• 04Feb

    Starting a new year meant rolling out a new menu for the French bistro and bakery, Praline. They have added a whole new selection of crepes, offering both savory ones for meals and sweet options for desert. As a French bistro, they felt that the crepes were needed, not only to add a tasty classic, but also to bring a cohesive connection to their artisan bakery downstairs.

    For the locals living in the Bethesda area, they may have probably heard about the bakery. Praline offer goods from cookies, chocolates, pastries, cakes, and the irresistible French macaroon. Upon entry the sweet smell of the bakery fills the air as your eye is drawn to the immaculate display, and diverts the attention of anyone with even the mildest sweet tooth. The bakery is a distraction for many because even the owner Susan Limb admits, “Many regulars have forgotten, or don’t even know, about the charming bistro upstairs.”

    Everything produced from the Bistro and Bakery is made in house from scratch, and if possible, locally sourced ingredients. So it was no surprise that the new featured crepes are a sensation. For those who have traveled to France desire the crepe they had at a tiny bistro in Paris, Praline offers crepes that are on par with anything you can find at a French Bistro or a street cart in France.

    Susan Limb wanted diners to enjoy the authentic of enjoying crepes,  so she is pairing them traditionally with a semi-dry hard cider. This may seem like an odd combination at first, but it works. The subtle sweetness and gentle fizz simply complements the savory crepes.

    Praline’s bistro  is not limited to just crepes as they do have a full menu offering such French classics like escargot, Beef Bourguignon, Poulet Grand Mere, and Ratatouille. However, Americans typically do not think of a savory crepe as a meal, and this mindset is limiting. However, with an open mind, try are the three most popular crepes:

    The Norvégienne is wrapped up in the thin, moist and spongy crepe is crema fesca, which is a lighter, fresher version of sour cream that balances the Norwegian smoked salmon with added flavor and texture from the spinach.

    The Champêtre is stuffed with sautéed mushrooms in a cream sauce and Herbes de Provence, and proved to be bursting with delicious flavors.

    The Maraichère is a seafood crepe packed with crab, scallops, and shrimp in a cognac lobster sauce, a natural choice for any seafood lover.

    For the sweet crepes, the classic and always favorite is the Nutella and Banana stuffed Antillaise, or the Normande with baked apples and cinnamon.

    However, as a special treat and because there isn’t anything else like it, try the signature cake created by Co-owner and Executive Pastry Chef Patrick Musel, called the Walnut Dacquoise. This cake has layers of light cake and in the middle is a layer of walnut butter cream, crushed walnuts, and flakey pastry. If you like any of those things, you will love this cake.

    Praline does not disappoint and before you leave, make sure to grab a box of goodies from the bakery!

    -EWL (Eric)

    Praline Bakery & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  • 02Feb

    What gets filled up must be sipped down – especially in a moving elevator. Experiential cocktails from a mobile bar were just the beginning, located as they were in gracefully gliding glass elevators moving about the six floors of the Newseum. That and dozens of nationally renowned chefs, food artisans, restaurateurs, and mixologists, gathered together for the 2016 Sips event, plus a dash of love and lots of spirit, and it’s a recipe for eight years of unbridled success.

    Colorful Macarons

    Famed Chef Alice Waters began the event in 2009 to benefit DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table, two organizations based right here in DC, dedicated to helping those in need in the region. And for the past few years, José Andrés and Joan Nathan have joined Alice Waters as fellow hosts.

    While originally scheduled for January 23, Jonas the snowstorm made hosting an event for a few hundred folks a bit more difficult than making sure your soufflé rises every time. The event was therefore pushed back to January 30, and unfortunately, the high-donation Suppers event, at which famous chefs create and serve meals in private homes, was canceled.

    Snow aside, the culinary show must go on. The evening started with a pop – of corks, that is, from wine bottles sourced from the sustainable vines of Gustafson Family Vineyards in the VIP Lounge. Highly esteemed restaurants like Daikaiya, SER, and Indique helped begin the night in style on the second floor of the building for the VIPs, with a stunning view of the hive of activity below. Beyond that pop and pour of flutes and glasses, the funky, jazzy notes of the live music from Aztec Sun Band, based in DC, floated above the hum for a full multi-sensory experience.

