Detroit Recap

We just got back from Detroit and had a wonderful time! Perfect weather, lots of walking and biking and, of course, great food. Before we get into it, I want to give a special shout out to local blogger and Detroit native Lori Gardner, aka Beenthereeatenthat, for some amazing recommendations! Without further ado, here are our favorites:

boat

CHEAP EATS

Al Ameer: As soon as we landed, we took a taxi to Al Ameer, a Lebanese restaurant in Dearborn Heights. I knew that it had previously won a James Beard American Classic award and had received a shoutout from Eater national food critic Bill Addison. The restaurant is huge, almost like a banquet hall, but still has plenty of personality. As you can see, we ordered quite the spread: smoky, velvety baba ghanouge with housemade pitas and housemade labneh, falafel and stuffed lamb. The stuffed lamb dish had chunks of roasted lamb over a bed of seasoned rice and was topped with toasted pine nuts and herbs. If you ever make it to the Detroit area, Al Ameer should be on your must-try list. The stuffed lamb may have been one of the best lamb dishes we have ever had.

Al Ameer restaurant in Dearborn Heights: smoky, velvety baba ghanouge with housemade pitas and housemade labneh, falafel and stuffed lamb

Maty’s African Cuisine: Maty’s is Detroit’s only Senegalese restaurant, and it is doing a good job of representing the cuisine in the city. It’s a small place that does a lot of takeout but has about six tables for dining in. The first thing you will notice is the warm hospitality provided by the owner, Amady Gueye. He owns the restaurant with his wife and the restaurant’s namesake, Maty Gueye. One of our favorite bites was nems, or spring rolls. At first glance, they appear like traditional Vietnamese spring rolls. However, one bite reveals scotch-bonnet-laden hot sauce. Also excellent: a whole red snapper that is first fried, topped with a flavorful sauce and then grilled. That night, Amady let us know that the fish were smaller, so instead he served us two small snappers for the same $18 price. Both of us loved Bissap, or sorrel juice, that was housemade and flavored with hibiscus and passion fruit.

Maty’s African Cuisine in Detroit: nems sprint rolls, whole red snapper, sorrel juice

Coney Dogs: Similar to how Chicago has its Chicago dogs, Detroit has Coney Dogs. Coney dogs are hot dogs with mustard, raw chopped onions and a chili sauce. Like Chicago, never any ketchup! Even though there appears to be a New York reference in the name, it is an entirely Detroit tradition.

Detroit Coney dogs at Lafayette and American

Restaurants that sell the dogs are called “Coneys”, and we went to the two most famous ones: Lafayette and American. Conveniently, they are right next to each other so we were able to eat one after the other. The cash-only Lafayette has the most character – it looks like a lunch counter straight out of the 1940s. Meanwhile, American accepts credit cards and attracts more of a tourist crowded. When put head-to-head, though, American’s dogs had more of a crunch.

Paul eating a Detroit coney dogs at Lafayette

BIKE ROUTES

Detroit’s bikeshare system is called MoGo, and it is uses the exact same bikes and docks as Capital Bikeshare. We picked up bikes in Midtown, rode through Eastern Market and onto the Dequindre Cut, a transformative rail trail that is slightly below street level. Throughout the path, graffiti lines the walls and there are places to sit and relax. While the trail ends at the Riverfront, we continued east, through Elmwood Park and to the West Village. Almost the entire route is on calm streets. Most of the streets of Detroit, with the exception of downtown, do not have much traffic. Detroit has also done an excellent job of building protected bike lanes, making biking safe for all ages. We noted protected bike lanes on Cass Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Jefferson Avenue.

Paul at Detroit’s bikeshare system is called MoGo

WALKING ROUTES

The Detroit Riverwalk was our favorite walking route. On this warm summer day, the Detroit River looked like an azure walkway to Canada. Along the route, we found splash pads for children and shaded areas for sitting. The Dequindre Cut could also serve as a walking route. Walking would allow you to see the art at a more leisurely pace.

Dequindre Cut walking route in Detroit

FINE(R) DINING

Gold Cash Gold: a New American restaurant located in a former pawn shop in the booming Corktown neighborhood. Both the atmosphere and the effortless service reminded us Tail Up Goat, our favorite restaurant back home. Our best bite was the pea and carrot gemelli, with carrot top pesto, confit carrot and sugar peas.

