Find party invitations for any occasion at Personalize, preview, and order your invitation instantly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thing 120: Good Stuff Eatery

I didn't want to scoop myself, but I went to Good Stuff Eatery about three weeks ago, and also had breakfast with the chef, Spike from Bravo's Top Chef. You can read all about it, along with some of my musings about celebrity chef-dom by clicking on the link below.

Top Chef's Freewheeling Bad Boy Takes His Turn Onstage

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thing 119: Food Matters

Last weekend, the Boyfriend and I really classed things up by going to a wine tasting at Food Matters. Much like in the movie Sideways, we swirled and sniffed and sipped and declared some wines to be "fruity and bold" and others to be "crisp, light, with hints of citrus and petrol." This is much fancier than our usual Sunday night of laundry and Family Guy, so let me explain.

My coworker knows the owners of this establishment, or else I can't imagine it would have ended up on my radar. Owned by Tom and Christy Przystawik, two chefs who met and married while working in Jose Andres' kitchens, they were looking for a way out of the hectic life of professional kitchens and wanted a bit more freedom to pursue what they loved to do. Food Matters is the product of that love. It's a neighborhood stop, with a sit down menu, take out and prepared foods, a bar, and classes and tasting events. Its customers, several of whom we met at our tasting, seem very loyal to the place, and Food Matters is a true neighborhood meeting place.

It caught my eye when my coworker, on their mailing list, mentioned across the cubicle wall one day "Oh! my friend Christy is doing a wine tasting for Alsatian wines!" My dad is from Alsace, and all his family still lives in that region. I spent summers and Christmases there growing up, and have very very fond memories of the foods and culture. Even though my mom didn't grow up in Alsace, she learned all the best dishes from my dad's mother, and so even when I wasn't in France with my family the smells and tastes of a good choucroute garni, fleishneke, or tarte aux pommes were deeply woven into my childhood.

Alsace is the region of France along the German border, in the North East of the country. Rolling green hills dotted with castles, small villages with broad houses with the signature black wood cross hatch pattern and stork nests on chimneys all make up this beloved province. The food is heavily influenced by its German neighbor; there is pork in everything and they make really good white wines, especially Rieslings and Gewurztraminers.

Those are what we tasted at Food Matters. For $20, we got small tastes of five wines and Alsatian-style snacks.

Tucked in at the front of the store is a room with a long communal table which holds about two dozen people. Each place was set with four wine glasses, each on a place mat that had room to take tasting notes at the foot of each glass. Plates of canapes graced the center of the table. We took our places around the table, and introduced ourselves to the people sitting next to and across from us. Many of them had been there for the prologue to this tasting -- the Alsatian red tasting from couple month previous -- and seemed to have gone to many other such events too. They all knew Christy, and most knew each other.

Christy was our emcee for the evening, pouring the different wines, giving us her interpretations of them, and then encouraging discussion and debate. We tried two Rieslings, one regular and one grand cru, and then debated whether we thought the extra expense was worth it (I thought yes, Boyfriend like the regular one better. Table was pretty split overall). And Christy reassured us that yes, Riesling is supposed to smell like motor oil, if you can believe it. We also tried an Auxerrois, a Muscat and a Gewurztraminer (which was much drier than its German counterpoint).

The snacks were delicious too (although Mom, your onion tart was better!). There were little toasts with blue cheese spread, pork sausages, a ham, cheese and pickle salad and the onion tart that, while good, pales in comparison to my family's version. Christy was even kind enough to mention which snacks paired particularly well with which wines.

Tasting attendees also had the option to purchase the wines we tasted at a slight discount to their normal price point. I ended up buying two bottles, one of which I'm bringing next time my German upstairs neighbors make tarte flambee.

The drawback to this really enjoyable evening? Food Matters is in the middle of nowhere (ok, so West Alexandria is, you know, populated. But for someone without a car, it might as well be on Venus). We took the metro to King Street, and then #8 Dash Bus out near Landmark. So it's not impossible to get there, it just involves some planning and a crossword puzzle to pass the time. Luckily, on our way back, the really nice people sitting next to us offered us a ride to the metro at Van Dorn, which we gladly accepted.

They're doing a tequila dinner next month, and Food Matters has tastings and events all year long. I recommend getting on their mailing list, and next time something catches your eye, make the trip out there. We had a very enjoyable evening, and I think you will too.

In the throes of Capital Fringe and Screen on the Green. Have you been yet?

I must have France on the brain. Join me over at the Cork and Knife, where I continue the theme.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thing 118: Dr. Granville Moore's

I swear, even before the 'sphere was blowing up with mentions of Granville Moore's, I had made a reservation to go there. Then next thing I knew, everyone was buzzing about Teddy Folkman's solid ass-whupping of Bobby Flay on the food network. And I was scheduled to try those prize winning moules that week! Lucky, lucky me!

Lucky is right. This place is amazing. In fact, if you can arrive at the place (I recommend the 90 or X2), you will be so so glad you ventured to Northeast.

First of all, there are seven dipping sauces for the frites.

Seven. Dipping. Sauces.

I'm gonna let that sink in.

Are you still there? Or are you running not walking to H St, NE? My favorites were the truffle aioli, the horseradish cream and the mango curry. But that is not to say the pesto mayonnaise, mustard seed, garlic ranch and smokey BBQ sauces were bad. They were all very, very good. Our party of six demolished two very large baskets of frites-as-vehicles for sauces in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

Truffle aioli, I dream about you still.

