Za’atar-seared tuna tataki with tabbouleh at Rappahannock Oyster Bar
Seats at the Union Market outpost of this Virginia oyster pioneer are a hot commodity on weekends, but the food is well worth it. On a recent Sunday afternoon visit, a tray of oysters, the white gazpacho, and this tuna dish were a perfect late brunch for spring.
Brie-and-tomato-jam sandwich at Bon Fresco
There are so many bad sandwiches out there.
I don’t mean the sandwiches that aren’t really trying, like those dreary triangle-cut, plastic-wrapped things in the refrigerated case at 7-11 or Sheetz.
I mean the ones that think they’re better than they are. Is it great that the bread is baked on the premises? It can be—but not if, as so often happens, it winds up being too much bread for the sandwich. I love it when I see an operation that roasts its own meats, especially when it’s interesting items such as goat and pork shoulder. But a sandwich, remember, is a chorus; all these disparate elements must mesh. A star turn can disrupt the essential sense of balance, and frequently does. Make the pickles in house, great—but is the spicing in the brine in the service of the sandwich? And why am I getting an acidic hit before I’ve ever taken my first bite of meat? And why is the Sriracha-spiked condiment slathered on the bread, making it soggy? Why do I feel that the sandwich-maker just piled things one atop another with little regard for how they interact? Why does the whole thing fall apart after four bites?
Now look at my favorite sandwich at Gerald Koh’s Bon Fresco.
Aside from the bread—a yeasty, crusty, phenomenally light baguette that Koh bakes himself—the individual elements would bore you on their own. Nothing is what you would call exquisite: thick wedges of Brie, a sundried-tomato jam, barely caramelized onions.
But a sandwich isn’t just a collection of high-quality sexy ingredients, as Koh knows. He tends to favor simple constructions, and builds with smart, dramatic contrasts—setting the rich, creamy Brie against the crunchy baguette, for instance, and using the tanginess of the tomato jam to pierce the intensity of the cheese. The caramelized onions bring a needed sweetness, as well as a little texture.
This is an almost-perfect sandwich, and it’s also almost perfectly made, layered with thought and care. It’s never the case that you bite into the Brie and don’t get a taste of tomato jam. Or that the ratio of jam or onions to cheese is out of whack. Or that there’s too much bread for the sandwich. Or that the whole thing collapses in your hands.
Beef-and-cheddar sandwich at Red Apron Butcher
Store-bought roast-beef sandwiches tend to be filled with dry, gray slices of meat that call to mind poor Oliver Twist (Pret, I’m looking at you). But leave it to Nate Anda to restore my faith in the often-maligned cold cut. At the Merrifield outpost of his hipster butcher shop, Red Apron, his roast beef tastes less like lunch meat and more like fresh slices of a juicy, rare, ruby-red steak. Slathers of house-made Cheez Whiz and ranch mayo make it sound like something only a frat boy could love, but they’re the perfect accents, along with a squishy, slightly sweet bun. I had it last weekend, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Sushi at Tachibana
Unlike many nostalgic cravings, my love of Tachibana’s sushi also appeals to my food-lover palate. I grew up in McLean, where my parents still live, and it was at the original Arlington location of this neighborhood Japanese spot where I fell in love with sushi (at age five), as well as tempura, teriyaki, and other dishes more suited to a kid’s taste. My family still visits on weekend afternoons, along with the many others packing around tables for generous bento boxes and pristine slices of fish arranged into artful sashimi and sushi platters. Besides owner Eiji Yahashi moving the 32-year-old operation to McLean in the mid-’90s, nothing much has changed. It’s a wonderful thing. Lunch for me always begins with a lemony bean-sprout salad, perhaps a soothing bowl of clam miso soup if it’s cold. Then it’s on to whatever fresh fish entices that day. A dry-erase board of daily specialties can hold unusual treasures such as seasonal red sweet shrimp served raw atop perfectly seasoned sushi rice, their heads fried and brought on a side plate for sucking the flavorful insides. But you don’t need to be adventurous for a good meal. Try a simple tuna roll or nigiri, the fat slices of ruby-hued fish cushioned by more of that perfect rice and tender—not dry or chewy—seaweed. The flavors are clean, and always leave me wishing every neighborhood sushi bar could be this good.
