I think I’m getting addicted to that subtle tingle of anticipation I get when I sit down at a restaurant I’ve never been to before and unfold the menu. I crave that now – ordering a meal and wondering what exactly will appear. I adore the buzz of a place, the low murmur or the boisterous laughter. I like the sleekest of scenes, the sound of my high heels on a polished floor and the dingiest of hole-in-the walls with foamy beer right off the tap. There’s a small miracle in being given a whole list of options, choosing the ones you like best, and then having them brought to you and placed right in front of you (!) for you to devour, judge, accept or reject – when is that experience ever replicated in life? I love not having to cook, I love the simplicity of the process. I love having a dish presented to me, no matter what. I appreciate the showiest constructed dish with sprigs of Rosemary, stacks of accoutrement and a carefully placed spruce of tartare to the simplest plain white bowl of grits topped with shrimp. I love the smells. I love the sounds. I love the possibilities. I love the interactions. In the simplest of statements, I love restaurants.
Good thing I’ve found an outlet for my adoration. I know it sounds a bit overboard, my little poetic waxing about restaurants – I mean, they dot every corner of DC, from Wisconsin to New York Ave. They come in all sizes, all standards, serve a number of purposes. To love something so mundane to someone else might seem silly. But I am unabashedly, unashamedly in love with the food in this fine city. This month was slightly less busy than the last, and August is gearing up to be on par. There have been openings, there have been new menus to try, and there have been simple dinners out with friends. Out of all the places I’ve eaten this month, here are my favorite dishes from eat places within the Beltway.
The long list of where I’ve been this month (also known as what we’re workin’ with): Vidalia, Indigo Landing, Faccia Luna, Art and Soul, Boccato, Thomas Sweet, Jaleo, Pizzaria Paradisio, Fortune of Seven Corners, Westend Bistro, Brabo’s Tasting Room, Urbana, Chick-Fil-A (it qualifies. seriously.), Ben’s Chili Bowl, Good Stuff Eatery, Domaso, Momoyama
Cocktail: Peach Tea at Westend Bistro. First off, I have to say that I adore Westend Bistro. Situated on the corner of M and 22nd in West End, Eric Ripert’s restaurant, with Chef de Cuisine Joe Palma and Sous Chef Adam Barnett make magic at that place. It’s exactly the type of food I love, interesting, simple, straightforward, ingredient-focused. And I was thrilled to realize that the cocktails match the food. The staff brought us these wonderful new peach cocktails, and I could not stop swooning. This is by far one of my favorite drinks in all of DC. They were even kind enough to share the recipe with me so I could share it with you all. So, as an added bonus, here’s how you make my favorite cocktail, Westend Bistro’s Peach Tea:
1 1/2 oz firefly vodka
1 oz peach puree
1 oz peach schnapps
splash lemon juice
shake and strained over ice
garnish with fresh peach slices
Bread: Butter Flake Roll at Vidalia. I recently read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, where he advises not eating the bread at any good restaurant. Why waste the space? is his theory. This appalled me, because I adore warm bread. The best bread I’ve eaten in July came from Vidalia, house made by the restaurant’s bakers. The butter flake roll is as it says, buttery, wrapped up much like a mini cinnamon bun, easily slathered with butter or a bit of the onion they provide.
Appetizer: “Napa”Tizers at Brabo’s Tasting Room. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s casual next door concept in Old Town, the Tasting Room, is unassuming. The beer list is impeccable. With walk-in only service, the place’s premise is obviously good food. Wiedmaier’s “Napa”Tizers (a name he borrowed from a friend who used to serve this type of an assortment at her dinner parties) are like a little tasting menu all in themselves. Pickles, with pate, hummus paired with overgrown capers. It’s like a taste festival on a plate, I don’t know how else to put it. Interesting, strong flavors, served in small doses dotting a long white plate. It’s like appetizer ADD.
Soup: Chilled Tomato Consommé at Westend Bistro. It was tough competition for the soup spot this month, and this is by far the most delicious dish I had this month. I had a fabulous cucumber soup at Vidalia, and a wonderfully creamy almond and tomato gazpacho at Jaleo, but Westend Bistro’s consommé defines food dream. For those of you unfamiliar, a consommé is a clear soup made from richly flavored stock, that is then clarified with a refining process – in this case cheese cloth. Looking a bit like buttery white wine, the heirloom tomato consommé is served over halved cherry tomatoes and tiny bits of feta. It was perfection in a bowl, I don’t know how else to describe it.
Main: Turkey Burger from Good Stuff Eatery with chipotle mayonnaise. I don’t know how I stayed away from Good Stuff for so long, it certainly wasn’t for lack of want. I may even have a small girl crush on Spike. But ya’ll that burger is plain and simple good. I’m usually wary of turkey burgers, but I had heard so much buzz about it that I had to give it a go. It is perfection! The bun is great, the avacado is excellent, I loved the mayonnaise bar, just like Ashley of From Komi to Marvin told me I would. My friend Rebecca recommended the chipotle, and she wasn’t lying. It is as the name promises, good stuff.
Dessert: Oreo Biscotti gelato at Boccato Gelato and Espresso. I raved on and on about Boccato in my Frozen Treats feature. I love that place. The oreo biscotti is my go-to flavor. It’s creamy, got excellent oreo texture, and is just perfection. I don’t know how you describe a gelato other than to say it is precisely what you want it to be – itty bitty tiny spoonfuls of heavenly frozen creamy deliciousness.
So there we have it – the best dishes of my July! What were yours? Anything I must try in August? A place that made you crave more? Do tell.