Tuesday, September 16 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’s, The 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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WHERE I’M EATING NOW …

Ananda, Fulton

Two of the best meals I had this summer took place here. And I don’t say that just because of the food coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant itself is a showpiece. From outside, it looks a little like a castle and a little like a bank, and sits in the middle of nowhere, amid a still-evolving development of townhouses in Fulton, Md. Inside, the space summons a polo club. The main dining room is a sumptuous lair of handsome dark wood, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and leather seats, while the veranda puts you in mind of an observation deck for a cricket match (it’s already one of the best places to dine on an unseasonably cool summer night, under the gently rotating fans and looking out on the lush treetops). In an age of casual, sometimes dashed-out service, Ananda leans toward greater formality — but without stuffiness. The young, affable waitstaff is got up in vests and ties, and is exceedingly well-drilled — not just attentive but vigilant, and determined to learn what it can do to make your meal better. The restaurant is the third from brothers Keir and Binda Singh, who also run The Ambassador Dining Room and Banjara, both in Baltimore. They maintain their own farm not far from the restaurant, complete with an herb garden — a highly unusual practice for an Indian restaurant in this area. Add to that the quality of the meats and fishes, which is several notches above that of the curry house, and you have a brand of cooking that is lighter and fresher than any Indian restaurant in the area not named Rasika. Given this emphasis, you might expect the dishes to experiment a little, to rethink traditional dishes in whimsical or dramatic ways. But for the most part Ananda is attempting a different, less obvious kind of fusion — the fusion of the local-leaning bistro with the conventional Indian restaurant. The preparations of black dal, chana, and raita are among the most complex I’ve tasted in years, and unexpectedly clean-tasting. A dish of salmon was perfectly roasted, with a subtle melange of tomatoes, cinnamon and cumin for a sauce. A watermelon salad with feta could have stood in for any trendy bistro in DC, except that its spicing was unmistakably Indian, and the dressing and its garnishes were both so stunningly fresh I would have thought I was dining at some gastronomic getaway in the country. I could have eaten three bowls of a recent special, a chilled summer squash and carrot soup, subtly spiced and tasting of fresh vegetables, not cream.
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.)

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).

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FIELD REPORT: NAINAI’S NOODLES AND DUMPLINGS, SILVER SPRING …:

Thank you for your recommendation of Nainai’s noodles.

Ate lunch there on Saturday, when parking wasn’t too bad. I would definitely get the Pai Gow pork noodles again. The sauce in the Mahjong noodles was a bit gloppy for my taste. Looking forward to trying more of their menu.

I agree with your assessment of the dumplings as good, not great, but I did like the sauce with the pork dumplings.

Todd Kliman

I’m glad you got a chance to go. And even gladder that it was a mostly good meal.

I like the place. I like that they make their own noodles. And their own sauces. I like the creativity they show for such a small, essentially quickie operation. And it’s always great to eat so heartily and interestingly and only pay about $30 for two.

My biggest gripe is with the parking. I’ve never not had to garage it, which adds an extra five bucks to the meal.

Good morning, everyone.

I’m hopeful that today is better than last Tuesday. I know a lot of you were perplexed. I don’t blame you. The system crashed on us, and I spent the rest of the day in a profound funk. It was absolutely frustrating. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen. And smaller things that crop up, that I hear about from you from time to time, shouldn’t either.

Keep pointing out problems as they arise, and I’ll keep sending them on to the web team and the developers.

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ROSE’S LUXURY ROOFTOP DINNER …:

Hi Todd,

Is the plan still in the works to round up your chatters for the Rose’s Luxury rooftop experience?

Todd Kliman

Thanks for asking. I know others are curious, too.

We have a new editor, which accounts partly for the delay.

I’ve spoken with him about this, about gathering semi-regularly with my readers for dinners at area restaurants. I like it, and he does, too, and now it’s a matter of working out the logistics. Of which there are not a few.

Don’t miss a new restaurant again: Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

I’ll keep you all posted, and I’m hoping this is something that becomes a reality in 2015.

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ARM CHAIR TRAVELING …:

Todd –

You posted something to twitter that I didn’t understand. It was about an Indian couple eating at an Ethiopian place and you called them arm chair travelers.

