Je Voudrais…

Le Diplomate“Je voudrais…” was one of the first French phrases I was taught in my middle school French class. I vividly remember our teacher (“Madame,” of course) bringing in Coke and Orangina to our class so we could practice saying, “Je voudrais un Coca s’il vous plaît.” It was thrilling, I tell you. Of course, if I had used the phrase when placing my order at Le Diplomate last Sunday, I would’ve gotten some strange stares, both from the waiter and my dining partner. I’ll say, although I was slightly offended at the mangled French pronunciations used by my waiter, once the food came, it really didn’t matter. The food was rich but summery, meticulous but comforting. Having opened only a few months ago on the 14th street corridor, Le Diplomate has basked in an array of shining reviews. And with the sun peeping through bright red awnings and reflecting off the chummy yellow patio bistro chairs, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to enjoy brunch with a good friend.

Le Diplomate patioWe were seated after only about 20 minutes, preferring the short wait to eating inside or on the side patio (with a lot more foot traffic). We snagged a perfect table at the sweet spot between inside and out. With its towering ceilings, skylights and dining room completely open to the patio, Le Diplomate has completely mastered the dining “en plein air” effect. Entranced by the absolutely perfect weather, we were content to gaze lazily around at our fellow diners, slowly peruse the menu, and sip on the Mimosa Lorraine (Crème de Griotte, Crème de Pêche, Orange Juice, and Sparkling Wine) or Bloody Mary. More importantly, our servers were content to let us do just that.

Le Diplomate DiningWhen it did come time for ordering, I prattled off my list of allergies and asked if there would be anything problematic with my order. Although our server didn’t seem exceedingly informed, he was confident that the restaurant wouldn’t have any peanuts anywhere near my dishes. Peanuts aren’t really a thing in French cooking, thank goodness. mimosa and bloody maryI will note, however, that the bread basket brought over by another server did include a cranberry walnut bread. Although tree nuts are entirely safe for me, I still would have appreciated a head’s up. For many people I know, this would have been a big faux pas (see how I used the French, there?).

croissantOne buttery, crackly croissant later, the server brought our main dishes. I’m told that the egg white omelette with ratatouille was lovely, but I can only really speak for my dish: Eggs Boudin Noir. Baked “en cocotte” (in a vivid orange Le Creuset boat-like dish), my soft boiled eggs were surrounded by crispy, salty boudin noir (blood sausage) and roasted asparagus, with some crusty, grilled levain bread on the side. Outrageous. I assure you that this dish was responsible for my inability to move for several hours afterwards. Luckily, my afternoon consisted of lying on the grass in Meridian Hill Park people-watching and reflecting on my meal. And imagining a new one.

Eggs En CocotteYesterday, I decided to capitalize on the obviously genius combination of eggs, sausage and asparagus to make my own version of eggs en cocotte. IMG_1633With my CSA bounty at the ready, I made a delightful little frittata with scallions, chives, sharp cheddar, roasted asparagus, and chicken sausage. I may have then topped it with tabasco sauce. Not exactly French, but very delicious!

Le Diplomate | 1601 14th Street Washington DC 20005 | 202.332.3333

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Pancakes, Beer and Popsicles…in that order

A few weekends ago, urgent and important business compelled me to make a special trip to DC Brau–a local production brewery churning out deliciousness in the form of The Public Pale Ale, The Corruption IPA, The Citizen Belgian Ale and an awesome array of seasonal, limited-edition beers. Lucky for us, the brewery was actually in operation during our Saturday tour (the brewers had been going strong since 5:00 am that morning!). This meant a lot of noise, but it also meant we could watch the canning machine in action! If you have car access, this is definitely a fun outing (it’s all free) – and there’s even a food truck parked in their lot so you can get lunch before your tour!

DC Brau Using Catoctin Creek Barrels!To fortify ourselves for the tour and tastings, and because we were going into NE anyway, I convinced M to stop off for brunch on H Street. I was tempted by the Argonaut–a fantastic place (and the site of a very mimosa-heavy birthday brunch 2 years back), but opted for something new: Boundary Road. This lovely, brick-walled spot opened almost exactly a year ago, and has been a hit among H Streeters and beyond. It was bright and sunny, with just a small smattering of people enjoying a lazy Saturday morning. Our coffee was served in a pot right out of M’s childhood home, and the two raw sugar cubes served with it were perfect for sucking the coffee through our teeth (doesn’t everyone do this?)

Boundary Road CoffeeThere are a few peanuty items on their brunch menu (the Yelp reviews hold the Peanut Butter & Banana Monte Cristo to a gold standard), so I was sure to ask our waitress about the level of caution in the kitchen, and whether they used any nut oils in their preparation. M is allergic to tree nuts, and I peanuts, so we allergenically complete each other, and make it easy on restaurant staff by simplifying things accordingly: no nuts. Our waitress was very thorough about addressing our concerns, and made a point of saying that they do use peanut oil for some fried entrees, so I should be especially careful if I were to come back for lunch or dinner. I definitely appreciated her candor–next time, I’ll be prepared for a menu that includes peanut oil, and can plan accordingly!

