Northwest Vacation Recap: Seattle

Welcome to our second post from our Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle. You can read our Portland recap here. We already posted a sneak-peak of our Seattle adventure with our review of JuneBaby, the fantastic Southern restaurant in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. It wasn’t just JuneBaby that excelled, however. We ate well and had fun our entire time in Seattle.

Thursday

Our favorite activity in Seattle was walking up the giant hills! We got started right away, since the bus from King Street station dropped us off at the bottom of the Fremont neighborhood. Our Airbnb was at the top of the hill, so we had to walk with all our suitcases on what felt like a vertical sidewalk. I do not think we will ever forget the hills of Seattle!

On Thursday night, we stayed in Fremont and went to Revel, from acclaimed Seattle chef Rachel Yang. We sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed our dumplings and noodles, particularly the handmade noodles with Dungeness crab. So good! Afterwards, we had a nightcap at Barrel Thief, a local bar with a great whiskey selection.

Revel handmade noodles with Dungeness crab

Friday

I think now would be a good time to mention that our Airbnb hosts raise hens in their backyard! We could see their pen from our kitchen window. When we woke up on Friday, we spent some time just watching the hens and all their funny, herky-jerky movements.

Seattle Airbnb hens

Friday was ferry day! When we think about Seattle, I think the thing we will remember most is taking the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride was magical! The deep water and foggy skies felt very true to the Northwest. We started out standing near the front of the boat but it got really windy. We then made our way to the back and got some amazing views of Seattle as we drifted further and further away.

Marnay and Paul on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

The ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

We did not spend too much time on Bainbridge Island but we did walk around the main street and explore the shops. The town was very quaint and had that maritime charm. Lunch was at Bruciato, a place on the main street that specializes in Neapolitan pizza. We would have been fine with just a solid lunch, but we were both extremely impressed with Bruciato. The plate of gorgeous local tomatoes with basil and a little bit of salt was excellent and our prosciutto cotto pizza hit the spot.

Bruciato prosciutto cotto pizza in Bainbridge Island

Friday night was when we had our dinner at JuneBaby. Afterwards, we walked around the Ravenna and Roosevelt neighborhoods for a while. Although we had plenty of Oregon wine during the trip, we hadn’t actually had any wine from Washington. We found a Whole Foods, picked up a bottle of Yakima Valley Riesling and some snacks and drank it back in the apartment!

Saturday

Our last full day of vacation. I made some coffee in the kitchen and took some time to watch the hens. They’re just so entertaining! We still hadn’t done any “touristy” activities in Seattle, so we got that out of the way by going to the Chihully Museum, home of the works from the famous glassmaking artist Dale Chihully.

Chihully Museum

Marnay and Paul at the Chihully Museum

The other ultimate touristy thing we did was go to Pike Place Market. We are really glad that we went, but the market was OVERWHELMING. We did get to witness the fish toss, at least. We walked up and down some more hills and then took the bus home for some much needed relaxation.

Pike Place Market famous fish toss

Prior to dinner, we walked around Fremont and finally got up close and personal with the famous Fremont Troll. It’s a sculpture of a troll located underneath the Fremont Bridge. This was just so quirky and unique.

Fremont Troll underneath the Fremont Bridge

For the last meal of our Northwest Adventure, we headed to Sitka and Spruce in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Tom Sietsema has been recommending Sitka and Spruce for years, so we were excited to go. Its focus is on Northwestern cuisine, and it did not disappoint. Our best bites: West Coast oysters and local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce. Yum!

Sitka and Spruce West Coast oysters

Sitka and Spruce local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce

We had an absolutely epic time in Portland and Seattle. I do not think we could have gone much longer, we just had so much fun and did so much! While we unfortunately had to leave Seattle on Sunday morning, we will always have our memories!

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Northwest Vacation Recap: Portland

We have just returned from a Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle, our first trip to the West Coast since our honeymoon (in 2014!) where we traveled to San Francisco and Sonoma. We look forward to telling you about our favorite activities and of course our favorite restaurants! First up, Portland!

Saturday

We arrived in Portland late Saturday night, tired from our flight but definitely ready to do some exploring. We were staying at an Airbnb in the North Mississippi/Williams neighborhood, a hip neighborhood in Northeast Portland bustling with nightlife. One of my friends had told me about Alibi Tiki Bar, a 1940s tiki bar that is still in existence today. Our impression is that it felt very “Portland” – quirky and laid-back. Basically, the complete opposite of life in the Northeast. We were starving, so we ate a little bit of food – I would describe it as vaguely American Chinese food. This may sound odd, but the original tiki bars served an American version of Chinese food, considered exotic in the 1930s.

