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June 2006

Risi Bisi

Last night at Palena, I ordered something that really made an impact on me -- it was "risi bisi". If you ignore the fact that it's made with chicken broth, you might actually start to think that you're in vegetarian heaven. As I was eating this dish, I actually thought to myself that if all vegetarian food were this good, I could actually change sides.

Risi bisi means rice and peas, but to just call this dish rice and peas would be a crime. The rice wasn't arborio rice but it was cooked like a risotto and in the rice were sweet English peas, sugar snap peas, and asparagus, and on top was placed a coddled egg. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention the black truffle shavings which gave it that extra hearty flavor.

Other than the risi bisi, we had the chicken, gnocchi, and beet and lobster salad. It was all soooo good, but I the risi bisi was what really stuck out in my mind the rest of the night and the next day. So get over to Palena soon and try this while it's still on the menu!


Foodie Corkscrew Personal

Corkscrew SWM on the rebound from recently broken long-term relationship with corkscrew, desperately seeks new long-term relationship with simple, waiter's corkscrew to be used on an almost daily basis. Recent one-bottle stands have left me unsatisfied and I'm in search of a reliable, sturdy corkscrew that's willing to perform on demand. Mistreatment of corks won't be tolerated.


Restaurant Eve Bar

It's not every day that you walk into a bar for the first time, and get treated like a regular, but at Restaurant Eve, it seems to be the usual experience. Two weeks ago, Amy and I went to Restaurant Eve for the second time and sat at the bar instead of eating at the Bistro or Tasting Room. (Our first visit being for the chef's tasting room, where I had the nine-course tasting menu and nearly passed out from the amount of food I consumed.) 

We sat at the far end of the bar for a bite to eat and I observed the people at the bar, who all seemed like a regulars, carefully. This seemed odd to me. The bartenders were conversing with everyone at the bar like they had been there many, many times. I wondered what the likelihood was that all 12 or so people sitting at the bar were regulars.

It's probably not too significant, but it made an impression when one of the bartenders (her name was Tammy) came over to greet us, we didn't get the standard, "What can I get you?", but were greeted with "How's your evening going so far?" 

The bartenders even treated the insufferable woman sitting next to us with a level of patience that I've only seen once before at a restaurant. I won't go into too much detail about this person except to say that when you're sitting at a bar, and you talk to someone sitting next to you, please take a hint when they don't reply to you with anything other than, "Thanks, that's nice." Also, if you feel that it's your purpose in life to tell those sitting next to you what wine to order, and when they decide NOT to listen to you, please don't get all pissy and laugh under your breath about what they actually did order.

Ok, so do you get the point? The bartenders are cool.

Dsc00255 As the first night progressed, we went through our usual exploratory dining, sampling different dishes from the menu, and taking the bartender's advice on what food to get. A succulent softshell crab appetizer deep-fried in a light tempura batter and roast duck breast, duck sausage and with duck foie gras and were the highlights from this evening. However, the beef short rib entree that I had was fatty and skimpy on the meat. This was despite the fact that my friend told me the night before to order the beef short ribs because they "were the best short ribs he'd ever eaten." Perhaps I got a bad batch.

The other thing I remember vividly from that first night at the bar was that towards the end of ourDsc00263 meal, Tammy (who by the second course managed to tell us where she lived, what her neighborhood was like and the name of her dog) was making secret trips back to the wine cellar to "find the good stuff."  This made for an interesting night to say the least, and led to me having to spend another hour at the Starbucks sobering up before Amy or I could drive home.

My second trip to the bar at Restaurant Eve was probably one of the most decadent meals I've ever eaten. More hyperbole: the night began with some of the best fried calamari I've ever eaten. Rest assured, if you find something as common as fried calamari at Restaurant Eve, you'd better order it. I don't think I've ever tasted such tender Dsc00262 squid.

Ok, so fried calamari isn't so decadent. I'll continue.

