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21 for 41

It’s Art’s birthday today!  How did we celebrate Art turning 41?  Well with a 21 course meal at Volt!  Not that we don’t love our local DC restaurants — goodness knows we do — but we’d been talking about heading out to Frederick to try out Volt for a while, and Art’s birthday seemed like a good reason.  (woah — long sentence)

I started the process of trying to book reservations almost two months out, because I knew I was looking at a popular place.  Turns out, I don’t have a clue about how far out you have to make reservations when a a celebrity chef is involved.   Table 21, the 21 course tasting extravaganza, was booked through the end of the year.  I decided the chef’s table would have to do, and  I still couldn’t get anything for Saturday night, so I booked for Friday and planned to combine it with a tour of Flying Dog Brewery in the afternoon.

On Thursday my phone rang and I got the awesome notice that there had been a cancellation at Table 21, and would I like that instead of my chef’s table seats?  Heck, yeah!!!

What I can say is that it was a total experience.  We were a few minutes late, and missed the “flavors of sazerac” course, but made everything else.  I expected the food to be killer, which it was.  But I was also totally impressed with the service, especially my “no shellfish, no pork, no rabbit” requirements.  The staff was fabulous and gracious about it.   The few dishes that had one of the above in it, were made without and the staff would let me know each time they announced the course that mine had been made without it.

Out of the 21 courses we tried, only one was lack luster and it came at the very end (the “wedge salad,” which was something like lettuce granita with frozen blue cheese powder.  Can’t really speak highly for frozen lettuce…).  At that point I was so full, I was almost grateful that I didn’t to eat something.

What’s not listed on the menu below are the Hot Buttered Rum (NOM!!) and the take home treats.  Art ate the take home treats in the car right after the meal.  I couldn’t even look at them….

For those into the celebrity chef thing, yes we did see Bryan Voltaggio.  No he didn’t come over and say hello or anything.  We did get to see Sous Chef, Graeme Ritchie, and the entire Volt team in action all night.  Table 21 is literally in the kitchen, so you get to see the amazingly well choreographed chaos that is a restaurant kitchen.

Table 21 Menu for 10.21.2011

Table 21 Menu for 10-21-2011

Table 21 Menu for 10-21-2011

 

We Eat Well

Coming Soon! To a Dinner Table Near Me!

Coming Soon! To a Dinner Table Near Me!

Roast Leg of Lamp! er…Leg of Ramb? Bone-in leg of lamb from Moutoux Orchard in Purcellville, Virginia. Rubbed with a spice mixture (smoked tea salt, pepper, tarragon, coriander, oregano, fenugreek), and studded with sliced wild-collected ramps.

Meridian Pint: Beer is Proof that God Loves Us

Art and I have been fairly loyal customers of Churchkey and Birch and Barley since they opened.  Honestly, it’s the first place that we’ve wanted to go to on a regular basis (and frequently) in years.  The last time we had a “home” like that, we lived on the Hill and hung out at Hawk and Dove.  Our Hawk and Dove days are long behind us, and really no other bars or restaurants had that “third place” vibe for us until Churchkey came along.

We’re big craft beer people, and we love good food.  That’s the magic mix that Churchkey/Birch and Barley have.  The staff there is also awesome and super friendly, which really helps too.  These days a lot of the staff knows us on sight, and by name.  It makes it really fun to be there.  Personally, I love the overall vibe of the place too.  It just feels right.

But with all the great places popping up around DC,  we thought we’d venture out.  So last night, we hit the very recently opened Meridan Pint (good pics on Lagerheads Facebook Page).  The first thing we noticed was the staff.  It’s clearly staffed with Churchkey alumni, so the place felt kind of homey right away.  The beer menu was respectable (24ish taps) of good craft brew.  They focus on American craft beer, so it was kind of sad/disappointing to see Miller Light and PBR on the menu.  Guess they decided to cater to the groundlings a bit.  We had a few brews, my favorite being the Summer Solstice cream ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

The most impressive thing about the menu was the real selection of vegetarian food.  I’m not a vegetarian, but my relationship with meat is complicated and I very infrequently order it at a restaurant. Most places do a passing nod to vegetarian food, especially beer places.  That’s why I was so impressed with the menu.  Art had  the seasonal chilled pea soup, which was freaking awesome and I wish I had ordered it, and the grilled polenta with wilted arugula.  The polenta was also awesome, but the arugula was bit too old and bitter for him.  (no comments about the wife, please).

