Monday, April 27, 2009

And Sundays just keeping getting better

So, Ardeo Bardeo pretty much put me into a food coma for most of Sunday. It was the kind of food coma that keeps you from cleaning your apartment and working on that paperwork you promised you would conquer over the weekend, but not the kind of food coma that keeps you from going out to have a couple more drinks.

The real achievement on Sunday was that Amy and I were able to tear Aaron away from his papers and finals studies for a late afternoon treat. I had never been to Zaytinya in Chinatown before but Amy was all excited about her recent discovery that they were offering their happy hour on Sunday afternoons from 4:30-6:30 so we decided to give it a shot.

It ended up being quite the afternoon. The bartender and mixologist at Zaytinya were preparing for a special dinner that evening and as some of the few patrons at the bar while she was getting ready, we had the pleasure of being her guinea pigs. Three distinct cocktails followed, the content of which mostly escape me now. The lack of details is really neither here nor there, since they do not offer the drinks on their regular menu, but if you do go ask about their Plymouth vodka and sous vide rhubarb cocktail and see if you get lucky.

In general, the happy hour is well worth it even if you don't have the luck of wandering into a taste test. Yuengling and Almaza Pilsner are $4. A selection of white and red wines are also $4, but the real highlight is the signature cocktail of the the happy hour: the Pom-Fili. Made with white wine, vodka, triple sec and pomegranate juice the Pom-Fili goes down easy and for $4 you won't feel guilty ordering a few.

701 9th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

A brunch that might actually be worth $30...

I am a big fan of brunch. Before moving to DC, it was not something that I did very often. I was a quick study, however, and brunch has now become a regular Sunday morning/afternoon activity for me. Generally, by Sunday morning I am feeling pretty bad about the money I spent on drinks and food Friday and Saturday, so I try to keep brunch prices within reason. This last Sunday, however, Janette and I had been disappointed in our first brunch choice because they no longer served brunch. In our cranky desperation to find food, we decided to splurge and try Ardeo Bardeo in Cleveland Park.

Ardeo Bardeo turned out to be a cornucopia of pleasant surprises. First, it turned out they had a roof top deck which was perfect for the sunny Sunday morning. Second, and most importantly, they offer a $25 Champagne Brunch special. I still consider $25 for brunch to be a pretty hefty fee, but the special included an appetizer, main entree and unlimited mimosas (the waiter explained that the caveat to the "unlimited" mimosas was that they would cut you off around 9 or 10 if you were behaving badly). Since the mimosas were $9 a piece on the regular menu, the special seemed like it would pay for itself pretty quickly.

Janette was showing some self-restraint because she had some lawyer work to do in the afternoon, so she ordered the char broiled natural beef burger with spicy tomato relish, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and hand cut fries for $12. She skipped the mimosas much to my disappointment. I went with the special and chose the bruschetta with baby egg plant and vidalia onions as my appetizer (regular price $8). For the entree, I went with the Eggs Benedict...perfectly poached eggs on an english muffin with fennel sausage and hollandaise sauce (regular price $12).

Both Janette and I were extremely happy with our choices. I shared the bruschetta because I felt like a bit of a heifer eating two dishes and drinking unlimit
ed mimosas. Janette declared that her burger was one of the better burgers she had ever had. This is major praise from a Texas girl whose father has his own cows. My Eggs Benedict were pretty serious. The fennel sausage was more like two small hamburger patties and to say I was full at the end of brunch would be the understatement of the year.

Basically, the rest of the Sunday consisted of sitting around and maybe drinking a little bit more. I checked in with Janette on Monday and all her efforts to avoid the mimosas seem to have come to naught as her brunch coma had her watching reruns of an unnamed cable show until late in the afternoon.

Ardeo Bardeo may not be the type of place that you can swing every weekend, but for special occasions and days with really nice weather it is hard to beat the Champagne Brunch.

Ardeo Bardeo
3311 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The hot days are back again...

