Tag Archives: DC

Resturant Review: Founding Farmers Brunch

12 Jul

Heaven in a brown paper bag.

Brunch. Founding Farmers. These are two of my favorite things, and combine them with a group of friends reminiscing on the previous night’s activities, some bloody marys and fried dough topped with sugar, and you have a pretty perfect couple of hours.  Founding Farmers has delicious food for all three meals- their mission is to support farmers and provide sustainable and quality food options, which means everything is very fresh and very delicious.  If it weren’t for the excellent brunch items I would say save a trip there for the dinner menu, which includes steak, maple glazed salmon, and amazing flatbreads.  But since they do also serve one of the best brunches in DC, you will have to resign yourself to trying multiple meals there.

Chicken and waffles and gravy, oh my.

I’ve been to Founding Farmers for brunch before, but this article on their beignets meant I was clearly well past due for another trip.  I am usually a strict savory breakfast type, but sweet menu offerings such as overstuffed French toast, which comes stacked like bricks on a extra-large plate, and the aforementioned beignets have me rethinking my eggs-and-bacon loyalties.  We got an order of beignets for the table, and literally ceased talking for 5 minutes as everyone devoured the crispy and sweet fried dough topped with powdered sugar and served with chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dipping sauces.  For my brunch main course, only after much consideration and indecisiveness, I ordered the Chicken and Waffles- one large waffle with two eggs, a crispy chicken tender, white gravy and maple syrup.  Although this had a lot going on, all of the flavors and textured melded perfectly together, to the point where I was eating bites of chicken and waffle with both the syrup and gravy heaped over top.  The white gravy was creamy and flavorful, and the chicken was cooked to a perfect crispness.  My only minor complaint is that the poached eggs were from a mold, which weirdly rubs me the wrong way, because eggs should not be shaped like cones (told you it was a minor complaint).

One serious bloody mary.

Other orders at the table included the Pastrami Hash, which looked and tasted delicious, although seemed like much less food than the other over-sized offerings.  I am tempted to try that and some of the other hash dishes in the future though, as well as the pan scrambles.  I was also convinced to try my first Bloody Mary here- I’m usually more of a mimosa girl, but figured the Founding Farmer’s Bloody Mary would be a pretty excellent one as an introduction.  I wasn’t wrong- it was very peppery and filling, and certainly woke you up in the morning.  It took me the better part of an hour to finish the whole thing due to the spicy-tomatoy-ness, but I would definitely count it as a new-experience success.  All in all, there was not much about this brunch I would change (the business of Founding Farmers on a Sunday morning is one drawback, but Founding Farmers is always busy so I usually assume I won’t be seated until 15 minutes after my reservation anyway), and I only wish I had room in my stomach for more than one main course with all of their selections.


Restaurant Review: Il Canale in Georgetown

12 Feb

The calimari was way better than this terrible picture

As soon as I read a review of Il Canale on Serious Eats, I knew I had to go. It was proclaimed Georgetown’s first “Truly Neapolitan Pizza,” and though I know New York is home to lots of great Neapolitan places, this one is practically on my doorstep. So best for the area is good enough for me.
So Roxie, my friend Lily, and I met up for dinner here last Tuesday. As expected on a Tuesday, it wasn’t exactly packed, but I imagine it gets busier on weekends and I would probably make a reservation. Looking around, the pizzas looked just slightly bigger than personal size– I could probably have finished a whole one with no appetizer, but I didn’t need one to myself. So we decided to share an order of calimari and fried zucchini to start, and then went for a Margherita pizza and the Italia.
We were a little worried at first that because “foccacia” was listed on the menu, we wouldn’t get free bread. Thankfully, we were soon proven wrong, and though the bread itself was pretty standard, the roasted garlic in the olive oil that came with it was awesome. (Potatoes, bread, pasta… yes, the Spices love their carbs.)

Italia pizza!

The calimari came next, and totally blew me away. I’m not always a huge fan of calimari, because I often find it too chewy. This wasn’t chewy at all, however, and the batter was perfectly light and salty. The zucchini thrown in to the didn’t add a whole lot, but made me feel a tiny bit healthier.
Next up were the pizzas. The Margherita was your classic, marinara sauce, mozzarella and basil. I could have done with a little more basil, but I though the sauce was incredible… really bright tomato flavors. The Italia was off the white side of the menu, meaning it had no sauce. It was a good prosciutto-parmesan-arugula pizza, though the toppings didn’t blow me away. The stand out on both pizzas, to me, was the crust. Super chewy and really well flavored, it made me understand the cult of the Neapolitan pizza.
Best of all was the bill we got at the end! $15 each for a filling meal… granted we didn’t get drinks or dessert, but it is undoubtedly very well priced (and certainly rivals the other Italian eateries in Georgetown in this respect).
I would highly recommend Il Canale for a nice meal out with your friends… it is budget-friendly, good for sharing, and has excellent food.

