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.

Lightfoot, 21 October 2012

I’d been to the Lightfoot Restaurant once before about a year ago, and had been meaning to get back there for more.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get out there – they’re located in downtown Leesburg – but well worth the trip.  I took the Ducati up Rt. 7 and parked a couple blocks away in the convieniently free parking garage (which DC and VA should get more of).  I couldn’t get a reservation on OpenTable, so I called to see if they had anything available.  They did, and mentioned their systems were down (a good to-know – always call a restaurant if you can’t get reservations online).  I showed up around 5 PM on a Sunday, and they had plenty of space available.  The restaurant is in the old Peoples National Bank of Leesburg, and some of the bank vaults play into their decor (there’s one in the bathroom, and the dials still work…I may or may not have been trying out the combo lock).

The outside of the restaurant.

Yep, really used to be a bank.

I got three of the same things I had ordered a year prior…I wanted to get a baseline for whether they were still as good as I remembered.

  • Chef Ingrid’s French Onion & Field Mushroom Soup – Best French Onion soup I’ve had.  Comes with croustade, Gruyère, goat cheese, Pecorino Romano, and truffle oil.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes – One of the restaurant’s signature dishes.  These are delicious…jalapeño cheddar cheese, sautéed shrimp, Szechwan chili cream.
  • Slow Braised Pork Shank – Lots of restaurants say their meat falls off the bone.  This literally did.  While Lightfoot provided me with what appeared to be a pretty sturdy knife for this entrée, it was entirely not needed.  The meat was served in a brandy glaze with broccolini and a delicious bread pudding filled with aged cheddar, apple wood smoked bacon, and fresh thyme.

Even if French Onion soup isn’t your thing, you should try this…it’s delicious.

Fried Green Tomatoes is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and for good reason. It has not at all changed a year later, and is just as good as the first time I tried it.

Gives Tommy Floramo’s a run for their money…this is the Pork Shank that falls off the bone. I had this the first time I went to Lightfoot, and when I asked for a recommendation, my server came right back to this one. Glad I did the repeat.

The first time I stopped in to Lightfoot, my dining companions and I also got the Peking Duck Quesadillas, Meatballs with Butternut Squash, Coconut Cream Cake with Chocolate Ganache, Pumpkin Brownie, Apple Raisin Cranberry Crisp, and the Yukon Potato Encrusted Halibut.  I’m not sure which of those were seasonal or no longer on the menu.  All of those dishes were great, though, and I’d expect that most of the offerings on the menu when you go would be as well.  Make the trip out to Leesburg and try them out…you won’t be disappointed.



Lightfoot Restaurant
11 North King Street
Leesburg, VA 20176
(703) 771-2233

Book on OpenTable – Diners’ Choice Winner (American)

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.


  • 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…


  • 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.

1990 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 659-1990
Book on OpenTable

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.


  • 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…


  • 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…


  • 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…


  • 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.

1099 New York Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 639-9830
Book on OpenTable