I'm a Sucker for Prix-Fixe Menus!

DC restaurants host Restaurant Week twice each year, in August and January. The idea is to get people out during the slow months for the restaurant business. Well it works! People go crazy when the list of restaurants are announced, many begin to make reservations right away. I usually tend to wait to check out the menus which Lisa of Dining in DC does so well! She's my go-to every Restaurant Week. After perusing the numerous menus, 3 of my girlfriends and I decide based on two criteria: best deals for the $35.11 price per person and it must be a restaurant none of us have been to.

This past DC Restaurant Week, we chose DC Coast because they didn't limit their menu. You had to select from a smaller list of appetizers but all of their entrees were available (some with an upcharge i.e. lobster & ribeye). Having a lot of options appeals to us in making our final decision.

Our reservation was at 6:30, right in the middle of rush hour traffic of course.  I was a bit stressed because I know some places can be a little strict about the time especially during Restaurant Week. I gave them a quick call and said we'd be a few minutes late and the host was very cordial and nice and we had our table as soon as we walked in, even 15 minutes late! Big props for being so accomodating, DC Coast.

For the appetizer, I chose the risotto fritters, three fritters in a tomato based sauce. Pretty decent but heavy for an appetizer. After a long debate with myself over whether to get the duck or pork chop for the entree, I chose the duck. Man, am I glad I did! Duck breast served with sweet potato and apple puree and brussel sprout leaves in duck ju. I have to say, this duck was cooked perfectly with lots of flavor and not overly greasy like it sometimes can be. It paired so well the sweet potato and apple puree as well.

Needless to say, I wasn't hungry for dessert but I chose the chocolate mousse tart. It was like a dense chocolate pie in a crusty tart shell. The dessert was a bigger portion that I really needed.

Our overall experience was great. From being a few minutes late to the service to the food. Oh and did I mention, I had a pear martini with dinner! Great friends with great food. It doesn't get better than that!

Well maybe...sharing it with the one I love.

Since I love Restaurant Week so much, I also decided to go to Willow in Ballston with my boyfriend. Living in Ballston, this was super easy to get to and I've always heard rave reviews from fellow bloggers. This restaurant fits my two criteria as well: great selection and it's somewhere new to us. We made early reservations and arrived on time. It wasn't packed yet. The decor was nice and the hostess was very inviting. We had a nice romantic spot in a nook in the back. It was great for a romantic date night, like ours.

The menu included a wide range of choices all of which sounded great. I finally decided on getting the paired wine flights with my meal for an extra $15. So worth it. They were basically full pours and you never had to worry what wine to order. For the appetizer course I got the Coquilles St. Jacques which is scallops in a creamy wine sauce with mushrooms and gouda bread crumbs. This was the perfect portion size and the scallops were tender. All around a perfect course paired perfectly with an Orvieto from Italy.

On to the entree course. I ordered the crispy foie gras stuffed chicken breast with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts with bacon. Again, the dish was prepared beautifully with a great portion size. The chicken and foie gras were very tender and juicy. And you can never go wrong with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts! The presentation was also very appealing. This course was paired with a Sangiovese also from Italy.

Again, I was stuffed before dessert came out but I definitely tried to eat as much as I could! For dessert, I ordered the pineapple upside down cake in a caramel sauce with vanilla bean ice cream! Perfect to pair with the Moscato d'Asti.

So all in all, it was a great DC Restaurant Week for me yet again! Both of these restaurants, I will gladly recommend and visit again. I look forward to trying some new places come August.

Cheers :)

A Chateauneuf to Write Home About

Chateauneuf du Pape's may be one of my favorite Old World wines. A small subregion of the Rhone Valley in France, this area can blend up to 13 different grapes which allows a different blend from each producer.
Stylistically, CdP's are the typical Old World style with a lot of earthiness and dark fruit aromas. Most Chateauneuf's can be pricey since it's a small region with a lot less producers than the rest of France. Usually ranging from $50 on up, this is thought to be a special occassion wine, for me at least.

See map for the subregions in the Rhone Valley. CdP is towards the southern region.
Man, was I wrong! I came across this amazing CdP this week, Domaine Jean Royer CdP "Tradition" 2008. Unlike most CdP's, this one is only 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 5% Mouvedre. This producer didn't use the 13 different grape varitiels, instead stuck with the standard GSM blend as the rest of the Rhone Valley.

As soon as it's poured in the glass, you can immediately smell the robust nose. Since it is grenache-heavy, the black pepper is the first thing that came to mind. Dark fruits are on both the nose and palate. This wine is very full-bodied with depths of flavor. Complex, round flavors lead into a nice, long finish.

On top of the nose, palate and finish, the price tag is ideal! On the shelf for only $36.99 this is one robust CdP with a lot of flavor that you can easily fall in love with. Pick up a bottle today!

Cheers :)

It's been a while!

Wow, last post was back in September. Well a lot has happened since then. I changed careers and am now a Store Manager of a wine shop. It has it's up and downs. Pro: I get to taste amazing wine all the time and learn a lot about different regions/varietials. Cons: Retail schedule doesn't allow me to go out to eat as much as I used to.

That hasn't stopped me though, I just had to cut back a little. Most recently, I went to a great dinner with a girlfriend at Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro in Reston. Jenny had a groupon to use and was expiring so we made a last minute plan to grab dinner. The staff was very cordial upon walking in. Jenny was already there to put our name on the list and she was told that the table was ready before I had arrived. They offered the hold the table for as long as we needed!

