Friday, October 28, 2011

To Be A Foodie or Not to Be a Foodie?

What does it mean to be a foodie?

Foodie is a term I have heard thrown around a lot lately. My question is, “What is the definition of a foodie?” It is interesting, like most things in this wonderous universe, there is no singular definition. There are no language police to arrest you for improper use of a made up noun.

Everyone has their own definition. For me, it is someone who enjoys the culinary arts. It does not mean they have to enjoy all the same aspects of said arts. Many enjoy it in very different ways. I, for example, do not understand wine. I want to. I yearn to taste all those glorious flavors people go dreamy over. I simply never learned that aspect. Does this mean I am not a foodie? To some pompous few, yes, it means I am a bastard child of the foodie club. 

The wonderful part is, they are not making the rules. They may think they are, but no one individual or group can tell you what you are. If you enjoy food, if it is a fascinating subject to you, that is all you need worry about. I can only tell you what foodie is to me, for all others on this miniscule planet of ours, it will be different.

I find flavors fascinating and exciting. Trying new food or cuisines is like an adventure. A way to travel to exotic ports of call, learn about new cultures and people. It is a way to connect. It is thrilling that something so fundamental to our existence can be so varied, delicious and unique. These are simply some of the philosophies I hold, and what defines me as a foodie. For yourself, only you can write that definition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tryst ~ Washington, DC

With Tryst, the question is where to begin? I originally went to Adams Morgan to try an Ethiopian restaurant that did not bare ripe fruits (See previous article). After my dinner partner and I walk out of the restaurant dusting disappointment off our clothes like dandruff, we decided we wanted a yummy snack/dessert and coffee/tea to make the night a little less abysmal. I have to say, Adams Morgan is a charming spot, I could spend weeks sampling all the goodies lining this nook of DC.

In search of warm coffee goodness, we prowled. The streets were teaming with the Friday night rowdy crowds. Cops were actually posted, and watching us. Finally we stumbled on the open and welcoming doors of Tryst, a local spunky coffee/café. 

It was chilly outside, and they had their doors open! Freaks! But once inside you felt toasty warm. The lights are dim, and they offer free wifi. This is a big draw as you can tell from the many people warming by the glow of their lap top screens. I am not one to judge, as I can be guilty of the same lameness.
What I noticed first was the eclectic decorating. There were a mish mash of couches and chairs in which the only criteria seemed to be comfort. I am charmed by that. Nothing matched. In fact, it is part of their motto, “No Corporate Coffee. No Matching Silverware.” AWESOME! Books lined the walls, and people crowded in circles chowing on various yummies, which was exactly what we needed. 

It turns out you can either order from the counter, or have yo’self a seat and a server will find you eventually. We had a sweet gent with a flower behind his ear. I ordered a latte and the Death by Chocolate Dessert Waffles. I do believe waffles are the undiscovered dessert. The latte was served in the traditional fashion of a fishing boat size mug. What I liked best was how frothy and creamy the milk was. I can honestly say I have never seen foam quite like that. Silly as I may be waxing rhapsodic over latte foam, this is my column, so get over it. This was the perfect latte.

If the waxing for the latte was too much, I suggest you put the laptop down now and step away, for the waffles were an orgasmic experience. It was an actual chocolate waffle and drizzled with Nutella, need I really say more? The chocolate overload factor was spot on, but not overly rich like other death by chocolate style desserts.

If you have not tried Tryst, I suggest you do… It is my new favorite coffee shop. I am looking more forward to the metro coming through Reston now, more than ever….

Contact Information:
 2459 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone:  202-232-5500

Meskerem - Washington, DC

The Search for Truly Exquisite Ethiopian Food Continues

Ethiopian food is a unique cuisine that I cannot quite find a comparison to anything else. My introduction occurred many moons ago in Charlotte NC at a small family owned establishment. For some reason, I prefer the vegetarian aspect of Ethiopian, and to this day, tend to order just that.

Since that small funky joint down south, I have yet to discover another wonderful dining experience involving Ethiopian food. I am very sad about this. Unlike other, more Americanized foods, Ethiopian varies greatly from one restaurant to the next. Usually home grown recipes, so consistency does not really exist here. To this day I hunt for my next favorite place.

Last night I tried Meskerem in the Adams Morgan section of northwest DC. It will not go down as the answer to my prayers for finding my next favorite Ethiopian joint. It was not completely horrible, maybe a 2 ½ star place. It started off well. The interior was low lit and 2 floors. Very interesting in design, but I cannot quite find the words to describe it. There were not so many tables as there were these large communal bowls.

When the food comes out, in a large bowl of its own, it fits perfectly inside the big table bowl. The food bowl is lined with Injera, a spongy sourdough pancake like bread that you use in lieu of utensils. This is one of the aspects of the cuisine I enjoy. I am a big fan of interesting methods of ingesting a meal <grin>. My dining partner and I chose one of the few tables in the place. I know that makes me a party pooper, but hey seemed a bit awkward. You can flog me later.

We started with all the vegetarian Sambussas, which included a collard green, cabbage, and lentil. Each mixture is wrapped and deep fried in what feels and tastes like spring roll wrap. They were all delicious, but the collard green was my favorite. I also ordered the tomato salad (Diced tomatoes tossed with onions and green chili on a dressing of olive oil and lemon), this was also divine. Very simple, but bursting with flavor. Unfortunately this would be the pinnacle of a meh meal.

They brought out our bowl, after those who came in after we did, which confused me. But like many other Ethiopian places I have tried, the sampler provided miniscule portions for 2 people. The cabbage was very good, as were the collards. Low points would have to be the Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Pea Sauce). This was always one of my favorite dishes. Somehow this made the disappointment all the more a crushing defeat. There was an extra seasoning that I cannot figure out what it was, but it made this dish crash and burn like the Hindenburg. To make matters worse, it was cold.

