To read Todd's introduction "How I Learned to Enjoy Thanksgiving" click here.
Good Morning Todd,
For your Thanksgiving files: My husband and I took my mother out for Thanksgiving dinner this year. We made reservations at the Severn Inn in Annapolis. The restaurant sits on the banks of the river, across from the Naval Academy. I anticipated watching the sun set on the river over the course of our 3:30 seating, but alas, the weather had another thing in mind. Rain. Our spirits being undampened, we enjoyed the view from a warm room with floor to ceiling windows. Dinner was served buffet style with 3 stations set up for appetizers, mains and dessert. The large appetizer station was by far the best, with offerings that reflected the restaurants' seafood theme. Among my favorites: the butternut squash and crab soup was a standout, tasting of homemade seafood stock. Lobster ravioli and shrimp in a Grand Marnier sauce were servicable, but did use a healthy amount of each ingredient. An antipasto platter was large and varied. Everything was kept well stocked and nicely presented throughout our meal. The main course station offered traditional Thanksgiving fare, with turkey breast, roast beef and ham with the usual sides. Desserts included various pies and cakes. I had wine by the glass, which was reasonably priced at $9 for a healthy pour. Dinner was $34.99pp. The service was friendly with all staff offering warm greetings and smiles. That's something for having to work Thanksgiving. www.severninn.com — and no, I don't work there. 🙂
Wonderful, thorough report. Thank you for thinking to pass it along.
Eating out at a restaurant on Thanksgiving isn't what most people would consider a good time, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done well. If anything, it means it should be done with the utmost care, because people are depending on a place to provide comfort and belonging.
Good for the Severn Inn.
What about the rest of you out there? All you who wrote in and called in asking for recommendations of where to take your family on the big day?
I'd love to add more to my Thanksgiving files.
If you charge good money for a product and don't deliver, there's nothing unfair about somebody coming in and calling you on it.
That goes for a restaurant, or a movie, or a book, or anything else.
I haven't written off Agraria.
All restaurants are capable of changing and improving. Things can happen quickly in this business.
That's one reason I like "The Needle" so much. That's the feature we include every month in the magazine in Best Bites. It's meant to gauge where places, which can change on a dime, stand at the moment — not six months ago but right now.
A town with good food served everywhere? Sorry, that town just doesn't exist.
But I do sympathize with your experience. Not at Bohio, but just in general: Lots and lots of places don't have a clue.
One thing I will say, though, is that, just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you really can't dismiss a restaurant on the basis of one spectacularly bad night.
Now, two spectacularly bad nights …
Or one spectacularly bad night, and one thoroughly mediocre night …
If you can swing it, don't order a la carte and go for the tasting menu.
With the tasting menu, the first course is taken care of by the kitchen. What comes out is a series of small meze-style plates, each one building off the last — a sort of almost narrative progression. The flavors are big, bright and clean. It's a sensual experience all its own, and it's bound to put you both in a good mood.
From there, it's on to pastas. The agnolotti, stuffed with foie gras, is really good, just short of excellent. The same goes for the Greek-style potato dumplings, an intriguing dish, the only thing of its kind in the city.
I'd direct her next to the turbot with carrot-juice-braised carrots, a wonderful, deceptively simple plate. And for you? The 72-hour capretto, a baby goat that's been brined for the first 24 hours, then slow-braised for the next 48. It's served with a creamy polenta, brussels sprouts and pancetta. Lusciousness itself.
For dessert? Don't miss the Greek-style donuts with mascarpone-chocolate cream.
Enjoy, and drop me a note when you can about how things turned out.
I'd be interested in some examples.
And I'm not saying that to be obnoxious. : )
If it slips in — things do slip in, it's inevitable — I'd hope that it's only occasionally.
If you've read this chat, and read the magazine, you should know that I don't like reviews with that kind of gray, sober tone, the critic looking down from Mt. Olympus, measuring things by whether they are done "correctly."
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Falls Church.
I can appreciate that you had a bad night. But let's not kitchen-sink.
The place is overpriced. The staff ignored your son. Both faults.
