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Archive for the ‘Restaurants | DC’ Category

There have been a number of regions/wines in the last few years that have grabbed my attention. The Rhône valley,  Muscadet, Beaujolais and Spain all have been on the short list in the last few years. A couple of years ago I had my first wine from the Jura wine. People will call them nerd wines, claim they are not accessible and an acquired taste. There may be some truth to that, but they are also some of the most distinctive, memorable and intriguing wines available.

After a number of recent Riesling tastings, I decided to offer up a Jura tasting to the group. Last week, we got together at Palena  and my friend Tim and I pulled together a list of wines that included the following:

N.V. Hubert Clavelin Crémant du Jura Brut
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura En Quattre Vis Vieilles Vigne
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura Vieilles Vignes en Griffez
2008 Emmanuel Houillon Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy Chardonnay
1993 Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy
2007 Jacques Puffeney Trousseau Arbois Les Berangères
2009 Domaine Ganevat Côtes du Jura Plein Sud
2007 Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin L’Ivresse de Noé

The Ganevat seemed to pull the most votes for wine of the night, although the Puffeney and the ’08 Houillon were also outstanding. The nose on the ’93 Houillon is not something I will soon forget — New Jersey turnpike, burning tires, some brett and flatus (eau de ewwww)….it burned off a bit as the night went on. It might not sound appealing,  but I was rather fond of it.  In the glass it looked like a cloudy mix of rose and iced tea. The nose and the appearance led me to believe that it would be tired (if not dead) and not too pleasant, but it was very vibrant and showed quite well.

The nose on the L’Ivresse de Noé was all about fresh apples — really a thing of beauty. I also really liked the wines from L’Aigle a Deux Tetes. I preferred the En Griffez over the En Quatre — it’s had a bit more weight and richness — and might be mistaken for a white Burgundy, though you would be hard pressed to find as good of a white Burgundy for $23.

All of the wines made for a very interesting tasting. There were many wines that were considered — and those that were overlooked may soon have their chance as I am thinking we need to do a Jura night at least a couple of times a year so that people can get their nerd on. Palena was a great pairing as well, love their menu — roast chicken is a great paring for Jura wines, and the roast chicken at Palena might be the best I have had. Jura wines are great food wines. They tend to have good acidity and can be a bit austere, they want (and at times need) food to be enjoyed. In my opinion, they also tend to be some of the best wines to pair with cheese.

It didn’t take long for me to open another bottle of Jura. Last night I opened a Montbourgeau Côtes du Jura, very interesting Poulsard — could not say if it was a red wine or a rosé, but it was really delicious — strawberry and watermelon jolly rancher (tart red fruit that just makes you salivate), really juicy and very accessible.

I can’t say I have completely taken to some of the oxidized whites from Jura, but maybe it is a taste I will acquire. Regardless, these are some of the greatest wines and they deserve a place in your heart and cellar.

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Update – June 24, 2010
Some very sharp minds and distinguished palates were involved Summer 2010 US-Russia summit. On day 1, Obama decided to take Dmitry to Ray’s Hellburger. Pesident Medvedez tweeted “Haven’t had a burger in a while. Lunch with Obama at Ray’s Hell Burger.” According to reports, the Obama ate a cheeseburger with cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato and pickles. Dmitry had a cheeseburger with cheddar, onion, jalapenos and mushrooms. Mr Obama drank iced tea, Mr Medvedev opted for a Coke, and the pair split an order of French fries. See photo gallery of President Medvedev’s Breakfast with President Barack Obama at Ray’s Hell Burger.

Update – December 28, 2008
raysmenu1We stopped at Ray’s Hell Burger on our way out of town last week — and the experience was worthy of an update to my previous post. There are a number of new burger toppings that we had not seen on our previous visit, including bone marrow ($3), seared foie gras ($10), and black forest ham ($1.50). They also had some new burgers on their menu. I’ve posted the updated menus, just reading the menu gives you a sense of just how special this place is…..

They are still not serving fries, but are offering coleslaw ($1.25), macaroni & cheese ($1.50) and cheesy potato puffs ($2.50 for an order of 8). We tried the coleslaw, and potato puffs (which were like balls of silky smooth mashed potatoes, mixed with a little bit of cheese and deep fried). I would give the coleslaw a B+ and the puffs an A-. I was expecting something close to a tater tot given the appearance. It was not quite what I expected, but I have craved them a couple of times in the last week since our visit.