Anyway, all the food was really good. I had the prize-winning bleu cheese, shallots, bacon and spinach mussels. All those things are basically my favorite things in the world, in one big bowl. The best part was when bacon and blue cheese made it into the shell with the mussel, and I could take a bite that was all of them at once. I also got to try my companions' pesto mussels and beer mussels. I think I might have liked the beer broth even better than my own, and I sopped as much up as I could with bread, while still maintaining my signature lady-like restraint and decorum.

Moving on from the food, the beer selection at this place was amazing, too. I think all the beers we sampled were great, but the real hero here was our waitress. Although technically not what you might call a 'good' waitress (she forgot stuff, dropped stuff, and put in at least one order wrong), she was so very friendly and helpful, she nailed every single beer recommendation we asked of her. And we really put her to the test. From the generic ("I like lager") to the specific ("Not hoppy, but bitter and dark") to the apple/oranges variety ("If I tell you I like bold and spicy wines, what kind of beer will I like?"), our waitress was able to recommend a suitable beer for every request. And she doesn't even like beer! She was amazing.

They even have a section of lambic beers, which is what we ended up ordering for dessert. I got a peach one and a couple other people got cherry flavors. Sour and sweet at once, these beers were the perfect cap to a Belgian evening.

The restaurant itself is located on block that is a hipster-island off the coast of Trinidad, on H St, NE, which historically had been a vibrant commercial center back in the days that DC was segregated. It was one of the areas of the city that burned in '68, and while 14th Street and U Street are well on their way now to bouncing back and becoming fully gentrified, H Street has been a bit slower to come around. For whatever reason though, that block is home to such hipster hangout favorites as the Rock n' Roll Hotel, the Red and the Black and the Palace of Wonders.

Granville Moore's is a converted townhouse, which used to be the offices of a local Doctor...Dr. Granville Moore (aha!). It's still homey feeling, with this really neat turret coming off the top floor, and lots of unfinished wood and stone. It was pretty lively when we arrived (still at happy hour), but had calmed down by the time we left (several courses and rounds later).

I still haven't seen the official 'throwdown' episode with Bobby Flay, but I think it's fair to say -- believe the hype. This place is delicious, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and I'd like to bathe in the mango curry sauce. If that can't win a throwdown, I don't know what could.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thing 117: The Folklife Festival

Weaving from Bhutan

"We FINALLY went to the Folklife Festival," I told my dinner companion as we sat over salsas and ceviches at Lauriol Plaza, in answer to the fairly innocuous question of what did you do today?

"You couldn't possibly have done that yet...isn't it always the tradition that they hold the Folklife Festival at the hottest, sweatiest time of year? Part of the tradition is melting into a pool of sweat!"

Oh, rest assured. It was plenty hot for the annual Folk Life Festival, which closed this past Sunday. GFD and I went on the very last day, and melt into a pool of dusty, Mall sweat we did.

We also housed a plate of ribs in about a minute and half, walked through an authentic Buddhist Temple from Bhutan, and scratched our heads and said "NASA?"

Let me go back for a second, for those of you who didn't make it to the festival this year. Every year, for two weeks around the 4th of July (when the mall is at its sweatiest and dustiest), the Smithsonian erects a great many tents and pavilions and picks three cultures from the world to showcase in all their native, folk glory. There's always food, music, dancing, arts and crafts, and educational demonstrations, lectures and performances. In other words, it's a good time, sweat and all.

This year, the cultures highlighted were Texas, Bhutan and...NASA. NASA was celebrating it's 50th anniversary, and I guess spent a bunch of dollars to be spotlit at the festival, but come on. A folk culture it is not. GFD and I kept wandering around it saying "but isn't there...oh, I don't know...a WHOLE museum dedicated to this?...Like, right over there on the Mall already?!"

But Bhutan and Texas were pretty cool. Mostly, GFD and I ate our way through both cultures. We went to the Texas BBQ house and ate ribs.

Texas ribs Folklife Festival
Then we went ate the national dish of Bhutan, ema datsi, which is chilies with cheese and potatoes, and white rice with some kind of red rice mixed in. To be honest, we were nervous. But it turns out, it tasted like queso with jalapenos. Not so weird or exotic. It actually might have come out of an industrial can of nacho-grade queso, so underwhelming overall. We did think it was funny that the same thing could have been purchased at the Tex Mex booth, and we probably wouldn't have noticed. We also ate pork dumplings (God I love dumplings) inexplicably served with salsa that also seemed to have borrowed from the Tex Mex booth.
Ema Datsi Folklife Festival
The music part of the Texas exhibit was great, with an opry house tent, and a dance hall tent. We heard country music, two stepping, and mariachis in the course of the hour we were there. And the arts and crafts piece of the Bhutan exhibit was pretty good too. Their weaving and textiles are bright and fun, with Buddhas and dragons and bright pinks knit with reds and blues and greens in lively patterns. They even assembled a model Buddhist temple, the pieces of which were hand crafted in Bhutan and shipped to Washington, DC for assembly. And inside, there were live monks making music (and looking remarkably hot and bored)!
Monks from Bhutan Folklife Festival

It's too late for this year if you missed it, but next year be sure to go, even though you are guaranteed to dissolve into a sweaty mess. There is great music, good food, and a lot to see and do. I imagine if you have children, it is an ideal place to let them run and see and touch and dance. And maybe next year, they will focus on three actual folk cultures. Or maybe they will highlight the Department of Homeland Security instead.

Coming up: SotG!!!!! See you there! HBO Dance-off promptly at dusk.

Join me over at the
Cork & Knife, where I tackle jam-making.
Get in my belly.