When I decided to visit Nashville I knew I wanted to try some of the restaurants I’ve been reading so much about–Music City is Food City the headlines go. So after consulting Bon Appetit and Food & Wine and discovering I needed more than three weeks advance to get into The Catbird Seat, I booked at City House in Germantown. We had a good meal and outstanding cocktails in a bright, buzzy, happening space which I will get to, but these out-of-town forays always leave me thinking foremost about the District’s fare.
A year ago I wrote that there was a hole in the middle of the D.C. restaurant scene. Where were the excellent mid-range places? Since then I think we’ve had some great additions–Graffiato, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, Little Serow. And that’s not bad, but we need more. I admit that Mintwood Place, The Pig, and Birch & Barley fall in here, but each is lacking something special. Maybe if I were a lagerhead I’d feel differently.
But I’m a cocktail person through and through, so a list like City House’s wows me. I’ve yet to find anything comparably appealing in D.C. The best part is that many of the ingredients are already living in my own bar, but were heretofore clearly not living up to their potential: Root, Cocchi Vermouth, Amaro.
Here’s the Buzzy Beer: Elmer T. Lee Bourbon, Root, Nardini Amaro, egg white, bitters.
Any great bar list also adds to your shopping cart. After reading Jason Wilson’s Washington Post column on sloe gin, I’ve been dying to try it, and now after sampling the Bitter Truth Sloe Berry Gin, I’ve got to have more. And here’s the Samson: Sloe Berry Gin, Cocchi Vermouth, Bitter Lemon Soda, bitters, and a wedge of grapefruit. The first one knocked of one sock, the second one, well, you get the idea.
City House’s food menu offered me an education as well. I’ve been reading about frico lately–in the New York Times and in BA–which is simply fried cheese. I had my first one here with potatoes and Montasio cheese. Throw grated cheese into a skillet and place the cubed, boiled potatoes in the center. After the cheese melts, give this pancake a flip. It’s obviously for cheese enthusiasts, but if you’re into crunchy, chewy, cheesy, this is heaven. And a tough act to follow, but the house-cured bresaola with pear and goat cheese ricotta salata, catfish with a salad of cucumber, pickled onion, mint, and lemon, and tri tip with a raw kale salad dressed in lemon and garlic and showered in Parmigiano-Reggiano did not disappoint. The strong use of lemon was bold and worked every time.
I return excited, not about D.C. dining, but about what I’ll be trying in my own kitchen, Samson cocktail in hand.