11th Street Junkie

Turns out that I’m a bit of a traitor to my neighborhood. Granted, Adams Morgan is my home, and I’m pretty attached to So’s Your Mom, Tryst, Mintwood Place and a certain billiards joint that I won’t divulge the name of (sorry, it’s just too good). However, over the past few months, and the last few weeks in particular, I’ve found myself making the short trek over to Columbia Heights’ 11th Street strip more and more often. My first introduction to the area was a joint night at RedRocks Pizza and Meridian Pint–an outing that I have since repeated a number of times. Then there was Maple for dinner with a friend, Wonderland Ballroom for late night drinks, Kangaroo Boxing Club (KBC) for barbecue after a choir concert, and Room 11 for a darling little brunch with girlfriends just last weekend. And although I’ve only just popped my head into The Coupe (the newest venture from those restaurateurs responsible for Tryst, the Diner and Open City), it’s bound to be next on my list for a quiet weekend respite. There’s only one conclusion: I’m an 11th Street Junkie.

Maple

Perhaps I’ll do an 11th Street series at some point, but for now, I just want to talk about Maple. It’s only been open since last spring, but my impressions of the sophisticated wine bar have only been great! My first visit was a sit-down dinner with a friend on a packed Saturday night. Although my friend hadn’t arrived yet (and didn’t for another 20 minutes), they graciously seated me in a cozy corner table and set me up with a nice glass of Montepulciano. Our server was delightful and fun, but took my questions about my dietary restrictions with a respectful seriousness. My friend and I split each item we ordered from the simple, rustic menu: a quartet of bruschetta (Asparagus with shaved  parmigiano reggiano and truffle oil; Prosciutto di Parma with fig spread and gorgonzola dolce; Eggplant caponata with goat cheese; and Roasted garlic with arugula and olive oil), a steak panini, and the Tagliatelle with Lamb Ragu. Instead of a dessert (which I have yet to try!), I ordered a Sloe Cider (sloe gin, St. Germain, muddled orange and grenadine-soaked cherries, hard cider) to top off my meal.

Bruschetta 2Tagliatelle with Lamb Ragu

My second venture to Maple was just 2 weeks ago for a lovely, low key Friday happy hour after a considerably long week at the office. Although it was the start of the Inauguration weekend, we stayed hidden from the hordes of tourists visiting the city, and spent an enjoyable 2 hours with only a few other patrons at the bar or having dinner. Although there are no food specials, Maple serves a few select wines for $3 off, and $1.50 off draft beers. Again, we split one of Maple’s perfectly gooey and greasy panini–this time with mozzarella, pesto and roasted red peppers. The bartender assured me there were no peanuts lurking in the pesto, but that there were, in fact, both pine nuts and walnuts. A very pleasant chap, and very generous with his pours…

Maple Happy Hour

I’m definitely looking forward to trying Maple again and again, perhaps for brunch next time! That is, if I can tear myself away from all the other wonderful options on 11th Street!

Maple | 3418 11th Street NW, Washington DC 20010 | 202.588.7442

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A Persnickety Christmas

Lobster Joy12 Screaming babies, 11 awkward pat-downs, 10 long delays, 9…okay okay, you get the idea. Traveling at the holidays isn’t exactly fun. Mechanical failures and belligerent passengers seem to be relentless fixtures of my travel experience, but I soldier on as best I can. For Christmas, it’s the white snow and frigid temperatures of Madison, WI that I return to. And although I’ve only lived in DC for two and a half years, my stalwart Midwestern endurance of cold has utterly vanished. It was COLD. Luckily, most of our activities were inside (after successfully convincing my mother to turn up the heat to…wait for it…a balmy 68 degrees), and involved a lot of baking and cooking.

There were two big meals to prepare for, and although it was only my brother, my mom and myself, we went all out! My brother, as usual, was the brave leader in our culinary endeavors. For Christmas Eve, it was to be the Feast of Seven Fishes (we only managed five, but that’s beside the point), and for Christmas Day–roast lamb. Christmas Eve went swimmingly (get it – fishes…swimmingly…ha!), but there was some major drama for the Christmas Day meal. Our brains must have been addled by the meal the night before. But, I think you’ll understand why….

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional Italian Christmas celebration that generally consists of seven seafood dishes. Dane, in normal fashion, marched into the seafood market with my credit card and emerged with $70 worth of lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, and monkfish. I admit, I was hesitant about all this fish…give me a nice piece of salmon anyday, but this feast was a real departure from my norm. But I converted quickly. What came next was a beautiful shrimp and lobster platter with homemade cocktail sauce, and a lobster risotto topped with a hefty piece of monkfish and surrounded by a broth of clams and mussels. Delicious!

Shrimp & Lobster platterRisotto with MonkfishWe finished the evening with my mother’s profiteroles and a viewing of Scrooge. There’s a running joke about how long it takes for one of us (or all of us) to fall asleep during this movie–whether we’ll make it all the way through the Ghost of Christmas Present to see the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Future or fall asleep somewhere in the middle. Well, I failed miserably this year and barely made it out of the scene with Jacob Marley at the beginning of the movie! (Watch it, kids – great stuff!)

Christmas in WI

Christmas morning was lovely, with the snow sparkling in the dazzling sun. We had apple muffins, cookies and tea and unwrapped our gifts together. In afternoon, we commenced our preparations for the big meal: roasted lamb with brussels sprout/cauliflower gratin (a repeat from Thanksgiving because it’s so good) and a beautiful salad with pomegranate, pecans, and blue cheese. Since we were roasting the lamb, we had set it on a roasting rack in a glass dish in the oven at a temperature of 425 degrees. About 25 minutes in (and with our brussels sprouts and cauliflower roasting in their own pans), my brother decided to add some broth to the meat. Warning: do not pour cold broth into a glass baking dish in a 425 degree oven. Why, you ask? Because the dish will shatter into a million pieces, that’s why! It’s true folks, the dish verifiably exploded and we were left picking pieces of (tempered – thank goodness, no shards for us) glass out of the oven and the cauliflower for a good 30 minutes. Luckily, no one panicked too much (and we can’t just go out for Chinese, since I can’t actually eat it), and we ended up popping everything back in the oven. Surprisingly, everything was perfectly cooked!

Roast LambSalad and GratinChristmas Day always ends with Cassata cake, a Sicilian cake that we’ve made every year since…well…since I started forming memories of eating good food! It was a great spread, and we were delighted to be eating leftovers in various ways for the rest of the visit! I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and are living it it up in 2013!!