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April 2006

March 2006

Food and Wine Events

Food and Wine Events for Friday March 31 through Thursday April 6

Friday March 31
The Wine Specialist
Cruzan Rum Tasting
5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
FREE
(details)

Roberto Donna Cooking Class
Stuffed Pasta
Galileo Restaurant
10 AM
$100
(details)

Saturday April 1
Roberto Donna Cooking Class
Cooking with Cornish Hens
Galileo Restaurant
10:30 AM
$100
(details)

Sunday April 2
Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market
Chef Ris Lacoste will be preparing a recipe using local, seasonal ingredients
1500 block of 20th St., between Massachusetts Ave. and Q St., in the adjacent parking lot of PNC Bank
11:00am
FREE
(details)

Sur La Table
All About Olive Oil - Cooking Class
Sur La Table, Arlington
2 PM
$75
(details)

 

Tuesday April 4
ProsInTheCity.com
Bartending 101: Martini and Mixology Lesson
Cloud Dining Lounge
6:30 PM
$40
(details)

Roberto Donna Cooking Class
Five Course Dinner from Lombardy
Galileo Restaurant
6:30 PM
$110
(details)

Wednesday April 5
TasteDC.com
Wine Basics 101
Washington Wyndham Hotel
7:30PM to 9:15PM
$55
(details)

Roberto Donna Cooking Class
Risotto 101
Galileo Restaurant
6:30 PM
$110
(details)

Thursday April 6
Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market
Chef Cesare Lanfranconi (Ristorante Tosca)  will be preparing a recipe using local, seasonal ingredients
North end of 8th St. NW, between D and E Sts. NW
5:00pm
FREE
(details)

Washington Wine Academy
Wine4Her Open House
P&C Art, Alexandria, VA
7 PM - 9 PM
$20
(details)

Want your event listed here? Email jason@dcfoodies.com.


Question and Answer

I haven't done a question and answer post in a while because I've been crazy busy. Things are calming down a little now, and hopefully I'll get caught up with my emails, but for those of you that sent me questions that I didn't respond to, I'm sorry.


Jason,
I need a recommendation, and fast! I'm coming to town April 8th to advance celebrate my friend's wedding. It is my task to find a restaurant for Saturday night, in or around Dupont Circle. The ride-to-be would like some place classy where we can get dressed up and have drinks (in addition to a good meal). I need some place that won't break the bank.

Can you suggest a moderately priced restaurant with great food, a "grown up" atmosphere and a wine and cocktail list? Cuisine can be American, fusion, European... I prefer ethnic, but unfortunately, it's not me that's getting married!

Thanks and best wishes,
Maeve

Well, If I were going to go out for dinner in Dupont, I would either go to Komi, Al Tiramisu, or 21P. If you've read my web site at all, you already know my opinion of Komi. You'll have a great Italian meal at Al Tiramisu, but it will probably be more expensive than Komi and therefore not as good of a value. 21P is new, and I haven't actually eaten there myself, but I've heard some positive things about it.

If you're party is looking to get some drinks and have a fun night out, I don't feel like Dupont is your best bet. There are plenty of "trendy" places in Dupont, but I don't feel that any of them have a good combination of great food and service. If you're looking for that, your best bet is to go Downtown or to Penn Quarter. Rasika in Penn Quarter will please all of you, as will Ceiba or Acadiana in the Downtown area.


Jason,
My boyfriend lives in the DC area and I'm coming down this weekend for his birthday.  I'd love to take him out somewhere nice but we're both graduate students and therefore the budget is...well, tight. No other real restrictions though.  Do you have any inexpensive, but classy places that you recommend?  Even something along the lines of a brunch would work.  We love mimosas

Thanks for your help, and keep up the great work with your site and your son!  He is mesmerizing.

All the best,
Ashley

Brunches in DC aren't very good in my experience and the ones that are good are pretty expensive...

