Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

It's the first day of 2016-- a new year filled with great opportunities. I got busy towards the end of 2015 and my blogging became more scarce than I would have liked. I'll try to do better this year. But before we dive into what 2016 has to offer, I want to reflect on some of my favorite meals and food and wine experiences of the past year.

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  1. This past year I really enjoyed exploring what Virginia wine country has to offer. I took trips to Sunset Hills Vineyards, Greenhill Winery, Breaux Vineyards, The Winery at Bull Run, and Early Mountain Vineyards. It's nice to have so many beautiful wineries just an hour outside of the city. You can read about my experiences with Virginia wine here.
  2. In April I enjoyed an amazing trip to Paris and Lake Como. In Paris, I loved the cheese and charcuterie at Le Comptoir du Relais and lunch at Les Deux Magots. In Bellagio Lake Como, I fell in love with the spaghetti pomodoro at La Barchetta. You can read more about my trip here.
  3. A few friends and I enjoyed a long weekend in Portland, Maine this past June. We dined at so many great places including Hugo's, Central Provisions and Piccolo. However, our absolute favorite was Eventide Oyster Co. I am still dreaming about the lobster roll. More about my trip to Portland here.
  4. While I love to travel, I still think D.C. has some of the best restaurants to offer. Throughout 2015 I continued to rely on my tried and true favorites: Le Diplomate, Posto, Red Hen, Cork, Osteria Morini, Mintwood Place, and others.
  5. So many new D.C. restaurants joined the scene in 2015. Happy to see Centrolina, Maketto, Garrison, The Dabney, Bad Saint, Convivial, Momofuku, Masseria, and others doing so well and adding great variety to our town.
  6. Quick weekend trips in the U.S. allowed me to hit up both Chicago and Aspen. In Chicago I had the chance to try out dinner at Fat Rice, dessert at Longman & Eagle, as well as meals at The Purple Pig, Bavette's, and The Publican. In Aspen I enjoyed great eats at Ellina, L'Hostaria, The Wild Fig, and a great lunch at the base of Aspen Mountain at Ajax Tavern.
  7. It was a particularly lucky year because I was able to sneak back to Paris in September! During this trip I had the best beef bourguignon of my life at Josephine Chez Dumonet, as well as very memorable meals at Ellsworth and Le Bistrot Paul Bert. I also took a croissant making class at La Cuisine Paris that I would recommend to anyone. You can read more about this trip to Paris here.
  8. I spend a lot of time in San Francisco for work. In September, I had one of the best meals of the year at Liholiho Yacht Club where I enjoyed tuna poke on nori crisps, clams with coconut curry, and a delicious chocolate cake to round out the night. The Hawaiian, Indian, and Chinese fusion is unique, flavorful, and delivered an all-around amazing meal.
  9. To top off the year I took a week-long trip to Maui with my friend Tammy. We stayed on two parts of the island and had some of the best tuna I have ever experienced. The food in Maui exceeded all expectations, and we particularly enjoyed Mama's Fish House, Merriman's, Star Noodle, and Monkeypod Kitchen. Maui is a beautiful place, and we enjoyed every minute while we were on the island.
  10. 2015 was the year of a massive kitchen renovation for me. While I love to dine out, I am really looking forward to making some delicious meals in my home this coming year and having the ability to entertain friends and family.

I'm looking forward to diving into 2016. Cheers to a great year!

Morini Mondays at Osteria Morini

Do you sometimes get a case of the Mondays? I can tell you how to turn that around immediately. For the second year now, Chef Michael White's Osteria Morini in Navy Yard is offering "Morini Mondays" which means all pasta offerings are $10 all night long.

Last night I went to the first Morini Monday of the season with friends, and it won't be the last. This promotion lasts through March 28, 2016 so there is definitely still time to make a date with friends and snag a reservation. Executive Chef Matt Adler is including some of the classic pastas on the menu such as the cappelletti with melted butter and prosciutto, but he's also added others such as the lumache with housemade burrata, pomodoro and basil (both pictured above.) Each pasta dish is better than the last, and you are bound to leave full, happy, and without making a huge dent in your wallet. To top off the evening, do not miss Executive Pastry Chef Alex Levin's divine desserts.