Alibi Tiki Bar neon sign

Sunday

Portland is known for being the premier biking city in America, due to having decades of bike-friendly policies. It should be no surprise, then, that we mainly got around the city by Biketown bike, their bikesharing system. The orange bikes were lighter than Capital Bikeshare, plus they had a basket which made running errands easy. You can also dock Biketown bikes at any public bike dock, which is incredible.

Marnay on a Biketown bike in Portland

We biked across the Broadway Bridge and arrived at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Ken’s is one of the best and most well-known bakeries in America. Of all things, we shared a locally made hot dog on an incredible baguette-like bun and some incredible macarons. A great way to start the morning in Portland.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery macarons

Portland has an aerial tram. It goes from a medical school and doctors offices to the corresponding hospital, on top of a hill. Still, it offered some incredible views of the Willamette River below and I’m glad we did it!

Portland aerial tram

Marnay and Paul on the Portland aerial tram

Dinner that night was with one my old MARC train friend, Marcel, and his wife Martha. In June, Marcel moved to Portland from DC for work, so it was awesome to see them. We met at Tusk, a Middle-Eastern restaurant that Food & Wine Magazine recently named one of the best new restaurants in the country. All of the food was communal and it made a great way to catch up. All four of us agreed on a best bite: Melons, cucumbers, celtuce, pepper (hot!), cilantro and pepitas.

Tusk hummus with tehina, paprika and cumin

Tusk melons with cucumbers, celtuce, pepper, cilantro and pepita.

Marnay, Paul, Marcel and Martha at Tusk in Portland

It had been a long day, but we fit in some walking through the Laurelhurst neighborhood and a trip to Base Camp Brewing for a nightcap. A long but exciting day.

Monday

One requirement for Portland was that we needed to stay in an Airbnb that was walking distance to a Blue Star Donuts location and luckily we were two short blocks away from their Northeast Portland shop. We shared their signature Blueberry Bourbon Basil and their incredible Apple Fritter. So darn good!

Blue Star Donuts in Northeast Portland

Next, we headed to Portland’s Waterfront Trail, and biked along the Willamette River. We ended the ride by crossing the river over the Tilikum Crossing, the country’s first pedestrian and transit only bridge. It carries bikes, pedestrians, buses, light rail and streetcars. How amazing is that?!

Paul biking on the Tilikum Crossing bridge

That night, we had a nice bike ride through a few different neighborhoods en route to Han Oak, a Korean-inspired restaurant from chef Peter Cho. We were second in line, so we were able to sit at the chef’s counter right in front of the open kitchen. What a view! On Sunday and Monday nights, Han Oak has dumpling and noodle night. However, that night they had a guest chef cooking Indonesian Barbecue. Our best bite, and possibly the top bite in all of Portland, was the Indonesian Barbecue platter.

Han Oak dumplings

Han Oak Indonesian Barbecue

After dinner, we did some walking through nearby neighborhoods and then biked to Stormbreaker Brewing, just outside of our apartment. We stopped to pick up a growler so that we could enjoy it at home with the rest of our donuts. There wasn’t a TV, so we watched Portlandia on Netflix! Another fun night!

Blue Star Donuts, Stormbreaker Brewing growler and Portlandia on Netflix in our Airbnb in Portland

Tuesday

Tuesday was wine country day. But first, we had breakfast at Pop Bagel, a small bagel shop where all the bagels are pretzel bagels! It was a cool concept. The location, inside of an office building, made me jealous because my office building doesn’t have anything like this!

Pop Bagels

We took an Amtrak bus from Union Station to Salem, the capital of Oregon and our jumping off point for exploring the Willamette Valley. Once we arrived in Salem, we headed straight to Brooks Wine, Riesling specialists located in the Eola-Amity Hills subregion of the Willamette Valley. Before we left for Oregon, I read a wine column from a national columnist about wines to get for special occasions – one of the wines was from Brooks!

Brooks Wine vineyard

Brooks was incredible, the best winery we have ever been to. Since they specialize in white wines, we made sure to both get white wine tastings. Our favorites were the Sweet P Riesling (the one that was recommended in the column) and the Amycas, a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. We came away with a bottle of each.

After Brooks, we headed to Domaine Drouhin, in the Dundee Hills subregion. The Drouhin family is originally from Burgundy, home of the best Pinot Noir in the world. You can understand why we took home a bottle of their 2014 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.

Paul and Marnay at Domaine Drouhin

We took the very retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem back to Portland. Although we were tired, we were hungry after a day of drinking wine! When we were back in Portland, we grabbed Biketown bikes and picked up takeout from Pok Pok Noi, part of the amazing Pok Pok family of restaurants. The boar collar and Vienamese wings were delicious!

retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem to Portland

Wednesday

Our last full day in Portland. We got an early start by heading to Blue Star Donuts for another apple fritter. The best fritters ever! We took Biketown bikes and ended up at the iconic Powell’s Books, a must visit in Portland.

