Category Archives: Restaurants

A Taste of Southern Florida

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to take a week long vacation in Southern Florida (Boca Raton, Key West, and Miami to be exact). This vacation couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just had a jam-packed month at work and the cold, long winter weather was beginning to take it’s wear on me. Having a chance to get out in to the sunshine, wear shorts, spend time with my boyfriend, and eat some delicious, eclectic food was wonderful!

Instead of writing up reviews of the many restaurants we visited, I thought it would be best for you to see some of the best dishes of the trip. We certainly were living La Vida Loca!

Soul Mama Seafood Soup at Nine One Five

Shredded garlic chicken at Uncle Tai's

Warm Figs Brulee Salad at Bin18

Stone crabs from Joe's Stone Crab

Pan con Bistec at Ola

Key lime pie at The Fish House

Cuban food from Ana's Cuban Cafe

Cocktails at Ola

Lasagnette at Michael's Genuine

Best dish of the trip! Snapper with an avocado mash and a whole lotta goodness from Louie's Backyard

* Nine One Five- 915 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040 305-296-0669

* Uncle Tai’s- 5250 Town Center Circle Boca Raton, FL 33486 561-368-8806

*Bin18- 1800 Biscane Blvd., Miami, FL 33132 786-235-7575

*Joe’s Stone Crab- 11 Washington Avenue Miami, FL 33139 800-780-CRAB

*Ola- 1745 James Street Miami Beach, FL 33139 305-695-9125

*The Fish House- 102401 Overseas Highway Key Largo, FL 33037 305-451-HOOK

*Ana’s Cuba Cafe- 1222 White Street, Key West, FL 33040 305-296-4707

*Michael’s Genuine–  130 Northeast 40th Street Miami, FL 33137 305-573-5550

*Louie’s Backyard- 700 Waddell Ave., Key West, FL 305-294-1061

Central….To Go!

You’ve had a long day at work. When the lunch bell rings you in no way, shape, or form want another boring chopped salad or the frozen solid “emergency” Lean Cuisine you keep in the office fridge.  What you would really like is a bucket of chicken and all the appropriate sides, but you couldn’t bear the thought of going the fast food route.

Instead head over to Central, one of the most popular restaurants in D.C. The more casual yet stylized bistro of James Beard Award winning chef Michel Richard just launched a gourmet take-out menu. One of the highlights is Michel’s Fried Chicken Bucket. For $29.95 you get six pieces (three breasts and three thighs) of deliciously fried chicken, along with 10 chicken nuggets, Central’s house-made Dijonnaisse sauce and an order of mashed potatoes. Now THAT is finger lickin’ good.

Also on the menu you can find Chef Richard’s famous cheeseburger, a goat cheese Caesar salad, crab cake sandwich, Brussel sprouts with bacon, and the to-die-for chocolate bar.

Photo by Len Depas

Central is one of my favorite restaurants in D.C. This is likely the closest I’ll ever get to having Chef Richard cooking in my teeny, tiny kitchen….but for now this is good enough for me!

The Take-Out menu is available at Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm. Carry-out available Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm and Dinner Monday-Saturday 5:30pm-10:30pm. Call 202-626-0015

Photo by Moshe Zusman

The Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

A few months ago my friend Dede Lahman and her husband Chef Neil Kleinberg came out with a fabulous cookbook revealing all the secrets of their New York award-winning restaurant, The Clinton St. Baking Company. If you haven’t made a trip to the Clinton St. Baking Company, it’s certainly worth putting on your list

Photo courtesy of Dennis Yang

the next time you are in New York City. CSBC is the perfect neighborhood restaurant. It specializes in food that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and is fully equipped with a comfortable environment and friendly staff. Numerous magazines and newspapers have touted their pancakes, biscuits, and brunch specials.

And now with their new cookbook and you can try to recreate the magic in your own kitchen. I have been a part of this cookbook from the beginning. Dede, an old camp friend of mine, reached out to my Mom and me and asked us to test some recipes. The whole process was a lot of fun (I tested the scones and my Mom tested the frittata) and the finished product is beautiful. The book has lots of pictures and stories behind each of the recipes, told in Dede’s unique voice. This is a must-have addition to any cook’s library.