Boundary Road PleasantriesThe food turned out to be pretty solid. I ordered the Apple Cheese Pancakes, which were fluffy and creamy with a nice light char on the outside that gave them fantastic texture. I, of course, smothered them in maple syrup, and speared pieces of my fruit cup to accompany my bites. It was an enormous portion though, and after finishing his rather conservative portion of eggs, bacon and hashbrowns, M demolished the last 1/3 of my pancakes.

Apple cheese pancakesI really enjoyed Boundary Road, but perhaps more for its charming decor than anything else. The 2 stories of exposed brick, the crazy chandelier made from a repurposed antique spring mattress, and the assortment of vintage crockery all make you feel so at home. Granted–an ingeniously crafted home designed to evoke nostalgia at every turn, but that’s beside the point. Unfortunately, upon our departure, we were dismayed to find that 1) the car was now sporting a shiny ticket because we were a little daft and didn’t notice the pay-to-park sign and 2) that the car was blocked in by a food delivery truck servicing The Big Board across the street. It was lucky we had good beer to look forward to.

Crazy ChandelierPS: The next day, my friend Sara and I finally stopped by Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Cafe, a brick-and-morter outpost of the (very) popular local popsicle purveyors (say that 5 times fast!). Inside they have a wall devoted to local food brands, from Whisked (specialty pies) to Gordy’s Pickle Jar (self explanatory) to Goldilocks Goodies (gluten-free treats)! I was even able to accompany my cup of earl grey with a chocolate chip cookie from Blind Dog Cafe! It was a great little spot, and a great addition to my neighborhood!

Pleasant Pops

Boundary Road | 414 H. St NE Washington, DC | (202) 450-3265

DC Brau | 3178-B Bladensburg Rd NE Washington DC 20018 | (202) 621-8890

Pleasant Pops | 1781 Florida Ave NW Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 558-5224

Brunching in the City

AAaaannnddd…..we’re back! I’ve been on a bit of a Persnickety hiatus–for no good reason, mind you–but I’m happy to return with a decadent post in tow. Although Thanksgiving preparations are currently very much underway, I wanted to take a little tour of my recent brunch outings around the city. The DC’ers among you should know the minor (ahem…major) obsession that DC inhabitants have with brunch, and I have had multiple weekends with both a Saturday and Sunday sampling. There’s always a modicum of guilt associated though; I avoid the healthy options on the menu, and consistently gravitate towards the most decadent instead. So, from most recent…here are three brunches I’ve loved in the past few months.

Founding Farmers

Previously only having visited for dinner–which is marvelous–I finally planned a brunch with a good friend of mine. Without meaning to, we actually ordered the exact same meal: coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and stuffed french toast with strawberries and whipped cream. (I mentioned the always ordering the most unhealthy item on the menu, right?). She mentioned that every time she’s gone, she’s lusted after the stuffed french toast, but never actually committed, so she was thrilled to finally order it. And I was thrilled to eat it. I have to say that we were so preoccupied with catching up that I delayed asking about peanuts until they had actually brought our food, but luckily everything had been prepared safely, and there were no cross contamination issues to worry about. Now – don’t ask me how they make this and don’t expect me to know what what makes it so gloriously rich (you can probably guess from the pictures). Just admire.

Shaw’s Tavern

Although I rarely choose a savory brunch selection, I had gotten up particularly early this Sunday, and had already had a full breakfast of oatmeal with cinnamon, brown sugar, dried fruit and pecans. I was sugared-out, so I chose the pulled chicken sandwich instead. It was actually quite lovely, with a great kick from the jalapenos mixed in with shallots, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. The sandwich came with potato chips, but after discovering that they were cooked in corn oil, the waitress graciously supplied me with a darling little bowl of blueberries and strawberries, and left the chips for my dining companions to munch on. Along with an absurdly delicious fresh squeezed orange juice, it was a pretty healthy and pleasing meal!

Cafe Sorriso e Gelateria

As part of my quest to visit all my local neighborhood spots, I wandered into Cafe Sorriso a few months ago to try out their coffee. A tiny little space, it’s full of character and extremely hospitable people. It’s relatively new, and unfortunately a bit hidden, but the place opens quite early for their weekend breakfast/brunch and provides a really nice option for a relaxed meal with friends. Three of us live in the same building, so it’s easy to coordinate a nice, early brunch on a weekend. On this visit, I ordered the whole wheat pancakes with banana, walnuts and maple syrup and accompanied the meal with a pot of delicious Earl Grey tea. My friends had oatmeal, and smoked salmon scrambled eggs, respectively, and each enjoyed the uncomplicated and delightful spread.

Now, as a teaser for you all, today we have completed our massive shop for the Thanksgiving meal at Chelsea Market in NYC, and have successfully retrieved our 14 pound bird. I’m baking a chocolate pecan pie, there will be two types of stuffing, multitudes of roasted vegetable goodness, and fresh home-made cranberry sauce. And of course, we have bottles and bottles of wine and about 7 different kinds of cheeses and cured meats for snacking during the day. Never fear, the Thanksgiving post will be epic, and hopefully completely absolve me from my disgraceful lack of posting for the last few weeks.