Highlights were the special chocolate brioche bread pudding, the praline mousse cake, and the cinnamon rice pudding. If this isn't the best way to end a Monday, I don't know what is. Osteria Morini is located at 301 Water Street SE. Morini Mondays runs from November 2nd through March 28th.

L'Hommage Bistro Francais

It was pouring this past Friday night, and some friends and I couldn't decide on a place to have dinner that was somewhere in the middle of Bloomingdale, Shaw, and Logan Circle. One friend threw out the idea to try the new French restaurant near City Vista called L'Hommage Bistro Francais. I had heard mixed reviews, and knew it would be hard to come close to my neighbor Le Diplomate, but we all were willing to give it a try.

At first glance I was a bit underwhelmed. The space is massive and is trying to evoke a French bistro vibe, but instead to me it had tones of an Epcot theme park written all over it. We sat down to a relatively empty restaurant, and the service was off from the start. We ordered a bottle of wine which they were out of (it's only been open for a few weeks, how are they already out?) The sommelier then dropped two bottles on the table as new options for us to consider. When I asked him to tell me about them he told me where they were from with no explanation. It was as if he wanted me to pick based on the wine label. It took prodding to get information about the differences between the bottles which ultimately came down to him telling me he liked one better than the other. The bread and butter arrived soon after and was fine-- not anything to write home about.

We ordered the beef bourguignon, skate grenobloise, steak frites, and the mussels mariniere. The skate was good, but it lacked the buttery and lemony flavors in the sauce I had hoped for. Overall it was a bit flat and bland. The best dish I tasted was the beef bourguignon although it wasn't special, and the steak frites while ordered medium arrived bloody and rare. When my friend expressed this to the waitress she picked up the meat with her bare hands to inspect it. While my friend was done eating at this point, it wasn't a professional or acceptable thing to do at the table.

Bottom line: I found L'Hommage Bistro Francais to be a poor man's Le Diplomate when it came to the quality of the food. As someone who goes to Paris often I do not believe Parisian's would find this restaurant suitable. In addition, I have eaten at owner Hakan Ilhan's other ventures including Al Dente and Alba Osteria which I believe are better. There is a cute boulangerie attached to the restaurant which I did not have the chance to try, but I like the concept of a neighborhood bakery and hope that element does well. In the meantime, I'll stick to Le Diplomate and my frequent trips to Paris to satisfy by cravings for steak frites and beef bourguignon.

L'Hommage Bistro Francais
450 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Return to Paris

I often get asked why I keep going back to Paris instead of traveling somewhere new. I do feel the push and pull of wanting to explore new cities, but something about the magic of Paris keeps me coming back. I just returned from another week in Paris, and yet again was wowed by the people, the sights, and the food.

Josephine Chez Dumonet

I have been reading about this classic French bistro for years now. On this most recent trip, I made my reservation months in advance to ensure I could indulge in what David Lebovitz and Bon Appetit magazine have both deemed the best beef bourguignon in Paris. We arrived to a small and comfortable restaurant with a very friendly staff. The menu was the perfect size with just a few appetizers, entrees, and desserts to choose from. We enjoyed a bottle of red from Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. While snacking on bread with divine French butter, we ordered dinner and sipped our wine while patiently waiting for the famous beef bourguignon to arrive.

When it arrived, it was more beautiful than I could have imagined. It was served in a large cast iron pan drenched in homemade sauce with a huge spoon for serving. In addition, Chez Dumonet also provides a side of plain pasta so you can pour the saucy beef overtop of the starch. It was everything I had hoped for and more, and I now dream of this dish regularly.

We ended the meal with three desserts, all of which were memorable. The standout was the apple tart which was sliced very thin, beautifully arranged, crispy, slightly browned on top, and finished with powdered sugar. Josephine Chez Dumonet is now on my "must" list when in Paris. The restaurant is located in the 6th arrondissement at 117 Rue de Cherche-Midi.