See also: Previous Best Things I Ate
Need an excuse to dine out this weekend? Try one of these newly launched brunches, which offer a little something for everyone, from food-loving yoga fans to those looking for a hangover cure or a water view.
315 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-450-4800
Chef Spike Mendelsohn launches brunch on Sunday at his Capitol Hill eatery. Look for très Français dishes such as crème brûlée French toast, ham-and-Brie omelets, and the “chef’s hangover cure,” a crispy pig’s feet hash topped with eggs and the restaurant’s namesake sauce. To drink: $14 bottomless mimosas and Bloodys or tableside bottle service with a carafe of sparkling wine and your choice of liqueurs such as St. Germaine for $35.
Details: Sunday 10 to 3
3050 K St., NW; 202-628-0065
You can watch the Potomac River flow by from the windows—or from the soon-to-open outdoor patio—at this elegant Georgetown waterfront spot. The brunch menu includes Italian morning specialties such as lemon-mascarpone pancakes and baked eggs with creamy mushrooms, as well as the restaurant’s signature seafood pastas and grilled fish.
Details: Saturday and Sunday 11:30 to 2:45
1501 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-879-4388
This new Arlington brew spot, a spinoff of the Baltimore original, just launched Sunday brunch. True to its Maryland roots, the menu offers dishes including a crab frittata with roasted corn and cotija cheese, and a fried-oyster Benedict with tasso-ham hollandaise and pickled jalapeños.
Details: Sundays, 11 to 4 (Saturday brunch will launch later).
301 Water St., SE; 202-484-0660
While this Capitol Riverfront Italian eatery has been open since November, it just recently started serving the brunch menu. A 100-seat outdoor patio overlooking the water will be the place to sit once the weather warms. In the meantime, you can warm up with DIY mimosas (a bottle of bubbly and carafes of juice) to pair with Italian pastries and dishes like a porchetta panino.
Details: Saturday and Sunday 11 to 3
Ritz-Carlton Georgetown yoga brunch
3100 South St., NW; 202-912-4100
You don’t have to be an overnight guest at this swanky hotel to enjoy its Saturday yoga brunch. The morning begins at 10 with an hourlong vinyasa class in the Ritz’s garden, followed by brunch on the terrace with new dishes from Degrees. Look for cardio-centric fitness brunches on Sunday, beginning May 18.
Details: $45 per person; Saturday at 10
2047 Ninth St., NW; 202-506-2496
You may be more familiar with this spot behind the 9:30 Club for late-night eats, but it’s now serving weekend brunch. There’s a “hangover helper” breakfast plate for those who partied too hard at the concert, as well as an egg-topped burger, huevos rancheros, and a peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwich.
Details: Saturday and Sunday starting at 11
Happy Friday, food truck followers! Celebrate the end of the week by heading out for today’s specials such as lobster rolls from Corned Beef King and smoked jerk pork or chicken sandwiches at Hardy’s BBQ.
The Week in Fast Foods
Reason #4,792 Amy Schumer is the best—her brilliant mash-up of The Newsroom and McDonald’s. [Comedy Central] —Ann Limpert
First it was a Game of Thrones special, now they’re peddling chicken corsages for prom. KFC wins all the advertising awards. [ABC News] —Chris Campbell
Think the KFC Double Down and Domino’s fried chicken pizza is bad? Salon reminds us that things could be worse, in the form of bacon milkshakes and hot-dog-stuffed pizza crusts. [Salon] —AL
Inside the Scene
It took ten weeks for the Game of Thrones crew to prepare all the prop food used in last Sunday’s “Purple Wedding” episode. [Vulture] —Benjamin Freed
It only took a Freedom of Information Act request for people to learn what is being served to their children in school cafeterias. You can imagine how well that turned out. [NPR] —CC
This list of hipster foods is pretty on point if you’re feeling judgy or possessive of bacon right now. [Huffington Post] —Alison Kitchens
Could Kale become the new Jake or Emma? Or at least the new Olive? [Bon Appétit]
Ever wonder where six-year-old New Yorkers hang? Nightclubs for the way-under-21 set, designed for the “next generation of electronic music fans.” [Eater National] —Anna Spiegel
Your Hosts, Mary and Jane . . .
Colorado takes pot and puns to its next logical conclusion. Say hello to a “bud and breakfast inn.” [Wall Street Journal] —CC
New York Times critic Pete Wells travels to Virginia to check on the hype over chef Peter Chang’s empire. Was he impressed? Read on. [New York Times] —AS
We Fled Egypt for This?
