Early 2012 eatings: Direct me to the dessert

Monroe’s, Del Ray, Alexandria. Monroe’s was off the main avenue, off Mount Vernon, on Commonwealth, and I had never heard of it before. Lori’s friends Meera and John suggested it. It was great. A crab pasta was the best mix of light and filling I’d had in a while. Tiramisu to close was the first I’d ever had in a chocolate sauce. A neighborhood-y win.

Dickson Wine Bar on U Street, where I’d somehow never been before, for friend Alissa’s birthday was a good time. Fun to see mentor Jody and friend Dave and meet Alissa’s sister. Very nice to be at a wine bar on U Street that wasn’t crammed. (Proof, give us some elbow room!)

Kushi a few weeks ago was where Lori and I decided to end a work day. I’d been there before. It was her first time. The braised pork belly opened new dimensions on the place, no matter how many times one had been there before. I may not even order the sushi rolls next trip.

Las Placitas on Barracks Row was the locale of friend Laura’s birthday. The food was good, and atmosphere was nice. Company was terrific. Server’s continuing to bring free pitchers of margaritas was amazing.

A visit to Four Sisters in Falls Church for friend Meghan’s birthday saw an ordering of the “Dinner for 10.” It was a Vietnamese feast. None of us had tried any “Shaky Beef” before. We emerged fans. The dish was marinated beef cubes, apparently. There were no bad courses, but the construct-it-mostly-yourself spring rolls were also ahead of the pack.

The Hamilton was enormous, as expected. Friend Matt and I went for dinner, and the Tuesday Night Drinking Club happened to be there as well. It was nice to be in a bar with plenty of space, albeit a tad pricey.

Samuel Beckett’s, where Lori and I went after seeing Hairspray, was a nice place for beer. The runners kept the room somewhat darker than it needed to be, but the late-night menu served us well. I’d go back.

District Kitchen got pretty nice words in a recent Post Magazine. Sheri and I found similar results there when we somehow ended up at the restaurant’s opening night in January. Highlights included shirred egg in mushroom hash and sorghum ice cream with carrot cake crumbles, creme fraiche. I’d never had sorgum anything before. But I was sold.

The new Sixth Engine restaurant near work, I have no photos. Friends Wright, Jonathan, Lauren, and I tried it for a lunch the other week. We were excited to try a new place just down the street, but we came out disappointed. Service was perfunctory. Atmosphere, same. Sandwiches we tried didn’t blow anyone away. Wright’s burger was undercooked. Those of us who ordered sodas found them odd-tasting, possibly flat.

The sides were downright weird. Jonathan’s onion rings were plentiful and tasty. Wright and I ordered tater tots. We each received exactly seven tots. They were all perfectly shaped, like cooked marshmallows.

They projected stinginess and formality in a way I’d never seen tater tots cooked before. But even more bizarre, somehow, were Lauren’s fries. They were… sponge-like. We each tried a fry to see if we could diagnose just what in the world a cooking process had done to them.

We agreed we would go back to try the bar. Food, there was no shot.

So… where should I try next?

The day we ate the McRib

Andy Carvin is a Twitter star, and Wright Bryan manages NPR’s busy blog roster. But in the office, when Wright and I get to talking about how neither of us have had a McRib before, and Andy jumps in to say he hasn’t had a McRib in decades, we almost immediately depart the building for the nearest McDonald’s. We eat standing amid the usual chaos, complete with security guard, at the Verizon Center franchise.

We bite in, worry about the sexy (?) box and congratulate ourselves. This post, as you must know, is not an endorsement. It is just lunch.

Only one paragraph and one minute, but still

A year and a half ago, when I still worked at USA Today, I received a Tasting Table email about a new Capitol Hill restaurant called Acqua Al 2. My favorite paragraph about the Italian spot began, “The assaggio di primi ($13) presents five different plates of the house-made pastas.”

I bookmarked the page immediately.

Time passed. I jumped to NPR. Tasting Table started a to-do feature. I killed my bookmark and put Acqua on mine. The site’s editor became a friend. Her boyfriend became a fellow gunslinger. Colleagues became friends and more, and many of them turned out to live on Capitol Hill.

This story leads to the fact that I’ve now finally been to Acqua Al 2. For 11/11/11, Lori, Becky, the no-longer-elusive Kyle, and I dressed up and went for dinner. We wound up sitting below the mystery plate above.

A couple bottles of Montepulciano around the table, sizable tastings of five different vegetarian pastas (a pumpkin bowtie and the risotto with parsley, basil and rosemary were my favorites, but honorable mention to a simple vodka-sauced penne that was perfectly cooked), and then a dessert platter where the tiramisu was good but a berry cheesecake had immense flavor and surprised everyone at the table. Good service, low, warm lights and conversation volume, even with the place packed.

Didn’t realize until later: The pasta we ate was what Tasting Table had mentioned in that first, intriguing paragraph. Oh, the roads we travel…

Stops at the post-fire Tune Inn, the post-fire Argonaut, and the happily fire-free Smith Commons followed. Following taxi issues and bartender neighborhood fears, we celebrated 11:11 11/11/11 at the middle stop.

In the early morning hours, we saw the Sticky Rice police car. The sight made me happy. A year and a half ago, I had wanted something new.

Successful trip to the city’s first meatballs restaurant

You heard me right. Washington now has a meatballs restaurant. It’s called “Meatballs.” Colleagues Sondra, Lauren and I visited for lunch last week, after its opening. We left impressed and full of meatballs.

The place was packed when we arrived around 12:30, but tables grew easier to find over the hour. Music by the door was ear-splittingly loud.

But the volume was better further into the restaurant, and the menu distracted us from all else. For this first visit, I went the simple route: classic meatballs, inside sliders, with marinara and mozzarella slices added on. The pricing was odd: half the posted price for two sliders. Why not offer four sliders at regular price? I would have eaten four.

Continue reading Successful trip to the city’s first meatballs restaurant

Random thoughts

1. Breakfast at Shoney’s. Say you’re having breakfast there with your son. Or your two med school buddies. What do you order? The breakfast specialties or the buffet?

2. Dating a girl with a Sicilian grandmother. It leads to situations that involve cannoli.

3. Elvis meeting Nixon. Smoking Gun presents the letter before the picture. Elvis’ handwriting is worse than mine!