- Drinks (83)
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- Restaurant Reviews (113)
In my house, the Thanksgiving menu doesn’t get a lot of revisions. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for change, but a pretty compelling argument needs to be made to warrant it. Mostly, I like it pretty traditional: bird, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and a couple vegetable sides. My stuffing made a big shift about six years ago, adding ground pork and apples and tarragon, but that’s pretty much locked in at this point. The salad is occasionally a Waldorf, but more often an odd family recipe of chopped raw broccoli, bacon, raisins, onion, and a sweet mayo dressing. That leaves the vegetable sides for all the improvisation.
With Pearl Dive Oyster Palace nipping at its heels, Graffiato in Chinatown is poised to be this year’s best newcomer. It’s not sophisticated, but it’s also not stuffy. The vibe is very much New D.C. Brightly lit and buzzing, the restaurant probably wouldn’t work if the food wasn’t so good. And it’s not a traditional Italian by any measure–well, the pasta with lamb ragu was pretty standard. At Graffiato, overall, you will be surprised.
All of the food mags are coming out with their Thanksgiving issues. I’ll be passing on any tips that aren’t 100 percent recycled from last year. A I read Martha Stewart Living on making gravy all I could think was that none of these magazines tell you that if you give a bird a nice brine bath prior to cooking, those tasty drippings, the foundation of all gravies, will make yours inedibly salty.
Uncle! I get it; olive oil is big news. It warrants a coverstory in both the New York Times dining and Washington Post food sections this week. In the Times, Julia Moskin writes about budding olive oil production in California, and in the Post, Jane Black finds that “extra virgin” as a designation of quality simply means “edible.” The solution is a new rating system, and, wow, some California producers make the cut. There’s a pattern somewhere in here for the savvy consumer.
About once a fall, I go completely off script and make a soup with just about everything in the kitchen. The success rate for this approach is about 50/50. I have vivid memories of the attempts that went straight out to the garbage. The impetus this year was an early farmshare pick-up, one that came before I had even explored the previous box.
Finally got a peek at Kurt Gutenbrunner’s wine bar The Upholstery Store and it looks like the perfect spot for illicit drinks. There weren’t more than a few candles lighting the place, and I couldn’t see past the person I was meeting. The cocktails got high marks, but I sadly missed that round.
The big news of the day isn’t breaking. We’ve known for weeks that this day would come. The New York Times has run Sam Sifton’s final restaurant review. I guess we’ll next meet when I someday read his new coming-of-age food memoir.
In his final review, as promised, Sifton crowns Per Se the best restaurant in New York City. Warning: You are entering a humor-free zone. Sifton mostly gushes, but he truly gets the idea of the “whole restaurant experience.” What I mean is, he goes so far as to tell us what type of dining companion will most compliment a meal at Per Se. As a reader I find that kind of information extremely helpful. (Answer: Someone you love.)
There are two things that people in the D.C. area know about local wine: 1. Going to vineyards for wine tastings is always fun; 2. The wine is without fail terrible. That said, that known, I fully endorse heading out to the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Grape Stomp in Comus, MD. Next year, that is, since the event happened the past two weekends. You can tour the vineyards, enjoy the live music, the barbecue, and the aforementioned bad wine.
So, my D.C. restaurant phantasy is that Kurt Gutenbrunner opens an Austrian cafe at the National Gallery–or in the space currently disappointing the Logan Circle neighborhood with Veranda. That said the Blacks of BlackSalt opening a very cool, casual seafood joint in the area would also rank high on the mouth-watering scale. And thanks to the newly opened Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on 14th St. at Corcoran that dream leapfrogs over to reality.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dinner with a group of D.C. food writers. I was excited to test out my theories and hopefully learn about some good food experiences in the District… I’ll cut to the chase: No one was willing to step up and say the D.C. food scene was anything more than ho-hum. “It’s improving,” was the most positive thing I could get out of them. So I moved on to something more concrete. How’s Rouge 24 garnered shrugs, as did Komi. Okay, best D.C. restaurant experiences in the past 6 months? We all agreed that a good meal could be had at Mike Isabella’s new Chinatown Italian Graffiato.