Somehow DC appears to have managed to skip spring. We went from a few nice days mixed in with days that back to winter temps to 90 degree weather in about 12 hours. While it might not seem like the most appropriate thing to do on the first really hot day of the year, Amy and I spent Saturday eating hot Korean soup in a shack with no air conditioning and then walking around a massive park for three hours with no water.

Amy and I have been talking about going to the Korean wholesale market at 4th and Morse Streets in NE for some time. It just so happened that the day we finally decided to go was ridiculously hot. Amy is also on a mission to do all the things there are to do in DC before she leaves us and moves to India, so Saturday's adventure also included the National Arboretum off New York Ave, NE.

Amy and I met in Korea, so Korean food is something of a bond for us and I was very excited about the little restaurant she pulled me into at the Wholesale Market, even if the name of the restaurant was "Deli and Carry-Out." I ordered my stand-by of Mandu Guk (translation dumping soup) and Amy had ordered a spicy beef soup whose official title has already escaped me. We had our standard side dish of kimchi and splurged on Diet Cokes which made a huge difference in the tiny, hot restaurant. We chose a table strategically placed next to the drink cooler so that anytime someone grabbed a drink we got a nice little breeze.

Koreans are firm believers that on hot days you should eat hot food, so that you sweat more and therefore your body cools from the inside out (I think that is the logic, I get confused sometimes). I would have made my Korean host-mother proud on Saturday because I sweated my way through that entire lunch. My Mandu Guk was fantastic with homemade dumplings and lots of duk (Korean rice paddies). I did not get a chance to sample Amy's but she did a very admirable job of packing it away so it must have been good.

After our heavy meals, we purchased Korean ramen noodles in bulk and then drove over to the National Arboretum. Unbeknownst to us, we came during the high weekend for the Azaleas at the Arboretum and it was quite a sight. I felt like the Arboretum was some big secret that people in DC had been keeping from us. It was beautiful with lots of nice shady spots for lounging on hot sunny days. Sadly, Amy and I are not the best planners and failed to bring anything about warm Diet Cokes on our trek. In the future, coolers with cold beverages and a picnic blanket are highly recommended. However, in a tight spot the water from the faucets in the numerous (and very clean) bathrooms is deliciously cold.

For those of you who can get there the Deli and Carry Out at the Korean Wholesale market is a must, especially if you are a fan of Korean food. For those of you a little less adventurous, the Arboretum is a great place to bring a packed lunch and some carefully disguised cold adult beverages. Enjoy the summer time!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beautiful Weather and Waffles!

This last weekend proved to be one of the best that we have had in a long long time. The sun was out and the temperatures were high. Some of us (meaning almost everyone but me) took advantage of the beautiful weather to go for a run in Rock Creek Park at 8:30 in the morning. I chose to sleep until 9:45 when Avery called me and lulled me out of bed to come and meet them for breakfast. As you can see from the photos I was still a little rough around the edges when I arrived at Dos Gringos in Mt. Pleasant. Bad hair and puffy eyes not withstanding, I was very happy and excited to be up and ordering waffles with fruit on a lovely Saturday morning.

My running friends had been telling me about Dos Gringos since last summer. Aaron and I tried to go once for dinner, but when we found out there was no alcohol we reconsider because we generally have one track minds on Saturday evenings. Saturday morning, however, seemed like the perfect time to enjoy the tasty breakfast treats and the warm sunshine on the porch. Several of the groups members ordered the burrito special of the day with a side of fried plantains. Greg went for the Daily Frittata served with fruit and chipotle roasted potatoes topped with cheese ($6.50). I took Kristin's advice and went for the Belgian Waffles with maple syrup and a side of fresh fruit ($4 for the waffles and an extra $1 for the fruit). For an extra $1.50 you can also get chocolate syrup, whipped cream and nuts on your waffle. Coffees and fresh orange juice were also ordered and after a short altercation with a biking group about the chairs they stole from us, the breakfast was greatly enjoyed. Greg and I took the liberty of ordering cinnamon rolls because they just looked so good in the little display case. The staff put a spoonful of icing on the top and then heated the cinnamon rolls until the frosting melted and the rolls were virtually swimming in icing. They were quite possibly the tastiest things I have had in awhile. So good in fact, that I covertly moved the bowl closer to Kristin so that I could get some help with eating the whole thing and save myself some guilt. The only down side for me was the orange juice. While it said fresh squeezed I have had better quality from the Simple Orange Juice at any local grocery store.

