March 30, 2010

The Vibe of New York City

Every city has its own vibe – the romance of Paris or the fresh air of San Francisco. In New York there is a level of intensity. It is, after all, the city that never sleeps and the energy on the streets reflects that sentiment.

As you may have guessed from my previous blog posts, New York City is one of my favorite places to visit. And now that I live on the east coast it is more assessable to me! So, to continue the celebration I began in the Penn Quarter, the following weekend I took the Bolt Bus to New York to visit a friend.

All over the globe each city has its own energy and rhythm – you can see it as people walk down the streets and cars wrestle for space on the crowded roadways. New York is a vibrant and diverse city. It is a blend of many cultures from around the world and yet it is still a uniquely American city. It is full of life and the energy of the city has a feeling of being constantly on the move. People here are going places – or at least want to be upwardly mobile.

That brings me to the next part – like in any city things in New York are far from perfect. There is poverty and crime. There is noise and pollution. There is traffic. It is a city – a major metropolitan area.

But, New York is still a place I love to visit.

I arrived in New York in the afternoon and I began by sitting in Bryant Park for a bit. I have always enjoyed this park – it is geographically close to Times Square and yet so different from that world of neon lights a tourists. This park is a wonderful place to go for lunch, to sit with friends, or read a book.

I was lucky to be gifted with the most magnificent weather for the duration of my stay! Springtime with warm sunshine every day.

March 21, 2010

Two Dinners in the Penn Quarter and World Peace...

So, most of the time I go out to dinner the purpose is to relax, have fun, and talk with friends and family. Like a small commemoration of what makes me smile about life. Other occasions are more notable celebrations, like this weekend.

On a recent Friday morning I learned that a new chapter in my professional life is about to begin. After several months of uncertainty and searching for my next opportunity, this was welcome and exciting news! The news energized me and I quickly worked through the necessary paperwork – and started to ponder the appropriate way to celebrate this favorable turn of events.

As the day wore on it became rainy and dreary outside.. But, late in the afternoon I walked out to the street, hailed a cab, and headed to my first destination – Teaism in the Penn Quarter to meet my aunt. I love tea houses and all three Teaism locations are very enjoyable. Unbeknownst to me, this one has a carp pond in their downstairs dining area. Very calming!

Teaism has a nice selection of teas. On this occasion I chose to try a tisane I had not noticed on the menu previously – World Peace. A lovely blend of licorice root, cloves, and peppermint it is a very soothing beverage. Perhaps if more people drank World Peace tea this planet would be a better place!

After our relaxing beverages, my aunt and I met Jonathan at Zaytinya for an official celebratory dinner. I had visited this restaurant for lunch several years ago and was excited to be dining there again. The thing I remembered most from my previous experience was the fresh bread – and much to my delight it was still delicious! The best way to describe this bread would probably be warm tasty pillows. These bread pillows are basically a delicate pita bread served warm from the oven and still puffed up with air.

To accompany our bread we ordered a variety of dishes to share and some wine. We had three spreads – hommus, tzatziki (thick and creamy yogurt with cucumber), and htipiti (diced roasted peppers mixed with feta and thyme). All three were a wonderful start to the meal! Next we got dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), roasted eggplant, and zucchini and cheese patties. Again everything was excellent! My dining companions also shared – and enjoyed – several meat and seafood dishes, including fried squid, lamb, and beef cheeks. We had two different wines with our food. The first one was palatable and the second was a bit better; but, in general the wine selection here is a disappoint in comparison to the delectable food.(The same echoed for the desserts we tried. Next time I visit Zaytinya I will have tea for dessert.) One thing I do appreciate about the wine list and dessert menus is the restaurant's effort to stay true to eastern Mediterranean products and flavors. All the wines are from Greece, Lebanon, and other eastern Mediterranean countries and dessert flavors include pistachio and rose.

My Friday evening celebration continued on Saturday when Jonathan took me to Proof (also in the Penn Quarter) for dinner. Proof is an upscale wine bar and restaurant with modern d├ęcor and a relaxing atmosphere.

