Friday, January 21, 2011

Restaurant Week DC Wrap Up

Restaurant Week - that wonderful (2) time(s) a year when DC area restaurants create a menu for lunch and dinner at the unbelievably low price of the year. YUM!

OK, I'll admit it. I am a bit of a foodie. Of course, my mother who had to bring a box of Cheerios and a jar of peanut butter wherever we went in Europe while we lived there is shocked to hear her picky, picky daughter talk about eating pork belly and tomato jam, but hey - my palette and I grew up, I learned how to cook and how to appreciate flavor. Restaurant Week has given me the opportunity to taste so many different things and eat in so many restaurants I would never even think of going to without the special menu.

I've been going to Restaurant Week, mostly lunch, for about 9 years now and have been introduced to some amazing restaurants and chefs in the DC area. Restaurants like Zola at the Spy Museum, 15 Ria and Art and Soul, Art Smith's restaurant, have introduced me to some amazing chefs. I typically go with two very special dates - my mentor from the Postal Service (former employer) for lunch and my wonderful husband who is not a foodie but tolerates me and now loves "Top Chef" (yay!). He even lets me cook like a foodie when I can, although he does most of the cooking these days.

Lunch this year was at Poste as a nod to how my mentor, Paula, and I met. Poste is housed in the 1841 General Post Office just minutes from the current headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza. The building and area around it reminded me of London in a way, although it really looks nothing like that city. It just felt that way. The food, while good, was not the best we've had for lunch. We'd go again, but probably not for awhile as there are so many places we want to try. My favorite part of the meal was getting to taste a crosnes for the first time. They were pickled and tossed with pappardelle pasta and a variety of mushrooms. The food was clean, modern, obviously sustainable and fresh. I may have enjoyed it more if we had been able to eat outside - the patio looks beautiful, but not in the middle of winter in DC.

Another thing I noticed was that it was not an overly crowded space in a good way. We got there at 11:30 for our lunch reservation and entered a mostly empty space. There were a lot of seats between the bar, semi private rooms and two main rooms, but what I didn't appreciate at that particular moment was the way the restaurant is laid out. I never realized a difference in noise or density through out our meal. In fact, when we left we were quite surprised to see that there wasn't an empty seat in the house. That alone made it a very enjoyable experience. I would definitely recommend Poste as a place to eat either for lunch or as a date night. This is not a place to bring the kids, at least not young ones.

My second choice (I am blessed with two Restaurant Week dates who ALWAYS let me pick) was Cure Bar and Bistro. Where Poste is part of the sustainability movement, this one is a true concept restaurant. The underlying inspiration for the restaurant is that of curing food to preserve and enhance flavors, just as the name suggests and it definitely succeeded. The space was spread over three levels with booths that were set up for true privacy as well as tables in a variety of styles. The walls were a mix of hardwoods, stone and glass. A very modern, but warm (in all ways but temperature - but then again it's about 20 degrees outside so not much is warm) feel.

Service was intriguing. Rather than courses, the food comes out as it is ready and sharing is encouraged, although that is not what we did this time. The only disappointment of the evening was the Restaurant Week menu itself. In the long run, it was only a brief disappointment as we chose to eat off the regular menu instead of the fixed price menu and got an amazing meal. Definitely the way to go in this case.

This time I will brag about what we ordered - each selection was memorable, tasty and bears talking about. I chose two smaller plates - Butter & Sugar Corn soup with Maryland Blue crab fritter and lobster oil followed by a BLT (herbed pork belly, arugula and tomato jam on rustic bread) and complimented beautifully by a Woodchuck hard cider - while my husband ordered sliders (all beef, grafton cheddar, onion ketchup and sweet potato buns) followed by PA Ham Mac & Cheese which was NOT your kids' mac & cheese. We each enjoyed our own dishes so much we really didn't feel like sharing. I had a taste of the sliders and have to say I would order those myself, but other than that we pretty much stuck to our own meals this time.

Another new taste for me this time. I have never had pork belly before. This was beautifully done, a wonderful herb crust created a crispy coating on top of the melt in your mouth pork. I know I could not eat this dish often, it is incredibly rich, but as an occasional treat it was superb. And the tomato jam? Let's just say I want to find a recipe for it so I can make it and would make sandwiches just to have the jam which is saying a lot since I don't really like sandwiches.

To top all this yumminess off was a fabulous dessert - Cheesecake in a Jar. Imagine the lightest cheesecake you have ever had layered with peaches and served in a canning jar with the crust on the side. Then make that crust in the form of the softest, tastiest graham cracker cookies. That was dessert. I even got my husband to try some and he is not a cheesecake fan. To top it off - I am still full hours later which makes it even better!

Two more hits for our "will eat there again" list and another successful Restaurant Week under our belts. Next up - Restaurant Week the Summer Edition.

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