Lunch was at Maurice, a really cool European-style café that is only open for lunch. They serve French-Danish food plus vermouth, wine and sherry and incredible desserts and pastries. I do not think that we have been anywhere in America like this, it was really unique.

Maurice cardamom kissed squid

Maurice scone and pepper cheesecake

After our midday meal, we got some hiking in at Washington Park, a huge urban park in a particularly hilly section of Portland. We explored the Hoyt Arboretum and the International Rose Garden. Conveniently, the MAX light rail has an underground stop in the heart of the park and there is a free shuttle bus that can take you to the different attractions.

Paul walking on a trail at Washington Park

Dinner that night was our favorite dinner in Portland. We started at Jaqueline, in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, where we enjoyed $1 West Coast oysters along with a $2 Rainier tallboy and a $3 Topo Chico. So cheap! After our happy hour, we biked to Ken’s Artisan Pizza to grab some pizzas to go.

Jaqueline oyster happy hour

Back at home, we ate our two pizzas and drank the bottle of Brooks Sweet P Riesling. The Riesling had an aroma of petrol that reminded us of that bottle of Hermann J. Wiemer from Tail Up Goat. The two pizzas we ordered were: Handmade – hand-pulled fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic, fennel seed and chile flake and the Brooklyn – tomato sauce, mozzarella, capicollo, pickled jalapeño and honey. The Handmade pizza stole the show. A simple yet perfect pizza.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Brooks Sweet P Riesling in our airbnb in Portland

Thursday

We were taking the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle, although our train did not leave until about 3:00PM. That meant that we had plenty of time to partake in one of Portland’s favorite activities: brunch! Sweedeedee, a little less than a mile from our apartment, is known for their pie selection, in addition to more traditional breakfast food. The catch is that you order all of your food at the counter, but you are served pie immediately. What a concept! We shared a slice of peach pie with cream, which was divine. By the time our real breakfast arrived, we were nearly too full to eat. Marnay’s bee pollen biscuit sandwich with ham was memorable, though.

Sweedeedee peach pie

After brunch, we took a meandering walk around the neighborhood and then one final Biketown ride before heading to Union Station. On to Seattle!

Click here to read all about our Seattle adventure!

5 Best Pizzerias in the DMV

In our household, we like pizza. A lot. Part of this is due to the fact that we each grew up in pizza-crazy regions of the country (New Jersey and Philadelphia, respectively) and part has to do with the fact that pizza makes a relatively inexpensive night out. After living in the DC-area for the last five years, our taste in pizza has changed from New York style to Neapolitan, but when it comes down to it, a good pizza transcends styles.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top five pizzerias in the DMV. Note that it’s not in order, because they are all excellent!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno graces our list having the “chefiest” pizzas around, made by former Oval Room executive chef Tony Conte. You will do well with a classic margherita, but this is the place to load-up on top-notch toppings and well-thought out pizza-creations. One of our favorites was a summertime special – a shrimp sausage pizza with sweet corn, smoked parmesan and basil. Don’t forget to end your meal with soft serve ice cream!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana soft serve ice cream

Frankly Pizza

Frankly Pizza is the place for pork. That’s because chef-owner Frank Linn makes his own bacon and sausage The crust is thicker than the other pizzerias on this list and the tomato sauce is a touch sweeter. It’s liberally applied, but not excessive. The Porky Marge is the best way to experience Frankly Pizza, with mozzarella, bacon, basil, tomato sauce and a light topping of romano cheese. The restaurant has a very small selection other than pizza, so you may want to try multiple pies while you are here, along with a housemade soda.

Frankly Pizza Porky Marge

Pizzeria Vetri

Our award for best crust goes to Philadelphia-import Pizzeria Vetri. The crispness and char are something to behold. We like to wash it down with a beer or wine, both on draft. Since the crispiness of the crust makes for a lighter pie, we have plenty of room to pair it with a rotolo, a cinnamon roll-looking creation filled with ricotta, mortadella and pistachio pesto.

Pizzeria Vetri neapolitan pizza

Pizzeria Vetri pistachio rotolo

Pizza CS

Pizza CS, in the Twinbrook section of Rockville, has taken the time to earn VPN-certification, making pizzas to the exacting standards of the international Neapolitan pizza organization. This is the place to go when you’re in the mood for an absolutely textbook Neapolitan pizza. Pizza CS is good for kids, since it’s a counter-order spot with plenty of space of kids to run around. Other than pizza, there are a few basic salads to choose from, so come to CS to get your pizza-fix. Plus, there’s foosball.