For classy yet reasonably priced you have a few options.
Dino has great food at reasonable prices. Get the lasagnette or cinghiale and ask for a recommendation from the extensive and reasonably priced wine list. Tabard Inn is a smart choice for brunch if you're not looking for one of those $20 all you can eat buffets and it has a talented chef as well. 2 Amys is one of my favorite places to eat in the city, but the atmosphere is loud. Finally,  there's Osteria del Galileo. It's been a while since I've eaten here, but it's very inexpensive and it's in the same restaurant as Galileo, run by world famous chef Roberto Donna (he was and will be on Iron Chef again.) If you go, specify that you want to sit in the Osteria -- it's the area to the right of the bar. The prices at the real Galileo will give you a heart attack if you're looking for reasonably priced fare. The only problem is that the food can be a little hit or miss at times because they rotate what's available on the menu frequently, but most of the time it's very good.


Jason,
By any chance are you aware of a Costa Rican restaurant in the DC area?
Gracias,
Emily

Sadly, there are none in DC. I think that's one of the few ethnic cuisines that we are missing. Anyone out there know of a Costa Rican restaurant that I don't know of?


Jason,
Help!  Easter Sunday in DC, son is vegetarian (not vegan)...we are from Rochester, NY but get to DC often, but holidays there always stump me. 
Thanks,
Way out there in UpState NY.

First, why are you yelling at me with big bold text? (kidding)

I'm going to toss this one up to readers because vegetarian cuisine isn't my forte, but Viridian and Vegetate come to mind.


Is there any way I could convince you to divulge where I might get
that extra special burger???

Nope. Sorry.


Food and Wine Events

DC food and wine events for the week of March 24 through March 30th.

Saturday March 25
National Cherry Blossom Festival Begins!
See what restaurants are cherry-ing up there menus.

TasteDC.com
Introduction to Tapas and Paella Cooking Class
Red Dog Cafe
12:00PM to 2:30PM
$55
(details)

Passion Food Hospitality
Spring Wine Component Class
DC Coast Restaurant
11 AM to 1 PM
$75
 

Sunday March 26
Sur La Table
Spring at Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market
8:15 AM
$85
(details)

TasteDC.com
Chocolate Temptation: Class on Making Exotic and Unique Handmade Chocolates
TasteDC Headquarters
12:00PM to 2:30PM
$65
(details)

Monday March 27
Roberto Donna Cooking Class
A Five Course Dinner from Lombardy
Galileo Restaurant
6:30 PM
$110
(details)

Tuesday March 28
Washington Wine Academy
Study of Styles: Cabernet Sauvingon
Ritz Carlton - Pentagon City
7 PM - 9 PM
$65
(details)

Wednesday March 29
TasteDC.com
5-Course Lebanese Wine Dinner
Tabaq Bistro
7 PM
$75
(details)

Smithsonian Resident Associates
Introduction to German Wine
6:30 PM
Gen. Adm. $121, RAP Members $75

Thursday March 30
Marcel's Restaurant
5-course Cardinale Wine Dinner
7 PM
$125 - excludes tax and gratuity
(details)

Dino
5-course Judd's Hill Wine Dinner
7:30 PM
$75
call 202-686-2966 for details and reservations


Fogo de Chao

It's not every day that I like to totally pig out, but I made an exception last weekend for Fogo de Chao. Fogo de Chao is a churrascaria, a Brazilian restaurant where you'll find different kinds of savory meat served on spits -- all you can eat for a fixed price. As you can read on Fogo de Chao's web site, they cook their beef the "Gaucho" way. Ideally this would mean that they would grill their meat over open fires, but somehow I doubt that's how the meat at Fogo de Chao is actually being cooked.

I imagine scheduling reservations at Fogo de Chao is one of the more difficult sciences in this world. It's fixed price at $45 a person, all you can eat, and there's no time limit, so I wasn't surprised that we had to wait for our 8 PM reservation. It didn't matter much though, since we got lucky and found an empty table at the way-too-small-for-a-two-floor-restaurant bar.

While the hostesses seemed overwhelmed, they were very eager to please, regardless of the bartenders' comments about how inexperienced they were. There was a whole team of people whose main job was to get people seated and clear tables. Our friends were running a little late and still hadn't arrived when it was time for us to be seated, but the hostesses sat us anyway, which I wasn't expecting.