For entrees, we had pan-roasted veal sweetbreads and confit of braised house-cured pork belly. My portion of sweetbreads was gigantic --if your normal portion of sweetbreads was a 9oz. filet mignon, this would be a 28 oz. porterhouse. I appreciated the preparation of the sweetbreads, pan-roasted instead of fried, you could actually taste the flavor of the sweetbreads. The pork belly, which Tammy told us was a "chef's specialty", was a very unique dish. While I thought that our serving could have been more tender, the complex, smoky flavor of the pork with the cannelini beans more than made up for that.

We returned a third time to Restaurant Eve, but I won't go into too much detail, except to say thatDsc00268 you should definitely order the monkfish if it's on the menu.. I'd say that of all the entrees I ate there, this was my favorite. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristically tenderness of the monkfish, or the complexity that the spicy chorizo sausage added to the ragu it was served in. I'm not sure exactly, but it was well worth the $28.50 that it cost.

Our desserts each evening were very good and changed every evening we were there, but my favorites were the chocolate mouse cake, which...ok, you just can't go wrong with a good rich chocolate mouse, and the strawberry panna cotta which had a very delicate flavor and pleasant texture.

Dsc00256 The cost of each of our meals at Restaurant Eve were pretty expensive -- ranging from $200 to $225 before gratuity. Keep in mind though, that each time we were there, we probably had at least three or four glasses of wine each, and with prices ranging from $8 to $15 or so per glass, this can have a serious impact for on your bill. Don't be a stupid lush like me. Ask the Sommelier to recommend a good bottle to go with your apps and entrees. So a normal person  -- who only drinks a glass of wine with dinner -- will probably be able to keep the cost of the meal down a bit, especially considering that most entrees are below $30 and the appetizers are between $10 and $15.

So I know that this is news to no one, but Restaurant Eve should be on everyones list of must-visit restaurants in this area. The food is original and unlike anything you'll get at other restaurants and you certainly won't be disappointed by your meals there.

Restaurant Eve
110 S. Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA
(703) 706-0450
Map

Hours:
Bistro
Lunch Mon - Fri: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Dinner Mon-Sat: 5:30 PM - 10 PM
Tasting Room:
Dinner Mon - Sat: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Bar and Lounge
Mon - Thu: 11:30 Am - 11:30 PM
Fri: 11:30 AM - 12:30 AM
Sat: 5:30 PM - 12:30 AM
Closed Saturday Lunch, Sundays and all major holidays

Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Street parking in Alexandria isn't too hard to come by, except on weekends. There are also parking lots all over the place. No valet.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: King Street and it's a hike.
Reservations: Taken in the Bistro and Tasting Room and are recommended.
Amy's Bathroom rating: Very clean and well taken care of.
Baby friendly rating: 1 diaper. Yeah, babies don't belong here during dinner. The only time I think it may be appropriate to bring a baby is during lunch in the lounge.


D.C. Foodies Does NYC

Last week I was in the Big Apple. Amy and I were visiting Noah's new cousin and Amy had a few business meetings she had scheduled at the same time, so I figured I would tag along and check out some of the great restaurants there...oh, and of course get some good pizza.

Dsc00271 The thing is, I was disappointed by the pizza, mostly because I didn't get to go to the really outstanding places. I purposely sought it out for the first couple of days, but I was staying in Midtown Manhattan, and none of the really good pizza places are in Midtown, especially if you're looking for good NY-style pizza.

Not that there is really any bad pizza in New York City, but if you want the REALLY good NY-style pizza, you have to go to Brooklyn, Little Italy, or Harlem. There was no way I was going to have time to go that far, especially with Noah in tow, but I did check out some of the places in Midtown.

We stopped at Patsy's the first night for dinner, which is an "offshoot" of the Patsy's in Harlem. The crust on the two pizzas we ordered was stiff as cardboard and overdone, but the sauce was fresh and they were topped with the right amount of fresh mozzarella. It turned out that the original Patsy's in Harlem has nothing to do with the other Patsy's, including the one I went to. The original only allows the others to use its name.