“Can I have a piece of your matzoh?” No, and 26 other things Jews are tired of hearing on Passover. [BuzzFeed] —AS
This chicken is blue, people. [NPR] —CC
An aspiring restaurateur under the impression that there are no upscale restaurants on H Street, Northeast, vows to class up the neighborhood with “sophisticated and sexy” restaurant called Mythology Modern Chop House/Lore Lounge. Okay, fine, whatever. We all know what a chop house is, but what the hell is a “lore lounge”? [Washington Business Journal] —BF
If you’ve eaten Vietnamese in Virginia over the past two decades, chances are you’ve made at least one trip to Four Sisters. The family-run Falls Church eatery is one of the most popular in the area, its cheerful dining room regularly filling up for 20-plus years. Now the family is set to expand for the first time with Four Sisters Grill, a fast-casual spinoff opening steps from the Clarendon Metro on Thursday.
Chef/co-owner Hoa Lai condensed his menu of 110 items at the flagship to just over 20 dishes for the new space (formerly Fat Shorty’s). The kitchen adapts longtime customer favorites such as papaya salad, black-pepper beef, and bun vermicelli noodle bowls for quick service and carryout. Customers order at the counter and then find one of 70 seats inside the warm-hued space, or can opt for a table on the patio in warmer weather. You might bask in the sun with a Thai iced tea or one of the many beers—both imports such as Saigon Export and American crafts—selected to pair with the food.
Those looking for dishes new to the Four Sisters lineup will find a selection of bánh mì stuffed with meats like grilled chicken and cold cuts with pâté. The Grill sources its baguettes from the Eden Center bakery Song Que, and if the sandwiches are similar, you’re in for some of the best around. Vegetarians can opt for a tofu version, and will find similar meatless options in each section of the menu. One dish you can’t order: pho. Lai says customers have already asked about the signature Vietnamese soup, but he hopes instead to expand their knowledge of other types of dishes.
If this venture proves as well-received as its flagship, Lai says you may see more Four Sisters Grills in the future.
Four Sisters Grill. 3035 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-9020. Open daily 11 to 9.
Happy Thursday, food truck followers! Today’s specials include a barbecue chicken egg roll with pineapple slaw at Meggrolls, an Easter s’mores pie from Dangerously Delicious, and Mayan cayenne cookies aboard Captain Cookie.
As many fast food fans know, Domino’s released the newest fast-food
monstrosity invention yesterday: Specialty Chicken, essentially a pizza/chicken nugget hybrid involving a crust-like layer of breaded bird “covered in toppings, sauces, and cheeses.”
So how special does it taste? We had two versions delivered to the Washingtonian office: the “classic hot Buffalo” topped with spicy sauce, ranch, and cheeses; and the “spicy jalapeño pineapple,” a Hawaiian-esque blend of mango-habanero sauce, jalapeños, cheddar, and pineapple. The fact that two taste-testers immediately sought out mouthwash afterward speaks to the new food’s campaign motto—“failure is an option”—but there were also a few big fans. Below you’ll find the best reactions to the new food. KFC chicken corsage, you may have some competition.
Its health value:
“God, it’s all sugar.”
Its success as a junk food:
“These are everything I could want them to be. I could eat them every week.”
“It doesn’t taste like pizza, but it doesn’t taste like chicken, either.”
Its target audience:
“My kids would love this! Who wouldn’t love chicken nugget pizza?”
“It’s really soggy.”
“It smells like ranch, but not the good kind.”
Its texture again:
“They’re kind of . . . bouncy.”
Its culinary doppelgänger:
“It looks like fish en brochette, but it doesn’t smell like fish en brochette.”
Move over, chocolate bunnies: We have a new favorite springtime treat. Cork chef Kristin Hutter debuted “drunken Peeps” last year, a house-made version of the classic marshmallow bird spiked with liqueur. Needless to say, the small dose of booze made these little chicks even more irresistible. We asked her for the current recipe, which adds limoncello to the mix.
Don’t be too intimidated by making homemade marshmallow—you just have to have a little patience for stickiness (and a candy thermometer). If playing mother hen to a gaggle of liquored-up Peeps sounds too difficult, Cork Market plans to sell the lemony confections and a Chambord-raspberry version through the weekend.
