Previous month:
October 2004
Next month:
December 2004

November 2004

Scott Clime Wine Class

I received an email today from DC Coast / Ceiba / TenPenh about a component wine class they'll be hosting at DC Coast on Dec. 4 from 1 to 3pm. Led by Scott Clime, their wine and beverage director, you'll be exploring 9 different wines, from nine different wineries (All 9 are on the wine lists at all three restaurants). According to an "inside source" of mine, they are possibly expecting the winemakers from Westrey and Matello to make guest appearances, but you did not hear that from me ;).  Seriously though, I had no idea who Westrey or Matello were until I looked them up in the internet. In a component tasting, you'll learn why certain components of food such as salt, lime wedges, cheese, chocolate, etc. match with certain types of wine. It sounds pretty interesting to me. I could definitely use some more knowledge about what wines go with certain types of food. I mean, I am basically ordering blind from the wine list today when I'm at a restaurant. At $80 a person though (ouch), it's kind of steep. For more information and reservations, email amy.allworth@dccoast.com or call (202) 393-1510.

On another note, here is a photo of my dog (aptly named Ceiba).
Ceibasleeping


Mandalay

Earlier this year, Mandalay moved from College Park to downtown Silver Spring. What was College Park's loss is Silver Spring's gain. At Mandalay, you'll find some of the best Burmese food in this area. That said, I don't know of any other Burmese restaurants in this area besides Mandalay. The closest place I know of is Straits of Malaya in Adams Morgan.

This might surprise you, but before going to Mandalay, I actually did a little research about Burma, its cuisine, and history. If you look on a map, Burma (or what is now Myanmar) is located right between India, China and Thailand. This is an ethnic foodie's dream cuisine. Burma's cuisine is influenced by each country surrounding it - curries from Southern and Eastern India, noodles from China and Thailand (ok, that might be simplifying it a bit). Mandalay is actually a city in Central Burma. Blah, blah, blah. Enough with the geography lesson. Get on with it!

Well, last Saturday night, Amy and I went to try Mandalay's new location in Silver Spring. When we drove up, the area was not quite what I expected. Bonifant St. is partly residential and partly commercial. Mandalay's façade makes it look like it is an everyday Chinese $7 buffet. On the inside, it doesn't look much different except there is no buffet. Of course for foodies, these things don't matter. It's all about the food. Right?

We were sat quickly - there was no wait. The table next too us looked very satisfied with their meal. There were four people sitting there all of them talking about how they wanted to come back and rubbing their stomachs. Amy and I were enthused by the sight. Not that I needed to see that. Looking at Mandalay's menu online, I was very excited to eat there. The list of salads alone made my mouth water, nevermind entrees like WetThar MoteNyinChin Gyaw (Sliced pork sautéed with onion, sour mustard, and fresh cilantro) or KyetThar KyetHinGarThee Gyaw (Chicken sautéed with bitter melon and onion).

It took a little while for someone to come over and acknowledge us, but that was the only service hiccup the whole meal. The servers were all very friendly and attentive. We were handed the menu, but I already knew what I was planning on ordering. I had planned to start with the Let Phet Thoke (green tealeaf salad) and have KyetThar PinSane/NanNanBin Hin (chicken chunks simmered in onion-tomato curry with basil or cilantro) as and entrée. (I'm not sure what's up with the "/" in the name on the menu. Does the dish have two different names? Guess I should have asked.) Amy took a while to decide what she wanted because she had not previewed the menu ahead of time. Her initial comment was that the menu was large but that most of the dishes were a variation on the same thing. She ended up having the BooThee gyaw (squash fritters) and Nyat KaukSwe Gyaw (flat rice noodles stir-fried with yellow beans, bean sprouts, romaine hearts, crushed peanuts, and lightly fried tofu).

Before I tell you how the food was, I first should say that Mandalay has yet to acquire their liquor license. I kind of knew that this was a possibility before we went there, but I was hoping that they'd received it by the time I'd gotten around to visiting them. Oh well - like I need any more alcohol. Instead I had some hot tea because I've been coming down with something for the last week. The waiter brought me a teapot filled with fresh loose-leaf green tea. It was perfect for my sore throat.