Overall, I think I have found a delicious and indulgent new spot for breakfast...even if, unlike the rest of the runners, I did nothing to earn it.

Dos Gringos
3116 Mt. Pleasant Street, NW

A special thanks for the post also goes out to Shanon. In my just rolled out of bed fogginess, I forgot to bring my camera to breakfast, so Shanon heroically stepped in. She managed to take one of the MOST unattractive photos of me that I have ever seen, but the waffles looked so good I could not resist posting. See below:

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Journey to VA

As a DC resident without a car, it is with great trepidation that I venture into the realms of Virginia and Maryland. This aversion is in no way related to States themselves, just that I often find it difficult to think of any restaurant/bar/mind blowing entertainment source that could really make the 40-minute Metro ride home worth it. I do, however, get very excited when friends with cars make plans to trek out to VA or MD and invite me to come along. Some of you may think it is a sad day when one considers the Potomac States an adventure, but for me it is just the novelty of being in a car and getting driven from place to place without walking six blocks to a Metro station and waiting 20 minutes for a ride...but I digress.

Our trip to VA this last weekend was the inspiration of Avery who knew of a good Indian food restaurant in the vicinity of the Dairy Godmother, a frozen custard and sorbet shop in Del Ray. I got the distinct impression that the Bombay Curry Company was just a pit stop on the way to sugary creamy goodness, so I was pleasantly surprised when dinner turned out to be the highlight (at least for me).
The Bombay Curry Company is pretty nondescript from the outside and the interior is about the same. The extremely cozy restaurant has about 12 tables and two waiters, but there was no wait when we arrived around 7:30 on a Saturday evening. The waiter was extremely friendly and helpful, and the wine prices were a welcome relief from DC standards. The average price for a bottle of wine was $19 with wine by the glass coming in at about $6.50 (so...there was mathematical reasoning behind ordering the whole bottle). Avery, Kristin and I all ordered the Butter Chicken entree because there was no Chicken Masala on the menu and that was all we had talked about on the car ride to the restaurant. Marie branched out and ordered the Chicken Jhalfrezi (stir-fried chicken with tomatoes, onions and green peppers). As a table we ordered three sides: Dal Makhani (black lentils simmered overnight with spices), Bharta (Pureed charcoal-roasted eggplant sauteed with onions and tomatoes), and Raita (grated cucumber in blended yogurt). The food came out quickly and in greater quantities than I had expected. Somehow everyone but Marie managed to clear their plates and I even ordered a second round of naan. I interpret Marie's ability to leave food on her plate not to any self restraint on her part, but simply assume that her dish was not as tasty as the Butter Chicken that Kristin, Avery and I put away so efficiently.

The natural next step to gorging on Indian food is to drive three blocks to the Dairy Godmother. I had never heard of this place before Saturday night, but the rest of my party were firm advocates. My novice status was apparent when I allowed myself to be temped into ordering a sorbet while the more experienced of the bunch when straight for the sundaes. My Lemon Lavender sorbet was very tasty at first, but the tartness became a little overwhelming after a few bites and my mouth alternated between numb and tingling for the rest of the night. Marie and Kristin's Turtle Sundaes with vanilla custard, whipped cream, hot fudge, caramel and pecans was obviously delicious and Avery's Brownie Sundae won by sheer size. For those of you make your first trip to the Dairy Godmother, I would have to recommend the Sundaes, but the sorbets have some pretty intriguing flavors like Pink Grapefruit with Angostura Bitters, Pineapple with Cilantro, Cucumber with Fresh Mint, and Papaya with Fresh Ginger and are worth a try on your second visit. Basically, I think you will need to make SEVERAL trips to the Dairy Godmother to truly appreciate all they have to offer. Just don't go on a Tuesday as that is the one day each week when the Dairy Godmother closes its doors.