The next day, I ended up in the Met Life building for lunch at a place called Naples 45. Dsc00272 This was much better than the pizza I'd had at Patsy's the night before but still not what I was looking for. It was really good since I ordered it by the slice and it was late in the lunch hour so it had probably been sitting there for a little bit under the warmer. If you're around 200 Park Ave and looking for a good slice, you should stop in at Naples 45.

On my last day in New York City, I started out really ambitious. I was going to head down to Lombardi's, South of  E. 1st St. in Little Italy. The problem was that my hotel was at E. 42nd Street. So I started walking south...and I walked...and I walked, until I reached 28th Street. (Yes, I'm horribly out of shape, that was only 14 blocks.) I was getting a little tired at this point and I stopped to evaluate my situation. My stomach was growling. It was 2 PM and I hadn't eaten breakfast. It was hot.

"Man, I really should've taken the subway," I said to myself.

Dsc00282 I looked over to my left, and there was Totonno's. I don't know what it was, but I recalled reading about Totonno's either on EGullet or SlicyNY.com. So I gave up, and walked into Totonno's on that hot and humid Tuesday afternoon. The pizza wasn't available by the slice, but at that point I couldn't eaten a 20-inch large pizza on my own. I ordered a plain individual size margarita and I'd definitely say it was the best pizza I had while I was in New York. I'm not sure what it was, the fresh sauce, the chewy crust, the way the crust was charred just a little bit around the edges, or perhaps that I was so hungry that I would've eaten gum off the street corner, but I devoured this pizza pie.

So I'm sure that I'm gonna take a lot of heat for saying this, but the pizza I had in NY didn't really live up to its reputation. Yeah, it was good, but not blow-my-mind good, and for all the emails I get from people saying that pizza sucks here in DC and that NYC is sooo much better than DC, (blah blah blah) I expected more. The one thing I'll give NYC is that the pizza you can get at any local joint on any street corner in NYC, beats the local joint on the corner in DC any day. So maybe it's just a law of averages.

However, I'd put the best from DC (2 Amys, Radius, Italian Store, and Vace) up against the best from NYC any day. So all you people that are from NY, go ahead, send me your hate mail and leave you troley comments -- I don't care. I stand by my statements.

Oh and I had other food besides pizza too. In fact, I ate at two very good restaurants which I'll write about later: L'Impero and Artisanal. They were both pretty good.


Washington D.C. International Wine and Food Festival

150x150

There are still tickets left for the D.C. International Wine and Food Festival on June 24th and 25th at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. at the event, there will be over 1200 wines to taste and from 280 wineries -- that's a lot of wine to try in two days. Here's a list of the wines and wineries that will be there. I don't see how anyone could possibly get around to all the wineries for tastings, but anything is possible if you have enough determination. They should give away prizes to those that try all the wineries.

On top of the wine, there will be plenty of food demonstration as well. Many local "celebrity" chefs will be performing demonstrations on the two stages at the exhibit area. These chefs include:

  • Roberto Donna – Galileo
  • Morou Ouattara – Fokitchens
  • Vikram Garg – IndeBleu
  • Katsuya Fukushima – Café Atlantico
  • Bryan Voltaggio – Charlie Palmer Steak
  • Noriaki Yasutake – Perrys Restaurant
  • Michael Chiarello – Food Network’s Easy Entertaining/Chiarello Family Vineyards/NapaStyle

I'm actually quite interested in seeing Michael Chiarello in person since he's one of my more favorite Food Network chefs. It's not necesarily his recipes that I like, but the techniques you learn on how to prep food in advance and make cooking the day of the meal much easier. All I have to say is that Sunday at the Storch residence is prep day.

Guided tastings and seminar will also be available for an extra cost (from $25 to $40), led by notable wine experts such as:

  • Gloria Maroti Frazee, Director of Education at Wine Spectator
  • Mark Oldman, author of the best-selling Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine (Penguin) and wine columnist for Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • Michael Westrick of Sterling Vineyards
  • Ben Giliberti of The Washington Post
  • Michael Franz, Editor of WineReviewOnline.com

A complete list of classes and seminars is available here. I'm particularly interested in Gloria's seminar on wine pairings, since that's something that I'm especially bad at. Choosing a good wine to go with your meal can be a challenging skill to master.

