Tuesday, July 1, at 11 AM
Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online. Host Todd Kliman

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Published June 25, 2014

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online.

From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper'sThe Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies. He was a finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, and recently took home first-place honors for feature writing from the Association of Food Journalists.

Kliman is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.

He previously taught writing and literature at American University and Howard University. At Howard, he was also the editorial advisor to The Illtop Journal, Chris Rock's humor magazine modeled after the Harvard Lampoon.

Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world. Or write to him: tkliman@washingtonian.com

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Wild Country Seafood, Eastport

I hesitate to include this, if only because I know Eastporters are going to be furious with me for outing their secret. The place is run by Pat Mahoney Sr. and his son, Pat Mahoney Jr. They’re watermen, among the last of a dying breed. Every morning they troll the waters around Eastport and Annapolis, bringing their haul back to sell to the public. You order at the counter inside, then take a seat at one of four tiki umbrella-topped tables along the gravel-topped parking lot; they’ll bring you the food. And what food. The thing to get is the softshells, provided they still have them when you show up. The day I was in, they did, and I feasted on two massive, meaty, delicately sweet softshells — the best preparation of the dish I’ve had this season. The softshells had been quartered, dredged in a mixture of what appeared to be flour and corn meal, and lightly fried. With cole slaw and fries, the tab came to — yes, I’m not joking — $15. I haven't tried the hard shells; they've been sold out. But I can't imagine they'd be anything less than great; I'm eager to come back and bring home a bushel. If you're not a fan of softshells, there's also good fried shrimp, bay scallops, rockfish, and clams.

The Rogue Gentlemen, Richmond

Yes, I know Richmond is two-plus hours away. I’m adding it this week because a) it’s summer and people are lighting out on long trips and b.) I had one of the best meals I’ve eaten all year there, and would gladly get back in my car and drive two-plus hours to return. I love the space, which is not much bigger than some living rooms — it has the air of a place hiding from those too conventional to understand. I love the cocktails, fashioned from obscure, high-quality spirits and mixed with laborious care. And I love the cooking, which is far more composed, beautiful and exacting than you would expect of a place like this. A plate of roasted beets with salmon roe, parsley and turnip creme fraiche — unimprovable, one of the best preparations of beets I’ve had in years — would not have been out of place at Jean-Georges. A roasted foie gras with crushed pistachios and pickled sour cherries was just as glorious, a sensuous essay in textures; it was easy to imagine it on the menu at CityZen, though not for $15. Prices are eye-poppingly cheap. The most stunning value on the menu is the rib eye. Basted with butter and thyme and drenched with a sauce of Overholt Rye and black peppercorn, it’s a thoughtfully reimagined twist on steak au poivre. It comes with two cuts of meat (including the prized culotte, or cap), a shank of roasted bone marrow and delicately carved baby carrots (the marrow and the carrots are a perfect combination themselves). All this for $21. Bravo to the wonderfully fruitful (and apparently seamless) partnership between owner John Maher and chef Aaron Hopkins.

Nainai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar, Silver Spring

It’s a pain to park — options are limited along this stretch of East-West Highway between Georgia and Colesville, and you may be forced to dock your car in the garage around the corner for $5. I did, both times, and both times I walked in in something less than the spirit of having a good time. And both times the cooking picked me up. The dumplings are good, not great (get the Year of the Pig, stuffed with juicy ground pork), but even a good not great dumpling is a pretty wonderful thing. The steamed, stuffed buns vary in quality, and the meats inside are a touch dry. Focus on the noodle bowls, which feature hand-pulled noodles (notice the ends, which are uniformly not uniform — some are fat, some thin). I like the Pai Gow, topped with ground pork, chili oil, bean sprouts, mustard greens, toasted garlic and ground peanuts, and the Mahjong Noodles, tossed with sesame paste, peanut butter, cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts and chili oil. To drink: a bottle of DC Brau or Port City Porter.

