January 6, 2010

2 Birthday Dinners & Visiting the National Mall

As some of my readers know, my birthday is in December. This year I had the honor of two birthday dinners – the first with friends and family and then the second with my husband.

To begin, the night before my birthday I went to Central Michel Richard in the Penn Quarter with my aunt, a friend, and my husband. This is a perfect restaurant for a celebration! The menu here is basic and elegant and we experienced excellent service. I normally do not talk about the bread at a restaurant, but this bread is definitely worth mentioning – it was a light and fluffy bread with rustic whole grain flavor and crunchy crust.

To begin we ordered the cheese puffs to share. They were light, airy, and delicious! I think the best description for them would be little pastry puffs of cheese flavor. Next I had the the spinach and goat cheese torte. This was goat cheese, with tomatoes and a puree of spinach and cauliflower – and was very good. In leu of a main course, I ordered the mushroom risotto. The risotto was wonderful and light, made with Israeli couscous, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. My dining companions ordered the Jamon Iberico, lobster burger, and beef cheeks and enjoyed all their food.

For dessert we selected the crème brulee and the chocolate mousse. Both were very good, but the chocolate was my favorite. It was very smooth and fluffy with crunchy chocolate bits on the top and raspberry sauce at the bottom. (Of course, the chocolate mousse was served with a candle! So, that and my ingrained bias towards all things chocolate might explain my preference for that dessert.) The crème brulee was very smooth with a perfect caramelized crust.

The next morning – my birthday – was clear, bright, and cold. We spent the afternoon walking around the National Mall together – visiting the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Museum of Natural History. In the early evening, as the wind began to pick up we stopped at Teaism in the Penn Quarter. This location is one of three tea houses in the district. They serve very good teas along with simple snacks and meals. It was the perfect reprieve from the cold and windy December air outside.

After tea, Jonathan took me to Jaleo for my second birthday dinner. Also, located in the Penn Quarter, Jaleo is lively tapas restaurant and bar. The ambience is warm and vibrant – another good restaurant for celebration!

The menu is extensive and includes traditional tapas dishes, some innovative small plates, and paellas. I decided to order the piquillo peppers filled with goat cheese and the grill asparagus with romesco sauce. Jonathan ordered Jamon Iberico and chorizo, seared scallops, and duck – and convinced me to share the cauliflower with dates and olives. Our food began arriving quite promptly. And everything was very good! The waiter suggest a wine, Altos de Luzon, which paired perfectly with our food. For dessert we ordered a plate of Christmas turrones (tasty nougets and cookies) and tea (from Teaism).

Dinner at Jaleo was wonderful – and dessert with tea was a relaxing end to my birthday celebrations!

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