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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thing 105: The Majestic Cafe

I've been sitting on this one for about ten days which is a big no-no, especially when writing about a meal, because little details start to slip away. What did the wine taste like? How was the soup? I remember that I liked the cheese, but why did I like it so much?

So forgive my faulty memory and let me say simply that the Majestic Cafe on King Street in Alexandria is really lovely, with fantastic food and extremely knowledgeable and attentive service. The Boyfriend and I had a long, relaxed dinner date and lacked for nothing, enjoying ourselves tremendously.

Briefly, because some of the details are starting fuzz out on me, we started with cocktails. The Boyfriend got a maple syrup and bourbon deal, which was a bit strong and sweet for my liking, and I got a champagne cocktail that tasted like lemonade.

Cocktails at the Majestic

We split an appetizer of local oysters, lightly fried and draped with a lemon aioli. We know they are local because when I asked their origin (I tend to prefer Pacific oysters, which I've learned through extensive experimentation at Ebbitt's) our lovely waiter told us that he wasn't entirely sure, but the man who harvested them lived near enough somewhere in Virginia to drive them to the restaurant himself, which sure meets any local and sustainable food requirements you may have of your appetizer.

Fried Oysters at the Majestic
My entree is where things really got exciting. I ordered a whole trout fillet persillade, which seems to mean dusted in parsely and bread crumbs and lightly sauteed, then placed over a compote of fennel and orange that I long for still (and have tried to replicate without success so far) and served with a side of brussel sprouts sauteed with fat bits of smokey bacon. You have never dreamed that brussel sprouts could taste so good.

Trout Persillade at the Majestic
The Boyfriend got the Chesapeake fish soup, which had big hunks of shrimp, scallop, mussels and white fish, a thin tomato broth and celery and fennel. It was (over)seasoned with Old Bay and a bit salty, but overall quite enjoyable.

Seafood Soup at the Majestic

And finally...dessert! Majestic, which is owned by the same couple that cook at Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's and the PX, shares a pastry chef with Eve and you must leave room for dessert. After considerable debate, I went with the cake of the day, forgoing a caramel lemon tartlet that I must go back for someday. The cake of the day was too good to resist, three layers of soft white cake, with vanilla pastry cream between the layers and iced in chocolate ganache. The Boyfriend ordered the cheese plate, which had some lovely cheeses (which I can't remember anymore, but I believe the blue was particularly good) as well as some homemade accompaniments, including some pretty great candied cashews.

Cake of the Day at the Majestic
Cheese Plate at the Majestic

It was a really great meal and our service made it better. I want Dave (no relation) to get all the praise he is due, for he was attentive to our needs without being annoying, and really knowledgeable of the whole menu and the wine. He helped us pick out a really perfect, light pinot noir to go with our seafood dinner. In addition to his help about the oysters, he guided me towards choosing my winner of an entree, and when The Boyfriend mentioned there was a heavy hand with the Old Bay in the soup, he took it very seriously and promised to relay it back to the kitchen. I'm sure that all the staff are trained to the same high level of service and that this is part of the appeal of the place.

It's meant to be a neighborhood joint, though it is a touch pricey to eat there often. But the food is homey and the open kitchen in the back of the restaurant is fun to watch. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Coming Up: Cherry Blossom Picnic

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mais Qu'ils Mangent du Brioche!

A friend and I have started a new little venture...a sweet little blog about our two favorite topics -- politics and dessert. It's still a bit experimental and new, but have patience and watch us grow.

Check us out at

Also, stay tuned for my experience at the Majestic Cafe, and Ethiopian food!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thing 104: Liquor Store Indian Food

This was my lunch a couple of days ago:

Butter chicken from the liquor store
Butter chicken, fennel rice, curried chickpeas and pita -- and I bought it at the liquor store down the street!

I discovered that Capitol Hill Wine & Spirits (323 Pennsylvania Ave., SE) serves Indian lunch because I was buying booze in the middle of the day for what I swear was a perfectly legitimate reason. As soon as I stepped in, I was overwhelmed by the heavenly smell of cardamom, curry, cinnamon and chiles. In short, it smelled like a legitimate Indian restaurant even though it was a fluorescently-lit liquor store with coolers of tall boys, handles of cheap vodka and a lotto ticket counter.

I went to the back, where there is a small deli counter, and ordered from the short Indian menu. They have kabobs, chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, butter chicken and lamb curry. I brought my styrofoam container back to my cubicle and dug in.