The burger was perhaps even better than my last visit — and a great deal at under $10 for most of the burgers. I had the Soul Burger Number 1 — I didn’t pack my appetite for the Burger of Seville or the Dogcatcher, but I will be making a return trip in the near future to try another item from the menu. This place still gets my vote for best burger in DC — and one of the best burgers I have ever had.

Original Post – July 14, 2008
Photos courtesy of Littlebakerbunny at ipso-fatto.com.

Ray’s Hell Burger (the unofficial name for Ray’s Butcher Burgers) recently opened on July 1, 2008 in the same little strip mall as Ray’s the Steaks — both are owned by proprietor Michael Landrum.

Given my soft spot for Ray’s the Steaks, I was very excited to try Hell Burger and went in with some rather lofty expectations, though I was disappointed to hear that their menu did not include fries.

We decided to split 2 burgers. Burger #1: The New Jack — a blackened burger with cajun spices, pepper jack cheese, grilled red onions, sautéed peppers, roasted garlic and jalapenos. Burger #2: The B.I.G. POPPA — an au poivre burger with peppercorn crust, aged Danish bleu cheese, cognac and sherry sautéed mushrooms and grilled red onions.

I would give the New Jack a nod over the POPPA, but both were outstanding — and all of the burgers sound great. Their burgers are 10 ounces and are made from what Landrum describes as “a custom blend of hand-trimmed steak and roast cuts enriched with steak trimming.”

There is also great attention paid to the preparation. Cooks are required to complete a three month apprenticeship at Ray’s the Steaks before joining the line at Hell Burger. The quality of the meat and the skilled preparation add up to what just might be the best burger I have ever had. Plus it is a great value. A burger starts at at $6.95 which is very reasonable given prices at other local high end burger joints.

But Hell Burger is not perfect. For one, there is room for improvement with the bun. The burger does fall apart a bit and the bun tends to add to the problem, rather than help to hold things together. Cutting the burger in half instead of attacking the whole thing is probably the best approach.

Cheese lovers will be impressed with the selection of cheeses available (add $1 to $5). Everything from your typical standards to a Greyére, Double Cream Brie, Chimay a la Biére, Queen Anne Stilton, Cave Aged Amish Cheddar, Époisse de Bourgogne and more…..plus there are a variety of other toppings as well as bacon and guacamole (add $1.50).

Burgers are served with corn and watermelon — and it is worth noting that attention was clearly paid to the quality. Both were delicious, but the corn was outstanding. I never missed the french fries and actually think this burger is better without fries.

There is a wide assortment of Route 11 potato chips. Old Dominion root beer is offered on tap and there are a number of other drink selections which include Moxie, Boylan’s and Cheerwine. Shakes made with Moorenko ice cream are also available and offered by the scoop for dessert.

Hell Burger is already busy, and I expect this place will continue to grow a very loyal clientele, so best to visit in the near future.

A final word of advice to keep in mind. At Ray’s the Steaks they tend to cook their meat a bit rare. I like my steak medium rare, but have learned to order it medium at Ray’s. At Hell’s Burger the same approach follows, so you can expect the recommended temperature to be quite pink.

Strongly recommended. Will return. This gets my vote for best burger in the DC area and would probably make most lists of the top 25 best burgers in the United States. It joins the ranks of Palena, Central and Woodmont for best burger in the DC area. What’s your favorite burger?

May 5 Update
Obama and Biden Go to Hell Burger

Looks like President Obama tried to order french fries. Not even the President can get french fries at Hell Burger. Get the whole scope at Huffington Post.

Ray’s Butcher Burger
1713 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209

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davidcraig.jpgRemember when Pesce was really good? The Tabard Inn? It was David Craig’s magic touch. Now he has opened his own place in Bethesda — and I must say it can be a bit uneven, but it is wonderful when it hits the mark.

It would be difficult for me to name a restaurant that makes better soup. Mushroom soup with some little chanterelles and croutons — so soothing, comforting and delicious. His Butternut Squash soup is the most unique and wonderful butternut squash soup I have ever had. The soup was very rich, but not heavy. Infused with some creme fraiche and some small pieces of apple and walnuts. Stunning.