Standing outside of Gold Cash Gold restaurant in Detroit

Cocktails and pea and carrot gemelli, with carrot top pesto, confit carrot and sugar peas at Gold Cash Gold restaurant in Detroit

COFFEE SHOPS / BAKERIES

ASHE Supply Co.: ASHE Supply Co., off Grand Circus, is another place where you’ll receive genuinely warm service. We did not get a chance to order it, but they serve a “Matcha-Gato”: An affogato with the addition of matcha instead of espresso.

New Order Coffee Roasters: New Order has multiple locations throughout Detroit, although we went to the location in Midtown. While the feeling of the shop was a little sterile, we had excellent espresso and chocolate chip cookies to tide us over before our bike ride.

Paul drinking coffee at New Order Coffee Roasters

Sister Pie: We went to Sister Pie, in West Village, after our long bikeshare ride and found it to be a gem. While they make all different types of pastries and also is serious about coffee, pie is the star of the show. I devoured the marshmallow butterscotch pie, which had a “chocolate surprise” at the bottom – a thick chocolate crust. Marnay went the fruit route and had a slice of not too sweet strawberry rhubarb. We would definitely head back to Sister Pie on a return visit to Detroit.

Eating a marshmallow butterscotch pie and sweet strawberry rhubarb pie at the Sister Pie shop in Detroit

BARS

Two Saint James: Two Saint James is an enchanting distillery in the heart of Corktown, Detroit’s historically Irish neighborhood. The large, round bar had a partially opened front door, which gave us unfettered views of the setting sun. Through a back window, we could see the iconic Detroit Central Train Station.

Two Saint James distillery in the heart of Corktown, Detroit’s historically Irish neighborhood

Founders Brewing Company – Detroit: Founders, one of the country’s most noteworthy craft breweries, has its main brewery in Grand Rapids. However, in 2016 it opened a second, smaller facility in Midtown. We loved sitting on the back patio. The area immediately surrounding the brewery is still a bit deserted, but it’s clear that there is a lot of potential.

Detroit is definitely a city on the rise, which makes it especially intriguing to visit right now. We had a great long weekend and look forward to spending more time there in the future!

Marnay standing in Detroit, Michigan

Best Bite

Paul: Baba ghanouge at Al Ameer

Marnay: Stuffed lamb at Al Ameer

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2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a great year for us. We have been to many places, both near and far, and had so many delicious meals. Marnay and I asked each other questions about our favorites of 2017. We did not consult each other on the answers, we came up with them on our own. Any similarities are pure coincidence!

What was your favorite meal of 2017?

Paul – My favorite meal was our second visit to Tail Up Goat. The service was perfection, the wine was incredible and the food was superb.

Marnay – One of my favorite parts about dining out is the full experience – the decor of the restaurant, the friendliness of the staff, the level of detail the chef puts on the food they are preparing. All of these elements came together to perfection during our second trip to Tail Up Goat this past spring. The service was incredible, the food was delicious and we got some special treatment from the sommelier which is always a plus!

Tail Up Goat

What was your favorite bar of 2017?

Paul – I love everything about Clavel, the mezcal and taco restaurant in Baltimore. It is my happy place.

Marnay – Clavel. This bar made me fall in love with mezcal, especially when paired with some of their incredible cochinita pibil tacos.

Clavel mezcal in Baltimore

Which restaurant do you want to visit again in 2018?

Paul – Tail Up Goat. At this point, it’s my favorite all around restaurant.

Marnay – Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore. We haven’t been there in over a year, but I am excited to go back. We always have a great meal and I love that they only use local ingredients.

Woodberry Kitchen

What was your favorite food/restaurant-related experience?

Paul – My favorite food experience was eating tacos al pastor from the streetside counter at Antojitos la Chiapaneca in Tulum, Mexico. Can’t get any more authentic than that.

Marnay – We have been searching for the best tacos in the DC-area for years and have found some gems (Clavel, Taqueria Habanero). But we were fortunate enough to eat tacos in Mexico at a local spot in Tulum, and it was an out-of-this-world experience. Tacos will never be the same – until our next trip to Mexico!

Antojitos la Chiapaneca tacos

Which restaurant surprised you the most?

Paul – Q by Peter Chang. We really like Peter Chang Bistro in Rockville, but Q is noticeably more polished than Peter Chang, in all aspects.