This isn't the greatest Indian meal of my life, but it's pretty darn good, especially when you consider its very humble origins. The butter chicken had a nice heat to it, the chickpeas had a spicy, slighly sweet warming curry, and the basmati rice studded with fennel seeds was delicious. I sopped up my sauces with the pita bread was very happy and sastisfied.

I know of a couple other holes in the wall with unexpectedly good food -- Gandel's 'special' comes to mind, or the egg salad at the GW Deli-- but you tell me. What are you favorite hidden treasures?

One year ago: Po' Boy Happy Hour at Southside 815.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thing 103: Piratz Tavern (Yarrrrrrrrr!)

Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring
Fer' a tried and true buccaneer like meself, 'tis hard to find a meal in this District O' Columbia. A pirate's sup is a raucous affair of bubblin' pots and unendin' flagons of Rhum, not the dainty plates and Marrrrtinis of you landlubber set here in the D. o' C. (Once I ran me blade straight through a scurvy dog who felt me parrot Polly wasn't a proper patron for his establishment -- 'tis little surprise me and me mates have not been asked to dinner since, me thinks).

So what's a pirate to do when he wishes to woo a fine wench in an atmosphere befittin' his station? If there be coin in his pocket and time on his hands, he sets sail for the Spring of Silver in Maryland, where be Piratz Tavern, a tasty bit o' stuff less than a day's march from the Metro's Line o' Red.

Model ships adorn the walls
Once yer peepers get a glance o' this place, ye can plainly see it be a place for scalawags and rapscallions alike. Skeletons and skulls be found adorning what methinks ye landlubbers call a "beer garden" and a Jolly Roger waves proudly over the rooftop. Step inside and YARR! This be a place for Dred Pirate and his mates!

Flickering in the darkness ye see a veritable nightmare of swords and skeletons...this not be an eatery for the faint of heart. There be but one challenge (and it be a doozy, me friends). When me mates and me stepped in through the Tavern's door, we was met square in the face with the Pirate's worst enemy, the innocent laughter o' children!

In the back bar, skeletons and swords are a warning to any rowdy landlubbers
Yes, me friends, the foredeck of this eatery is a place for families and other landlubber types. It be sickening to me guts and almost made me turn round and sail fer' home, I ain't afraid to tell ye. But past the searing smiles of the happy familes be the Davey Jones' Locker Bar, a place where true pirates be found.

Tis there that a fish outta water like meself can sit and sup on Salmagundi, the pirate's stew, and Grog, the deadly concoction of rhums and spices no landlubber can endure without a designated navigator for the voyage home. The food be tasty enough, me think, but the real excitement be found on the walls and behind the bar, where One-Eyed Mike serves up fresh Grog with tales of the seven seas.

GFD shows off his kill.  Yarr!
If ye think ye ready for a trip into the world of the dred pirate, set ye course for Piratz Tavern. If ye think ye not ready, then ye be' nothing but a scalawag and a dirty bilge rat. Don't cross me or ye shall feel the cold taste of be blade against ye throat!

Today's blog was guest written by Peg Leg Santoro. You can reach him at, but don't insult him or he might make you walk the plank!

One year ago: Georgia Brown's.

The author, Peg Leg Santoro, in his natural environment with a mug of grog.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thing 102: Take a Cooking Class

When I was little, I used to watch Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS with my dad. Yan Can Cook, the Frugal Gourmet, and of course Julia. I liked Martin Yan the best, which I know will horrify the Julia devotees reading, but he had a lot of flare and panache and after all, I was five.

I really loved how the chefs had all their little bowls of pre-measured ingredients which they would throw in the pot with abandon, and then about halfway through the demonstration, the chef would say "I just happen to have a finished one right here" and would pull out from below the counter top a perfect, finished roasted duck or apple tart.

I was transported back to those Saturday mornings when I attended a cooking class at Whole Foods on sea vegetables last night. Taught by Rachel Brumitt, a local personal chef and a veritable encyclopedia on vegan and raw cooking methods, I was originally drawn to this class because I did not know one single thing about cooking with seaweed. I vaguely knew that it was healthy and I've used dried nori sheets to make sushi rolls and that was it. I like to fill in the gaping holes in my cooking knowledge and so I signed up.

