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Restaurant Review: Artisa Kitchen Supper Club (in pictures)

The What:  Artisa Kitchen Supper Club

The Where:  The Fridge Art Gallery, Washington, DC

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Restaurant Review: Ketchup OR An Open Letter to Ashton Kutcher

Dear Ashton,

I’d like to tell you to stick to acting and not restaurants, but I’m having a hard time choosing the lesser of the evils here.

Ketchup?  What were you thinking?  Obviously, not much other than “I want a hip looking place that has a great sounding menu with all kinds of hipster servers.”

Thanks to my fabulous friends, I was able to experience Ketchup at the National Harbor for dinner last weekend.  We were all very excited to try it out and had been looking forward to it for weeks.  Being the foodies we all are, we had perused the menu before arriving and knew we’d need at least two of the “Threesome” appetizers.  Ashton, this is a fried potato lovers dream.  The trio consisted of seasoned curly fries, waffle fries tossed in roasted garlic, and sweet potato fries.  The carb load came with six (six!) different ketchups:  housemade “regular,” smoky chipotle, spicy chili, golden barbecue, creamy herb, and tamarind.  Tamarind!  That’s what that weird tasting one was.  Lee, our mohawked and over enthusiastic (but under motivated) server left that descriptor out! 

Laden down with a table of potatoes and our ketchups and beverages, we tackled the menu.  $12 for one slider (yes, it was a slider, not several, as one would expect) seemed a bit excessive.  We pondered and pondered while we waited and waited for Lee to return to clear our table, refill our drinks or, I don’t know, take our order.  Once he finally came back, Ashton, he told us that two of the menu items were unavailable.  Cool.

NO, Ashton, NOT COOL.  He didn’t tell us ANY of this until AFTER WE HAD ORDERED SAID ITEMS (specifically, the ribs and fried chicken and waffles).  So, off he scampered while we looked over the menu AGAIN.  (And for another 15 minutes, at least.  Dude, our choices were obviously now severely limited, so we had LESS to choose from so, really, we probably didn’t need EXTRA TIME.)

Among the seven of us, we ordered a variety of dinner entrees.  I had the Shake and Bake chicken.  It was two chicken breasts, pounded thin and allegedly crusted with a bourbon-cider glaze.  I got the shake and bake.  I got some rosemary (much to my dismay and I wish that you had included that small bit of info in the menu).  My chicken was a bit dry but, luckily, the delicous barbecue baked scarlet runner beans and geen beans laden with butter made up for it.   The dish was missing the spicy pecans that the menu promised.  At $18, this was a good meal, considering I finished only half of it before I surrendered.

Among the other dishes we ordered were the Fish and Grits (grits were a bit bland but okay with the fish, which was a relatively small portion considering the enormity of the bowl in which it came), the Crabake Entree (the two snowball looking crabcakes that had a little more filler than promised were lukewarm but the red pepper coulis they were served sitting on top of was tasty.  The avocado remoulade was negligible), and the $18 Black Angus Burger (I mean, good going on that one…you can’t really go wrong with a burger).

One of my friends ordered the salmon special, which came Hawaiian style all adorned with giner and pineapple.  No complaints on that one.  Wings, veggie chili, and a spinach apple salad rounded out our orders…neither of which were horrible but, again, nothing to write home about.

By the time we finished eating, we had been at the table for a good two hours (Mohawk Lee would scurry by in a tizzy and say how hard he was working quite often…though, to us, it seemed as though he only had two tables).  Luckily for you, we enjoy the pleasure of each others’ company.  What we did not enjoy was having to ask several times to have our table bussed and to have our drinks refilled. 

Speaking of drinks, your wine list was commendable, having a favorite of one of my friends that isn’t always on a wine menu.

Now, I usually have much more to say when I write my restaurant reviews.  Maybe it’s because a week has passed.  Or maybe because there really wasn’t much to say.  Mediocre, at best, I think.  Nothing was great.  Nothing was horrible.  In an area as “happening” and up and coming as the National Harbor, you and your staff and your consultants and your chefs and your entourage are going to have to work a little harder to draw people in.  What you have going for you is that this is a location that does cater to the tourist, which means that return customers may not be high on your list of priorities.  But for those of us who live in the area, it would be nice to have Ketchup as an option. 

Thanks for tryin’,

La

PS you should have gotten higher billing for your role in Valentine’s Day.  It was, pretty much, your movie.  Though, I hate to admit it, not such a good one but for McSteamy and Mr. Cooper, from whom you stole a lot of screen time. 

PPS the best part of the meal was dessert…thanks, girls, for the awesome variety pack from Alexandria Cupcake.

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Restaurant Review: Chef Geoff’s (Tysons)

To celebrate my mom’s birthday yesterday, the gang headed out to the “new” Chef Geoff’s location in Tysons (where Colvin Run Tavern used to be).  I can’t say that it was the best birthday dinner ever…in fact, for the most part, we probably should’ve taken her up on her offer to cook her own birthday dinner.

The place was jumpin’.  The bar was super crowded with a young to mid-age crowd.  Standing room only, in fact.  CG has some great happy hour specials…like $5.95 burgers and $8.95 pizza .  They also have $7.95 Super Mugs (33.8 oz), $2.95 Long Necks,  and $5.95 Estrella Wines Daily at the Bar from 3 until 7 pm.  Happy Hour goes all night on Monday and Tuesday.  Note:  much to my brother’s pleasure, they have PBR in a can for $2.95.

It will be at this point that I admit this was my second visit to this CG location (and my third or fourth overall).  I haven’t been overly impressed either time.  In fact, on my last visit, the highlights were the truffle parmesan popcorn (thus confirming, in my own head, my theory that popcorn is the new trendy foodie appetizer, soon to take over for the deviled egg) and the Oreo ice cream I had for dessert.  Everything I had in between was mediocre at best. 

