Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard and Oregon Pinot Noir

This blog is mainly about restaurant reviews, but most nights you can find us cooking at home. We love to cook, and we love it even more if there is a bottle of wine involved! When we were in Oregon last month, we visited the Domaine Drouhin winery and took home a bottle of the 2014 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. I was flipping through October’s Food and Wine magazine when I found the perfect dish to pair it with: Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard.

Food & Wine Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard recipe

Now, let’s step back. You may have heard that red wine and fish do not go together. Not so! Salmon is meaty and oily, so it can easily stand up to a medium-bodied red like pinot noir.

Before we started cooking, we had a glass (or two) of the wine. The wine has a ruby red appearance, with notes of vanilla, oak and baking spices. At 14.1% alcohol, it packs a punch, but is still well-balanced.

2014 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir wine

The recipe we are presenting here serves four people. Since we were just making dinner for the two of us, we cut everything in half. The recipe is simple and can be broken down into three elements: making the vinaigrette, sautéing the chard and searing the salmon.

Vinaigrette:
Combine 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and ¼ cup olive oil in a bowl and whisk away, then season with salt and pepper. The tarragon is important, since some of the most prominent flavors of the dish are going to be produced by the herb.

Marnay cooking Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard

Chard:
Chard stems are thick and similar to celery. After thoroughly washing the chard, tear the leaves, leaving only the stems. Put the leaves aside and then cut the stems into 2-inch pieces. Next, prepare your aromatics: mince 2 cloves of garlic and 1 large shallot. Since the chard stems are thick, you will want to sauté them first. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the chard stems with the shallot and garlic for 5 minutes. Once your kitchen smells like garlic and the stems are softened, add the chard and cook for another 3 minutes. The final step is to add half of your vinaigrette to the saucepan plus salt and pepper. That vinaigrette is going to bring big flavor!

Salmon:
Last up is the centerpiece of the dish, the crisp-skinned salmon. You will want about 5 to 6 ounce of salmon per person. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat it up over medium high heat. A non-stick pan is best for this so that there are no concerns about losing the skin. Once it’s hot, add the salmon skin-side down. Make sure you press down on the salmon! You need to do this so that all of the skin touches the pan and has a chance to get crispy. And you want crispy skin, right?!? After 3 minutes, flip the salmon and cook for another 3 minutes until just cooked through. If your salmon is on the thicker side, cook for another minute.

Paul cooking Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard

When it’s done, serve up the salmon with the chard and pour the rest of the vinaigrette over everything. You also could just pour the vinaigrette over the salmon, since the chard already received its vinaigrette. The earthy Oregon pinot noir pairs well with the salmon and does not overpower it with fruit. Pinot noirs from Oregon have more in common with the subtle pinot noirs from Burgundy, rather than the fruit bombs from Napa and Sonoma. There’s a time and place for the California pinot noir, it’s just not right now.

Homemade Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard and Oregon Pinot Noir

If you aren’t able to find Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir, feel free to get another Williamette Valley Pinot Noir. If you can find one from the Dundee Hills subregion, even better. Doing a quick online search, I saw that this exact wine is available at Calvert Woodley, across from the Van Ness metro station, along with a few other Dundee Hills wines.

Now that you’ve finished cooking, all that’s left for you is to enjoy your meal and drink your wine. Cheers!

Looking for more recipe posts? Check out our Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes recipe.

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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!

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

Centrolina

For Marnay’s birthday celebration, we made reservations at Chef Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina, located in CityCenter DC.  We were 15 minutes late for our 8:00pm reservation—our fault, although we did call ahead to let them know.  However, we were not seated until 8:35pm—their fault.  They acknowledged it and made up for it, though, with a gratis cheese plate.  Not the first time that I have seen this technique in a restaurant and I think it works really well to engender good will.

Centrolina gratis cheese plate

Centrolina (pronunciation: “Chen-tro-leena”) specializes in housemade pasta dishes, which we were most excited about.  We ordered one small plate, one large plate and two pastas.  The melone with cucumber, tomato and extra virgin olive oil was refreshing on a hot day, although it would have been better if the salt and pepper was applied evenly.  The few bites I tried with salt and pepper were markedly better than the ones without.