What does that mean? Isn’t it nice or good that they’d try something different? I’m not sure I understand your issue with them and your comment. What’d they do wrong?

Todd Kliman

It wasn’t a couple — it was a table of four.

And you latched onto the phrase, but have left out the relevant part of the tweet.

And the way I used the phrase — making it a part of a more complicated thought — you have botched that, too.

Three errors in 140 characters.

I guess it isn’t any wonder that people continually take things out of context in longer, more thoughtful pieces of writing if this kind of a thing can happen with a tweet.

What I said was that this group of four was not eating their Ethiopian meal — which included, from the looks of it, two different preparations of wot — with injera. They were spooning these wots over bowls of steamed rice.

The restaurant is clearly trying to accommodate diners like this, otherwise they wouldn’t have rice on hand. (I find that disappointing, but that’s another conversation.)

What struck me, here, was that the four people at the table were not meeting the cuisine on its terms. They were putting it into their own context — in effect, eating Ethiopian food as if it were Indian food.

I wrote: “Way to armchair travel, guys.” Sarcasm. Meaning they weren’t immersing themselves in the experience. They weren’t armchair traveling as we all do whenever we eat immersively in a restaurant devoted to the cuisine of a faraway place.

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BOOKS AND COOKBOOKS …:

Todd,

Any new books that you are reading which you can recommend? I’m bored of the books I’ve been reading and looking for some new books to read.

Also, what are your go to Cookbooks (seems like every celebrity chef has a cookbook) for weeknight dinner and Sunday family dinners? Something easy to follow without a ton of hard to find items (have you seen that French Laundry cookbook!). Just something simple and easy for a novice cook.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

I don’t have a go-to cookbook for weeknights or family dinners — when I cook, which isn’t as often as I would like these days, I tend to just get in the kitchen and create, not working from a recipe — o I’m going to throw this out there to the gang.

I’m sure you’ll get some good recommendations.

As for books … yes, I can definitely help you there.

The two best books I read all of last year were volumes 1 and 2 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.

I just finished The Sea by John Banville and liked it a lot. Some recent reads that I can also recommend: The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee; The Encyclopedia of the Dead by Danilo Kis; The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson; Winter Journal by Paul Auster; Ladders to Fire by Anais Nin; Nice Weather by Frederick Seidel (poems).

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RESERVATIONS …:

As a busy professional and parent of a toddler, I totally miss out on getting to eat at places like Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow that don’t take reservations.

I wonder if the proprietors of those restaurants would consider taking reservations for just one night per week (or even one sitting for one night per week!).

Why not say that the first seating every Wednesday night is for reservations and if you haven’t arrived within 10 minutes of your reservation, the table goes to the next customer?

Given Rose’s nearly obsessive focus on happiness, this sort of compromise seems like a no-brainer way to make a big segment of the community that would otherwise miss out very, very happy.

Todd Kliman

It’s an interesting idea.

But see, here’s the thing. These places are already slammed nearly every night. They don’t need to make accommodations to people. They have their audience, and they’re making their money.

It’s really not much different from the places of 40 years ago that were the hot item. There are those who go, and those who don’t, those who can get in, and those who can’t, insiders and outsiders. Exclusivity is fundamental to a great restaurant, and always has been. The difference is that now the great restaurants seem accessible, and strike more populist poses.

You brought up happiness — no doubt you read chef Silverman’s comments in Bon Appetit, about being in the business of making people happy or something to that effect.

Here’s the thing, though — Rose’s is in the business of making the people who are already in the door happy. That’s the group it cares about, and has to care about. I could be wrong, but I really don’t think Rose’s is motivated by concern for the larger food community.

Now, if business starts to flag, things might change, policies might be different.

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LOW-KEY ITALIAN IN ARLINGTON …:

Hey Todd-

I moved from Silver Spring to Arlington a few months ago and I’m really missing having a low key italian spot near by for a mid week date night.

Our favorite used to be Olazzo but its too far to drive now. Can you think of a northern Virginia equivalent?

