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Brunchin’ it. Part two.

8 Jul

There are two places that I’ve continuously heard from Washingtonians that are recommended as the top brunch spots in DC: Blue Duck Tavern and Tabard Inn. There are other excellent brunch spots in town (i.e. Birch & Barley), but for some reason, those two are like brunch institutions. I have yet to try BDT, but it remains in the back of my head for when I plan my next brunch outing.

Saturday brunch at Tabard Inn was half of a date that The Bf had planned for June – we’ve started this tradition of taking each other out on dates once a month, and we switch the planning responsibilities each month. I did May, Boyfriend tackled June. (Seeing “Midnight in Paris” was the other half the Saturday before). We had been slacking in the date department, so I initiated this plan in May. Hopefully, when we’re making a little bit more money, we can turn it into a bi-monthly or even weekly thing. 🙂

The “inn” part of Tabard Inn is incredibly quaint and nostalgic – when we arrived and waited in the seating area next to the lobby, I felt like I should be wearing a flapper dress and smoking with a long cigarette holder. The restaurant keeps up with the old-timey feel, with an atmosphere a cross between a Parisian cafe and a Southern restaurant in the ’50s.

My first suggestion if you decide to eat brunch at Tabard Inn: get the doughnuts. They’re soft and deceptively light. I probably could have eaten three but The Bf and I kept it at two each. They come with this lovely whipped cream that has a twinge of vanilla and is perfect to dip (or double-dip) the doughnut in.

I had the poached egg as my entree, which comes with cheese grits, fried oysters, pork belly and a bernaise sauce. If we hadn’t ordered doughnuts, I probably would’ve cleaned my plate, but alas my stomach can only expand so large. It’s a decadent dish, with each component being a bit richer than the next. The creamy grits had a strong cheese flavor (cheddar, maybe?) that I enjoyed, and the creaminess blended well with the crispiness of the oysters. The pork belly was salty and thick, a little tough though. I would take a little piece of each part to make one insanely flavorful bite.

Now that I’ve been to two restaurants that make their own signature doughnuts, I think it’s time that someone seriously considers opening up a doughnut shop. No, the one Krispy Kreme in Dupont Circle does not count (although I do love those doughnuts). If NYC can have a place like Doughnut Plant and San Francisco gets Dynamo Donuts, why can’t DC have it’s own shop selling only signature fried rings of sweet goodness? I think you can tell at this point that specialty doughnuts are slowly becoming my new obsession.


Brunchin’ it

1 Jul

Happy Friday! And Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends, eh? 

Everyone’s stoked for the weekend. Those who aren’t going off to somewhere else for the holiday and sticking around here in the grand ol’ nations capitol probably have plans for grilling, barbeque-ing, drinking, fireworks-watching…or all of the above, which is what I have to look forward to. I consider myself super lucky this weekend because the higher-ups decided to close the office for the 5th as well. Which means 4 DAY WEEKEND. Yeeehawww.

I am definitely looking forward to spending time with my local homies, or my crew, or as we call ourselves, “Team DMV”. We all live in different parts of DC, Maryland and Virginia, thus DMV. Our group consists of twenty-somethings from around the US, including Washington State, California, Kansas, Arizona…but a huge chunk of us are ex-Florida residents. Somehow all of the young adults in Florida decided to move to DC after graduation. Or so it seems. I have a lot of Orlando/UF/Floridian friends here, which I’m super grateful for because it made moving here and making friends way easier than what I know most people experience.

Anyways, some of Team DMV and I visited Birch and Barley in Logan Circle for brunch recently and I’ve been meaning to write about it, because it was quite wonderful. The only negative to our experience was that we had to wait 30 minutes for our table, despite having a reservation (there was another party lingering beforehand at the table they were giving us). The folks at B&B were very accommodating, however, and offered us free flatbreads and doughnuts when we finally got to sit at our table. I was kind of surprised, actually. I really don’t remember the last time I experienced service like that when I had to wait for a reserved table. (That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?)

The food itself was phenomenal. We were treated to a chicken souvlaki flatbread, a buffalo chicken flatbread, and 2 plates of donuts: toffee bacon, lemon-poppy seed and a small donut hole glazed in bittersweet chocolate. Both flatbreads were full of flavor; I really liked how the buffalo chicken reminded me of chicken wings and celery with ranch. The chicken souvlaki had a great Mediterranean flavor to it with the hummus and tzatziki.