Cafe Rue, Beltsville

I've got a lot of affection for this one-man band. Cole Whaley, a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine, is not just the owner and chef — he’’s also waiter, runner, and busser of this likable little hole in the wall in a fading Beltsville strip mall. There’s no other menu in the area quite like this, a delightful hodgepodge of soul food, yuppie bistro small plates, and Frenchified sweets. His crispy Brussels sprout dish may be the best I’ve had in a year full of crispy Brussels sprouts dishes — the outer leaves separate slightly, and he gets a chip-like crunch on them. And I love the enhancements — a touch of coconut oil for richness, a drizzle of clover honey for sweetness. The miniature crab cakes are hard to resist, and disappear quickly. Chicken and waffles are the heart of the menu, and the Cotton Club-derived combo comes in four varieties, including one with red velvet waffles and one with Sriracha-glazed chicken that calls to mind the sweet-spicy crunch of General Tso’s. I like the “classic” — the boneless, white meat chicken has surprising juice, and the waffles are thick and fluffy. Come dessert, the Francophile chef indulges his love of patisserie with five kinds of macarons (the cream centers are a touch dry, but he nails the difficult outside) and a surprisingly successful attempt at that recent darling of the NY foodie world, the cronut. More to like: the dining room is dressed up with art from the owner’s own collection, and bossa nova on continuous loop makes any day feel like a lazy Sunday. (Note: odd hours. Closes at 8 during the week and on Friday, and at 3 on Saturday and Sunday.)

Sushi Capitol, DC

I kind of hate putting this on here. The place is already not large — you could stand in front of the iconic Hawk ’n’ Dove, its next-door neighbor, and miss it — and the crowds that are sure to come now will only mean that I won’t be able to get in when I want later. And I’m going to want. This is a diminished sushi scene: Makoto is no longer special, Kushi is in decline, and Sushi-Ko I is gone. That leaves Sushi Taro and Sushi Capitol, and at the moment I’m not all that certain I’d take the former over the latter. Capitol is not as polished an experience as Taro, but neither is it the Zen-like spa of hushed voices and restrained manners — an Important Restaurant to save up for when you are looking to mark an occasion. This is a simple, unassuming spot, a workaday spot, with good, well-sourced fish and a chef who knows how to enhance the raw product without sacrificing the elegance essential to the form. Minoru Ogawa was previously in charge of sushi operations at every Mandarin Oriental property along the Eastern seaboard. He’s a purist at the bar, abjuring gimmicks, fads and clutter. The pieces are small, with tiny pads of rice, and the fish is sliced thin and delicately and draped just so over the pads. This doesn’t just make for an elegant presentation; it ensures that each bite is in balance, with the right proportion of fish to rice. I was in most recently for the omakase, which, at $50 for somewhere between 16-20 pieces, amounts to a sweetheart of a deal in the sushi world — particularly when the yellowtail is so sweet and still tastes of the sea, and the various white fishes are not simply there for padding, and the hand-rolls (passed across the bar as soon as they’re finished, their wrappers warm and crunchy) come with fresh-chopped toro. If you order a la carte, don’t ignore the rolls. The Florida roll, draped with whitened bands of blowtorched salmon belly and sliced avocado, is a stunner in every sense.

