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Restaurant Review: Georgia Brown’s

Ok, so, everyone is always raving about this place.  Talking about it like it’s the be all, end all of Southern cuisine.  Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

In fact, it was quite a disappointment.  You wouldn’t expect this, considering the constant accolades you hear about this downtown restaurant.   I actually had dinner there several years ago with my friend Ms. Spark and didn’t love it then, either.   But, being the fair person that I am, I decided to give it another chance.   And, duh, we were on G and say “name a G restaurant” to anyone in this area and, undoubtedly, they’ll say “OOOH OOOH OOOH, Georgia Brown’s!”

Well, I wish they hadn’t.  While the food wasn’t horrible, the service and overall “feel” of the night left much to be desired.  I guess, though, I will talk about the food (and drink!) first.

We all started with a drink of the alcoholic variety.  I had the “Muddy Waters,” which was fresh squeezed lemonade, raspberry vodka, and Bacardi Limon…with a mint leaf floating along the top.  The delicate pink drink filled the martini glass to the rim and resembled a Cosmo…but tasted much better.  One of my companions had a white sangria, which was a little sweeter than she expected.  The glass was filled with ice and pieces of fruit, obviously limiting the amount of liquid served.   The last cocktail was one that had a variety of summer fruit flavors mixed into it–some Peach Schnapps, some watermelon, and some lemonade.  This selection was cool and refreshing.  The wine list was not spectacular but had something for the two who chose that route.  Cocktails are all $11.

On to the appetizers.  Guess what we ordered.  Give up?  Come on…ok, I’ll tell you.  The deviled eggs, of course!  They were very mustardy, in my opinion, and the white part (is there a name for that?) was cold and rubbery.  Definitely the least delicious of all of the eggs we’ve had thus far.  They were topped with bacon (bonus!) and came sitting atop a pile of [cold] potatoes O’Brien.  An interesting combination but not a stellar selection on our part.  The fried green tomatoes or, perhaps, the appetizer sampler (fried green tomatoes, cornmeal-crusted catfish fingers, crispy chicken livers and bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese) may have provided us with a better introduction to the meal.

Speaking of introductions to the meal, I can’t forget to mention the bread basket.  That may have been the highlight for me.  The biscuits were hot and buttery and just the right amount of bland (you know what I’m talking about).  Along with the biscuits came what I will call cornbread sticks.  They, too, were served warm.  Both were perfect vessels for the creamy butter–it was soft and spreadable and had a hint of maple flavoring which was nice (and not as overpowering as the taste of honey in honey butter). 

Moving on to entrees…to be different, I ordered the garlic and herb marinated lamb with cauliflower parsnip mash, carrot ginger reduction, lamb glace and a house-made apple mint jelly.  What arrived in front of me was a big piece of lamb, covered in a pesto and reeking of cumin.  The side was wild rice riddled with raisins and pine nuts.  Um, excuse me, Mr. Waiter.  I don’t think this is what I ordered?  He looked at me a second and said, “Oh, yes, we don’t have that.  I should have told you that, I apologize.”  I ended up ordering the sweet tea marinated fried chicken (with mashed potatoes and collard greens), which is what I ordered the last time I was there.   The chicken was cooked well and not dry and you could taste the sweetness (though very slight) of the sweet tea.  It was not bad, but Popeye’s would have been just as good. 

Two of my dining partners ordered the Louisiana “Devil” Shrimp–tender Gulf shrimp stuffed with Georgia Brown’s crab cakes, served with sauteed spinach, macaroni and cheese, and a sweet and spicy chipotle sauce.  These diners were less persnickety than I and had nothing bad to say about their meals.  In fact, they took the leftovers home with every intention of enjoying the leftovers (while I, on the other hand, handed mine over to the person to my right and told her to take them home to her husband). 

I will digress a moment to talk about the macaroni and cheese because, of course, we ordered a side to share among us.  It was quite good–creamy and cheddary.  The elbow macaroni was a little soft but it worked with the texture of the cheese.  For the $5 side charge, you recieve a significant pile of macaroni and it was plenty for three of us to share.