Centrolina melone appetizer

The branzino was a standout, with its crispy exterior.  The crisp skin and tender flesh went well with the cool butter beans and yogurt sauce it was resting on.  We would get this dish again.

Centrolina branzino

Centrolina needs to hold on to the server we had.  She was in charge of the entire room and extremely knowledgeable about the menu.  She gave us our space but also understood when we needed some help.    Marnay’s Mom loves Prosecco, although it was not on the menu by the glass.  Instead, the server steered her towards a glass of Franciacorta, a sparkling white from Lombardy made using the champagne method.  That means that it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, as opposed to a steel tank like Prosecco.

As mentioned early, we were excited about the pasta dishes.  My take is that they were mostly good, although a bit of a mixed bag.  The fusilli with tomato, fennel sausage and calamari was delicious, the salty sausage and the chewy calamari going particularly well with the fusilli.  The neri, or squid ink pasta, with tuna crudo and spicy nonnata di pesce loaded with Calabrian chiles was good, but also could have benefited from more salt.  I have had a similar dish at Osteria Morini in the Navy Yard which was considerably better.

Centrolina fusilli and neri pasta dishes

It’s worth noting that the fusilli was the only dried pasta on the menu.  I could taste the difference, in favor of the dried pasta.  It held its chew and soaked up more sauce than the slippery fresh squid ink pasta.

We tipped off our server that it was Marnay’s birthday, so the pudding-like budino we shared for dessert came with a candle on top.  Centrolina is a solid restaurant with good, but not amazing food.  It is worth a trip if you are in the area.

Centrolina birthday cake

Best Bite
Paul: Fusilli pasta
Marnay: Branzino

Address
Centrolina: 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Metro Center

Ultimate Richmond Weekend

We woke up at 5:00am on a Saturday to get ready for our 7:00am Amtrak train to Richmond. Unfortunately, our train was an hour and 15 minutes late getting to Union Station.  It was fine, though, as it allowed us to walk around the station a few times before sitting on the train for over 2 hours.

Richmond Main Street is one of the nicest, cleanest Amtrak stations that we have ever been to.  The station itself is one of our favorite parts of visiting Richmond.  We left and walked straight to one of our all-time favorite lunch places, Grace Noodle. Marnay got miso ramen with ground pork and I got a rich vegetable ramen.  I am getting right now hungry thinking about it!  On top of everything, the place is ridiculously inexpensive.

While it was almost 100 degrees outside, we were prepared for it and went for a walk to the Manchester neighborhood, on the south side of the James River.  We normally like to organize activities ahead of time, but this was completely unplanned.  We stumbled across a train museum with a huge model train set which volunteers had spent years building.  We also found a modern art exhibit space called ArtWorks Richmond in a former industrial space.  In general, Richmond is doing an excellent job taking obsolete factories and turning them into lofts, artists spaces, etc.   Thirsty after all of this walking and exploring, we headed to BlueBee Cider and enjoyed a drink.

Next on our jam packed Richmond adventure we ubered to Hardywood Brewing for some more cold ones and to take advantage of their air conditioning.  We spent a lot of time at Hardywood enjoying the beer and staying cool.

By 4:00pm, we were absolutely starving, so we headed to the Roosevelt for our 5:00pm reservation.  Before we actually got to dinner, we stopped across the street at Sub Rosa, an incredible bakery, for some baked goods to help tide us over.  Our dinner at the Roosevelt was a tad inconsistent but we had a great roasted rockfish dish.  Most importantly, we were full for our long train ride home.

Richmond is easily doable as a day trip from Silver Spring/DC.  Plus if you take Amtrak like we did, you can sample as many drinks as the city has to offer without having to worry about driving home!

The Roosevelt cocktails

Places we visited
Grace Noodle: 1823 E Main Street Richmond, VA 23223
Old Dominion Railway Museum: 102 Hull Street Richmond, VA 23224
Art Works: 320 Hull Street Richmond, VA 23224
Blue Bee Cider: 212 W 6th Street Richmond, VA 23224
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: 2408-2410 Ownby Lane Richmond, VA 23220
Sub Rosa: 620 N 25th Street Richmond, VA 23223
The Roosevelt: 623 N 25th Street Richmond, VA 23223

Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend

Thursday

On Thursday, we headed to one of our favorite bars in Silver Spring, Scion, for their Right Proper Tap Takeover.   The event was to celebrate Right Proper’s entry into the Montgomery County market, which is certainly a big deal.  The Shaw brewpub just opened up a much larger production brewery in Northeast DC.