Marnay – Q by Peter Chang. We’ve stopped by for their dim sum brunch at least 4 times over the past few months and I can’t get over how fresh and flavorful every dish is. I have never had a bite I didn’t like!

Q by Peter Chang dim sum

What was your favorite meal in Silver Spring?

Paul – My favorite meal in Silver Spring was at the casual noodle and dumpling shop NaiNai’s. Although we mainly use it for takeout, it was so much fun to actually sit down and drink a glass of wine with our bao and noodles.

Marnay – We are lucky to live in walking distance to some incredible and diverse restaurants. It’s hard to pick one favorite meal, but the meal I keep thinking about is the chicken buss-up-shut at Teddy’s Roti Shop, just over the DC border in Shepherd Park. But it’s so close it’s basically Silver Spring.

NaiNai's in Silver Spring, Maryland

What was your favorite meal outside of the DC-area?

Paul – Our meal at Metzger Bar & Butchery in Richmond back in February. We were introduced to their schnitzel, which is now one of our favorite restaurant dishes of all-time.

Marnay – There is something magical about eating a nice, long, relaxing lunch while on vacation in a new city. This year, that leisurely lunch took place at Maurice in Portland, Oregon. It’s hard to beat sipping on some wine while sitting at the counter watching the chef prepare some incredible French-Danish dishes right in front of you.

Tail Up Goat

What is your favorite recipe to make at home?

Paul – Avocado toast with cumin oil and a fried egg: this is one of our go-to dinners and it’s just so good! The creamy avocado, the spice from the cumin and the richness of the runny egg yolk.

Marnay – Spaghetti with bacon, capers and mint: it’s a great year-round dish and we always have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Spaghetti with bacon, capers and mint recipe

Here’s a list of our favorites. Go ahead and give them a try!

Clavel – 225 West 23rd Street Baltimore, MD 21211
Woodberry Kitchen – 2010 Clipper Park Road Baltimore, MD 21211
Tail Up Goat – 1827 Adams Mill Road, NW Washington, DC 20009
NaiNai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar – 1200 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910
Teddys Roti Shop – 7304 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20012
Metzger Bar & Butchery – 801 N 23rd Street Richmond, VA 23223
Maurice – 921 SW Oak Street Portland, OR 97205
Q by Peter Chang – 4500 East-West Highway, #100 Bethesda, MD 20814

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?

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

Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon Weekend

I ran the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this past weekend. While this is my 5th year in a row running the race, I have never had to run it in weather this cold. At the starting line, the temperature was in the 20s. In March! I wore three shirts, two layers of pants, a hat and gloves on a day I normally wear a t-shirt and shorts. Marnay, my parents and my grandfather braved the cold to cheer me on at the start and then met me at the midway point in Woodley Park. There is a picture of me at the midway point that they took — if you look closely, you can see a layer of frost on my hat.

Paul running the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I had been training for months and felt well prepared, but this was a tough day to run. Still, I felt proud of myself for sticking it out! I actually ended up with a PR (personal record), beating last years’ time by 3 minutes!

Pizzeria Vetri

It was so cold outside so we didn’t linger at the finish line at RFK. I brought snacks with me on the run, but they all froze! I had seen a sign at mile 12 that said “keep going, you’re only 1 mile from brunch!”, and MAN did that make me hungry. Once I got through the runner finish line area, we headed right for the metro and made our way to Pizzeria Vetri, one of our favorite pizza spots.

Pizzeria Vetri

We started with a rotolo, a Pizzeria Vetri invention, which looks like a savory cinnamon roll made of pizza dough. The dough is stuffed with ricotta and mortadella, rolled, baked in the pizza oven and topped with pistachio pesto. The use of pistachios really took us back to our time in Milan. Another item that reminded us of Milan is Pizzeria Vetri’s simple prosciutto cotto calzone, cooked up in their 650 degree wood-fired oven. We rounded things out with their incredibly light and crispy margherita pizza. Even though I was really hungry, we had plenty of leftovers.

Pizzeria Vetri rotolo

Pizzeria Vetri prosciutto cotto calzone

Pizzeria Vetri margherita pizza

Hill Prince

We continued the celebration on Sunday by checking out the brand new Hill Prince on H Street NE, from the group responsible for DGS and Whaley’s. The narrow space is a former horse stable and it is simply a modest bar with two to three communal tables in the back and one small table in the front by the windows. There’s no kitchen, so they serve snacks, mainly from local restaurants. All cocktails are $10 or less, which I have noticed becoming a trend in the DC area at places like Ten Tigers Parlour and Colada Shop.

