Tag Archives: cheese

Restaurant Review: Walker’s Grille

Slightly off the beaten path but well worth the drive, Walker’s Grille is a new, eco-friendly restaurant that recently opened in Alexandria.  The restaurant is part of a new, environmentally conscious building concept—it is located in a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) building and its mission is to meet, maintain, and perpetuate sustainable practices and implement green design and green restaurant strategies.

All that eco-friendliness and green modeling and the food’s good, too.

On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon—and despite being located in an office park—the dining room was packed.  My three dining companions and I were seated in the bright and spacious dining room.  We were immediately overwhelmed by the choices in front of us—not because there were too many items on the menu (a la Cheesecake Factory) but because there were so many options that sounded so good.

We each ordered an appetizer.  And, okay, we may have gotten one extra.  We started with the frites, the crab and shrimp dip (with a crusty French baguette), mussels, filet sliders, and the fried prosciutto wrapped mozzarella.

If I had to pick one item on the menu that I liked more than any other, it would be the mussels.  Not generally a seafood person, this is a bit surprising.   The wild Maine mussels were served in a broth of caramelized fennel (which I also hate!), shallots, grape tomatoes, bacon, and Sambucca cream.  I really could’ve poured it into a glass and sipped away.  The portion size was ample for sharing—we even had some left over.  The bread that accompanied the mussels was perfectly toasted and ready to sop up the broth.

The shrimp and crab dip was chock full of both fruits of the sea and had a great creamy base—which, even to me, didn’t need even a grain of salt.  The bread was warm and crusty.

If you don’t like cheese of the moldy variety, the filet sliders may not be for you.  While the thin layer of Oregonzola horseradish butter that was spread upon the medium cooked piece of filet (and under the caramelized purple onions) was not overpowering, it definitely gave the three pint sized burgers an extra kick.

What I was most excited to try were the fried “prosciutto” wrapped smoked mozzarella.  The “prosciutto” is in quotes because it is, in fact, a thin slice of Virginia Surryano ham…but you could’ve fooled all of us.  Definitely tasted prosciutto-y.  So, get this:  take a thick round of mozzarella.  Put a piece of basil on it.  Wrap it with the ham.  Pop it into the deep fryer.  Put it on a long platter on top of a balsamic reduction and top it with cherry tomatoes.  It’s as rich as it sounds.  And who doesn’t love some fried cheese?  And pork?  Some of my fellow diners had a good time trying to redevise the dish—deconstructing it, serving it as a slider.  The components of the dish make it ripe for interpretation.

I’d say the frites were my least favorite, but only because they had some stiff competition.  They are handcut and were cooked so that they were not too soft, not too crisp.  The lemon thyme dipping sauce was a fan favorite.  There was also a peppercorn sauce of some sort and a sweet chutney (with a hint of cumin).

By the time our appetizer plates had been removed, we were full.  But onward we went.

We had two burgers at our table—the ‘Shroom and the L’oeuf.  Both were made from Meyer Natural Angus beef and cooked to specification.  The ‘Shroom came completely smothered in Gruyere, caramelized onions and, of course, the Cremini mushrooms.  The L’oeuf (or egg, for those of you who aren’t Francophiles) was a diner lover’s dream (or someone who’s hungover):  a perfectly cooked fried egg that released its yolk upon touch lay atop the burger patty and was accompanied by muenster cheese (a non-classic choice), caramelized onions, bacon, and a truffle aioli.  All kinds of different flavors, all good on their own and all working perfectly together.  The only downside to this selection was its mess factor—the fork and knife come in handy.

The Chicken Francaise was better the next day than it was the first.  This tells you two things:  that there was so much I couldn’t finish it in one sitting and that I, someone who doesn’t like leftovers, liked it so much that I did, in fact, eat it two days in a row.  The chicken scaloppini lived up to its proper definition:  small, thinly sliced pieces of meat dredged in flour, sautéed, and served in a sauce.  Except it wasn’t a small piece of chicken.  The sauce was a lemony one, the acidity of which mixed well into the house made  linguini served alongside it and worked with the spinach, artichokes, and sundried tomatoes that came atop it.  The bitterness of the tomatoes, the bland (in a good way) of the wilted spinach and the tart of the artichoke and lemon sauce all melded together in such a nice, comforting way.