The bartender at Scion, Matt, is extremely knowledgeable about beer and a good guy in general.  Scion has a huge beer list and I will usually ask his opinion on what to get.  The bar is a relaxed place, and the atmosphere was still relaxed even though there was a good crowd for the event.  Another thing that Scion has going for it is that it has one of the best patios in Silver Spring, on the large sidewalk fronting East-West Highway.  The food at Scion proper is good, but at the bar you can also order bao (Chinese steamed buns) from their sister restaurant, Nainai’s.  I think that Nainai’s may be one of the best restaurants in Silver Spring for both quality and value.

Friday

As you know, we are both huge foodies.  About three weeks ago, I (Paul) saw one of my favorite food writers mention on twitter that she was at The Classics.  I tweeted back and told her that we’ve lived in Silver Spring for two and a half years and had never even considered it…we’re not really into steaks and it didn’t seem like the kind of place we would like.  She strongly recommended it, though. She said that she and her husband, who is also a food critic, used to go there every Friday until they moved.

Because of her recommendation, we decided to include it in our #ultimatesilverspringweekend.  Boy, are we glad we did. The bartender is this friendly yet curmudgeonly man and he is absolutely perfect for the place. He’s an old fashioned bar tender….the service was amazing, but he also just let us do our thing and didn’t bother us unless we wanted his attention.  We ordered a New York Strip Steak, cooked to a perfect medium. As I mentioned earlier, we are not big steak eaters, but we devoured this.  It was just the right amount of food for two people to be full afterwards.

We were finished up dinner, getting ready to leave, when guess who walks in?  M. Carrie Allan, the Washington Post spirts columnist who I had tweeted at three weeks ago! I froze, starstruck.  She came and sat at the other end of the bar.  We had already gotten the check at this point but I told the bartender that we had a change of plans.  We ordered another drink and who walks in but Tim Carman, the Washington Post food writer who sometimes fills in for Tom Sietesma as head food critic! Alas, we did not get a chance to talk to them. But it just shows what an interesting and fun place Silver Spring is!

Saturday

On Saturdays, first thing upon waking up we like to walk across the street to Bump ‘n Grind.  We will normally get two drip coffees to go as well as two biscuits, which are made at La Mano in Takoma Park.   We then take the biscuits and make sandwiches with them at home.  Bump ‘n Grind has recently starting showing soccer games on a large projector screen, which has drawn crowds the last few times I was there.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk to focus on the parks of Silver Spring.  We actually went on part of my running route and it was nice to be able to appreciate the scenery instead of flying by.  First stop was the surprisingly large Woodside Park, just on the edge of downtown at the corner of Spring and Georgia.  Next, we made our way through the Woodside neighborhood to connect with the Sligo Creek Trail, an incredible resource to have so close.  We walked all the way to Kemp Mill, basically to the northern end of the trail.  Exhausted and hungry, we sat in the parking lot of a shopping center and ate food from CVS, the only thing open.  Kemp Mill has a large Orthodox Jewish population, so almost everything was closed on Saturday.

We took the 9 Ride on Bus back to downtown and got some delicious black bass from Whole Foods to cook for dinner.  Whole Foods is another great resource to have in walking distance.

Sunday

Sunday was our Pete’s New Haven Apizza day.  We ordered three personal pizzas to share so that we would have lots of leftovers for dinner on Monday.   We got the Staven, with pepperoni, hot sausage, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and hot cherry peppers, the Margherita and the Merritt Parkway (named after the highway in Connecticut), with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, basil and olive oil.  Mmm, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about the Staven!  The Silver Spring food scene is embarrassment of riches.  We went to a lot of different restaurants on our Silver Spring weekend, but it would take a lot longer than a weekend to visit all of the good spots.