    The event is called Sips for a reason: inventive cocktails were in abundance. New and local distillery One Eight Distilling shook things up with a vibrant red cocktail, anchoring a section of the event dedicated to local purveyors. Others nearby included Misfit Juicery, which fights food waste by using excess or ugly produce and turns it into tasty juice; and Banana Love Muffins, Dream Bites, and Gordy’s Pick Jar, all of which have used the unique and supportive food incubator space at Union Kitchen. Other specialty drinks ran the mixologist craft book, from sangria to your author’s personal favorite, an old fashioned made from whiskey aged in maple barrels.

    Of course, one must have some bites along with the drinks. Martha’s Table itself set up shop. It served healthy and crunchy kale salad, which complemented some of the other, richer dishes around. Lines ran lengthy for dishes like fresh-cut brisket, briny Rappahannock oysters, and heavenly macarons.

    The most extravagant offering: Hamilton’s ravioli stuffed with foie gras, in consomme, topped with black truffle shavings — difficult to beat.

    Hunger, whether worldwide or domestically, has shown up too often in the news of late. Therefore, bringing together the star power of the hosts and the creativity and artisanship of the chefs and mixologists made for a highly successful – and sip-worthy – evening.

    -ESC

     

  • 28Jan
    Butternut Squash Soup

    Roasted Butternut Squash Soup at 1789

    Now in its 9th year, Restaurant Week here in the DC area has grown to over 250 participating restaurants in DC, MD, and VA! It is organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. To participate, restaurants must subscribe to providing a three course prix fixe menu set at $22 for lunch, and $35 for dinner. Named the coolest city in America, DC is well-known for its restaurants and at these prices – it’s a steal! Participating venues also must subscribe to providing a high caliber customer experience. This semi-annual event is a chance for chefs to create new dishes, show off top notch talent, and bring the community together to share in the one thing many of us adore – GOOD FOOD!
    I was invited to a pre-event sampling of several menus of this year’s participants. My favorites dishes were from the classic and long standing 1789 in Georgetown and RIS, the restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Foggy Bottom. It was an exciting lunch that brought us several dishes that were created specifically to go on the restaurant week menu.

    1789 Short Ribs

    Short Ribs over Pomme Puree by Chef Kim at 1789

    1789’s Chef Sam Kim delighted us with a gorgeous Roasted Butternut Squash Soup followed by Short Ribs served over Pomme Puree. The soup was finished with a pomegranate brown butter that added a nice fruity note to this classic autumn and winter soup. Chef Kim’s addition of sriracha sauce, smoked pimenton, and cayenne pepper added the perfect amount of zip that left me, the diner, begging for another bowl. When spicy is done with a perfect light touch, it is a wonderful enhancement to a dish, not an overpowering flavor mask. The short ribs were perfectly tender and the pomme puree finished with cream and butter was so silky smooth the entire dish screamed haute comfort food! Dinner at 1789 normally will run you $100 per person – at $35, it makes the choice to give a try easier than ever. But then again, that’s the point of Restaurant Week – to give Washington diners the opportunity to affordably try restaurants they’ve always wanted to try.

    Cauliflower Crown

    Crown of Cauliflower by RIS

    The chef at RIS graced us with new creation that would make any vegetarian smile with delight. A crown of cauliflower served over spaghetti squash, Du Puy lentils, Greek yogurt and dotted with pomegranate seeds, raisins, pine nuts and mint – it was heavenly! I would have been happy to have made this gem of a creation both my first and second courses.

    I was instantly sold on returning to both of these restaurants.

    The official Restaurant Week site is http://www.ramw.org/restaurantweek. Go there to check out the great list of participating restaurants in DC, MD, and VA, view menus, and more importantly to make reservations. Reservations made through this site automatically enter you in to the rewards program to win prizes such as gift certificates, event tickets and more.

    Thanks to Jonas – Restaurant Week as been extended to February 3rd to still give you a week to sample as many new venues as possible.

    What a perfect way to get ourselves back in the swing after a week of being sequestered.