The last entrée we had was the buttermilk chicken.  A huge breast that was fried, as the diner said, “perfectly.”  Moist chicken, crispy crust…made you just want to take a bite onto your fork and dip it into the truffled mac and cheese that came with it.  Except that each element was so good on its own you didn’t really want to mix them but, rather, savor each on their own.  Sometimes—more often than not—the flavor of truffle can be too much but, in the case of this side, you only tasted it at the very end, allowing you to really enjoy the fancy cheeses and al dente pasta before the surprise of the truffle hits you.  This entrée also came with peas, carrots, and cipollini onions, but you know how I feel about veggies.

Think we should be full now?  Beyond the ability to put another bite in our mouths?  You are mistaken.

We had dessert.  What’s another couple hundred calories at this point?  And how can you not when you know they’re all made fresh daily?  We shared the carrot cake, a chocolate mousse cake, and a pineapple upside down cake.  If forced to rate them, I would, in that order, best to less best.  The carrot cake was moist and tall and had just the right amount of cream cheese frosting (with a hint of vanilla—I love icing with a hint of something special added into it).  The chocolate mousse cake was exceptional because it was a biter dark chocolate mousse and not the boring milk chocolate variety (and, part of that deliciousness came from  Nutella); the bottom of the cake was a hazelnut cookie crust—another pleasant surprise.  The cake sat on top of a generous pool of pomegranate coulis, the tartness of which worked well with the bitterness of the dark chocolate.  The pineapple upside down cake was more crunchy waffle than it was cake—in fact, it was kind of a turnover and not upside down.  Regardless, it was tasty but didn’t compare to the other two.

I went 27.5 hours before I ate again.

1 Comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews

Restaurant Review: Vivace (Charlotte)

Possibly one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  Ever.  And not enhanced, at all, by the fact that Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn were sitting less than 20 feet away from us.

Angie Harmon was at the same restaurant as I was.  And we didn’t even realize it until we were leaving.

Now, I’m not sure what she ate for dinner that night, but what my fellow diners and I had was a pleasure to the palate.

We started with salads and meatballs.  What?  You didn’t know four perfectly sized, perfectly seasoned, perfectly perfect meatballs could be an appetizer?  Well, they can be.  And they were.  A mixture of beef, veal, cheese, heavy cream, herbs and spices (and, as one of my friends said, “a little bit of heaven”).  Topped with a bright red marinara and shaved piave vecchio, the four healthy sized meatballs were a great way to start off the meal.  Obviously, ordering the meatballs as an app allowed me to indulge in their deliciousness while freeing up my entrée options since I no longer felt obligated to order the spaghetti and meatballs.

I wonder if Angie Harmon had some meatballs.

Pre-entrée, my dinner pals and I also had salads.  Two of them had the Vivace seasonal salad, which was a rainbow on a plate.  Loaded with grapefruit, oranges, goat cheese, spiced walnuts atop mixed greens, served with a lemon honey vinaigrette.  For a cold day in January, this was a refreshing treat, summoning visions of summer and sunshine, not slush and bitter winds.

I shared a Caprese salad with a friend.  It was delicious.  A take on the tradition tomato, cheese, and basil setup, this salad came before us slightly altered.  The tomatoes were roasted and slightly charred.  The tanginess of the tomatoes was nicely offset by the slight char from the roasting; this choice of preparation also allowed for the tomatoes to retain their moisture and remain decadently juicy (which may not have been the case had we gotten regular, plain old boring sliced tomatoes out of season).  Instead of leaves of basil littering the plate, these tomatoes were covered with a perfect basil pesto.  And, the mozzarella–soft and buttery and served in perfect proportion to the tomatoes and pesto.

On to the entrees!

Because I had gotten my taste of the meatballs with my brilliant appetizer selection, I opted for the pappardelle alla Bolognese.  The thick, ribbon-like pasta was covered generously with the savory Bolognese.  And an added bonus?  The goat cheese crema (when is goat cheese ever a bad addition, really?) and more of that delicious piave vecchio.  The best thing about this dish was that you could get it in two portion sizes.  I opted for the smaller one and finished every last morsel and was quite sated.  Had I ordered the bigger portion, I would have probably finished every last morsel, as well, so as not to let any go to waste.

We had two orders of the spaghetti and meatballs arrive at the table.  Usually considered a favorite among the much younger set, this was enjoyed by my 30-something friends with as much glee as if they were 5-year-olds. The meatballs on top of the spaghetti were a tad bit larger than the appetizer portion and were a generous quantity (five!).  The sauce, while labeled on the menu as “tomato sauce” is, in fact, a little bit creamy.  The spaghetti is a bit thicker than your average spaghetti, allowing the sauce to stick to it heartily.  The secret to ordering this—and to jazz it up and make it a bit more adult—is to order it with a few shakes of red pepper flakes.  The difference is dramatic.