After we finished, we went home to drop off the pizza and then walked on the Sligo Creek Trail again, this time towards Takoma Park.  At Maple Ave, we started walking towards Philadelphia Ave and then hopped on the F4 Metrobus back to Silver Spring.  We got off at Veterans Plaza to pick up a few more things at Whole Foods.

We had a lot of fun on our Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend.  We learned  about some new things, like the Classics, but it also helped us appreciate the things we have nearby and that we may take for granted.   Silver Spring is an incredible place and we are happy to call it home!

Places we visited
Scion: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
The Classics: 8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Bump ‘n Grind: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Woodside Park: 8800 Georgia Avenue. Silver Spring, MD 20910
Whole Foods: 833 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pete’s New Haven Style Pizza: 962 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Vernick Food & Drink

This is not something that I say lightly, but our meal at Vernick Food & Drink was the best all-around meal we have ever had.  It started before we even got there.  We were running a little late for our reservation, so I called to let the restaurant know.  When we arrived, the hostess was genuinely thrilled that we let them know.

We were dining with Marnay’s good friend Tracy as well as Marnay’s Mom, who has joined us for a number of the dining adventures featured on this blog.  The hostess led us back through the bar to the narrow dining room in front of the open kitchen.  Our table was in the section of the dining room that was right in front of Chef Vernick.  It was actually a better location than the chef’s counter, at the opposite end.  The smell from the kitchen was intoxicating as soon as we sat down.

The menu is separated into toast, raw, vegetables, small plates, large plates and simply roasted from the wood oven.  Vernick is famous for its toast, so we knew for sure that would be an essential part of our meal.   Before we made any decision, though, we ordered some drinks.  Marnay’s Mom and Tracy got glasses of cava and Marnay had a glass of Sonoma Chardonnay.  I had a cocktail named El Chucho Roto, a mezcal and amaro based drink.  The amaro really cut out the smokiness of the mezcal.

After consulting with our server, we ordered the Maryland crab toast, the pumpkin and brown butter toast, the spaghetti squash salad with a crispy egg and mushroom leek vinaigrette, the pasta special with homemade spaghetti, olive oil poached Icelandic cod in a spicy saffron tomato sauce, brussels sprouts in an ancho caramel sauce and finally, half of a roasted organic Amish chicken in a lemon herb jus.  Our incredible server asked if she could take the liberty of pacing out the dishes for us, which the restaurant did beautifully.

First came an amuse bouche of celery root soup w/ spicy arugula oil in an espresso cup, for drinking.  Our first official course was the crab toast with a lemon aioli and the spaghetti squash.   The spaghetti squash had a breaded, fried poached egg sitting in the middle which our server suggested that we break open first.  That way, the runny yolk would become the sauce for the squash.    The toast, cut in threes, is intended to be shared.  When we started biting into in, the entire table fell silent.  The toast was thick but not so thick so that you couldn’t bite into it, with just the right amount of crunch.  The crab was extremely fresh and tasted like the sea.

Once we were done, the server brought our next course about three minutes later.  We thought that the pumpkin and brown butter toast might be sweet, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the rich pumpkin only had a touch of sweetness.

After we finished the toast, our server brought us a chili vinegar for the roasted chicken.  As an example of how great our server was, Marnay asked her what was in the vinegar.  Our server knew every ingredient, down to the toasted fennel.  It was as if she made it herself.

Before our next course, we ordered a second round of drinks.  Marnay got another chardonnay and her Mom and Tracy got more cava.  I, however, wanted to test our server.  I told her that I wanted a local beer—the style didn’t matter, but since we don’t live in the area, I want something local.  She stared at me for a few seconds and then asked, “Do you like sour beers?”  I love sour beers!  It was almost as if she stared into my soul.  She recommended a saison from Tired Hands that’s brewed with salt and citrus.

When the rest of our order came out, we received potatoes and shishito peppers “complements of Chef Greg.”  We had been praising him and pointing at the kitchen all night, mesmerized by what was going on, and he must have heard us!   He was so focused all night, though.  It was a wonder to watch.

The chicken was possibly the most perfectly seasoned roasted chicken any of us had ever had.  It went very fast.

The cod in the homemade spaghetti was broken into small pieces, which reminded me of shrimp.  The brussels sprouts were at once smoky and hot from the ancho and sweet from the caramel.  The flavors were intense, but they balanced out nicely.