Thai Taste by Kob, Wheaton

On a three-block stretch of Wheaton, near the intersection of University Blvd. and Georgia Ave., can be found two of the area's best Thai restaurants -- Ruan Thai and Nava Thai. Time to add a third. Phak Duangchandr -- Kob, to friends -- has set up shop in the tiny space that originally contained Nava, in the back of Hung Phat market. Thai food fans may remember her, or at least her cooking; for 19 years she operated the Thai Food Carryout at Thai Market, near the old Safeway in Wheaton. The new setting, electrified with a paint job of orange and day-glo green, gives her a chance to expand her repertoire of dishes, while staying true to the from-scratch traditions that earned her a devoted following. The emphasis is on street food and homecooking, with a good many dishes you simply won't find anywhere else, like bamee moo daeng, a meal-in-a-bowl of tender egg noodles, red-edged roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls; or kai yad sai, an omelette stuffed with ground chicken punched up with fish sauce and soy sauce; or a salad of shrimp paste-flavored rice, onions, cucumber and sweet, sticky pork). But even familiar tastes, taste different here -- funkier, more pungent, and definitely hotter (a shrimp fried rice, alive with fistfuls of Thai basil and a generous pinch of chilis, set my heart to racing). Some customers have already been asking for more rice to accompany their orders. Partner and manager Max Praserptmate says he is willing to accommodate any requests, but adds that his aunt's cooking is not the aberration; it's the great majority of Thai restaurants that are the aberration. "The taste," he says, "is what you're supposed to get from your Thai food." Duangchandr imports many of her spices from Thailand, and toasts and grinds them herself. All the condiments on the spice tray, including a terrific chili vinegar, are made on the premises. Meats are given a long soak before hitting the grill -- 72 hours, in the case of the pork that is pounded and threaded onto a skewer to create a must-order starter called moo yang. The other must-order starter sure doesn't sound like it -- when was the last time you had fried shrimp wontons that were any good? These are fabulous. Kiew tod comes to the table looking more like a plate of tortilla chips, the mix of shrimp and white pepper bundled within a sneakily rolled edge. The crunch is junk food-loud; it's hard not to believe they weren't engineered in a lab. No beer or wine yet; Praserptmate says soon on both. I would take the money you'd ordinarily spend on a drink and spring for an extra dish or two (most are under $10, and many items will survive into the next day).

Rose's Luxury, DC

I love the crackle in the room when you walk in. I'm not talking about mere noise; lots of restaurants have noise. I'm not even talking about buzz, that sense that a new place is hot. This one has an energy that is unmistakable, a sense that you have entered a kind of rare and cherished zone where the enthusiasm of the kitchen and the staff is returned in kind by the diners, who all seem to walk out the door with smiles on their faces. It's not hard to understand why. Rose's Luxury has an old-school vibe, and a sort of making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, from the homey, unassuming way the menu bids you to settle in and order to the dinner party-run-amok vibe to the yahrzeit-look-alike votives to the beer glasses that are sawed-off wine bottles. The chef, Aaron Silverman, logged stints in such high-profile kitchens as Momofuku in New York and Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, and you don't have to look hard to see elements of each of these places in the room and on the plate. Like his mentors David Chang and Sean Brock, he aims to bring off a marriage of extreme playfulness and extreme precision. The bulk of the menu consists of a dozen small plates in which Silverman sets out to cross the wires, compositionally speaking, and see what happens. A pate is a braiding of French, Italian (garlic bread are the toasts), Vietnamese (the rich, crushed-peanut topped spread brims with star anise), and I want to say Jewish (the brine for the jalapenos, onions and cukes that add crunch and tang tastes deli to me). It's seamlessly done, and highly addictive. He crosses high and low in a soup that tastes at once like liquefied popcorn and a delicate lobster veloute (the sweetness calls out for some sort of counterbalancing ingredient, or more lobster). It's not all derring-do. His gnocchi are more properly a kind of ravioli, stuffed with fennel and mint, sauced with not-too-much butter and topped with a generous scattering of crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. You'd be hard put to find five better pasta dishes in town right now. The final course is a page not out of Momofuku or Husk or McCrady's, but out of Komi -- share plates for two. In one, you lay luscious slices of perfectly smoked brisket on griddled Texas toast, add on tangy strands of pickled cabbage and smear the whole thing with a fluffy horseradish cream. The other is built around a beautifully brined pork chop -- sweet and aromatic and rich as the best pork can be -- with potlikker beans and a textbook red-eye gravy. The final act needs re-staging. The lack of a pastry chef doesn't help, nor does the tendency to over-think and over-embellish. Quenelles of chocolate cream sprinkled with dried rose petals and intended for spreading on slices of charred bread feels twee, not interesting, and hardly satisfies. More of the sink-in simplicity of the share courses would go a long way. Still, this is one of the most exciting debuts of the year. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the most exciting debuts of the past three years.

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ISO: A GREAT BELGIAN WAFFLE ...:

We were in Brussels for a day on the way home from a trip, and were too full from chocolates and dinner to have a Belgian waffle. Which Belgian restaurant in the DC area does a great Belgian waffle?