Pizza CS

Pizza CS

Pacci’s
Pacci’s is our neighborhood pizzeria and we feel fortunate that we have it in walking distance. The pies here are Neapolitan and margherita is your best bet if it’s your first visit. Our favorite, however, is the La Diavola, which really brings the heat. That traditional Neapolitan base is then topped with copious slices of spicy Neapolitan salami. If it’s nice out, ask to sit on their large outdoor patio. The experience is worth it.

Pacci’s La Diavola Pizza

I hope that you enjoyed our list! What are you favorite pizzerias? They don’t even have to be in the DMV – a great pizza is something worth traveling for!

JuneBaby

(Note: We spent some time in Portland and Seattle for our vacation this year. We will be posting more in the next few weeks, so this review is just a taste of things to come!)

I first heard about JuneBaby on chef Edward Lee’s Instagram page, when I saw that the renowned Southern chef visited and loved it. Very high praise for what at the time was a brand new restaurant. The chef, Eduardo Jordan, is certainly not new to the scene, having previously been named a Food & Wine Best New Chef for his first restaurant, Salare. He also not new to Southern food, having growing up in Florida. However, we only had two full nights in Seattle. Did we really want one night to be spent at a Southern restaurant, instead of somewhere serving local Northwestern cuisine?

If you find yourself in this situation, the answer should be “yes”, you will want to get yourself to JuneBaby.

JuneBaby by Eduardo Jordan in Seattle, Washington

In our opinion, cornbread is all about balance. Not too sweet, not too dry. We’ve eaten and made cornbread that’s all over the spectrum. The cornbread at JuneBaby is just about as perfectly balanced as you can get. Here, the cast-iron cornbread is made with heirloom cornmeal and then supplemented with sorghum molasses baked into the bread, giving it a subtle amount of sweetness

JuneBaby cornbread with sorghum molasses

Smoked carrots topped with nutty benne seeds are substantial and the accompanying collard greens give off some serious vinegary heat. Tahini, swiped along the bottom, is meant to cool things down. Wisely, though, there isn’t enough to rob the dish of its intense flavor.

JuneBaby moked carrots topped with nutty benne seeds

The entree I was looking forward to most, just from perusing the menu prior to trip, was “Mama Jordan’s” oxtails, served in consumme with a squash salad. The oxtails did not disappoint! The braised oxtail tasted like a more flavorful, more tender brisket. The squash salad at first seemed a bit out of place, but thinking back, it worked to cut all that meatiness.

JuneBaby has a rice program, one of the most important heritage crops of the South. Each night they feature rice from a different growing region and the night we were there was a rice from the Jacksonville area of Florida. It was unwashed and then cooked in a Dungeness crab stock with crab meat on top. The unwashed rice gave it a creamy, starchy taste similar to risotto. As a side note, we made sure to order Dungeness crab, that prized ingredient of the West Coast, any time we saw it on a menu.

JuneBaby Mama Jordan’s oxtails with featured rice from Jacksonville, Florida

To top things off, our bubbly, slightly awkward but always polite server kept the mood light and relaxed. The two well-made cocktails didn’t hurt, either. You may not think of Seattle when you think of authentic Southern food, but here’s hoping you do now.

Best Bite
Paul: oxtail
Marnay: cornbread

Address
JuneBaby: 2122 NE 65th Street, Seattle, WA 98115

Fiola – Maria Menu

Some of Washington, DC’s pricier restaurants have more affordable lunch deals during the week. You can take advantage of them if you know where to look. Luckily, we are here to give you a review of one of our favorite lunch spots.

Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurant group in particular has some wallet-friendly lunch offerings during the week. On a rainy Monday, we spent the morning exploring some of the Smithsonian museums and enjoyed a mid-day meal at Fiola in Penn Quarter.

Fiola menu

The Maria Menu is named for chef/restauranteur Fabio Trabiocchi’s wife and business partner, Maria Trabiocchi. Described as being based on a “healthy Mediteranean diet”, the Maria Menu is three courses for $32, which is a steal considering most entrees alone at Fiola cost more than $32.

Another great thing about the Maria menu for the cost-conscious diner (and let’s be real, we all are) is that it starts out with an amuse bouche plus housemade rosemary bread. In our case, it was watermelon-tomato gazpacho with chive oil – a good way to start the meal, although it could have used a touch of cream to cut the acidity.

Sometimes servers can be a little too informal for their own good, which can be offputting. That is certainly not a problem at Fiola, where the well-trained and impeccably dressed staff are completely focused on making sure you have the best meal possible, no fooling around.

