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

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