I'm thinking Sunday brunch.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

You can find a terrific Belgian waffle at either Brasserie Beck — which has two locations, now, with restaurants in DC and also in the Kentlands, in Gaithersburg — or Et Voila! in DC.

Thick, crispy, fluffy, lightly sweet and almost creamy on the inside. I’m craving one now.

Go, and tell me you how you liked it/them.

Good morning, everyone.

July 1st. Kinda hard to believe. Although not when you step outside — oof!, it’s hot and muggy and quintessentially July in DC.

But I’m inside, at home, in the cool, and eager to hear what you’ve been eating and where …

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THE CHEAP EATS ISSUE ...:

I love the Cheap Eats list (and have been reading it for 30 years or so). How come not one single American place?

Was the idea only to focus on ethic cuisine? Or was there nothing worthy in the generic American category?

Todd Kliman:

Say what?

I’m thinking you must’ve picked up the 2013 edition, which was the ethnic eats issue.

This year, the thinking was to build the package around all the sorts of genres left out in 2013. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, barbecue, etc. Though there is — and had to be — a section devoted to comfort foods that includes such area essentials as the shrimp dumpling soup at Full Key and the pork gyro at Plaka Grill and the manti at Rus Uz.

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BELGIAN WAFFLES, CONT. ...:

How can you be craving a Belgian waffle today of all days? BEAT BELGIUM!

Todd Kliman:

Sorry!

I forgot I’m supposed to be pretending to like soccer. ;)

USA! USA! USA!

No cravings, none.

Hot dogs!

Um, wait …

French fries!

Uh, no …

Apple pie.

Maybe? …

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FIELD REPORT: BLUE DUCK TAVERN, IN DC ...:

The wife and I ventured over to Blue Duck Tavern last Friday night before the start of Ramadan and also for my wife to indulge in eating the beef short rib dish from Creekstone Farms.

I was curious to see if there had been any drop off from the change in chef de cuisine from John Melfi to Daniel Singhofen and I am happy to report that there has not been any type of drop off in the quality of food and service at BDT.

We started with a wonderful white gazpacho, the seasonal soup of the day. Gazpacho is the perfect summer time soup to beat the heat and on that night it was the perfect starter to begin the meal. Refreshing and soothing. The soup is poured table side, the bowl already filled with some grapes, veggies, and almonds.

Next was the bone marrow from Creekstone Farms and as usual the bone marrow was luscious and rich. Spreading the meat butter over the crostini with some roasted garlic is match made in heaven.

My wife had the beef short rib, which she did not share with me because it was her moment to enjoy high quality halal beef in a high end restaurant, prepared by a skilled kitchen staff. For people who eat halal having those two go together usually does not happen and in some ways is a rare treat. I enjoyed watching her pour the rich au jus over the beef short rib before digging into it.

I myself had the fish of the day, which was tilefish. A fish that I was not too familiar with but greatly enjoyed. This white fish had great texture, reminded me somewhat of Halibut. The fish came in a beautiful cream sauce and was accompanied by vegetable and some leafy greens.

Of course no meal at BDT would be complete without having duck fat fries with your dinner and they too again lived up to their billing.

I know desserts have been discussed in great detail on this chat/forum and I myself usually do not order dessert at restaurants because I do not find them to be appealing or by the time I have finished my dinner I usually do not have room for dessert.

I think I can say without doubt I have found an exception and that everyone should try a particular dessert by pastry chef Naomi Gallego. That dessert is the Lime Tofu Yogurt Custard with Pickled Melons, Green Grapes, Cucumber-Mint Gel, Ginger-Kaffir Whipped Ganache, and Quinoa Granola. You don't even realize that you are eating tofu! The dessert was perfect on all levels. The right amount of sweetness, was not too heavy, and the right amount of crunch coming from the quinoa granola.

I would also like to recognize our server from that evening. His name is CW and I recommend that people ask for him if they ever dine at BDT. Majority of our meal was based on his suggestions and he was spot on with everything. I personally enjoy asking servers which dishes they enjoy and would recommend. From my experience, when you are have an experienced and knowledgeable server, majority of the time you will have a great meal.