Below you will find two of my favorite recipes from the cookbook so far. Clinton St. Baking Company is known for their fluffy pancakes. After seeing the recipe I finally realized what their secret is—separating the eggs and then whipping the

Photo courtesy of Clinton St. Baking Company

egg whites until they form soft peaks. These are then folded in, allowing the pancakes to almost have small soufflé-like spots. Incredible! The smoked salmon scramble is a great, quick weekend treat. You can either serve it as I describe below or pile it high on a bagel. Either way is delicious! Try out these recipes on your next lazy Sunday.

Clinton St. Baking Company Pancakes

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, plus 1 teaspoon
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted for the griddle
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup of cinnamon sugar for dusting (if desired)

1.    Measure and sift all the dry ingredients into a large (preferably stainless-steel) mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.
2.    In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The result should be slightly lumpy, yet combined to form a batter.
3.    Whip the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl until they reach medium peaks (soft in the middle). You can either whip them by hand with a whisk, or put them in the bowl of an electric mixer to whip. Be careful, you don’t want to over-whip the egg whites.
4.    Gently mix half of the whipped whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula.  Then gently fold the remaining half into the batter. Remember: this batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of egg whites not fully incorporated. It should look like white caps in the ocean with foam on top. This batter will last a few hours in the fridge without deflating too much.
5.    Heat a griddle—either an electric griddle, a stovetop griddle, or a big flat pan to 350˚ to 375˚. Grease the hot griddle with the remaining butter. Drop ¼ cup (approximately 4 tablespoons) of pancake batter on the griddle and cook to set. (If you want add 1 tablespoon blueberries, chocolate chips, or other toppings before turning the pancakes. Never add the fruit to the mix; always add the fruit to the pancakes once they’re on the griddle). When you see bubbles start to form on top, lift the pancake halfway up to see if it’s golden brown and crispy on the edges. If ready, flip the pancakes.
6.    When the pancake is golden brown on both sides, remove with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining batter, cooking several pancakes at a time. Garnish with cinnamon sugar and serve with warm syrup.

Makes 18-20 3-inch pancakes.

Clinton St. Baking Company’s Smoked Salmon Scramble

4 slices of seven-grain (or multi-grain) bread
8 large eggs
Pinch of ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 slices (8 ounces) smoked salmon, Nova or Scottish (coarsely chopped in to bite-sized pieces)
6 Tablespoons cream cheese softened (Philadelphia preferred, not whipped)
½ cup minced scallions (green and white parts)
½ cup minced fresh chives

1.    Toast the bread, according to preference.
2.    Whisk together the eggs and pepper in a bowl until combined.
3.    In a 9 to 10 inch omelet pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is frothy, add the eggs. Gently scramble them in a circular motion with a heatproof spatula, starting from the center of the pan and moving outward. Shake the pan to distribute the uncooked eggs. Once the eggs begin to set, add the salmon, breaking it up with your spatula and distributing it throughout the egg mixture. Add the cream cheese, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to lightly scramble the eggs so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the scallions and remove the eggs from the heat.
4.    For each plate, serve the eggs with a slice of toast, sliced again on the diagonal. Sprinkle chives on top of the eggs.


Thanksgiving is a very big deal in my family. The only time I ever missed a Thanksgiving at my parent’s house was when I was studying abroad in Denmark, and even then my Mom sent me a package with everything I would need to host Thanksgiving dinner overseas (minus the turkey—which is apparently

Photo courtesy of ConstructionDealMkting

impossible to find in Copenhagen). We always have a traditional New England Thanksgiving at home with family and friends. It’s wonderful, but I recognize that not everyone wants to deal with the planning, the cooking, and most importantly, the dishes.

This is one of those situations where outsourcing is not so bad. A number of DC-area restaurants host wonderful Thanksgiving dinners with lots of options and all the fixin’s. It’s just a matter of deciding what style dinner you want…and making reservations (which are highly recommended). Here are some of my choices for Thanksgiving dinner out.

Classic Thanksgiving:

*Equinox– Hot off a new post-fire renovation and review from Tom Sietsema, spend your holiday with Chef Todd Gray and his New American Mid-Atlantic cuisine. Start off with a glass of champagne and an oyster roast on the patio. Then move on to the 3-course ala carte menu featuring kobocha squash soup, Ayrshire Farms Red Bourbon Turkey with cider-cranberry gravy, and heirloom pumpkin seed cake with mascarpone ice cream. After dinner you can take a short walk to the White House and around the various monuments.