The Madai snapper crudo, from Japan, was paired with slices of grilled Jersey peaches and peach gel for swiping. The chilled, well-salted fish was the perfect foil for the peaches, ripe but by no means cloying and kissed by the char of the grill.

Fiola Maria Menu: Madai snapper crudo

Our main course was a hulking Australian tiger prawn on a bed of Sicilian capunitina, similar to an eggplant caponata. This puree contained eggplant, pine nuts, capers and golden raisins. I found the capunitina to be too sweet at first, thanks to the raisins, but as I kept eating the flavors came together and made sense. The buttery, mild shrimp flesh needed the intense flavor of the capunitina.

Fiola Maria Menu: Australian tiger prawn on a bed of Sicilian capunitina

Dessert was billed simply as “Raspberry & Hazelnuts”, but it was far more interesting that those two ingredients. When it arrived at the table, it looked like raspberry custard with hazelnut flakes on top. A plunge of the spoon, however, revealed an entire ecosystem of flavors. Inside of custard was raspberry sorbet, whole raspberries and a luscious hazelnut praline.

Fiola Maria Menu: Raspberry and Hazelnuts

The restaurant had been crowded when we first sat down, and we observed people talking and eating. I couldn’t help but think, though, that we were spending a lot less than they were.

Fiola Marnay and Paul Meyer

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Raspberries & Hazelnuts

Address
Fiola: 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004
Closest Metro: Archives or Judiciary Square

Tail Up Goat Revisited

Every once in a while, we have a meal that absolutely blows us away. This week, we revisited Tail Up Goat and had a truly special experience. Last time we went to Tail Up Goat, we ate dinner at 5:00pm on a Saturday. This time, we had our meal at 8:00pm on a Thursday night. Why does this make a difference? The middle of the week is when the pros dine out—the true foodies. It’s when the kitchen has the most fun, too, because they don’t have to worry about picky eaters and/or diners who rarely eat out. That means that the kitchen can worry about doing the thing they do best, cooking.

Tail Up Goat on summer weeknights has an electric vibe. We were seated by the window, just one table behind we were on our last visit. We even had the same server as last time and she recognized us. We were thirsty, which was a good thing because Tail Up Goat has an exemplary wine list, created by sommelier Bill Jensen. The list is divided into many different sections, mainly by region, and the first section is based on whatever the sommelier is interested in at the moment. This day’s theme was “Summer of Riesling”. I absolutely love Riesling and we were in the mood for a bottle. We weren’t sure what bottle to get, so we asked our server for help. She took us on a tour of the wine list, going into impressive detail about each wine and covering Rieslings from all regions and price points. One wine stood out. She explained that the 2007 from Hermann J. Wiemer, one of the first wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes region, had a petrol smell, caused by a chemical reaction that occurs in Rieslings that have been aged for a long time. That sounded so cool!

Tail Up Goat Hermann J. Wiemer wine bottle

She did let us know that it was a bit of a splurge pricewise, but she talked it up so highly that we had to get it. I am glad that we did order it, because it was a truly special bottle of wine that made the evening even more enjoyable. The smell of petrol was intoxicating and the wine hit that sweet spot between dry and sweet Rieslings. Plus, the mouthfeel was out-of-this world.

Now that we had our wine to keep us company, we started ordering food. Tail Up Goat has a traditional first course, second course and entrée menu, and we ordered one of each. Our seaweed sourdough bread was slathered with ciccioli and topped with pickled fennel stems. Ciccioli is an Italian pork spread, similar to a rillette. The combination of the ciccioli and the fennel stems tasted remarkably like Italian sausage, which inspired memories of eating at baseball games as a kid.

Tail Up Goat Hermann J. Wiemer wine bottle

Next up was pasta primavera with salty trout roe, squash blossoms, garlic scapes and crunchy aleppo breadcrumbs. The trout roe and the squash blossoms brought an intense orange color that was fun to look at as we ate. If money weren’t an issue, we would have ordered three of these.

Tail Up Goat Hermann J. Wiemer wine bottle

After our pasta, we were waiting for our lamb ribs and enjoying our wine. Suddenly, the sommelier walks over carrying two large red wine glasses and a bottle. It turns out that he came to give us a pour of a delicious, fruity red wine from volcanic Mt. Etna in Italy. It was fun to watch his enthusiasm as he talked about the volcanic soil. The experience made our meal!

Within a few moments, our lamb ribs arrived, piping hot. We noticed that there had been a bit of a delay between our pasta and the lamb ribs, and perhaps that’s why we got free wine, but neither of us minded. Plus, the lamb ribs tasted even better than last time., possibly because they were right from the kitchen.  Unlike last time, we ate the ribs with our hands and I think it made the meal more fun.