When we first ordered, I mentioned that we could always take home leftovers if we were ordering too much.  That certainly was not necessary!  All that was left was a few brussels sprouts.

After a meal this great, of course we had to get dessert.  We got the toasted walnut maple pie with bourbon ice cream as well as the chocolate crisp ice cream.  The pie tasted like a much, much better version of a pecan pie and the bourbon ice cream was rich, dense and flavorful.

As we were leaving, we noticed that the Chef took a break from what he was doing.  He waited until we put our coats and then personally thanked us for coming.  We did not see him do that for anyone else.

A little touch like that just set us over the edge from a great meal to an exceptional meal.  All four of us agreed that this was probably the best all-around meal ever.  We felt like we were treated like VIPs.

Best Bite
Marnay: Crab Toast
Paul: Spaghetti Squash Salad with Crispy Egg

Best sip
Marnay and Paul: El Chucho Roto

Address
Vernick Food & Drink: 2031 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

Jackie’s

As many people know, Jackie’s is closing at the end of March so that Jackie Greenbaum can open an Italian restaurant in Petworth.  We went there one last time with Marnay’s Mom on a bitterly cold Wednesday night.  The middle of the week is usually a good time to eat out, since chefs know that only the most dedicated and adventurous eaters will be there.  We weren’t sure how many dishes we wanted, so we ordered drinks and thought about it for a little bit.  I got an old fashioned.  The drink tasted good but it came with traditional fast-melting ice so I had to drink it faster than I wanted to. Marnay got a crisp vinho verde and her Mom got prosecco, which is her favorite drink in the world.

We ordered two small plates and two entrees among the three of us.  Marnay and her Mom shared cacio e pepe and enjoyed it, especially the heat from the black pepper.  We also got burrata with pumpkin butter, prosciutto, arugula and pickled beets.  I’ve had a lot of burrata in my life, but this was probably the best I’ve ever tasted.  The cheese was extremely creamy and it matched perfectly with the sweet fall spices in the pumpkin butter.  The prosciutto had a cracker-like crispiness, meaning it was most likely dehydrated.  All together a well-assembled dish and the best of the night.

We waited a while between courses, but it allowed us to talk and enjoy our drinks.  I got a corpse reviver #2 which was a gin and absinthe based drink.  Without any ice, it was so much better than the old fashioned.  Marnay and I ended up sharing the drink because we both liked it.

When the entrees came, Marnay and her Mom had the arctic char with grilled romaine, cauliflower, mussels and a squash and saffron broth.  They really liked the crispy skin but noted that the fish could use some more salt.  The mussels also seemed a little extraneous.

I had porchetta with white bean ragu, broccoli rabe and citrus gremolata.  My first bite of broccoli rabe tasted like the best part of the dish.  But then my next bite of broccoli rabe was bland and disappointing.  I liked the porchetta, particularly the fatty parts.  The dish ended up being better the next day when I made a sandwich out of it at work.

Our server was very attentive but not overbearing.  I would easily say that she was the best server we’ve had at Jackie’s.  Unfortunately, we have had problems with the servers at Jackie’s in the past, which kept us away.

If this was our last time at Jackie’s, it was very fitting.  It’s been years since we were blown away by the food there and tonight was no exception.  If only every dish were as good as the burrata!

Best Bite
Paul: Burrata
Marnay: Cacio e Pepe

Best Sip
Paul and Marnay: Corpse Reviver #2

Address (Update: Jackie’s is now closed)
Jackie’s: 8081 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Closest Metro: Silver Spring

Ripple

On Friday night, we met at Union Station after work and took the metro to Cleveland Park to go to Ripple. We were 30 minutes early for our 7:30 reservation, but the hostess immediately walked us through the long, narrow bar area to our seats in the small dining area. She even took our coats.

I noticed that the bar area had a grilled cheese station manned by a student from L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg (he was wearing an LADC chef’s hat), which I thought was a nice opportunity. The décor and concept of Ripple is very similar to Jackie’s; colorful dining area, couch-like seating, etc. The only difference is that the flannel-clad servers at Ripple are a bit more relaxed than the servers at Jackie’s. It’s hands-off service, which can be refreshing.