Il Canale

Restaurant Review: Cuba Libre

10 Nov

Guacomole and shrimp and roasted squash salad

Last Friday was my friend Lindsay’s birthday, and a big group of us went to a new restaurant in the Chinatown area, Cuba Libre, to celebrate.  I hadn’t heard of it before, but love the opportunity to try out new places that I wouldn’t usually go to, especially when I can justify going somewhere nice because “it’s insert-friend-here’s birthday!!! Clearly I should spend my grocery money for the week on one night out!”  I was even more excited to try Cuba Libre because Lindsay had mentioned mojitos multiple times in her email, and a quick look at the menu confirmed that not only did the food sound amazing, but yes, there are 14 different variations of mojito.

I was very lucky that when I got to the restaurant I found my friend Ingrid right away, because it was super crowded and very noisy by the front.  The atmosphere was actually very nice though, and once we were sitting down the noise wasn’t too overwhelming.  Cuba Libre had an obviously Cuban/generically ethnic theme, and had that fake outdoor-while-you’re-indoors thing going on that made me say to Ingrid immediately that I felt like I was in Disneyworld’s Mexico (which btw, also has very yummy food. And a boat ride).  Some people might not like the fake scenery, but to me comparing something to Disney is a very high compliment.

Former roomies at Cuba Libre

When we were finally seated at our massive table we were faced with the question of which of the 14 mojitos we would like to try.  One of our group had the neon pink beet and basil mojito, which was said to be excellent, but as I’m not a huge raw beet fan I went with a mango one.  Ingrid got the grilled pineapple mojito, which I will have to try next time I am there.  I also tried the classic mojito, which I actually preferred to the mango because it wasn’t as sweet and the mint taste was more promient.  Also luckily this wasn’t one of those places that puts so much mint into the drinks that you have to abandon it halfway through for fear of choking on excessive mint leaves.

Next came the food, and by the time we got anything to eat all of us were starving so it was very welcome.  The bread they gave us was little fried rounds of some sort of sweet bread, accompanied by a mango butter which I believe also had cinnamon in it.  Whatever it was, that stuff was seriously addictive, and I would have been pretty happy just eating lots of fried cinnamony bread all  night.  After much debating I settled on Lechon Asado for my main course, described as “slow roasted marinated pulled pork, classic sour orange mojo, Amarillo chile smashed yuca and black bean broth with vigoron slaw”.  I didn’t recognize half of the words in the description but the waiter said it sold out every night, which I always take as a good sign.  Ingrid got the Batata con Camarones (shrimp with roasted squash salad) and Guacamole Cubano (guacomole with pineapple and crispy plaintain), and I also tried the Yuca Frita and Croqueta de Jamon y Queso (Ham and Jack cheese croquettes).

My Lechon Asado

I don’t know that I’ve had Cuban food more than once or twice before, but based on this experience I will definitely be trying it again.  My pulled pork was tender and delicious, and the yuca was slightly spicy but balanced by the black bean broth and the slaw on top.  It was a large portion, but not overwhelmingly so, and I would order it again in a second.  The presentation of all the dishes was also very good, Ingrid’s guacamole was shaped with plantain chips on top, and mine was also all stacked in a very aesthetically pleasing way.  From what I heard everyone enjoyed their dishes, and the menu has quite a good range of seafood, chicken, and meat for actually pretty good value (mains were only about $20-25).  I would recommend this for a fun night out with friends, and I think next time I might order a few of the small plates to try as much as possible!

A Tale of Two Burgers

31 Oct

The monster that is a Ray's Hell Burger, with grilled onions and cheddar cheese

I’m a big burger fan (in case you haven’t noticed I’m a pretty big fan of most food so this shouldn’t come as a surprise), and while I don’t consider myself to be a burger snob who will only eat the highest of high quality burgers, I can appreciate both a so called “gourmet” burger and a more run of the mill fast food burger.  This post is a comparison of two very different but both delicious burgers, the first from Obama favorite Ray’s Hell Burger, located a convenient 5 minute walk from my apartment, the second from Fuddruckers, a much better than average fast food burger chain that I had sadly never heard of before moving to DC (on researching I found that they don’t have any locations in New York other than Albany, which basically doesn’t count).

