Lamb Jam 2015

For the past few years, the American Lamb Board has swept into Washington, D.C. for its annual Lamb Jam competition which puts 16 talented chefs head to head in an exciting battle. This year's event will take place on Sunday, May 17th from 4:00pm - 7:00pm at Union Market where the chefs will prepare their best lamb dishes for a chance to win "Best in Show", "People's Choice", and the major prize which will crown them the winner of the D.C. Lamb Jam. In addition, the winner will earn a spot at the finale in New York City later this year where they will compete against the champions from Seattle, Boston, Austin, and San Francisco.

The participating chefs this year include:

Tickets to the event can be purchased here, and attendees will get to sample the dishes from all of the competing chefs. A portion of the proceeds will go to D.C. Central Kitchen. I've always had a great time at the event in the past, and I am excited to be judging again this year. You can read about last year's event here. Hope to see you there!

 

Paris in April

I love Paris, and it continues to amaze me every time I visit. I just visited in September, but seeing Paris this past week in the spring weather made me love it even more. The flowers were in bloom, and the streets were lined with people sitting at outdoor cafés enjoying wine and Parisian delights. It's a spectacular city, and the scenery was matched by many of the delicious meals we enjoyed on this trip.


Chez Julien

This small cafe is located in the Marais right along the Seine. It's romantic with candlelit tables, but we had a large group of friends dine here and it still worked very nicely. Our table enjoyed bottles of Sancerre, steak, dover sole meuniere, and a memorable chocolate lava cake for dessert.

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Chez Julien is located in the 4th arrondissement at 1 Rue du Pont Louis-Phillipe.


Les Deux Magots

Perhaps one of the best spots for people watching, the famous Les Deux Magots is located right along Boulevard Saint-Germain, and offers a classic French menu. In the early 1900's it was frequented by intellectuals and young writers such as Ernest Hemingway, and today remains one of the most famous cafés in France. We had lunch outside on the patio on a gorgeous day, and enjoyed great food while soaking up the sun.

I had a tomato and mozzarella quiche with a thick and flaky crust served with a nice side salad. Along with a glass of rosé, this was pretty much the perfect Parisian lunch. Others at the table enjoyed salads and sandwiches. Les Deux Magots delivers on food, atmosphere, and location. Put it on your lunch list. Les Deux Magots is located in the 6th arrondissement at 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés.


Le Comptoir Du Relais

I had been reading about this place for some time now, and I finally had the chance to try it out on this past trip. It is always packed and typically has a long wait, but coming at an off hour allowed me to snag a table instantly. I spent the entire day watching my close friend Julie run in the Paris marathon, and around 4pm I was in desperate need of a snack to hold me over until dinner. I walked over to the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain and popped into one of their restaurants, Le Comptoir du Relais for an afternoon nosh. We immediately were served warm homemade bread, and ordered wine along with a meat and cheese plate.

It was the perfect amount of food, and the house-made charcuterie as well as the rich and creamy cheeses made us very happy after a long day walking all over the city. I can't wait to come back again to try more. Le Comptoir Du Relais is located in the 6th arrondissement at the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain, 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon.


Racines

There are two locations of this restaurant in Paris, and we chose the small and quaint one that was located within a passageway. The restaurant is tiny, and is decked with wine bottles on every shelf. The menu is limited and posted on a chalkboard for diners to decide. We started with an appetizer of green asparagus, egg, and cheese. It was absolutely divine, and the ingredients paired so nicely together.

For my main course I ordered the risotto with seafood which included squid and fish. It was creamy and wonderful, and because the restaurant is so small I could see the chef carefully stirring the risotto and then plating it when it was time to serve. Racines is located in the 2nd arrondissement at 8 Passage des Panoramas.


Olio Pane Vino

Typically I would not look to eat Italian food in Paris, but my friend Julie was running the Paris marathon and needed to stock up on some carbs before the race. I took to Twitter to survey some trusted sources, and went with David Lebovitz's recommendation of Olio Pane Vino in the 1st.