Your server greets you the instant you're seated, although you probably won't see him/her a whole lot the rest of the night, unless your wine bottle gets empty. Once they explain "the system", you're pretty much off and running and on your own. The waiter directs you to a salad bar and bread, which you actually don't have to eat. While the salad and antipasto aren't bad, it's not the reason you're there. Rather than visiting the salad bar at the beginning of the meal, I'd recommend taking a break half way through the meal and having a salad as a palate cleanser.

You can control how often waiters (or gauchos as the restaurant calls them) stop at your table with food by flipping over your coaster (I don't think it was actually a coaster though, because if you put your glass on it, the gauchos wouldn't see it) to green or red. I don't think I need to explain which color means you want more food. It was unclear to me whether or not the coaster actually meant anything though, since there were times when the gauchos brought food to my companions and I regardless of our coasters. Basically, as long as there's one person with the coaster flipped to green, they will stop by and offer the entire table food.

I had visited a restaurant very much like this when I vacationed in Aruba two years ago, and I pretty much had the same experience there as I had at Fogo de Chao. The service is prompt and attentive, the wine list awarded yet expensive, and the food inconsistant. You can get a great slice of meat in one gaucho's visit to your table, and a completely different cut in another visit, and regardless of whether or not you ask for a medium rare slice, or a well done slice, most of the time you don't get quite what you ask for.

I could go into detail on each cut of meat, but I'll save you the time and just tell you what the tastier cuts were. The juicy filet was very good, as was the flavorful lamb (in either leg or chop form), which I thought was the best that Fogo de Chao had to offer. It was the most flavorful, tender and interesting by far. I also liked the bottom sirloin. There was definitely an overuse of salt on all of the cuts of meat and I'm not the only one to notice this.

Dessert? Who would have room other than a professional eater?

Our final bill for the four of us was close to $325. My heart skipped a beat when I saw that bill, but I guess what was I expecting when we ordered two bottles of wine for $60 a piece, and each of our meals cost $44.50 (update: the price has since been raised to $48.50)? Add on the 10% DC dining tax and you've got a nice hole that's been dug in my dining budget this month. Looks like I'll be writing about some cheap eats in the near future.

My final opinion...

I'd rather go to Ray's the Steaks before going to Fogo de Chao.  At least there, I can order a steak, have it cooked to order and not feel like a pig at the end of the night. Plus, my wallet will be a little heavier.

Fogo de Chao
1101 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 347-4668
Map

Hours:
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday 5pm- 10:30pm; Saturday 4:30pm-10:30pm; Sunday 4pm- 9:30pm

Dress Code: Business Casual - I saw people in nice jeans.
Parking: Valet and street if you can find it.
Smoking:
Allowed at the bar.
Closest Metro:
Federal Triangle
Reservations: Taken.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 1 out of 4 diapers. LOL. Yeah. No. Too upscale.


Whole Roasted Sea Bass

Yes, I do actually cook once in a while. I've been TIVOing The Food Network lately, and this recipe was on the other day. When I saw how easy it looked to make, I figured what the hell?! One of my favorite things to get at a restaurant is a whole roasted fish -- my favorites being at Komi and Dino. The other day when I was at BlackSalt, I saw some whole seabass sitting in the cooler for $7.99 a pound, so I figured I'd try to make some myself. I modified the recipe slightly, but to put it simply, the fish came out totally kickass!

The first thing I changed was adding a egg white and salt coating to the fish. a friend told me that at his restaurant this is the technique that he uses, so I figured that since it was one of my favorite whole roasted fish to get, that I'd try it. I also added garlic to the fennel, onion and rosemary stuffing of the fish which I doubt made a difference, but I love garlic! And, don't even bother with the "sauce" on the side with the leftover fennel, onion and lemon juice -- you don't need it at all. Just dump some salt (and when I say salt I mean sea salt or kosher salt, not that iodized crap), extra virgin olive oil, and lemon on top of the fish before you serve it, and you'll be set.

Other than that, I didn't change much, although I did take the fish out of the oven after 30 minutes instead of 40 minutes. Overcooking a whole fish would completely ruin it. And, I didn't make any sides because both me and Amy had a whole fish each and that was basically enough for us. Amy and I were both moaning at how good this was. I'll definitely be making it again soon.