Todd Kliman

Northern Virginia, and particularly Alexandria, has a lot of low-key Italian, as you call it.

A la Lucia on the edge of Old Town.

Landini Bros., smack in the midst of Old Town.

Monroe’s, in Del Ray.

In Arlington, there’s Tutto Bene (which also serves really good Bolivian on Sundays).

None of these places qualifies as great, or good. But they each have a few dishes they do well (and sometimes pretty well), and they all definitely have the spirit that you’re looking for.

Good luck. And report back, please …

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BOXING UP YOUR OWN LEFTOVERS …:

What are your thoughts on restaurants asking customers to box up their own leftovers?

I’ve seen this happening more and more at restaurants, and it annoys me. It seems like such a simple thing, and part of good service, to just take the plates in the back and box up leftovers.

Todd Kliman

Managers say it’s a health issue, that they’re letting diners handle their own food in order to make the point that no one else is touching it.

I guess I can understand that. Although the people in the kitchen making the food touched it in order to make it. (In the better restaurants, you’d be surprised at how many different hands touch a plate before it goes out.)

One of the arguments, for me, for boxing my own stuff is that a lot of the times the “boxer” leaves out essential components of the dish. It’s as if they only think you want to save the piece of meat. I’ve seen sauces left off many, many times, as well as things like olives, artichokes, etc.

I think it’s a nice service to offer to do the boxing for the diner. To not saddle the diner with a task right before hitting him with a big bill.

What about all of you?

Where do you come down on this?

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FIELD REPORTS: REGGAE VIBES FOOD TRUCK AND LUNCHBOX, IN FRIENDSHIP HTS. …:

Had a tasty jerk chicken sandwich last week from the Reggae Vibes food truck outside Mazza Gallery — soft bread and very spicy chicken for $7 (though what is the point of lettuce and tomato on a sandwich like that?).

So much better than the $12 pit beef sandwich I had recently from Lunch Box. I don’t know how Lunch Box is going to compete at that price point without a superior product.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for the reports.

That jerk chicken sandwich sounds good, although I agree with you — L and T isn’t really necessary on a sandwich like that. It just gets in the way, especially if it’s most L and T.

A lot of brick-and-mortar restaurants hate the food trucks for the very reason you bring up.

And the trucks are frustrating to them for other reasons. Because the trucks move around a good bit, they’re not competition that you can reliably count on — as you can a business that has moved in next door or across the street, say. But you have to account for them all the same.

And they often have lower prices.

And food that — at least initially — wows the palate. (A lot of food truck food is great for seven bites; after that the ping, the spice, the salt begins to overwhelm the mouth.)

But anyway, I think it’s generally a great thing. More options for everyone, and because of the competition, maybe better options. Everybody loves capitalism, until things get hairy, and then they claim that the playing field is unfair.

As for Lunchbox, it has the strength of chef Voltaggio’s name. That and a pretty good sandwich — if in fact it was pretty good, and not mediocre — might be enough for a lot of people.

Remember, there’re an awful lot of people out there who do what they’re told, who like what they’re told to like. It drives a lot of business in this country.

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ARMCHAIR TRAVEL, CONT. …:

Grumpy today?

Sorry I didn’t remember your tweet verbatim. Cut me some slack.

Is it possible those FOUR people didn’t know how to eat properly?

The one time I ate Ethiopian was at lunch at a place in Crystal City and they had a buffet. We happened to be the first ones in the place and asked the waitress how we were supposed to combine everything to eat it properly and she said something like “any way you like”. It was only after other people came in and started eating that we figured out what we were supposed to do.

It’s hard to immerse yourself in a culture if you have no idea how to do it (and you’re not getting any help).

Now please take me to task for only trying Ethiopian once.

Todd Kliman

You have an obligation if you’re criticizing someone’s words to get those words right, and to provide a context for them. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

In the example you gave of the buffet in Crystal City, you said that you asked the waitress how you were supposed to eat your meal. Well, that’s being immersive.

The folks I tweeted about did not do that. They did not ask anyone for help. They ordered rice. They pulled the meal into their world. No attempt was made to eat it the way it is meant to be eaten.

There’s a difference.