The restaurant was tiny and adorable, with just a few tables and a set menu for salads and appetizers. However, the pastas change daily and were written on the chalkboard for us to choose from. I had a delicious linguine with almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, anchovies, and tomatoes. We also enjoyed Italian wine, and my friend Julie was quite satisfied before the race. Olio Pane Vino is located in the 1st arrondissement on 44 Rue Coquillère.

Chez Billy Sud

I love France, French food, and any opportunity that allows me to pretend like I'm in Europe. When my office holiday party was planned for the original Chez Billy in Petworth, I was excited to dine like a Parisian, and I have fond memories of the duck confit I enjoyed that evening. When I heard the Hilton brothers newest outpost Chez Billy Sud was opening in the old Cafe La Ruche space in Georgetown, I knew this was a place I was going to enjoy frequenting.

The entrance to this charming neighborhood bistro makes you feel as though you're stepping into someone's home to enjoy a freshly cooked meal. The narrow row house is charming, and filled with French décor including antique mirrors and intricate wall mouldings. The menu is small and focused-- ensuring that each dish is well executed and carefully cooked. I started the evening with a beautiful glass of Provence rosé which paired nicely with the Plat de Fromage my friend and I shared as an appetizer. The plate included a selection of cheeses including a bucheron and a blue, pecan raisin toast, and wildflower honey.

I had trouble picking an entree because so  many of them sounded appealing. I was tempted to go back to the duck confit I remembered from my trip to the sister restaurant, I also considered the classic steak frites. Ultimately, I settled on the Truite Grenobloise which is a pan roasted trout with fennel puree, fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, and a lemon-caper brown butter sauce. The fish was plated beautifully, fileted and cooked just right, and the ratio of butter to fish was ideal. It was an excellent dish, and one I will order again in the near future.

I leave for Paris on Thursday, and this was the perfect meal to get me into the right mindset for my trip. Executive Chef Brendan L'Etoile is delivering warm comfort dishes that are sure to please any sophisticated diner.

Chez Billy Sud
1039 31st Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
@ChezBillySud

Chez Billy Sud on Urbanspoon

A Day Trip to the Virginia Wineries

Over the past few years the known wine regions in the United States have started to extend beyond California, Oregon, and Washington. The newest kids on the block are New York and Virginia. For those of who us live in D.C., we are only an hour drive from Loudoun County, which gives us a great opportunity to explore all that Virginia wine has to offer. Last summer I had a wonderful time in Middleburg and visited Boxwood Winery, Philip Carter Winery, and Three Fox Vineyards. You can read about my trip here. This past weekend the Virginia Wine Board gave me the opportunity to curate an afternoon with stops at a few vineyards that I had never tried. I had a wonderful time tasting wines, learning about the vineyards, and meeting the entrepreneurial people within the industry that have a deep passion for making wine.


Greenhill Winery

Our first stop for the day was at Greenhill Winery located in Middleburg, Virginia. Greenhill is a 128 acre property (with 16 acres under vine), but the tasting room has a very quaint and charming feel to it. Owner David Greenhill and winemaker Sebastien Marquet produce about 5,000 cases of wine per year, and their first grapes were planted in 1987 which include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. More recently came Seyval Blanc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Viognier which is known as the state designated grape of Virginia. The winery uses all French oak barrels, and is part of the Middleburg American Viticulture Area (AVA).

During our morning at Greenhill, we tasted seven wines including the Blanc de Blancs, Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Superstition, Philoshophy, and Ontology. My favorite of the day was the Blanc de Blancs, which is a sparkling wine made of 100% Chardonnay. It's a subtle and easy glass that has grapefruit flavors and pear aromas. It was light and crisp, and I was sure to purchase a bottle to bring home with me. When it came to the reds, I enjoyed the Syrah which was lighter than your traditional varietal, and had some nice notes of plum, smoke and currant.