All in was a very productive and enjoyable trip to the nether regions of VA. Now, I will just need to convince other friends with cars to drive me out there again.

The Bombay Curry Company
3110 Mount Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA 22305

The Dairy Godmother
2310 Mount Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA 22301

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reservations Required

As much as I enjoy eating out, my favorite set up is sitting around a dinner table with good food, plenty of wine, and no pressure to leave the table or lower your voice. Our current apartment is not very conducive to dinner parties. Primarily due to the lack of a kitchen table (our kitchen and "living room" are tiny). Thus, I am always very excited when friends offer to host parties and even more excited when they plan on doing all the cooking. This perfect scenario became a reality last week when Avery invited several of us over to dinner for wine and pizza. Avery never does anything halfway, so I should have been prepared fro the spread she laid out. When I invite people over for pizza and wine (as I did on Friday night) that generally means paper plates and pizza I ordered from somewhere else. At Avery's we had a dining room table complete with candlelight and daffodil centerpieces and homemade pizza that would put most restaurants in DC to shame.

The pizza came with mozzarella, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, fresh basil, red onions and bells peppers. There was probably more on there, but since I had no hand in making the pizza my memory is vague. Avery also made a spectacular salad the details of which also escape me. I do remember that we were all very excited about the pea shoots!

I enjoy writing about good food and good company, so I felt Avery's dinner deserved a post (Shanon was also determined to get her picture posted). If you ever have the chance, Avery's dinners are not to be missed.

(Not so) Sweet Greens

I have worked at the same office for over three years now. Even though I limit my lunch outings to once a week, I had run through all the lunch options ad nausea within the first year. Therefore, whenever something new opens in Dupont Circle my coworkers and I waste no time in descending upon the new destination. Generally, this leads to a short lived obsession where we eat there every week for two months until the old places start to look like better options. For example, I fancy myself to be a relatively health conscience eater and when they opened the Five Guys in Dupont a year or so ago I ate there three days in a row.

Therefore, I was very excited to discover the new restaurant Sweet Greens on the way to CVS sometime last week. The line was wrapped around the PNC Bank Building that houses the restaurant and I sent an excited mass e-mail with details of my discovery as soon as I returned to the office. Roshelle and I made plans to eat there and purposely left the office at 11:45 to avoid the long lines that I had witnessed. I had done some research before our excursion and knew that Sweet Greens specialized in salads and frozen yogurt and that the Dupont Circle location was the second restaurant in the chain (the other original is in Georgetown and a Bethesda location is coming soon). I was pretty amped up about our lunch and even more excited when Roshelle and I walked into a virtually empty restaurant with no lines in sight. The ambiance is very nice with wood panelled walls and floors, green walls, high ceilings and lots of light. The choices at the salad bar looked fantastic and although expensive (salads start at $8) I was sure they would be worth it.

Roshelle ordered the Chic P Salad: with mesclun and baby spinach, grilled chicken, chickpeas, cucumbers, roasted red and yellow peppers and garlic pita chips topped with a hummus lemon tahini dressing. I am a little old school when it comes to salads and selected the classic Cobb Salad with chopped romaine, grilled chicken, Gorgonzola, egg, bacon, avocado and grape tomatoes. The staff were very pleasant and Roshelle and I wished that we could sit in the calming green room to enjoy our salads and then maybe get some yogurt. Sadly, we both had meetings and I had to head back to the office. Roshelle promised to give me an update on her salad later that day.

