Archive for July, 2008

Restaurant 3

July 24, 2008

For our monthly anniversary, Brian and I ventured to Eleventh Street Lounge looking for some good food and drinks in a swanky location.  We were disappointed in the setting (it felt like a place to go after you were already drunk – the floors seemed like they’ve been sticky a lot in their history, and the furniture was a little shabby) and the menu (just didn’t seem appetizing once it was in front of us) so we each had a martini and then walked the block to Restaurant 3.

Restaurant 3

The setting:
We were led to a half-round booth for two (with room for 4 total with 2 chairs should you venture in with a larger party) in a dark yellow leather.  The decor seemed southwestern to me, although I think they were going for Tuscan given the paintings on the walls.  Brian felt that the yellow walls and picture lights were too bright for evening.  I saw what he meant, but I kinda liked it.

The service:
Our waiter let us take our time in deciding what we wanted – which was kind since it was 9:00 p.m. on a Monday night and the menu looked so great we simply couldn’t decide!  He was responsive in answering questions, refilling glasses, and making suggestions.

The food:
We’ve had Restaurant 3 on our radar since it opened, but we’ve always put it off.  No more.  The food – and the menu – was fantastic.

There are two types of bread – and two spreaders – in the delicious bread basket.  The white bread must have had a cheese in the batter (asiago?) and the smell – and taste – was wonderful.  There was also equally good wheat bread that I barely tasted after gorging myself on the white bread.  There was both butter and an olive tapenade.

For an appetizer, Brian ordered the fried oysters.  The portion was huge – easily shareable by a party of 4 – and really good, battered in cornmeal.

We also each had a salad – Brian the spinach salad (he can’t resist) and I the Caesar.  The Parmesan “crisp” in my salad was too thick and a little soggy, but the salad good none the less.  I also appreciated that our server waited until I’d taken a bite before approaching me with the (very colorful!) pepper mill.  This just so happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves in restaurants: I don’t KNOW if I want pepper until I try a bite first – it may not need it!  So kudos to our guy for doing it right!  (Brian, by the way, disagrees with me on this and thinks the pepper mill is part of the presentation).

The entrees were also huge.  Brian had a beautiful Japanese sea bass with pea risotto and sweet potato “straws.”  I had short ribs with collar greens and a macaroni and cheese bake.  We only ate a few bites given how stuffed we were on bread, oysters, and salad.  However, I had some great leftover lunches during the work week 😉  The fish had a wonderful flash crunch.  It was buttery and firm, and actually held up beautifully in the microwave at work!  The risotto was great, and the sweet potato straws (which did not hold up so beautifully) really complimented the sea bass.  The short rib was presented with the bone detached (but still presented!) and was good, although slightly overdone.  The collards were good (although I grew up with better greens – and there was a roasted ladybug in them I discovered during a work meeting while I was eating lunch – oops!)  The macaroni (actually a linguine) and cheese bake actually was better on reheating!  We also ordered a side of asiago cheese grits that were too heavy on the cheese, although I couldn’t tell you if they improved on reheating because Brian ate them all the next night and didn’t save me any.  Hmpf.

  

We were surprised Restaurant 3 wasn’t packed to the gills given what a great experience it was.  Brian said there was no excuse with such a great menu that Restaurant 3 shouldn’t have a wait every night of the week – even 9 p.m. on Mondays.

Best for: A romantic evening out, large parties, dinner with the ‘rents. 

Worst for: Someone on a diet who doesn’t want to be tempted by large portions.

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Best Sandwich Place

July 21, 2008
Now, I hate to give away my secrets – and Best Sandwich Place qualifies as a quick and delicious lunch spot.  But since Alison told me about, I thought I’d pass it along…

Best Sandwich Place

The setting:
If you didn’t know if was there, you’d never find it.  Tucked away inside an office complex next door to Borders near Farragut Square, only a brass plaque hidden in a list directs you to this tasty spot.  Look for the line of people waiting at the slowest ATM in the world, and brush past them to go inside and find the Best Sandwich Place.

The service:
You need to know what you’re doing when you go in.  Stand by the chips and take a look at the vast menu behind the sandwich-making station.  There are also a few listed (including my favorite) on a printed white sheet near where they carve the turkey.  Order, then grab your chip and drink, and proceed to pay – be ready: they only take cash.  (I would suggest finding another ATM than the one you pass going into the building.  Seriously: slowest ever.)  Now that I’m a regular, they bring me my sandwich when it’s done, but until you’re established, wait to the side of the payment counter.

The food:
Yummo!  I get the turkey artichoke club on sourdough (instead of on a french baguette.)  It’s wonderful: the artichoke spread is super-tasty, the Parmesan cheese give it the right amount of salt and kick, and the combination of chicken and freshly carved turkey is great.  And the fact that there’s bacon on it doesn’t hurt either 😉  I typically eat my sandwich with a few Sunchips and wash it down with an Honest Tea, and round the whole thing out with a pickle wedge.  It isn’t the cheapest lunch at around $11, but it’s worth it.

