September 25, 2010

Crepes in the District

Crepes are one of my favorite foods to eat for a light meal or snack. Whenever I travel finding a crepe shop or roadside stand always makes me happy. So, when a new creperie recently opened about a mile from our home I was excited!

Point Chaud Cafe and Crepes is a small and bright cafe on 14th Street between the U Street Corridor and Logan Circle. The extensive menu is posted on the wall behind the counter. They make both savory and sweet crepes – including my favorites egg, spinach, and cheese, nutella and berries, or chocolate and berries. All savory items can be made on whole wheat or white crepes. In addition to being healthier, the whole wheat crepes are delicious and have a rich, nutty flavor.

After entering the cafe, place your order at the counter, take your number, and find a table. To accompany your crepe you can order Illy coffee, tea and hot chocolate, sparkling and still water, and fruit smoothies. The cafe is bright and friendly; and on warm days there are a few tables on the sidewalk out front. (A perfect location to enjoy a crepe and watch the people stroll by.) Even on busy days the food arrives quite quickly, so it's a perfect place to come for a snack when you – or your companions – are very hungry!

All the crepes I have tried are very good. As I said early, the whole wheat crepes are very good. And the chocolate or nutella filled dessert crepes are fantastic! Point Chaud is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go for lunch or an afternoon snack!

September 19, 2010

September 13, 2010

The Fashion of Food

Sweet Trends

This week is Fashion Week in New York City. And food is like fashion – what we want to eat changes with time. For several years the sweet snack trend in the United States has been adorable, gourmet cupcakes. From Magnolia Cupcakes in New York City to Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington DC and Kara's Cupcakes in San Francisco, shops serving these delectable treats have popped up in cities and towns across America. Now the trend has crossed the US borders and is spreading abroad. In addition to a serious cupcake shop in Berlin, last spring McDonalds began selling fancy cupcakes named after New York City boroughs at its Germany outlets.

More recently the trend has been artisanal ice cream, gelato, and sorbet in creative flavors. I first had the opportunity to taste this type of treat when Bi-Rite Creamery opened in San Francisco. And I think that shop help launch this trend. Near Mission Dolores Park (a large grassy field where San Franciscans of all walks of life enjoy the summer sun) it is perfect location for an ice cream shop. Bi-Rite ice cream is delicious and the flavors are creative, but approachable. (My favorite is salted caramel, but they also serve honey lavender and mexican chocolate.) Soon after it opened there was always a line wrapping around the block on summer weekends and evenings.

Another ice cream shop in San Francisco is Humphrey Slocombes. This curious shop is located in the heart of the Mission District and gets its name from characters on the BBC sitcom “Are You Being Served?” The flavors are unique and delicious, ranging from olive oil (which should not be underestimated) to secret breakfast (a concoction containing cornflakes and bourbon).

In New York City Grom Gelato is serving small – but fabulous – cups of creamy gelato and sorbet.

And here in Washington DC we have a few shops serving frozen treats as well. Dolcezza has a few shops around the city in addition to selling gelato and sorbet at local farmer's markets (including a Saturday market in my neighborhood). They make excellent artisanal gelato and sorbet in innovative flavors. The menu changes based on the seasonal ingredients available, but ranges from classics like chocolate and pistachio to more unique options like black mission fig and cantaloupe tarragon. Another gelato shop here in the district is Pitango Gelato.

Savory Trends

Now onto savory trends. Recently many cities has been witness to the opening of wine bars and small cafes focusing on simple menus featuring artisan ingredients. The menus at many of these cafes feature small plates and encourage diners to linger, share a variety of dishes, and enjoy their evening. This simplistic, relaxing approach to dining is a departure from the stereotypical rushed American way of life.

This is an encouraging trend to see! In my travels to other parts of the globe I have always been envious of the more languid meals enjoyed in countries that are foreign to me. Images of people happy eating their meal at a corner bistrot and then lingering over drinks, dessert, or coffee come in harsh contrast to the rushed dining experiences we have come to accept the homogenous looking American restaurant chains. I wholeheartedly welcome a shift towards artisan and local ingredients served in relaxing establishments in American cities and towns!

What's Next?

If I only had a crystal ball... Several months ago I read an NPR article suggesting that French macaroons would be the dessert trend to sieze America's attention. This summer a small French bakery, cafe, and chocolate shop, Cacao by Jacques Poulain, which sells very good macaroons opened in the Cleveland Park neighborhood. So, maybe that will be the next sweet trend. It is one I would definitely welcome!

September 12, 2010

September 6, 2010

From the Streets of DC

Ah, Washington, DC – the Nation’s Capitol! The city’s name evokes iconic images, including the United States Capitol Building, the White House, and the Washington Monument. It also linked with the politics and power of the United States of America. This is our seat of government; this is the heart and soul of our country.

For almost 20 years I have had the opportunity to visit this place, see the sights, walk through the museums, enjoy the restaurants, and watch history unfold.

Now, I call Washington, DC home. Since moving here with my husband I have had the opportunity to rediscover this city from a new perspective – as a resident. This city is as diverse as the nation it represents on a daily basis. Washington is home to many different ethnic and racial groups; as well as people from every point on the socioeconomic scale. It is a city of long time permanent residents, temporary workers, and visiting diplomats.

Washington is also home to some amazing architecture and many monuments to the history of our country. There is a vastness to the grassy mall that illustrates our national pride and potential. It is a place for thought, reflection, and imagination.

This is some of what I have seen in my new home city this summer...

September 1, 2010

Celebration at Café du Parc

Special occasions call for something out of the ordinary, something remarkable. This year for my husband's birthday (date and age not to be disclosed here), he met me after work for dinner. After a bit of consideration we decided to go to Café du Parc. Neither of us had eaten there previously and it seemed like a perfect place for an elegant, celebratory dinner. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue a block away from the White House, this restaurant has seats that spill out onto the sidewalk, an street level bar and cafe area, and an upstairs dining room. Due to the August heat and humidity we elected to sit in the dining room, however on a future visit I hope to be able to sit on the sidewalk patio. It is a marvelous location to watch people and enjoy the surrounding architecture and parks.

Inside the cool air was a welcome reprieve from the oppressive August heat. The restaurant's atmosphere is elegant and calm. We relaxed in our booth and read the menu. The food is classic French brasserie. In lieu of entrees, we decided to try several appetizers. I selected a chilled pea soup and the cheese plate. Jonathan ordered the assorted pork plate and a crab cake. In addition, we shared a mixed green salad and an order of some fabulous French fries. Everything was very good, starting with the basic bread and butter brought to the table at the beginning of our meal. My soup was delightful – light, creamy, fresh – and perfect for a hot summer evening. The cheese plate was also excellent. It was quite large for an appetizer portion and had a good selection of cheeses. Jonathan thoroughly enjoyed his two carnivorous dishes. And did I mention the French fries were fabulous? We ordered a very nice Rhone wine that was perfect with our food.

At that point we could have happily concluded the meal. However, since this was a birthday dinner, dessert was a necessity. On the recommendation of our waiter we ordered the fondant au chocolat and the Irish coffee glacé. The fondant was an idyllic warm chocolate cake. Now I understand this next statement might upset my father, but it is necessary to include to adequately describe the cake. This was the best warm chocolate cake I have ever had. (Sorry Dad!) And the Irish coffee glacé was also amazing! A perfect end to a special meal.