Since we did not have a reservation, we were seated at a small table in the bar and lounge area. The food menu is more complicated then most wine bars and they have a wonderful selection of cheeses. The wine list is long and a rather large proportion them fall into what I consider to be the very expensive category (high three and four digit prices). But, after much study Jonathan selected a lovely bottle of wine for us – in a reasonable price bracket. (I want to note that although you have to sort through the silly expensive bottles here, the wine list does have several options between $40 and $100 per bottle.) For food, I ordered a large cheese plate while Jonathan ordered crispy duck and pork confit. In addition, we shared the olive oil roasted brussels sprouts.

While the dessert menu at Proof looked interesting I wanted to return to Veritas Wine Bar to try their chocolates. After the ornate environment of our dinner destination, the cozy atmosphere of Veritas was very comfortable. We tried the caramel, absinthe, and classic chocolates. Each confection was delightful – smooth and creamy chocolate with delicate flavors. And as always, the wine here is very good and reasonably priced.

The weekend was a great way to mark the beginning of a new chapter in my professional life! I will continue the celebration in New York City!

March 8, 2010

Perfect Pizza in the District

For quite a while now we have been planning to go to 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria – and like with our trip to Urbana plans kept getting delayed. Eventually after much anticipation we were able to go!

When we entered the restaurant I was immediately entranced by the smell of tasty looking pies cooking in the woodburning ovens. 2 Amys does not take reservations, but we arrived early enough to avoid a wait. We were seated upstairs, which is more quiet and almost annexed from the main dining room, bar, and pizza kitchen downstairs. Next time I would like to sit in the main dining room and experience more of the pizzeria vibe.

But, on to the food. Everything we ordered was delicious! We began with small plates – ember roasted eggplant with ricotta cheese, grilled fennel, cannellini beans with chives, and duck prosciutto with lentils. Everything was good – but the eggplant was exceptional with an excellent smoky flavor. We also ordered a margherita pizza, a stuffed pizza with meats, fava bean crustini, and potato and prosciutto croquettes. The pizza was wonderful – a perfect, thin crust with simple tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and basil. With the food we had an excellent Italian syrah that paired well with the food. To conclude the meal we shared cannoli for dessert.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to 2 Amys Pizzeria! As we progressed through our meal the restaurant rapidly moved to the top of my list of favorite places to eat in the district! This is definitely the most true and authentic Italian pizza I have eaten in Washington!

One more thing, 2 Amys has a signature dessert – sfogliatelle – which is only available on Friday evenings on a first come, first serve basis. Unfortunately, we visited the pizzeria on a Thursday, so I am looking forward to returning soon (on the appropriate day) to try this pastry!

March 1, 2010

Urban Hip

After reading the Urbana menu and wine list online Jonathan and I were excited to check it out! We made reservations to meet a friend at there two times. On each occasion a snowstorm caused us to cancel our plans. Needless to say, I was a bit timid about to booking a table a third time and tempting the snow gods. Then this past weekend we found ourselves nearby in search of dinner and decided to make an unscheduled visit.

The restaurant and bar is located off the lobby of the Palomar Hotel on P Street near Dupont Circle. The interior is very sleek and modern – the bar, lounge, and dining room areas look hip. I was happy when the hostess informed us she would be able to seat us promptly.

Once settled into our seats our waiter helped us settle on food and wine selections. I ordered the beet salad and a margherita pizza, which Jonathan tried the cassoulet and crispy sweetbreads. To accompany our food we each selected a different wine to try – Nero d'Avola for me and Bordeaux for Jonathan. The beet salad was wonderful! The beets were perfectly roasted and served with goat cheese mousse, greens, and thin slices of uncooked beets. I cannot say I enjoyed the pizza as much. It was good, but just good. Jonathan also gave mixed reviews on his food. He was very happy with the sweetbreads, but felt the cassoulet was slightly overcooked. But, we both enjoyed our wines and ended the meal on a high note – dessert. For dessert we ordered a carrot cake that was very enjoyable. Served with sweet squash puree and a wonderful cream cheese frosting it was one of the most memorable parts of the meal.

I enjoyed our impromptu visit to Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar. It has a fun and fashionable atmosphere with good food and wine at a reasonable price. Maybe when the threat of snow is further in the past I will be brave enough to make plans to come here again!