Tuesday, July 22, 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.

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, Annapolis

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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REQUEST FOR THE RECIPE SLEUTH …:

Speaking of Recipe Sleuth (as someone did in last week’s chat) I’d love to see one for the sweet kale salad at Woodland’s Vegan Bistro/Everlasting Life. It’s amazing.

Todd Kliman

Yo, Anna Spiegs — that’s two, now. What do you say we dust this off and get it back up and going?

I’ve got Woodland’s Vegan Bistro on my list. Been hearing some good things. Thanks for the reinforcement …

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NEED AN ETHIOPIAN REC FOR TONIGHT, SOMEPLACE OTHER THAN ETHIOPIC …:

As Ethiopic is out of the question for my NE-averse friend (potentially now foe), we are bickering over where to grab some Ethiopian tonight. Of the options below, does one stand out over the others?

Keren
Etete
Dukem
Selam
Meskerem

Todd Kliman

I’d look past all five of those.

The place to go is Zenebech Injera, right around the corner from Howard University Hospital and right near the Howard Theatre.

Good luck, and tell your friend/foe he needs to get over his NE-aversion.

There’re a lot of wusses in this city, aren’t there? This person “can’t do” NE. That person won’t do Prince George’s. Marylanders won’t cross into redneck Virginia. Virginians won’t cross into socialist Maryland. Vast stretches of DC, indeed, most of the city is off-limits for most NW residents …

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FIELD REPORTS: CHOPT, CAVA GRILL, CHIPOTLE, AND THE SILVER DINER …:

There comes a time when your little one gets big enough you enter the frightening realm of kids meals.

While we are lucky enough to have kids who are flexible and joyous eaters and usually eat what we do, there are times when sharing isn’t going to happen (too spicy, too leafy) and we end up glancing at the grim options on most kids menus.

Despite being a person who doesn’t mind paying for good food I find kids meals above $6 annoying with few exceptions. I’ll just get another app. Give me nourishing, tasty, flavorful options which are interesting to kids and I’ll give you a family of four who will spend money at your venue.

I thought I would take a moment to give a shout out to some of the better places I have found for kids to have something to eat with some input from the peanut gallery who found these options especially “fun”.

Always a good place for a redeeming meal, we frequent Chopt here and there and appreciate the options, the styling, the freshness. But I had no idea they offer such a groovy kids meal for those in the ages where anything chopped up and mixed together is, well, highly offensive. A “kids salad” is a choice of protein and a few choices of the other things, all placed together neatly with a bit of bread (not mixed together!). My son was thrilled with a hard-boiled egg, edamame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and cherry tomatoes. And as a nutritionist I thought the whole set up was excellent for the little ones.

One of the better things I have eaten in recent weeks was my bowl from Cava Grille. As a fan of the kitchen sink approach, my heaping mass of chicken, pickled onions, fresh mint, garlic yogurt, spicy harissa, sweet peppadews, a bunch of veggies and tahini sauce was just super tasty. Refined, no, but delicious in a way created only with each thing could have stood on their own. Anyways, the kids get to choose a protein, a pita, a dip, rice and a veggie and a drink — they seemed very flexible with the kids meal and it was attractive and fun.

I feel like I am betraying some kind of secret, but a go-to for us is the simple beans and rice at Chipotle when needed. Did I mention they will give you a bowl with a scoop of beans and a scoop of rice and charge you a mere $1-$2 depending on who is doing the charging? Instant little people meal, and although their make-your-own tacos have more variety and a perfect for older children, a toddler is going to have plenty with the prior.

Lastly, it’s impossible to mention kids meals without mentioning the Silver Diner chain. It’s not destination dining, but they try so hard in many ways and the kids menu of lots and lots of things for $0.99 is great for parents and kids get their own choices. Corn, applesauce, edamame, peas, etc. Their full kids meals offer healthy options and you can get a bit of both, a plate of fries and broccoli, anyone? And their Monday night kids nights can be an easy place for parents to feed and wind down.

~Bevin

Todd Kliman

Thanks, Bevin.

I kind of love that in the same forum we talk about places like the Inn at LW and Komi we have reports on meals at Chopt and Chipotle.

The beans and rice idea at Chipotle — I’ve stashed that knowledge away for future use; thank you.

