Author Archives: Val

Restaurant Review: Central Michel Richard

For my birthday dinner, Adam took me to Central.    The restaurant won the 2008 James Beard award for Best New Restaurant, and Chef Richard was one of the first chefs in the country to offer a bistro edition to his classically French “haute cuisine” Citronelle.  I personally enjoy this phenomenon because, as evidenced by this blog, we eat out quite a bit.  My bank account can’t afford $150+ pre fixed menus all the time.  Sometimes you want to enjoy the creations of a chef, without taking out a loan.

After looking at the menu, we decided to begin with soup, and then move onto our entrees.  But wait, what’s this?  Cheese puffs! A dinner that starts with gougères can’t be bad.  Little tiny packages of “crispy on the outside” but “fluffy on the inside” dough and cheese that melt in your mouth.  My only complaint; they came out too close to our soup course.  The soup needed to be enjoyed hot, which caused us to loose some of the enjoyment of eating all the puffs still warm from the oven.

Central Michel Richard

Fried chicken with mashed potato

For the main course, Adam ordered the fried chicken, and I chose the steak tartare.  The chicken was cooked well, with the right balance between moist meat and extra crispy skin and breading.  As with most French chefs, the sauce (chicken gravy in this case) was what made the dish.

I was venturing into new territory with my tartare.  The only tartare I have had before has been seafood.  What I love about those dishes is the fresh taste you get from good ingredients.  My steak tartare was exactly that.  The flavors of a well cooked filet were there, but intensified by the herbs, seasoning, and completely fresh meat.

Central Michel Richard

Tartare of filet mignon and french fries

Our service during the meal was good – we were seated next to a family that knew our server, and it felt like we were having a meal at someone’s home.  Everyone was friendly and engaging, and while we enjoyed the atmosphere, nothing jumped out as exceptional.

The most interesting part of the meal was that Chef Richard spent the evening dining and conducting business in the restaurant a couple tables over.  I didn’t catch what he ordered for dinner, but he and Adam share the same taste in beer.

Central Michel Richard

Blusser Pilsner (U.S. exclusive)

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: RIS

Apparently this restaurant has been in the works for a while.  There has been buzz around town that Chef Ris Lacoste would be opening her own place since 2005.  I would imagine it takes a while to find the right space, the right people, the right devoted following (kidding…just barely) and the right time to open a restaurant that hits perfection.  Chef Lacoste certainly aimed high and delivered with RIS.

RIS

The Washington Post did a critic’s review of the new neighborhood bistro last Sunday (3/21), but we had heard good things since the opening in December.  I received an email early last week letting me know that Adam had booked a reservation for Friday night, just before the peak dining hour of 7:00pm for Washingtonians.

We arrived and were promptly greeted by an extremely friendly host staff and seated in the “living room” portion of the restaurant.  The happy hour crowd was still at the bar, and it provided for a nice vibrant setting.   I hate places that are too quiet or that don’t have enough people in them.

Our waitress was excellent, even offering to let Adam try a beer he hadn’t had before.  While he was deciding, she moved to take care of the other tables assigned to her.  Out of nowhere, a second server swoops in, lets us know that our server was busy at the moment, and offered to take our drink order.  I asked what would go well with the steak, which I had chosen for my entree, and he recommended their porter instead of a glass of wine, because they cook the steak with the beer.  We’ll take two, please  :)

In addition to our beers, Adam and I both got the New England Clam Chowder for a starter.  Spring had become a little cooler that evening, and a nice bowl of soup was a great way to warm up.  It was exactly what a clam chowder should be – nice, rich (see the pad of butter in the picture below) and tasting of clams.

RIS

New England Clam Chowder

Our entrees consisted of mainstays for me and Adam – double cut pork chop for Adam and a grilled skirt steak for me.  The portions were excellent, and everything was cooked textbook perfect.  The only thing missing was a little salt on my dish.  Other than that, the flavors of all the components melded together nicely.

RIS

Cider Glazed Grilled Pork Chop

RIS

Grilled Portuguese Skirt Steak

One of the other dishes that I wanted to try was the chicken pot pie.  I’d heard great things, but I was in a steak mood that evening.  When I saw the dessert menu and found a pot pie on there, I figured that it had to be just as good.  The Apple and Pear pot pie with rum raisin ice cream was outstanding.  I recommend splitting it between two people.  It was just enough to share.  A perfect ending to a perfect dining experience.

RIS

Apple and Pear Pot Pie

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We’re coming back…we promise!

Seriously – we’re going to start posting regularly starting Sunday.  The massive amounts of snow and ski trips this winter have taken a toll on our blogging.  But, we’ve been eating, cooking, and taking pictures of it.  Check out Adam’s flickr feed for some previews!

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Restaurant Review: 10 Arts

The Dining Room at 10 Arts

Dining Room

Adam and I found ourselves within a half hour of Philadelphia one afternoon, so we decided to stop for lunch at 10 Arts.  We just made the last lunch seating, with our table being only 1 of maybe 5 or so that were occupied.  I always hate being in an empty restaurant, but 10 Arts is in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton, so it has a very open feel and it wasn’t as awkward as I thought.

