A Night in Boston, 23 NOV 2013

I was needing an escape from New Hampshire during my visit up there to visit family for the holidays, so I booked a hotel and some restaurant reservations in Boston.

The view from my window of the Boston Waterfront area.

The southeasterly view from my window at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

The first stop for me was Drink.  I had hit this fantastic, top-rated cocktail bar back in 2011 after a previous overseas tour (see here and here), and wanted to experience them again.

I started by asking for something with Green Chartreuse (a favorite of mine).  I was started off with a classic – The Last Word – with gin, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse.  Along with that, I had the very tasty (albeit tricky-to-eat) Sirloin Carpaccio.

Sirloin Carpaccio.  You have to pick it up to eat it, and it's too big for one bite.  I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

Sirloin Carpaccio. You have to pick it up to eat it, and it’s too big for one bite. I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

The Last Word.

The Last Word.

I followed The Last Word up with a Bijou (gin, Green Chartreuse, a sweet vermouth, and orange bitters) which provided more of the complex flavors of the Chartreuse.

Bijou.

Bijou.

To change things up, I asked for something with kümmel (previously mentioned here), an old, but hard-to-find liqueur which tastes of carraway, cumin, and fennel.  What I got was The Maiden’s Choice, which consisted of Plymouth Gin, dry vermouth, and kümmel.  This cocktail is great for showcasing the interesting flavors of the kümmel, although it’s a flavor that is probably an acquired taste.  Fortunately, I like it.

The Maiden's Choice.

The Maiden’s Choice.

The mixologists over at Drink have a thing for showmanship as well.  As I was enjoying my beverages, I watched them playing with fire.

Yep, that's fire he's pouring right there.

Yep, that’s fire he’s pouring right there.

I met up with some D.C. expatriates at the bar who endorsed Mockingbird Hill [Twitter/Facebook], the new Derek Brown sherry bar in Washington that I’m going to have to hit when I’m back in town.  A mixologist at Drink also recommended it.

After taking a short break after Drink (their drinks don’t want for alcohol content), I headed over to Empire Restaurant and Lounge for dinner.  Sporting a nightclub atmosphere (see – “Lounge”), I wasn’t sure what to expect the food to be like, although I’d seen high reviews for the joint.  I was happy to discover that their food program (namely the sushi, which was what I stuck to) was excellent.  Besides running Empire, Big Night Entertainment Group runs GEM, which has also received plaudits for their food.

I started off with the Hot Night in Bangkok (Avion Silver Tequila, plum infused sake, passion fruit, and Sriracha sauce), which provided a combination of sweet and spicy flavors.  It went well with the Sushi Cupcakes (broiled Maine lobster, spicy garlic butter, crispy pressed sushi rice, and marinated uni) of which I considered getting a second order.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Next up – the Hamachi Tartare Roll (with avocado, gobo [burdock root], cucumber, topped with spicy yellowtail tartare, and served in a ginger sauce) the fresh taste of the tartare went great with the ginger.

Also in this round – and one reason why I picked this location for dinner – was the ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll (with tempura cod, malt vinegar tartar sauce, and yukon potato chips).  I’m a big fan of the Fish and Chips Roll over at SEI in D.C., hence my interest in this menu item.  The Empire version adds in more of a vinegar flavor, which reminded me even more of the flavors you’d experience in a traditional fish and chips basket.

Empire's 'Fish & Chips' Roll

Empire’s ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll

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Hamachi Tartare Roll.

Hamachi Tartare Roll.

The final four dishes I went with were Nigiri-style – the Tuna ‘Hot Night’ gunkanmaki (spicy tuna, sliced chilies, sesame chili oil), Wagyu Beef Nigiri (with crispy shallots and a dark rum glaze – the beef replaced the nori as the wrap around the roll), Eel Nigiri Kabayaki (barbequed eel, sesame purée [reminiscent of peaut butter], and Granny Smith apple), and the Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’ (more Wagyu beef, along with Sockeye salmon, scallion, ginger, and sweet miso vinegar).  Great rolls.