I would argue this might be one of the best tables in Paris right now. The new-ish sister restaurant to Verjus, Ellsworth offers seasonal American small plates in an elegant wine bar setting. It's a small and narrow restaurant that packs a major punch when it comes to ingredients and flavors.

I was wowed by the food at Ellsworth, and each dish was better than the next. We started with a bottle of the Bandol rosé, and immediately jumped into the interesting flavor combinations of each course. My favorite dish was the fried clams with creamed corn, pickled chiles, lemon and basil. We also loved the green beans served over white bean hummus with sesame and sourdough bread crumbs. The grilled squid with potato and leeks was excellent, and we finished with a malt ice cream dessert with espresso and milk crumble. It was one of the best meals we had on the trip, and on my next visit I hope to try their brunch. Ellsworth is located in the 1st arrondissement on 34 Rue de Richelieu.

Le BIstrot Paul bert

I have wanted to dine here for some time, especially after Alice Waters called Le Bistrot Paul Bert out for its "time-honored classicism" in Condé Nast Traveler. While most of the people were speaking English when we first arrived, this was mainly because we dined on the earlier side. As it gets later into the evening, French locals choose it for dinner as well. The menu is written on a chalkboard and offers three courses at a very reasonable price. I started with the green bean salad which sounded good on the menu, but ended up being one of the most delightful dishes I ate the entire week while I was in Paris. It included shaved Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, croutons, and olive oil.

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For my main course I went with the lamb shoulder served with polenta and my friend chose the hake fish with mushrooms. Both were quite nice, but I couldn't help to feel like I had ordered wrong as I saw the "special" steak frites coming out to other tables. The steak was not on that evening's menu, but it turns out they serve it every night... you just have to know to ask. Next time!

The best advice I can give to anyone dining at Le Bistrot Paul Bert is to not skip dessert. The lemon tart was perfect, and the raspberry macaron was both beautiful and delicious. On my next trip to Paris I hope to try the more contemporary sister restaurant, Le 6 Paul Bert. Le Bistrot Paul Bert is located in the 11th arrondissement at 18 Rue Paul Bert.

Café de flore

One of the most famous spots along Boulevard Saint Germain, it makes for the perfect Parisian lunch. Just next door to another favorite of mine, Les Deux Magots, both of these offer great choices for salads, sandwiches, and lighter fare during lunchtime. We snagged a table on the crowded outside patio, drank rosé, people watched, and enjoyed satisfying bites to eat.

I ordered an artichoke salad served over arugula with prosciutto and Parmesan. My friend ordered the prosciutto and melon salad, and we then split the croque monsieur which provided a carby and cheesy addition to the meal. Café de Flore is located in the 6th arrondissement on 172 Boulevard Saint Germain.

Les Cocottes

I have been to this restaurant before, and I even blogged about it during my trip in 2012. For our last night in Paris we wanted something easy and delicious, and this was the perfect spot. It's a small restaurant that doesn't take reservations, but if you get there early enough you can snag a seat at the bar and have a very enjoyable and casual dinner.

A cocotte is a casserole dish, so many of the items they offer are served in a dutch oven. I started with the lobster ravioli which arrived in a cast iron dish with a creamy sauce. It was rich, but the perfect portion size which made me hungry for more. I then opted for the sirloin steak with potatoes which was flavorful and cooked well, and finished the meal with delicious waffles topped with cream and served with a caramel sauce.

Les Cocottes was just as good as I remembered it to be. Les Cocottes is located in the 7th arrondissement at 135 Rue Saint-Dominique.


You might think of Ladurée as a pastry shop that sells macarons, and they do. However, many of the locations throughout Paris have a sit down restaurant that offers a fantastic breakfast. We went on our last day in Paris and indulged in excellent French coffee and delights.