818 Connecticut Avenue, NW 202-331-8118 $55/person ala carte menu. Dinner offered from 2-7pm

*701– Dinner at the classic restaurant will include an ala carte menu featuring venison stuffed sage leaves, eco-friendly turkey and suckling pig, and pumpkin and sweet potato tart. Grab a drink before or after your meal at the bar and listen to the live jazz. 701 will also be featuring valet parking, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 202-393-0701 $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-9pm

An International Take:

*Bibiana– Perhaps you would like to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving meal and head to the Amalfi Coast instead of Plymouth Rock. In that case you might enjoy Bibiana’s 3-course Italian menu. Their Thanksgiving menu includes such tasty items as chestnut soup with grappa cream, Heritage turkey two-ways, and monkfish poached in beet juice.

1100 New York Ave., NW (located on the corner of 12th and H Streets) 202-216-9550 $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-4pm

*Bistro Bis– Bistro Bis, a Capitol Hill favorite, will be offering a delicious Thanksgiving menu with a French Twist. I imagine Thanksgiving dinner at Julia Child’s house might look a little like this. The ala carte menu features venison carpaccio, roasted turkey with sweet potato mousseline and giblet gravy, lamb shank bretonne and mashed potatoes with truffle butter. Dinner at Bistro Bis also gives the perfect excuse to head up to the Capitol Building after dinner and get the perfect view of the National Mall all lit up and covered in leaves.

15 E Street, NW 202-661-2700 Dinner offered 12-8pm.

Photo courtesy of Tramie's Kitchen

Taking It South of  the Mason-Dixon Line:

*Art and Soul– Head to this restaurant if you want a little taste of the South. Art and Soul offers diners a number of classic Southern dishes including passed plates of deviled eggs, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and spicy collard greens. There will be carving stations with roasted turkey, bourbon maple-glazed ham, and herb roasted prime rib. Everyone gets to choose their own dessert like pecan or apple pie. And as an added bonus Art and Soul gives you a take home leftover turkey sandwich with all the trimmings—just because you’re not cooking the meal, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the midnight snacking!

415 New Jersey Ave., NW 202-393-7777 Dinner offered 11am-9pm. $65/adults and $25/kids (6-12 years old)

Regardless of where you end up I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of Vicky's Nature

The Great American Dine Out

It’s not very often that I get a chance to combine my blog with my daytime job as a lobbyist. In all honesty, I have tried to keep my two lives separate. But for the past year I just happen to be working on an issue that I not only find inspiring professionally, but have also had a strong interest in personally for quite awhile. The issue of childhood hunger in America has reached a critical peak over the past few years. Currently 1 in 4 children are food insecure. This means that they

Photo courtesy of Bruce Tuten

go without nutritious food on a fairly regular basis. It is a travesty that in the richest country in the world a child should want for food.

Part of my job is to advocate for these children. Through my work I have come in to contact with the wonderful group Share Our Strength. Now there is a way that you can get involved, enjoy a delicious meal, and help hungry kids all at the same time. From September 19-25 Share Our Strength will be sponsoring the Great American Dine Out. Thousands of restaurants from around the country will participate and a portion of the proceeds will go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which works to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015 (the same goal set by President Obama).

Photo courtesy of

75 restaurants in the DC area will be participating, including Proof, Estadio, Ping Pong Dim Sum, California Tortilla, and Art and Soul. A complete listing of the restaurants can be found here.

So gather some friends, make a reservation, enjoy a delicious meal, and help change a life!

A Taste of Northern Michigan

I recently got back from a wonderful, relaxing vacation in Northern Michigan. This is the second summer my boyfriend and I spent our summer vacation in this part of the country and we absolutely love it up there. The weather is perfect, the people are friendly, and there is some incredibly good food to be found.

We were in Saugatuck, the Leelanau Peninsula, and Traverse City. These are areas that are serious about fresh, seasonal, locally grown cuisine. The area it chock full of farms and wine vineyards. It’s really a budding foodie destination (Mario Batali even has a vacation home in Northport, MI). We happened to be there during the Traverse City Cherry Festival so we ate tons of fresh cherries; they appeared in lots of different dishes from pie to pan-seared chicken. The best thing to do is to pull over to a roadside stand and buy cherries and whatever else they happen to be selling.

Instead of doing a write up of every excellent restaurant we dined in (and there were many), I thought it would be more fun to give you a visual presentation of all that Michigan has to offer. I also provided a guide of our favorite restaurants and B&Bs (we stayed in some amazing and fairly affordable places). I highly recommend a visit to Northern Michigan—those Pure Michigan ads are no joke!