Best for: A delicious sandwich to break up the workday.

Worst for: Au Bon Pain die-hards.

Bastille

July 16, 2008

Silly me, I thought Bastille Day was July 14th and I’ve been saving this birthday dinner post!

Bastille

The Setting:
Bastille is set off the beaten path in an unassuming former lumber shop showroom, and looks like a formal living room without the furniture and draperies.  Brian observed, “It looks nice, but not so nice you aren’t comfortable.”  Our table was tucked against a window near the bar, and I spent comfortable lulls watching a bird who kept pecking at the grass in the yard just outside the restaurant.  It was very relaxing.

The Service:
I believe the servers here work with a team approach.  The man who seemed to be the head waiter was always the first to notice us trying to get someone’s attention.  However, Brian asked when he made the reservation that our server be told it was my birthday and simply wish me a happy birthday, and no one did.

The Food:
The menu was a bit confusing, as the Sunday family dinner prices at $24 included an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Cheese was a supplemental $4, or you could have dessert and cheese for $33 – it reads clearer here than on the menu.

I started with the signature shrimp and calamari beignets (which I had read about in the Washington Post) and Brian had a Caprese salad.

   

The Washington Post was spot-on in saying the beignets were too heavy for an appetizer – and the portion was also too large.  However, I would get one order of these to share with the table, and the accompanying sauce gave them an added kick of flavor.  Brian’s Caprese was just lovely, although be ready for a kick in the pants from the garlic spread on toast.

For dinner, Brian went with the mussels, having been converted since his experience at Brasserie Beck.  He declared them as “perfectly fine,” but said if Beck’s bivalves warranted an “A,” these were a solid “C.” 

   

My bistro steak with pomme frites looked fantastic and the marinade was truly great, if the meat a bit chewy.  The frites, however, were in desperate need of salt – the kind that you can only add when the potatoes are still hot from the oil.  I also asked for ketchup, and was brought a little silver pot of housemade sauce.  And…I gotta say it: sometimes the birthday girl just wants a little Heinz 57.  However, I did really enjoy my meal.

No birthday cake for this birthday gal!  (Although I had nearly drowned in cupcakes the night before – Funfetti deliciousness made by Brian and Jack to celebrate).  Instead, I ordered the banana pudding with housemade oatmeal cookies and caramalized bananas.  It was good, although it tasted – dare I say it – almost healthy.  Brian indulged in the peach tatin – and clearly out-ordered me.  (I think his picture alone is all the commentary needed.)

       

Bastille was a really nice experience, while not one that transported us to the continent.  We’ll be back with friends (make reservations and check the policy – parties larger than 5 need to hold their table with a credit card) or perhaps my father – this seemed like his sort of place.

Best for: An enjoyable, relaxing evening out away from the hub-bub of Old Town.

Worst for: Large, loud parties.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Salad

July 8, 2008

This is another Real Simple recipe that I tweaked…and it was great AND easy AND quick – the trifecta of my cooking technique!

Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Mozzarella Salad

1 6.5-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (I also fudged this a little – I just poured in what I thought looked right – probably closer to 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (I omitted this because I was in a hurry and didn’t have thyme – Hardy Har)
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Grape, cherry, or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces.  Really you can use any tomatoes – this is a summer standby for me and I particularly love it with heirloom cherry tomatoes, but that makes it one expensive side dish!
1 fresh mozzarella ball, cut into bite-size pieces

8 baguette slices, toasted (optional) (We served this on the side and buttered)

Mix the artichokes, Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of the thyme in a small bowl.

Cut a 2-inch pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast – I was able to stuff the mixture in the “pocket” created by  the natural separation of the chicken breast. Stuff a quarter of the artichoke mixture into each pocket. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes per side.  I put a lid on over the chicken because I’m paranoid about cooking chicken properly, and it actually turned out just slightly overdone – try covering the pan just half of the time per side to keep it hot and moist, but not overdoing it.  I used tongs AND a spatula when turning the chicken in order to keep the stuffing inside the chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, put the tomato and mozzarella in a large mixing bowl and give it a few turns of olive oil and a  healthy splash of salt.  Mix this together – it’s easiest to use your hands to turn the salad, but you’ll get olive oil all over them, so have a sink and soap nearby and working!  If the tomatoes were room temperature when you prepared them, put the salad in the fridge while your chicken finishes cooking just to make it a little cool – not cold!

I was actually surprised how good this chicken was.  It’s pretty healthy (actually listed as “heart healthy” in Real Simple, although they didn’t make their tomato salad with mozzarella…whatever, Dude.)  The flavor was awesome and it’s on the “favorites” list at home!