    -SAW

  • 21Jan

    The snowy January afternoon of January 17 was no match for the warmth exuded by Chefs Behind Bars, an event with a straightforward mission: help end childhood hunger. Guests gathered at Prequel, the restaurant incubator downtown, which hosted the event in its two-level, industrial-cool bar/lounge space.

    The conceit: unique and playful. Seven celebrated area chefs are taken out of their element (the kitchen) and sent to work with ingredients of the liquid kind – behind a bar, of course. Each crafts an original cocktail in attempt to beat out the other six, later crowned champion of this annual chef-cum-mixologist-for-a-day competition.

    The chefs featured: Matt Baker (Gravitas), Jen Carroll (Requin by Mike Isabella Group), James Martin (District Supper), John Critchley (Brine), Hamilton Johnson (Honeysuckle), Liam LaCivita (Bar Civita), and Yuki Nakandakari (Ocopa). To make sure everyone was well taken care of, servers kindly paraded the room with chicken biscuit sandwiches and bacon-jam crostini. The nibbles were courtesy of Prequel’s current popup, the Southern-inspired restaurant Honeysuckle.

    Given that each cocktail is so expertly, one might say painstakingly, put together, choosing a winner might be an unenviable task. Luckily, the judge’s panel was made up of DC food celebs, so your author was not included.

    When it comes to drinks, interactivity is key. The winner in that department: Brine, which managed to truck in an ice luge to channel for its super-cool gin-based drink. Imbibing like this is a slippery slope. The yin to this chilly yang was led by Jen Carroll, the lone female chef among this impressive cadre. She brought us wine cask-aged rum set off with passion fruit tea – and a cinnamon stick lit afire. And when there’s fire, there’s smoke, no? James Martin mixed mescal with herb ash foam to produce a frothy masterpiece, and Hamilton Johnson, whose food also graced the space, made a drink using Maker’s, blood orange liqueur, and smoked tobacco. Thankfully, no call to DCFD was necessary. There was also a ton of local love. Matt Baker partnered with brand-spanking-new local distiller One Eight Distilling, using its District Vodka over charred pineapple syrup and Thai basil essence. At the end of the event, the Judge’s Choice Award went to John Critchley, of aforementioned ice-luge fame. Not unlikely that this was the first time an alcoholic ice luge helped end childhood hunger.

    DC’s Taste of the Nation event hosted Chefs Behind Bars as a sneak peek for the huge charity Taste of the Nation 2016 event, to take place on April 4. All proceeds from the tickets support No Kid Hungry, which works to end childhood hunger by supplying healthy breakfasts and lunches.

    -ESC (Evan)

  • 14Jan

    Plenty of hot air can come out of this city – but now we’re getting some hot spirits, too. Over the past two years, DC’s seen several distilleries open, many clustered in the warehouse district of Ivy City. On Friday, January 8, One Eight Distilling celebrated its one-year anniversary with a huge party in its sprawling, industrial-chic space. Founded by two college buddies, Sandy Wood and Alex Laufer, One Eight came from years of discussion to become a purely DC-focused, homegrown distillery.

    The event, which attracted almost 400 guests, featured Untitled No. 6, a nine-year-old bourbon with a triple-cask finish: cognac, sherry, and muscat wines. The depth and touch of sweetness from the wines shine through the liquor, pairing nicely with its mild, lingering spice. Because One Eight’s proprietary aged liquors are not yet ready, it currently uses other whiskeys and creates unique, original finishes and experiments with new flavors, all part of the Untitled series.

    One Eight served three flavorful cocktails for the night, crafted by guest bartenders, for their three liquors: Red-Headed Stepchild with the vodka, Beats by Dre with the gin, and Take a Hike with the whiskey. DCFüd voted for the last one, made with a vanilla-rooibus reduction.

    For the food portion, the event featured pillowy spicy Thai meatball steamed buns from Ekiben, and pulled turkey and cheddar biscuit sandwiches from Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. Dessert was provided by Milk Cult, which used One Eight whiskey for its specialty frozen creation. Party goers noshed on cheese and crackers while dancing to the beats of DJ Neal Becton. He owns local music shop Som Records, and brought in real vinyls for the crowd’s pleasure.

    DCFüd sat down with Alex for a few light questions.

    DCFüd: How did you get your start?

