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!

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