Wednesday, September 8

The Proof is in the Tartare

I've been to Proof before. They used to have a Restaurant Week menu when they first opened up, but they don't do that anymore. I enjoyed my meal, but it was a time when I was still trying to get into wine, and having to drink a full glass of red with my meal wasn't appetizing to me. This time it was a business lunch, so no drinking for me meant being able to fully appreciate and concentrate on the food.
The first thing I noticed when I looked at the menu was their ahi tuna tartare offering. Huzzah! I would get to check off yet one more restaurant tuna tartare off my list, AND I would get to eat tuna tartare. This day was turning into the Day of the Week! So of course I order that, along with a big glass of water for my hangover, and the rustic veal ragu over garganelli pasta, which is like a rippled penne pasta that looks like it's been rolled. My companions also ordered a cheese plate and a few other firsts, one of which was a very rich cold cucumber and avocado soup (I regretfully did not try any of the soup, as I had just met this woman and didn't think we were on spoon-sharing terms quite yet). The cheeses were accompanied with some sweet little accoutrements, like figs and raw honey. A few of the cheeses weren't really too my taste (a bit too stinky or bleu-ey), but I could tell that they were chosen with great care and precision.
The Tartare.
When the tartare was brought over to the table, it took most of my willpower not to pounce on top of it at once and claim it as my property. I had never seen anything like it before. The tuna was a deep burgundy color, the freshest I had ever seen in real life or even on Top Chef (Amanda's oxidized tartare almost killed me on the inside), and it was big! There were three layers of tuna, with blue nori tempura between each. It was peppered with avocados and the usual tartare flavors: sesame, wasabi, and heaven. I even forgot where I was for a moment, and for just a few seconds, I started dancing in my seat and humming my custom tuna-tartare victory song (good food can regress me to a toddler state). Needless to say, Proof is now the proud recipient of my Best Damn Tuna Tartare in DC honor.
My entree was a rustic veal ragu with garganelli pasta. The ragu was wonderful, perfectly thick and not overbearing (as ragu can be), and the pasta they paired it with was cooked perfectly. I don't really like my pastas as al dente as everyone else; I don't see anything wrong with a softer pasta. This garganelli hit just the right note; it was firm but easily digestible. It was accented with parmesan cheese, and I have to say, the entire dish was very simple and straightforward. In other words, it was fantastic!
For dessert, I tried the trio of sorbet: pineapple, coconut and strawberry. Although I really don't like the taste of coconut, it was pretty gently flavored, and the three flavors were all great compliments to each other.
I want to talk a bit about the service I received here. I've said before in my Bistro la Bonne post that I really appreciate and enjoy unassuming service. Well, the service I received at Proof was exactly what I look for every time I go out to eat (which is probably why I avoid T.G.I. Friday's at all costs). Our waiter was never too far away for help with a menu choice or suggestion. My water glass was filled by their backwaiter ninjas every so often, which is a very important task for the hungover patron, such as myself. Now I am always looking at the kind of service i receive and the behavior of my server. It's in my nature to do so, and so I usually notice things that no one else ever would. So when I mentioned to one of my fellow diners that that was great service, she said she didn't even notice anything. EXACTLY!
Bravo, Proof. You are steadily climbing my list as a place I will frequent more often than not when it comes to restaurant choices in DC. And that's a LOT of choices. For your impeccable service, a tartare nearing perfection, and a full glass of water at all times, you get 4.5 noms!


Kings of Leon's New Single. YES.

Tuesday, August 31

Oui, Oui, Bistro la Bonne!

