Check, Please!

Local blogger Ashley Messick, who spent the last year eating and chronicling her way through The Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list, has finally crossed the finish line. She reflects back on her year as an amateur food critic.

Messick dines at Eatonville. Photograph by Chris Leaman

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.

Favorite restaurant on the list:
Komi—the food was inventive, satisfying, beautiful, and incredibly delicious. And on top of wonderful food, the service and the ambience make for a comfortable and almost casual experience. It’s great to eat world-class food in a restaurant where I don’t feel I have to sit up straight and use the right fork all the time.”

Least favorite restaurant on the list:
“Nothing about Amici Miei really screamed “best restaurant” to me.”

Favorite dish:
“I love short ribs, so I knew I had to order the 72-hour short ribs at Citronelle. They were everything I hoped they’d be. The fact that they were served with a regular dinner knife instead of a steak knife was just icing on the cake.”

Dish that was the biggest bomb:

“The rockfish crudo at Mio was probably one of the worst dishes I’ve ever had. The fish had that unbecoming fishy smell, and it was served on a bed of raw limes tossed with cilantro. I made everyone at the table try it so that they didn’t think I was overreacting.”

Best service:
“I had a lot of great service this year, but the Inn at Little Washington was the best. From a tour of the kitchen to a personalized welcome message on the menu to a wonderfully attentive waiter, they thought of everything. I’m not a hugger, but I really had to fight the urge to hug our waiter at the end of the meal.”

Worst service:
“The service at Circle Bistro was just awful. After we arrived at noon, they told us they didn’t open until 11:30. Then, when our waiter brought out our coffee, he told us the pot in his hand had been brewed about four hours before and wasn’t very good. It got worse from there.”

Meal that surprised you the most:

“Minibar. I was waiting to be blown away by everything I ate, but a lot of the dishes just seemed like all show. It was definitely impressive that they could make dishes like cotton-candy eel, but at the end of the day it’s still food and I still want it to taste good.”

Best cocktail:
“To keep costs down, I tried not to order much alcohol this year, but the mojito at Minibar was definitely worth a few extra dollars.”

Best dessert:
“I’m not a huge dessert person, but the pistachio bread pudding at Corduroy was pretty spectacular. It was the perfect way to end the meal.”

Favorite space:
“Not only does Marvin have a great roof deck, but the restaurant itself has a great feel to it that reflects the neighborhood and the food perfectly. And who doesn’t want to eat their food with a giant picture of Marvin Gaye staring down at them?”

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