    Alex: Sandy and I have been buddies since college. A few years ago, after many years of discussion, we realized where our mutual passions were, and set out to set up a DC-based distillery. We took a liking to the Ivy City area, and found a large former warehouse space to set up. There’s plenty of space here to hold events, but also importantly, to hold all of the casks to age our spirits.

    DCFüd: What makes One Eight distinct?

    Alex: Here, we focus on the grain to make our spirits. We use and are very proud of American rye. This rye goes into our vodka and our gin, which make them unique. Vodkas are usually grain-based spirits, but we fell in love with one Polish rye-based vodka, and have taken it from there – but the rye we use comes from right here in Maryland. Of course, we also have white whiskey, rye, and bourbon, the last made with American corn and aged in American oak barrels.

    DCFud: Tell us more about that rye-based gin.

    Alex: Our gin is really special. We take our vodka, which is already different because of its rye content, and then distill it with our signature botanical: the American spice bush. It actually grows wild all across the East Coast. We call it Ivy City gin, in fact, to highlight its local nature (the grains are locally sourced), and because we donate proceeds to Habitat for Humanity in support of projects in Ivy City.

    DCFüd: And the whiskey?

    Alex: the white, unaged whiskey is of higher proof than other whiskeys. It’s named for our local green space – Rock Creek Park – and pays homage to DC history and culture. It’s made from 100% Maryland and Virginia rye, and the malt comes from North Carolina.

    DCFüd: So we have the vodka, then gin, and the unaged whiskey. When do we get to try this magical rye?

    Alex: Ah yes, our rye is sitting in the barrels to age. The first rye will be ready this year: our two-year rye. Others, well, we’ll have to test when ready.

    DCFüd: We’ll certainly be back to try that!

    -ESC (Evan)

  • 11Jan

    It’s January, and once again the masses have begun devising plans to reinvent better versions of themselves. I’m no different with my determination to forever lose those extra 20 pounds – for the purpose of these brunch blogs, I’m praying that Sunday calories don’t count! In church today, I heard a nugget of wisdom that will hopefully help me, and perhaps you, when we’re ready to quit our New Year resolutions in mid-March – “Passion is what you want most, while Impulse is what you want now.”

    Rice Paper QuickstatThere is no greater example of this focus displayed than in those who leave everything they know behind in their motherlands in the hopes of making a better life for themselves and their families in a new country. Often the reward of their toils are only realized by their children decades later. As a second generation Indian American, I am so honored by the obstacles my parents faced so that I could have the opportunities I enjoy today. Too often immigrants find themselves taking on menial jobs that do not reflect the skills they earned in the countries of their childhood, but they push forward because they are here to survive, and keep taking one day at a time with a focus on their “tomorrow” dreams. For a slight reprieve from their daily humdrum, first generation immigrants often take comfort in creating glimpses of the familiar in their new home.

    For those from Vietnam, this phenomenon can be experienced to its fullest at the Eden Center in Arlington, VA – the largest Vietnamese center on the east coast. And so there I headed to have Sunday “brunch” at the famed Rice Paper. I used parentheses here because nothing served at Rice Paper on Sunday afternoon is different from their regular lunch menu…but is definitely still a great place to visit on Sunday afternoon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • 04Jan

    Starting in the New Year, I’m going to a church in DC’s historic Lincoln Theatre. This means that, besides feeding my soul every Sunday, I get the next year to take advantage of the food scene that’s blowing up across DC via the quintessential DC Sunday Brunch. But, who doesn’t get a bit tired of 50 different versions of Huevos Rancheros, Eggs Benedict, and French Toast – the average brunch trifecta? What I want to know is: if each weekly Sunday spot offers more than this usual trio, if their signature items from Monday through Saturday are also available for Sunday brunch, and if this place is worth both a brunch and non-brunch visit. So for the next 52 weeks, as I’ll be discovering the DC Sunday scene, I would love to share with you a small nugget on the food that fed my soul and then the food that fed my face!

