The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Basque Stew, Milk Chocolate S’Mores

Washingtonian’s food team shares favorite dishes from their past seven days of dining.

Dolcezza’s pomegranate and mascarpone gelatos. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Todd Kliman

Basque stew at Restaurant Eve

In warmer months, Cathal Armstrong serves a bouillabaisse; this is the replacement dish, for colder months, and it’s also a knockout.

What makes it so good is not the quality of the fish and seafood, which is first-rate, nor even how delicately the kitchen treats its treasures from the deep, which include prawns, clams, and black bass. No, what makes it so good is the broth, the product of laborious, slow coaxing of flavor from shells and bones, and the way all the various components are brought together and simmered gently, giving up their natural juices and imbuing the dish with a depth and body that are, increasingly, rare in an age of quick-trick small plates.

It’s not often that soups or stews are compared to wines, but in this case the analogy could hardly be more apt, especially in the long, lingering finish that coats your tongue and calls to mind a brisk day in a foreign land.

Ann Limpert

Milk chocolate s’mores at Blue Duck Tavern

S’mores seem to be the nostalgic dessert of the moment on high-end pastry menus—not that I’m complaining. I could eat marshmallow on a piece of newspaper and probably be happy. But the riffs (they’re always riffs, never straightforward), usually seem to be more about deep, dark, super-rich Valrhona than anything else. And for chocolate apathetic folks like me, it’s a bummer.

My introduction to pastry chef Naomi Gallego’s version after a boozy lunch at Blue Duck Tavern didn’t start so promisingly. “The s’more? It’s decomposed,” the server said. Decomposed. Huh. Whether it was actually rotting away on the plate or simply deconstructed, I wasn’t getting my hopes up. But turns out, this is a s’more for true s’mores lovers. There’s plenty of fluffy, vanilla-scented marshmallow, for one, which is wonderful mixed with bits of graham-cracker streusel. And the chocolate custard—made with unfashionable but delicious (here, at least) milk chocolate—does just fine in the background. The final flourish: slices of banana topped with crackly panes of bruleed sugar. It’s rare to find takes on kid-like desserts that don’t leave you pining for the real thing. But for once, I wasn’t just wishing I’d gone to CVS and bought a bag of marshmallows and a Hershey bar.

Anna Spiegel

Pomegranate gelato at Dolcezza Factory + Coffee Lab

It’s not exactly frozen dessert weather, but you know gelato is good when you’re still thinking about it a few frigid days later. Dolcezza has always been a freezer favorite, what with Robb Duncan’s unusual flavors and careful sourcing of ingredients (just try and stop scooping the Honey Crisp Apple). Still the freshly-churned version you can sample at their newly opened factory is something above and beyond.

Duncan and wife Violeta opened their new production facility behind Union Market with sharing just-made gelato in mind. It’s not that the packaged version you get at the farmer’s market or in local restaurants is inferior; mainly, the exceptional flavor is all about timing. Scoops that are only minutes-old aren’t as cold, so they’re creamier, airier, and the flavors come through more vividly without a cold-shock to the tongue. The pomegranate variety tasted true to the bulbous crimson fruits Duncan has crated in the back of the factory; tart, lightly floral, and truly addictive. The space doesn’t officially open for tours and tastings until March, but chances are you can snag a sample if they’re around.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.