Tail Up Goat Hermann J. Wiemer wine bottle

I feel like we gained a lot of trust with Tail Up Goat after this visit. By trust, I mean that the next time we’re there, and our server makes a suggestion, we will take it. It was an amazing meal and it would not be the same without the incredible service that we received from our server and the sommelier.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Pasta primavera

Address
Tail Up Goat: 1827 Adams Mill Rd, NW Washington, DC 20009
Closest Metro: Columbia Heights or Woodley Park

Aldine

We were on our way to our annual beach trip in Margate and had some time in Philadelphia in between our Amtrak and NJ Transit trains. That meant that there was no better time to check out a new-to-us restaurant. We made the 0.5 mile walk from 30th Street Station to Aldine, located just outside of Rittenhouse Square in Center City.

Aldine, from owners George and Jennifer Sabatino, is creatively wedged into a second floor space between two storefronts. The front door leads to a staircase that takes you practically straight up into the restaurant. Inside, the space is airy, full of dark wood and surrounded by windows on almost all sides. From our perch, we were able to look out onto the bustling street life below.

Aldine restaurant interior in Philadelphia

When we first entered the restaurant, we noticed a plaque hanging outside the door. The plaque was from Philadelphia Magazine and it was the award for “Best Non-Vegetable Restaurant for Vegetarians”. I don’t know if we have eaten at enough Philadelphia-area restaurants to have an opinion on this, but I feel comfortable saying that Aldine is a good spot for vegetarians and pescetarians.

The restaurant was empty when we arrived, possibly a result of it being a summer Friday. In spite of the calm, Marnay and I got the party started with glass of Spanish rose and a truly interesting housemade cream soda. The sweet but not too sweet soda had vanilla beans floating on top and the server instructed me to stir them for maximum flavor.

Aldine Spanish rose and a truly interesting housemade cream soda

Aldine is a small plates restaurant and we want to thank them for flawlessly coursing out our meal without us having to say a word. The pace of the meal felt more fine-dining than small plates. There were two plates that we were most excited about ordering: the poached shrimp crudo and the corn custard. Neither disappointed. The custard was savory in the sense that there were no added sugars, but the fresh corn gave plenty of natural sweetness. The dish is topped off with crunchy hazelnuts and tart pickled corn kernels and pickled mushrooms. The shrimp crudo, made with chilled poached shrimp, sat on top of a crisp bed of fennel salad and aioli and then was topped with everything spice, the spice of the moment right now.

apps

The braised purple cabbage with black-garlic glaze was an example of how Aldine can make vegetables the star of a dish and was as good as any dish at Vedge. The thick slices of cabbage were layered in a broth that tasted like soy, mirin, sugar, plus a few other ingredients.

cabbage

We rounded everything out with a culotte steak. The steak came with grilled peaches, cucumbers and black garlic chips, and really, the non-steak components were the best parts of the dish. The steak was fine, just a little chewy. We are not against ordering steak at restaurants, but often times steak feels like a throwaway item that restaurants put on a menu, intended for less-adventurous diners. For more on this, I recommend this article from former Washingtonian food critic Todd Kliman on how to read a menu like a food critic.

That being said, you really can’t go wrong with anything that Aldine serves.

meat

Best Bite
Paul: Corn Custard
Marnay: Shrimp Crudo

Address
Aldine: 1901 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

5 Must Have Summer Cocktails in the Meyer Household

When summer comes around, we can’t help looking forward to sipping cocktails on our balcony. And when we think of cocktails, one word comes to mind: “Spritz”. Sure, we occasionally drink spritzes during the winter, but to us no drink feels more summery than the spritz. (As a side note, no cocktail book has been more influential than Spritz by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. I highly recommend this book as I am deeply indebted to it).

We’ve listed five essential cocktails for summer in our household. Not all of them are spritzes, but many of them are light cocktails that are low in alcohol. I love whiskey, but when it’s 90 degrees outside I really do not want a Manhattan. We have also included places in the DC area where we have had the drink or where we know it’s served. What are your essential summer cocktails? Let us know!

1. Venetian Spritz
The Venetian spritz is a spritz in its most classic form. It’s three parts prosecco, two parts bitter liquor and one part soda water. For the bitter liquor, the most popular and the sweetest is Aperol. However, our favorite is Select, an aperitvo that is very popular in Venice but which was just imported to the U.S. The only place we were able to find a bottle was Manhattan, actually. Feel free to use whichever bitter liquors you like.