Our waiter was very attentive and friendly, and had good recommendations about the flavors of the different dishes.  Unfortunately, because it was lunch and a Monday, Top Chef contestant Jennifer Carrol wasn’t working, but we were pleased to find all our courses excellently prepared.

The Lunch Menu

Menu

Lunch is a good time to go to restaurants that are hard to get into during dinner service.  The menu is generally the same, but with lower prices.  My favorite thing is that lunch usually includes sandwiches as well, with tend to be an underrated / overlooked food.  Adam and I decided to get appetizers and sandwiches, to include smoked corn soup, a country terrine, Pork Belly BLT, and the Fish Burger.

Pork Terrine

Terine

Pork Belly BLT

Pork Belly BLT

Everything was cooked perfectly, and each bite was bursting with flavor.  Our favorite thing on both of our plates had to be the fries.  They were well seasoned (something that restaurants are getting away from, for some reason) and made better by the inclusion of an aioli that accompanied my fish burger.

We had not planned on dessert, but we overheard our waiter talking to another table and describing the beignets.  There really wasn’t any way that we could skip those.  They were warm, dusted with sugar, and went well with our espresso.  It was the perfect end to an excellent meal.

Beignets

Beignets

As we were enjoying dessert, our waiter mentioned to another table who asked about Chef Jennifer that Top Chef was how he found out about the restaurant as well.  Both Jen and Chef Ripert have certainly won the hearts of Philadelphia.

Reflections of Philadelphia

Philly

-Val and Adam

10 Arts (Ritz-Carlton) on Urbanspoon

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Cooking Class: Fruits and Nuts

Monday night immersed us into the world of fruits and nuts in our cooking class as L’Academie de Cuisine.  Because Chef Sandy was out for our egg class earlier in the semester, we started off by making a souffle (which included orange so it fit within our theme.)

Contrary to popular belief, souffles are actually very easy to make if you understand how they work, and the cooking techniques behind it.  The base is a a bechamel sauce: melted butter + flour = roux + milk.  Once you have your sauce, remove it from the heat, and stir in your flavoring and sugar if it is sweet, then add egg yolks.

Take the whites from the eggs and whip them with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks.  Then incorporate the whites into your custard by gently folding the mixtures together.  Pour into buttered and floured ramekins and bake in a regular 400 degree oven until done.  The souffles should rise evenly (if you haven’t correctly buttered the ramekin, you will have uneven rising, as in the picture above) and giggle like jello, not pudding.

Remove from oven and enjoy!


After everyone in the class made a souffle, we each began on our individual projects.  Mine and Adam’s task was to make a pear and almond ginger tart.  We marinated the pears in a syrup of lemon juice, sugar, and zest for 30 min.

When the pears finished marinating, we arranged them in a tart shell made with a traditional pate brisee crust.  We then combined butter, pear or ginger jam and the left over liquor from the pears and poured it over the tart.  Sprinkle with crushed almonds and candied ginger, and bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hr 30 min.  The finished product should be nice and brown with the liquid evaporated.

Next week is our final class of the semester – stay tuned to see what ingredient we pull!

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Restaurant Review: Good Stuff Eatery

Goodness Gracious

So after waiting a year or so for the crowds to die down, Adam and I (plus friends) ventured over to the Hill last night to enjoy burgers, fries and shakes at Good Stuff Eatery.  We had to take a short detour to view the new Capitol Visitor Center grounds, because we haven’t been able to see the eastern side of the building for the past 10 years due to construction.  The fountains and reflecting pools enhanced the lights on the clear night, and lead to some great photo opportunities.

Nestled into a skinny space on a block that houses some of the classic Hill dining / drinking institutions, Good Stuff Eatery was still packed even at 8:00pm.  People were milling about, waiting for tables or clinging to their buzzers eagerly anticipating their toasted marshmallow shakes.  After a quick look at the menu, we decided on the favorites – 2 Spike’s Sunnysides (previously called the 5+Napkin burger), an order of Village Fries, and toasted marshmallow and black&white shakes.  We grabbed a seat at the counter by the door, filled cups with samples of the different mayonnaise dips available, and waited for our little buzzer to go off along with everyone else.

The food arrived in the obligatory grease-lined bags, and it didn’t disappoint.  The burgers were perfectly cooked, well seasoned, and really, you can’t go wrong with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg.  The Village fries, seasoned with rosemary, thyme, garlic and salt, had the right amount of flavor, and mixed well with all of the different spices in the mayos.  The standout was the milkshake, with the smokey malted flavor reminding us all of campfires and s’mores.   Matt contemplated ordering a wedge salad as “dessert”, but decided to save that for another trip.

Chef/owner Spike Mendelsohn walked in halfway through out meal, making his way directly to the counter to help out the staff.  We thanked him for the food on the way out, and he mentioned that they are in the process of opening a new place next door in Feb.  It’ll be a NY Pizza place, to include pizza, sandwiches and gelato.  Perhaps that’s why he walked in with a pizza wheel in his hand?  I asked him about the rumor going around town that his fellow Top Chef competitor Richard Blais is looking to open his “Flip Burger” restaurant in the city, which he neither confirmed not denied (although Spike did mention that Blais is looking for space around the Verizon Center), but wished him the best of luck.  Do Liquid Nitrogen shakes beat out Toasted Marshmallow?

Good Stuff Eatery on Urbanspoon

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