But honestly, I don't know of any place in the metropolitan area where dinner for two with a bottle of wine and tip and tax is going to set you back just $44.
And really, are you going to hold it against the restaurant that a truck ran into the building next door and started a fire?
I didn't say it's not my idea of a good time. I said i's not a lot of people's idea of a good time.
Regardless, you make a terrific and convincing (and laugh-out-loud funny) case for hitting a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day.
Thanks for chiming in, DC, and good for 1789 for coming through.
Ooh, I like this game.
OK, my top 5 — in particular order:
1. Passage to India.
2. David Craig Bethesda.
4. Black's Bar and Kitchen.
There's a big, big dropoff after that. Which is telling, in a city with more than 200 + restaurants.
How about the rest of you? Bethesda Top 5's? Or Arlington Top 5's, even? Falls Church Top 5's?
What do I think?
I think you're very perceptive, Petworth. Although I would love to see a mannered pig. ; )
It's not just Maestro that's guilty of point 1, by the way; a lot of high-end restaurants put more thought into beauty than practicality.
And the thing with pacing is frustrating, isn't it? Because it's not THAT big a deal. You don't make a big stink with a manager over poor pacing. It's a subtle thing. But it has a way of insinuating itself into the moment. And at that level, with food that good, you don't want anything that's going to so much as breathe on the delicate fantasy of the meal.
And I couldn't agree with you more: You need time to savor and sip, to contemplate and converse, after a truly great and memorable dish.
A little, not a lot.
I agree that Blue Duck Tavern is the best new restaurant, and that Galileo is overrated, and that Sushi-Ko is tops for raw fish.
But L'Auberge Chez Francois wouldn't my first, second, or third choice for French food, or for service, or for a romantic night, or for a special occasion. I can think of at least a half-dozen places I'd rather go for Vietnamese food before Huong Que and Nam-Viet Pho. Citronelle would never, ever come in second in my book to Coastal Flats for dessert. And IHOP for breakfast? Don't get me started.
I could go on and on.
But this is nothing new, really. The public and the critics are often at odds — on movies, on books, etc.
I thought we'd try to have a little cheeky fun with the introduction, calling attention to some of these odd injustices without directly poking anyone in the eye.
I'm going to go with a Top 6.
In particular order:
1. Ray's the Classics.
5. Cuba de Ayer
(FWIW, I've never liked Cubano's — it's overpriced, and it doesn't get the simple, foundational things right.)
You're funny, Silver Spring.
Wrong, but very, very funny. ; )
You know, I'd like to know myself.
I haven't had a good one lately, none that I can remember. And you know as well as I do, a really good sticky bun sticks with you.
Anyone out there?
And I don't want to see anybody so much as mentioning the name "Cinnabon." Totally different beast.
Good advice, Bethesda.
And thanks for the perspective.
It's easy to forget, sitting in your seat, having a good time, that you're taking part in something that has to be made new every single night — a huge, unscripted drama
That's not to say that as a diner you should forgive the slip ups.
But you should remember that the slip ups are inevitable, and that it never hurts to bring them to somebody's attention.
For a light, before-movie meal — or for a light, after-movie meal — sure, absolutely.
Or for a round or two or three of drinks — the wines are terrific and affordable — and cheeses anytime.
For a full meal, I can think of a lot of other places I'd rather spend my money.
What I do is, I dab the wasabi on the fish. I don't mix the wasabi into the soy sauce, as some people do.
Small dabs, depending on the size of the fish.
Then, if it's nigiri, I pick up the little bed of rice topped with fish and give it a little turn, so that I make sure to dip the fish into the soy sauce, and not the rice.
The idea is to (lightly) season the fish. The rice is already seasoned, and soy sauce will just make it sloppy and eventually cause it to fall apart.
Ginger? For me, only occasionally, and only in between bites of really assertive-tasting fish.
Transition time. How do I make the leap from talking about sushi to closing the chat?
Be well, folks, eat well, and let's do it again next week.
And keep those Top 5's coming — I couldn't get to them all this week.