Drink Green with Compostable Plastic

I try to consider the environment in my daily activities, including my enjoyment of fine wine, beer, and cocktails. Say you are having a party and don’t want the glasses piling up in your kitchen. You also don’t want to through away a ton of plastic cups. If you have access to a compost pile or a composter, then Eco-Products has your solution: compostable plastic cups made from corn.  Affordable and good for the planet. I like it.

Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

First Rate Food at The Fourth Estate

It is one thing to decide to take one’s wife out to dinner at the last minute; it is another to find a good place on short notice. It had been a long week, so we wanted something simple and quiet with good food. Trolling the Open Table list, I saw a restaurant that I had not noticed before — The Fourth Estate at the National Press Club. It turned out to be exactly what we were looking for that night.

The Fourth Estate is located, not surprisingly, at The National Press Club, 14th & F, N.W. Its interim Executive Chef, Mauricio “Moe” Aguilera, has spent the past 14 years as its Executive Sous Chef. Before joining The Fourth Estate, Chef Aguilera worked at the Loews L’Enfant plaza hotel as chef de partite and participated in the culinary “L’Academie de Cuisine” with chef Françoise in 1989 and 1990.

4th Estate View

Our reservations were for 7pm and the place was surprisingly quiet. In fact, I was a bit worried at first given the lack of a crowd. I was distracted from my initial concerns, however, by the pictures of the members of the press and famous politicians lining the walls of the restaurant. There is a lot of history to view and to discuss over an opening glass of wine and a salad.

The wine, actually, turns out to be one of the nice features of The Fourth Estate. The restaurant has a lovely and diverse wine list, and a relatively high percentage of the wines are available by the glass. I recommend the Saint M Riesling from Pfalz as a lovely opener to accompany a beautifully plated Caesar salad.

If you are looking for a good, basic meal with a few nice touches thrown in as opposed to something more experimental, The Fourth Estate is for you. Be sure the check out the dinner menu, as it changes on a regular basis. I had the rockfish with dirty rice and my wife tried lamb chops with roasted potatoes. Although I eat seafood, I always order it with a bit of hesitancy, never sure if I am going to feel fulfilled by the experience. But the rockfish was lightly fried with perfect texture, and was flavorful enough to stand up to the glass of red Burgundy that accompanied it. The dirty rice was a perfect compliment. My wife’s lamb chops were covered with a wonderful combination of herbs and were prepared with a perfect contrast of texture between the crisp outside and the tender meat inside. It was an excellent meal.

Oh, by the way, The Fourth Estate is doing a 3-course prix fixe menu for $30 throughout the summer on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. You can go to their website for more info.

4 Stars
Appx. $25 per dinner entree

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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Tired of Tapas?

Me too.  So is Wonkabout.  Based on personal experience, I concur in the 5 Guys and Levante’s recommendations.

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Comments (1)  

When in Rome, Eat as the Romans Do

With twin boys on the way, my wife and I knew that the time was now for a Babymoon. Destination?  Italy: Rome, Montalcino, Chianti, Florence, and Venice, specifically. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be posting about our guided wine experiences in Montacino and Chianti, as well as the food we enjoyed throughout the country. Hopefully, if you have been or will be planning a jaunt to Italy you can learn from our research and experiences.

This post is dedicated to Rome, where we started our vacation. It is fitting that Rome is first, as it offered the best meals that we had on the trip. If I could sum up our meals in Rome in one word it would be simple.  Simplicity at its finest. From the pizzas to the pastas (homemade, of course) to the meats, the best dishes were the least complicated. Unfortunately, choosing where to eat is anything but a simple task. My advice is to pick a few candidates from a guide book that you trust, like Rick Steves’ Italy, and then run those by the folks at your hotel. If your hotel has knowledgeable staff like our folks at The Inn at the Roman Forum, their advice will be well worth taking. On the other hand, if you trust me and will only be in Rome for a few days, you may not need to look any further than this post and the following recommendations for dining in Rome. The first three are dinner destinations, followed by three places where we had great lunches between tourist attractions.

IRFA Peek Into the Inn at the Roman Forum by Night

1. Trattoria der Pallaro (Tel: 06-6880-1488) — This is the best overall dining experience we had in Italy. Trattoria der Pallaro is a casual, comfortable restaurant a block south of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, down the Largo del Chiavari to Largo del Pallaro 15. It’s a small (reservations are advisable), family-run place with no menu and a clientele consisting of locals and well-prepared tourists. Upon entry, you will be shown to your table and asked whether you want the House white or the House red. That is the only decision you will have to make all evening.

Once you’ve had a sip of wine, the food starts coming. You don’t know what you are going to get (the menu changes every day) but you can trust you’re going to love whatever they decide to feed you. Our experience started with a series of small plates including big green olives, croquettes, salami and prosciutto, fennel, some amazing lentils, and  a delicious loaf of bread. After we enjoyed our small plates at our own pace, the waiter brought over rigatoni with red sauce and cheese. The pasta was a perfect al dente and the the sauce just doesn’t get any better.