I had the fried tofu with chili sauce, which was amazing — but gave me this rapid fire sudden heartburn.  Seriously.  It was crazy.  I ordered the seitan kabobs for dinner, but the heartburn kind of killed my appetite.  The kabobs were good, but not great.  I’m not a huge seitan fan, and I think it was just a little too much for me.  The grilled tomatoes on the kabobs were good, but there were too few of them and too many onions.  A mushroom or two would have balanced it better.

We still had home made sour cherry pie at home, so we skipped dessert.   We did take a quick peek at the downstairs bar, which we’d heard about.  Yes — there are a couple of tables with taps built in.  It had a couple of pool tables and some cozy little seating areas.

All in all, a good meal with great service and great beer.  We’ll definitely be back.

Souvenirs from our Trip to NYC

Souvenirs from NYC

Much tastier than postcards.

Local Honey from the Rockefeller Center Farmer’s Market

Alcyone Tannat Dessert Wine; from Uruguay. A port-like wine we had with dessert Thursday night

Vinedo de los Vientos Brooklyn Buzz Mead made from NYC honey

Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey another small batch distiller, I thought about picking up a bottle of this when we were in Denver, but I did not want to have to check a bottle of whiskey and/or let the TSA drink it.  Much easier to bring it on a train from New York than a plane from Colorado.

Bagpiper’s Scottish Ale; a fine example of the style from Pennichuck Brewing Company of Milford, NH.. Not too bitter, low carbonation, and it came in a 1 liter swing-top bottle!

Greylock Gin from Berkshire Mountain Distillers; sawe it in a liquor store on Madison Ave; one of my vendors had called to tell me that there was a problem with the credit card I gave him. I decided to test this assertion by buying some booze for my wife. (there was no problem).

And, lastly, the twelve-pound loaf of Lithuanian Rye bread from Silver Bell Bakery in Queens.

[tags]food, travels, nyc, small batch,  artisinal[/tags]

The Nomming Bowl

Art and his blueberries. Considering how many he buys at the market, he brought his own bowl to just carry them home in.

4 quarts of blueberries (the three I bought last week we gone by noon Tuesday)
1 quart of sweet cherries and
1 pint of blackberries (not pictured)

[tags]locavore, farmers market, blueberries, blackberries, cherries[/tags]

Whirlwind Week

Art and I had quite the whirlwind of a week last week.

Tuesday: 03/06/07
Dogfish Head Beer Dinner at the Reef

The Reef is a bar and restaurant in Adams Morgan that my sister used to practically live at. We actually found out about the beer dinner through the Dogfish Head mailing list. The evening began with hors de ouvres served with pints of India Brown Ale. As Art and I were drinking and snacking, we ran into a former co-worker of mine and his girlfriend. That turned out to be a great thing, because we ended up chatting with them off and on all night.

When the main event began the owner of the reef and the owner of Dogfish Head Brewery came out to give us the low-down on the evening. Among the highlights of what I learned from their introductions is that the Reef has a bit of an eco-mission (*yeah*) and tries to serves eco-responsible food and drink. For example, they only serve beer on tap, because there is a lot less waste without the bottles. An amusing connection I learned that night about the owner of Dogfish Head Brewery is that he went to the same prep-school as my grandfather: Mnt. Hermon. He got kicked out — my grandfather worked in the kitchen as a scholarship student. Oh — and of course it was about 60 years difference in time — but still.

The food for the evening was decent and the beer was fabulous. The pairings of beer and food were actually slightly better than the actual food. Everyone there agreed that the beet dish with both golden beets and crispy red beets was the best. Most people had never really eaten beats before, so it was a new thing for them.

