actually start salivating all over again.

Cafe Atlantico is part of Jose Andres' plan to make all of the delicious restaurants in the D.C. area have his name on them, muahahahaha. Jaleo, Zaytinya (I love those places), Oyamel, and Minibar are all his. You may remember him from the PBS special Made in Spain or No Reservations: D.C. Or maybe you've never heard of him, in which case--you're welcome, reader.

Why don't we do this old style, huh? A hit list. As F says, "SMALL PLATES! SMALL PLATES! SMALL PLATES!"

Tableside guacamole: Delicious. M doesn't like avocado (K, he's your 'cado-hating soulmate) so the rest of us pitched in extra oomph and finished it without his help. Cilantro, some hotness (we got "medium" and it was perfect for me--the weak one), tomatoes, onion, and lime. Perfect.

Sopa del dia: The tomato bisque with chipotle peppers was good, but not amazing. If I were J I would've downed most of the shot glass in one...shot? But he didn't. And then it got kind of cold, which was sad.

Coconut rice, crispy rice, and ginger: I liked this dish, but not everyone did. It was almost like a funky rice pudding with a floraly-vanilla scent. This dish is on the bigger side of the ones we had, so keep that in mind if you order it.

Fried egg w/mashed black beans and pork: Awesome. We also took the liberty of adding the leftover beans from this dish to bites from other plates--delightful.

Mushrooms w/egg 63 degrees (celsius, folks): Pretty good.

Conch fritters: These were really interesting. The inside was liquid-y and hot, the flavor earthy and somewhat indescribable beyond that. Not seafood-y tasting. Intriguing. I'd like to go back and get them again.

Fried egg with Veracruz sauce: Not our favorite. Not special.

Carne asada: Good, but plain. And too safe. F says too much sauce!

Jicama-avacado ravioli: Almost like a summer roll outside, very thin (not crispy): We liked this fresh and crispy dish, but J wished it was more like a traditional ravioli. Fellas and their pastas...

Scallops: Scallopy. Nothing incredible here.

Pan dulce w/cinnamon syrup: (Run-on sentence about to commence): Hiii, it's like the silkiest most decadent while still being small totally soaked French toast you've ever had. Mmmmm wanting more. Now.

Seared crabcake: What's not to like?

Huitlacoche & wild mushroom quesadilla: Huitlacoche was described by F to the rest of us as "diseased corn." Sounds delicious, right? This was SO YUMMY. I LOVE DISEASED CORN TUMORS.

Pineapple unagi w/avocado sauce: Eel! So good!

Porkbelly confit: A+ from the crowd

I'd love to go back to Cafe Atlantico, especially for brunch. It was awesome. Sure, you can get the tasting menu, but we sort of did our own version, choosing the particular items that we wanted. Customized. Perfected. Picky, some would say. And DELICIOUS. Our company was unbeatable. Even our drinks were yummy. I had an iced coffee that I thought would send me straight to heaven.

Cafe Atlantico

405 8th St NW
Metro: Green/Yellow to Archives, or G/Y/Red to Gallery Place/Chinatown. Or Fed Tri. Or Metro Center. You know, it's just sort of near everything.
Café Atlántico on Urbanspoon


Listening Time IV

"Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants." That's Michael Pollan, investigatory journalist who has (whether or not this was intended) turned into a food activist. Whether you agree with him doesn't make what he's saying less interesting. We do things he doesn't like (buy bagged salad--but he makes me wish I didn't), but other things he does like. I see where he's coming from.

Anyway, he was on Leonard Lopate, one of the best interviewers in public radio. Find the link here to hear from the man himself, the "vegetarian before 6pm."


Listening Time III

Interesting NPR All Things Considered piece on the fall of the "Zion Curtain," particularly pertinent because we just got back from Utah! Look for some forthcoming postcards from the national park circuit, including Zion and Bryce, Moab, and then later Denver. In the meantime, listen to many podcasts, including this one.


Foggy Bottom Farmers' Market

I usually walk through the Foggy Bottom Farmers' Market if it's happening on my way home, but the past few Wednesdays have been rainy; this particular day was no exception. I haven't really met a farmers' market I didn't like (even though there are vendors I prefer, or weeks where nothing looks good, etc), so this was no different. I felt like the goat cheese people were looking at me like they knew my secret hopes and dreams. [...to eat all their goat cheese.]

On to the goods. A lovely French-accented woman helped me choose my chicken w/red & green peppers empanada. I got it for J to have for lunch the next day, but then ate it myself. Oops. It was delish. The $6 price tag was hefty (right?), but I could smell it, so I had to have it. The pastries looked divine, but I really couldn't. After all, I've had a major self control problem around these cookies from the freezer. SO GOOD.