The last two entrees that my tablemates tried were the gumbo and the peanut chicken.  The gumbo was your traditional conglomeration of shrimp, andouille sausage, crab, chicken, and duck with okra, celery, onions, peppers, and red rice.  A little something for everyone, don’t you think?  The rice was cooked well and the overall texture was not slimy or gummy, as gumbo can tend to be when not properly executed.   The peanut chicken came with smashed redskin potatoes, emerald shoe-peg corn and finished with a honey maple peanut sauce.   This diner continued with the peanut theme she inadvertently created and had the farmer’s market salad, a mixture of hand selected local greens, cucumbers, sweet corn, onions, tomatoes, spiced peanuts and goat cheese with a lemon vanilla vinaigrette.  Each of her selections were good, but nothing to write home about.

Side note:  several of my companions were a bit taken aback by the abundance of duck on the menu (unexpected option) and the fact that it is referred to as duckling.  As one friend said, “I do not need to know that it is a baby duck, do I?”

On to dessert.  Deviating from our usual post-entree gluttony (I admit, I am usually the one to goad the others into ordering too many desserts), we ordered one serving of the banana pudding.  It came served in a small mason jar.  The sides of the jar were lined with what seemed to be lady fingers.  I tasted no actual bananas (ie there was banana pudding but no actual fruit) and found it to mostly be soggy ladyfingers and a lot of whipped cream.  Again, nothing to write home about.

Mind you, by the time dessert came along, we had been sitting at the table for almost two hours.  When we finally got the waiter to give us the check, it was 10:00.  We already had our cards out and ready to pay.  He took them.  And disappeared.  For 25 minutes!!  We have no idea what took him so long or why it was so difficult to ring us up (by this time, the crowded restaurant had emptied by almost 50%).  We had the manager go back and see what was going on and he returned, saying “he’s doing something back there with your cards.”  Well, I hope not!  Finally, we got our receipts and were on our way.

All in all, I would not recommend Georgia Brown’s…the food wasn’t anything spectacular and the service was undeniably horrible.   I’m glad that I gave it a second chance, but Ms. Brown is not going to get a third one from this eater.  I realize that this opinion goes against the majority (based on popularity) but to those who disagree I challenge you to give good, solid reasons why this restaurant is one worth recommending.

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Restaurant Review: Firefly

I am sure all you faithful followers out there are asking yourself this very important question:  does this girl do anything but eat and/or talk about food?  Fortunately, yes.  But, because I do love food and talking about it and reading about it and because I have a new penchant for writing about it, all of you out there who anxiously await my blog posts (oh, I know who you are) are lucky.

So last night I went out with three friends for what has become a monthly dinner date.  We decided, early on, that we were going to work our way around town while working our way through the alphabet.  And so, tonight, we went to our letter “F.”  F, friends, is for Firefly.

It may have been our best meal yet.

The atmosphere was pretty cool–there were “tree trunks” (I couldn’t tell if they were real or not) all over the dining area, with lanterns hanging from the branches.  To the right of the entrance was a cute little lounge area, with comfy looking couches and some small, round coffee tables.  The restaurant was a bit loud but so are we, so we were able to hold our own amongst the din of the crowd.  While we’re talking atmosphere, we’ll talk about the service–it was a bit lacking.  I’d say we were there a good ten minutes before we were even approached to take a drink order.  We didn’t mind, however, as we were in no hurry to get out of there.

We all had a drink to start off the night–even I did!  I tried a strawberry themed cocktail that isn’t on their online menu.  If I recall correctly, it was a combination of sparkling wine (not champagne–I know there’s a difference!), Ketel One Citroen vodka, some kind of strawberry flavor, and a basil lemonade.  The result was cool and refreshing and had me wishing for more than just the one champagne glass that I was given.  All cocktails were $12.50.  The wine list was extensive and those who had wine instead of cocktails were happy with the choices. 

On to the food!  We started with–surprise, surprise–the deviled eggs.  These were much better than the ones I had at Founding Farmers.  The filling was smooth and creamy and had a powerful (but not overpowering) smoky flavor.  Each half came topped with a delicious and fragrant garlic potato chip.  Three halves were $5–clearly not the deal we had at FF but a delicious treat nonetheless. 