Back to birthday dinner.

So we sit down and look over the pretty extensive menu.   My brother’s eyes immediately fall upon the duck corn dog appetizer (served with purple mustard).  Why not?  We decide to get an order of those and an order of the tuna sashimi Napoleon with wasabi aoili (which I had sampled on my last visit).  The tuna was fantastic when I had it before; it melted in your mouth.  The wasabi aoili was not nearly as overpowering as it sounded.  In fact, the overall flavor of the dish was sweetness.  It was truly delicious.  Too bad, this time around, the kitchen messed up and never brought us our appetizers.  No corn dogs or tuna for this group.  (Note:  I always find it interesting when the waiter/waitress thinks they’re doing you a favor when they say, after you do not get something you order, that they will make sure it’s not on the bill.  Really?  Thanks.)

Let’s take a moment to discuss the bread basket–usually one of my favorite parts of the meal.  This bread was nothing spectacular.  It was undercooked on the inside yet managed to have a tasty crusty crust.  The bread at CG is served not with butter (shameful!) but with a roasted red pepper dip concoction that is very low on flavor.  Even with a generous sprinkling of salt, it was still a bit bland.

On to dinner.  My brother ordered what was perhaps the best dinner choice on the menu:  the pork chop with blackberry compote.  He was a bit apprehensive about the blackberry part of it, not wanting to mix in fruit with his pig.  He was going to get it with a chimichurri sauce before we advised him that chimichurri goes better with a red meat than a double cut pork chop (because, as we all know, pork is the other white meat).  He agreed and thank goodness he did.  The pork chop came out thick and juicy–really, it was cooked to perfection.  It melted in your mouth (and I know, because he was nice enough to share a bite).  The blackberry compote was not as daunting as it originally sounded; the sweetness was not overwhelming and contributed nicely to the flavor palette of his dish.  One thing to note:  there were no side dishes that came along with this $21.95 entree. 

Christine ordered the Sonoran fish tacos, which were a special.  They came on mini tortillas and were decked out in corn salsa and slaw. They were accompanied by sour cream and guacamole and, the piece de resistance:  fried plantains.  Except they were resistable to her, so she passed them along to the birthday girl who seemed to enjoy their blandness.  

My dad ordered a burger.  My uncle ordered a burger.  The birthday girl ordered a burger.  My grandmother ordered a burger.  Guess what I ordered…ha, guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.   The burgers all came out to specifications.  And while there was nothing really to complain about, there was also nothing really to brag about, either.  I’ve had good burgers (hello, Mortons) and I’ve had bad ones and I’ve had many that fall in between.  This was one of those burgers.  I would have enjoyed it more if the pecorino cheese were not grated to the point of being powdery (think Kraft parmesan in the green container).   For me, the oddest thing was the shape of the burger.  Instead of being patty like (and I know, from hours of Food Network, how to make the perfect patty), it was a ball.  It was round rather than flat.  This made it difficult to bite into and a bit cumbersome to keep between the bun without losing toppings. 

The burgers came with your choice of salad, french fries, or sweet potato fries.  For a $2 upcharge, you could get tator tots.  This was a no brainer for me.   My plate was placed before me and I saw eight tator tots.  Eight.  Even a five year old can eat more than eight.  Compared to the pile of regular fries that everyone else got on their plates, I was a bit disappointed.  This couldn’t possibly be a normal sized order.  Had I tasted the tots before I got myself all disappointed, I could have averted these feelings.  Ore Ida wins over CG tots any day (though the green chili aoili was flavorful and a good dipping sauce for the regular fries, as I soon discovered).   My side of carbs were thickly shredded potatoes in a tot form.  Biting into them, I was met with a dense mess of seemingly congealed potato.  With a smoky taste–the secret ingredient, we determined, was liquid smoke.  And no one was appreciative.  Instead of adding an interesting flavor and a new take on the traditional tot, this just added to my sadness.  I should’ve gotten the sweet potato fries.  Thankfully, we ordered a side of those for the table.  They were delectable and perhaps the second best thing we ordered.  They were thick cut and full of flavor.  They came with ketchup as a dipping option but were tasty unadorned.

We opted out of dessert, as I had made one of my mom’s favorites and went back to my house for that.  Even though I know that the desserts at CG are quite delicious.  But maybe not as good as this pie.  I mean, really?  chocchippie

All in all, CG appears to be best for drinks and apps.  Go out, have a strawberry mojito or a Palmer in the Weeds, get some corn dogs or popcorn, and then come over to my house for homemade burgers and Ore Rida tator tots.  You won’t be disappointed.

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The Real Brats of NYC

I hate this show.  Yet, I DVR it every week and watch it, cringing the whole time.  I have a lot to say about it, but not the time, so while you wait, anxiously, and wonder just what I have to say about Kelli, PC, Jessie, Camille, Sebastian, and Taylor (the public school girl!), here is a photo montage of the kids…

bravo090713_nycprep_560b

Send me to hell, but these children are more less attractive than they are actually good looking.  Eyeliner, PC?  Jessie’s eyes are too close together.  Kelli is cute but too…I don’t know.  Taylor is SO public school looking–haha, jk; it’s not her looks but her attitude that makes her unattractive.  Sebastian needs a haircut–doesn’t he know the bangs look for boys is out of style?  And Camille.  Poor, poor Camille.  As someone who shall remain nameless said, in words a bit harsher, “Camille looks like she has a genetic disorder.”

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A Gosselin Spoiler.

Or not so much.  “Breaking News” on people.com:  http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20286254,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines.

Surprised?  Relieved?  Glad?

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