For breakfast I enjoyed a cappuccino, a chocolate croissant, and the most fluffy and creamy eggs I have ever tasted. Situated in a whimsical and French atmosphere, it's a nice place to start the day and map out your game plan for the afternoon. There are many locations throughout Paris, but we chose the Ladurée in the 1st arrondissement located at 16 Rue Royale near the Louvre.

La Cuisine paris

My friends who were in Paris at the same time as me signed up for a croissant making class at La Cuisine Paris, and encouraged me to do the same. It ended up being one of the best activities we participated in during the trip, and easily the best croissants I have ever tasted. The classes are taught in English, and they are kept to a small size to ensure that everyone gets to have a large role in the process.

The class was three hours and we made everything from plain croissants to chocolate croissants, to cinnamon rolls, and other pastries stuffed with cream and jelly. At the end of the class, they served us coffee and tea and we got to indulge in eating all of the amazing baked goods. In addition, they provided us with doggie bags so we could take home all of the leftover items our stomachs couldn't fit at the end of class. It was a great experience, and I will definitely look into taking additional classes with them in the future. La Cuisine Paris is located in the 4th arrondissement at 80 Quai de l’Hotel de Ville.

In addition to all of the wonderful meals mentioned above, we also found ourselves back at L'Avenue for dinner on our first evening in town. I wrote about it in my post from my trip in September 2014, and it continues to be a chic spot while strolling along Avenue Montaigne. We also enjoyed a stop at Willi's Wine Bar for a drink before heading to dinner at Ellsworth, and I highly recommend enjoying cocktails in the outdoor courtyard at Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V.

Early Mountain Vineyards

This weekend was a real treat. With a quick 2.5 hour drive, my friend and I were able to make it to Madison, Virginia (just outside of Charlottesville) to enjoy Early Mountain Vineyards. Owned by Steve and Jean Case, the grounds of the winery are spectacular filled with colorful flowers, lush vines, and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The tasting room is a wide open space that evokes rustic elegance in a chic barn-like setting. Every detail is beautifully done, and the back of the tasting room opens up to a patio with expansive views. Early Mountain Vineyards offers flights rather than a traditional tasting, and they also offer table service to create a more upscale environment. However, even with this approach it still attracts such a nice mix of people. This past Saturday we saw families playing board games, couples enjoying a romantic day, and groups of friends kicking back and relaxing. It was clear that Early Mountain appeals to just about everyone.

I started the day with their rosé which is a favorite of mine, made of Merlot. I then shifted to one of their flights of white wines which included the Early Mountain Pinot Gris and Chardonnay as well as tastes from other Virginia wineries including Ankida Ridge. This is another unique element about Early Mountain as they work hard to promote the wines from the Virginia region, not just from their own vineyard. Winemaker Ben Jordan began his winemaking career in Sonoma, California and has been in Virginia for the past few years, and most recently came to Early Mountain from Michael Shaps Wineworks. Early Mountain produces many of the grapes that grow well in the Virginia region: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay. In addition to the great sips we enjoyed this past weekend, we also enjoyed delicious snacks including charcuterie, cheese, and dips. The bresaola and chevre were our favorites-- and the cheese came with a sweet creamed honey that went perfectly with the snack.

This past Saturday night Early Mountain hosted "Music at the Mountain" which allowed guests to purchase tickets for $10 and enjoy the bluegrass band Gallatin Canyon. Wine bottles were for sale outside, and people showed up with picnic baskets or purchased snacks like a baguette with gouda cheese to enjoy during the concert. It was such a lovely atmosphere, and the band played until 9pm as the sun was going down on the mountain.

In addition to the regular flight tastings offered on a daily basis, Early Mountain also has beautiful space that works for weddings, corporate events, or just about any occasion. My experience at Early Mountain Vineyards was a great one. So much so that I decided to join the wine club which includes quarterly shipments, winemaker dinners, and discounts on future tastings. While it's a bit further from D.C. than the wineries in Loudoun County, the atmosphere, the people, and the wine make the trip to Early Mountain Vineyards well worth the trip.

Early Mountain Vineyards
6109 Wolftown-Hood Road
Madison, VA 22727