Ravioli di San Leo at Casa Luca
Ravioli di San Leo is a classic dish of the Marche, the region in central coastal Italy where Fabio Trabocchi, one of DC’s top chefs, was born and raised.
On paper, it sounds simple: discs of pasta stuffed with ricotta and wild greens, with a sauce of lemon zest and butter. At his newly opened Casa Luca, Trabocchi completes the composition with fried almonds and nepitella, an herb reminiscent of mint. The result is a dish that rides the seam between elegance and rusticity.
For those who live to eat, it’s also an excellent study in the push-pull dynamic that characterizes all great cooking. Inside, the creaminess of the ricotta is laced by the bitterness of the wild greens. Outside, the richness of the butter is offset by the bright acidity of the lemon zest. The browned almonds add depth. The nepitella provides a fresh floral note.
Elote at Estadio
A few years ago, I became obsessed with making elote, the Mexican street snack that involves corn on the cob, mayonnaise, and plenty of lime, among other things. I think mine’s pretty good—I throw some cumin and hot sauce into the mayo, then roll the grilled corn in chopped cilantro and crumbly, salty cotija cheese. But then last night I hit the chef’s counter at Estadio, and had the off-the-cob version, a mess of super-sweet kernels with thick aïoli, shavings of Manchego, and lime. And I was reminded of the difference between pretty good and truly great.
The Best of Washington is always one of the biggest parties of the year for the restaurant industry, bringing more than 70 top-tier restaurants and big-name chefs to the National Building Museum. Wednesday night’s sold-out bash boasted some of the best food and drinks we’ve seen yet (and it seemed like the party people agreed, based on all the fabulous tweets and photos from the event). Like our Best of Washington feature, the party is a reminder of how vibrant and full of talent our city and its food scene have become. Whether you’re already plotting an approach for next year or looking to head out to dinner this weekend, here are some of our favorite dishes and drinks from last night.
Best (of many) gazpachos
The party’s theme revolved around vintage travel—think hosts dressed as flight attendants and a steamer trunk centerpiece—and while there were no guidelines for food, one dish was replicated by many: gazpacho. Chefs dished up many renditions on the cold soup, from watermelon-flavored riffs at Boqueria to a creamy, semi-sweet coconut take by Graffiato. Our two favorites leaned more classic: BlackSalt’s tomato gazpacho topped with panzanella salad, and a smooth, silky version drizzled with olive oil from Estadio.
Best (of many) crudo dishes
Raw and lightly cured fish popped up almost as much as gazpacho. We loved light and refreshing bites, such as simple tuna sashimi with soy-yuzu vinaigrette by Majestic, Pearl Dive’s briny, freshly shucked oysters (and the crab-shrimp salsa scooped onto corn chips), and Westend Bistro’s bright scallop and bass ceviche with yuzu sorbet. Also of note in the raw meat category: a boldly flavored lamb tartare with smoked egg yolk by Ripple.
Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, and we’ve been pondering our options as much as anyone. (If you think we’re tough critics, you should meet our moms.) Restaurants around Washington are bringing out the big brunch guns—as evidenced by our extensive guide—and it can be hard to choose. Here are a few of our personal picks—places where we’d toast our own moms. Caveat: We haven’t tried certain set menus or judged service during a holiday crush. Consider these guidelines, not guarantees.
This isn’t a compilation of “wow” moments. It isn’t about dishes that made me close my eyes in sensual contemplation or exult at my great privilege to be eating professionally on your behalf. I had those, believe me. You can’t eat out 500 times a year and not have those.
This is a personal list, and the moments are, too—private snapshots I hope to extend by writing about them and carry forth with me like keepsakes in this scattered and altogether too fast existence.
What, I asked myself, were the meals among the 500 that stood out the most?
The answers were as interesting as they were surprising. What bubbled up to the surface of my memory were not the long, multi-course feasts I was fortunate to consume in the course of my daily rounds as critic. For whatever reason, my mind refused to sort and classify according to the usual empirical categories of good or bad, and if I happened to think of a particular dish, I did not immediately come up with the sort of sensual specifics I often rely on to write my reviews.