America Eats Tavern, 26 June 2012

I made it a point to try out America Eats Tavern, José Andrés’ American history restaurant, before it was set to close after a final dinner on 4 July.  America Eats was opened as a concept restaurant partnership between  Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup and the Foundation for the National Archives.  The restaurant broke out dishes that were based on accounts of food and drink consumed throughout America’s history.  I loved the concept, as well as the stories of each dish posted on the menu.  I’m really disappointed that I only just got to try the restaurant since it’s now closed, as everything I tasted was excellent.  I’m hoping that Andrés will continue to have some of the popular dishes at some of his other venues.

I started off with a cocktail, Franklin’s Milk Punch.  It was based on a recipe contained in correspondence from Benjamin Franklin to James Bowdoin (I found the letter and some additional information here – also included is a modern recipe for the drink).  It sounds a little odd – you put milk and lemon together with brandy and a few other ingredients before removing the  resulting curds – but it came out tasty.  One of these days I’ll try making it myself.

Benjamin Franklin’s Milk Punch. Nice lemony taste.

My first appetizer was a half dozen oysters-on-the-half-shell.  America Eats provided two house-made fruit vinegars (watermelon and raspberry – I liked these), lemon juice, and pepper for garnishing.

Oysters…

…and garnishes.

My server, Lavon, had some fantastic recommendations for my orders.  Next up was one of these – the Shrimp ‘N’ Anson Mills Grits.  Nice buttery grits with bits of bacon and fresh shrimp.  Delicious.

Great recommendation from my server, Lavon.

As I’ve written in earlier posts, I’m a huge fan of foie gras.  I’ll almost always get it when I see it on the menu.  At America Eats, they had an interesting combination dish – Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches with Foie Gras.  It sounded so unique that it was not going to get passed by.  It was amazing…the tastes worked so well together.  It came with Saratoga Chips (more on that here) and a bottle of milk…great pairing.

So, so good.

Great sides for the PBJFG.

My second cocktail was the Switchel.  Billed as a drink from colonial times, the Switchel was a mixture of rum, cider vinegar, molasses, and ginger.  The cider vinegar was the predominent taste, but it was still refreshing.  It went well with the Americana theme of the restaurant and the rest of my dishes.

The Switchel.

My last starter (is it really a starter since it was my fourth?) was the Vermicelli Prepared Like Pudding (see here for Lewis Fresnaye’s original recipe from 1802).  I was a little worried that this would be too heavy for me to continue on with the meal, but it wasn’t, regardless of the pasta and cheese involved.  This was some of the best mac and cheese I’ve had.  The mushrooms (morels I think) went great with the dish.

Way better than regular mac and cheese.

Okay – on to the entree.  Based on another recommendation from Lavon, I went with the BBQ Beef Short Ribs with Hoppin’ John…tender beef with black-eyed peas and rice in a spicy sauce.  Great stuff.

Short Ribs…Excellent.

Even after all this, I just could not pass up dessert.  Based on my server’s final recommendation, I ordered the Pecan Pie.  Andrés’ take on the pecan pie included candied pecans and some molecular gastronomy – bourbon foam.  I washed it down with a glass of Bulleit bourbon neat.  Great end to the meal.

What a great ending.

Great meal all around.  I liked the closing touch too.  Everyone’s bill comes out in a vintage American book.

Mother Mason, by Bess Streeter Aldrich.

I’m going to miss America Eats Tavern – wish that I had experienced them earlier – but I expect that whatever Andrés does in that space will be excellent as well.

For a little more on America Eats, check out this timeline from Eater DC, or follow the Twitter feed…I’d expect that the updates on the new restaurant will be posted there.

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