The appetizers didn't take long to come out. With tomatoes, toasted yellow peas, cashews, cabbage, fermented tea leaf, sesame seeds, puffed rice, and Burmese dressing, my green tealeaf salad had a pretty complex flavor to it,. The salad had an overall bitter flavor with a sweet aftertaste. Amy's squash fritters were lightly battered and served with a sauce on the side. The sauce tasted like a combination of soy sauce, sesame seeds and chili oil. Imagine the vegetable tempura that you would get at a Thai restaurant with a slightly thicker layer of breading. Cooked just right, the squash was not mushy and had a firm texture.

We quickly finished our appetizers and our entrees came out soon after. When we ordered out entrees, the waiter asked us how hot we wanted them. Both Amy and I opted for a medium spiciness, but as it turned out, we both could have handled some more heat. When visiting at a new restaurant, you never know how that restaurant will define "spicy". My chicken in tomato-onion curry had a real hearty, comfort-food flavor to it. I don't think I could have had a more perfect dish for my looming cold. There was no dry overcooked chicken in this dish, although they use dark meat in the dish which almost always means you'll get a little gristle. With peanuts, wide rice noodles, yellow peas and fried tofu, Amy's entrée reminded her of a Thai dish. A bite of this dish started with an initial sweetness and ended with a touch of heat.

We quickly finished off our entrees and we ready to move on to dessert. We had seen another table eating the ShweJi (Cream of wheat, coconut cream, sugar, raisins, and milk, topped with poppy seeds, then baked until light golden brown). According to Amy, it tasted "like a macaroon". It had a firm texture like a cake. Overall, this dessert was pretty good. Amy liked it a lot...probably more than I.

At about $32, I would say this was probably one of the cheaper meals we've eaten in a long time. I would say the food was well worth it, despite the lack of atmosphere. Sometimes, though, you just want to go out for a casual meal and be able to get great food at the same time. It's probably too early to tell, but I'd say that Mandalay is just as good as Straits of Malaya, except it's considerably cheaper.

Mandalay
930 Bonifant
Silver Spring, MD. 20910
(301) 585-0500
Map

Hours:
Monday-Thursday 11:30 am - 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday 11:30 am - 10:30 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm - 10:00 pm
(Closed 3:00 pm - 5:00pm Every Day)

Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: Not Accepted
Parking lot on location and on street

See what other people have said about Mandalay:
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=mandalay+silver+spring


Plans for Today

I'm planning on going to Samantha's again for lunch today. I just can't resist their pupusas. I was thinking of eating leftover turkey like most of you probably are, but we're out of gravy and reheated turkey just isn't any good without gravy.

Like usual, we made WAY TO MUCH for Thanksgiving this year. The 12-14lb fresh turkey we ordered from Maple Lawn Farms ended up being an 18lb turkey because they ran out of 12-14 lb turkeys. Oh well. It just means I have lunches for work for about a month now. The turkey was EXCELLENT though. I mean, it was probably the best turkey I've ever eaten - juicy , tender, and great flavor. Plus when Amy is cooking it she dumps about 4 sticks of butter on it. YUM. My stuffing came out great too which is always a winner at the table. Now I just need to pick up some canned turkey gravy or make some myself out of the chicken stock we made from the bones.

For dinner tonight, I'm probably going to Mandalay in Silver Spring. From what I've read here, the Burmese food there is excellent. Giving the menu on their web site a brief once-over, it looks like it will be a really good meal if they can deliver on the interesting dishes they serve. I hope it's as good as Straits of Malaya. I'll let you all know how it is.


Samantha's Revisited

Just quick, I wanted to tell everyone that last weekend I went back to Samantha's again and it was even better than the first time I went there. This time, I started with some pupusas and finished with a chicken chimichanga that was probably one of the best I've ever had. The chicken was very tender and fresh. Unlike most other Mexican restaurants, the chimichanga was not deep fried. Instead it was pan fried which I think is one of the reasons it tasted so much better. The Spanish rice it came with was moist and flavorful. I think what made the dish was the refried beans, though. Oh, and the pupusas were excellent. I LOVE their pork pupusas. I ordered a margarita, and it was not as good as the one I remember ordering last time. I think it was made with a mix - you could definitely tell the difference. So for my second drink, I ordered a "Cadillac" margarita which ended up being a lot bigger and a lot better. Service was excellent as well, but we had the same waitress as last time. :) If you guys haven't been to Samantha's, you should go!

More on Samantha's...