The entrees were all amazing.  There was not a morsel of food left on our plates.  I had the chicken confit pot pie, a warm and soothing combination of maitake, English peas, pearl onion, and cauliflower puree.  It was topped with a warm and flaky rosemary biscuit.  I am usually not a fan of rosemary (in fact, I kinda hate it), but this was delicious.  The peas were a bit undercooked and crunchy, but it actually added a bit of texture to the creaminess of the filling. 

My companions had seared yellowfin tuna BLT with avocado on multigrain bread (and a dumb salad), braised lamb and fresh papparedelle pasta (made with lamp shoulder, ramps, and mascarpone), and the 8oz bistro steak (with garlic herb butter, au gratin potatoes and roasted cauliflower). 

Now, while all of this was a treat to our tastebuds, the star(s) of the meal came with dessert.  The three we chose were possibly–no joke–among the best desserts I’ve ever had (if not in my life than definitely throughout our “eat through the alphabet” endeavor).  Without really knowing what it was (but assuming that it was in the cobbler family), we chose the apple brown Betty.    It was buttery and sweet and caramel-y all at once.  The texture was not soggy, as I find bread pudding type desserts to typically be, with crisp apples that were just the right amount of tart.  The dessert came accompanied by fresh, homemade strawberry ice cream.  Our second choice was the red velvet cake.  It was topped with a cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate pearls.  Now, none of us could decipher what these pearls were–small beads of chocolate with a surprising crunch.  The plate was lines with a delicious strawberry and cream glace.  Had the slice been three times as big, we still would have eaten every last morsel.  And, because two desserts for four people just possibly couldn’t be enough, we rounded out our choices with the Firefly sundae–a fudge brownie topped with [the most delicious, peanut buttery] peanut butter ice cream [any of us had every had], chocolate sauce, and whipped marshmallow cream.  Imagine a Reese’s peanut butter cup, turned into a cool, creamy ice cream but without the texture.  Got it?  Now dream about it until you can taste it yourself.  The brownie and other additions were just mere counterparts to the clear attraction of the plate. 

The last treat of the night came with our check–the bill is rolled up and put into a mason jar that has holes punched into its lid.  Get it?  That’s what you use to catch fireflies! 

Firefly is located at 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW.  And, beware:  you have to travel through a traffic circle to get there, if you’re coming from Virginia. 

ADDENDUM:  HOW COULD I FORGET THE SIDE OF MAC N CHEESE THAT WE SHARED?  I’ve said it before, I know, but it was by far the best I’ve had in quite a while.  While I sang the praises of the mac at FF, it did not even compare to the one we had last night.  Elbow macaroni, three cheeses, creamy and delicious with a nice, crisp, not overly thick bread crumb topping.   If you are paying attention, readers, you will beging to see a theme with my culinary selections–and, though I dine with different friends, we all tend to gravitate toward the same things…

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Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers

Deviled eggs.   Shrimp.  Tall glasses of iced tea.  Sounds like summer, no?  Makes you think of sitting on a picnic bench, fireflies flitting around, smoke from the grill scenting the hot, summer air. 

Or, a delicious dinner at Founding Farmers, a new-ish dining venue on the DC restaurant scene.  

The restaurant, owned by a collection of family farmers (over 40,000, I believe the waitress told us?), is an eco-friendly hot spot in Foggy Bottom where “where barnyard chic meets industrial garage.”  You walk into the restaurant and are welcomed by warm, weathered wood accents, a baker’s rack lined with jars of corn on the cob, green beans, and other seasonal vegetables, and a friendly host staff.

Let’s talk about atmosphere first.  It’s loud.  Really loud.  This is due to the people.  And the music.  And, the night I was there (with two great pals), numerous (we counted at least four) broken dishes. 

Now, on to the food.  The menu is extensive.  More choices than your average restaurant but less than Cheesecake Factory (ew).   The appetizer list had more choices that we wanted than that we did not.  Our first choice was fried green tomatoes.  In true Southern fashion, these tomatoes were impeccably coated and fried; the coating was crisp and delicious and not overpowering in the least.  The tomatoes came accompanied by a smooth herbed goat cheese [that, had it been in a glass, I would have gladly drank] and a tartar sauce [eh].  As I told the manager when she stopped by to check on us, “you could’ve just given me the breading and the goat cheese and I would’ve been happy.”  I?  Am such a fat kid.