Once seated, we glanced at the amazing selection of entrees and appetizers. Sea bass, steak, lamb, duck, scallops, and more were all options so it was hard to choose. We were also tempted to just order a few different appetizers because some of them were mini meals like the scallops with parsnip puree and root vegetable chips. We chose to order two different entrees. I ordered the individually grilled lamb chops with lime risotto and fig marmalade. She ordered the seared maple leaf farm duck breast with sweet potatoe gnocchi. Needless to say, these entrees sounded amazing as soon as we read the menu.

While waiting for our food, we ordered a few glasses of wine and enjoyed conversation over the complimentary bread which is also very appetizing. Our plates arrive and the portion sizes were pretty decent. She mentioned when she ordered the duck last time, it seemed to be a bigger portion but it was okay because we were definitely full at the end of the meal.  My lamb chops were cooked perfectly and didn't even need to use the steak knife they brought me.

The service from the time we walked in to the time we left was perfect. The server didn't give us any trouble with using the groupon even though we left the groupon at home. I found the voucher number online and he still gave us the discount!

I would definitely come back again and maybe get the short ribs or pork chops next time! It is fairly pricey so without the groupon, I'll have to wait for a special occasion.

Cheers :)

Ringing in the New Year with a Great Wine Dinner

Wine dinners are a perfect way to get the full dining experience. It takes the guess work out of which wines to pair with what entrees. It's also a lot easier for groups. No one has to decide what one bottle of wine to order with all of the different entrees the group is ordering. Wine dinners usually consist of 3+ courses with paired wine with each course. The pricing is simple too; it's a set price per person. No more figuring out the bill as to who got what and everyone still has options for each course.

My most recent wine dinner was on New Year's Eve at Domaso Trattoria in Rosslyn. Tucked away on the 4th floor of the Hotel Palomar, this italian restaurant laid out all the stops for a fantastic New Years!  Perfect for our group of 9, the 4 course dinner with paired wine flights pleased everyone. Each course offered a few different selections and a glass of wine to pair with each of your selections.

For starters, I ordered the duck confit appetizer which was paired with a glass of Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The duck had tremendous flavor and was atop a fresh salad. I was impressed with not only the quality but the portion size. They definitely didn't skimp on the appetizers. The crisp sauvignon blanc paired perfectly with the flavor of the dish.

For the pasta course, I had to get the risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite dishes of all time. I see it on the menu, I always gravitate towards it! This risotto was a triple squash risotto. Great flavor and again a great portion size, this dish was paired with Erath Pinot Blanc. Again, the crispness of the pinot blanc help cut the weight of the risotto.

On to the entree! I ordered the grilled filet mignon paired with my favorite, a California Cabernet. This particular Cab was from Rutherford Hill and perfectly complimented the medium rare filet. My mouth waters as I reminisce.

I'm not particularly a sweet person but this dessert was amazing. Chocolate banana mousse cake paired with Villa Monticelli moscato passito. The dessert wine wasn't overly sweet but was acidic enough to help cut the sweetness of the cake.

All in all, wine dinners are always a favorite of mine. No fuss with deciding what wines to order, no fuss over the bill at the end, and no fuss over whether to order an appetizer or dessert! Any chance you get, definitely give it a try and you'll become a firm believer like me!

Cheers :)

Restaurant Quality Dinner at Home!

Fancy dinners don't have to mean high-end prices! Take the time and effort to make it at home in a more intimate setting and save a buck or two. That's the exact idea behind my most recent date night in, no fuss over parking, reservations and high wine list prices.

I received a new dutch oven for Christmas and have been dying to try a new recipe. First thing that comes to mind...braised short ribs! Found an easy, elegant recipe from Tyler Florence and served it with parmesan risotto and a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape. The earthyness of the ribs in a sticky sauce paired perfectly with the Old World style of Chateaneuf du Pape. The sauce consisting of thyme, honey, and wine made a perfect glaze over the tender beef ribs. Find the recipe below and try it for yourself. Total cost of date night in: About $75 with ingredients and a bottle of CdP. Try to match that fancy new DC restaurant!

Sticky Braised Short Ribs with Parmesan Risotto

Short Ribs3 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs of short ribs
Salt & Pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tbsp sweet paprika
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup honey
1 lemon, juiced and zest
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups aborio rice
1/2 cup parmesan
3 tbsp pesto
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Begin with the short ribs. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season each short rib with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove short ribs and set aside. Add the onion, carrot, paprika, and thyme and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Pour in the honey, red wine, lemon juice and stock and bring it to a boil. Return the meat to the pan; the liquid should just about cover the meat. Place the pot in the oven and put on the lid loosely to allow the steam to escape and the sauce to thicken. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Place the meat on a platter and keep it warm. If necessary, cook the liquid over high heat until it is thick and syrupy.

During the last 45 minutes while the ribs are braising, start the risotto. Add the stock and water to a pan and bring to a simmer. In another pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the rice and stir until all juice is absorbed. Start adding 1/2 cup of the stock/water every few minutes and stir until fully absorbed. Continue this process for about 30 minutes until the aborio rice is tender. Add the parmesan, pesto and salt and pepper. Serve warm with the short ribs and sticky sauce!