I Love Indian Food

TasteDC has organized another Indian food event at Heritage India on Dec. 1 at 7pm. This time, they are having a five-course curry dinner featuring a different curry from each region of India. You get all the courses listed below for $65 a person. Wine is also included in the meal although the TasteDC web site does not say what wines they will be serving. I might just have to try to go to this one.

First Course - West of India
Dhokla
Light fluffy dumplings made of chickpeas topped with coconut shavings and served with date and tamarind chutney

Second Course - South Of India
Chettinad Chicken with Porial and Lemon Rice
Spicy chicken in pepper sauce, Fresh Vegetables in a mild curry sauce,A fragrant lemon flavored Basmati rice

Third Course - East of India
Chana Dal with Shukno Aloo and Basmati Rice
Yellow lentils with coconut and raisins, potatoes roasted with cumin, Steamed Basmati Rice

Fourth Course - North Of India
Yakhani Gosht with Palak Makai and Naan/Parantha
A rich lamb curry from Kashmir, Spinach with sweet corn, Soft white bread/layered whole wheat bread

Dessert Course
Kheer
Indian Rice Pudding


Rabbit Anyone?

I went to 2 Amys AGAIN on Sunday night. I don't think it is possible for me to make it through the weekend without going there. Anyway, I ordered something from the wine bar as an appetizer that was awesome - the rabbit stuffed with escarole and served with pears and cranberry. Below are the before and after pictures.

2 Amys Rabbit2 Amys Rabbit

Next week I'll have to order the fennel marinated in gorgonzola cheese or squid with little meatballs. :)


Spezie

Last Saturday, Amy and I returned to Spezie with my parents. My parents love Spezie (as do Amy and I). We wanted to celebrate the release of the new Washingtonian issue with the DCFoodies.com plug as well as some other positive things that have happened for me at work lately. Lots of times when my parents come, we'll just go to Cafe Ole or Two Amys, but we wanted to have a special night out.

As usual, we didn't need reservations (even though they do take them). Spezie is located downtown, and most restaurants downtown don't get that crowded on the weekend. For starters I ordered a half portion of the porcini mushroom and ricotta ravioli with pistacio creme sauce. I can't express how much I love this pasta dish! Amy had the watercress caeser salad which she enjoyed as usual. One thing worth noting is that the dressing has changed slightly for the better and tastes more like an authentic caeser dressing now (You could taste the anchovy flavor). For entrees, I had one of the specials which was a ribeye in a red wine reduction sauce. The cut of meat was tender and cooked just as I ordered it - medium rare. I found the reduction sauce a bit salty, but that was the only thing remotely bad about it. Amy had a full order of the bucatini my father had for an appetizer and she enjoyed it as well. I had a taste of it, and I thought it was a bit salty as well. I think it was the pancetta which is a pretty salty meat to begin with. My mother had the same thing as Amy minus the pancetta and it was not salty at all. The spicy tomato sauce is excellent at Spezie.

For dessert Amy and I ordered the creme brule with Gran Marnier which I have now nicknamed "sex on a plate". My parents had the fourless chocolate cake which was pretty good, but not as good as our creme brule in my opinion. After we had eaten dessert, owner and executive chef Enzo Livia came by to say hi and we discussed food and the DC dining scene. He brought us out some limoncello for an after dinner drink. I usually don't like after dinner drinks because they are too sweet, but the limoncello really hit the spot. To say the least, we'll be ordering some on our own the next time we eat at an Italian restaurant.

Once again, Spezie was everything that we've come to expect over the years - great food, impeccable, friendly service and an overall wonderful night out. Spezie always provides a spotless dining experience. It's still an semi-expensive night out for us. For the four of us, the total bill came to about $220 before tip. We did however order a $50 bottle of wine which is not typical of us, but hey...we were celebrating!

Click here for my previous post on Spezie


Firefly

(Humph)

I'm sorry everyone. I was really hoping to go to Firefly, have a great time with Amy, and write a really positive review about it. That's not gonna happen though.

I made the reservation for Firefly pretty far in advance on OpenTable, which I have to say is a great service and allows you to make a reservation without having to talk over a loud dining room. I don't know why, but for some reason I was anticipating Firefly to be a swanky restaurant, so Amy and I dressed up a bit. It turned out that we were overdressed - which is a good and a bad thing.