Venetian Spritz cocktail

Ingredients:
3 oz. Prosecco
2 oz. Aperol, Select, Cappelletti, or Campari, or other bitter liquor
1 oz. soda water

Where to find it:
On the list at Acqua Al 2, 212 7th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

2. Little Grey Lady
The Little Grey Lady cocktail features one of my favorite spirits, Cocchi Americano, an Italian fortified wine. This cocktail is on the sweeter side, although with a touch of bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. I found this cocktail in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Cocchi Americano is my favorite aperitivo, as it has a base of wine, some light sweetness and then it’s flavored with gentian root for bitterness. The powerhouse of this cocktail is the elderflower liquor.

Little Grey Lady cocktail

Ingredients:
¾ oz. gin
¾ oz. cocchi Americano
¾ oz. elderflower liquor
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 dash bitters

3. Rome with a View
Of all our of summer cocktails, this one looks the most like summer with it’s bright red color. While it contains Campari, the most bitter of the Italian bitter liquors, that robust bitterness is necessary to stand up to the tartness of the lime juice. It’s that combination of bitter and tart that makes this drink work.

Rome with a View cocktail

Ingredients:
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
Soda water to top

4. The Rib Tickler
Close behind in the “looks like summer” category is the yellow-hued Rib Tickler. The rib tickler gets its color from Suze, a French bitter liquor made with gentian. To offset that bitterness, we bring sweet elderflower liquor in the mix, an essential ingredient in the Meyer household.

The Rib Tickler

Ingredients:
2 oz. dry vermouth
¼ oz. Suze
½ oz. elderflower liquor
¼ oz. lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
Soda water to top

Where to find it:
This drink is very similar a white negroni, on the list at Dino’s Grotto, 1914 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

5. The Last Word
The last cocktail on our list is aptly The Last Word, a great cocktail any time of year but particularly refreshing during summer. The Last Word is a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail, although the first time we had it was at The Gin Joint in Charleston, SC during our Charleston trip. We have been hooked ever since the first sip and we have turned many of our friends onto this drink.

The Last Word cocktail

Ingredients:
1 oz. gin
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. maraschino liquor
1 oz. Green Chartreuse

Where to find it:
It’s not on the list, but we have had a good version at Whaley’s, 301 Water Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

Keep in mind that these are not the “five essential cocktails for summer”; they are the five essential cocktails in the Meyer household. Your experiences may differ. What drink would you add to this list?

Sally’s Middle Name

Many restaurants in Philadelphia have a “neighborhood” vibe – relaxed, intimate, unpretentious—possibly because of the low rents and less demand for older housing stock which can be used to create smaller restaurants. We are always on the lookout for restaurants with this vibe in DC, and were pleasantly surprised when we found Sally’s Middle Name.

Sally’s Middle Name restaurant

The restaurant has two levels: downstairs is decorated with white subway tiles and was bustling with the din of diners when we arrived. Upstairs, where we sat, was calmer and felt more like someone’s home. In fact, it is so much like a person’s home the upstairs bathroom even has a shower. The entire menu, including drinks and dessert, is written on a full-size chalk board on the wall. While I think this approach is cute, it is frustrating to have to keep getting up to check the board. We took a picture with our phones, but everyone may not recognize that as an option.

Sally’s Middle Name cocktails and menu chalk board

Sally’s Middle Name is a small plates restaurant. We have noticed that servers at small plates restaurants tend to recommend an absurd amount of food—a suggestion of three to four dishes per person is not uncommon. It was a breath of fresh air, then, when our server at Sally’s Middle Name recommended 3 to 4 dishes total, meant to be shared. That immediately endeared us to the place.

We ordered four dishes, and we ordered them all at the same time: the housemade bread and butter, the cucumber salad, the braised collard greens with Szechuan pork and the seared scallops. The result was that all four dishes came out at the same time. Not a good look, in my opinion. I would have been much more annoyed, though, if our server demanded that we order four dishes per person and then eight dishes came out at the same time. If that were the case, we would have needed to steal a neighboring table.

Sally’s Middle Name housemade bread and butter, the cucumber salad, the braised collard greens with Szechuan pork and the seared scallops

Anyway, the housemade white and wheat breads were delicious and a great start to the meal. They were even better with creamy housemade butter, although the white bread would have been fine on its own. For our remaining three dishes, we mixed and matched bites, not eating the dishes in any particular order. The collards appropriately got top billing, as this was a collard dish and not a pork dish—not that we minded. It was a play on traditional Southern collard greens, cooked with spicy Szechuan pork instead of a more traditional ham hock. We first got a major hit of ginger and then the lingering spice of Szechuan peppercorns.

Both of us were big fans of the buttery seared scallops served with a sauce of fermented turnips, lightly smeared on plate. The scallops were then topped with pea shoots, a nice taste of early summer. The cucumber salad, on the other hand, could have used some salt, even with a dressing of fermented carrots.