Hill Prince

I enjoyed a well-made Americano, made sweet by swapping out Campari for Cappelletti, which is on the sweeter end of Italian bitter liquors. Meanwhile, Marnay had a classic Aviation, with gin, maraschino liquor, crème de cassis (instead of crème de violette) and lemon.

The star of the show at Hill Prince, though, was our bartender Tony. He was incredibly friendly and talkative and genuinely a nice guy. He even took us on a tour of the place, showing us the back patio where they plan on opening a second bar when it gets warm out. We usually don’t get this type of treatment at bars.

Hill Prince cocktails

The combination of well-made drinks, a cool atmosphere and incredible service makes it likely that we will become regulars at Hill Prince. In fact, we went back on Wednesday with a group of friends for happy hour.

Best Bite
Paul: Margherita pizza
Marnay: Rotolo

Places we visited
Pizzeria Vetri: 2221 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 2009
Hill Prince: 1337 H Street, NE Washington, DC 20002

Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes

We are going to try a new feature on ENRL. We cook often, and we want to share our favorite recipes with everyone. There certainly will be some trial and error but that is part of the fun of cooking.

First up, a Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes, recipe courtesy of Cebo in Geneva, NY and Chef Ben Dailey. We found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine, of which we are avid readers. Full disclosure, we have made this dish once before.

Food & Wine Pinot Noir–Braised Pot Roast with Root Vegetables

There are not too many ingredients in this dish: mainly chuck roast and root vegetables. Okay, there are some tubers as well if you want to nitpick. The thing about the recipe is that it takes time to break down the chewy chuck. We omitted the pickled red onions, mainly because of the time factor.

Union Market, Washington DC

Since it was a Saturday we had time to shop, so we did our ingredient hunt at Union Market. We got the chuck roast, which was sourced from Roseda Farms in Monkton, MD, from Harveys Market. Roseda Farms, in northern Baltimore County, provides beef to area restaurants including Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore and 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring.

Harveys Market, Union Market DC

Our celery root, leeks, carrots, parsnips and onions were from Almaala Farms, which grows its produce on the Eastern Shore. Finally, the all-important bottle of Pinot Noir was from Cordial. We couldn’t help ourselves and also got a bottle of Untitled Whiskey No. 3, aged in Vigilante coffee barrels, from Ivy City’s One Eight Distilling.

Almaala Farms, Union Market DC

Assembling the dish is not difficult; it just involves some peeling and rough chopping. I cut the chuck into small cubes while Marnay peeled and cut the vegetables into 1 inch pieces. We kept some fat on the meat for flavor, but didn’t keep all of it.

Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes

Next, we browned the cubes of meat in our cast-iron dutch oven. The purpose of browning is to give the meat flavor, not to cook it. There will be plenty of time to cook the meat. Once the meat was ready, we removed it and added the vegetables, also to brown. We did not add the potatoes or onions because they are used for the mashed potatoes.

Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes

After the vegetables are browned, we put the meat back in and then poured the entire bottle of Pinot-Noir into the dutch oven, as this is the braising liquid. After adding the wine, your job is basically done. Stir the pot occasionally and return in one and a half hours.

In the meantime, we started the mashed potatoes, another set-it and forget-it dish. All we did was add the potatoes and onions to a large sauce pan and then we covered it with water. Once the water is boiling, we added a generous pinch of salt and let it cook for 40 minutes. Again, lots of downtime.

During our downtime, we made negronis! A negroni is equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Our gin is from Joseph A Magnus distilling, also in Ivy City. To go along with our drinks, we watched Somm: Into the Bottle, a sequel to the film Somm. I think that the original Somm is required watching for any foodie who wants to know more about wine.

When the potatoes are done, they need to be drained. After that, we added the butter, salt and pepper and whisked it until it was creamy. When we took the lid off of the dutch oven, the ingredients had soaked up the wine and the alcohol had cooked off, leaving an intoxicatingly fruity essence. We took a scoop of mashed potatoes in a bowl and layered the pot roast on top, a rich and satisfying meal for a cold winter night.

R. House

On a cold, windy Saturday we took the MARC train to Baltimore for a bit of an adventure. Unbeknownst to us, we went on the day of the Army-Navy football game. But unlike approximately 90% of the people on the train, we weren’t headed for the football stadium once we arrived in Baltimore. No, we were headed to R. House, a stadium for people who love good food.