Greenhill Winery and Vineyards is located at 23595 Winery Lane, Middleburg, VA 20117
@GreenhillWine


Sunset Hills Vineyard

Our next stop of the day was at Sunset Hills Vineyard which is located in Purcellville, Virginia. We arrived around lunchtime, and the tasting room was packed with locals, day trippers from Washington, and those who were down from other states exploring the Virginia wine country for the holiday weekend. The tasting room is located in a beautiful barn, and was bustling with activity including live music which they offer every Saturday.

The first vines were planted in 1999, but owners Diane and Mike Canney didn't open the doors to the Tasting Room until 2008. Sunset Hills and Winemaker Nate Walsh currently produce 10,000 cases per year and the vineyard is 60 acres. The varietals at Sunset Hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chambourcin, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Petit Verdot, and Petit Mansang. One of the more unique elements about Sunset Hills is their efforts related to sustainability, with 245 solar panels that help to run the winery and winemaking operations.

I couldn't help but love the buzz and excitement at Sunset Hills. People were having such a good time tasting, and the winery also offers light fare including fresh baked bread, cheese, and other snacks to enjoy while sipping on wine. Some of the wines I enjoyed most included the Chardonnay, the Reserve Cabernet Franc, and the Dusk. The Chardonnay is stainless, therefore it lacks the big oaky flavors that people often dislike or associate with a traditional Chardonnay. It is a floral wine with hints of peach and melon, with a crisp and fresh finish. My friend and I chose to enjoy this bottle while we ate lunch after our tasting. The Reserve Cabernet Franc is made of 87% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot, and included flavors of dark dried fruits. Lastly, the Dusk is Sunset Hills' port-dessert wine. I typically don't care for sweet wines, but this is made with 100% Chambourcin and had some nice hints of caramel and spice. Sunset Hills is a lively place to visit, and should absolutely be on your list for a day of wine tasting in Virginia.

Sunset Hills is located at 38295 Fremont Overlook Lane, Purcellville, VA, 20132
@SunsetHillWine


Breaux Vineyards

Last but certainly not least was the gorgeous Breaux Vineyards, located on their 404 acre estate with 105 acres planted in Purcellville, Virginia. I was psyched when we arrived that we were greeted by a female power squad including Jennifer Breaux Blosser and Heather Munden. Jennifer is the daughter of President and CEO Paul Breaux Jr., and she is also the Sales and Hospitality Director for the vineyard. Heather Munden is the winemaker who came from St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma County most recently, with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Jen and Heather make a great pair, and we really enjoyed learning about the wines at Breaux, and tasting alongside with them.

The Tasting Room is located within the impressive estate including terraces and patios with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Breaux Vineyards produces about 10,000 cases per year, and the wine portfolio includes Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Touriga, Traminette, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier. The family-run nature of Breaux makes it friendly and inviting, and their Cajun flair can be found throughout the vineyard related to the naming conventions such as The Acadia Room, but also in their vibrant personality and warm hospitality that shines through.

We started the afternoon with a sparkling rosé which was a delight. It was dry and crisp and made for easy drinking. My favorite wine we tasted was the Equation; a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and a splash of Syrah. It had some earthy notes including cherry and cranberry flavors. I was surprised to learn that Breaux makes a Nebbiolo, and they offer this wine to their Cellar Club members. We finished our tasting with the Lineage V3 which is Breaux's port-style wine that had nice notes of plum and raisin.

Breaux's setting is hard to beat, and the wines are some of the best I have tasted in Virginia.

Breaux Vineyards is located 36888 Breaux Vineyards Lane, Purcellville, VA 20132
@BreauxVineyards


If you're planning a day trip or a weekend trip out to Loudoun County to enjoy Virginia Wine, look no further than here. There's a lot to see, do and taste. I hope you enjoy as much as I did. Cheers!

Warm Dishes for a Snowy Day

It's snowing... again! Here are a few of my favorite comfort dishes at local restaurants to enjoy during the cold weather.

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Stay warm!