Upon returning to my desk, I called Roshelle within five minutes to find out how in the hell you were supposed to open the plastic to go container. She was having similar problems and we agreed that the printed directions "twist here" were not helpful at all. I finally got mine opened but ripped part of the container and cut myself a little bit in the process (minus one point for Sweet Greens). The next disappointment came in the form of the very small piece of cold, dry bread which on the menu is described as "warm and fresh." The salad itself started out great. The chicken is far better than anything that I have eaten in salads from Cosi or Potbelly. Very quickly, however, the salad became too much. The Gorgonzola and avocado all start mushing together and the dressing just became way too rich. I finished half the salad and felt like $9 may have been a little too much to spend on that salad. Roshelle's review came in the form of a chronic stomach ache that lasted until the next morning. This, I don't think we can completely attribute to Sweet Greens however. Roshelle tends to have a sensitive tummy and I think the mixed bell peppers, garlic pita chips and tahini were a bit of a risk to begin with.

In sum, I don't think that Roshelle and I will be rushing back to Sweet Greens anytime soon. Other co-workers have had better experiences than we did, specifically those who used the "wrap-it-up" option (your salad of choice is turned into a wrap sandwich). I would like to go back and try their frozen yogurt at some point, but I think it is back to my old stand bys for the time being.

Sweet Greens
1512 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bagels and Blossoms

In light of the large meal I ate at 1905 last night and the amount of money I dropped on drinks after wards, Aaron and I decided to forgo brunch this Sunday and ride our bikes down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. Are plan to get up at 8:30 and starting riding by 9:00 ended up being pushed back about two hours, but I was still pretty proud of us at 10:30 when we stopped to pick up supplies at So's Your Mom.

Before moving to our new neighborhood I had never heard of So's Your Mom, but in the last year I have come to love and rely on So's Your Mom for excellent and cheap breakfast sandwiches, bagels and deli sandwiches. Aaron is obsessed with their coffee and my mom was pretty excited about it too when she came to visit. Not being a coffee drinker myself, it is more difficult for me to appreciate. I have taken a poll of several coworkers and friends (several of whom are from or have lived in New York) and have been repeatedly reassured that the So's Your Mom has some of the best bagels in DC.

Cheap and quick for carry out food, So's Your Mom also stocks a wide variety of specialty cooking supplies, condiments and treats. I have yet to find out how they got their moniker, but I have a few of my own working theories.

All and all it was a beautiful morning sitting amongst the cherry blossoms, easting bagels and soaking up the sun that everyone in DC has been desperately wishing for.

So's Your Mom
1831 Columbia Road, NW

Good Burgers in Unexpected Places

We had some friends from Texas in town for the weekend and Janette and I were tasked with setting up a dinner for Saturday night. As excited as we were about seeing our friends, we were a little worried about the price of a good dinner in DC. Over time, paying $10+ for a sandwich starts to feel normal when you live here, but we were concerned that are dear friends from Texas might choke on the idea of dropping $30/person (not including drinks) for dinner.

We ended up choosing 1905 at U Street and 9th. Janette and I had been a few times before and while the menu does lean towards the expensive and the wine starts at $8/glass, they have one saving grace that pleases everyone: the hamburger. 1905 is a beautiful restaurant. Great care was put into the design and layout. The intricacy of the details makes you feel like you are eating in 18th century Europe and the cocktails are close seconds to what you would find at The Gibson. All that being said, the hamburger is the real reason that I keep going back. The Angus burger with red onion marmalade, Gouda cheese and steak fries almost justifies the $13 price tag. I have moral issues with paying more than $10 for a hamburger, but in this case I just tell myself that the red onion marmalade must be really expensive.

Janette and I both had the burger and loved it as usual. We also sampled a few bites of the Grilled Sirloin with a Parmesan potato croquette ($22) and the pan roasted gnocchi ($18). Both dishes were extremely well cooked and flavorful, but the burger is still the hands down winner for me.

The competition for the best burger in DC has begun...

1905 9th Street, NW