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September 2006
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November 2006

October 2006

Circle Bistro

I want to write about this while it's fresh in my mind...

I stopped by Circle Bistro tonight for an early dinner. The place wasn't very busy due to it being Halloween and we had Noah with us so we just sat at the bar. After a few drinks with their happy hour specials (half price wine glasses, beers, and cocktails), we just ordered a bunch of appetizers.

To start with, at $8, Circle Bistro's duck confit is a steal. Yum! Yum! Yum! As is the three cheese plate at $9. Go soon and try the sweet potato soup with fennel sausage and sage croutons -- the best soup I've had in a while. When Chef Cox stopped by to say hello, he told me that this wont be on the menu long (soon to be replaced by an onion soup), so go to Circle Bistro and try it now. Also, the papardelle with duck ragu...a perfect hearty dish for the fall - Love it!

When I return, I need to try the monkfish - It sounded sooooo good!


Greenberry's Coffee

I recently came to the realization that that I'm completely addicted to Greenberry's coffee. My addiction is the result of a long, boring story about how my coffee taste is maturing, but I'll sum it up in about two sentences.

Up until about two months ago, the only coffee I drank was the coffee produced from my office coffee maker (Starbucks House Blend of course), the Senseo machine that I had at home, and the local Starbucks. Then one day I stopped in at the Greenberry's near Ray's the Steaks for a pick-me-up after drinking a bottle of red wine with a very large steak dinner. Holy Shit this coffee tastes way better than what I normally drink. So the next weekend, I went out and bought a real coffee maker for my house, picked up some ground beans at Greenberry's and so began my addiction.

Of course, I still drink the Starbucks coffee at work, because if I don't have three cups of coffee a day, I'm just a ass to work with, but as often as I can, I make up some coffee in the morning and bring it in with me.

Oh, and if any of you are looking for a good coffeemaker, the Mr. Coffee thermal carafe model that I bought is quite good and I recommend it highly.


Autism Fundraiser Dinner

On Monday November 6th, the Washington Chef Club About Nothing supports one of their own, Jim Swenson, Executive Chef  of The National Press Club by throwing a fundraiser dinner. Jim’s four year old son Phillip has been diagnosed with autism and these Washington Area Chefs who care so much are helping Jim raise funds for ongoing Educational Needs.

Participating Chefs:
Jeff Buben -- Vidalia, Bistro Bis
Roberto Donna - Bebo Trattoria, Galileo
Katsuya Fukushima - Café Atlantico
Todd Gray - Equinox, Market Salamander
Ris Lacoste
Enzo Livia - Spezie, Il Pizzico
Kaz Okochi - Kaz Sushi Bistro
Brian McBride - Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt
Francesco Ricchi - Cesco
Jim Swenson - National Press Club
Jason Tepper - La Miche
Bryan Voltaggio - Charlie Palmer Steak
Robert Wiedmaier - Marcel's
Bart Vandaele - Belga Café
Santi Zabaleta - La Taberna del Alabardero

The dinner costs $175 per person (proceeds from this event will go to the Phillip Nathaniel Swenson Foundation to provide educational therapy for Phillip Swenson) and will be held at the National Press Club at 429 14th St. NW. For reservations call 202-213-9913
or Email swensonfoundation@verizon.net.


Bebo Trattoria Open

Those of you close to Crystal City should check out Bebo Trattoria which opened this week. I think that those of you like me who disliked Galileo for it's expensive wine list and entrees, but loved the Osteria for just the opposite, will like Bebo Trattoria even more. Bebo Trattoria is located at 2250-B Crystal Drive, Crystal City, VA.


Indian Buffets in Reston

Continuing with my "lunch in Reston" theme, I thought I would talk a little about a couple Indian Buffets that I enjoy in Reston.

The first is Minerva. Well, I guess it's not exactly Reston, but I'll be honest, Virginia confuses the hell out of me. If I move there, I'll have to buy a GPS Nav System because I have no clue where I'm going when I'm across the river. Minerva has a very large buffet, with a whole section of chutneys and raita, five or six vegetarian curries, and five or six chicken and lamb entrees. The tandoori chicken is as better than you'll find most any buffets, and they had some seriously good paneer makhani. Two kinds of bread, naan and paratha, also help me rank Minerva high in my Indian buffet experiences. They even keep a pitcher of water on the table so you don't have to worry about running out of water.

Minerva Review in Washingtonian

The second is a place called Mayuri Indian Cuisine. Like Minerva, they have a very good selection of entrees at the buffet, although they lose points for the butter chicken. Butter chicken is a major no-no when it comes to Indian buffets. However, it's close to where I work and not terribly crowded, unlike Minerva. Plus the tandoori chicken is equally good as Minerva's, and the chili chicken is spicy enough to make me drink a sip of water after each bite. I go back just for this dish.

