Weekend in Napa and Sonoma

I love wine, and any opportunity I have to spend time in wine country is something I typically jump at. This past weekend I enjoyed a long weekend in Yountville which included great meals, and trips to wineries in both Napa Valley and Sonoma.


VINEYARDS & WINERIES

On our first day in Napa Valley we visited Frog's Leap, Flora Springs, and Domaine Chandon.

I cannot say enough about the beautiful setting and ambiance at Frog's Leap. The indoor living room looks as if it is part of a Restoration Hardware catalog with gray hues, and rustic wood elements throughout. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to taste wine and waste away the day. It was chilly the morning that we were there, so they were providing blankets for guests to get warm while they sipped. We tasted a Chardonnay, and then also a Zinfandel, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The Zinfandel was my favorite, and I also snagged a taste of the Petite Syrah which had hints of plum and blueberry.

Pre-Tasting at Flora Springs.jpg

The Flora Springs estate is located in St. Helena in a friendly setting with a even friendlier staff. A large garden awaits as you enter to begin the tasting, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc was poured for our tour as we entered the caves for a barrel tasting. Inside the caves we had the chance to sample wines from both American oak and French oak, and upon our exit we were seated at a beautiful table outside where we enjoyed a further tasting and boxed lunches from the Yountville Deli. My favorite wine of the day was one of their signature wines called the Trilogy. The wine is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, and 6% Malbec, and had rich fruit flavors including notes of blackberry and cassis. I ordered a few bottles to be delivered to me at home so I can continue to enjoy Flora Springs over the coming months.

I would not recommend wasting your time at Domaine Chandon. While the bubbles are nice, it's a large corporate museum-like structure that is crawling with tourists and lacks character or charm. Stick with the family owned or smaller scale vineyards that provide a more unique and intimate experience.

For our second day we decided to rent a bus and head over to Sonoma so we could taste some of the wines from the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley. We visited Ridge Vineyards, Lambert Bridge, and Comstock Wines. I am a member of Ridge and have been before, and have also previously been to Lambert Bridge. Comstock was new for me, and was a fun spot because they had a beautiful outdoor area that included bocce courts and cornhole.

Patio at Ridge.jpg

The Rhone varietals at Ridge are among some of my favorite wines in the United States. We tasted Zinfandels, the Grenache Mataro, the Lytton Springs, and the Monte Bello. While some of my favorites like the Carignane and Petite Syrah were sold out, I wasn't too concerned given I have many bottles in my collection at home thanks to the ATP Wine Club.

Lambert Bridge created a beautiful outdoor tasting for us among the picnic tables in their garden. In addition to the tasting, we enjoyed boxed lunches from the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg.


RESTAURANTS & FOOD

On this trip we hit a bunch of spots across Napa and Sonoma. Our first stop was Bottega for appetizers and wine on the patio. You can't go wrong with their meat, cheese, and arancini. A full sit down meal at Bottega is always a good idea, it just wasn't part of the plan for this trip. We also enjoyed dinner at Oenotri in downtown Napa. Their southern Italian menu provided great pizza and pasta options after a long day of tasting. I always recommend a stop at the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for coffee and a pastry. I couldn't help but to snag an espresso macaron. We also enjoyed dinner at Goose & Gander in St. Helena. While the service wasn't great, we did enjoy the rustic American fare. Finally, we loved stopping by the Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg for a drink at the bar, but also for a few snacks and sandwiches to fuel up on before the drive back to Yountville.

Tail Up Goat

It has been an incredibly busy year so far. So busy that I have barely had time to enjoy the new restaurants in D.C., or to blog about them for that matter. Last week when I was in town I finally made it over to Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan which is new restaurant brought to us by three partners who have previously worked at Komi and Little Serow. Given their pedigree, I had no doubt that this restaurant would be a wonderful addition to the scene.

Tail Up Goat is serene and inviting with cool blue hues throughout, and festive decorative tiles. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful, and pleasant as we were picking out our drinks for the evening. I was excited to see they have Lambrusco on the menu. We enjoyed the crispy salt cod fritters to start, and the braised carrots with spring onion and honeycomb. The most interesting dish of the night was the smoked rutabaga ravioli (pictured above). The bitterness of the rutabaga paired nicely with the basil mint pesto making it an incredibly enjoyable dish. It was also plated beautifully on a blue and white dish, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. In addition to the pasta, the lamb ribs for two are a must order. The ribs are flavorful and moist, and they are piled high on a plate with onions, beets, and yogurt sauce. While it is a very hefty portion, there is no question your stomach will be happy at the end of the meal.

I really enjoyed the vibe, service, and food at Tail Up Goat. It's a great spot for a casual dinner with friends, and could also be a special place to celebrate an occasion. Bravo to Jon Sybert, Jill Tyler, and Bill Jensen on a wonderful opening.

Tail Up Goat
1827 Adams Mill Road NW
Washington, DC 20009

Tail Up Goat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

EMV.jpg
Dessert at Posto.jpg
  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
@LHommageDC