We had a reservation at 8:30. We were almost late because the police decided to close down Mass Ave for Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit. Our cab driver got so confused he froze up and didn't know what to do. We sat there in the traffic for about 5 minutes before Amy spoke up and asked the cab driver to find another way to the restaurant. When we walked in at 8:30 exactly, the hostess told us our table "wasn't quite ready yet", so we walked over to the window where you can observe the chefs preparing the meals. About 15 minutes later, a table opened up and we were seated. The restaurant was ridiculously crowded - pretty much standing room only.

After we sat down, it took a little while for the waitress to come over and ask us if we wanted a drink. That didn't really bother me too much, but what did bother me was the fact that Amy and I were practically having to yell across the table at each other. The noise level in the dining room was almost unbearable (Yes. I am exaggerating a bit, but seriously - loud). When the waitress came over, she could barely hear our order. I'm amazed she got our order right, she has better hearing than I.

Prices were usual for a restaurant of this type. Entrees range from $18 to $27 and appetizers range from $8 to $10. Looking around, I was spying the dishes that other people were ordering. They all looked pretty good. I saw a lot of people ordering the lamb minute steak which I almost ordered myself. I opted, instead, for the pork tenderloin ragout. Amy went with the roasted chicken with yellow tomato compote. Appetizers looked pretty good as well, but we just decided to skip them - opting for the mac and cheese and polenta as sides instead. BIG MISTAKE. I'm wishing I had at least tried the yellow squash soup, which I saw a lot of people ordering and seemed like it would have hit the spot.

Once the food came, I noticed right away that the food looked better than it actually tasted. My pork ragout could have been excellent, but the pork was overcooked and dry and the tomato sauce was just missing something. Amy's chicken had some interesting ingredients like yellow tomatoes. However, that did not mask the fact that it didn't taste as good as the roast chicken that we order all the time at our local Cafe Deluxe for $5 less. The mac and cheese was...mac and cheese, but there was nothing really special about it and I wished I had ordered the squash soup instead. Amy's polenta was just plain polenta. There was no seasoning in it, that I could taste. Again, at $3.50, this was not a huge loss, but it left me desperately wishing I was eating the Polenta Tartufo at Cafe Ole for a couple dollars more.

The glasses of wine we ordered were OK. I had a glass of zinfandel that I enjoyed and Amy had a glass of sauvignon blanc that she didn't really care for. She could barely finish it because it was too sweet. We probably should have sent it back and ordered something else. At $9 and $10 a glass, the wines were a bit overpriced. I can understand why some upscale restaurants charge this much for a glass of wine. I mean, at Galileo, you'll pay as much as $20 for a glass of wine. I just have a  problem with paying that much for a glass of wine. It just seems a bit extravagant when you can buy a really good bottle of wine for $20. I probably shouldn't be talking though since I'm no sommelier.

For dessert, I tried the pear crisp. Amy didn't even want to bother (I could tell she wanted to leave), but I wanted to give it a chance. I should have listened to Amy though. The pears were undercooked in my opinion. For me to not like a dessert with pears in it says a lot. I love anything with pears.

The final bill came to $106.15 without tip. I looked at the bill, sighed, and got out my credit card.

Firefly
1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 861-1310
Map

Hours:
Sun - Sat: 7am-10am
Sat - Sun: 11am-2:30pm
Mon - Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm
Sun - Thu: 5:30pm - 10pm
Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 10:30pm
 

Closest Metro Station: Dupont Circle
Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: Taken
Valet: $5

Don't just listen to me. See what other people have written about Firefly:
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=firefly+DC

 


Sweet Potato Pie

On a whim...well, not exactly a whim. I didn't get home till 8 and I was in no mood to try to cook, so Amy and I walked down to 2 Amys. We ordered the usual suppli and norcia. For dessert we had some coffee and toffee crunch ice cream. Oh so good. As if that was not enough, we hung out at the bar after wards and had a glass of wine. The night was wrapping up and they started bringing out slices of the special pie that they had for dessert that night. It was a sweet potato pie. When I saw how good it looked, I nearly cried that I had not ordered it. I think one of the waitresses saw how upset I was because after a few minutes, she came out with a slice for Amy and I. Anyway, if you are reading (this is directed to the waitress that gave us the slice of sweet potato pie), THANK YOU!!! Best pie I've ever had. (Sorry mom)