As always love the weekly chat!

Naeem

Todd Kliman:

Sounds like a terrific meal.

Thanks for the taste-tempting report, Naeem.

I knew, in light of the recent halal approval of Creekstone Farms’ beef, it wouldn’t be long before you headed over to BDT for a meal.

I haven’t been in since chef Singhofen arrived. I’m eager to sample his cooking in this context.

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CURRENT FAVORITE TOP 5 RESTAURANTS? ...:

On Sietsema's chat last week, he listed his "current favorite 'top five' restaurants" as:

"Le Diplomate, Mintwood Place, Zaytinya, Rose's Luxury and Thai Square in Arlington."

What are yours -- recognizing that "favorite" and "best" are not necessarily synonymous?

Todd Kliman:

This is interesting.

Because I have only one place that overlaps.

Here would be my personal Top 5 at the moment (in no particular order):

— Rose’s Luxury — Sushi Capitol — Fiola Mare — The Red Hen — Izakaya Seki

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BELGIAN WAFFLES, CONT. ...:

I love the Liège waffles at the T&J Waffle Truck -- https://www.facebook.com/pages/T-And-J-Waffles-Truck/455968047776340 -- but they don't quite match the "almost creamy" description you provide above.

Also, I tend to hit the truck at their regular Saturday morning stop in a hardware store parking lot in Clarksville, but sitting on a blanket under some trees next to Rte. 108 probably won't scratch the brunch itch either.

So, hey, maybe this doesn't help the original questioner, but they're some good waffles.

(Except for today, when I hate all things Belgian, obviously.)

Todd Kliman:

It helps me. :)

And everyone else out there in chatland, too.

Thanks for the tip. They sound pretty wonderful.

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FOLLOWING-UP FROM LAST WEEK: FISHNET, IN COLLEGE PARK AND NOW DC ...:

Hi Todd,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the reader from last week.

I would like to thank the reader for being a loyal customer past two years and I really appreciate the concerns and attention. Fishnet would not be here today without any repeat customers.

The concerns are valid and make sense and constructive criticism is always welcomed.

I am able to offer more specials here in DC simply based on the size of my kitchen. I have a great open kitchen with plenty of cooking, prep and refrigeration space. In College Park my kitchen is the size of a matchbox and not much prep/refrigeration space. That dictates from introducing and keeping new items on the menu. In DC besides the regular menu, I can offer specials as sea scallops, mussels etc..without any problem. As you mentioned, in DC, people are more adventures so a sea urchin soup feels very comfortable in my menu.

I am having a tough time with soft shells this year (much worse than last year). I only use a single source and when my source is limited or out, this directly reflects on me. I always order them for both locations and only one location gets it.

Few months ago I introduced a new combo in College Park named `The American`,only $10, a sandwich with small fries/coleslaw. That combo is always on the menu without time restrictions in CPark. I am using the same combo here in Shaw as our lunch special.

Unfortunately these are growing pains for me. I really am sorry to disappoint any of my local, loyal customers and neighbors. I sure hope they will understand that these are only temporary and they would excuse me. By no means, I definitely do not want to make any of my customers feel they are after thoughts. I will make more effort to plan the menus and have specials in College Park and appreciate any feedback.

Kind Regards,

Ferhat Yalcin Fishnet

Todd Kliman:

Ferhat, thanks for writing in today and responding. I appreciate it very much.

This is a tricky thing, and something I don’t think we’ve talked about much, if at all.

Here you have a new place, and it’s a much more stylish place than the original place, with some added (and sexy) menu items.

For most people, that difference won’t matter, because they’re not likely to travel between the two.

And a restaurant that spins off a second establishment is not under any obligation to be exactly like the first. It makes sense that the DC location would spend more on decor. (I’m less inclined to think it makes sense that it would add things like sea urchin soup.)

I’ve now eaten at both restaurants. My meals were roughly comparable (though I liked my last meal in College Park more; more careful cooking).

But the difference between the two places is striking. In look and feel, the spinoff is another creature altogether.