Folks, these classes are FREE, and they are an incredible resource for learning about different ethnic cuisines or ingredients. I watched wakame sheets hydrate and unfold. I learned that sea vegetables are a great source of iodine, and flush toxins, heavy metals and even radiation from the body. I learned that seaweeds contain the same minerals that are in sea water, which are the same minerals we have in our blood. Most amazingly, as a skeptic of all things vegan and a devoted sweet tooth, I ate really well.

Rachel made four dishes: a sea vegetable and artichoke tapenade (which rocked), a wakame cucumber and orange salad, a condiment of pumpkin seeds and dulce, and a vegan blueberry pudding that was thickened with agar and sweetened with maple syrup and somehow came out creamy and really delicious. And just like those magical TV shows from my childhood, everything was ready to go, portions measured, cooked on the spot, and at one point she even said "and this is what it will look like" and had a pre-made blueberry pudding ready to go! And unlike those shows on PBS, here we could smell and eat and ask questions.

Does a Thing at Whole Foods violate the spirit of DC365 by involving a chain, and an activity that probably happens at Whole Foods around the country? Maybe. But I'm going to go ahead and include it because for one thing, it was a really fun and different thing for me to do with a Thursday night, and for another thing the classes use local talent, local experts, and local suggestions for topics. For more information about the classes offered at Whole Foods, click here.

One year ago: Snow and toddies at the Tabard Inn.

Coming up: St. Patrick's Day parade on March 16th.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thing 101: Baked & Wired

Baked and Wired Cupcakes, Glorious Cupcakes!

I strolled through Georgetown yesterday afternoon to do a little shopping, and hopeful for the first time in months that Spring might actually be nearby. I strolled up M street to Jinx Proof, then back down towards home, window shopping and popping into clothing stores. The walk had made me hungry, and the afternoon just begged to be a long and lazy one.

Many thanks to my friend Tim, who long ago had urged me to check out Baked & Wired, a bakery and cafe near his office that he frequents. I turned off M Street and onto Thomas Jefferson, leaving the Sunday crowds behind me and sought out the tiny shop for an afternoon pick-me-up.

The shop consists of a handful of tiny rooms -- a counter in one room that sells savories and coffee, an counter in the other room with sweets and a cashier, a tiny room with a handful of seats and some crazy looking local art on the wall, and a copy shop, Zap, in the very back of the store. The decor is spare, with a lot of unfinished surfaces, silver and black, and dark wood coffee tables. As the name implies, the store offers free wireless to patrons, and for those of us a bit more low tech, free newspapers and magazines to leaf through.

Baked and Wired Decor
I was hungry for lunch when I arrived. Baked & Wired naturally excels at baked goods, but they do have a couple of savory options. I went for the 'manly quiche' which had sausage, bacon and leeks (the femme version was a vegetarian spinach/tomato deal). The egg custard was so soft and silky, with big, manly hunks of sausage and salty-sweet bacon. The crust, clearly homemade, was buttery and flaky. I was off to a good start.

I ate in the small seating area -- there's not much room to sit, just a spare room with a couple black leather easy chairs and an angular leather couch, along with a small, skinny bar along wall where you can perch and eat. I ate my quiche, and read a couple chapters of my book. And then, like a good little girl who had eaten her vegetables (or at least, sausage and egg), it was time for DESSERT.

Baked and Wired Cupcake, Karen Birthday Cake
The woman who owns Baked & Wired, a woman named Teresa Velasquez who owns the shop with her husband, makes all the sweets from scratch, just like her grandmother used to make. In fact, anything named after Karen is named for Teresa's grandmother, using the good old fashioned recipe. Beautiful, simple cupcakes, pies, cookies and fruit bars sit under glass cake tops, row after row of them, on the counter. They all look so beautiful it's hard choose, but eventually I settled on the "Karen's Birthday Cake" cupcake. Named after Grandma, it's a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla butter cream frosting and a small sprinkle of bright pink, pig shaped sprinkles just to liven it up. I order a cup of coffee to go with it, return to me seat, and sink my teeth through the thick white frosting, into a dense, chocolaty cake. This is one hell of a cupcake, the frosting sweet and flavorful without hurting my teeth, the cake moist and rich while still maintaining cake status and not veering into brownie territory. The strong, slightly bitter coffee rounds out the sweetness, and what a perfect mid-afternoon snack.

Unlike Georgetown Cupcake, which had a line around the corner when I walked past, this sweet spot in Georgetown is friendly, accessible, and still under the radar. Don't tell anyone.

One year ago: Wizards' Game!