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna 'Hot Night' (left)

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna ‘Hot Night’ (left)

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Nigiri 'Surf & Turf'.

Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’.

Closing out the evening, I made a stop over at Eastern Standard near Kenmore Square, and started off with a great Old Cuban (rum, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, sparkling wine float, mint).

Old Cuban.

Old Cuban.

Eastern Standard also likes their sherries, as evidenced by the five sherry cocktails on their drink menu.  Asking for my bartender’s favorite, I got The Veil of Sanlúcar (La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, chamomile mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters) – a great smokey cocktail.

The Veil of Sanlúcar.  Perfect way to finish the evening.

The Veil of Sanlúcar. Perfect way to finish the evening.

I’ll be back in the Boston-area every year around the holidays, and I’ll be making it a point to hit some new places every time.  If you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know!

Cocktails, week of 10 December 2012

Cachaça Sour

Cachaça Sour

3 oz. Pitú Cachaça
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1 egg white

Shook everything but the cachaça without ice.  Added the ice and cachaça and shook, then strained.  Nice and smooth.

————-

Strawberry's Revivial

Strawberry’s Revivial

1  1/2 oz. Bulleit Rye
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. strawberry simple syrup
1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe
2 dash Angostura bitters

Shook all but the bitters with ice.  Double strained into a glass.  I think I’d like this better with a little less absinthe, although it grew on me…anise taste at the front, finishes with the strawberry.

————-

Fresa Catrina

Fresa Catrina

2 oz. Grand Patron Platinum Tequila (this is overdoing it, but it was the only silver I had)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz strawberry simple syrup
10 black peppercorns

Muddled the strawberry simple syrup and the peppercorns, then added the rest of the ingredients and shook over ice.  The Fresa Catrina was tasty…the pepper and the sweetness went really well together.

————-

King Vittorio's Cobbler

King Vittorio’s Cobbler

2 oz. Averna Amaro
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. strawberry simple syrup

Shook all over ice, double strained into a glass.  The strawberries mellowed out the bitterness of the Averna (which is already relatively mellow as far as Italian bitter liqueurs go).  I liked this one.  Simple and tasty.

————-

Lion's Tail

Lion’s Tail

2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
3/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 spoonful of simple syrup
2 dash Angostura bitters

Shook all ingredients over ice, double strained into a glass.

———–

These cocktails were based on the recipes found at Cocktail Virgin:

Pisco Sour

Strawberry’s Revival

Fresa Catrina

King Vittorio’s Cobbler

The Lion’s Tail recipe was posted by Derek Brown of The Passenger and Columbia Room over at The Atlantic.

Fuego, 3 November 2012

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria is a new Mexican restaurant located where Harry’s Tap Room used to reside in Clarendon.  I dropped by there the other night to meet some folks for a birthday party, but after checking out their menu, I thought I should get some dinner there first.

First off, they’ve got some flavorful guacamole.

Some good, flavorful guac.

I went for three orders of soft corn tortilla tacos each ($7 / order of two).  The tacos at Fuego come with three salsas – rojo, habanero, and salsa verde – which went well with all the tacos I tried.

I got orders of the Lengua (slow braised beef tongue), Al Pastor (spit roasted marinated pork and pineapple serrano salsa), Birria (Jalisco-style roasted goat), and Pollo (chicken tinga, shredded lettuce, queso fresco).  The vegetarian I was eating with got the Calabaza version (Yucatán-style roasted squash and spicy pickled red onions).

Beef Tongue Tacos…so good.

Goat Tacos…

Round three – pork and chicken tacos.

To not overdo the taco theme of the evening (although they were all quite tasty – especially the beef tongue), I next ordered the Ceviche de Pescado (Tilapia, habanero, red onion, fresh lime).

Closing it out with a good ceviche.

Fuego offers three-glass flights from their extensive menu of over 110 tequilas.  This time around, I went with a flight of blanco, reposado, and añejo Chinaco.

Substantial amount of tequila options…according to a tweet I received from @FuegoCocina, they’ve got over 110 of them.

