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I’ve been hearing about Komi ever since moving to D.C. and always in a hushed voice with eyes widening for emphasis: This is the Best meal in town. I was skeptical after I saw the dining room, which I found underwhelming. But after a year of eating Johnny Monis’ inspired Thai food at Little Serow, I was ready to take the plunge into one of the most expensive tasting menus in town. Monis has earned my trust.
I don’t know who Jay Rayner is. I don’t recognize his face on the cover of his book. And yet I bought it based on presumed shared interests. It’s called The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner. Rayner is the restaurant critic for The London Observer and in 2006 or ’07 maybe he decided to travel the world on his quest.
There are many suggestions flying around for grand meat centerpieces and hearty stews for these holidays, but it seems to me that we just did the big sit-down-dinner thing. And many of those turkey eaters will be back for seconds. I lean more towards the latke crowd, oh, and thanks New York Times for the obvious brilliant idea for blini and caviar. We’ll be doing both of those, but first a dinner that’s a bit of a throwback.
It was with no small amount of glee that I read Tom Sietsema’s pan of the “new” minibar. My first experience two years ago at Jose Andres’ exclusive table for modernist cuisine was definitely three-plus star. But my second visit, earlier this year, was a big disappointment (turns out it was also a bargain). Judging from Sietsema’s review, many of the menu items have remained the same–every dish he mentioned, in fact, I’ve had–so what exactly makes Andres’ minibar new?
I suspect that this is common: Often when I’m grocery shopping I zone out and go on autopilot. Flowers, apples, spinach, Muenster, and at the meat counter, hot Italian sausages (for pasta sauce), chicken thighs (for soup), and skirt steak (for salad). Last week, as I waited daydreaming for assistance, I took a closer look at the wares on display. And, boy, am I glad I did. At my Whole Foods I found beautiful pork belly, something I’ve never seen un-cured or -cooked before. Despite having no idea how to prepare it, I didn’t hesitate.
More than 15 years ago, I moved to Georgetown just a few blocks from Bistrot Lepic, then only a couple of years old. I was very excited about, though inexperienced with, traditional French fare, so I went the first chance I got. It was a date and in my mind it plays sort of like the German dinner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We were kids pretending to be adults. I may have had a fake ID. I definitely had lamb and red wine. We sat in that brightly lit, shoebox-sized dining room and had a gay old time. My date’s credit card was rejected.
Where last year’s food issue of the New Yorker disappointed, this year’s has plenty to recommend. Naturally, the issue comes with a piece by Calvin Trillin, this time visiting his daughter in Oaxaca and sampling the local fare. One part food, one part family, ten parts Trillin’s witty writing, so it’s well worth a read. I love this sentence: “Given my experience with nutria in Louisiana some years before, in fact, I suppose that, if I hadn’t been raised to prize modesty, I could describe myself as a man with relatively broad experience in rodent consumption.”
The food sections this week range from meh (baked beans cover story) to ick (squirrel gravy with a description of butchering the rodent that will make your stomach turn), so steer clear. Or maybe just read Pete Wells’ review of the vegetarian joint Dirt Candy, and if you missed it last week, his review of the new outpost of M. Wells at MoMa PS1. I would have loved to try their short-lived diner of decadence in Long Island City. Escargot nestled in bone marrow? Foie gras grilled cheese? Truly a moment in time. And don’t forget the rant it inspired in GQ–a must read.
Let’s be frank: Turkey doesn’t hit you over the head with its flavor. It’s subtle, fragrant, earthy, fresh even. So, as you dress it up in its many iterations this year, you might want to keep some of these flavor enhancers in mind. Of course, they are good to have on hand year round. You’ll use them again and again.
What a success our Thanksgiving was this year! There were no misses on the table: A beautifully golden turkey–how is it that chefs on Top Chef can’t get that right?–sausage and apple stuffing; mashed potatoes and gravy; broccoli salad; roasted delicata squash with pomegranate seeds; roasted sunchokes–a conversation starter and a first for nearly everyone at our table–and pies, with salty caramel taking the, er, cake. The wine for the most part was a sparkling white made for Whole Foods that is a convincing stand-in for champagne called De Chanceny Cremant de Loire. All in all, a meal to be proud of.