R. House

R. House is a brand new food hall located in the Remington neighborhood, a rapidly changing neighborhood north of Penn Station and on the western edge of Charles Village and Johns Hopkins University. The building is a former car showroom, with large windows and garage doors for warmer weather. Inside, the layout is similar to a mall food court, with 11 stalls and a large amount of seating in the middle.

White Envelope

We knew that we wanted arepas, so we started out at White Envelope. White Envelope is named after the cornmeal pocket that serves as the vehicle for their many different filling combinations. The Vegano, which I ordered, come with a reddish-pink bun, made that color by the beets incorporated in the dough. It’s then filled with Venezuelan falafel, spicy butternut squash puree and purslane. The squash puree was the best part, as it added moisture and sweetness.

R. House White Envelope

Marnay tried El Cerdo Ilustrado, “The Literate Pig.” Folded inside of the cornmeal pocket was shredded roast pork leg with tomato, arugula and lime mayo. Marnay said that this arepa compared favorably to some of her favorite tacos. She also said that it would not be the same without the lime mayo, and I agree. While there are similarities between arepas and tacos, the thick cornmeal bun of arepas screams for some sort of moisture.

R. House White Envelope arepa

While we were seated on a long communal bench eating our arepas, something amazing happened. A server from R. Bar, R. House’s centrally located bar, gave us a drink menu and then took our order on an iPad. The roving server thing was the most groundbreaking part of R. House, for me. I could have easily had five glasses of the Apple Milk Punch, with brandy, apple cider, lime and cinnamon syrup. Meanwhile, Marnay’s gin-and Campari-based Lady Remington had a little too much Campari to be a balanced drink.

R. Bar cocktails

Arba

Still quite hungry, we checked out Arba, an Israeli/Palestinian street food stall. Arba means “four” in both Arabic and Hebrew. The Syrian Cheese, which is pan-seared halloumi, was our best bite at Arba and my favorite bite of the day. The pan-sear gave it a pleasant crisp and the cheese was buttery but mild.

R. House Arba

We also got crispy breaded eggplant, a good snack. Unfortunately, we had just had Peter Chang’s dry-fried eggplant the night before, and no we eggplant fries can compare to Peter Chang’s.

R. House Arba

BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s

BLK Sugar is a bakery from a local Baltimore artisan and Little Baby’s is an ice cream shop based in the Kensington neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, which has slowly been expanding outside of that city. Together, they joined forces at R. House to open BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s. Little Baby’s serves Philadelphia style ice cream, which does not contain eggs. Since we only had ice cream at this stall, we are not going to address BLK Sugar.

After all we had eaten, we still wanted something sweet, which is what drew us to Little Baby’s. Marnay got non-dairy Birch Beer, which tasted so much like a birch beer float, it was uncanny. I got Philadelphia style “plain”, which was a perfectly good vanilla ice cream.

Ground & Griddled

I returned to R. House on Tuesday morning so that I could have a breakfast experience. Ground & Griddled, which serves Stumptown coffee and casual breakfast fare, is the most photogenic stall at R. House, with its bright yellow exterior. The place is run by Dave Sherman, the proprietor of Café Cito in Hampden.

R. House Ground and Griddled

I went with a latte made with housemade nut milk and the Breakfast BLT. The Breakfast BLT, a culinary work of art, is the ideal breakfast to eat while hanging around R. House on a weekday morning. Two slices of ciabatta support the heft of a paprika fried egg, griddled tomatoes, arugula and garlic aioli. The yolk is runny, but not too runny because the ciabatta soaked up much of it. In fact, the sandwich kept its structural integrity quite well thanks to the ciabatta. By the time I got to the end of the sandwich, I only had a few bites of bread left, which tasted like garlic bread thanks to the aioli. There wasn’t any on the sandwich, but I tasted the vinegary heat of Tabasco, most likely because of the paprika.

R. House Ground and Griddled Breakfast BLT

I ate my breakfast at a long communal high-top table and watched the sights and sounds of R. House. I saw prep cooks getting ready for the lunch rush at Amano Taco. I saw the chef from White Envelope walk in the door and talk to Dave Sherman. If all goes well, this could be a launching pad for some of Baltimore’s next great chefs.

