May 29, 2011

Dinner on the Veranda...

Since my discovery of Ansonia Wines I have been searching for a local neighborhood restaurant that allows BYOW (bring your own wine). While this is common in San Francisco (where we lived previously) I have not noticed it much in Washington DC. After searching online and making a few phone calls we decided to go to Veranda.

Located on the corner of P Street and 11th Street in the Logan Circle neighborhood Veranda is a charming local restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine. The weather was nice, so we elected to sit outside on the sidewalk patio. Immediately we felt at home - the service is friendly and the atmosphere is casual and relaxing. After we were seated our waitress brought us wine glasses and opened the bottle of wine we brought with us from Ansonia Wines.

After reading menu we ordered several appetizers to share. The first dish to arrive was the flambéed Greek cheese. This was quickly followed by spicy peppers stuffed with feta cheese, mussels, and pork belly with beans (for Jonathan). Of the three dishes I tried the cheese was my favorite, however I thoroughly enjoyed all three. (And Jonathan liked his pork very much).

Next we shared a serving of three dips - tarama, tzatziki, and humus - and Jonathan . When I ordered them I was familiar with the second two and the waitress explained the remaining dip was made with fish roe. While that intimidated me slightly, it did not deter me. That is, until I tried it. The flavor was very fishy and salty. Both Jonathan and I tried twice and decided it was not for us. (I believe it is just my personal taste, not the tarama dip, that caused me to be unable to enjoy it.) On the other hand, the tzatziki and humus were both delicious, as was the pita bread that came with all three dips.

Veranda is a wonderful neighborhood restaurant. It's relaxing and they serve very good food. I loved sitting on the patio and enjoying the springtime evening. I will definitely return again soon...

May 22, 2011

The World Did Not End - Pack Your Bags and Travel!

Yesterday, according to one man in Alameda, California, the world was supposed to come to an end. But, the anointed hour came and went and time continued to move forward. The world did not end. And good thing, because there are still a lot of destinations around the globe I have yet to visit. In other words, I still have a lot of traveling to do!

But, back to the end of the world for a moment. I am not a religious person and this is not a blog about religion. However, I do think that the world were to come to an end individuals would not be judged on their belief in a certain god or ideal, but as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it, “by the content of their character”. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from travel is that the differences of culture, religion, and race of people around the world is something to be celebrated not feared. And this is one of the reasons I continue to travel and visit other cultures.

Which brings me back to the subject of travel. As you may have guessed reading this blog, travel is my passion. I am currently in the planning stages of a couple different trips. First, my husband and I will be taking a road trip in the early summer to New England, stopping in New York City on the way up and the back. Further in the future I am planning a trip to northern Spain.

While I am looking forward to both of these adventures, I am also enjoying this planning stage of the trip. In some ways I like the research and preparation part of travel almost as much as the journey itself. Reading and looking at pictures of a destination helps me begin to understand a little about the place and sparks my curiosity to learn more. Travel is a vicious cycle, the more I see of the world the more places I want to go. I remember once hearing someone say, the more you travel the bigger the world becomes. That is definitely true for me. And one of the reasons I continue to explore our planet.

Why do you travel? (Or encourage others to do so?) Please share your thoughts here in the comments below or post them on my Facebook page. Thanks and happy travels!

May 21, 2011

My Favorite Wine Shop

What elements make the perfect shop? The location? The merchandise? The staff? I think perhaps it is not one specific thing, but the perfect combination of all elements. I am not sure if Ansonia Wines is the perfect wine shop, but has become my favorite in the DC metro area.

We first discovered Ansonia Wines on a recent cloudy Saturday afternoon. Jonathan and I were wandering around the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan neighborhoods and came across the sign on 18th Street between S and T Streets. After descending the steps we found ourselves in this small family-owned wine shop.

Specializing in French wines, and in particular Burgundies, it is a delightful shop. They are friendly, helpful, and have tastings on Friday and Saturday afternoons. So, before we decided what to purchase we were able to sample two of their wines and learn about the different wines they had in stock. One thing I would like to note is all the wines they have for sale are reasonably priced and an excellent value.

After tasting some wine we headed back out to the street carrying a bottle of Gigondas and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône to bring home. Later that weekend we enjoyed the Gigondas sitting out on our deck overlooking the back alley. (Yes, I have a glamorous life...) It was an excellent wine - medium to full bodied with hints of cherry, plum, and spice. And the Côtes du Rhône? That’s still on the shelf for another day....

May 15, 2011

Brunch at Bistro Cacao - Princess Parking, Okay Food, Waiter Fail

Normally I do not like to blog about a destination, restaurant, shop, hotel, or other location unless I am enthusiastic about recommending it to my readers. But, every now and then I go somewhere and have a less than perfect experience that I consider worth sharing. This is one of those occasions.