Cherry pie from The Cherry Hut

Amazing hamburger at Salt of the Earth

Walleye with morels, asparagus, and a ramp butter sauce from Mission Table

Strawberry tiramisu from Everyday People

Asian tofu lettuce wraps from Red Ginger

Smoked whitefish dip from Mermaid Bar and Grill

Asparagus Eggs Benedict from Trattoria Stella

Cherry and chocolate milkshakes from Don's Drive-In

Turkey Reuben from Art's Tavern

Chicken with sour cherries and greens from A Cook's House

Chocolate cherry cheesecake from The Cove

Cherries bought from a road side stand

In Saugatuck Area:
*Salt of the Earth- 114 East Main Street Fennville, MI 269-561-SALT

*Everyday People-11 Center Street Douglas, MI 269-857-4240

*Mermaid Bar and Grill-340 Water Street Saugatuck, MI 269-857-8208

*Sherwood Forest B&B- 938 Center Street Douglas, MI (right next to Saugatuck) 1-800-838-1246

In Traverse City Area:
*The Cook’s House- 439 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 231-946-8700

*Mission Table- 13512 Peninsula Drive Traverse City, MI (Old Mission Peninsula) 231-223-4222

*Trattoria Stella-1200 W Eleventh Street Traverse City, MI 49684 231-929-8740

*Red Ginger-237 East Front Street Traverse City, MI 231-944-1733

*The Cove-111 River Street Leland, MI 231-256-9834

*Art’s Tavern- 6487 Western Avenue Glen Arbor, MI 49636 231-334-3754

*The Cherry Hut- 211 N. Michigan Avenue (US 31) Beulah, MI 231-882-4431

*Tesoro Inn- 15627 Center Road Traverse City, MI (Old Mission Peninsula)  231-223-7686

Restaurant Week Round-Up-Summer 2009

Restaurant Week tends to be a pretty divisive topic among the DC foodie community.  People either love it or hate it. Accept it or avoid it. With great anticipation, the various message boards spin into a tizzy once the restaurants are officially announced.

Personally, I like Restaurant Week. I often use it as an opportunity to try out new restaurants in towns or visit places I have been meaning to get to but often forget about. Much planning goes in to my Restaurant Week schedule. There are certain places that are known to book up fast, so once the dates are announced I usually jump on OpenTable right away to snag a reservation. Over the years I’ve had some great experiences at local restaurants during Restaurant Week—notably Bistro Bis, PS71789, and the Prime Rib. I’ve also had a few disasters, Notti Bianche being the most memorable when they clearly sent a piece of fish out that was at least 2 days past its sell date. For the places I enjoyed, it served as a wonderful first impression, and in many cases I have returned over and over again (PS7 is pretty much my version of Cheers).

This years picks for Restaurant Week had an unplanned Southern theme. My three choices were dinner at Vidalia and Art and Soul and brunch at Firefly. My reviews are below:


The last time I was at Vidalia I was 19 years-old and had traveled from Boston to DC with my father to start my very first summer as a DC intern. This was 8 years ago and from what I had heard, a lot had changed at Vidalia. I had fond memories of Chef Buben’s classy Southern cuisine. But just a few years ago there was a much publicized revamp of the menu. I was excited to share my meal with my Southern food-loving friend Allison. Unfortunately the complete meal didn’t live up to my high expectations.

It should be mentioned first and foremost that the service was wonderful. You often hear about rude or lazy service during RestaurantDSC00751 Week but everyone at Vidalia treated us as if it was any other night—probably not the easiest task when you are seating double the amount of tables you normally would on a Tuesday night.

Vidalia offers a very generous menu during Restaurant Week, with few up-charges. They also allow you to choose from a 3-course menu for $35.09 or a 5-course menu for $45.09 (an incredible deal, if you ask me). 5-courses seemed a bit too much, so we went with the 3-course tasting. For me, the appetizers were the high point of the evening. I ordered the sweet garlic velouté with fried frog legs and a meyer lemon dip. DSC00750This was a pitch perfect first course. The frog legs were delicately fried and rested in a thick garlicky soup. It all came together beautifully and hinted at  a refined quality of Southern cuisine. My friend’s appetizer looked beautiful (I did not get a chance to taste it). She ordered a raw copia with some sort of coco sauce and a mint gelée. The flavor combinations sound odd at best but she said it was delicious.