All of the portions at Sally’s Middle Name were reasonable in size, so we had room for dessert. We got an impressive Olive Oil cake with strawberry jam. The jam and the olive oil cake, which actually tasted like olive oil, were a perfect match.

Sally's Middle Name Olive Oil cake with strawberry jam

Based on atmosphere alone, we would go back to Sally’s Middle Name. We loved the lack of pretense, and oh yeah, the food wasn’t bad either.

Best Bite
Paul: Olive Oil Cake
Marnay: Scallops

Address
Sally’s Middle Name: 1320 H Street NE Washington, DC 20002
Clsoest metro: Union Station to H Street Streetcar

Anchorage

As promised in our Ultimate Greenville recap, we are doing a full review of our meal at Anchorage. Anchorage is located on the western edge of town in the “Village of West Greenville”, an up and coming area. While there were empty storefronts nearby there also was a cool-looking coffee shop, a music venue and a small outdoor concert going on when we first arrived. When it comes to the meaning of the name Anchorage, think ships, not Alaska. I think it goes without saying that an Arctic-themed restaurant in western South Carolina would be strange.

Anchorage farm-themed mural

Much like crossing the Atlantic by ship seems tediously slow, our meal at Anchorage moved at a snail’s pace. And it’s not a cultural thing, either, us impatient northerners. There really did seem to be some confusion in the kitchen. We could tell, because we were sitting about five feet away from the small open kitchen. Still, we had not seen my family in months, so we did not mind the slow pace. Also, we were in a vacation-mode. Come what may, brother.

Both Marnay and I started out with well-made cocktails. Marnay went with the Bombeyonce, with gin, chartreuse, orange fennel shrub, floral bitters and lemon, a refreshing beginning. I went the tiki-route with The Village Swizzle: Angostura rum, Gosling Black Seal rum, falernum, lime and Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.

Anchorage cocktails: Bombeyonce and The Village Swizzle

The five of us ordered nearly everything on the menu, although I will mostly focus on what Marnay and I ate. When eating at a restaurant with a such a large and diverse group, it can be difficult to come to a consensus when the menu is not divided into the “traditional” appetizer, entrée, dessert format. Luckily, our server sensed that we were having trouble and suggested that we order a few small plates to share as our first course. He waited until we completely finished eating and then came back for round two.

Anchorage pickled Royal Red Gulf shrimp

The pickled Royal Red Gulf shrimp was a standout from the first course, especially the contrast between the vinegary shrimp, the heat from thinly-sliced jalapeños and the cooling, partially caramelized grilled watermelon. The showstopper, though, was the perfectly browned Bahamian fish fritters, filled with clean-tasting and fresh conch, wreckfish and one other fish, the name I unfortunately do not remember. The fennel salad on the side brought a welcome lightness to the hot and crunchy fritters. We liked it so much that Marnay ordered it as her main course!

Anchorage Bahamian fish fritters

The best presentation of the evening was the cornmeal fried Virginia oysters. The fried oysters are served on the half shell, dressed with pickled green strawberries, fennel and dill and then placed on top of coarse salt, meant to resemble ice. Green strawberries are in ingredient that we are just starting to see on menus, and they are something that chefs can really be creative with.

Anchorage cornmeal fried Virginia oysters

Our server explained that most people order dishes to share, but he didn’t blink an eye or pressure us when we each got our own dish. I am fan of burrata, but it can be difficult to eat with bread when the bread comes on the side. Maybe “difficult” is not the right word, but it is at least one more step. Well, Anchorage solved the problem by serving their hand-pulled ramp burrata and salsa verde on top of housemade bread, topped with fried capers, dill and chili salt. All of the flavors were perfectly layered and went together like a dream. My family’s main courses, for the most part, were hit or miss. The Reedy River Baby Lettuces, grown on Reedy River Farms, a one-acre plot located less than a mile from downtown Greenville, were incredibly sweet and had a pleasantly leathery texture. On the other hand, the Bethel Trails Chicken Larb and the Baked Garganelli pasta with grilled squash were flat out misses.

Anchorage hand-pulled ramp burrata and salsa verde

Now, the whole meal had been a bit slow, starting with our drink orders, but it was when we ordered ice cream for dessert that things came to a grinding halt. As I mentioned earlier, we were sitting near the kitchen, so we were able to figure out that the delays were due to some confusion in the kitchen, not our server. Our server handled everything very well. Still, we had nowhere to be so we did not mind. It helped tremendously that our server had given us good service all night and that put us in a good mood.

Dining at Anchorage in Greenville, SC with our family

Despite the pace of the meal, Anchorage is restaurant we would return to. The food was good and the thing that we will remember the most was the superb service.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Bahamian Fish Fritters

Address
Anchorage: 586 Perry Avenue Greenville, SC 29611