The final entrée for the table was the chili-capellini and lump crab.  One word:  amazing.  The capellini was a vibrant red from the chili and the flavor was quite evident—but not overpowering.  The roasted tomatoes, garlic, and generous portion of lump crab meat downplayed the spice nicely.  Again, a clean plate.

And, because there were four clean plates (and that’s just the entrees!) we had no room for dessert.  But it was well worth it to give up the calories.

I wonder if Angie had dessert.

Leave a comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like

Restaurant Review: Artisa Kitchen Supper Club (in pictures)

The What:  Artisa Kitchen Supper Club

The Where:  The Fridge Art Gallery, Washington, DC

Leave a comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like, Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Black Market Bistro

Tucked away in a quaint little post office in Garrett Park, Maryland (with a not so quaint Amtrak track right behind it), Black Market Bistro is a part of the Black’s restaurant family (my second favorite local group, after the Great Americans, of course). 

Despite the bustling, filled to capacity dining room, the overall feel of the place is warm and comforting.  The wait staff is extremely pleasant and gracious; our waitress never once huffed about the fact that she had to come by four times before my two dining companions and I were ready to order (and, it wasn’t like we really needed to look at the menu–the three of us are pretty standard in what we order when we dine together). 

The specials for the evening highlighted the greatest joy of summer:  the heirloom tomato.  There was a crostini with ricotta cheese, basil, and tomato.  There was also a gazpacho with basil.  Our choice was the heirloom tomato salad.  Our tomatoes (all shapes, sizes, and colors) came served with small balls of mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  The tomatoes were perfectly ripened–not grainy or mealy, they were juicy  and crisp.  The balsamic was the perfect acidic counterpart to the sweetness of the tomatoes. 

The other menu appetizers seemed to mostly be of the seafood variety; while appropriate for the season it was not, to me, appropriate for the area (call me a snob, but I’d prefer to have my seafood closer to the sea).  There were several different musssel dishes (one Thai inspired, one with garlic, shallots, and tomatoes), and some cornmeal crusted oysters.  There was also a squid salad and an atipasto platter. 

The dinner menu was quite varied.  Thin crust pizzas started off the options.  The dinner entrees, much like the appetizer ones, had many seafood choices–trout, salmon, tuna, and shrimp.  There was also the typical fare of chicken and steak but, of course, we all three gravitated toward the burger.  I know that, to write a proper review, one must really sample as many different items as possible.  We?  Failed.

However.

The burgers were fantastic (and at least we had them different ways).  With the options of cheese (cheddar, pepper Jack, provolone, or Point Reyes bleu) and bacon, we went crazy with variations.  The burgers came cooked to order (perfectly medium rare), the juices soaking perfectly into the sesame seed bun (as one friend said, “You don’t see these much anymore…it’s more of a Kaiser world.”).  The burgers come with a salad and crispy onion strings.  French fries appear no where on the menu.  The mixed green salad left much to be desired (including dressing, in my opinion) but the onion crisps were a welcome accompaniment. 

And then?  Comes dessert.  BMB makes all breads and desseerts in-house, daily.  (Aside:  the bread basket held several slices each of regular white baguette type bread and what we determined was an Irish soda bread with currants.  Neither disappointed.  What was slightly disappointing was the pre-packaged pats of butter.  I prefer a vat of real, don’t have to open a gold wrapper, spreadable goodness.)  We each ordered our own dessert and, among the three of us, were able to sample the root beer float (“Root beer does something amazing to the texture of the ice cream”), the blueberry pie slab (a la mode, of course, and a slab it surely was), and the chocolate panna cotta (“This really is quite chocolatey”).  The blueberry pie, which was my choice, was so beautiful–the granulated sugar sprinkled all over the crust made the pie sparkle.  The garnish of fresh peaches tasted as though they had been picked straight from the tree and delivered to the pie man (after which they were marinated in some sort of citrus). 

Before we knew it, we had been sitting at the table for almost three hours.  Not once did anyone try to rush us and not once did we ever realize the amount of time we had spent eating and laughing.  If you’re looking for a kind of out of the way place (I mean, it’s right off of Rockville Pike, between Kensington and Rockville) with a comfortable atmosphere that offers a seasonal and well-priced menu and you don’t mind the occasional freight train rolling through, Black Market Bistro is the place for you.