I might be in the very small minority of people who will travel back and forth between both, but what does a dramatic difference like this tell us? Does it tell us that the original was a rough draft? That the city is where the action is, and resources need to be hoarded to meet the demands of this hipper, more stylish audience?

I don’t know.

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COOKOUT IDEAS? ...:

Hi Todd,

My wife and I have been tasked with hosting an Independence Day cookout (actually on Saturday) because we have a large backyard and can accommodate family and riends (prob. 25 total).

If you were in our shoes, what would you serve?

Quinoa salad is definitely on the menu, and I'm thinking of grilled chicken thighs that will be in a Speidie marinade (we're originally from Central NY), but am at a loss for ideas otherwise.

What would you like to see? As a host, what would be easy-ish, but also really good? We'll have two grills going (a propane and a small charcoal) FWIW.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

I would get myself a haul of corn on the cob and do corn, on the cob and in its husk, on the grill.

Corn on the grill is fantastic. Make a lime-chili butter. Or a lime-chili-cilantro butter.

I’d do burgers, maybe with an 80-20 mix (beef to fat), so they’re really juicy.

If I wanted to be really ambitious, I might do something like lamb burgers (with mint and chilis and Indian spices — we have a great recipe at Washingtonian.com that you can adapt; I made these burgers years ago, and they were fantastic), too, as well as turkey burgers (I’d put something in the mix, to keep them from becoming dry and dull).

If you have the time and money and inclination, how about duck burgers? Maybe mix in a little egg white and, if you can swing it, a little foie gras. (Yes, folks at PETA, I did receive your email last week scolding me for “promoting” foie gras.)

One more idea. Get a box of peaches. Halve ‘em, remove the pits, and toss ‘em on the grill. If they’re not real sweet, or if you want to turn them into dessert, drizzle on a little honey and chopped fresh mint. And serve them alongside some vanilla ice cream.

I’d come to that cookout.

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SPANISH INGREDIENTS: AN UPDATE + A FIELD REPORT: BLUE DUCK TAVERN -- AGAIN!:

Thanks to everyone who offered their two cents on where to get my Spanish themed ingredients.

Unfortunately, I say with some embarrassment, I ended up ordering my saffron from Amazon. I feel like a foodie poser after writing that sentence.

I do plan on heading over to A and H to check it out, but it's hard living and working in the district, especially with A and H closing at 7 every day.

In an attempt to recover my status, a shout-out to Harvey's supermarket, who provided the star of the show- 2 pork tenderloins I prepared sous vide and then with a sweet paprika, piquillo pepper, and peach sauce- having blanched peaches added at the last second really adds a complementary sweetness.

My wife put together a Spanish cheese plate with quince that was a perfect start. The saffron chorizo rice was a simple, solid complement, with a paprika cauliflower so that we could all say we ate a vegetable.

The only thing that I had trouble with was the fish- for some reason, I always have a hard time timing fish for large groups of people and end up overcooking it. I found myself wishing I had done a couple whole salt-baked fish, so that I wouldn't have had the same concerns about it drying out or getting cold.

And a quick field report: my wife and I went to dinner at Blue Duck Tavern this past weekend and had a wonderful, relaxed meal, complete with two beautiful desserts- the Meyer lemon icebox cake, which was beautiful in presentation, delicious, and perfectly textured, though just a touch on the tart side, and a chocolate custard with a bruleed banana- rich, luscious, and yet still light.

Todd Kliman:

Naomi Gallego is having a great week.

Thanks for the report. Correction: reports.

And we’ll give you a pass on Amazon for ingredient shopping. We’ve all been there. I’d just like to ask — no, to beg — everyone to avoid Amazon for book buying if you can help it. And often, you can. The small independents — Politics & Prose, Powell’s, Books & Books, Left Bank Books, etc. — can order for you. Abebooks.com has a slew of used books. Daedalusbooks.com has a slew of odd, obscure books. It takes a little more effort — a little more, not a lot. These places need the support, just like the small farmers and small batch producers and small restaurants need the support.