Ray’s has become a frequent destination of mine because as I mentioned it is literally the closest restaurant to my apartment, and it’s a great place to take people when they visit, since most people have heard of it but might not have trekked out to Rosslyn to try it.  The first time I went there was over the summer with Gina and my friend Aaron (Hi S!), and needless to say I was not adequately prepared for what was about to happen.  Even though Aaron and I are both self-proclaimed fatties who occasionally (ok, this has happened a lot) eat a meal meant for a family of four between the two of us, neither of us came close to finishing our massive 10-oz Ray’s burgers.  Gina fared better because she had been there before, and I now know how to prepare for a Ray’s visit.  Here is a general list of Ray’s Rules:

1) Don’t eat for most of the day before.
2) If you order fries, make sure to share with at least one other person.  The burgers are so filling you don’t really need them.
3) Resist the temptation of overloading your burger with more than 3 toppings. They will fall off.
4) Cut your burger in half before attempting to eat it, it makes it much more manageable.

Oh and the burgers? Yup, they’re awesome.  Always perfectly cooked, seasoned, and super juicy, I can see why Obama chooses this as an introduction to the USA for foreign dignitaries.  And I am very lucky that I live so nearby, as you definitely need to go more than once to sample the many toppings and the different seasonings on the burgers.

Fuddruckers burger and fries

Fuddruckers is a less intense burger experience, but good enough that I still go out of my way to eat at the DC location in Chinatown whenever I can.  You can pick the weight of your burger, which is a useful feature, and you add all the toppings like lettuce, etc, yourself, which means it doesn’t automatically come with things you don’t want.  I usually go with the 1/3 pound patty with either American or Cheddar cheese.  These aren’t the monster burgers of Ray’s, which is arguably a good thing- they are thinner patties and grilled to order so they are also very fresh and well cooked.  The bun is pure buttery deliciousness, and the seasoned fries are well worth getting.  In a place like DC, which is home to Five Guys among many other burger spots, Fuddruckers isn’t a high-profile burger place, but it is one of my personal favorites.  Fuddruckers and Ray’s are so different it’s hard to compare them, but if you like burgers in general these are both places to try soon.  And if you go to Ray’s, please call me so I can come help eat your leftovers.

Restaurant Reviews: 701 and Casa Oaxaca

20 Oct

Thanks to Guy for this picture of the table at 701

Our parents were in town this weekend, which of course meant two things: free meals, and a big trip to the grocery store (in a car!). Oh, and of course wonderful conversation with our lovely parents, etc etc. But back to the free meals. The two restaurants I’m writing about today aren’t exactly places I’m going to go every week, but they’re both excellent for special occasions or just a bit of a splurge.

First up, on Friday night, was 701, on Pennsylvania Avenue. We were meeting up with a large assortment of our parents’ friends for dinner, but Roxie and I were assured there would be other “young people” there. (By which is meant there were two other people under thirty.) It was a great evening though—because we were such a large group we were put in a private room, where the conversation could get progressively louder as each new bottle of wine was ordered. As for the food, in general it was excellent. We did some informal surveying around the table, and everyone seemed to be satisfied. Highlights listed included the rabbit rillete appetizer, ham and cheese ravioli, arugula pappardelle, and poussin. (Not to brag, but the waiter said I was the first person to correctly identify a poussin as a small chicken, rather than a fish. All those years of watching Top Chef has finally paid off.) I had the acorn squash and brown butter orecchiette as an appetizer, which seems to have been the only disappointing pasta dish—the pasta was slightly gummy, and the sauce underwhelming. But my venison entrée was excellent—the date puree on the side was an unusual but delicious accompaniment, though I could probably have done without the turnips. Roxie’s enormous steak was also very well cooked, though it had a very salty crust. The accompanying bone marrow mashed potatoes were delicious.

The portions (except for the steak) were reasonable enough that I had room for dessert, all of which were amazing. My chocolate-hazelnut terrine was rich, but delicious, and Roxie’s carrot cake roulade was also good. But everyone at the table agreed the star was the warm walnut cake, if only for the amaretto cream on the side. As an added bonus, all of the dessert portions were generous enough to share around the table.