Enough, right? Nope. You still have your main course. That night it was an excellent cut of beef with house-made potato chips accompanied by zucchini cooked with parmesan and a side of fresh mozzarella. Everything was simply but elegantly prepared and beautifully presented. The meal finally ended with a dessert of old fashioned cheesecake accompanied by a shot of fresh mandarin juice. It’s a very tasty shot of juice.

I should note that the comment boards on the Internets have revealed at least some concerns about the tab at der Pallaro, but we experienced no problems with the 50 Euro charge for our dinner for two. If you’re going to Rome and like food, this a must.

2. Taverna Romana (Tel. 06.39743393) — We owe our hotel for this one. Blocks away from our hotel, the Cavour metro stop, and the Colosseum is this lovely little family-operated place at Via Rodi, 16. No reservations here and you may have to stand in line, but the Italian that you hear your fellow customers speaking should reassure you that it is worth it. Everything is good, including the tortellini with meat and the boiled meats with pesto, but you can’t leave this fine establishment without tasting the rigatoni with cacie e peppe. Pasta, pepper, and pecorino, period. Simple, to the point, and out of this world. The desserts look good to, but there is some good gelato 5 minutes up the main drag, making that a tougher call.

3. Ristorante Clemente Alla Maddalena (Tel. 39066833633) — Only a block away from the Pantheon at Piazza della Maddalena 4, this was also a recommendation from the hotel. It was probably the most formal dining experience that we had in Rome, though business casual attire is still perfectly appropriate. The cuisine was not quite as simple as der Pallaro or Taverna Romana, but the chef found good balance in her offerings. For the first course I would recommend the brocolli and (melted and gooey) pecorino romano cheese. The fresh mozzarella and prosciutto is also delicious. My wife and I both had the lamb chops with potatoes as our main course, electing to skip a pasta dish for one night. The lamb was well prepared with just the right amount of fat left on it and an excellent combination of herbs while the potatoes were roasted to a perfect texture. As for dessert — trust me — get the chocolate tart.

TorteMmmmmm… chocolate tart…

Of course, everyone has to take a few minutes out of sightseeing to grab lunch as well. There are any number of wonderful snack bars and lunch stops throughout Rome. Here are a few that we particularly enjoyed.

1. Perilli in Prati (Tel. 06.3700156) –This great lunch spot is only a block from the subway and minutes from the Vatican and the Vatican Museum at Via Otranto, 9-11. In addition to the standard menu, there is a very nice brunch available with meats, pastas, and vegetables. Perfect after a morning of viewing Raphaels and staring in awe at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

2. Osteria del Sostegno (Tel. 06.679.3842) — Near the Pantheon and need a bit of a carbo boost before moving on for the afternoon? This is your spot at Via della Colonnelle 5. The wife and I recommend the pasta con cacie e pepe and the mezze maniche with tomato, onion, and bacon. (The bruschetta was good too.)


3. La Gallina Bianca (Tel. 06.4743777) — This is at Via Antonio Rosmini 9, very close to the National Museum of Rome. They have great pizza here, and I can vouch for the four cheese. Very tasty.

One other tip. If you are looking for a place to get a good drink and watch some American sports (the NHL playoffs were on while we were there and I just had to see the Caps start their epic comeback against the Rangers) while in Rome check out La Botticella on the Via di Tor Millina (Tel. 0039066861107). Call in advance to see if they will be showing the desired sporting event, then bring Giovanni your favorite team’s pennant for behind the bar and he’ll take good care of you.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Sangam Restaurant: Indian Food Done Right

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have probably figured out that I am basically a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy.  My food reviews have focused on American and Italian cuisines.  So, when you see me blog about something a little more . . . exotic . . . it’s probably a good idea to pay attention, right?  Well, read carefully, kids —

A couple of years back when I lived in Ballston just off of Route 66, I would occasionally get takeout from this Indian place on the corner named Sangam Restaurant.  I knew it was good, but I slipped out of the habit of eating there when I moved away from the area.  Well, I recently moved a little closer to my old stomping grounds and a few nights ago I found myself there again.  I had forgotten how good it was, but now I know how good it is.

Edward Dean opened Sangam Restaurant after retiring from his former professional life, which included 20 years as a Personnel Officer at the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India.  Mr. Dean had never owned a restaurant before, but he is evidently a fast learner.  Sangam has been the Grand Prize winner at the Taste of Arlington three years running.  Sangam has also earned praise from the Washington Post and DCFUD (see Nov. 24, 2006 entry).

The Sangam Team at the 2007 Taste of Arlington

Sangam’s dinner menu is extensive and the prices are reasonable.  The Post recommends skipping the appetizers and going right to the main courses and breads.  I have no reason to argue, since I did the same thing (though at some point I will have to try an appetizer or two).  From past experience, I can recommend the Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Chicken, Kashmiri Naan, and Garlic Naan.

Oh, and did I mention that they deliver?

Looking for lunch instead?  No problem, as Sangam has a daily lunch buffet to provide a brief escape from the office.  Sangam also has a banquet hall for private parties and offers catering for any occasion.

Mmmmmmm . . . tasty.

Did . . . did I mention that they DELIVER???

Sangam Restaurant is at 1211 N. Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia, about 6 blocks from the Ballston Metro.  You can call them at (703) 524-2728.

Appx. $16.00 per dinner entree.


Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on August 1, 2008 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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