Needless to say the evening reinforced our love of all things Dogfish Head.

Wednesday: 3/7/07
Hamlet in Hebrew
On Wednesday night we went to Signature Theatre to see an Israeli theatre company’s production of Hamlet. It had been translated into modern Hebrew with supertitles of the Shakespearean English. It was really interesting, the parts in Hebrew I could actually understand showed a great use of the language and poetry in the translation.

Beyond the Hebrew, the production itself was really interesting. The audience was seated in swivel chairs and the play moved all around us. It was very simple production wise, with minimal sets and costumes. The acting was great and some of the staging choices made left us with lots of things to talk about.

Saturday: 3/10/07
Philly Flower Show
To finish off the week, Art and I drove to Philly to meet up with Dad and Susan. We all trekked to the flower show and then through the flower show. Damn, that flower show is just huge. Dad bought us a funky carnivorous pitcher plant! Then we all ended up at Fogo de Chao for dinner. We had to hike a good distance from the convention center for a place that didn’t have an hour wait. Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian meat palace chain where the meat comes fast and furious. The salad bar alone is worth the visit, but the meats were really good too.

[tags]dogfish head, beer, reef, gourmet, hamlet, shakespeare, cameri, israeli, hebrew, flower show, philly, fogo de chao[/tags]

Thanksgiving at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm

Art and I took a major departure from our usual Thanksgiving experience and went to The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, instead of cooking enough food for 25 to feed 15 — we ate carefully proportioned food that someone else prepared. The meal was fantastic, with the only problem being I was so full by the time the main course arrived that I could barely eat it! I was also sick, but my taste buds understood what they were being treated to and perked back up for the occasion.

This was our third time at Patowmack Farm, and Chef Christian Evans has not failed us yet. The restaurant always has a prix-fixe menu that is either a 7-course tasting menu or a 5-course. They also throw in delicious breads and palate cleansers — so there’s always at least two extra dishes. Thanksgiving followed tradition and was prix-fixe menu with a choice of main course. There was also an option to have a wine pairing added to your meal, which we opted for. I mean, if the chef is going to go to the trouble of picking wine to compliment each course who are we to spurn it? One of the things I love about Patowmack Farm is not only the lovely organic, cruelty free food — but the way it’s presented. As much care is put into the presentation as everything else. I think you eat more slowly when the food is presented in an elegant fashion, and then you can eat smaller portions.

I’m also astonished that the owner, Beverly Morton Billard remembered us. Well, remembered Art. That was only our third visit and you just don’t see service like that normally. Don’t worry Beverly, we’ll remember you and be back again for our next special occasion.

Sadly my phone died so I couldn’t grab any pictures. You’ll have to use your imagination.

Thanksgiving at Patowmack Farm 2006 Menu

“Green Bean Casserole”
Creamy bean soup with exotic mushroom ragout, crispy fried onions and white truffle oil.
Paraiso 2004 Chardonnay, California

We really liked this upscale version of green bean casserole. It was really amazing what a little drizzle of truffle oil makes, too!

Venison Carpaccio
With baby greens, blue cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and mulled apple cider vinaigrette
R. Stuart Big Fire 2003 Pinot Noir, Oregon

We discovered that this dish was best if you got a bite of venison, greens, dressing and blue cheese all together. As the entire dish was about 4-5 bites — I’m glad we figured this out quickly!

Pan Roasted Duck Breast
With parsnip puree, roasted brussel sprouts and red wine sauce
Santa Rita 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Duck good — parsnip puree not so much. Art gave it a thumbs up. But I just didn’t dig the parsnips.

Entrees

Bacon and Sage Roasted Wild Turkey
With pumpkin pecan stuffing, batonnet of autumn vegetables and herbed gravy
Porter Behmann 2003 Shiraz, Australia

Art had this one and definitely enjoyed it. He did pause long enough to offer me a bite, but I was happily eating my own.

Corn Meal Crusted Rainbow Trout
With root vegetable gratin, wilted greens and maple sage reduction
Southern Rigth 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa

Oh, Patowmack Farm you had me at maple sage reduction. The main course was a full-sized portion, although more European than American in size. I just couldn’t do it. It was so good, and I was so full! Art got more than a good taste of this too.