It was the entrée section that both Allison and I felt the meal fell short. I try not to eat pork products as much as possible. Many of the entrees included pork so in order to steer around those options I went with the roasted leg of lamb. It was served with small, whole eggplants and a delicious fig jam. There was nothing wrong with this dish, it was perfectly cooked. It just cDSC00752ame across as boring and a little uninspired, especially compared to the amazing appetizer selections. Part of this might have been my dish choice. But I also think there are ways to make lamb Southern and exciting and this wasn’t one of them.  My friend ordered the one vegetarian option—the caramelized Vidalia onion crepe with a fried hen egg on top. While the dish looked interesting, the crepe had very little going on inside besides onions. After awhile it all became a bit too much. Perhaps if they had included other vegetables, it would have been a tastier dish.

Dessert helped our meal end on a high note.  Whenever I mentioned to someone that I was going to Vidalia for dinner they told me I must try Lemon Chess Cake, so naturally that’s what I went with. This dessert did not disappoint. It was light, sweet, and tangy. I would love the recipe for this cake because it tastes so fresh and light and therefore not that bad for you (but I’m sure it is). Allison ordered the pecan bar served with vanilla ice cream.
Overall this was a nice meal, but I came out feeling a bit disappointed, especially with the result of our uninspired entrees. I often find the first course offerings at restaurants are more interesting than the second courses. Vidalia just might be one of those places.

Vidalia- 1990 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20036  (202) 659-1990

Art and Soul

For my second Restaurant Week dinner I headed up to the Hill to check out the new hot spot Art and Soul. Coming right off the heals of his appearance on Top Chef Masters, Art Smith (Oprah’s personal chef, from the days when Oprah was fat!) opened his first DC restaurant  at the beginning of the year and it has been a tough reservation to get since then.  So my friend Jen (from the wonderful Beets and Bonbons) and I booked well in advance. I was a little skeptical about booking a second Southern restaurant right after eating at Vidalia but I had been dying to try out Art and Soul, so I forgot any semblance of a diet and dived right in. In my opinion Art and Soul did not disappoint.

It had been a long, tough day with the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, my personal hero, occurring early that morning, but the minute I walked into the stylish and vibrant Art and Soul I knew I was in for a mood lifter. The walls are covered in pop art of famous leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And the tables were decorated witDSC00756h fresh herbs.

Art’s menu is hard to choose from because everything sounds so good. While we were deciding on our orders the friendly waitress brought out a cast iron skillet filled with light, fluffy bread that peeled off into leafs. I’m not entirely sure what type of bread it was but it was fresh and delicious.

For a first course I went with the grilled shrimp served with a mildly spicy chili limon sauce and a grilled corn succotash. The shrimp was prepared perfecDSC00758tly and paired well with the light sauce. My only complaint was it was speared on a sugar cane stick that made it close to impossible to take off. I almost had a Pretty Woman moment where a shrimp went flying across the room. Despite the difficulty I had eating this dish, it was delicious. Jen ordered the gazpacho soup with shrimp. From what I could tell she didn’t love this dish. She said it tasted like “a bowl full of bloody Mary mix.” Probably not the most delightful thing to eat with a spoon.

The second course was a win-win for both of us.  I ordered the crispy whole trout that was lightly dredged in cornmeal and pan fried. It was served with a vinegary spring bean salad and a perfectly-matched rhubarb vinaigrette. This dish was incredible! All the flavors went together perfectly and balanced each other out. I would order this dish again and again. Since Art Smith is known for his chicken, Jen ordered the chicken with goat cheese drop biscuits and a wonderfully thick gravy. This dish sang the songs of the South.
A quick note on Arts plating: I love it! As you can tell from the pictures, the kitchen takes a layering approach to the plating, which I really appreciated. Some how this presentation helps to marry the flavors and bring the whole dish together.

Even though I was starting to feel full, I couldn’t pass up dessert…it was included in the $35.09 price tag after all. Again, this course was delightful. I ordered the chocolate cheesecake. Art and Soul’s rendition of chocolate DSC00762cheesecake is beautifully light, almost mousse-like with a delicate crust. It was very rich, a chocolate-lover’s dream come true. Jen ordered the peach pecan crumble with vanilla ice cream. It tasted like a single-serving version of peach crisp.

Overall this meal received two thumbs up in my book. I will certainly return again. They put their best foot forward during Restaurant Week, which only leads me to believe that they can perform excellently under pressure and just as well during regular service.

