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

Flight, Fields, Fins and Farm

The categories Flight, Fields, Fins and Farm accurately divide the menu at the Melrose Hotel’s newly unveiled, Jardenea restaurant. The menu’s tagline, “The farm is the beginning of the food chain, knowing where your food comes from, has gone from being a trend to being a necessity,” although grammatically suspicious, does reflect the increasing emphasis that restaurants are putting on responsible and sustainable food choices. I had a beautiful meal there, but was dismayed by the low attendance in the dining room. It’s only a few weeks old, true, but folks–it’s definitely worth a try!

I was lucky enough to win a weekend stay at the Melrose Hotel through a work event, and so I chose the weekend leading up to the GRE to hole myself up in the gigantic room and study my butt off. After a day of studying, I was absurdly ready to put my books away and enjoy a meal downstairs. I was with someone who has an allergy to tree nuts, so we needed a completely nut-free (and corn-free, of course) meal. When we explained our dietary needs to the waiter, he decided to retrieve the chef so we could talk to him in person. The chef Nate Lindsay was extremely personable, and was obviously enthusiastic about accommodating our preferences by switching out sides or picking and choosing dishes to create a safe meal. It was a fantastic attitude, and it was clear how excited he was about making our dining experience safe and enjoyable.

To start, we ordered the Prince Edward Island Mussels with toasted curry, elephant garlic and heirloom tomato consommé. I’m a late starter to mussels so this was a bit of a stretch for me. Thus, I was damn delighted to find that I really enjoyed them! The broth was heavenly with massive pieces of the roasted garlic and a hint of spice from the curry (very little of that broth remained at the end…thank goodness for nice crusty bread to soak it all up!). As far as the mussels themselves go, I am assured by my dining partner that they were cooked to perfection!

MusselsOur mains were lovely, literally. I ordered the Colorado Lamb Rack, prepared to look like a sprig of holly. Garlic showed itself again, accompanied by roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes, haricots verts and roasted beets. The lamb was perfectly cooked, and although quite fatty, it had a beautiful flavor. On the other side of the table, three medallions of beef were surrounded by potatoes mousseline (the creamiest mashed potatoes ever) with a shallot demi-glace. Unfortunately, the beef itself didn’t have too much flavor, but the sauce made up for the lack of taste.

Rack of Lamb

Lamb, potatoes, haricots vert

Beef medallions

Unfortunately, we were too stuffed for dessert–we even packed up the last of the beef and potatoes to re-purpose later! It was a truly lovely meal, with impressive attention to detail, and most importantly, an understanding and accommodating attitude from the chef and waitstaff. Whoever wrote the menu clearly recognizes the prevalence and seriousness of dietary restrictions: “Our chefs will accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and most special dietary needs; please speak with your server if you have any requests.” Nice.

Earlier that day, I had witnessed other guests requesting that the chef come to the front desk as they were checking out. Although Nate looked a bit nervous upon arrival (who wouldn’t be?), it quickly turned to relief when the patrons commenced their resounding approval of their beautiful meals there. If you need any more convincing, take a look at the Washingtonian’s slideshow of some of the other dishes you’ll find at Jardenea.

Jardenea | Washington DC Melrose Hotel | 2430 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037

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.