Wild Rice Crepes
With wilted chard, autumn vegetable ragout and herbed cream

Neither of us had this, but I wanted to document it because it was on the menu.

Dessert

Sweet Potato Tart
With bourbon ice cream, nutmeg tuile, vanilla caramel and candied nuts
Samos Vin Doux 2003 Muscato, Greece

Gee — you think we liked this? Bourbon ice cream? Yum!

Charlottesville or Bust!

Saturday, June 24
After many weeks of careful consideration about how far the car could go, we just drove to the Charlottesville area to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park. Unfortunately, the car decided that it was done. We started up the mountain the transmission started to fail. We tried to make it to the parking area, but realized it just wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully, we were able to pull over to the side of the road and let the car cool for a little while.

We tried to get a little hiking in near where we pulled over — but it was wet, buggy, and gross. After about 20 minutes we gave up and went back to the car. We did see two box turtles on our aborted hiking attempt. We coasted down the mountain and it turned into a scene from the Blues Brothers. We were going 30mph on the highway — just hoping we’d get somewhere. We put something like 4 quarts of transmission fluid into the car — all with a helpful local watching and chatting with Art. The fluid didn’t help particuarly, so we decided to try and make it over to the C-ville airport and rent a car to get home. Thankfully, the long-term parking was pretty cheap.

horton winesSince the hiking was a bust, we decided to still have a little fun and continue on the second half of the weekend’s adventure. We headed over to Horton Vineyards. It’s a terrible website, but a nice winery. Acutally, they are considered one of the best winery/vineyard’s on the East Coast. Art had brought home a bottle of their Pear Port when he did the Crozet Show — and it was so fabulous I wanted more. We did quite the tasting (it’s free) and then bought a few bottles to take home. Besides the Pear Port we also really liked the Vintage Port and the Viognier Reserve (2001).

Sunday, June 25
Now, back to the dead car issue. We knew the car was dying — and actually had already arranged for a car loan and done lots of research on what kind of car we were going to get. So on Sunday we checked a bunch of auto dealer websites and got a list of all the people selling Honda Elements in our area at the price and mileage range we wanted. We headed out with list in hand to buy a car. Note — always bring the list with you. I don’t think the dealer would have given us the car at the price if we hadn’t waived the Web page with the car and price in front of him. Plus, when he played the, “you won’t find this car for this price any where else game,” — we said, “Oh — really….”.

Now we are the proud owners of a 2004 blue Honda Element (I guess it’s water?).

Saturday, July 1
Back to C-ville! We ended up having to keep the rental car all week and return it to C-ville – or pay penalties. So off we went. We returned the car and moved the wagon to a parking lot where the people we are donating it to could get it. It did actually make it under its own power. Then we picked up lunch at a bakery we read about in the Washington Post. They definitely didn’t disappoint — both the lunch and pastries were great. We headed back to the mountain that killed wagon for a picnic and hiking.

It was a nice 6-mile hike along the AT, from Swift Run Gap to South River in the Shenandoah National Park. The highlight was two bear sightings! We saw a larger bear with one (or two) yearlings ambling through the woods, and then joined a whole group of people on the side of the road later to watch a mama-bear and two adorable cubs! We also had a great encounter with a deer and fawn. The fawn did some adorable frolicking for us. Oh — and we saw a toad. Toad’s a bit anti-climactic, I know — but we actually saw it first.

Sunday, July 2
I think we’re off to the National Portrait Gallery today. It’s re-opened after many years, and I want to go and see it. It’s a pretty big deal here in DC. We were going to the Folklife Festival, but I just can’t get into it any more. I think the Smithsonian has just done a rotten job the past few years, and taken it in a terrible direction. Between the tourists and the heat — I don’t feel like going if it’s not going to be good.

[tags]charlottesville, cville, shenandoah, at, patc, hiking, bears, horton vineyards, wine, food, bakeries, element, honda[/tags]

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