Mayuri Web Site

Of course, don't be surprised if you feel like cattle in these places. The servers' job is to get you in, get you full, and get you out so someone else can sit down. I can't blame them really. Buffets are an extremely low margin business for a restaurant, and if they don't do a lot of volume, they don't make much on them. But for the price, you can't really beat either Minerva or Mayuri.

But I'm always open to suggestions for alternatives...


Evening Star Cafe

If there's any reason for me to consider moving to Del Ray, it's Evening Star Café. If you live in Del Ray, then you probably don't consider this news, as you've been there several times, but for those of us that don't, well....we're all secretly hating you.

Evening Star Café is my perfect neighborhood restaurant, and it's not in my neighborhood...yet. Both times we've eaten there, we order a very nice bottle of wine, whatever entrees, appetizers, and desserts we want, and the bill is less than $100. From a value perspective, Evening Star Café can't be beat.

To continue with the value theme, the best thing about Evening Star Café is the inexpensive wine list. With a standard policy of charging $10 over retail and Planet Wine (which is owned by the same restaurant group) next door, you can get a huge wide variety of wines for good prices. For instance, one of my favorite Cabernets is produced by Avalon, which retails at anywhere from $13 to $16 a bottle. At Evening Star Café, it's $23 so the $10 above retail is actually true retail pricing.

Food-wise, we've had good luck with the appetizers we've ordered. The smoked duck spring rolls are to die for. That's all I have to say -- just do yourself a favor and try them. A hearty chicken and andouille sausage gumbo contains just enough heat to sneak up on you. I'd make it spicier myself, but then again, I like my food a bit spicier than most.

Bored of fried calamari with your typical marinara sauce? Then try the fresh fried squid with a spicy chipotle honey sauce, which reminds me of a similar dish I had at Restaurant Eve, but at $7 probably costs half the price.

The roasted duck breast outshines the other entrees on the menu. It's the obvious choice if you're a duck fiend like me. You could serve this with unbuttered mashed potatoes and it'd still be good, but instead it's served with a sour cherry bread pudding and a port reduction sauce. It's not quite what you expect from the corner café. Following a close second to the duck breast as best entree is the brined chicken. Even though it's brined, it's not overly salty and is probably the juiciest chicken I've eaten at a restaurant.

Amy loves the wasabi-pea-crusted salmon so much, she ordered it both times we ate at Evening Star Café. The cooks do fish very well, especially if you let them serve your fish at the recommended medium rare. The salmon is served with a cold buckwheat noodle salad with cucumber relish and has a nice Asian flare.

The one drawback I've noticed is the inconsistent desserts. In my trips there, we've managed to sample all five of the desserts. Two are good and the other three you're better off skipping. Let's start with the good.

The lemon chess pie is heaven and I really enjoyed the tart flavor of the pie combined with the sweet blueberry sauce. As well, the chocolate chip cannoli, with filling that doesn't blow you away with its sweetness, is a fun treat to mix with the Illy coffee.

However, the runny crème brulee was a huge disappointment to Amy, who is a crème brulee addict. The first night we dined at Evening Star Café, our friends ordered the brownies and ice cream which was like eating a chocolate brick with really good ice cream. We finished the ice cream -- left most of the brownie. The same night, I ordered the strawberry shortcake hoping to relive memories of eating fresh picked strawberries with my mother's homemade shortcake, but it fell way short.

Our service has always been consistently friendly. During both of our visits, the restaurant was bustling with people busy. While our waiters were probably loaded with work, they still managed to maintain her composure and clear our plates with speed and efficiency. Our waiter the first night, was very helpful and helped us navigate the menu, making suggestions for what was good, and what he thought was only so-so.

After two trips to Evening Star Café, I'm convinced that this is the start of another beautiful restaurant relationship and I know I'll be returning. The question is...how often? 

Evening Star Café
2000 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA
Map
(703) 549-5051
Web Site

Details:
Corkage: Not allowed, but you can purchase wine at Planet Wine and have it sent to your table.
Dress Code: Business casual but jeans are common.
Parking: Street: Street Parking and very limited parking in the restaurant's own lot.
Smoking: Allowed only at the bar/lounge.
Closest Metro: Probably Braddock Rd. It's a hike.
Reservations: Taken. Friday evenings no reservations are taken from 6 to 10 PM and they only accept walk-ins.
Baby friendly rating: 3 Diapers. The atmosphere is loud, which makes for child-friendly dining. Plus there are tons of people there with their children (particularly on the early side), so you wont feel out of place.