Love pizza but wish the crust were more like fried chicken? The folks over at international pizza chain Domino’s sure do. As of yesterday, the chain’s newest product launched in the Washington area: the Specialty Chicken, a poultry/pie combo that consists of a dozen crispy white-meat nuggets “covered in toppings, sauces, and cheeses.”
“Failure is an option” is the national chain’s campaign motto when promoting the new product, as well as their daring to think outside the pizza box. It doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. Then again, neither did the arrival of the Doritos Locos tacos on the novelty junk-food scene, and look where they are today. The Domino’s dish relieves the stress of picking between crispy bits of bird and a Hawaiian pie during an attack of the munchies, with combinations such as the “spicy jalapeño pineapple,” topped with mango-habanero sauce, melty mozzarella and cheddar, peppers, and pineapple. Craving pizza and wings? There’s the “hot Buffalo” version, which layers the nuggets with Buffalo sauce, ranch, feta, and more cheeses. Hey, no one said creativity was healthy for the body as well as the mind. If you try it, let us know your thoughts (post-chicken-pizza coma) in the comments.
We’ve heard of fries that venture beyond the humble potato, but no chickpea comes equipped with what’s needed for Mintwood Place’s new bar snack. “Lamb fries,” as they’re listed on the menu, aren’t like any I’ve had before; instead of puréed starch, the crispy fritters are a cousin of Rocky Mountain oysters—a.k.a. bull testicles. Given that Mintwood’s sheep variety comes from the nearby Virginia Hills, think of them less like ram balls and more like Shenandoah Mountain oysters.
Faced with a platter, it’s easy to see the comparison to bivalves. Chef Cedric Maupillier slices the raw product into bite-size ovals (sorry, guys), and soaks them in buttermilk overnight. The “oysters” then marinate in hot sauce, shallots, garlic, and lemon juice, which mimics a South American preparation for bull testicle ceviche. We’re not quite that adventurous in Washington, so Maupillier does what many chefs do to make strange foods seem friendly: He breads and deep-fries them.
So what do Shenandoah Mountain oysters taste like? Surprisingly, they’re a lot milder than the euphemistic shellfish. The crisp fritter’s soft inside faintly recalls lamb, but is less robustly flavored than a loin or chop. Dunked in spicy house-made ranch dressing, you could mistake the fries for sweetbreads—though thymus glands now seem tame by comparison—or if you’re not an offal eater, a very tender chicken nugget. My dining companion and I happily polished off the whole stack (to quote Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, “Call me Mr. Lamb Fries”). As for a pairing, a nice lambic feels appropriate.
Editor’s note: Summer has brought a flurry of new brunch options—there’s these seven, plus a midday meal debuting at Daikaya this Sunday. (Sorry, the ramen spot has not finalized the menu yet. We will update here when it is available). 14th Street Belgian restaurant B TOO unveiled its brunch menu on Thursday; service starts this weekend from 10 to 3. Beginning June 22, it will be available from 9 to 3.
Though a restaurant may be located in or around the Beltway, it is not a true Washington establishment until it serves up brunch. So it is about time Cause DC, U Street’s “philanthropub,” joined the club.
In keeping with its tradition of doing things differently, Cause DC’s brunch packs a few surprises. The menu includes standard fare augmented with gastropub flair—think omelets topped with Cognac-flamed mushrooms in a black pepper sauce and “hangover hash” lathered in a white-wine-and-chedder fondue. But it is the list of $10 “Adult Cereals,” boozy breakfasts created by executive chef Adam Stein, that really caught our attention.
Stein had help from Matthew Wilcox, Cause’s “Master of Elixirs,” (read: bartender) in crafting the menu’s five alcohol-filled offerings. There’s Honey Nut Cheerios in a mixture of half and half, West Virginia honey, and dark honey whiskey, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch with half and half, maple whiskey, and RumChata. Vilelle says his favorite is Campfire Crispies—Golden Grahams in Patron Cafe XO, tres leches liqueur, and, once again, half-and-half.
As of now, brunch is Sundays from noon to 4, but, if the demand calls for it, Cause may start serving on Saturdays as well, says Vilelle. At Cause, patrons choose from a rotating list of charities when they get their checks, and the restaurant donates 100 percent of the profits from their meals to that charity. The restaurant opened last October, and, in its first quarter of operating, donated $8,400 to charities. Common Good City Farm has received the most donations so far.