And you and I have talked about it before — The Silver Diner does a pretty terrific job, in general. For all those of you who haven’t been, or haven’t been in years, it’s not a greasy spoon anymore, even a “cut-above” greasy spoon. I like the beer and wine list — Virginia wines! something some very good restaurants in the area can’t be bothered with. The bison burger with pesto, roasted red pepper and goat cheese — yes, at the Silver Diner — is really good, and there are a handful of other dishes (like a plate of roasted root vegetables mixed with quinoa and Southwestern seasonings) that will surprise you.

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POST-NEW BABY DATE NIGHT THIS SATURDAY: WHERE SHOULD WE GO?:

Todd – my husband and are having a post-new-baby date night on Saturday for our anniversary.

Given how rare these are, I don’t want to mess up our choice of where to go (and likely overthinking it as a result).

We went to Rose’s Luxury a number of times while I was pregnant, so kinda want to try something new but same vibe.

Thoughts? Thally? Soi 38? Part of me also just wants to do Rose’s again now that I can have the fun cocktails!

Todd Kliman

You could do that, sure.

Or you could book a table at Central Michel Richard.

No, it’s no longer the shiny new car on the lot, with that new-car smell, but I was in recently and had a terrific meal. Including this:

https://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/best-thing-i-ate/best-thing-i-ate-bacon-jerky-vegetarian-tacos.php

The chef, David Deshaies, comes over from Citronelle, and nearly everything that issued from the kitchen this night was terrific.

It’s interesting to see so many places come along, each bidding to win us over with something different, something that speaks to us in a new way.

And Central does it, over and over again, without even appearing to try.

The contrast is particularly striking come dessert. Nine selections, as opposed to the usual four or five you see around town — three of which are ice creams or gelatos. Where’s the degree of difficulty in that? Where’s the excitement? Dessert, at Central, is an event, a celebration — even if you don’t opt for the Celebration Cake, a tour de force of cake, fruit, mousse, and chocolate that comes with a kind of roadside flare sputtering atop it.

If you go, please drop back on and give us a full report, ok?

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FOODS YOU’D BRAVE A RAINSTORM FOR …:

On places you would drive to/go through a storm for:

We tried out Compass Rose one very stormy mid-week night, fighting our way through an absolute downpour.

Cheerful, friendly staff make up for their no-reservations policy, and their bar – although tiny and crowded – is still a pleasant place to wait out the storm.

But while the street-food inspired menu is tasty, the plate I’ve been dreaming of since then is perhaps the most simple: the Khachapuri.

Think a soft bread that is rolled out into something that looks like a super thick oval shape with a ridge around the outside and fill the center with a very softly cooked egg, cheese, and butter.

The whole thing shows up steaming hot and you mix the yolk into the cheese and butter where it all cooks together, as you tear off pieces of the bread and dip it into the middle. It is salty and savory-satisfying and EXACTLY what you want it to be when you’re dripping wet from the storm: comfort food that I can’t stop thinking about, and for which I’d brave just about any rainstorm to eat again.

Todd Kliman

Khachapuri. I love khachapuri.

And the one they make is a good one, a very good one.

Your description is right on the money. I was tasting it all over again as I read.

I’d go back to Compass Rose just for the khachapuri, for sure. It’s too bad that nothing else I tried the night I was in was up to that level of accomplishment or excitement.

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SPECIAL OCCASION DINING …:

Where should a couple that usually lives on a moderate budget go if they want to step outside of that budget for a special occasion?

Todd Kliman

It depends.

Does the couple want grand, indulgent, and pampering? Then the pick is Marcel’s, in the West End. Home of the superlative boudin blanc and other Frenchified treats, along with some of the most gracious service you will ever encounter anywhere.

Or maybe the couple likes great food in cozy, not-splashy places. In which case the Greek/Mediterranean Komi would be a great choice.

But both Marcel’s and Komi can cost upwards of $400 for two. How stepping-outside-of-modest are we talking about?

If food is the focus of the night and not the room and the service, then I think Rose’s Luxury (eclectic American, for want of a better term) would be a great pick. Excitement on the plate, and a great, personable, informed staff to take care of you. And it wouldn’t set you back uncomfortably.

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DAN DAN NOODLES IN ROCKVILLE/DERWOOD OR COLUMBIA? …:

Todd, where would you go for dan-dan noodles in the Rockville/Columbia/Derwood area?

I’ve been pointed towards Joe’s Noodles (natch), but I wanted to get your opinion- I haven’t been led astray before.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

They’re good.

But my first pick would be the dan dan noodles at Sichuan Jin River, also in Rockville.

In Derwood specifically, China Jade also has dan dan noodles on the menu. It’s been a while since I was in, but I remember that I liked them quite a bit.