I decided about two weeks ago that I deserved an expensive lunch. I'm sure the decision to pamper myself had more to do with my serial viewing of "Julie & Julia" on HBO and a few extra dollars in my pocket than any real momentous accomplishment. Amy and Meryl just made French food look SO goooood, I had to get some myself. So I set up a reservation for Bistro la Bonne on U St., a new-ish place I had heard good things about.
I arrive for a late lunch, around 1 o'clock, and there is one other table there, an older couple finishing up some mussels. Although there was more staff than patrons at this point, it still felt cozy and crowded, the way most French bistros should (in my limited Parisian experience, anyway). Beer and food specials were written haphazardly on some chalkboards above the bar. There was paper on the tables, full flatware and glassware settings at each seat, weird music being pushed through speakers hung high on the ceiling, etc.
My water glass was filled as soon as I sat, which was a GREAT thing, considering I was sweating my ass off from the intense heat wave washing over the District. She handed me a menu, smiled, and walked away. THANK. YOU. I love unassuming and gentle service, and she was well on her way to getting a fat tip.
Of course, I had already decided on one or two things from the menu, as is my M.O. Appetizer would have to be the soupe a l'oignon gratinee, one of my favorite uber-involved soups of all time (that's French onion soup, bee-tee-dubs). It came out in an immense crock, overflowing with molten swiss and gruyere cheeses smothering a few thick croutons. It was flavorful but not overpowering, filled with onions and even more cheese, and I had a hard time choking down the entire thing. The CHEESE, my god, all the cheese! A tad overkill for French cuisine if you ask me. It was almost like I had asked McDonald's to supersize it for me. Phew.
I could not decide what I wanted for my main entree; it was a toss-up between the short ribs (Travers de Boeuf puree de Pomme de Terre au Fromage) at $24 a plate, or the beef medallions with asparagus and shrimp risotto (Medallion de boeuf servi avec un risotto aux asperges et crevettes) for $22. I asked my server, and she convinced me to go fir the short ribs, at it is a more authentic French dish and not a more typical plate. I agreedto her upsell (I don't hate, I would have done the same thing), and I waited for my short ribs.
This was my first experience with short ribs. Every time I have tried to order them from a menu before, they were all out for the night, or something else like lamb or rabbit would entice me more than the shorties. So when my dish came out in a bowl, I was taken aback. Not in a bad way, I just expected, well, ribs. On a plate. With potato puree and some roasted veggies on a side, and some sauce poured over the meat. Not so with those slick little Frenchies. It was like a stew, with potato on the bottom, and a hunk of bone-in short ribs plopped in the middle of it all, and then surrounded by pearl onions, button mushrooms (gross, I actually ate one thinking it was an onion), and chunks of carrots that swam in this awesomely rich, dark wine sauce that I would have drank through a straw if I was having Secret Shame Night at home.
After the soup experience I went through just 10 minute earlier, I had a hard time getting through this dish, and when I asked if I could take it home, I was greeted with a smile, a nod, and not one hint of French pretension. Love love love. She packaged it up for me, asked if I would like coffee or dessert (I'm pretty sure I actually guffawed at this poor girl. Literally snorted a laugh at her, as I said I would just take the check, thanks). The whole thing ran me $40 with a fat tip as I had mentioned earlier. I would have tried to recruit this chick for my own restaurant if I had one. Her service was perfect.
I stuck around and tried to digest the lumps of cheese and meat I had engorged on as I read my book.
I guess the fact that I don't really eat French food often may have something to do with my surprise at its presentation. I always assumed it was lighter than what I got, but there must be some sect of their cuisine that takes after American's sentiment to eat until they're full, then eat some more. Either way, the food was great, I had enough left over for a great little dinner, the service was absolutely fantastic, and although it was pretty expensive, I knew what I was getting myself into, and it was proportional to what I walked away with. Bostro la Bonne, you get 3.5 NOMS!

Because it's funny.

Because we've all done this at one time or another, right?

Zola, Zola, Zola. You've been a bad restaurant!