For wine, we had a very nice Spanish 2004 U Mes U Fan Tres Rose, that I picked up at the local wine store, to celebrate this incredible weather we've been having. I thought it went OK with the fish, but I think a Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, or Soave would gone much better with it.

Does anyone out there have a good whole roasted fish recipe that they'd like to share with everyone? Please do share!


Dino Wine Special

The deal of the week (or possibly the whole month) goes to Dino. I received and email yesterday telling me about this.

From now until April 19th, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you can take 1/3 off the price of any bottle of wine normally priced over $50, when each person at your table orders more than $20 on food. Considering that Dino normally prices their wines only 10% to 15% over retail, that means that you're getting these wines for less than you can get them at the wine store. The only stipulation...you have to make a reservation. Call 202-686-2966 for reservations.


Food and Wine Events

Food and wine events for the week of Mar. 10 through Mar 16.

Friday March 10
Galileo Restaurant
Chocolate Italian Cakes and Desserts Cooking Class
10 AM
$100
(details)

The Wine Specialist
Sterling Wine Tasting
5:30 PM
FREE!
(details)

Saturday March 11
Galileo Restaurant
Meat Soups Cooking Class
10:30 AM
$100
(details)

Sunday March 12
TasteDC.com
Meat 101
TasteDC Headquarters
12 PM - 2:30 PM
$65
(details)

Monday March 13
TasteDC.com and Acadiana
4-Course Napa Valley Wine Dinner
6:30 PM
$95 (includes tax and gratuity)
(details)

Galileo Restaurant
Five Course Sicilian Dinner Cooking Class
6:30 PM
$110
(details)

Tuesday March 14
Fin and Porter - Alexandria
5-Course Sequoia Grove Wine Dinner
7 PM
$55 (excludes tax and gratuity)
call (703) 379-2346 for reservations and full info.

The Wine Specialist
Napa Valley Wine Tasting -Three new wines never before available in DC.
5:45 PM
FREE!
(details)

Wednesday March 15
TasteDC.com
For Chocolate Lovers Only: Artisan Confections
TasteDC Headquarters
7PM - 9:30 PM
$65
(details)

Thursday March 16
TasteDC.com
Live Flamenco Ole! and 4-Course Spanish Wine Dinner at Cabanas Restaurant
TasteDC Headquarters
7PM - 9:30 PM
$70
(details)

Want your event listed here? Email jason@dcfoodies.com.


Ray's The Steaks

UPDATE April 1 2006:

Rays is back open after a weeks hiatus. See here for more info or continue reading this post.

I only started going to Ray's the Steaks recently -- maybe it's because of the whole Virginia/crossing-the-river factor or because of all the attention that Ray's has been getting lately. I guess I just figured it was about time I tried it. So far, each dinner at Ray's the Steaks was been wonderful! I definitely ate some of the best steaks I've ever had in this area, and they were far better than Morton's or Ruth Chris. So what made my meals so good you ask? Well, let me explain.

I like to think of Ray's The Steaks as the anti-Morton's. It's unpretentious and unassuming. The dining room reminds me of the Ye Olde College Diner at Penn State, and is anything but swanky. You won't find big-wig execs with their own wine locker taking up space in the dining room with their expense accounts. What you will find is fresh, unadulterated beef and people who appreciate it...and a lack of expensive a la carte sides.

Our first night there, I had the NY Strip with silky mushroom cream sauce and blue cheese crumbles. I have to say though, of all the steaks I tried at Rays, this was my least favorite. Not that it was bad by any means, it just wasn't as flavorful or tender as the steaks I tried in my later visits.

Also that first night, Amy ordered a buttery tenderloin with mushroom brandy cream sauce, which melted in my mouth with every bite that she allowed me have.  If I were to describe any or Ray's steaks as "sexy", it would be this one. I preferred how Amy ordered her filet with just the mushroom sauce (and minus the blue cheese), mainly because I think that the blue cheese masked the flavor of the beef too much.

Before our steaks came though, I had to try a cup of the simply-prepared crab bisque. When it first came, it looked like just a normal cup of soup, but once I put my spoon into the creamy pink broth, I realized that this was no normal crab bisque. The broth was full of jumbo lump crab meat, and when I mean full, I mean "Would you like some bisque with your crab?" Excellent.