Art and Soul- 425 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001  (202) 393-7777

For my final Restaurant Week adventure I made a last minute reservation for brunch at Firefly to catch up with old friends. At $20.09 this was a great deal. I had been to Firefly a few times for drinks and dinner but lately it seemed to have fallen off my radar screen, which was pretty odd considering it is only a few buildings down from my apartment. I’ve always liked the charming décor at Firefly and thought it would be a fun place to enjoy a relaxing Sunday brunch on a sunny afternoon.

Our server seemed a bit scattered, placing our bread basket down only to quickly pick it back up and bring it to the table next to us. He also forgot a few drinks and only seemed to refill my friend’s coffee on a regular basis. But that aside everything ran pretty smoothly.
The Restaurant Week brunch menu gave you the option of a cocktail, main course, and side. They were very generous with their portion sizes and had a pretty full menu to choose from.

I started with my favorite morning cocktail, a mimosa. Firefly sticks to the classic version of the drink, which I appreciated. For my main course I ordered the Sun’s Special, a mushroom and cheddar omelet served with crispy home fries and marble rye toast. Since my dish already came with a few of the side dish options, I ordered the mixed greens with a sherry vinaigrette as my side. The salad was quite large (a full-sized dinner plate) and lightly dressed. While nothing was overly fancy or exotic everyone seemed really happy with their meal. We didn’t feel rushed or hovered over, so we were able to sit back and catch up for over an hour.

After taking part in Restaurant Week at Firefly they are back on my radar screen and I will make sure to place them in my rotation of Dupont Circle brunch places.

Firefly- 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036  (202) 861-1310

Winner, Winner, Burger Dinner

I haven’t won many things in my life. In elementary school I won two lobsters at the Stanley School Carnival. My parents appreciated the prize, considering lobster prices at the time, but I was less than thrilled. In middle school I won a hockey stick signed by all the Bruins. I would have preferred pretty much any other raffle prize.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out I won a free hamburger at West End Bistro, Eric Ripert’s DC-based restaurant in the Ritz Carleton. Chef Joe Palma, chef du cuisine at the West End Bistro, posted a contest on Twitter (in 140 words or less of course) for his followers to guess how many burgers they sold in the past month, closest answer wins a free burger. I of course shuttered at the fact that it was a “math question” but then methodically came about my answer of 940 burgers. I was pretty meticulous about it. I guessed how many guests they served a week, multiplied it by 4 and then tried to figure out how many ordered a burger each day (factoring in that it was a hotel restaurant and therefore probably sold more burgers than usual due to the business and tourist clientele).  I was pretty shocked to find out I was only off by 33 burgers (the correct answer is 907).

DSC00665Last Thursday I went to West End Bistro to meet Chef Palma and collect my prize. Sitting at the circular bar I took in the sleek ambiance. For a drink I opted for the West End’s own brew, a deep ale that is slightly bitter but refreshing at the same time. To my surprise Chef sent out a tomato consommé to start off my meal. This is by far the most refreshing and delicious cold soup I have had in a long time. The simplicity and freshness rivals only Palena’s spring consommé (a highlight on their menu in my opinion). The broth was made of a simple tomato water. In it was floating farm-fresh grape tomatoes with sprinkles of feta cheese and basil. It was summer in a bowl.

Next came my prize⎯the West End Burger. The best way to describe this hamburger is to just simply say it was a “damn good burger.” Again, simplicity was key here. Chef Palma makes the classic American burger. As he says “I don’t mess with it.” There isn’t any fancy sauces or dripping bacon. Just quality ground sirloin and the toppings of my childhood: cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce and tomato. It was delicious and satisfying. It had all the qualities of a roadside burger stand but classed up a little.

Just when I thought I had had enough, Chef Palma sent out a dessert that included gelato and fried goodness…I couldn’t resist. West End Bistro’s beignets filled with lemon custard and served with basil ice cream is a pitch-perfect summer treat. I’m a big fan of savory ice creams/gelatos and this was one of the best I’ve ever had. The basil DSC00668did not over power the creaminess of the ice cream and it complimented the lemon flavor perfectly.

Overall this was a wonderful summer meal. I appreciate the West End Bistro’s commitment to freshness and local produce. You get the feeling that Chef Palma likes to let the flavors sing and not mess up a plate with too many ingredients. Everyone at the restaurant was kind (including the great bartender who’s name I regrettably forgot) and made me feel like a winner. I look forward to returning again soon.

West End Bistro-1190 22nd Street, NW Washington, DC 202-974-4900