The first time I ever went to Zola, it was Restaurant Week. H and M and I made a reservation at this lovely "restaurant of leaves", so to speak, and I for one was very excited. The thing about Zola, which was unlike any other restaurant I had been to up to that point, was their RW menu. They didn't limit the choices their guests had, and everything they offered for lunch and dinner was up for grabs. So, if you ordered appetizer, entree and dessert, you got the discounted price, no matter your choices. Bravo, Zola. Bra. Vo.
I had the tune tartare (big surprise) and the lamb, and some chocolatey dessert. I melted into my seat with each bite, and had to summon every ounce of sophisticated energy I had NOT to hum and dance in my seat as I ate. Five Noms!
I have been to Zola a few times since, always during Restaurant Week (I'm not rich. Yet.), and always with the highest of expectations.
So I was pretty deflated when my latest RW experience at Zola didn't live up to my hype. Sigh.
My server was definitely new. His name was Jeffrey and it took him 10 minutes to greet me after I was seated. Of course, I had already known what I was going to eat before I got there, as I research the crap out of every restaurant menu online before I arrive. Meh, whatever, I was in no rush and had brought a book with me. (Yes, I am that girl, and no, I don't feel pathetic. Eating solo lunches is relaxing to me, and I do not think this is a sign that I will end up a multiple cat-owner and the subject of an episode of "Hoarding.")
Jeffrey apologizes, takes my order, and brings me a glass of water. Then he brings the ginger lemonade, which was a bit too tart for me, even though they obviously added grenadine to sweeten it up and make it look pretty.
I get the appetizer, fava bean and pancetta tortelloni, which was absolutely incredible. It was sauced perfectly, the pasta was cooked to perfection, and there were complex flavors all up in that bitch.
My main entree was beef sirloin over quinoa with asparagus and a mushroom glaze. The flavors here were a bit overwhelming, but the asparagus, which was chopped into the quinoa, gave it a great crunchy texture. The mushroom glaze had no real mushrooms in it (score!), and that is where all the intense flavors came in. For something that is supposed to be a glaze, it tasted more like a reduction, and I found myself reaching for my water glass more often than not. The beef was cooked exactly as I had wanted it (medium), and there was not a piece of it left on the plate; it had been butchered to eliminate those fatty outer bits I hate so much.
I decided to go with the peach cobbler with vanilla/blueberry ice cream for dessert. Served in a tart dish, I thought the peaches were nice, not too sweet. But there was a lot more liquid in it than I had expected, and it was so hot when I got it that I asphyxiated on the crumble topping and started hacking like a choke victim right there at my table. After about 5 minutes of this, not a single person had checked on me, and I continued to eat my dessert through teary eyes. (I wasn't crying, people. That's what happens when you asphyxiate on crumbles. Duh.) I couldn't really taste any blueberry in the ice cream either, but I still liked it, even though the contrast of the hot cobbler to the cold ice cream made my sensitive teeth scream in agony. I guess you could say that it wasn't the most successful dessert experience I've ever had.
Oh, one more thing. Did you ever have the bread basket at Zola? It comes with a little butter dish with what I think it roasted crystallized garlic on the top of it that looks like raw sugar, and their flatbread is amazing!! Too bad Jeffrey never brought me my bread. Sad face.
So usually, Zola gets a 4.5 out of 5, but this time around, I can only give it 3 noms. But I still love you, Zola. See you at winter Restaurant Week 2011!


Tuesday, August 24


This just makes me happy! And kinda of hungry for some wings. Hmmm...

Going Rogue

I was craving a burger a few days ago. And I mean a serious craving; I had watched a Guy Fieri Triple-D marathon on the Food Network, and as anyone who has ever seen one of these episodes can attest, it makes any healthy life choices you may have made recently fly right out of the window in favor of a meal that would make you slap your mother. So you can imagine my rabid need for meat on bread after watching hours of this show.
So I Yelp a few places in the area (all within biking distance, of course), and decide upon Rogue States, a new-ish burger joint on Connecticut Ave. in the S. Dupont area. (Side note: I'm not one of those people that uses Yelp to make all of my dietary decisions, but I constantly need reminders of what exactly is out there for me. Think of it more as a virtual Yellow Pages in my case.)
The Burger.
Their burgers start out at $7 each, and they have several different flavors, all cheekily named things like Now & Zen (asian-inspired flavors), Curried Away (an Indian take on the American classic), and my choice, the Ciao Down (Italian flavors of garlic, tomato and yum basil). As expected their French version (Pardon My French) is an extra $3, due to the addition of black truffle oil to the meat. They have two of their burgers available in turkey form if you prefer to avoid the red meat as well, the Rogue State house recipe burger and the Square One (simply salt and pepper). It comes with your standard veggie toppings, or the LTOP as I like to call it, and cheese, shrooms, cooked onion and bacon are also available for an extra charge. Sides are simple - fries, either in standard or sweet potato form. I'm not a fan of the sweet potato fry, so I get the regular fries and a soda. They give you two options on the menu for the temp of your burger, pink or no pink. OK, Rogue States, you guys are totally irreverent and cool, but I'm just going to go ahead and get my burger cooked medium. With provolone cheese and grilled onions too, please.
They give you a little numbered card after you order, and you pretty much just find your spot and sit down. I keep my ears open for my number, but it turns out they bring the food to you. Nice!
The burger comes loosely wrapped in foil, the fries a la boardwalk in a paper cup, but still much thicker than your standard boardwalk fries, but not quite steak fries size. They were awesome fries. I've heard people complain that they don't give you enough fries with an order, but they're only $2.50 ferchrissakes, and it's plenty of food. People are just gluttons these days
The burger was great. Thick, plenty of flavor (I could smell the basil, it was like heaven), and the bread - oh dear God, the bread was a brioche roll. How did they know? The meat itself was very clean, not greasy at all, but juicy. They made sure to put enough cheese on it so you could actually taste it (one of my biggest peeves with burger places is they always undercheese. Such a faux pas).
Here's what I didn't like: their aioli sauces. There was nothing about those mayos that I could not have put together in less than a minute at home. Old Bay aioli is just that - some seasoning stirred into an already prepped mayo. The wasabi aioli had almost no kick at all, and coming from a girl who needs a big glass of milk beside her for mild wings, that is saying a lot. The chipotle mayo was OK, also needed more flavor. My suggestion: make the mayo yourself, and make sure to blend the Old Bay so it's not grainy. Add MORE wasabi, MORE chipotle pepper to the aiolis. Flavor is a good thing, and right now, Rogue States may be erring on the safe side with their sauces. So not the way to go Rogue.
Will I go back to Rogue States? Absolutely. But I do still have Ray's and BGR on my list of places to go, so it may not be for a little while. Unless, of course, it's 4 a.m. and I just have to get my beef fix. I'm going to give Rogue States 3 out of 5 noms.


