Spaghetti Pomodoro at Centrolina

If you were to ask me what my favorite meal is, I would probably say spaghetti pomodoro. It sounds boring, and it's rare that I'd order spaghetti with tomato sauce at a restaurant in the United States, but it's generally the most common thing I order when I am in Italy. It's so simple, but when it is done right with fresh ingredients, there is something so perfect about this Italian classic.

I have been following Chef Amy Brandwein since her days back at Casa Nonna in Dupont Circle (it closed in 2012.) She did a wonderful job with delicious classics like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmigiana. In 2013, Chef Amy opened Alba Osteria with a focus on northern Italian cuisine. I'm thrilled to see that this talented chef has opened Centrolina on her own in City Center which is part osteria, and part Italian market. The space is open and airy which bridges both concepts, and the market offers everything from cheeses to charcuterie to pre-made single portions of lasagna. It's exactly what the new downtown complex needed.

Upon dining at Centrolina for the first time, I decided to be bold and order the spaghetti with cherry tomatoes since I am well versed in Chef Amy's ability. The dish arrived in a white bowl with ribbons of basil and I added a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I was very pleased with the sweet flavors of the tomato sauce, and Centrolina's rendition of one of my favorite classics. It's nice to know I have a place to go when I'm craving this comforting staple. I look forward to experiencing the other delicious dishes Chef Amy Brandwein is cooking up at Centrolina on a future visit.

Centrolina
974 Palmer Alley NW
Washington, DC 20001
@CentrolinaDC

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Portland, Maine

It doesn't get much better than Maine in the summer. And it's the perfect escape from the Washington humidity. I flew up this past Friday with a few girlfriends, and we slowly ate our way across this charming and unique town. We enjoyed a walk along the Eastern Promenade, the cool summer breeze, and the absolute best lobster rolls.

EVENTIDE OYSTER CO.

This place was everything I had hoped for and more. In fact, we ate here twice in less than 36 hours. It's a bright aqua filled restaurant with a casual vibe and a super friendly staff. There are a few outdoor tables which are perfect on a sunny day, but there's also a great bar lined with seats, and a counter along the window which is perfect for perching. On our second day at Eventide, Andrew Zimmern was filming a segment for the Travel Channel. Needless to say, Eventide is getting the recognition it deserves from the food community.

The menu focuses on raw seafood, but also has many small bites and rolls that make it a great place for sharing. We enjoyed local Oxbow beers and glasses of Tempranillo rosé while we worked our way through the menu. The best dish on the menu is lobster roll drizzled in brown butter. The "roll" is more similar to an asian style bun, and the chunks of lobster are generously doused in butter.

Rosé and Lobster Rolls at Eventide.jpg

Every dish we ordered was better than the next: the tuna tartare, the fried chicken bun with buttermilk ranch, and the massive ice cream sandwich that is fit for two. The next time I am in Portland this will be the first place I go. Eventide Oyster is located at 86 Middle Street and can be found on Twitter @EventideOyster.


CENTRAL PROVISIONS

We stopped here for lunch on Saturday and filled up on delicious small plates. Our favorite was the toasted bread with farm egg and hazelnut butter. It was a perfect combination.

The roasted cauliflower with ras el hanout, chickpeas, and feta was warm and crispy, and the caramelized sheep's cheese with pears and balsamic was crepe-like and provided a touch of sweetness. On my next trip to Portland I will be sure to check out Central Provisions for brunch on Sunday-- the fried chicken sandwich with a fried egg on top is calling my name. Central Provisions is located at 414 Fore Street and can be found on Twitter @CtralProvisions.


Hugo's Restaurant is the fancier sibling to Eventide Oyster. In fact, they are directly next to each other as well as their third establishment, The Honey Paw. Owned by Andrew Taylor, Michael Wiley, and Arlin Smith, Hugo's offers a tasting menu experience across three curated columns: foraged & farmed, from the sea, and forest & field. You can choose any five courses from all three menus for $90, so as a trio dining at the restaurant we opted for one of everything, and instructed the waiter to "run the menu." Paired with a bottle of the Commanderie Peyrassol rosé, our meal was off to the races. Every dish was beautifully crafted and thoughtfully plated. The atmosphere inside of Hugo's is sophisticated yet rustic, and the restaurant provided a wonderful dining experience. Hugo's is located at 88 Middle Street and can be found on Twitter @HugosMaine.


We loved dining at Piccolo which is a tiny and charming Italian restaurant offering a limited menu. The cavatelli pasta with lamb neck ragu, eggplant, orange, and Pecorino was a hearty and filling meal. The appetizers including bruschetta with peekytoe crab and creamy straciatella were elegant and matched the simplicity of the restaurant. After dinner we went over to the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club for drinks as instructed by the owner of Piccolo. The bar offered craft cocktails in a lively environment on an otherwise sleepy night in Portland.

If you're looking for an awesome breakfast... look no further than Becky's Diner for an old fashioned dive. It was nothing short of perfect on a rainy morning. Corned beef hash, pancakes, french toast, eggs, potatoes, you name it. Standard Baking Co. is a great spot for coffee and baked goods while exploring Portland, and we liked The Speckled Ax on Congress Street for coffee in the morning before heading out for the day. We did not make it to Duckfat or Fore Street on this trip which were both highly recommended. Next time!

Eating Quietly

I promise I haven't forgotten about you! I'm sorry I've been so quiet lately, but things have been busy and I have been traveling a lot. In the last two months I've been to Paris, Lake Como, San Francisco, Napa, Chicago, and Virginia Wine Country. But don't you worry... even though I've been quiet, I have still been eating. Here are some favorite recent eats.

Eggplant Parmesan at Il Cavatappi in Varenna, Italy

Eggplant Parmesan at Il Cavatappi in Varenna, Italy

Tomato lasagna at SPQR in San Francisco

Tomato lasagna at SPQR in San Francisco

Fat Rice at Fat Rice in Chicago

Fat Rice at Fat Rice in Chicago

Tacolicious in San Francisco

Tacolicious in San Francisco

Cheese plate at Le Relais du Comptoir in Paris

Cheese plate at Le Relais du Comptoir in Paris

Pasta at Rich Table in San Francisco

Pasta at Rich Table in San Francisco

Lunch in the Marais in Paris

Lunch in the Marais in Paris

Brunch at The Publican in Chicago

Brunch at The Publican in Chicago

Spaghetti Pomodoro at Centrolina in DC

Spaghetti Pomodoro at Centrolina in DC

Linguine with Clams at La Barchetta in Bellagio, Italy

Linguine with Clams at La Barchetta in Bellagio, Italy

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.

Chocolate cake at Chez Julien.jpg

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.