The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Vongole Pizza, Bourbon Slushies
Washingtonian’s food team shares favorite dishes from their past seven days of dining.
Slushie at Shoo-fly Diner
Imagine a Slurpee. Only with a smoother, more sophisticated texture that delivers the wetness, coldness, and density but not the spiky crunch of pulverized ice.
And instead of Coke or that candy-tasting cherry—101-proof bourbon.
And to balance the booze, a generous pour of fresh pear cider from Reid’s Orchard in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
I’ve had a lot of terrific cocktails in 2013, and I think DC has pretty well staked its claim to being called the Cocktail Capital of America. But I can’t think of another drink I had this year that was better, or more fun, than this amazingly simple twist on the trashiest treat of summer.
Only problem is, it disappears as fast as a Slurpee on a brutally hot day, and you immediately feel the need for another—until the buzz overtakes you and you realize it’s an hour-plus drive back home.
What to do? Order another, then head downstairs to the playroom to sober up with a few games of pinball.
Vongole Pizza at 2 Amys
At my first magazine job in New York, I worked with a guy who had grown up in DC and by his late twenties had become a caricature of the droll, jaded New York editor. He rarely had a non-snarky word to say about, well, anything. So it surprised me one day when he a) smiled, and b) asked the following question: “Have you had the pizza at 2 Amys with the cockles? It’s amazing!”
I made a point of trying it on my next trip to DC, and since then I’ve been hooked. I can’t go to the place without ordering the Vongole, with its stretchy crust, slightly caramelized layer of Grana Padano cheese, and tiny, briny-sweet cockles baked in their shells. Unlike many sauceless clam pies, it isn’t inundated with garlic, and it has just the right amount of chili-flake burn. I had it the night before Thanksgiving (the restaurant was packed and the Blue’s Clues set was out in full force, per usual), cramming it onto a whole tableful of small plates. A decade later, it still has the power to make even the most sullen of folks talk in exclamation points.
Bún bò huế (Vietnamese noodle soup) in the Maketto pop-up at Union Market
It’s officially soup weather. If your weekend plans involve heading to the Eden Center for pho or slurping noodles at Daikaya, consider one more possibility: the Maketto pop-up at Union Market, which serves as a testing ground and preview for Erik Bruner-Yang’s upcoming H Street restaurant/market.
The recently ended Maketto “residency” at Hanoi House was a comparative commitment: $30 for a six-course meal, which had to be reserved in advance. Now you can now drop by Maketto’s temporary stall at the NoMa market, sit at one of two one-sided tables, and order whatever chef de cuisine James Wozniuk is able to produce with two induction burners. I hate to draw comparisons, having visited the residency in its first week, but let’s just say I’m left craving Woznuik’s version of the Vietnamese soup, bun bò huế. The steaming, aromatic bowl swims with noodles, brisket, pork knuckles sourced from Harvey’s Market across the aisle, and “blood cake”—essentially a house-made mixture of pork blood, sugar, and fish sauce that enriches the dish. A scattering of fresh herbs and bean sprouts adds brightness to the complex broth, a spicy-sour brew that draws flavor from simmered beef bones and a mixture of fried garlic and lemongrass, shrimp paste, and chilies. So yes, vegetarians won’t be pleased, but don’t be scared off by the odd bits. None are potently flavored, and even if you push aside the “cake,” the heady broth is worth an order itself. If you’re intrigued, hurry—the pop-up is over at the end of December, and soups change frequently.
Tamer eaters, take note: Freshly steamed cha siu bao, buns stuffed with barbecue pork, are also on offer and make a good side dish. Snag one literally steaming and redolent of yeast and sweet meat.
See also: Previous Best Things I Ate