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TOP PICS FOR DINING WITH KIDS IN DC? …:

Hi Todd,

What are you current top pics for eating out with children in the District?

In a couple of weeks I’ll be playing host to family from NYC and would love ideas for brunch or dinner spots relatively convenient to the typical tourist attractions and/or metro that would be appropriate for the under-10 crowd but sophisticated enough for Brooklyn/Manhattan foodies.

Founding Farmers and Old Ebbitt came to mind, but any others?

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

Keep in mind that just about any high end hotel is going to be a good bet. Hotels don’t tend to flinch when they see kids, even the more expensive ones. And the restaurants attached to them are generally well-equipped and well-trained to accommodate groups with kids.

Rural Society is part of the Loews on 15th, and the staff is very pro. I took my kids there not long ago, and everything went smoothly.

Also keep in mind that a lot of the new-breed restaurants are actually really good to take kids — even if they want to affect an air of being a hipster haunt. And the noise, which ordinarily you might find annoying, is actually your savior in situations like this — no one is even going to hear a kid having a tantrum or yelling “ca ca” as loudly as he can.

I was with a group of 8 recently at The Red Hen — which is new-breed, but not quite hipster and not quite as loud as some, either — that included my kids, and the staff could not have been better.

Good luck. And keep us posted, please.

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LEFTOVERS, CONT. …:

Todd,

I hate having to box my own food, having to slide the half finished plate into the styrofoam box. I mourn the days when my leftovers were brought to me in a swan shaped foil masterpiece.

Todd Kliman

Those swans!

Those aluminum foil swans!

I miss them, too.

Though, really, they were kind of kitschy/tacky, no?

But whatever — swans to go!

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SOLO DINNER IN THE CITY TONIGHT FOR $20? …:

There’s a chance that I’ll be grabbing dinner solo in DC tonight — pretty flexible as to the specific location. I’d like to keep it right around $20.

What’s my best course of action?

I *might* be in time for happy hours, but it’s a toss-up.

Todd Kliman

$20?

Including tip and tax?

Shoot, you can’t even get an appetizer in most of this city for that.

The best bang for your buck, probably, is to go to Zenebech Injera, and get the lamb awaze tibs or the alicha wot. And ask for the teff injera.

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BOOKS, CONT. …:

Responding to your dislike of book clubs that are not just about the books …

I agree. I prefer a book club to be about the books. But i did belong to a club that was just too cool to not love.

Every member of the club was from a different country. Every member cooked food from their country. so depending on whose house you were gathering at the food was of their culture. It was amazing and the best part was not just eating borscht while reading Lolita, but that they all spoke multiple languages and as such read the books in either their native language or whatever language they felt comfortable reading the book in.

Our group included Ladies from England, Russia, Cuba, France, Poland, America (born and bred) and Me (Half American and Half German, Mom is German and I spent summers there). So I might be sitting next to the Russian Reading in French as she was fluent in that a book picked by the Cuban which was written by Isabel Allende.

The fact that it was so diverse is what made it amazing and I was exposed to native cuisine that was made at home and with great love and affection. I’m a very adventurous eater, but I tried things I didn’t even know about.

I was intrigued about the different regional Russian foods. Turns out I love the Georgian style the best. Who knew?

Todd Kliman

Georgian cooking is amazing. The Oaxaca of Russia. I’m not surprised you fell in love with it.

That group sounds absolutely amazing. Wow.

I’ve never heard of a book group quite like it.

What made you leave?

I would have loved to have sat in on some sessions.

What country did you represent?

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FOIL SWANS, CONT. …:

Having done Little Serow a few times as a solo diner, I have had leftovers to conserve stomach space for the subsequent courses, and they proudly do the swan for the extra veggies they pack to go.

Todd Kliman

Proudly, no less.

Good for Little Serow.

Long live the foil swans!

Any other foil swan sightings? Do we really want this to go the way of the tastevin?

Who, by the way, can remember when restaurants would all put out dishes of candy covered mints by the door?

I loved that.

Until, years later, seeing some TV special about how those candy dishes are disgusting havens of bathroom-borne bacteria.

Some things have really been ruined by our culture of excessive information.