Best Bite
Paul: Breakfast BLT
Marnay: El Cerdo Ilustrado arepa

Address
R. House: 301 W 29th St, Baltimore, MD 21211

Hazel

Being back in DC means that we get to check out some of the newer restaurants that we’ve been too busy to get to over the last few weeks (see the previous post).  On a dreary Thursday night during one of the rainiest weeks of 2016, we checked out Hazel in Shaw.  Hazel is an Asian-accented restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Partisan, Rustico, Sovereign, plus many others) and Chef Rob Rubba.  It is located in a brand new mixed-use building across V Street from the 930 Club.

Hazel restaurant

The first thing that one notices upon entering  at night is that the space is dark and moody.  From our perch at the bar there were spotlights above us that illuminated the otherwise dark space.  We spent the evening watching the rain through the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the restaurant.

As with any Neighborhood Restaurant Group restaurant, the beer list was stellar.  But Hazel also has a strong focus on cocktails.  I enjoyed the Too Short a Season, which was basically a spritz, my cocktail obsession of the moment.  The sweet yet bitter taste of the Cappelletti, also known as Specialino in its home of Brescia, really shined through the rest of the ingredients.  Marnay got a saison, her favorite style of beer, from Oxbow.

Hazel cocktails

Chef Rubba’s menu is entirely small plates, with two family-style “huge” plates:  a whole snapper and a roasted duck.  I am seeing this trend of having family-style portions pop up more and more on menus and I am a huge fan.  It takes dining from a semi-solitary activity and turns it into an experience, where interaction among others is required.

But on to our food.  English muffins slathered with whipped nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam were a striking example of the way hot and cool play off of each other.  The nduja, yogurt and jam were layered in a ramekin so that it resembled a sunny-side up egg.

Hazel english muffins with whipped nduja

We liked the littleneck clams in a brown butter miso broth, but would not be inclined to order them again.  After we finished the chewy clams, we took the small bowl of steamed rice and let it soak up the umami-packed broth.  An above average dish but not a repeater.

Hazel littleneck clams

My favorite was their Korean fried chicken style ribs, which is quickly becoming their quintessential dish.  The ribs are crunchy, sweet, spicy and meaty, pretty much the four adjectives that make up an optimal dish.  The heat was noticeable, and my sinuses would confirm this, but it didn’t overwhelm the other flavors.

Hazel Korean fried chicken style ribs

We were very fond of the food at Hazel.  What set it apart from all of the other new restaurants with great food, though, was the atmosphere.  We felt like we spent a few hours after work hanging out in an exclusive club with superb food.

Best Bite
Paul: Korean fried chicken style ribs
Marnay: English muffins with nduja, Greek yogurt and olive oil jam

Address
Hazel: 808 V Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: U Street

Sauce Milan Food Tour

We just returned from an incredible vacation where we spent time in Iceland, Switzerland and Italy.  The highlight of the trip, though, was our food tour of Milan, Italy.   We learned about the food tours by reading Sauce Milan, a local food blog we found during our travel research.

Marnay and Paul in Milan, Italy

Our tour guide was Simone Muzza, a food writer for Zero magazine, which covers Milan and the surrounding region.  We met Simone at Pasticceria Panzera, a local café.  It is important to note that cafes in Italy are constantly changing throughout the day. They are like coffee shops in the morning, bars during lunch and the early evening and sometimes they offer dinner at night.  We ordered cappuccinos and pastries.  Since Italy is known for pistachios, I ordered a pistachio croissant (brioche in Italy) with pistachios from Sicily which was incredible!  We learned from Simone that you are supposed to dip your croissant in the cappuccino.  We also learned that no one in Italy drinks cappuccino after 11, which is why he had us meet him at 10:00.  The only people that drink cappuccino after 11 are tourists!

pistachio croissants at Pasticceria Panzera

Next up, we walked over to Eataly.  Marnay and I were both surprised that Simone would take us there since it is an international chain, after all.  Still, Simone explained to us that Milan does not have many supermarkets so Eataly is a way for residents to get fresh produce from local farms.  In turn, it is a way to support local farmers who are putting out great products.  He took us to the butcher area where we could take a look at which meats were local (a lot).  He also took us to the seafood section where we could take a look at the local fish…just kidding, there no local fish in Milan!  Milanese cuisine is full of meat and butter.  They didn’t even have olive oil until after World War II.  When we were walking around the wine section of Eataly looking at the wines of Lombardy and Piedmonte, Simone told us that “red wine is the only real wine.”  It was funny, but it was something that we paid attention to the rest of our time in Milan!