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FIELD REPORT: DGS DELICATESSEN, DC + CREEKSTONE FARMS BEEF, CONT. …:

You can also add Silver Diner to the list of places that carries Creekstone Farms.

My wife and I made our way out to DGS last Friday for dinner. They do a great job of elevating traditional Jewish cuisine and they too carry Creekstone Farms.

We enjoyed our entire meal. I had the ribeye and she had the burger. After a long day of fasting both items hit the spot.

Side Note, walked by Gypsy Soul yesterday and the interior looks really nice. Looking forward to its opening.

Naeem

Todd Kliman

Thanks for the report, Naeem.

Next time you’re at DGS, try the tongue gyro. Though; wait, now that I say that I’m not certain that it’s also from Creekstone Farms. Something to look into for next week’s chat …

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WATER AND WALL: THE POP-UP + MAKETTO: THE POP-UP ..:

Todd,

After reading about Water and Wall’s pop-up lunch, I decided to stop by last week. In short, the food was delicious, and while the service was ho-hum, I would pay a return visit.

Our server recommended 3 or 4 dishes for the two of us, and we ordered Kung Pao pork belly, General Tso calamari, cucumber chicken salad, and pan fried potstickers. (Portion sizes vary between dishes–best to ask before ordering a set number).

We enjoyed everything, but the standouts were the pork belly and the chicken salad. Both were tangy and vinegary, and the pork belly had a pleasant amount of heat.

The calamari was well-prepared, but it was a tad sweet for my tastes, while the pot stickers were fairly unremarkable, even though they were cooked perfectly.

On an unrelated note, I thought I had secured a reservation for Rose’s Luxury’s rooftop meal last week, but by the time I had entered the payment information, the reservation was no longer available. Would be nice if you were allowed to “hold” your spot for a few minutes. A bit frustrating.

Finally, the chef at the Maketto pop-up in Union Market dished up a spectacular Lao fish curry last weekend. It’s a dish for heat-lovers only, but it was incredibly tasty. We sat contently enjoying a unique dish as throngs swarmed the market for an ice cream event last Saturday, waiting in the longest lines I’ve seen for some of the other vendors. The menu changes regularly, and typically features a soup and some incredible pork buns. (Let’s keep the pop-up our own little secret, OK?)

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

Too late. 😉

This is all good to hear.

I’ve been a fan of Maple Avenue, in Vienna, as you all know, and was really looking forward to seeing what chef Tim Ma would do his next time out. But my meals at Water and Wall, in Arlington, were pretty underwhelming. I’ve got the pop-up on my radar, and your note reminds me that I want to go back to the restaurant and see what’s what these days.

And good for Maketto, too. I ate at the pop-up at Hanoi House a little over a year ago, and found it really disappointing. The flavors ought to have been bigger, and more sharply defined. Nothing stood out. I left thinking that more thought had been given to being hip than to being delicious. I’m eager to try out the pop-up at Union Market; stay tuned …

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FOOD AND WINE, AND VIRGINIA WINES …:

Why does Food and Wine magazine have against Va wines? They are rarely if ever mentioned and even when the mag does articles in Va the wines are from Cali.

Todd Kliman

They’re like a lot of publications. Like a lot of people in the media.

Unless they’ve heard about something a lot, unless their friends are talking about it, unless it happens in NYC, unless there’s a famous, good-looking person attached to the enterprise, they aren’t interested. It doesn’t exist.

The old attitudes have largely died out or faded away in the food world. But when it comes to wine the old attitudes are still very much with us. Unlike food, the world of wine is very hierarchical. There is a clearly defined pecking order.

It’s not about quality. Or should I say, it’s not always about quality. Or: it’s often not about quality. It’s about prestige — or house, of region, of winemaker. It’s about being known.

The food world isn’t really like that. It used to be. It’s not anymore. People storm the gates again and again.

I wish the wine world were more open. I wish people in the media were more open, and had more imagination. I wish people, period, were more open and had more imagination.

I like interesting.

In food, in drink, in books, in theater, in art, etc.

The intersection of interesting and good is the ultimate, I think.

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ZENEBECH INJERA, CONT. …:

I just have to give a shout out to Zenebech Injera.

My friends and I had a (very leisurely) meal there on Friday night. If you don’t mind waiting, this is the place to go. I think the slow pace comes from the fact they are busier than they ever expected.

We got the sampler platter, and for $14 it can easily feed two. The meat was spicy and incredibly flavorful. It definitely packs a punch when compared to the competition.

I’m glad to have it in my rotation.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for the report.