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SOMETHING GOOD IN OR AROUND DUPONT? ...:

Hi Todd,

A friend of mine is in town and wants to eat close to her hotel in and around Dupont Circle area. Last time we went to Firefly which was.. meh…

Is there anything at the level of Red Hen or Mintwood, kind of neighborhood bistro, casual place with good quality food/wine/beer or is that area really mostly average food outside really special restaurants like Komi or Little Serow?

I can't seem to come up with anything good and interesting.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

“Kind of meh.”

Kind of describes the vast majority of my meals in DC for the last month or so.

Kind of meh, kind of not cheap.

Hey, how ‘bout this for a neologism — to convey the sort of place we’re talking about.

Mehxpensive.

(I need to bring back our neologism contests. With book giveaways. Maybe in the next week or two … )

Your question.

There’s nothing that leaps to mind.

I’d give a long look to Obelisk. It’s not buzzy, not sexy, not trendy — I mean, Lordie, it’s been around 20 years (think about that for a second: a restaurant that has been around for 20 years; that’s kind of like a person who lives to 105). But it’s still good. There are few restaurants that will impose a sense of calm and order upon you quite like this one. Good staff. And the start and finish of the meal are wonderful.

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MIAMI EATS ...:

Hey Todd (and other chatters),

I am heading to Miami, and then onto Grassy Key in a few weeks, and I want to get my eating plan hammered out. Any suggestions for restaurants in Miami for dinner? Any great stops on the drive down the keys or places I should try to go once we are there?

Thanks everyone!

Todd Kliman:

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.

It’s terrific. In and out, top to bottom. At least one meal there, definitely.

What else?

Yardbird. Whisk. Pub’belly. Versailles. Francesco. Cvi che 105. Sabor a Peru. Cafe Tinto …

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THE HIGH COST OF RENT + YANNICK ALLENO IN TAIPEI:

Hi Todd,

I just read that Union Square Cafe and other high profile restaurants in NYC are closing due to it's high rent. What a shame- hope they can relocate to DC!.

Fortunately, I don't think Washington DC area has these issues- or do they?

On another note, I dined at Yannick Alleno's restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan the other week and was blown away by the food and service. The eight course lunch tasting menu was priced at $93 US dollars which was quite a deal. His massive 1,200 page cookbook (costs $2,000) was in display and was in awe of the size of it and the price! Wish he could open a restaurant in the USA.

Thanks for doing these weekly chats!

Todd Kliman:

$2,000!

Makes Nathan Myhrvold’s $600 Modernist Cooking sound like a remainder.

Would love to know what you had. And see pix.

$93 for eight courses at Alleno’s level is not just a good deal; it’s an amazing deal.

To your question about Union Square — every city has these kinds of problems at one time or another.

High rents dictate a lot of things here. In recent memory, there hasn’t been a high profile exit, on the order of a Union Square, stemming from price jacking on the part of landlords. But the composition of the restaurant culture of 14th St., the dearth of ethnic mom ‘n’ pops downtown, the number of top chefs coming in from other cities to open spinoffs of their existing restaurants, the preponderance of chains in key neighborhoods like Clarendon and Bethesda — all these things are a result, in one way or another, of high rents in DC.

……………………………

WORLD CUP, CONT. ...:

and my prediction for today's game is 2-1 USA.

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!!!!

I just hope this game is not an emotional rollercoaster like the Portugal game.

Just wanted to let people know they are expecting over 10,000 people in Dupont to watch the game today and a viewing party has also been set up by Nationals Park for the game and they are expecting between 15,000-20,0000 people for the game.

Todd Kliman:

10,000 people in Dupont?

Wow.

Where’re they all going to go?

………………………….

SPANISH INGREDIENTS, CONT. ...:

Penzey's in Falls Church is my favorite for spices.

I have their smoked paprika and it's delish! I only buy spices there, unless I need something more exotic that requires a separate trip to an Asian/Indian/Middle Eastern grocery.

Todd Kliman:

Penzey’s is good, though I wish they stocked fewer blends and more whole spices.

They also have a location in Rockville, FYI.

…………………………….