Also, great specialty tequila cocktails.  Try the Mala Suerte (habanero infused tequila, triple sec, grapefruit juice, lime juice) or the Gherkin Fresca (Sauza Blue Silver, Hendricks, jalapeño simple syrup, cucumber-lime agua fresca – has a great, fresh, cucumber-y taste).

Mala Suerte…

…and the Gherkin Fresca

I’ll be trying out some of the rest of the menu next time I drop by…I expect it’ll be good.

Dinner at Mintwood Place, 2 October 2012

I had a few people mention Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan as a place I needed to try, so on Tuesday I made that happen.

First off, I loved the menu.  Great nibbles (smaller appetizers), regular appetizers, entrees, and drinks.  My biggest problem was narrowing down what I could realistically consume in one sitting.

The shishito peppers and and escargot hush puppies.

I kept things at two nibbles (blistered shishito peppers and escargot hush puppies), and two appetizers (steak tartare with spuds and goat cheese and beet mountain pie) to start off.  All were good…the peppers were subtle (although I found the provided hush puppies sauce also went well with them), and the other dishes were quite  flavorful and creative.

The duck breast “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut, which I ordered for my entree, was excellent.  Well-prepared duck paired well with the pepper sauce and bed of sauerkraut.

Duck “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut.

Good desserts – a classic brownie sundae (with a super-moist brownie) topped with sprinkles, and a Baked Alaska flambé closed out the evening.

Oh look, my dessert is on fire.

The cocktail menu is also very creative.  The Smokin’ on the Bayou (Benevá Mezcal Añjeo, Grapefruit Juice, Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters) and  Woodrow Wilson (Boomsma Genever “Gin”, Hum Liquor, Elderflower, Cava) were two that I tried out.  The former had a subtle, smokey flavor that I’d credit to the mezcal, while the latter had a slight all-spiciness…I’m guessing that came from the Hum, which I’m not familiar with, and bills itself as a botanical spirit with a number of different ingredients.

The Smokin’ on the Bayou cocktail.

This particular dinner was pricy – besides the above, there was one additional entree and two additional cocktails – for a total of over $200 with tip.  However, you’re getting what you pay for…everything was of excellent quality, and the tastes involved were exceptional.

For some other reviews on Mintwood Place, check out Tom Sietsema’s at Washington Post (3 of 4 stars), and this one from Been There, Eaten That.

Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6732
mintwoodplace.com

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Tonight’s Cocktail…

I liked the cocktail I made tonight so much that I figured I’d put it up here for all of you.

Legion

I wanted to make something tonight with Fernet, so searching throughout Cocktail Virgin, I found this gem.

I wouldn’t usually be a fan of a drink with this much Sweet Vermouth, but the other ingredients (I believe especially the Fernet) really brought out the grape…I have to say I was a fan.

As posted on Cocktail Virgin:

2/3 Sweet Vermouth (2 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
1/6 Brandy (1/2 oz Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva)
1/6 Curaçao (1/2 oz Senior Curaçao)
1 dash Fernet Branca (1/4 oz)

I replaced the brandy with Armagnac, and the Curaçao with triple sec (which provided a dryer taste, I’d expect), while utilizing the same measurements.  I’ll make this one again.

NH Cocktail Party, 30 June 2012

My friends hosted a cocktail party the other night in New Hampshire where I got to put some recipes (tried and true and a couple new ones) to the test.  Sources for the recipes included Andres Aleman (Dragon’s Kiss), Gina Chersevani (Black White and Tiki, Beety Bastard), and The Passenger (Hot as Girl on Girl, Monk’s Mule, Obamacare Sling, Milton’s Stapler).

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The menu isn’t fully correct – we made it up at the last minute – but it’s close.

We whipped up several different types of simple syrups that we hadn’t tested out before, including strawberry syrup (great stuff – see Andres Aleman’s recipe for that one here), mint, cinnamon/nutmeg (really good – I think I used one large stick of cinnamon and a few dashes of nutmeg, then strained through cheese cloth), habanero, ginger (used my recipe from before, minus habaneros, and plus a little more ginger), and beet.  I need to work out a good recipe for the beet syrup…mine was not beety enough for what I was gunning for.

