Marcel’s

Thanks to a generous OpenTable gift card we received from our family for Christmas, we were able to have dinner at Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End. From 5:00pm-6:30pm each night, Marcel’s offers a $70 per person pre-theater menu. You can choose from one of three options for a first course, main and dessert. When it’s all said and done, you get whisked away in a town car to the Kennedy Center. When we were first seated, our server asked us what time our show was so that the kitchen could get could get the timing down.

Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End

For our first course, the local mixed green salad with shaved cucumber, beet, carrot and sherry vinaigrette topped with shaved cheese was a master-course in proper seasoning and texture. Meanwhile, the duck confit tortellini with black trumpet mushrooms and scallions in a parmesan cream sauce was the definition of decadence. We both forgot what was stuffed inside the pasta because all of the flavors went so well together.

Marcel's duck confit tortellini

Marcel's local mixed green salad

Mains included pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto and English peas and the New York strip steak with potato gratin and white asparagus matchsticks in a cabernet reduction. The salmon had an impossibly crisp skin, but it was the lobster risotto, with its huge chunks of sweet lobster, that stole the show. The New York strip compared favorably to the “DC Steakhouse” course at Pineapples & Pearls, thoroughly seasoned and with a nearly complete absence of grit and gristle. Chef Paul Stearman cooked the steak to medium rare, which is his preference, but the server gave me the option of choosing something else if that is what I wanted.

Marcel's pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto

Marcel's New York strip steak with potato gratin

Dessert is where we encountered a minor hiccup in the meal’s pacing. Everything had been planned out just so, but the restaurant did not account for the fact that the hot chocolate soufflé would take longer than our other dessert. As a result, we arrived at the Kennedy Center minutes before our show started. It didn’t affect our experience at either Marcel’s of the Kennedy Center, though.

The hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream was a showstopper. Our server punctured the inflated soufflé, added the ice cream in the middle and then doused everything with hot chocolate. We also got the chocolate mousse with crispy praline, chocolate caramel sauce and a cocoa nib tuille. The best part was the praline on the bottom, although the whole dessert was good. The soufflé was just amazing, though.

Marcel's chocolate mousse with crispy praline

Marcel's hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream

Marcel’s is one of the best examples of old-school fine dining in DC, and the complementary town car ride to the Kennedy Center put it over the top. However, the food is anything but old-school.

Marcels, Marnay and Paul

Best Bite
Paul: Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Marnay: Duck Confit Tortellini

Address
Marcel’s: 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom

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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

La Fia Market Bistro

I ran my second marathon on Sunday May 8th in Wilmington, DE.  Part of the reason I chose this particular race was because of my schedule.  The other reason was so we could eat at a great restaurant the night before!

Bryan Sikora was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2014 for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic for his work at La Fia and he is quickly taking over the nascent downtown Wilmington dining scene, having recently opened Merchant Bar and Market Street Bread & Bagel. We had previously gone to La Fia in November 2014 and had been looking for an opportunity to return. The marathon seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We ate with my grandparents and parents but I am only going to focus on what Marnay and I ate. The two of us made a meal out of two small plates and one large plate. If you go to La Fia, I recommend getting this amount of food as it was good for two people. The laid back and gracious servers will not pressure you to order a certain amount of food, either.

The server asked if we wanted the small plates first or with everyone’s entrees.  We asked them to come first.  I’m just impressed that he even asked, instead of the dishes coming from the kitchen “as they’re ready.”  We started out with the lightly seared smoked salmon with shaved turnips in a sweet, acidic sauce and a vegetable puree.  The dish also came with “horseradish crackers.”  We had never had such thick pieces of smoked salmon.  It looked a lot like a play on sliced rare tuna.

Along with the salmon, we ordered the grilled smoked merguez with chickpeas, roasted cherry tomatoes, and greek yogurt.  The best part of this dish was the THICK housemade greek yogurt mixed with the slight heat of the merguez and the chickpeas.  The merguez was good, although a little crumbly.

We’re always on the lookout for restaurants that serve gruner veltliner by the glass, and La Fia had one.  Marnay enjoyed a glass while I abstained, since of course, I was running 26 miles in the morning.

The entrée that we shared was grilled hanger steak with sautéed littleneck clams, pancetta, a crispy potato cake, broccoli rabe and a red wine nage. Nage is a type of seafood stock. The hanger steak, one of the most flavorful cuts of meat, was cooked to a perfect medium and had its characteristic chew. The grill imparted just the right amount of char and the nage gave the dish a rich, umami flavor. While the clams were one of the better parts of the dish, the potato cake tasted extraneous.

I ended up having a very enjoyable marathon experience and I think that our meal at La Fia played a role!  This is definitely a restaurant we would go back to.

Best Bite
Marnay: hanger steak
Paul: smoked salmon

Address
La Fia Market Bistro: 421 N. Market Street Wilmington, DE 19801