Drunken Peeps With Limoncello
Makes 20 Peeps
5 teaspoons powdered gelatin (usually 2 envelopes)
¼ cup limoncello
¼ cup water
5 ounces light corn syrup
1½ cups sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
Colored sugar to coat each Peep
A stand or hand mixer
4 to 5 ounces cornstarch
4 to 5 ounces powdered sugar
Dark frosting for making the Peeps’ eyes
Make the marshmallow:
Add gelatin and limoncello to a standing mixer, or if using a hand mixer, a large bowl. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir to blend.
In small pot, add the water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until a thermometer registers 240 degrees.
Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the standing mixer or bowl with the gelatin. Whip with the whisk attachment on medium/high until the mixture is thick and stiff peaks form. Cool to room temperature.
Shape the Peeps (two methods)
Add the marshmallow mixture to a pastry bag fitted with large round tip.
Pipe peep figure onto lightly greased aluminum foil. Sprinkle immediately with your choice of colored sugar and let dry, about 2 to 3 hours. Dot each with frosting eyes if desired.
Pour marshmallow from mixer onto a half-sheet cookie tray that’s dusted with a mixture of half cornstarch and half powdered sugar.
Smooth the marshmallow with a spatula and dust the top with same cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. Allow to rest 10 to 12 hours, covered at room temperature.
Cut into desired shapes. Dip them quickly in water or wipe them with a damp cloth in water, then dust them with colored sugar.
Happy Wednesday, food truck followers! Head out for chicken schnitzel from Hungry Heart and more tasty specials.
No restaurant reservations yet for Easter? If you don’t want to whip up a spread from scratch this Sunday, consider turning to local chefs for help. Several butcheries prepare oven-ready hams, lambs, and more, while restaurants can provide entire carryout meals. Note that several require orders to be placed by Wednesday or Thursday.
Locations in McLean and Bethesda
Many chain-market-catered meals can be ho-hum, but from this writer’s personal experience, Balducci’s stands out from the rest—particularly for its honey-glazed ham and citrusy salmon. Most locations offer menus for party catering, as well as à-la-carte dishes in the bistro section.
1600 King St., Alexandria; 703-984-5253
You’ll find a special selection of meats for Easter, including local smoked ham legs and domestic racks and legs of lamb. Not in the mood to cook? Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s adjoining restaurant, Brabo, hosts its first-ever Easter lunch with a three-course menu ($60 per person).
Locations in DC, Hyattsville, and Largo, MD
The newly opened District location of this Southern spot and its two Maryland siblings offer several to-go feasts for a crowd. The “silver” and “gold” packages serve 12 to 15 ($249 and $325, respectively), and include whole turkeys and hams, mac and cheese, collards, and more; the “diamond” goes for $625 and feeds 20 to 30. À-la-carte turkeys, hams, sauces, and sides are also available. Orders must be placed by Thursday, April 17.
2201 14th St., NW; 202-234-5000
Those looking to go Greek for Easter have two options at this Mike Isabella spot: a three-course Sunday brunch ($39 per person, with à-la-carte options for kids) or items to go. Dishes include dips and spreads; spit-roasted lamb, chicken, and pork shoulders; apricot baklava; and more. Orders must be placed by April 16.
Locations in Penn Quarter, Union Market, and Merrifield, VA
Those looking to serve an unusual dish for the holiday can try the “lambchetta,” a whole side of lamb loin and belly stuffed with ground shoulder and seasoned with fennel pollen, garlic, and rosemary. More traditional offerings include smoked and brined hams and yogurt-marinated legs of lamb. Note that orders must be placed by Wednesday, April 16.
277 S. Washington St., 703-683-3247; 2413 Columbia Pike, Arlington, 703-920-0315
Easter baskets aren’t just for sweets—here you’ll find brunch bags filled with a ham-and-Gruyère quiche, citrus salad, house-cured bacon, scones, coffee, and sparkling wine ($55). More in the mood to cook? You’ll also local lamb and pork from the butchery, fresh biscuits from the bakery, and more.
5111 Georgia Ave., NW; 202-726-0102
You’ll find oven-ready meats such as marinated legs and racks of lamb, porchetta, and prime rib roasts from this local shop, which emphasizes house-made charcuterie and salumi.