7.26.2011

Where I've Been + What Was Good



A look at where I've been and what was good ...

• Boy, is it a good time to eat Italian in this city. I had the chance to sample several of chef Amy Brandwein's housemade pastas at a Casa Nonna media dinner a few weeks ago. I'll be back for the lovely spaghetti alla chitarra, a tender whole wheat pasta served with roasted cauliflower, plenty of garlic and a nice kick from hot pepper, as well as the stracci di manza, a hearty dish of thick noodles tossed with braised beef short rib.

• Sweetbreads are getting the summer treatment from Kyle Bailey at Birch and Barley. They're pan-fried and served with excellent grilled watermelon and a veg variety I've never had before, the crunchy "green apple" cucumber.

• A pre-theater meal at Rasika brought the heat on one of last week's 100-plus-degree days. They say sweating cools you down, so we went with the spiciest dish on the menu: the heat-packed green chicken masala. Also cooling? Barman Jason Strich's plum rickey with basil soda. (Post-dinner, I loved Woolly Mammoth's Clybourne Park, running through Aug. 14.)

• The avocado on grilled bread at Cork is becoming one of those all-star DC dishes you often hear food lovers raving about. And for good reason. It's such a simple but brilliant combination of creamy avocado slices, a sprinkle of pistachios, toasted pistachio oil and just the right amount of salt.

• Speaking of good Italian eats (see item No. 1), I finally sat down for a full meal at Mike Isabella's hopping new Graffiato, and here's a thought: Those delicious chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce, made famous during the Top Chef All-Stars finale, are certainly vying to be Isabella's signature dish, but the sweet corn agnolotti might just beat it out. Accented by chanterelles and pine nuts, the little pillows of pasta pack such amazing corn flavor. And I love the family touch that Stacy Isabella, Mike's wife, is whipping up the delicious little Nutella cookies for dessert.

• I was treated to a press lunch and a spontaneous visit from the always-inspiring chef José Andrés at his new America Eats Tavern. Reading the detailed menu descriptions of the historic recipes makes me want to be a food historian. And the rich hush puppies served with corn butter and (for an extra splurge of $11) a half-ounce of briny American caviar make me want to eat there weekly. Yes, caviar on hush puppies. Chef, may I humbly suggest your next concept be haute Southern?



Looking for more ideas on where to eat? Here's more of where I've been eating:

•  Proof, Graffiato, J. Chocolatier, Kafe Leopold
•  Westend Bistro, Freddy's, Estadio, Ripple, Bread Ovens at Quail Creek
•  Et Voila, Bibiana, Fiola, Eve, Estadio, Pitango
•  Volt, Proof, Tabard Inn, Hill Country
•  Sheppard Mansion, The Source, Rasika, Taberna del Alabardero
•  Jack Rose, Watershed, Standard, Pizzeria Paradiso, Luke's Lobster, Dupont Market


A look at where I've been and what was good ...

•  Proof, Graffiato, J. Chocolatier, Kafe Leopold
•  Westend Bistro, Freddy's, Estadio, Ripple, Bread Ovens at Quail Creek
•  Et Voila, Bibiana, Fiola, Eve, Estadio, Pitango
•  Volt, Proof, Tabard Inn, Hill Country
•  Sheppard Mansion, The Source, Rasika, Taberna del Alabardero
•  Jack Rose, Watershed, Standard, Pizzeria Paradiso, Luke's Lobster, Dupont Market Proof, Graffiato, J. Chocolatier, Kafe Leopold
Westend Bistro, Freddy's, Estadio, Ripple, Bread Ovens at Quail Creek
Volt, Proof, Tabard Inn, Hill Country
Sheppard Mansion, The Source, Rasika, Taberna del Alabardero

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