I also got a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough, and it was pretty good, but the outside was so crusty that--I kid you not--J cut himself while trying to rip off a piece. So there's a warning for ya. Use a knife, or prepare to bleed for your chewy, crusty sourdough.

The flowers are pretty, too.

Foggy Bottom Farmers' Market
Wednesdays, late afternoonish.
24th/I/New Hampshire NW
Metro: Blue and Orange Lines to Foggy Bottom


Postcard from Las Vegas

Armed with some local advice and tons of non-local opinions, we headed to Vegas as the gateway of our western adventure (more postcards to come).

We shared the pasta tasting menu, which changes as ingredients are in and out. We figured "When in Rome." And what I mean by that is, we eat a lot of pasta, but rarely homemade. It's something I don't usually order when we're out because I'd rather have more protein and less decadent main courses. And we're celebrating over here, people.

First, a little snack of marinated chickpea bruschetta. We liked this.

Tagliatelle with Burro Guffanti (butter!!!) and Peas: Buttery but light, perfectly al dente, the peas were super sweet and delightful. And I'm a fan of the shape.

Black Spaghetti with Ricci di Mare: This was spaghetti dyed black with squid ink, tossed with sea urchin and jalapeno sauce. At first it was delicious (and J LOVED the sauce), and I thought the heat was nice, but fleeting. Eventually I could breathe fire. It didn't taste like seafood at all, but was a little salty. Anyone with more cajones for spicy food would be fine--I'm notoriously weak in this area. But it was interesting and I recommend it!

Cavatelli with Rabbit Ragu and Favas: One of the top dishes in my book. Teeender bites of rabbit with parsley and the finest shaped (in J's opinion) pasta perfectly cooked. Fresh grated Pecorino rounded this dish out. We could have eaten huge bowls of just this--it wasn't too heavy, but it was more than comforting.

Jose's Pyramids with Passato di Pomodoro: These little guys were adorable and delicious--also in my favorites and another top choice for one big bowl of THIS. The sauce was emulsified tomatoes and the filling was beef shoulder. It was so hearty without being heavy that I just marveled.

Goose Liver Ravioli with Balsamic Vinegar and Brown Butter: You can breathe in the balsamic on this one from your chair, but the taste was not as overwhelming. The ravioli was thin and not puffy, and was perfectly cooked--a little dense, not mushy or soft. The filling is light, and the balsamic is the star. I definitely would not want a bigger portion of this dish, but it was so robust and different. I'm really glad we tried it.

The first dessert was right up my alley, but still wasn't the awesomest thing I've ever eaten or anything. The orange honey soup containeddates, apples, orange, grapefruit, banana, and strawberries in an orange/honey broth with an almond pastry of some sort in the center. It was OK. Definitely refreshing, but would not order again.

I liked the second dessert. A hazelnut panna cotta with Mirto syrup (Mirto is a liqueur popular in Sardinia), it was super light and had that melt-in-your-mouth thing going on. I could barely taste any flavor in the panna cotta if my palate wasn't totally clear, it was so light. I enjoyed it as a light finish to the meal but probably would not order it again.

The wine was to die for. We had a quartino (1/4 liter) each of the Terredora DiPaolo Aglianico 2007 and the Morellino di Scansano. I'm going to be ordering both of these for swift delivery to Arlington. DELICIOUS. Then we shared another quartino of the Aglianico. We were happy.

The service was unbelievable. We were seated late (approx 20 minutes post-reservation), but unlike last week at a less-classy establishment, the hostess carried our bar items FOR US to our table. We had new forks for every course, lest some residue remain and taint the flavors. A man used a large spoon to swiftly (I mean lightning, people) grab crumbs from our table. When a drop or two of wine was spilled on the table cloth, it so annoyed Spoon Guy that he symmetrically aligned a new white napkin onto our table to hide the disgraceful mess. Also, we sat in what we called the "wine library." We loved it--it was quiet and private.

I would definitely go back to B & B and I recommend it for people looking for a delicious, satisfying, somewhat adventurous, but not ridiculous (portion and adventure-wise) meal in Vegas. The tasting menu took a while, which helped us stay up and beat the jet lag. Can't sleep through amazing hand-made pastas, can you?

The moral of the story: Always trust a man in orange clogs. It doesn't hurt if he's also a trusted alumnus.

B & B Ristorante
The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd (aka The Strip)
B & B Ristorante (Venetian) on Urbanspoon



TEAAAAAAAA!!!!! Ice or hot, it's a passion in my (adopted) family. And what better place to drink tea than Teaism?! What a catch name.

