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

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Tail Up Goat

As part of the post half-marathon celebration, we talked about having dinner at Tail Up Goat. Of course, it’s a popular restaurant and we knew we would have to make reservations at least three weeks out. However, we were on a group winery tour on Saturday, sitting on the upstairs porch at Cana Vineyards in Middleburg drinking some Albarino, when we decided to take a look at reservations. To our shock, there was a reservation at 5:00pm that night!

Cana Vineyards

There was a little problem in that our tour ended at the West Falls Church metro at 4:15pm. Luck was on our side because we somehow were able to take the metro to Farragut West and then a Lyft to Adams Morgan just in time for our reservation.

Once we were seated, the server gave us a shrub made out of sour cherry, lemon and lavender, a way of awakening the taste buds. Now awoken, our taste buds were assaulted by the charred carrots, one of the meatiest vegetables we have ever tasted, served with carrot slaw, crème fraiche, dill and crumbled poppy seed cookie. It tasted at once sour, salty and sweet. It reminded me a little of barbecue, likely because of the smokiness.

Tail Up Goat charred carrots

Tail Up Goat is known for their freshly-baked bread, and we made sure not to miss that. The thick slice of toasted brown rice bread was so fresh it reminded me of my Mom’s homemade bread when it came right out of the oven. The toast is brushed with what tastes like olive oil and salt, then topped with a heavenly house-made ricotta, the first green garlic and garlic chives of the season and drizzled with pine nut syrup. I want to go back with a large group solely to get all the varieties of breads!

Tail Up Goat bread

The piece de resistance was the heaping pile of lamb ribs served on top of onion yogurt, fig puree and grilled lemon rind. The yogurt really cut the fattiness from the lamb ribs and the dish would not be the same without it. We liked the flavor of the lemon, but not the crunchy chewy texture which felt out of place and reminded us of fish bones. Still, these minor issues did not detract from the prehistoric pleasure of eating the pile of ribs. We used a knife and fork, although we noticed other tables eating the ribs with their hands. The knife wasn’t all that necessary since the meat falls right off the bone. The menu says the lamb ribs serve two, although we would have been able to share them with at least one more person—it’s a lot of food.

Tail Up Goat ribs

Having been there for the first time, we can now understand why there is so much buzz surrounding Tail Up Goat. The food is incredible, the prices are reasonable and the vibe is casual.

Best Bite
Paul: Brown rice bread
Marnay: Charred carrots

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

Le Virtu

Back when I was in law school, we lived just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, so we know that the city has lots of Italian restaurants. However, we were on a tight budget so we would mainly frequent pizzerias and red sauce joints. Now that we are older and wiser we are starting to explore more diverse Italian restaurants which focus on a specific region of Italy. One such place is Le Virtu in the East Passyunk neighborhood.

Le Virtu specializes in the cuisine of Abruzzo, located in Southern Italy just west of Rome and stretching from the Apennines in the east to the Adriatic in the west. Montepulciano is the wine to drink, and Le Virtu has 9(!) bottles of it. With that many to choose from, I asked our server for some assistance. He recommended the Cataldi Madonna Malandrino, a bold, flavorful red that set the tone for the entire meal.

Le Virtu Montepulciano red wine: Cataldi Madonna Malandrino

Arrosticini d’agnello, or grilled lamb skewers, is the best preparation of the night. This fatty, chewy (in a good way) roadside snack is served in a specially-made clay pot that says “arrosticini” on the side.

Le Virtu Arrosticini d’agnello, or grilled lamb skewers

For my entree, I was torn between the bucatini all’ amatriciana and the taccozzele all’aquilana, named after the capital of Abruzzo. I asked the server for advice and he said that the taccozzele was his favorite thing on the menu. I couldn’t turn that down! The thick folds of the spinach handkerchief pasta were coated with chunks of Abruzzese sausage, saffron, and earthy porcinis. Everything was then topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. By the end of the dish, we were planning our trip to Abruzzo.

Le Virtu pasta: taccozzele all’aquilana

Inspired by our pasta dish at Taglio in Milan, we ordered the Maccheroni alla chitarra con ragu d’agnello, or guitar-cut pasta in lamb shoulder ragu. At Taglio, we had also ordered pasta with lamb shoulder rage, but there was a clear difference between the Northern Italian version in Milan and the Abruzzese version at Le Virtu. That difference; tomatoes! Tomatoes can grow in the warmer climate of Southern Italy but not in Northern Italy. Most of the Italian immigration to America was from Southern Italy, which is why we tend to think of tomatoes as being an integral part of Italian cuisine.

Le Virtu pasta: all chitarra con ragu d’agnello, or guitar-cut pasta in lamb shoulder ragu

We ended the meal with semifredo (semi-frozen) chocolate bon bons and a housemade fennel digestif. If you are looking for an intimate Italian restaurant in Philadelphia with sublime cooking and cheerful, knowledgable staff, it is hard to beat Le Virtu.

Le Virtu dessert

Best Bite
Paul: Taccozzele all’aquilana
Marnay: Maccheroni alla chitarra con ragu d’agnello

Address
Le Virtu: 1927 East Passyunk Ave Philadelphia, PA 19148
Closest Public Transit: Snyder Broad Street Line stop

Northwest Chinese

On Friday night after work, we met at the College Park metro station and walked in the oppressive heat to Northwest Chinese, where we hoped to be greeted by a different (and much more welcome) type of heat. Northwest Chinese is in a strip mall on the edge of the University of Maryland campus in downtown College Park, a little less than a mile from the metro station. The interior of the restaurant looks modern and pleasant, with a soothing waterfall by the cashier’s stand.

We were directed to a seat along the wall and given a laminated menu along with a purple washable marker. You put a “check” next to what you want and then bring it to the front when you’re ready. We checked off the Black Vinegar Peanuts, the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger and the Sour Soup Dumplings.

Northwest Chinese: Black Vinegar Peanuts, Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

The peanuts, glazed with Shaanxi vinegar and then topped with cilantro, red pepper flakes and sliced garlic, were addictive. They are the ideal snack to order while waiting on the rest of your meal. Next up: the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger, with ground lamb on a house made rice bun. The rice bun had a crispy, cracker-like consistency. A softer bun would have disintegrated under the weight of the spice-saturated lamb. While the burger had some heat from the cumin and a few flecks of red pepper, it’s a good option for those looking to dial down the heat.

Northwest Chinese Sour Soup Dumplings

The sour soup dumplings, other the other hand, does not dial down the heat. The initial surprise, for me at least, was the spicy and sour combination. Taking one look at it, I knew it was going to be spicy. After all, the peanuts had prepared me for this mix of flavors. But when I tasted the vinegar, it jarred me a little. Once I warmed up to the incredible complexity of the broth, though, I just wanted to devour it all. We both agreed that the housemade pork dumplings, which had more heft and chew than usual, were the best dumplings we had ever had. As Marnay would say, those dumplings are what all dumplings aspire to be!

All of this food—the peanuts, burger and soup—was $18 before tip. For this quality, we would happily pay much more.

Best Bite
Paul: Soup
Marnay: Dumplings

Address
Northwest Chinese: 7313 Baltimore Ave College Park, MD 20740
Closest Metro: College Park