Before this year, I was never able to go, because this event is close to my birthday and I'm always away, but this year I'm planning to go. it also helps that this year, someone sent me some free tickets to go. But, just because I like all of my loyal readers so much (especially those that read the whole post), and also because I have a couple extra tickets, I'm going to give a two of them away to you. All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite restaurant in the DC Metro area on this post by Wed at 9 AM. (Of course, make sure you use your real email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.) And if you want to put a little detail in as to why you like the restaurant, that will be nice too, but it won't have any bearing on who wins the tickets. I'll do a random drawing through the extremely scientific method of drawing names out of a hat, and announce the winner later in the evening on Wednesday.

For those of you who don't win, you should buy your tickets here. Prior to June 16 (Friday) single day tickets are $61 and two day tickets are $82. After that, the prices go up to $71 and $92 respectively.


Distinguished Speakers Series hosts Rachael Ray & Bobby Flay

On June 19th at 8 PM, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray will be speaking at an event hosted by the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership.The event, at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, is part of the Nation's Capital Distinguished Speakers Series and will involve a night of discussion about Rachael and Bobby's rise to in the ranks of celebrity chefdom and their views on food and our society. The program will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

 

I was thinking the other night about what I might ask both Bobby and Rachel. Some potential questions for Bobby Flay:

Can you introduce me to David Cassidy? (sorry, I couldn't help myself)

Charcoal, propane, or smoke?

So, exactly how many Food Network shows are you on now?

Are you sick of people asking you about the time you stood on the cutting board on Iron Chef?

Potential questions for Rachael Ray:

What does it feel like to own the Food Network?

On how many episodes of $40 a day have you been stranded because you ran out of money?

Do you ever want to punch Sandra Lee? If so please describe your perfect table-scape.

But all joking aside, this sounds like it will be a fun and educational event. It's not everyday that we get to pick the brains of successful chefs like Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray. As food television veterans, they can provide us insight on where they think the future of the food entertainment industry, the role food plays in our culture, families and social relationships, and perhaps some secrets on making that perfect risotto. 

To purchase tickets got to www.asaecenter.org, or call 202-326-9530.


Food and Wine Events

Food and wine events for the Friday June 2nd through Thursday June 8th.

Fri June 2nd
The Wine Specialist
Coopers Beer Tasting
2115 M St. NW
5:30 PM - 8:00 PM
FREE!
(details)

Sat June 3rd
The Wine Specialist
French Wine Tasting
2115 M St. NW Washington, DC 20037
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
FREE!
(details)

Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
Bull Run Park (7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville)
11 AM to 6 PM. $20, $12 for designated driver and children’s passes
(details)

Sun June 4th
Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
Bull Run Park (7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville)
11 AM to 6 PM. $20, $12 for designated driver and children’s passes
(details)

Mon June 5th
Vermilion Restaurant
Summer in Sonoma Wine Dinner
1120 King Street, Alexandria
6:30 Passed Hors d'Oeuvres; 7:00 Seated Dinner
$85 Per Person (includes tax & gratuity)
(details)

Washington Wine Academy
A Study of Styles: Great White Wines of the World
Ritz Carlton - Pentagon City
7 to 9 PM
$65 - Special $50
(details)

Learning at Laboratorio del Galileo
A Five Course Dinner from Naples
Galileo Restaurant
6:30 PM
$110
(details)

Thurs June 8th
French Wine Society
French Wine Thursdays: Domaine Weinbach, Alsace
Le Paradou
6 to 7:30 PM
$100
(details)

Learning at Laboratorio del Galileo
Summer Soups
Galileo Restaurant
10 AM
$100
(details)

To have your event listed here, please email jason@dcfoodies.com.