    The first Sunday:Quickstat

    Did you know that coffee is being threatened by the drug cartel in South America? Per acre, cocaine is more profitable to farm than coffee or other produce, so in many places, farmers choose to grow cocaine instead of coffee for no other reason than a desire to earn a livable wage and support their families. Given this, I was inspired by an organization introduced at church today call Redeeming Grounds, that goes into the jungles of Columbia and buys coffee beans from farmers at prices above the market rate. Redeeming Grounds encourages farmers to consider growing coffee instead of cocaine by enabling them to earn a livable wage doing so. One farm at a time, this project is cutting into the heart of the drug trade and establishing generations of farmers that are willing to stand up to the cartels because they no longer need the drug trade to help feed their families.

    This is interesting to me not only because of their positive influence, but because I was struck at how it swims against the normative ‘Christian’ tide to be ‘good stewards’ of resources by getting the best deal on everything. This thought process often challenges the contrasting Christian principle of “loving your neighbor as yourself,” and propagates the demand for someone somewhere else to bear the burden of bringing this good deal to fruition. I’m so encouraged to see folks in this instance willing to look beyond the ‘best price’ to see the ‘bigger picture.’

    So, taking about the bigger picture but transitioning to food for my face (insert smiling emoji here), I want to encourage you to see the ‘bigger picture’ and know that glorious food can be found all the way to the far edges of the DC border: this Sunday, I ventured to Takoma Park’s Republic for Lunch. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 28Dec

    DC’s long anticipated wait for Harper Macaw‘s chocolate factory is over since it officially opened its doors on December 12th. Harper Macaw is DC’s first chocolate factory that sources their cocoa beans from the Brazilian Amazon and Atlantic rainforest. The line to enter the chocolate factory was out the door as people stood in line to get a taste of Harper Macaw’s hot chocolate or mint hot chocolate. Immediately upon entering, the smell of chocolate was in the air, with a vast variety of chocolate bars on display; chocolate cookies, pies and other desserts were being served. When the crowd of people were done sampling chocolate, tours were given.   During the tour, there were not any Oompa Loompas or Willy Wonka in sight. Instead, there was a sophisticated array of machinery such as a “conche” that ages the chocolate and a “five roller refinery” used in a European style of chocolate processing that crushes chocolate particles to 20 microns. At the end of the tour, Sarah Hartman (owner of Harper Macaw) threw a tasting party highlighting their chocolate variety and the event provided an informational session on how to properly eat and enjoy your chocolate. Harper Macaw currently has four chocolate bars available with 52, 67, 74, and 77 percent chocolate bars. Two of the bars are single source being either from the Brazilian Amazon or Atlantic rainforest. The other two bars are a unique blend of the two cocoa beans that produce a very deep sophisticated dark chocolate flavor. Sarah mentioned that key notes to taste in her chocolate bars were the “Fruity jamminess and wine in our 67% Dark Blend Bar, raisins in our 77% Amazon Rainforest Bar, toffee, butterscotch and spice notes in our 74% Atlantic Forest Bar, and raspberries, malt and almonds in our 52% Milk Bar.”

    With everyone enjoying the vast amount of chocolate surrounding them, Sarah Hartman was more than happy to chat with DCFüd about what it takes to be a chocolate artisan.

    What inspired you to start your own chocolate factory?

    I’ve had a lifelong love affair with chocolate. While attending boarding school in Switzerland, I fell deeply in love with chocolate, craftsmanship, and the history behind chocolate. Later on, my mother in law gave me a Scharffenberger recipe book – and the chapter that intrigued me the most was the one which talked about the chocolate making process and the power that cacao agriculture has to promote agroforestry. I shared this interest with a good friend, and she encouraged me to go for a one week intensive course on chocolate – after which, there was no going back. It was a matter of months before I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I knew I needed more experience and knowledge.  So I started learning everything I could about it from various courses all over the world, and later gaining invaluable experience at Valrhona and Dandelion chocolate.

    What is your ideal chocolate for texture? What about for flavor?

    My ideal chocolate texture is a chocolate that is smooth, refined, emulsified, and velvety – it unravels itself on your palate as it melts. I absolutely love that chocolate is a food that melts in your mouth – it is one of a kind. I don’t like grittiness nor sandiness in my chocolate, but I fully understand why some people may be attracted to this type of texture.