The toffee bacon donut was just as decadent as it’s name sounds, especially as it was still warm from the kitchen: a little sticky, but thick, sweet and salty and probably the best donut I’ve had so far on this cost of the U.S. I loved the lightness of the lemon-poppy seed, which had a good balance of both flavors. I enjoyed my tiny half of the chocolate-dipped donut hole. I mean, it’s fried dough dipped in chocolate. You know that’s always good. 😛

I had the huevos rancheros as my main, which was presented in a sort of deconstructed way, with a pepper jack cheese and avocado omelet, pupusas, and poblano sausage, with a side of sour cream. Taking a little bit of everything at once onto the fork and eating that as a whole bite created that typical huevos rancheros taste, but even everything separate was delicious.

I tried a little bit of almost everyone else’s dishes (some of us had the same ones), and everything was equally rich and bold and filling. In terms of portion sizes, you certainly get your money’s worth here (I had a huge food baby belly after).

Ahh-mazing chicken and waffles, which I almost got. The chicken, by the way, must have been seasoned with crack, it was so delicious. (And no, that’s not crack sprinkled on top, that’s powdered sugar).

“Dinosaur Ed wants chicken and waffles, rawr!” I wonder if Jen ever realized he was making this face. Ed’s fried egg sandwich, by the way, was the most gut-busting sandwich I’ve ever tasted, because it had both fried egg AND pork belly on a thick pretzel roll. Yes, I’ll take that heart attack with a side of hash browns, please.

I hope my friends don’t kick me out of the crew for including our group photos. I love these guys, and besides, we make a good looking bunch of young’uns:

Already looking forward to the next Adventures of Team DMV this weekend…

A little bit of new and old

22 Jun

I recently had brunch at Ba Bay, a modern-Vietnamese restaurant in Capitol Hill. Today, Washington Post released a story on a change in positions at the restaurant: it’s head chef, Nick Sharpe, is leaving for a stint in California, while it’s owner, Khoa Nguyen will be shifting into the kitchen as chef. Since the menu will be overhauled, save for some select dishes, the food I was going to write about may not still be on the menu from now on.

Even if these changes weren’t happening, I plan to visit Ba Bay again, because I enjoyed my food on both occasions that I went. The first time around, with The Bf (and sans camera), I had a wonderful pork belly dish with saucy rice noodles that I loved. The belly was a little dry, though thick and definitely a little rich, with its crispy skin. The noodles were soft, but balanced with the crunch from a peanut and cilantro garnish, and salty from the thin fish sauce.

The second time around, I went with my good friend Lisa. Yes, we share the same name, somehow that hasn’t become as confusing as you think it would be. Full disclosure: she happens to be a friend of Nguyen’s, but all thoughts on this post are my own, not solicited (even though we got free dessert).

On this occasion, we shared their autumn rolls, which were perfectly crispy on the outside, and the vegetables tasted fresh on the inside. It was even better with the creamy peanut dipping sauce. (I love getting spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants and stores just for that sauce).

I had pho for my main dish, and while I would’ve liked a more flavorful broth, the soup as a whole was hearty and chock-full of plenty of meat, vegetables and noodles. I always add a ton of hot sauce and hoisin sauce to my pho, wherever I get it, so that upped the flavor a bit.

Lisa tried their take on the traditional bÃ¥nh mî, except she opted for fried egg (you can also get it “classic,” with pork belly, or with meatballs). I didn’t try it, but she raved about it, and I had heard good things about this banh mi before. So they must be doing something right with that dish.

Being that Lisa is a friend, Nguyen insisted on treating us to dessert, so we shared his choices of their strawberry-basil popsicle and their sesame cake. They were both fitting for the warmth of the day. The sesame flavor was subtle in the cake, which was very light and spongy, but the coconut flavor in the ice cream and caramel made up for the subtleties.

The popsicle was inventive and refreshing. It was best eaten with a little bit of everything: a part of the strawberry side, a part of the basil side, and some of the accompanying cream. The combination of fruit and herb flavors mixed nicely, and I enjoyed the crumble sprinkled on top for a bit of added crunch.

There were small parts to our meal that I would tweak, but overall, the dishes seemed to successfully balance a modern approach to traditional Vietnamese flavors. So I’m curious as to whether the food will stay this way, or shift toward a more modern or a more traditional direction, now that Nguyen is going to be in the kitchen. I’m eager to go back soon to see how these changes look and taste.