Saturday, July 31

The Great Escape

The Asshole.
Dog #17 has been a pretty sweet dog so far. He's sweet, relatively obedient, and seems to really, really love all of us. He hasn't really gotten wind of the fact that he is a 65 pound monster of a dog, not designed to chill out on our laps when we're watching TV, sleeping, eating, reading, typing, etc. (you get the picture). When we got him, he had a nasty case of doggie pneumonia, and we all pitched in and helped make him better. We'd diligently dice up a hot dog to mix with his yucky dry food every time we fed him. We'd let our ginormous lap-dog stick his furry tail and ass in our faces when he was feeling playful. And that happens a lot. So over the past two or so months that we've had Duke, I would have thought it'd be safe to say that he was as a part of our little hodgepodge family as a foster dog can get. And in this house, it's usually a big part.
So it was a complete and utter shock to me that he would decide to make a break for it the first chance he got.
Let me set the scenario for you. It's 3:30 in the morning. I am in my room, reading Larsson's second Salander/Blmkvist installment. I had a few beers at the Neighborhood Bar after work, and was settling down before going to bed. I thought all roommates were sleeping, but I was wrong. H comes home and timidly knocks on my door, asking me if I want pizza, and oh, by the way, I got you a one month membership to the YMCA (???? I don't ponder it too long, she is a quizzically generous person and the Y has Zumba). Well H is pretty drunk, and I was actually just thinking about food myself, although I had relegated the remainder of my night/morning to reading until I fell asleep. So I agree, and we wake up R and get him a ticket on the pizza train.
When the pizza guy gets there, H just goes straight for the door, not thinking about Duke closely trailing her right to the front door. He ducks out as soon as the door is open enough for him to squeeze right out. Well, shit.
I head outside, and see Duke pissing on one of the trees in our front "yard." As our years of experience has taught H and I with dogs that are off leash, don't start screaming and running after him, just call him over. As with any of the other 16 dogs we've had (except for Kingston, that guy needed an all-points bulletin when he got out), they usually come running over, all stupid and happy. Crisis averted. Not this one. Ohhhh, not this one at all.
This dog Usain Bolts down the street. He's a cheetah running down prey. I can do nothing but start screaming after him, running as fast as I can in a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and no bra. And he's running. Like a stray dog who has never had a home or humans who love him. Like a total asshole.
He's ran about a block away from home and he crosses the street, and I lose sight of him. I think to myself, "My God, this dog knows exactly what he's doing." I am completely out of breath, my chest hurts from my unsupported boobs swinging all willy-nilly inside my shirt, and I stop running, and decide to go back home and grab my bike to track the little asshole down. It's then that I hear some random stranger tell me that he saw the dog go into a yard and just start sniffing around. So I start jogging down the street more, not calling out his name anymore, hoping to just grab him. Then he appears, takes one look at me, and starts running in the opposite direction, again. Dear God, this animal actually hates us.
I start running after him again, calling out his name, and he takes the next corner and I lose sight of him again. And yet another random stranger is walking up the street, and I scream out to him to please try to grab that dog. And he does. (Side note: the kindness of the people in DC that I have been witness to lately is absolutely stunning. I constantly feel blessed to live in this city.)
Of course Duke is an asshole to the guy and runs away from him, and straight into my hands. I grab the collar and start yelling my thanks to Random 2. Then Duke's hackles go up, and he starts growling and barking at him like he's protecting me. What. A. Dick. Either way, I have the dog back, and the guy is gracious and helpful and continues on his way home at this ungodly hour.
I struggle with the dog to get him home without a leash. At this point we are two blocks away from home, which doesn't seem very far, but this dog is resisting the walk the entire time. I am now a sweaty, unsupported, pissed off mess, and I see H riding down the middle of the street on her bike, looking scattered and a little panicky. I yell out to her and she rides over sans leash and we decide that she'll just ride back to the house real quick, grab the leash, and come back to get us. I am not moving any more with the dog in the condition that he has left me. So she tries to hop on her bike, and can't do it. She swerves and zig-zags, and keeps shifting all over the seat. She falls down, the bike falls on top of her, and I am helpless to do anything but watch it happen. Thank God for comic relief.
Now that bike riding is out of the question, H decides to walk the dog home, and I'll walk the bike. He keeps stepping on her flip-flops, and she keeps falling out of them. And she tell me during the Longest Walk Ever that the pizza guy offered his help to get our dog as well, but H kindly declined. Thank you, Pizza Boli Delivery Guy. You rock.
It took us at least 15 minutes to get home. And that pizza was the best pizza I ever ate.