1 Comment

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Orso

I’d like to take a moment to, once again, note how stupid Yelp and its reviews (but, mostly, its reviewers) are.  I know I will be met with some disagreement, but in this case, I know that I am right.  And those reviewers?  They were so wrong.

My dad loves pizza.  So, what better way to celebrate his day and his wonderful children (without whom there could be no Father’s Day) than to go to dinner and allow him (and ourselves) to indulge in the fabulosity that is Pizzeria Orso.   Chef Edan McQuaid, who has been called “the best pizza guy on the East Coast”  is just 30 years old but, seemingly, has been making pizza forever (“he probably came out of his mother’s womb making pizza”) .  Before taking the helm at Pizzeria Orso, McQuaid worked at such local establishments as 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso. 

Located on the ground floor of an office building in Falls Church (for you natives, it’s where the old duck pin bowling alley used to be) and right near Elevation Burger, the space is large and bright, with a waitstaff that is friendly, informed, and ready to serve.  Our table of six barraged our poor server, Ben, with a bevy of questions (Is your cheese shredded or sliced?  What is the difference between tomatoes and fresh tomatoes? ).  Service was not slow, as per the myriad Yelp reviews I read. 

The menu is quite similar to that of 2 Amys…lots of delicious appetizers and a variety of pizza combinations.  The selling point is that every pizza takes just 90 seconds to cook in the wood fired oven, and each pizza comes out slightly charred on the top and bottom.  This?  Is a good thing.

We started off with a couple of appetizers.  The potato crocche, fried potato and cheese fritters, were delectable.  Crunchy and golden brown on the outside, once you bit into them you were awarded with a bite of mashed potatoey goodness.  In fact, that is the best way to describe them:  golden nuggets of deep fried mashed potatoes.  A little sprinkle of salt and these were perfect.  And five of them for $5 seemed to be quite reasonable (despite the “overpriced” tone of many of the Yelp reviews). 

We rounded out our appetizer choices with two orders of fresh burrata, which came drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and served with several pieces of perfectly toasted bruschetta.  If you’re not familiar, burrata is is a fresh  Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream.  The outer shell is solid mozzarella and the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it soft, easily spreadable, and buttery texture (thus, it is not surprising that “burrata,” in Italian, means “buttered.” ) This appetizer was tasty beyond words.  The softness of the cheese and its subtle salty and creamy flavor worked well with the “plain” aspects of the toasted bread. I could’ve eaten an order all by myself.   My grandmother looked very seriously at my brother and asked him if he was sure he wanted to eat that, considering his cholesterol.  I’d like to think that was a rhetorical question. 

And now we move on to the pizza (or pizze, if we want to be authentic).  We ordered five different ones, each of which proved to be its own star.  Among the pizzas were the Diavolo, a traditional pepperoni (with the cute little pepperoni slices that curl up into little bowls of grease…don’t cringe, you know you are drooling), tomato sauce, and mozzarella (sliced, not shredded) pie.   We also sampled the Ortaggio, which was topped with tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, eggplant, olives, onions and sweet peppers.  We then ordered three variations of the margherita:  one with proscuitto and mushrooms, one with just prosciutto, and one with prosciutto and lardo which, according to our friends at wikipedia, is ” a type of salume made by curing strips of pig fat with rosemary and other herbs and spices. It is taken from the layer of hard fat along the pig’s back…[and was] at one time Italy’s basic cooking fat, especially in regions where olive trees are sparse or absent, but health concerns have reduced its popularity [note that cholesterol problem previously discussed].” 

 Of course, I had to have a taste of the lardo pizza.  It was rich and full of flavor and worth the full fat that it added (and, really, how often do you see something like that on a menu?).  The one “bad” thing I have to say about the pizzas is that, much like its fancy pizza counterparts, Pizzeria Orso does not cut your pizza for you unless you specifically ask them to (and, even then, they may forget but they will happily bring a pizza cutter to the table).

All in all, this was a very good, easy, and delicious experience.  There were no “kinks” that needed to be worked out.  Perhaps, in the two weeks since they’ve opened, the place has found its groove.  It clearly provides a fabulous pizza experience that rivals 2 Amys and, with its convenient to suburbs location (and a garage, to boot!) Pizzeria Orso is definitely going to find its way onto the pizza rotation list (if not completely remove all competitors from the list).

6 Comments

Filed under food, restaurant reviews, things i like