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.

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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.

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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
@LHommageDC

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.


Ellsworth

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.


Ladurée

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
@EarlyMountain
 

The Winery at Bull Run

I love to explore Virginia wine country on the weekends. Yesterday, our team at work took an offsite to a vineyard I had never visited before, The Winery at Bull Run. It is located in Fairfax County, Virginia, and it is the closest winery to Washington, D.C. with only about a 45 minute drive from the city.

Our guide explained the rich history of the land, and also the passion that the owners have for Virginia wine. The winery pulls together artifacts and storytelling from the Civil War era along with a modern wine making process which creates an educational and enjoyable experience. We tasted 10 wines throughout our tour of the beautiful grounds, and my favorite of the day was the 2014 Chardonnay. As The Winery at Bull Run's first ever stainless steel Chardonnay, it had hints of lemon and lime flavors with an easy finish.

I also enjoyed the 2014 Pinot Gris with its fruit forward flavors and citrusy notes which was refreshing on a hot summer day. Our team had a great time out in the grass at the winery playing cornhole and sitting on the picnic tables overlooking the gorgeous property. The Winery at Bull Run hosts many events including live music, wine pairing dinners, and sipping and painting to name a few. The winery offers a limited food menu including dips, cheeses, and charcuterie, but they also invite food trucks out on the weekends to provide heartier meals for those who are sipping the day away.

I loved the setting at The Winery at Bull Run, and it's a quick and easy day trip from downtown D.C. A great option for those looking to enjoy a nice day with wine, food, and friends.

The Winery at Bull Run
15950 Lee Highway
Centreville, VA 20120
@WineryatBullRun

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.

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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!