    My favorite flavor profile in chocolate is hands down fruity – I love chocolates crafted with Madagascar, Peruvian or Venezuelan beans.

    The artisan chocolate market in the US seems to be growing. We see more and more brands offering single-origin, high-cacao content chocolate. How do you see the Brazilian market changing?  How do you see your chocolate being different?

    Harper Macaw is the only US craft chocolate maker that sources cocoa beans from Brazil. We hope to enlighten fellow chocolate lovers about the unique flavor, texture, and aroma that Brazilian beans impart on our chocolate and inspire other craft chocolate makers to explore new sources. Our chocolate is different not only because of our unique source of beans, but because of our state of the art chocolate making process. We are one of the few chocolate ventures that use a 5 roll refiner. This ensures that our chocolate has the best texture and smoothest mouth feel.

    What are some new flavors that we may expect in the future? 

    We are working on several new sources for our cocoa beans that will imbue new and exciting flavors to our products. We are currently researching projects in Indonesia and Congo for our next origin bars. We have chosen these specific locations as they are countries which also suffer from large deforestation issues and we want to replicate our conservation model at other origins as well.

    How would you describe the flavors that someone eating your chocolate may expect?

    Each bar is unique and flavors and perceptions are all in the “mouth” of the beholder.  Our flavors are anything but expected.

    -EWL (Eric)

  • 27Dec

    Catch 15 opened almost 2 years now, and features high-quality Italian food and a happy hour that thankfully runs until 8pm. (More DC restaurants should have happy hours that run this late.)

    img_20151223_160145817I arrived at their Friends & Family event Wednesday evening and was greeted with an Amalfi Punch. Later in the evening I switched to Lindeman Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wine list is available here.

    I’m no a big tiramisu fan, and have only ever enjoyed two, including the version at Catch 15. (Ok, the other one was at Art & Soul.)

    The food was excellent, but I’d like to say that it was a pleasure to eat black cod. Yes, I know it’s a West Coast fish and not really a cod. It’s more like an oilier halibut. It’s also called sablefish and in NYC delis it is sold smoked as sable plate. It’s a delicious fish.

    The Risotto di Zucca Gialla con Costatine (pumpkin and shallot risotto with slow-simmered/braised short ribs in red wine reduction) was a well-executed treat with great flavors and textures. Both of the main components were favorites of mine and they also paired well together.

    -JAY

    Catch 15 Italian Restaurant + Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  • 21Dec

    CER (Celia) recently wrote a huge article about  a dinner event Pennsylvania 6. I was present at a media lunch there last week. Above are some images of the highlights.

    Penn 6 excels at seafood. The Crab Croquettes (with a tasty gribiche sauce), Octopus (served with wonderful gigante beans), Lobster Rolls, and Fried Oysters were all well-executed and delicious dishes. I order a lot of octopus, but theirs was tender and delicious in a way that the competition can’t touch. I didn’t take a picture of the Wild Burgundy Snails (I was lucky to snag one) but they were exceptional. This new restaurant needs to keep this up and build it’s reputation; It could become a serious seafood destination in DC.

    While most of the other diners in our large group were ordering Bucatini & Clams or Lobster Rolls as their entrees, I decided to try a meat dish. The  gentleman next to me (Mark Heckathorn from DC on Heels) did order a steak sandwich because he was thinking along the same lines. Some upscale restaurants can do great things with a humble pork chop, so I ordered the Berkshire Pork Chop with sweet potato, candied pecans, fried Brussels sprouts, and bourbon lacquer, and was not disappointed because it was easily one of my favorite dishes that day.

    And, Penn 6 has some great desserts. My favorite desserts that day were the extremely rich and delicious 3 Creme Brulees (the pumpkin variety is seasonal), and the Apple cake.

    I’d like to see the restaurant come up with some vegetarian entrees to round out their menu; there are definitely some salads and cheeses on the menu, so I’m thinking of more substantial vegetarian dishes just in case your best friend’s sister or college roommate needs them. I’d also like them to work on the Duck Fat Fries coming out crispy consistently, since some orders were crispy and some were not.

    I have plans to try their brunch in a few weeks. So, expect a followup to this article. I can hardly wait.

    -JAY

    Pennsylvania 6 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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