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Some simple syrups being prepped.

Most of these cocktails came out pretty well…I wouldn’t do the last item on the menu larger than a shooter though.  Way too sweet.  I’ll also need to tweak future menus a little bit..too little variation in the drinks (e.g. too many gin drinks, and too many with ginger beer – oops).

This was my first time being the bartender for a group this size (15-20).  It was definitely an experience that I’ll need to repeat…I need more opportunities where speed is important and stress exists (I don’t get that mixing drinks at home, obviously).  I’ve certainly got a ways to go to get out of novice status.

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My office that evening.

Cocktails, Early June 2012

Sorry for the hiatus…was tied up with some professional stuff.

Here’s a few cocktails that I’ve made in the last couple of weeks:

El Diablo:

Ingredients for the El Diablo…

  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 oz tequila (I used 1800 Reposado.)
  • 1/2 oz crème de cassis
  • Ginger Beer (I used Fever-Tree, which is excellent.)

Squeeze the lime and drop the shell in the glass, then add the tequila and crème de cassis.  Stir, then top off with ginger beer.

(Based on recipes from The Webtender Wiki)

I tried this a couple weeks ago at The Passenger…thought I’d try making it myself.  Came out pretty well…I’d throw it together again.

El Diablo…

My version of Alex’s Sour from The Passenger:

The ingredients for my version of Alex’s Sour…

The Passenger’s version calls for white whiskey, lemon, and Yellow Chartreuse…I went off this and used the following:

  • 2 oz Johnnie Walker Black
  • 1 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice (and being out of lemons, I used the type from concentrate…meh.)

Shook the ingredients together with ice, strained over fresh ice in a rocks glass.  Not bad.  I’d say it’s better than a whisk(e)y sour.

Alex’s Sour #2…

Bully Boy:

Ingredients for my take on the Bully Boy…

I was looking for some ideas for my brand new bottle of Fernet-Branca and came across this page.  Naturally I had to try out the award winner for best Fernet cocktail, so I threw together the Bully Boy.  From the site:

  • 1oz bourbon
  • 1/2oz Fernet Branca
  • 1/2oz Canton ginger liqueur
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 2t simple syrup
  • lemon peel, for garnish

Select dodecahedron shaped ice cubes out of your freezer (be very selective, the shape is important), and bash them with a baseball bat. Now shake it all up and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Of course, I am not yet fancy enough to have dodecahedron-shaped ice cubes (nor a bar baseball bat), so I did not follow some of the directions.  I used Woodford Reserve bourbon, and swapped out the plain simple syrup for my homemade ginger-habanero variety.  Because of the new flavors that my simple syrup lends to this drink (and because I didn’t have any real lemons…) I garnished this with an orange twist.  This came out great…very tasty.  You don’t get much of the medicinal taste associated with Fernet, but you can still tell it’s in there.  This one was definitely a winner.

The Bully Boy. Good cocktail…

Consolation Prize:

The ingredients for Consolation Prize…

I was looking for a good Chartreuse cocktail for this evening, and came across Last Frontier at both cocktail virgin slut and The Passenger.  Using this as a base, I made the following:

  • 2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake and bruise all ingredients with ice, then strain into a martini glass (keep small ice shards) and garnish with orange peel.

The Passenger’s version called for unknown proportions of Tanqueray, Green Chartreuse, and (unknown) bitters, while cocktail virgin slut called for 3 parts Beefeater, 1 part Green Chartreuse, and lemon oil.

I blew an interview earlier in the day, so I’m naming this one Consolation Prize.  Cheers.

My Consolation Prize…

Vidalia, 6 June 2012

Having enjoyed RJ Cooper’s Rogue 24 a couple times in the past, I wanted to try Vidalia, where Cooper had been chef de cuisine from 2004 to 2010.  The chef and owner of Vidalia, Jeffrey Buben, is himself a James Beard Foundation award-winner, so I went into this dinner with high expectations.  Here’s some details and recommendations (spoiler:  everything I ordered was excellent).