Well, excessive information on the one hand. On the other: extreme secrecy and absence of transparency. What a people we’ve become …


LEFTOVERS, CONT. …:

A story from my days as a waiter (sometime last century).

A patron asked me to pack their two remaining fried catfish filets and leftover sides. I brought the plate to the waiter’s station, which was out of view of the dining room, and headed to the storage area to retrieve a box.

By the time I returned, a coworker had one of the filets in hand, taking bites out of it, thinking that it was my dinner. I was able to salvage some of that filet, and artfully arrange the now 1+ filets and sides so as to appear the full compliment was still there.

Always wondered if they opened the box the next day and wondered, “Hey, where’s the rest of my meal?” So I don’t have a problem if I end up boxing my own food.

Todd Kliman

You gave me a great laugh. Thank you.

I’ll bet this happens a lot more than we’d all like to think.

You don’t have to name the restaurant, if you don’t want, but at the very least can you tell us all the level of the place—?

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“MAKING DINERS HAPPY,” CONT. …:

Great point about Rose’s Luxury making customers already in the door happy.

I’m not sure how this chatter is imagining her suggested reservation policy working in her favor. With crowds like Rose’s sees, I’d be willing to bet it immediately becomes the kind of place you have to book 2 months in advance for any hope of a table at a desirable time, which not many busy mothers of young children I know have the time to prepare for.

Todd Kliman

Great point, yourself. 😉

Thanks for chiming in …


ISO: A PLACE FOR LUNCH BEFORE DINNER AT THE FRENCH LAUNDRY …:

I got a reservation at The French Laundry!

Very excited for the meal, but also lamenting that I won’t have much time for other meals in an area I’ve never visited before.

I may have time for an early lunch the same day as our meal there- any suggestions within about an hour and a half driving of TFL that won’t have us too filled up?

Todd Kliman

You know what I’d do, if I were you? I’d head to the Oxbow Market, right there in Napa, and snag a couple of seats at the bar at Hog Island Oyster Co.

You want something good and memorable, but not too heavy to prevent you from going all out later. This, to me, is the place.

Great oysters, great atmosphere. I really like their oyster stew. If you’re feeling festive (and not too concerned about all the money you’ll drop later ;), spring for a bottle of Sancerre.

It’s a great market, the Oxbow Market, and a lot of fun to browse after you’re done.

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DBGB — NEW, IN DC …:

Todd,

I cannot wait to dine at DBGB Kitchen and Bar. One of my favorite dining experience was dining at Daniel, with the Chef walking by every table to see how everything is. I know it is a more casual environment that Daniel, but have you had a chance to take a peek or dine there this past weekend?

Am I expecting too much? I’m overly excited!

Todd Kliman

You’re not expecting too much if we’re talking about these opening weeks.

He’s here. And I understand from my sources that he’s very involved and hands-on, and is making a point of staying in town for a while.

Who knows how long that while will be. Maybe a month.

This is the time to go, if you want to see him. And, probably, if you want to be sure that you’re getting the exact experience he hopes to deliver.

I generally like to give a place some time to settle in, so, no, I haven’t been yet. But soon …

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BOOKS, CONT. …:

I represented Germany.

This group disbanded because many of the members moved to other countries. We all still keep in touch. And those of us that stayed are still actively in each others lives, we just don’t do book club anymore, its all about the food now. It was a unique group and so amazing on many levels.

I also read books I would have never touched before. So all in all a great education in literature, food and friends. The Cuban lady lived for 12 years in Geneva and is fluent in French, so the French lady, the Cuban lady and myself along with our husbands who,of course all (but mine) speak french are going to Petit Louis in Columbia for dinner Friday, so it’s still about the food.

And mine is the culinary expert in the group so he’s all about the food and we became an amazing group of friends. It all started with a hello at a manicure shop. And we do still read and recommend books to each other, just not as a formal club.

Todd Kliman

I don’t think I’ll ever forget your telling me the story of this group. Thank you.

What an experience to have had.

Lunch calls, everyone — gotta run.

I’m so glad everything held up with the system this week. Whew. Thanks for your patience …

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

[missing you, TEK … ]