Cause DC. 1926 9th Street, NW. Open Monday through Sunday for dinner, Sundays for brunch.
Update: Vino Volo has pushed back its opening date to Friday, November 16 according to a restaurant rep. It will be passing out free champagne to customers on opening day.
You know Vino Volo. It’s the wine bar where you chug a goblet of Grüner Veltliner to ward off fears about that flying death bus you’re about to strap yourself into; where absent-minded twentysomethings pick up a last-minute bottle of Christmas Cabernet en route to Mom and Dad’s. (For little sis: a pink neck pillow and an US Weekly from Hudson News.)
The airport terminal mainstay kind of changed the game for airport drinking—freeing discerning wine sippers from the oak-chipped and overly fruity selections at regular airport bars. And the food is pretty good, too. Vino Volo is not, however, a place we think about much on days that don’t involve an invasive full-body scan.
But the wine bar chain wants to change all that, starting Friday, November 9, when it opens its first-ever non-airport shop in Bethesda. (A second one is planned for Tysons Corner in early 2013. After that: the world.) The 2,500-square-foot bar and retail store will offer flights of wine, small plates, and bottles to go, and will carry over a lot of menu items from the airport stores while also introducing some new things—seasonal pizzettas, bacon brittle, and roasted bone marrow among those. There is also a VIP table for special occasions. Look for it to open around 4:30.
Vino Volo. 7243-7247 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda.
Last month, the West End saw the opening of the new Caucus Room—a hotel steakhouse for the farm-to-table era that offers smaller cuts of meats and fresh juices at the bar. Next up: Jardenea, a self-described “farm to fork” restaurant opening a few blocks away in the newly remodeled Melrose Hotel at 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest.
When we found California-raised ostrich eggs at Whole Foods in Alexandria, the first thing we wanted to do was cook one. And the second was ask someone how. The massive orbs—ostriches are the world’s largest birds—clock in at roughly three pounds, pack the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs, and cost around $30.
We asked Westend Bistro chef Joe Palma to take on the ostrich-egg challenge. Instead of a simple scramble or hard boil—the American Ostrich Association says the latter takes 90 minutes—he concocted a rich ostrich-egg custard with goat cheese, served “on the half shell” with a toss of chorizo, oyster mushrooms, potatoes, and spring garlic. The combination was tasty enough to earn a place on his upcoming brunch menu with chicken eggs.
Cracking the fortress-strength egg shell isn’t easy. If you don’t have a hand saw, try a hammer. In this recipe (below the jump), Palma uses one ostrich egg, which makes 24 six-ounce custard portions. You can store the mix in the fridge up to three days, or Palma says, the same custard formula makes a tasty quiche: Pour the mix into a two-inch-deep store-bought pie crust and bake it in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes.
Just like everyone else with any business sense in Washington, restaurants are jumping on the Stephen Strasburg craze. But as Strasburgers flood the market, how can foodies tell the aces from the minor-leaguers? We visited three area restaurants to rate their burgers for taste, presentation, and creativity—also known as “Strasburgness.” In each category, we ranked them from 1 (bottom) to 14 (tops) in honor of the phenom’s debut game with 14 strikeouts.
The thing about shrimp—and this goes for the grill or the stove or the oven or wherever—is that it’s extremely easy to overcook. More than a couple of minutes is often too much. I like shrimp at the point where they’ve just lost that translucence, where they’re still pliant and not yet firm. That’s hard to get. It’s a feel thing.
Always, always take them off the pan or the stove or the grill before they’re done—well before. As I said, it’s a feel thing, but you want them to have a slight translucence. They’ll continue to cook from the heat they’ve built up, eventually taking on that just-lost-their-translucence look you want. It’s a little like making scrambled eggs: By the time they look done in the pan, they’re ruined, because they’ll harden and become rubberized on the plate.
A good olive is a well-cared-for olive. You don't want anything soft or mushy—you want an olive that's been well-preserved. Nothing canned. Jarred is better, but even better is getting something at an olive bar at one of the better grocery stores.
The route to great olives is to take home a container of olives—whatever you like—and doctor them.
Ashley Messick, who spent the last year eating her way through The Washingtonian’s 2009 100 Very Best Restaurants list, recently crossed the finish line with a meal at Obelisk—almost a week before her self-imposed deadline. Through it all, she maintained her sense of humor and adventure as she chronicled each meal on her blog, From Komi to Marvin.
Here, she reflects back on her year spent as a volunteer food critic.