Our next selection was a no brainer:  the chef’s popcorn of the day.  Popcorn of the day!  How could you not?  Especially when it was $2!!  The flavor of the day was spicy barbecue.  Honestly, it could’ve come unflavored.  I tasted neither spice nor barbecue, and neither did either of my companions.  This did not, however, keep us from munching on it throughout the meal. It was definitely a different and playful option and one that seemed pretty popular. 

Our last appetizer was also a no-brainer–at least for two of us.  The deviled eggs!  We love deviled eggs!  There were two choices:  classic or combination (with Maine lobster, Gulf crab, and salmon).  As deviled egg purists, we went for the classic.  At $4 for eight halves, this was quite an appetizer deal.  They were tasty but not delicious like the deviled eggs at Jackson’s (where the secret ingredients, I have learned, are jicama and watermelon rind).   At FF, the filling had an unexpected twist of diced egg white.  While interesting, it just added to the bland of the selection.  We may have been better off ordering the Bacon Lollis (Candied bacon?  Yes, please!) or skillet corn bread (which looked to be rather popular, based on the tables surrounding us). 

On to the entrees.  No surprise, I continued with the Southern theme I started with my apps and beverage (sinfully sweet iced tea) and went with the pan fried chicken.  And waffles.  And macaroni and cheese.  And, if that weren’t enough, corn on the cob grilled with mayonaisse and parmesan cheese (a la Paula Deen).  My very large plate included a “creamer” of maple syrup and one of white gravy.  While the chicken was nothing to write home about, the mac and cheese was fantastic.  Rigatoni, coated in just the right amount of creamy cheddar cheese.  Al dente and the only thing on my plate I ate in its entirety.  The waffles, too, were amazing.  Drenched in butter, the Belgian waffle was fluffy yet crisp and something that all three of us sampled (and loved).  And, while the corn on the cob should have been delicious, considering the season, it was the least appetizing item on my plate.  The kernels were very small and without flavor and the addition of more fat and calories was just too much, considering all the rest of the flavors (and, we all know I’m generally not one to complain about such things).  The overall presentation, though, was delectable. 

One of my friends ordered the shrimp and grits.  The entree came with a generous portion of fresh shrimp atop a mini mountain of grits that, by the amount that remained on her plate, couldn’t have been that phenomenal.  They did not appear to be as creamy as the grits to which I am accustomed (or as the menu promised), but the rest of the plate made up for it.   The white Gulf shrimp were sauteed and in light sherry tomato broth and there were cherry tomato halves and other vegetables in the mix.

The last entree selection was the macaroni with beef ragu.  How could you go wrong with this?  Seriously, only by having eyes bigger than your stomach.  The portion was more than generous.  And, the ragu itself was not what any of us expected.  Instead of being made with ground beef, the beef was more of a brisket.  The homemade pasta was delicious and cooked to perfection.  The non-traditional sauce was definitely a pleasant surprise, filled with flavors such as cinnamon and cumin. 

And now, on to dessert!  The dessert menu was extensive as well.  While red velvet cake usually calls out my name (and, lbh, homemade cream cheese frosting screams it), the presence of yellow cake with chocolate frosting (my absolute favorite combination–a biracial cake, as my cousin Krissy likes to call it) left me no other option.  And what a good option it was.  The chocolate frosting was cream cheese based!  The tang of the icing combined fabulously with the “plain” flavor of the yellow butter cake.  Our larger than life slice came with homemade chocolate ice cream…which ended up in a brown pool of coldness on our plate.  The second dessert we tried was boring in the sense that it was vanilla ice cream but amazing in the sense that it was homemade and delicious.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that make us the happiest.

All in all, this was a fabulous dining experience.  Before we knew it, three hours and fifteen minutes had passed.  The food and the company were great and we all decided that we definitely need to go back–there were so many menu options left untasted.  Mark my words:  now that I’ve been there, Mr. President and his dining companions will make their way there shortly.  Especially since it’s just four blocks from their house.

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