31 Jan

Have you ever gotten to the point where you’ve eaten out so much that you feel like a blob from the inside out?

That’s me right now. I’ve either ordered take-out or have been going out to restaurants multiple times in the past week due to a) being too tired (aka lazy) to cook, b) having to use up Groupons or Village Vines or Living Social coupons before they expire or c) having visitors and/or d) lack of time to cook.

There were some gems in the slew of my personal restaurant tour of DC. I didn’t bring my camera along to everything since it’s a pain to carry and I just don’t always feel like taking photos of every single thing I eat. So for one, Zentan, in the Donovan House hotel, has great sushi and a delicious Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish with a light black bean sauce that was perfect for sharing with The Bf.

Dad was here this weekend, and we attempted to get dinner at Matchbox on Saturday night, but (surprise, surprise) it was packed and the wait for 3 was an hour and a half. Kind of ridiculous. So we opted for delivery pizza from the new Z Pizza that had recently opened (close to Matchbox, actually). We were pleased. It’s affordable, tasted fresh, and offered flavors that you don’t normally find in a pizza delivery menu. Case in point, we shared a Tuscan, with 3 different mushrooms, caramelized onions, feta, mozzarella, truffle oil and roasted garlic sauce on a thin, wheat crust. It was more like a flatbread than a regular pizza, but I liked its fresh taste. We also tried a create-your-own calzone, which was actually larger than I thought it was going to be (its definitely share-able between 2). It had a crisp crust on the outside, and was satisfyingly stuffed on the inside. I put ricotta, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, eggplant, and onion in ours and the combination was delicious.

I continued the Italian food theme at Dino in Cleveland Park, which has great new brunch special. I was invited by fellow food blogger Sylvie (Thrifty DC Cook ) to a special food bloggers’ brunch that the restaurant was hosting. For $25 diners get 3 courses with multiple dishes to choose from (you can get a starter or half-pasta, then a main or full pasta, then dessert or a drink). The food overall was hearty and homey, and successfully captured that rustic feel that Dino seems to shoot for.

For my first course, I tried their Cavolini, or brussels sprouts with pork belly and caramelized onions in an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. I love caramelized onions and am definitely going through some sort of brussels sprouts phase, so I pretty much picked this to satisfy my constant craving. It the job well. The onions were sweet and gave a lot of flavor to the subtlety of the brussels sprouts. I could’ve actually done without the pork belly, which was quite thick and chewy, but I’m sure the fat in it contributed much to the dish. I followed with their Budino di Pane, or breakfast bread pudding. It’s made with challah bread and includes a house sausage, chanterelles, carrots, rapini, kale and a combination of cheeses. I was very pleased with this dish, it was flavorful and very savory, though thick and filling enough to be eaten on its own.

Somehow I pushed aside enough room in my stomach for dessert and opted for the gelato tricolore, with Valrhona chocolate, raspberry and (I think) cinnamon gelatos (there were a couple gelato options so I kept confusing one with another). It turned out to be a nice, relatively light ending to a huge, filling meal, and each flavor was very prominent on its own. I liked the neapolitan presentation as well.  Overall, everything made for a very filling and satisfying meal and I literally wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day until about 8:00pm. Not sure if that’s a good thing for my health but it certainly set me up for an awesome nap.

After brunch, I swung by DC’s new Grey Market, an “underground” market that has been set up for vendors who are (yet) unable to get licensing. Kushi hosted the shindig, which took up one end of the restaurant while normal service ran on the other end. It was a bit cramped but it looks like the market itself was a success, especially with the amount of people and the line that had formed for people to sign up for membership. I actually ended up splurging on some goodies: two tiny cupcakes from DE(vi)LISH! Confections by Wendy (both were adorable and tasted great), Sweet Potato Butter from Cunningham Farms (I’m looking forward to trying one of their recipes), and chocolate pop from one of my fave local producers, Seasonal Pantry. The Bf also purchased a vanilla bread pudding from Gourmet Cherry. Judging from all the samples I tried at the market, my money was worth it – and everything was fairly inexpensive. I’m already looking forward to trying more local foods at the next market.

For now though, I’m finishing off leftovers and sticking to homemade meals. This nosher needs a detox!