David Greggory: Each Course Better than the Last

I hesitate to review restaurants based on what I eat there during D.C. Restaurant Week because they usually do not offer their full menus, the RW items are often not part of the regular menu, etc. There was one restaurant I tried during RW, however, that I do not hesitate to recommend. David Greggory sits on the corner of M and 20th Streets, N.W. I knew I had to give it a try when I learned that it had received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 2005. It is in a great location, and has large windows facing out on to M and 20th. The seating forms and L shape along these windows and inside the L is a beautifully lit bar — a really fun place to go and have a drink.

David Greggory View

According to publicist Karen Cathy, Chef Greggory Hill opened David Greggory in May 2003 after serving as chef at Gabriel for nine years and New Heights for five. It was promptly nominated for “New Restaurant of the Year” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. (Chef Hill had been named “Chef of the Year” in 2000.) Before opening David Greggory, Chef Hill studied under chefs in Mexico, Latin America, the American South and Southwest, Spain, France, India, and Thailand. These different styles are reflected in David Greggory’s wonderfully varied menu, which offers items ranging from “Three Little Pig Sandwiches on Black Pepper Biscuits” to “Truffle Scented Pizza.” The restaurant also features special events such as “Pork and Pinot Wednesdays” and “Aphrodisiac Bacon Dinners.”

With such a diverse menu, it was difficult to make a decision. Eventually I chose for my appetizer the American Artisanal Cheese Plate, which, that evening, had salty blue cheese, Spanish hard-rind, Camembert, and Vermont sharp cheddar. The cheeses were well-plated and matched with thin baguette toast, sweetened nuts, figs, grapes, plum jelly, and dried apricots. It was wonderful with the Burgundy that we selected.

We chose the Burgundy in anticipation of our entrees: my braised pork shank and my wife’s roasted rack of lamb. The pork shank was well-cooked with the combination of meat and fat creating a wonderful texture. As good as the pork was, the “garlicky” mashed potatoes were even better. There were no lumps, but they were not completely whipped either making for a very nice consistency. The garlic was more subtle than you will find in many restaurant dishes, but the subtlety worked well with the dish as a whole. A roasted tomato was a perfect addition to cut the saltiness of two beautiful chunks of bacon that accompanied the potatoes.

G. Hill Pork & Bacon
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped in Applewood Bacon, with Fava Beans and Marionbeans

A quick taste of my wife’s rack of lamb told me one of two things — either the pork I was eating was no fluke or I just really like lamb (as per my review of The Clifton Inn). While the lamb was a bit closer to medium-well than the medium that my wife asked for, she loved the presentation and thought the crust of the lamb was “fantastic.” The smokey spinach worked well with her helping of those same garlic mashed potatoes.

While there wasn’t necessarily anything in the entrees that made me jump out of my chair, there was no part of the meal that I did not enjoy . . . and then came dessert. I ordered David Greggory’s version of a s’more, a chocolate brownie souffle between two layers of phyllo, homemade marshmallow, and creme angaise. Absolutely wonderful. I have never had anything quite like it. I was just starting to savor it when I looked up and saw my wife take her first bite of her dark chocolate pudding with marscapone cheese core. She closed her eyes, smiled, and said, “I could bathe in this.” I have a feeling I might be back at David Greggory before long.

4 Stars
Appx. $27 per entree

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October 26, 2007 Update:

Hudson has replaced David Greggory in the same location.  New owner, new look, but same chef.  I will probably head over there to check in the next couple of weeks, but I bet it is the same good food too.

Published in: on August 25, 2006 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2004 Estate Pinot Noir

Yamhill2

Those of you who won’t drink a wine with a screw top might as well stop reading right now. This is not an entry for wine snobs. On the other hand, if you have accepted the idea that screw tops are becoming more and more common and that a good wine does not need a cork, I’ve got a treat for you.

In my last entry, I raved about the delicious lamb and pasta that my wife and I had at The Clifton Inn. Choosing a wine to go with two dishes that different was not as easy as picking a cabernet to go with two steaks. We wanted a red’ but something light that would complement the lamb without overpowering the pasta. I had heard some good things about Oregon Pinot Noir, so I took a chance on something new to me: Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2004 Estate Pinot Noir.

Yamhill View

Yamhill Valley Vineyards is a 150 acre estate bottled vineyard and winery in the eastern foothills of Oregon’s coast range mountains. Of its 97 acres of grapes, 94 are dedicated to the Pinot family; pinot noir, pinot gris, and pinot blanc. According to its winemaker, Stephen Cary, Yamhill Valley Vineyards is located in Willamette Valley, in which eroded marine sedimentary soils dominate. Most other Oregon pinot areas have strong volcanic influences that are largely lacking in the Valley. Cary says that Yamhill Valley has “heavy clay soils that produce Pinot Noirs with unusually intense color, tannin, and structure.” He credits this terroir for making his pinot noirs unique.

Now, in spite of my warning to the wine snobs a moment ago, I have to admit that my first reaction when I saw the waitress unscrewing the cap on the bottle was concern. It is easy to succumb to snobbishness at a nice restaurant, particularly when one is trying to impress one’s new wife with a non-existent knowledge of every wine and vineyard in the universe. But my momentary snootiness did not survive my first sip.

This is a very nice wine with aromas of strawberry, blackberry, cherry. You might even get a touch of tobacco as you first stick your nose into the glass. The taste is a light combination of blackberry, cherry, and plum flavors. It is a dry, mellow, fruity wine. Cary tells me that 2004 was an excellent vintage and that his Pinot Noir will continue to improve for several years. As my experience at Clifton taught me, this is the perfect wine to get if you need to match red meat with lighter fare, such as pasta, chicken, or even fish.

Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2004 Estate Pinot Noir is available in a number of Northern Virginia and D.C. retail shops, including Daily Planet in Alexandria, Il Vino in Fairfax, and Vienna Vintner in Vienna. Cary also asked me to tell you that Yamhill Valley Vineyards is also offering its 2002 Pinot Noir Reserve, a “fabulous . . . and rather undervalued” wine at $30/btl. For further details on distribution in the D.C. area contact Malcolm Riddle at (703) 861-1699 or Jabo Gintner at (703) 217-8226.

5 Stars
$22 per bottle

Published in: on August 17, 2006 at 11:00 pm  Comments (7)  

The Clifton Inn: Wanna Get Away?

I got married this past July. My job prevented us from taking a full honeymoon, so we decided to take one later this year and just take a couple of days off after the wedding. Upon returning to National Airport from our wedding in Nashville, my new wife and I drove to Charlottesville. She had made reservations at the Clifton Inn. The goals: get away for a couple of days, relax, eat some good food, drink some good wine, and just get used to being married.

The Clifton Inn is minutes from Downtown Charlottesville, Monticello, and the University of Virginia. It is also within reach of a number of Virginia’s great wineries – some of whose wines will likely be the subject of future reviews. While this entry will focus on the Inn’s restaurant, more information on the Inn’s other amenities can be found on its website. Suffice it to say, there is plenty to do both at and around Clifton, but the beauty of the grounds and the comfort of the rooms will leave you wondering if you really want to do anything other than be lazy.

In addition to its scenery and other attractions, the Clifton Inn offers a free breakfast every day, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. Our strategy was to grab dinner at the Inn once we arrived and make reservations in Charlottesville for dinner the next day. The second part of that plan proved unnecessary.

After dropping our bags in our room on the second floor of the main house, my wife and I came back down to the ground floor for dinner. Being a bit early, we stopped at the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Clifton’s Verandah Bar is adjacent to the dining area on the verandah. The Inn’s bar is fully stocked, but its specialties are its “champagne cocktails” and martinis. We were particularly impressed with their “Breathe” cocktail, featuring absolut kurant, pomegranate juice, and rosa regale.

Our table was ready on time and we brought our drinks out onto the Verandah. The staff is friendly and willing to offer advice on the offerings of the day. The dinning tables on the Verandah overlook the crest of a gradually sloping hill descending into the woods. During the summer, early evening sunlight shines through the windows separating the dinning room from the back deck, where the Inn occasionally screens movies for its guests after dinner.

Clifton’s Executive Chef is Dean Maupin, a Native of Albemarle County, Virginia. Those of you who love sweets will be happy to hear that he served a two-year Artisan baking and pastry apprenticeship at the Albemarle Baking Company. He is also a graduate of Greenbrier Hotel’s four-year Culinary Apprenticeship and has studied under acclaimed chefs in Napa Valley and New York. He is the former Chef at Metropolitan restaurant in Charlottesvilleand was Chef de Cuisine of Fossett’s Restaurant, which was featured as “One of America’s Best New Restaurants” of 2004 in Esquire Magazine. (If the Food Network reads my e-mail, he might be able to add challenger on Iron Chef America to his curriculum vitae.)

As we reviewed Chef Maupin’s menu, we chatted with the waitress about the offerings. She told that the cheeses and produce available from local farmers’ often encourage Chef Maupin to add specials to the menu only hours before dinner is served. After much hemming and hawing, I ordered the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta and Spinach Gnudi. My wife chose the Roasted Rack of Lamb and risotto. Given the honor, I selected what will likely be the subject of this blog’s next entry, Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2004 Estate Pinot Noir.

After a small salad compliments of the chef and the delicious appetizers that we had ordered, we realized that we were in for a treat. The Gnudi was beautifully plated with fava beans, a sage butter sauce, and pea tendrils. It was perfectly cooked: soft, but with a nice texture that provided a contrast to the creaminess of the sauce. The flavors were subtle, but it still went well with the pinot that I had selected. My wife offered me a taste of her Roasted Rack of Lamb. While I enjoyed my gnudi, the lamb was something special. Even two weeks later, I remember it so vividly that I can close my eyes and taste it. The meat was a perfect medium-rare and the inner and outer portions of the slices provided unique textures with each bite. The deep purple sweet onion relish accompanying the lamb was tangy but did not overpower the meat. Both dinners were wonderfully prepared and served.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about this meal was how satisfied I was at the end of it. I am a big eater, and when I eat at nicer restaurants I sometimes leave feeling . . . unfulfilled. I did not feel that way after finishing dinner at the Clifton Inn. The food was so good that it forced me to slow down and savor the experience. I actually closed my eyes and concentrated on every bite. If only all meals were that powerful.

After tasting what the chef had to offer, I could not resist when the waitress placed the dessert menus on our table. Ignoring the waitress’ advice, I ordered the Vanilla Bean/Key Lime Cheesecake. My wife, on the other hand, listened and ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding and vanilla ice cream. The cheesecake was perhaps the most interesting I have ever had. The sweetness of the vanilla and cream cheese were cut by the tongue-tickling key lime. After I tried the cheesecake, my wife gave me a taste of her dessert.

By the time we had ordered an after-dinner port and blackberry martini, we had forgotten about having dinner in Charlottesville the next night. We made reservations at Clifton. I had the Roasted Rack of Lamb and the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

5 Stars
Entrees Appx. $30/person.

Published in: on August 8, 2006 at 2:29 am  Comments (5)