OUTER BANKS EATS ...:

Hi. We are taking a road trip in an RV to the Outer Banks from the DC area in August. It is two adults and two kids.

What are your top five food places we "have" to eat at during our trip. Not looking for high end - just must EAT places. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks and have a great Summer.

Sanjay

Todd Kliman:

It’s been many years since I was in that part of the world, so I can’t offer much help.

However, I can tell you that one place from that trip sticks out in my memory — The Kill Devil Grill, in Kill Devil Hills. Simple food, contemporary Americana, you might say, and prepared with affection and care. Great diner-like setting, great staff, and a wine list, too.

One reason it stands out is that so many of the other restaurants on the trip seemed to be trying too hard. Or were too expensive relative to the quality of their ingredients and the skill of their staff.

It’s the kind of place you’ll find yourself going back to, even though you told yourself you were going to explore other options.

Chatters? Who’s been to the Outer Banks more recently?

……………………………

SPANISH INGREDIENTS, CONT. ...:

Sometimes you can find piquillo peppers at Harris Teeter (their brand name), the paprika (La Chinata is the brand name I've used) can be found at Blacksalt Market, and I've found Saffron at wegmans, and most specialty food shops.

Todd Kliman:

Great tips.

Thank you!

Something for the original chatter — and all the rest of us — to stock in a corner of the mind the next time we’re putting together an Iberian-themed meal.

……………………………..

APPLE PIE?!:

Nope, that's taken from German immigrants too- it's not a far hop from strudel to pie.

Todd Kliman:

True.

But it’s closer than the others, which is why I wrote “maybe.”

…………………………….

WORLD CUP, CONT. ...:

Also, if you live in the Tysons/Merrifield area the Mosaic has a jumbotron screen and they have been showing all the games and everyone gathers there for the US games.

There were over 1,000 people there for the US/Germany game and I expect there will be a lot more today for the Belgium game.

Todd Kliman:

Beautiful.

Thank you.

In other sports news, the Wizards are apparently closing in on a deal with center Marcin Gortat. Length of the deal: 5 years, from what I’ve seen circulating on Twitter. I just hope they can keep him around $10 mil per, and have room to sign Trevor Ariza, too — who is being courted by half the teams in the league, it sounds like — or use Ariza’s money to go and get Patrick Patterson and a smart scorer to come off the bench.

………………………….

FIELD REPORT: OSTERIA 177:

Todd, have you checked out Osteria 177 in Annapolis?

We went to celebrate a promotion and a new job this past Saturday and all five us cleaned our plates, the pasta is made from scratch, the seafood is fresh and delicious and the service was impeccable. One of the best meals from start to finish.

Todd Kliman:

Unless there’s been a change at the top or a change of chefs, that wasn’t my experience the last time I was in, a couple of years ago.

There were some good things about the meal, but my impression overall was of a solid restaurant, not a good restaurant, the kind to go a little out of your way for. I also thought it was a little expensive for what it was.

Speaking of Annapolis, I’m very high, right now, on Mason’s Lobster Rolls, also on Main St. This is the real deal, including both varieties of lobster roll. Buttered, griddled bun, good quantity of fresh, sustainably caught lobster (no wateriness in the meat, which is one of the things you’re looking for), and, in the lobster salad roll, just the right amount of mayo (and just the right amount of butter in the traditional one).

More good news: it’s much cheaper than what you tend to find in this area: $12 a sandwich. Good clam chowder, too.

……………………………

DUPONT EATS, CONT. ...:

I love Duke's Grocery for a casual, delicious, and inexpensive meal. Huge portions for under $15 and decent drinks/bottled beer selection

Todd Kliman:

Yeah, didn’t love it.

Wanted to love it. The vibe, the approach — both terrific. And everything looked good. But my sandwiches broke down, and nothing I had the night I was in was delicious. Almost. But not quite.

It was just the once. I need to go back.

Anyway, I’m off to lunch now. Thanks so much, everyone, for the great tips and questions and comments and field reports and World Cup viewing updates. Much appreciated, all of it.

Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …







[missing you, TEK … ]



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