February 26, 2012

Finally, a Favorite Place for Tapas Spanish Food in DC...

I love Spanish food and in particular, tapas. I enjoy eating tapas because it is simple and served in small portions which allows me to try lots of different bites in a single meal.

When I lived in San Francisco I had two favorite tapas restaurants - Alegrias Food from Spain and Zarzuela. The first two years I lived Washington, DC I was not able to find a favorite tapas restaurant with good food and ambiance. (I have tried several restaurants, but always left slightly disappointed.) That recently changed. Located only a few blocks from the White House, the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund, Taberna del Alabardero is an old school Spanish restaurant serving tapas and traditional entrees. The decor is formal - red velvet, heavy drapes, and old photographs scattered around the walls. (And, yes, this restaurant has been here all along.)

I met my husband at Taberna del Alabardero for dinner after work one evening. We decided to take a seat at the small bar just inside the door. The bartender, Manolo, helped us each select a glass of wine and we ordered several tapas to start - piquillo peppers stuffed with seafood mousse, pulpo a la gallega (grilled octopus), and a charcuterie platter (for my husband Jonathan).

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Mariscos con Gulas sobre Chipirona Clásica

Pulpo a la Gallega

A few minutes later we were enjoying our wine with warm bread and some delicious, grassy olive oil. The first dish to arrive was the stuffed peppers. These were served with a pungent sauce made from squid ink which was wonderful with the sweet peppers and light seafood mousse. Next the pulpo and charcuterie arrived. The octopus was tender and served with paprika and salt over potatoes. (This was my favorite dish all night, except for maybe dessert...) Jonathan enjoyed his cured meats, especially the Jamón Ibérico. While Jonathan was eating his charcuterie, I ordered a dish of salted cod fritters. These were light and served on a rich, earthy purée of potatoes and leeks.

Jamón Ibérico de Fermín

Buñuelos de Bacalao sobre Crema ligera de Patata y Puerro con Arenque

Even though I was full after all those tasty tapas, we had to order dessert. While many of the sweet options sounded enticing, Jonathan and I ordered the sponge cake soaked in red wine. I loved this dish when it arrived just because of its presentation. The cake was served with ice cream on top and little round dollops of cream cheese on the side. When It was placed in front of me the wine was poured over it and began seeping into the cake. And while it was lovely, it was also delicious. To accompany our cake Manolo brought us two glasses of late harvest Monastrell wine. It was the perfect accompaniment to a fun evening.

Torrijas de Leche sobre Vino Dulce, Helado de Pan y Queso cremoso de Naranja Crujiente

After our meal of tapas Jonathan and I wanted to try the paella at Taberna del Alabardero. So, about a week later we returned and ordered the Paella de Langosta and a bottle of wine. While waiting for our paella, we shared a bowl of wonderfully creamy artichoke soup. The soup was lovely and the paella arrived... It came in a large paella pan and the waiter transferred it onto two plates for Jonathan and I. The rice was fragrant and delicious and in addition to the shimps, squid, and scallops there was half a lobster per person! Yes, it was a lot of food, but it was so wonderful that I did not want to leave a single grain of rice uneaten on my plate. (Needless to say, we skipped dessert that night.)

Paella de Langosta

Tabla de Quesos Españoles con Membrillo, Guayaba Y Almendra Marcona

Taberna del Alabardero has earned a spot on my list of favorite restaurants in DC. I look forward to going back again and again...

February 20, 2012

February 13, 2012

Experiencing Korean Cuisine in the DC Suburbs

I have never been to Korea, but I would like to visit someday. In the meantime, the closest I have been is Annandale, VA. This suburb of Washington, DC is home to Korean restaurants, cafes, bakeries, shops, and karaoke bars. A while ago my husband Jonathan and I joined some friends and headed out to Annandale for dinner.

After a short drive from the city we were walking into Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill. Inside a waitress led us to the back dining room. The restaurant is casual and vibrant with groups of people grilling food on the hot plates in the middle of each table. We ordered some Korean beer and lots of food to try and share - meats to grill, noodles, vegetarian bibimbap, and seafood pancake. The meal began with banchan (or side dishes). This consisted of several versions of kimchi and other vegetables.

Soon the rest of our food began to arrive. Jonathan and our friends enjoyed grilling and eating the meats - especially the pork belly. The seafood pancake was great - a crispy and light pancake made from rice and egg containing a variety of seafood and green onions. The bibimbap was also good. This dish contains rice, sauteed and seasoned vegetables, and chili paste. To eat it you mix some of each together. Everything was fantastic - spicy, pickled, and delicious. This is an array of flavors that is unique to Korean cuisine, but complement each other perfectly.

After dinner we went next door to the karaoke bar. Unlike American style karaoke bars with a stage where people have the opportunity to humiliate themselves in public, this bar was similar to those in Asia. Each group of guests are brought to their own small room where they can relax, laugh with friends, and sing. Definitely a different experience than humiliating yourself in front of a group of strangers!

Before driving back to the city, we stopped at Shilla. This bakery serves Korean style pastries and other sweets. We tried several different items including a light pastry filled with green tea cream . This was not too sweet and had a wonderful mild matcha flavor - a perfect dessert to conclude a fun evening out!

February 10, 2012

The Right Hotel for Me...

I know I have been remiss about blogging for the last few weeks... I hope to be able to catch up some and share some of my recent adventures with you. In the meantime, this month's Across the Cafe Table question on The Travel Belles asks:


Of course there are the basic that must be balanced at any destination - location and price. This often requires some compromise for most travelers since these factors are often juxtaposed. Beyond that there are many ways to differentiate hotels - amenities offered and the property's management philosophy. Personally, I always look for small locally owned hotels. It is important to know that I am contributing to the success of a local business, not some far flung corporation. In addition, I prefer hotels that practice sustainable business practices. At home I do the best I can to minimize my impact on the planet and when I travel I like to stay in places that do the same.

So, what is important to you when you select a hotel? Read more responses from the other Travel Belles here.