Tuesday, July 27

I Got Mugged. Crap.

It was one of those really freaking hot days last week, and I was walking back from The Bar at 3:30 in the afternoon. Some old guy, maybe homeless, most likely a very desperate addict of some sort (OK, I'll say it. Crackhead.), jumps out in front of me, seemingly from nowhere, and reaches for my purse. And me with my bright pink top, brand-new large silver purse, big-ass sunglasses, and iPod at full blast, have no idea what the hell this sweaty, crazy-eyed dude wants. I pop out my earbuds, and I hear him say something about my purse, and "knife." Now I'm panicky. I glance over to his right hand, and oh, of course, he's got a big fat kitchen knife in his hand, complete with a glinty 12-inch blade. "Okay, okay," I say, kind of pleadingly, and hand over the purse he's been grasping for. He takes off up the street, and I realized in less than a second that he has everything: house keys, cell phone, book, FUCKING WALLET, I mean, e-ve-ry-thing.
The Corner.

So I take off after him. Screaming. Waving my hands at all the people driving by in their closed-windowed, air-conditioned cars. Not getting any kind of response. And I run my ass off. He leads me down this alley, holding onto the knife and rooting through my brand-new purse (motherfucker, you fucking motherfucker). He gets the wallet out and tosses the purse over a high wooden fence. Good, you piece of shit, take the wallet. I have tears streaming down my face, and I stop chasing him. I see the direction he goes in. I run around to the front of the houses where my purse has landed, and I catch some Sears repair guy taking a street piss and using his driver's side door as his shield. (Tough shit, Repairman, zip it up.)
Through my tears and at this point, my breathlessness, I tell him I just got mugged and turn my back and start banging on doors. He starts asking me if I need to call the cops, and I actually think to myself that I don't need to. What? The? Fuck? Am? I? Thinking?
"Yeah, please, call the cops."
He dials the number (that would be 911) and hands me the phone. And so help me God, I don't know how I do it, but I calmly tell the dispatcher what happened. My breathing slows to a relevantly normal pace, and I give them every single detail of what happened in less than 2 minutes. (Damn, when did I get so good at calling 911?) And here's the biggest kicker of them all; a cop car responds within a minute.
This infant of a cop, braces in his mouth, instructs me to get in the cruiser, and I do. I check my face out in his side-view. I'm flushed, sweaty, smeared, and streaked. I'm a damn mess. Fuck you, Crackhead.
He takes me around the area, asks me some simple questions, and I answer them.
"Oh, I remember everything about this guy."
"Nope, way older than that, like in his 40s or so."
"Black shirt, dark green pants, no facial hair, close-cut hair."
"No, I don't see him anywhere. I know where my purse is though. I ran after him."
The cop, who actually takes a pass at some jokes that I don't laugh at, takes me to the alley where he threw my purse. And we find the purse almost immediately. I can see my book laying in the backyard, and I see the reflection of it in the sliding glass doors of the house. Hallelujiah. I actually feel like I just won something.
More cops come, he gives them a breakdown. One of them points to me and asks, "Is this the victim?" And I get pissed. I'm not a victim. I've never been a victim. Am I a victim? Shit.
I get back in the car, and go back around to the front of the house, as the Cop with Braces tells me what's going to happen. They're gonna get the purse back. A detective is going to ask me some questions. They're going to try to find the guy using my description. I can only pray it's good enough.
Detective Typical shows up, and I switch cars. He takes me back to the exact spot where it happened, and takes my statement as I soak up the air-conditioning he set to full blast when I got in. Ten minutes pass, the Victim-Naming Cop shows up, and he's got my purse in his hand. I check it.
Everything but the wallet.
One of the cops gives me a slip of paper with my case number on it, all his pertinent information, and instructions on what to do if I see this fucker again. Done. Detective Typical asks me if I would like a ride home, and I decline, much to his surprise.
This is MY neighborhood. I will walk home on my own, thank you very much, Officers. I really appreciate everything. Yes, we'll be in touch.

This is my neighborhood.
And I start hyperventilating on the way home.