Suffice it to say this will not take the crown of the Larisa’s fave, I must continue this long and laborious search until the clouds break and the angel choir sings. I see that, and I will know I have made it. Until that happens, I will just have to taste my way. Until next time, feel free to contact me with your suggestions.

Contact Information
2434 18th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 462-4100

  Meskerem Ethiopian

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Café Sano ~ Reston, VA

Located in one of the original strip malls is a local joint that does not quite feel so local. Café Sano, located in South Lakes Shopping Center, serves Mediterranean cuisine, but unlike most local dives, it is a very very well oiled and efficient machine. When you walk in you notice the place is shiny, well kept. Considering this place has been open for years, to maintain that polish is impressive. It kind of feels like the Panera of Mediterranean food. This is not a bad thing, honestly, because the food is miles away from the boring previously mentioned Panera.

The second thing that will catch your attention is the booming voice of the gentleman taking your order. You would think they hired a disc jockey, or a descendant of Barry White. He actually may be the manager, but I am unsure of this claim. He was fun and engaging. I hope you get to meet him when you try this cool place out.

I ordered the Kabob combo with shrimp and steak. The Hubby had the chicken penne pesto. When your food is ready, they call you to pick it up.I was not expecting the deliciousness I encountered. Like many places (e.g. Moby Dick’s for example) that have a more chain feel, the meat can be dry and dissapointing. Café Sano proved its pages were more intriguing than its cover led on.

The salad that accompanied the meal was crisp, fresh, and yummy. The grilled tomatoes were nom worthy too. What really made me say WOW was how well marinated and juicy the steak was. The shrimp too were large and superbly done. I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised.
The only slightly dull note in this symphony was the rice. A bit over cooked and bland, but not terrible. It did not; however, fit the triumph of my meal.

The small bite I wrestled away from the Hubby showed equal promise. A nice blend of garlicky goodness and basil. If you are vegetarian, there is a lot for you to enjoy on this menu as well. They make falafel and other Mediterranean delights.

This is a place worthy to add to your list. The keep with their claim to provide fast, fresh, and tasty meals. 
Contact information:
South Lakes Village Center
11130 M South Lakes Drive
Reston, VA  20191
Phone:  703.391.2100


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Layalina - Arlington, VA

Layalina is a small unassuming spot on the big strip of Wilson Blvd in Arlington. Close to Seven Corners, , it can be daunting to know which left to take as anyone who has ever tried to navigate the jumble of roads in Seven Corners can attest to. The parking is lacking, but once inside you realize it was worth the extra steps.

They offer the standard Lebanese/Mediteranean cuisine, but they do it so exquisitely. The atmosphere is another contributing factor to their charm. Tapastries on the ceiling and comfy chairs. It almost has a family room feel. Cozy and inviting, the staff is warm and welcoming. It Is also a hookah lounge at times. If this bothers you, you might want to call in advance to see if it will be an issue.

As I do at every restaurant I try, I have to order the stuffed grape leaves. They do an incredible job with this staple mezza. Strong flavor, but not overpowering. We also decided to try the fried eggplant. This was probably the more surprising of the two. I expected the standard breaded and fried variety, but there was no breading to be had. What was even more surprising was that it was not missed. It had the lovely texture of fried eggplant without the distracting layers of breading. It was fabulous.

Since this was lunch, and not dinner, we decided to go with some sort of sandwich and settled on the Chargrilled Kafta which is a mixture of beef and lamb, onion and spices. It is served with what they call Middle Eastern Coleslaw. What it really is is a cabbage salad. It is crisp and fresh and very delicious.
If you are In the mood for Middle Eastern and want to enjoy it in a warm friendly environment, Layalina should be added to your must try list.

Contact Information:
5216 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22205
Phone: (703) 525-1170

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mad Fox Brewing Company - Falls Church, VA

Mad Fox Brewing Company - Falls Church, VA

The 1st question you might have is not what is Mad Fox, but where in the dickens is Mad Fox? This charming little brewery is cunningly located in downtown Falls Church. The problem is you have to look extra hard for it.
Once you find it, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. They serve lunch, dinner, and brunch. It is the latter I am fixing to discuss with you here now. 

When I go to Mad Fox for Brunch, I always want the same thing. Homemade glazed donuts. With that I start. I am partial to the original glaze over the other varieties. Sinfully glazed and piping hot, they are as delicious as I am making them sound.

As always, I order the steak and eggs, steak medium rare…Yum. Instead of the side salad that comes with this deliciousness, I order the smoked gouda grits. There are no words for the bliss one can experience consuming this gastronomic masterpiece, that is when it is done properly. I have eaten brunch at MF 3 times. Two out of the three times the grits were perfection smoked goudiness galore. They make them thicker, almost like polenta; however, there was one time it was more like traditional grits and more liquidy. If you can find out ahead of time, that would be the best.

Now for the main attraction, the steak. By far, it is one of the best cooked steaks I have eaten ever, and that includes places like Ruth Chris. They cooked it to a wonderful medium rare and placed a dab of seasoned butter atop to melt languorously. As steaks go, this one is heaven. I also have on good authority that they sometimes buy their meat from the very Organic Butcher of McLean that we wrote about here on le gastronomique dc! 

 If you can, see your way to brunch at the Mad Fox. Many scrumptious treats await you there.

Contact Information:
444 West Broad Street, Suite I (eye)
Falls Church, VA 22046
Phone: 703-942-6840
Fax 703-942-6916