Let's get down to it. At lunch I'm a fan of the bento boxes. Salmon = good, chicken = good (but a little decadent...it's fried), soba noodle = surprisingly better than I expected. On the soba, I was surprised that it was all cold. And then I was even more surprised that I still liked it. B was not a fan of the tuna bento box. In fact, she liked all the elements but the tuna. So maybe stay away from that.

I find their iced teas or tea drinks are either too much water and too little flavor, OR waaaay too sweet. The too-sweet can be cut with the ice water, which is available for public consumption near the food pick-up area. But the flavorless? No hope.

Reflecting right now on my many visits (instead of judging harshly on one visit, which is what I usually do), I think the soba noodle box was my favorite. Shocking.

The offending tuna

Chicken, sweet potato pieces in happy sauce, cucumber with ginger, and delightful brown rice topped with herbs and salt

You also need to have a salty cookie. Salty-oaty-crunchy cookie. Whether you get the chocolate or the raisiny one, you'll like it. Well, you'll like it if you share my flavor preferences.

800 Connecticut Ave NW, and various other locations
Metro: Orange/Blue Lines to Farragut West
Note: The entrance to this one is on H Street between 17th & Connecticut
Teaism on Urbanspoon


Chrysalis Vineyards

I'm in favor of wineries all year round, but now that the nice weather is upon us I definitely recommend Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg for a day of wine-induced joy. We brought our fabulous visitors there on a perfect, 75-degree day. We picked up a picnic lunch and grabbed a blanket and travel Scrabble before hopping on the highway. Even with some (random) traffic, it took less than an hour to get us from bustling urban village to this:

The grounds are huge--on the right day, you have your choice of shade or sun, hill or flat, tent or no-tent. You can use their outdoor grills to cook up a party (we seriously thought about it, and then backed off because it just seemed like too much work on a nice day).

Either do a $5 tasting of their estate wines, or for $10 try all twelve estate and reserve wines. No matter what, you get to keep your glass. Sarah's Patio Red is a regular classic in our household, and we also love their Viognier and 2003 Norton Reserve. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and keeps everything light and full of laughter. AKA: no wine snobbery allowed.


Go! Have a picnic! Learn about Norton, the real, native, honest-to-goodness American grape.

Chrysalis Vineyards

23876 Champe Ford Road
Middleburg, Virginia 20117
Getting there: Just a hint--when you see the sign that says Chrysalis Vineyards, 1.3 (or 1.7, whatever it says) [left arrow], they mean make the next left and go down the 1+ miles, not make a left IN 1+ miles. Just FYI.



Remember the foodies? They were PSYCHED about Rasika. Our recent visit was very much like the first. Lots of oohs and ahhs, and classic one-liners that attempted to describe what it was we were tasting.

First, we all LOVED the wine J picked, a supersmooth Australian Shiraz. And we appreciate the diversity of the wine list (geographically and dolla-billz-wise).

We shared the palak chaat and ragda patties as appetizers--even though we'd had the palak chaat before, it was too good and funky to not share with these foodies.

We also tried the tawa baingan, a stacked eggplant/potato creation with peanut sauce. SO GOOD. We didn't realize it would be stacked up like blocks, and were imagining something mushier, more along the lines of baingan bartha.

For dinner we shared tandoori chicken tikka that was falling apart with tender goodness. Our vegetarian dish (and you should get one) was with butternut squash--it's not on the online menu right now, but it was awesome. It had a little bit of heat (not too much for my mild-loving buds), and F described it (to M's dismay) as "if butternut squash went on an African safari and contracted an exotic disease--in a good way." What she means is this: when you look at it, you think sweet mash of squash. You get something more interesting. Hence, "exotic disease."

Our lamb dish (the lamb rizala, with the funky gold leaf) was my favorite. The texture of the lamb was awesome--it wasn't a mush, but it wasn't tough or gamey. And the color contrast between the lamb and the sauce (when you cut it open) was as it should be, but often isn't elsewhere (as in, other restaurants, not other Rasika dishes). The sauce was so good that I consistently drowned my rice in it and savored each soaked bite like it was a decadent dessert.

Besides that, we shared a bread basket and some basmati rice. My overall impression this time around was GO WITH FRIENDS. You get to try more stuff. I know this is pretty much always true, but with a sharey or small-plate situation my enthusiasm for additional guests heightens.

I do have one complaint: the Rasika web site induces nausea. They should have a visible text-only option for customers to choose.

Scratch that, second complaint: more naan per order. I think naan (and probably) rice should be a default side situation, served family style. None of this separate ordering nonsense. Maybe someone has had a little too much takeout.

633 D Street NW
Metro: Red/Green/Yellow Lines to Gallery Place/Chinatown
Rasika on Urbanspoon


Ray's Hell-Burger has the best burger in Virginia...

According to the Food Network!


Thanks Dan Rockwell thread.