Brunch is one of my favorite meals. Whether at home or at a cafe, weekend brunch is a time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. Sunday May 8th - Mother's Day - we headed to Bistrot Cacao for brunch after dragon boat practice. On the drive over I kept my fingers crossed that we would be able to find a parking spot AND be seated (sans reservations) without too much of a wait.

When we arrived at the restaurant Jonathan found an empty parking spot right across the street from the restaurant. Princess parking for Sunday brunch! (Great start...) We crossed the street and were seated promptly at a table on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. It was a beautiful day - perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the springtime weather. (Another good omen!)

The brunch menu at Bistro Cacao is pre-fixe and includes a pastry, a main dish (eggs, french toast, sandwiches, etc.), and two side dishes (sausage, fruit, potatoes, salad, etc.). We ordered some sparkling water, selected our main dishes, and sat back to relax and watch the world go by. And we waited for our food. Several other tables were served their pastry basket - which looked delicious - but ours never came. After waiting for a while, I inquired with our waiter but it still did not come. And we continued to wait. Eventually our food did arrive (minus the pastry basket). My quiche was good - not fabulous - but good, as was Jonathan’s steak and eggs.

While the waiter was not absent throughout our time at the cafe, he just did not add value to our experience. After we had finished our food our waiter finally came back and asked if we wanted him to bring our pastry basket. At this point we were full and no longer wanted any more food. I said no, it was too late. The only thing the waiter delivered promptly to our table was our check. Considering the okay food and rather spotty service I felt the cost of the meal far exceeded the value. I do not think I will return to Bistro Cacao again, but especially not for brunch.

May 12, 2011

Doorways in DC

 I have always enjoyed taking photographs of doors around the world. Here are some from Georgetown here in Washington DC...

May 8, 2011

My Continued Quest for French Cuisine Near Home

Some of my readers may have noticed when I began writing this blog I was vegetarian and all opinions of meat, poultry, or seafood dishes were attributed to my husband Jonathan or other dining companions; and more recently I have also been commenting on seafood. This is because I chose to change my diet after returning from Europe. I could write a great deal about why I decided to do this, but that is not the point of this blog. This blog is where I share my experiences eating and traveling. So, going forward you will continue to see me sharing my experiences and impressions of vegetarian food, seafood, and, of course, wine and chocolate. (For meat and poultry I will still be relaying on the opinions of my husband and dining companions.)

Now, that said, I will get on to the topic of this blog - Montmartre, a French restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC...

It has been almost 6 months since we returned from traveling in England and France. The trip motivated Jonathan to watch cooking shows and read about French cooking techniques; it prompted me to create a list of French restaurants in the District and go on a quest to determine my favorite. In a past blog post I shared my experiences at Patisserie Poupon, Bistrot la Bonne, and Bistrot du Coin, now it is time for me to talk about my continued quest.

Montmartre is a romantic French restaurant and cafe with tables on a sidewalk patio, a casual indoor dining room, and a small open kitchen. The menu is classic and elegant (salads, mussels, snails, rabbit, cassoulet, and seafood) and is accompanied by an excellent wine list.

It was a Friday evening when we decided to go to Montmartre. Upon arriving at the restaurant we were promptly seated at a high table near the back of the dining room. From this vantage point we were able to see the whole dining room and the open kitchen. Earlier in the evening Jonathan had reviewed the menu online, I however needed a few minutes to peruse my options before deciding what to order. While he waited for me to decide what I wanted to order he selected and ordered a bottle of Burgundy to share. To start we ordered escargot and crispy pig's feet. (We shared the former and Jonathan enjoyed the later on his own.) For a main course I ordered seafood stew and Jonathan selected the braised pork shank.

Dinner was unrushed - like at a neighborhood bistrot in France. I have blogged before about how hurried the waiter service in the United States is versus in Europe. When having dinner out I appreciate being given the time to relax, talk to my dining companions, and enjoy my food and wine. The atmosphere at Montmartre is definitely conducive to leisurely dining and the service was attentive without being overbearing.

But, enough about the atmosphere, time to discuss the main attraction - the food and wine. This was my first time eating escargot so I have no reference, good, bad, or indifferent. However, I enjoyed the snails very much. (And, yes, I understand I ate little snails.) They were were well seasoned and served with very good bread. Jonathan enjoyed them too, but was more interested in focusing on his pork-centric dish.

Next the waiter brought our main courses to the table. My fish stew had a delicious cream and fennel broth with a variety of different types of seafood (white fish, mussels, clams, and shrimp). It was served in a small stew pot with a crostini garnish. The stew was wonderful - rich and flavorful with both elegant and comforting qualities. Jonathan’s enjoyed his pork with polenta and roasted turnips and brussels sprouts. The wine was lovely and accompanied the food perfectly.

Montmartre is the perfect French restaurant for a date or special meal. It is charming, relaxing, and elegant. The food is delicious and - most importantly - dining here reminds me of being in France. At this point in my quest, this is my favorite French restaurant in the district.