You’ve got me craving some beef ribs (derek) and kitfo, with some mesir wot and kik alicha and timatim to round out the meal a little.

You mentioned the slow service. They are busier than ever, but remember, this is as much a cultural value as anything.

In France, everyone knows that when you go to a bistro you’ll be allowed to linger, and that you might not see your waiter for long stretches of the meal. it’s much the same with Ethiopian restaurants.

Over the years I have logged a number of complaints from readers about slow service at Ethiopian restaurants. I somehow doubt that those emailers would have expressed the same degree of frustration or (in one case) rage had the same thing happened at a French bistro.

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RESTAURANT WEEK: DINNER FOR 5 ON A MONDAY NIGHT …:

I’m planning a restaurant week dinner with a group of girlfriends on Monday night of Restaurant Week.

We had wanted to go to Mintwood Place but its not open on Mondays – where would you recommend for 5 girls in their mid/late 20s that offers a particularly good RW deal?

Todd Kliman

I’d look into the following (in no particular order):

Vidalia, Fiola, or Rasika.

Good luck, and let me know what you settle on.

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CREEKSTONE FARMS, CONT. + GYPSY SOUL, COMING SOON TO MERRIFIELD …:

Funny you mention the beef tongue gyro. I was going to get it but was not certain if it was from Creekstone, since my wife likes to share dishes.
She has been on a mission to find as many places that carry Creekstone.

For me personally I cannot wait for Gypsy Soul. I have always wanted to go down to Charleston and dine at McGraydy’s or Husk and now with Gypsy Soul our area will get an introduction into low country southern cuisine and anxious and curious to see if any of the dishes or how much of the menu will have a West African influence to it as well.

Todd Kliman

I love lowcountry cooking, and especially when it’s good.

McCrady’s isn’t really the best example of low country, I don’t think, though many of the products they use there are from the immediate area. The fishes they get from the nearby waters are fantastic, and not things you see in wide distribution. Wreckfish, for instance.

It’s a terrific restaurant. Same goes for Husk.

I hope Gypsy Soul finds its way into that conversation, eventually. It would be a wonderful thing for the area.

And by the way, before we get out of her for the day — thanks to the crack efforts of Nelson, our food team intern this summer, I can confirm that the tongue in the tongue gyro at DGS is, indeed, from Creekstone Farms.

So get on back there with your wife and feast. It’s a great dish.

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ETHIOPIAN DINING, CONT. …:

Just to be clear, it wasn’t so much a complaint, as I’ve got nothing against a leisurely meal. I just think it’s probably worth noting since, as you mentioned, most people might not expect that from Ethiopian cuisine.

It’s certainly not the place to go if you’re on a schedule. And it was certainly moving at a slower pace than similar places around the city.

Todd Kliman

And just to be clear on my end, I know you weren’t complaining.

But others have, and so I thought it was worth mentioning.

I do think that people tend not to think of Ethiopian restaurants in the same way they think of other restaurants. And that’s a shame.

It goes back to what we were talking about earlier — a lot of people have very strict hierarchies that they live by.

Sometimes because it’s what they themselves believe, but more often, I think, because it’s what they’ve been told to believe, and want.

I, myself, can’t imagine living by them.

How limiting. And how boring.

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RECIPE SLEUTH, CONT. …:

Paging the ever so recently out of retirement Recipe Sleuth…

Citronelle’s Bubbly Martini. EVERY time I go to Central, I attempt (in vain) to order it. At times, their kind enough to ask what goes into it, to which my response is always inadequate/inaccurate.

Last week Michel passed our table, just trying to celebrate Bastille Day in relative peace, and I implored our bartender to ask him directly.

Sigh, I am starting to embarrass loved ones… perhaps Anna can assist.

Todd Kliman

Well, if you can’t embarrass loved ones, then who can you embarrass? I mean, really.

And what’s the point of even having loved ones, if you’re not going to embarrass them from time to time?

Three requests, now, for the Recipe Sleuth in two weeks. I’d say that’s a sign of demand. Spiegs!!!

Speaking of Michel, I have word that he has dropped some weight, is back (or soon-to-be-back) in the city, and eager to get down to business about opening another restaurant.

Gotta run, everyone. Lunch calls.

Thanks for all the great questions and comments and tips today.

And just a heads-up — I hope you’ll all tune in to the Kojo Nnamdi Show next week, Wednesday the 30th and Thursday the 31st: I’ll be in the hot seat, guest hosting both days. Can’t wait …

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

[missing you, TEK … ]

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