Homemade and hand cut pastas can be a bit uneven — though the noodles are always delicious and perfectly cooked. I really enjoyed the asparagus, wild mushrooms, cream and parmigiano reggiano — very rich and satisfying. The Carbonara style noodles with pecorino, cream and either pancetta or bacon — was extremely salty. Gulf shrimp with garlic, chili, white wine, and parsley, suffered from too much Tomato paste.

David Craig is known for seafood — and the seared tuna from my last trip was delicious — as was the chocolate bread pudding dessert with caramel sauce.

Will return.

David Craig
4924 Saint Elmo Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 657-2484

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dsc01099.jpgTyler Cowen recently wrote that this was the second best restaurant right now in DC (He ranks CityZen as numero uno) — and a couple of friends have really enjoyed it — so I thought it was worth checking out.The menu online looked amazing. So I have to admit that I was a little disappointed to learn that the actual menu does not include all of the items included on the website.Our meal included the following:
  • The complimentary Szechuan Green Beans — served cold, quite good.
  • Tiny Dumplings of Pork Belly with Black Vinegar — the black vinegar was a bit much, but still very good/excellent.
  • Scallop & Shrimp Sui Mai — I must confess that I am not a huge Sui Mai fan, these were very good (but didn’t change my opinion on Sui Mai).
  • “Wok Fried” Whole Sea Bass, Yuzu Ponzu or Spicy Thai-Chili & Fragrant Herbs — they do filet it table side — it was excellent, but really would have been enhanced if it was served with a little Asian cucumber salad or something. A whole fish with nothing else just gets a bit tired by the end — it could have used some crunch or a complimentary flavor — just a little something would have really made this memorable.
  • Kobe Short Ribs, Slow Cooked, Indian Spices, Masoor Dal — good, but a little bit too much going on.
S1199304506_1.jpgtaff were friendly and seemed genuine, service was good but not without some lapses. I like the space — nice atmosphere, but the noise from downstairs lounge certainly does make its way to the dining room.

Decent selection of wines by the glass — and not sure if it was that they initially forgot to bring me my wine, but was a generous pour (about 5.5 ounces).

I would return, though it is certainly not a great value — and at these prices there would be other restaurants ahead on my list — but certainly worth a visit. I don’t think it is fair to judge where this fits in terms of the best restaurants in DC after a single visit, it is certainly a good addition to DC’s food scene, but I don’t think I would rank it as the second best in the city. The next trip I might be inclined to opt for a couple of drinks and the small plates downstairs.

The Source
575 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 637-6100

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stunning. delicious. memorable. ridiculous. outrageous. jaw dropping. comforting. fulfilling. amazing. monumental. fresh. mind blowing. mouth watering. enchanting. erotic. yummy. tasty. scrumptious. sensuous. delectable. luscious. fulfilling. spicy, steamy. enthralling. mesmerizing. wholesome. aromatic. satisfying. entrancing. pleasing. gratifying. homey. enjoyable. riveting. mama mia, captivating. fascinating. flavorful. spectacular. striking. fabulous. lustful. splendid. superb. titillating, oooh-la,-la. magnificent. gorgeous. exquisite. impressive. honest. seductive. soothing. calming.

6.jpgI could go on. This place is not perfect — as others have noted. I can attest that I once had their Yum Woon Sen — it was amazing with beautiful fresh shrimp — on the next trip I was surprised to return home to find shrimpless Yum Woon Sen.

It is said to be inconsistent and it can be a little heavy handed in seasoning — but more often than not it is stunning. This is the little restaurant can put out some magnificent thai food.

Thai food to me might be one of the best smells in the world when it comes to food — and this smells better than any Thai food I have ever experienced. The food is honest, homey and comforting — not to mention delicious. It is as an experience.

4.jpgYou need to call ahead. There is a lobster in green curry, but that needs to be ordered a day in advance. This place could be easily overwhelmed — it is more of an art than operation, with only a couple of tables and 4 chairs — and the location is interesting. The whole experience is a little surreal.

Will return, will return, must return! — and certainly worth a visit.

Thai X-ing
515 Florida Ave NW
(between N 5th St & N 6th St)
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-4322

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