And then on to something very different, Casa Oaxaca! This was our destination on Saturday night, and though I had gone once before I was even more impressed the second time around. Roxie was working on Saturday, so I went with my boyfriend, Brett, and my parents. The restaurant is located in Adams Morgan, where I really do not go often enough. It’s not terribly far away from me, just awkward to get to, but every time I go I vow that I will return in the near future to explore further, because it’s a great corner of DC that I hardly know at all.

Casa Oaxaca prides itself on offering authentic Mexican food, focusing on the cuisine of the state of Oaxaca. The menu of entrees is simple, mainly offering different meats with various mole sauces, but everything I’ve had there has had complex, deep flavors. We started on Saturday with a variety of appetizers for the table—queso with chorizo, guacamole and salsa, plantain patties, and a chicken and mole tamale. The highlights for me were the plantain patties (because I love anything with plantains in it), and the guacamole and salsa.  The salsa was very spicy, but had rich, earthy flavors—I’m tempted to say at least one of the components had been roasted, though it was hard to tell. Whatever the technique, it was addictive and I had already had a few too many chips by the time our main dishes came.

My parents both got the mole poblano, or chicken in a black mole sauce. For those of you unfamiliar with black mole, it is a rich sauce with chocolate undertones, and they do a superior job with it at Café Oaxaca. I got the Tres Moles, or chicken with red, green, and black mole sauces, because I was interested in comparing the different moles. All were excellent—it’s hard to beat the chocolatey flavor of the black, but the red was very well spiced and balanced, and I could definitely eat whole dish with red mole as well. Brett got the duck in a fig mole sauce, which was one of the more unusual items on the menu, but also very tasty. By the end of the night (thanks to all those chips), I was too full to order dessert, but I guess that only gives me an excuse to go back! I love Mexican food but get so tired of flavorless burritos with excessive amounts of cheese (see: the “Mexican food” offered at my dining hall), so I think Casa Oaxaca has become one of my new favorite DC restaurants.

So there you go, two excellent restaurants to try if you’re looking for something special in DC. I can assure that the next restaurant review will be a little more within the budget of college students, though, as our parents won’t be returning for a while!

DC Curbside Cookoff!

13 Oct


The line for LobsterTruckDC


DC hosted its first annual Curbside Cookoff, a gathering of some of DCs (many relatively new) food trucks on Thursday and Friday of last week, and I was able to take advantage of my semi-unemployment to go Friday afternoon to sample some of the different food truck offerings.  Gina went on Thursday but was sad to find that by the time she got there around 6pm most of the trucks were sold out (clearly she should have skipped class to go early, I keep telling that girl to get her priorities straight).  At around 3pm on Friday it was definitely busy, with lines for the more popular trucks like LobsterTruckDC about 45 minutes long.  Luckily it was nice enough out that I didn’t mind waiting, and there was a really cute baby in front of me who I made faces at to keep myself entertained.

Lobster! In a roll!

The first truck I went to was LobsterTruckDC, because I’ve been hearing about it for a while, and Gina went to the original stand at the Brooklyn Flea Market over the summer and gave it rave reviews.  Waiting in line was absolutely worth it- this was some goood lobster.  The only downside I would say is that the lobster rolls aren’t that big (although they do have a lot of lobster), and I could have eaten three before being full.  Sadly I cannot afford three 15$ lobster rolls, so my roommate and I next got on line for TaKorean.  I hadn’t heard about this one, but it had another long line so I figured it must be popular.  Plus, I love anything encased in a taco shell.  While waiting on line someone came over with a camera and interviewed us about food trucks and why they are so great, revolutionary, etc, which was kinda awkward but helped the time pass.  I got one steak and one pork taco, and my roommate got a chicken one as well.  We both agreed the pork was the best of the bunch- my steak was pretty lackluster, not helped by the napa slaw on top, which was much less tasty than the kimchi slaw on the others.  I would get the pork taco again, but I wouldn’t wait 40 minutes in line for it, especially because I do not have 40 minutes to wait for lunch while at work, which is presumably when the food trucks want you to go to them.


A statue of spoons and forks in the middle of the parking lot. Obviously.


This was a fun event overall, even the lines were bearable since I had good company from babies and roommates.  Ones I wanted to try but didn’t because they were sold out/I’m poor included Fry Captain (fries in DUCK FAT? Yes, please), DC Empanadas, and Eat Wonky. A lot of the trucks congregate at Farragut square, which is by where I work, so if I see one there in the next few days I may sample some more food-truck fare and review that as well.

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