  

We knew that we wanted a bottle of wine and since Ripple’s wine list is huge, we asked our server for her recommendation. We let her know that we wanted a Pinot Noir or something similar for around $50. She recommended a 2013 St. Innocent Village Cuvee Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. (Coincidentally, I had been reading an interesting article on 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir That afternoon) Since they also sold it by the glass, she let us try a little before we decided!

  

We were brought fresh, pillowy-soft rolls with what taste like everything bagel seasoning. I would buy these if they sold them, they were so good.

  

We had our first two courses brought out to us at the same time: Marinated endive with roasted baby beets, walnut butter and blood orange and then venison tartare with juniper scented yogurt, smoked egg yolk and sunchoke chips. The roasted beets went well with the walnut butter. While the endive was nice and bitter and good on its own, it did not go as well with the butter. The best part of the tartare was the smoked egg yolk. It brought so much richness as well as an intensely smoky flavor.

We shared a main course of hot smoked sablefish with horseradish crème fraiche, marble potatoes and dill. Sablefish, or black cod, is similar to Chilean Sea Bass. The fish was so smoky it reminded me of bacon, though it still had the consistency of a flaky white fish. The root vegetables went well with the fish, but there was a little too much crème fraiche on the potatoes. Ripple focuses on serving seasonal products, which is why there were a lot of hardy root vegetables on the menu.

 

We wanted to try a little bit of everything, so we had charcuterie with our main course. We ordered prosciutto di Parma, bresaola (air-dried beef) and house made duck prosciutto. The meats went well with the flatbread crackers they were served with.

We had eaten a lot at this point, but the dessert list was too good to pass up. Warm cranberry apple cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top served in a mini cast-iron skillet.  

  

We were treated very well at Ripple. The food was good and I am pretty sure that we will go back and sit in the bar area. I can’t say that the food was that much different than other fine-dining restaurants throughout the region. The relaxed service may give Ripple an edge over the others, however.

Address
3417 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
Closest Metro: Cleveland Park

Zinc New Haven

We left early one Friday and took Amtrak to New Haven, CT. We were in town for my cousin Heather’s wedding. I had met some people on the MARC train who used to live in New Haven and who gave me some great ideas. I was told that Zinc was an excellent New American restaurant, so we made a reservation for our first night.

Zinc is a farm-to-table restaurant across from the historic New Haven Green. It has a cool, sophisticated vibe that you can feel immediately upon entering. We started the meal with drinks—I had a pear maple Old Fashioned with James E. Pepper ‘1776’ bourbon, spiced muddled pears and urban moonshine maple bitters. Marnay had a glass of Rioja—she is a big fan of Spanish reds.

We were given homemade pita squares with red pepper ginger dipping sauce. The dipping sauce had a distinctive Thai flavor, with the addition of lime, chilies and (likely) fish sauce.

The best bite of the meal was the braised pork belly with cucumber noodle pickles, tomato jam and a Calabrian chile glaze. The pork belly was so tender it just fell apart as soon as the fork touched it. There was a nice kick from the Calabrian chile glaze as well as sweetness from the tomato jam. I think that our favorite part of the dish was the cool, crunchy cucumber noodle pickle because of the contrast with the warm, tender pork belly.

For the main course, Marnay got a moist filet of pacific black cod with an absolutely perfect crispy skin, made even crispier with a wild rice crust. The cod was in a seasonally appropriate spiced squash broth with PEI mussels, caramelized Brussels sprouts and an IPA jam. The fish was far and away the best part of the dish. The mussels seemed like an afterthought and their addition made little sense but on the whole, it was an excellent dish.

I had grilled Yellowfin tuna with a Tamari cure, vegetable spring rolls, fried spinach wasabi oil and a chile-garlic sauce. It was a beautiful piece of tuna and it was fun to swipe in the wasabi oil for a little kick. The fried spinach was nice, but the addition of the spring rolls was baffling. Simply too much going on, and a piece of fish that good deserves to be front and center!

We had a lovely evening at Zinc with some delicious, high quality food and outstanding service.

Address
Zinc New Haven: 964 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510