When an amuse-bouche is good, you get excited for the rest of the meal. This one was rhubarb and orange on a parsnip purée.

Appetizers:

  • Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras – “Rhubarb, spicy peanut praline, black pepper biscuit, cheerwine gelée.”  I love foie gras…if it’s on the menu I almost always get it.  This version didn’t let me down.  The savoriness of the foie gras went so well with the sweetness of the fruits and nuttiness of the praline.  Cheerwine is a cherry soda from North Carolina that has been around since 1917.  Great cherry flavor – reminds me of cherry pie.  Buy it online or at some grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Hamachi Crudo – Another good one…this was on the chef’s inspirations special menu.  Came with chilled watermelon, cranberry purée, cheese, and a vegetable sorbet.  The hamachi itself was fresh and tasty, without the fishiness you sometimes get with lower quality or poorly prepared yellowtail.
  • Crisp Berkshire Pork Trotter – “Sunny-side egg, black pepper grits, apple butter, béarnaise sauce.”  The pork trotter was by far my favorite appetizer….absolutely delicious.  So many flavors that work together in harmony.  This is no pickled pig’s foot, but rather some nice and tender leg meat.  If you only get one appetizer at Vidalia, this is the one you should be getting.

It was difficult to settle on only three firsts…many of them sounded great from the menu descriptions.  Next time I want to try the Oyster Pan Roast and the Sweetbreads & Waffles (right behind another dish of the pork trotter).

Pork, egg, béarnaise, apple butter, grits, pepper…so many flavors working so well together. This pork trotter was excellent.

Great foie gras. I’d get this one again.

Tasty hamachi dish…hit my fish fix.

Entrees and Sides:

  • Spiced Crusted Duck Breast – “Duck confit beignet, carrot purée, english peas, pearl onions, rhubarb, lavender jus.”  Duck two ways.  The duck breast was cooked perfectly…the restaurant recommends medium-rare.  The duck confit beignet was also tasty.  This was a very well prepared duck dish that I’d repeat.
  • Braised Barbecue Bison Short Ribs – “Zola’s cornbread purée, heirloom carrots, turnip greens, chanterelles, barbecue spiced jus.”  Although I loved the duck, I think this was the winner of the entrees.  The smokiness hit my mouth before the fork made it to my mouth.  Flavorful and perfectly cooked to fall off the bone…no knife needed.
  • Vidalia’s Baked Onion – “Country ham, red-eye gastrique, mushrooms.”  Being at a place called “Vidalia”, I couldn’t pass up getting this side dish.  A hefty vidalia onion came out and was cut up by the waiter into petals of sweet liquid.  This was a good choice…it went well with the entrees and lived up to the restaurant’s name.

Great duck…

Bison Short Ribs…so good…

The Vidalia Onion side dish…I don’t always eat all my side, but this time I did.

Cheese and Desserts:

  • 3-Cheese Plate – We went with a selection of cheese to start, one each from the sheep, goat, and cow varieties.  Vidalia has an extensive cheese menu (~25 options) which changes often.  The plating included three types of crackers and three jellies (apple, apricot, and plum) as accoutrements.
  • Georgia Pecan Pie – “Bourbon ice cream, praline lace crumble, caramel.”  The server’s recommendation…good call.  Paired well with the Boston Bual Madeira.
  • Peanut Butter S’More – “Guanaja-peanut butter mousse, toasted marshmallow, graham cracker ice cream.”  If you’re a peanut butter and chocolate fan, you need to get on this.  Paired very well with the Pedro Ximenez Toro Abala Don.

The Georgia Pecan Pie…

Peanut Butter S’more…

Cocktails:

  • Tobacco Road – “Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Boyd & Blaire Vodka, Peychaud’s bitters, Cheerwine.”  Another offering that includes the Cheerwine.  Sweet, but not overly so.  You definitely get that cherry pie flavor.
  • Wisteria – “Bluecoat Gin, crème de violette, cassis, soda, amaretti.”  Tasted flowery and was purplish, hence the name.  Good mix.
  • Ben Baker – “Rittenhouse Rye, lemon, sugar.”  Good one…if you’re looking for one a little less sweet than the above, this is a solid choice.
  • Mint Julep – “Wild Turkey, sugar, muddled mint.”  Tasty mint julep in a julep cup…it’s a southern restaurant, so it’s a good fit.