Walking through Eataly made us thirsty, so Simone took us along Corso Como for a midday aperitivo at Zaini.  Zaini is actually a chocolate shop, but a few years ago they decided to get in the cocktail game.  So, they hired one of the best barmen (another Italian term, thanks Simone) in Milan, Flavio Angiolille, to design a menu.  The highlight of our time at Zaini was the crustless open faced sandwiches, known as tramanzzini, that came with the drinks.  The toppings for the bread were: anchovies in olive oil, smoked salmon with cream cheese, tuna with red pepper flakes and gorgonzola with chocolate shavings.  My favorite was the anchovies, Marnay’s was the salmon.  They also gave us green olives, which were so fresh and flavorful.   It’s going to be hard to top them back home.  All of this food was included in the price of the drink!

cocktails at Zaini

We had eaten a lot, but we still had pizza and ice cream left on the tour!  Simone led us to a traditional Milanese pizzeria called Coccinella.  We were reviewing the huge pizza menu when Simone explained that he doesn’t like ordering buffalo mozzarella because there are a lot of cows in the Northern Italy but very few buffalo.  Since we normally gravitate towards buffalo mozzarella, it was an interesting perspective and something that we still think about.  We ordered a margherita with cow’s milk mozzarella and a Calabrese with spicy salami.  We also got a calzone, which in the traditional Milanese fashion comes only with tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto.  Simple but amazing.  Everything was also ridiculously inexpensive, something we greatly enjoyed about staying in Milan.

pizza at Coccinella

Last stop…gelato!  Artico Gelateria Tradizionale is one of the best gelaterias in Milan, according to Simone.  After trying it, we can see why.  The stars of the show were the salted pistachio and the milk chocolate.   Plus, all gelato orders came with a sugar wafer “biscuit”…perfect for scooping!

gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale

The tour lasted over four overs and it involved lots of walking, which made it right up our alley.  We loved the places so much that we went back to almost all of them during the remainder of our time in Milan. In fact, we went to Pasticceria Panzera every morning to get cappuccinos and croissants!  And of course we got there before 11.

Simone was a great host and we recommend the Sauce Milan tour to anyone who goes to Milan. We hope to make it back there soon.

Whaley’s

Marnay works near Farragut Square and I take the MARC train to Baltimore, so the perfect spot for us to meet after work is Union Station.  On a beautiful Wednesday, we met up and went to Whaley’s in the Navy Yard by the fastest and easiest way possible…Bikeshare!

Whaley's Navy Yard

Whaley’s is a raw bar and seafood restaurant  from the team behind DGS, appropriately set on the Anacostia waterfront.  I have been really into Italian apertivos lately, especially since I started reading Spritz by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, so I ordered an Americano.  An Americano is made of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water. Marnay got House Cocktail #2, which is a refreshing combination of gin, yellow chartreuse, tarragon, cucumber and lemon.

We sat at the large wrap around bar, near the very prominently displaced raw bar.  Whaley’s is rather small on the inside, although there appears to be just as much outdoor waterfront seating as indoor seating.  Tempted by the aforementioned raw bar, we got poached Gulf shrimp from Alabama as well as 6 local oysters from New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.  We rarely see oysters from New Jersey around here, so I was excited to try them.

Whaley's raw bar

No exaggeration, these were the best oysters we have ever had.  They were perfectly shucked with absolutely no grit and chilled to the perfect temperature.  The shrimp were huge and  buttery and something I would get again without hesitation.

We still haven’t gotten to my favorite dish!  We ordered the crispy fried squash blossoms, filled with the same shrimp and placed on top of a swipe of ginger aioli.  The blossoms are then topped with chives and esplette pepper.  The squash blossoms actually come from the same town in Alabama as the shrimp.

Whaley's squash blossoms

Whaley’s is very new and we noticed a few hiccups, mainly with bartenders not remembering how to make drinks and servers not sure where to bring plates.  These were minor and they did not directly affect us, we just could hear a lot from our perch at the bar.

I recommend Whaley’s if you are in the mood for quality raw seafood at reasonable prices and an A+ view.  We will be back!

Best Bite
Paul: Squash blossoms
Marnay: Oysters

Address
Whaley’s: 301 Water Street, SE #115 Washington, DC 20003
Closest Metro: Navy Yard