Another night, I started with the clam chowder, which was different than I'm used to, because it had corn and carrots in it. The broth was not quite as thick as most chowders, but that probably just means that it wasn't made with heavy cream and a ton of flour. I prefer the crab bisque.

But back to the meat. I have to say I enjoyed the hanger steak the most. Honestly, you won't find a better steak for $20. Please go and order this medium rare with nothing on it. You won't regret it.

And if you think that's a good deal...one night, we ordered the bacon-wrapped fillets, which ended up only costing us $16. Add to that the fact that you get creamed spinach and mashed potatoes included on the side, and you have yourself quite a good deal.

Here's just a little tip for those of you that have never been to Ray's. I'd recommend that you order your steak a little more done than you usually like it. Most places, I order my steaks medium-rare, mainly to keep the cook from overcooking it. At Ray's it's more likely that your steak will be undercooked. That was just my experience the few times I was there and from talking to others, they notice that as well.

Never once at Ray's did I feel rushed or like I had to leave. This is mainly because the kitchen is ultra efficient. Minutes after we ordered, our appetizers were delivered. Not ten minutes after we were done with our appetizers, our steaks came out like clockwork. The first time we ate at Ray's the Steaks, I didn't realize until I got back in the car that we were in and out in forty-five minutes. Another time, Amy and I lingered over glasses of wine and the complimentary hot chocolate included at the end of your meal.

I'm sorry to have to say though, at the time I'm writing this, I've read that Ray's in Arlington will be closing March 26th until further notice. I don't know if this is because of the upcoming opening of a new location in Silver Spring, or if it's because Michael Landrum, the ecclesiastic of unadulterated, unpretentious food, is done with his Arlington location and moving on to bigger and better things. I hope it's not the latter.

Of course it might be due to the fact that recently the reservation policies of Ray's the Steaks have come under fire (okay, maybe I'm dramatizing that a bit.) Complaints about time limits for seatings before 7 p.m. (90 minutes), and the requirement that you call the day of the reservation by 1 p.m. to confirm have some people bitching about how arduous these policies are. (Yeah, I'm sick of this topic too but I've got to mention it otherwise the comments will be dominated by this.)

But despite these policies, the restaurant is still booked weeks in advance. Don't like it you say? Then don't go! It just makes it easier for me to get a reservation. Yeah, so the chef/owner Michael Landrum's a bit uptight about the seating at his restaurant, so what? Trust me. Things could be worse.

These policies give Michael a better turnout for reservations, but they also guarantee that 1) you won't have to wait for your table when you arrive and 2) your check will be $10 cheaper at the end of the night. Amy and I were able to dine at Ray's for about $90 each time. With wine and appetizers that's pretty damn good. Glasses of wine are cheap considering how generous the pours are, at about $7 each, and the steak prices range from $15 to $35 depending on the cut or size of the steak.

This topic also came up in Tom Sietsema's chat today, and supposedly, Michael Landrum told Tom "I'm closing because I have to find a way to bring the restaurant back to the neighborhood, where it belongs, even if it involves reformatting my operations." I'd speculate that Michael Landrum will be changing his reservation system and possibly more, but I'll update this post when I have more specific information.

So in the mean time, go to Ray's while you still can and hope that it reopens soon after it closes.

Ray's the Steaks
1725 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
Map
(703) 841-7297

Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday: 6PM to 10 PM

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: There is a parking lot but it can get crowded.
Smoking:
Not Allowed.
Closest Metro:
Rosslyn or Courthouse
Reservations: Not taken. First come, first serve.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 4 out of 4 diapers. Laid back and casual environment. There are less tables now, and there is plenty of room for that child seat.


Dino Special

Today and tomorrow are the last days that you can take advantage of Dino's $7 off $20 deal (The special runs through Wednesday March 8th.) Originally, the deal was only open to those on their email list who'd printed out the email, but I cleared it with Dean, co-owner of Dino, so that you can bring a copy of this post to receive the discount. Remember, print out a copy of this and bring it with you to receive the discount. If you join Dino's mailing list, you'll receive news about their next deal, most likely to be announced on Thursday.