The Tobacco Road…it’s tough to tell but it’s slightly red…sort of looks like a Roy Rogers.

The Wisteria…I know it looks like the one above, but this one was more of a purple than a red, thanks to the crème de violette.

My high expectations for this dinner were met and exceeded.  If you haven’t been, I’d recommend you change that.

Buben has a second restaurant in DC, Bistro Bis, which serves French cuisine.  That one is on my list.

Vidalia
1990 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 659-1990
http://www.vidaliadc.com
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AGAINN, May-June 2012

I’ve hit Againn twice in the past month for some delicious , locally-sourced, gastropub food.  What makes it so endearing to me is the simple pub-fare food, classed-up, and somehow made lighter than one would typically expect of such eats.

Thus far all the dishes I’ve had at Againn (a Gaelic word meaning “with us“) have been excellent.  I’ll mention the details here.

Baked Camembert Cheese. Great starter.

Appetizers:

  • Baked Camembert Cheese – “Studded with garlic and rosemary, tomato chutney, garlic croutes.”  Really garlicky (especially the croutes, although there is plenty in the cheese).  I’m a fan of baked Brie, and Camembert has its similarities.  The tomato chutney went well with the rosemary and garlic flavors, adding tang and a mellowing out of the saltiness.
  • Salmon Fishcakes – “Lemongrass, chili, coriander, marinated cucumbers, sweet chili dip.”  As one would imagine from the description, there’s a hint of Thai in the taste…not a bad fusion, although not the typical UK pub grub flavors.
  • Oysters – Add a half or full dozen of the daily selection of oysters Againn has up for offer.  They came out with a half lemon (with a cloth filter to catch the pulp and seeds) and a tasty shallot vinegar.

Love me some oysters…

Good fishcakes appetizer…

Entrees:

  • Pork Belly and Crackling – “House made black pudding, apple mash, red wine jus.”  I’ve tried this twice, and every bit of the dish has been delicious.  The pork belly was tender and succulent, and the black pudding and apple mash were flavorful even without the jus.  The crackling was crunchy and went well with the rest of the entree.  If you’re a pork fan, get this one.
  • Grilled Lamb Rump – “Potato gratin, red wine sauce.”  Againn serves the lamb medium, although it appeared closer to medium rare to me.  I actually asked for medium rare, so this was great.  Keep it in mind if you prefer yours more cooked.  The red wine sauce went very well with the meat, and the gratin side was savory (I’m definitely a fan of the sides here – they’re not something that everyone gets right).

If pork belly is on the menu, I’m probably getting it…

Great lamb dish…

Desserts:

  • Cheesecake (special) – Againn was testing a new cheesecake recipe when I was visiting.  Baked cheesecake with an Oreo crust, topped with melted Mascarpone, and served with a berry sauce.  The Mascarpone could have had a little more sweetness, although it worked as a nice contrast with the taste of the rest of the dessert.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding – served with vanilla ice cream.  Sweet and tasty…a good pub dessert.  I’d get this again.
  • Strawberry Eton Mess – “Pimm’s marinated strawberries, crushed meringue, whipped cream.”  I didn’t get this, but it sounded so good that I want it in the near future.

Againn’s test cheesecake…

Great ending…

Cocktails:

  • God of War – “Makers Mark bourbon, cherry herring, sweet vermouth, Peychauds bitters, house-made blood orange bitters.”
  • Pimm’s Cup No. 13 – “Pimm’s No. 1, choice of any spirit, english cucumber, mint, lemon, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters, ginger beer.”
  • Lady Macbeth – “Choice of vodka or gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon, eggwhites.”

These were all good…they’re going up on my list for in-house mixology.

God of War…

Pimm’s Cup No. 13 (with gin)…

Lady Macbeth (with gin)…

If you’re a scotch fan, Againn has something for you.  Besides having an extensive scotch list, scotch lockers, and listed scotch flights, Againn will let you do your own custom flights.  I tried one with Islay scotches…all nice and peaty.

Flight of Islay scotch…Ardbeg 10, Bowmore 15, Caol Ila 12, Oban 14…

Againn has lower reviews on some sites than I would have expected.  As with any restaurants, I’d encourage folks to check places out for themselves before taking a restaurant off your list based on poor reviews – especially when the number of reviewers is low.  Keep Againn on your list.

AGAINN
1099 New York Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 639-9830
http://www.againndc.com
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Zaytinya, May-June 2012

I can’t get enough of Zaytinya, José Andrés’ Mediterranean restaurant near Chinatown.  I’ve been there four times in the last couple months…great food and drinks.  It works well as a date place, or for a quick, light dinner at the bar.  Zaytinya is almost always busy – I’d recommend reservations if you can get them.  They do however allow for walk-ins, and there is usually a little bit of space available for this at the bar earlier/later in the evening from what I’ve seen.

“Zaytinya” means “olive oil” in Turkish, according to Zaytinya’s website. The bread pictured can be used to pick up most of the mezze. The “Z” in the oil is pomegranate molasses, adding a sweet tanginess to the oil.

The dishes are mezze (small plates).  I’d recommend four per couple and work from there.  Here’s my recommendations:

  • Kibbeh Nayeh – “Lebanese style beef tartare ground to order, bulgur wheat, radish, mint, pita chips.”  This is my favorite, and every time I finish it, I want to order a second helping.  This is very rare (read: raw), so be prepared for that.  If you like sushi, you’d probably like this…texture-wise it’s pretty similar.
  • Octopus Santorini – “Grilled Mediterranean octopus, marinated onions, capers, yellow split pea puree.”  The best octopus I’ve had anywhere.  Not chewy like you’d expect…extremely tender.  The yellow split pea puree and capers adds a nice tanginess to the dish.
  • Lamb Kleftico – Shredded lamb in phyllo on a dill yogurt sauce with feta.  This dish has been on Zaytinya’s special menu for awhile…I’m hoping they’ll just move it over to the regular one so that it doesn’t disappear.
  • Snail Kibbeh – “Crispy potato crusted snails, baharat spiced labne, heirloom lettuces.”  I’m a fan of snails wherever I can find them.  This dish is excellent.

I haven’t gotten anything at Zaytinya that I wouldn’t get again, so these recommendations are not a complete list (for some more examples, check out this review…he’s got some great shots).

The former executive chef at Zaytinya was Mike Isabella (as seen on season 6 of Top Chef), who has since moved on to open Graffiato (one of the next stops on my list), and last week he opened his new Mexican restaurant, Bandolero.  The current chef (since 2010) is Michael Costa, and he is clearly doing great things there.

Kibbeh Nayeh…

…Lamb Kleftico…

…Octopus Santorini…

…Snail Kibbeh…

…Baba Ghannouge.

Zaytinya also has a creative cocktail menu with Mediterranean flair.  A couple I’ve had recently:

  • Clean Monday – “Cucumber & mint infused Plymouth Gin, St. Germain, Cava.”  Nice and light…good compliment for the mezze.
  • Corfu Buck – “Rittenhouse Rye, house-made kumquat liqueur, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, ginger beer.”  Fruity but not overly sweet…another good pairing.

They have a pretty extensive liqueur collection (noticed crème de violette and allspice dram) so they’ll more than likely be able to make you your favorites.  They also have a number of different house-made mixers and infusions to spice up their drinks (besides the ones in the above drinks, they’ve also got apricot-infused Metaxa Brandy, lemon verbena-infused vodka, and orange-thyme syrup, to name a few).

Clean Monday…

…Corfu Buck.

Zaytinya is definitely a place to hit over and over again.  If you haven’t yet been to this restaurant, remedy that.  You’ll probably see me there.

Zaytinya
701 9th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 638-0800
http://www.zaytinya.com
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