A “Picnic” by Kinship (DC)

Kinship is one of our favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, so when an invitation arrived stating that there was going to be a dinner at the farm of one of its suppliers, we didn’t hesitate! Neither did our 19 year old daughter (who is home for the summer—yay!) and two of her friends.
Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent are the couple who own and run Kinship to perfection. Eric is an extraordinarily gifted chef, and Célia is the operational brains behind the business.
The dinner was held at Martin’s Farm in The Plains, Virginia, about an hour and a half west of DC. The dinner arrangements hit a slight snag when a thunderstorm passed through The Plains that afternoon, making it impossible to start cooking or setting up on time. The storm also soaked the ground, and there’s nothing quite like the experience of that lovely red Virginia clay soil turning into lovely red Virginia mud. (The choice of appropriate footwear was directly proportional to the enjoyment of the evening.)
It was also a good experience for the 3 young women, who had probably never been on a working farm before. (Certainly, the one belonging to us had not.)

note appropriate footwear

All of these delays were easily solved by wine and sangria, of course. And once the cooking stations were operational, the dinner was as lovely as one might expect.
There were two appetizer stations set up, serving a Path Valley Farm Hen Egg with Grits and L’Abeille Garden Anise Hyssop and a Small Mouth Bass with Summer Solstice Succotash and Rouille. The grits were delicious, and the bass melted in your mouth. (I suspect the bass were still swimming happily in the pond earlier that day.)
Dinner consisted of Avocado Toast with Chorizo and Lamb Leg Terrine as appetizers with Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Warm Green Tomato Salad and Tahini and Red Wine Marinated Tri-tip and Grilled Ribeye with Kinship Steak Butter as entrées. Side dishes consisted of L’Abeille Garden La Ratte Potato Salad with Beef Bacon and Rosemary, Savoy Cabbage Coleslaw, and L’Abeille Garden Chicken Spice Grilled Asparagus. Even this potato salad-hater liked the potato salad (but, then, with enough bacon, all things are possible). And the asparagus was delicious. The coleslaw lovers in the family declared the coleslaw excellent, but I decided that I needed to save my hard-earned optional calories for dessert.
The two dessert stations served Brown Sugar Shortcake with Vanilla Cream with either L’Abeille Garden Verbena Strawberries or Orange-Scented Blueberries and S’mores Cake with Chocolate Crémeux, Toasted Meringue, and Soft Cinnamon Cake. The chocolate lovers in the group declared the s’mores cake to be excellent. The shortcake was all shortcake should be—more cake than biscuit—rich and with no bitterness. It was fabulous.

a selfie by old people…

The dinner could not have been set in a more scenic location. The surroundings were beautiful—a timely reminder of how gorgeous the Virginia countryside can be. All in all, a tranquil and delicious way to wind up a summer weekend.

gorgeous day!

The Inn at Little Washington’s 40th birthday at Mount Vernon

The Inn at Little Washington is celebrating its 40th birthday in grand style this year. Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home for those of you who never learned/have forgotten your U.S. history) was the site of its most recent celebration. And what better place to celebrate one’s birthday than at the home of the man who laid out Washington, Virginia as a surveyor? (Before he went on to some other career highlights.)

Dress was “garden chic,” which caused no small amount of consternation for our group. Stilettos or no stilettos? Long or short dress? Hat or no hat? Tie or no tie? (General consensus: no, short, no, no.)

The reception was held in Martha Washington’s garden with a troupe of colonial dancers, a generous caviar station, and a gaggle(?) of U.S. marshals (Supreme Court Justice Alito was one of the attendees).

My favorite part of the event was, naturally, the mime.

The dinner was held in a giant tent on the grounds by the Potomac, just outside the house.

We started off with a Barboursville Brut Rosé Cuvée 1814.

The appetizer was Mousse of Duck Liver with Port Gelée and Rhubarb Jam in a Hen’s Egg accompanied by a 2013 Linden Vineyards Petit Manseng, Late Harvest from Virginia.

Mousse of Duck Liver

The second course was Maine Lobster in a Raft of Crisp Potatoes Afloat on a Minted Pea Purée served with a 2015 Matrot Meursault, Blagny, Premier Cru from Burgundy.

Maine Lobster

And the final (non-dessert) course was Poulet à la Crème à la Lafayette. The accompanying wine was a 2014 RdV Vineyards Rendezvous from Virginia.

chicken a la lafayette

We concluded with a dessert “groaning board” consisting of miniature desserts, including lemon possets, cherry pies, blueberry pies, pecan pies, and lemon meringue pies (with additional desserts that I’ve forgotten since recovering from my food coma).

the after-dessert goodies

Fireworks were also provided at the conclusion of dinner (because, of course).

For more beautiful photos than I can provide, you can go see The Washingtonian’s coverage of the event: Inn’s 40th celebration. (In full disclosure, you can see part of our group in the tent photo.)

NoMad Hotel and NoMad Restaurant

We were fortunate enough to win a charity auction item for a bespoke dinner at the New York City restaurant, NoMad, and decided to stay at the NoMad hotel. This is not our usual haunt when we visit New York City—the Upper East Side is more the style to which we’d like to become accustomed, but we thought it would be fun to branch out a bit.
We loved the NoMad hotel! It’s a bit hipster for old fuddy-duddies like us (you can tell that it is a hipster hotel by the plethora of man-buns and because the hotel lighting is so dim that I felt like pulling out my phone and using the flashlight function to get around the lobby). That being said, we got upgraded to a lovely room that was bigger than most New York flats, complete with a small kitchenette, 1 1/2 baths, 2 super comfortable couches (the boy promptly designated one of them as his bed) AND a rooftop terrace. Since it was 70 degrees and sunny that day, it was a lovely afternoon to sit up there (and read books about the history of Hong Kong to help the aforementioned boy with his history paper, but I digress).
The dinner at NoMad was superb! Jim commented that the decor in the dining room was a cross between the Inn at Little Washington and the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld, which is a perfect description. Whatever one might think about the decor (and we liked it), the restaurant—opened by chefs who were previously at Eleven Madison Park—outdid themselves in preparing dinner for us.
The aperitif was what the restaurant called a “Walter Gibson,” made with London dry gin, chenin blanc, chamber blanc & dry vermouth, green apple eau de vie, bee’s wax, and pickled vegetables. The staff member poured out the drink from a big pitcher into the glasses, at which point the boy said, “I can’t drink this–I am only 16!” The staff then whisked away the drink and brought non-alcoholic drink pairings for each course for him.
The first actual course was the fruits de mer (aka “le grand plateau”). This was served with a Nomad selection of extra Brut champagne.

fruits de mer

Next up were two vegetable courses—a fennel variation with rhubarb and burrata and a snow pea chiffonade with pancetta, pecorino, and mint. The accompanying wine was a 2015 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Clos de la Barre, Meursault from Burgundy.

fennel with rhubarb and burrata

snow pea chiffonade


The amazing entree (and what the restaurant is famous for) is the roast chicken with foie gras, black truffles, and brioche with a white and green asparagus.

pre-chicken chicken (aka eggs) with hollandaise sauce

pre-carved chicken

chicken breast with asparagus

dark meat chicken and chicken wings

Accompanying the chicken dishes were morels roasted with sunny side up egg, faro and spring greens. To die for. Even not including the wine pairing of a 2011 Domaine Harmand Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes from Burgundy.

morels

Dessert was another restaurant favorite, milk and honey shortbread, brittle, and ice cream. The dessert wine was a 2013 Royal Tokaji Company Gold Label Tokaji 6 Puttonyos Aszu from Hungary.

milk & honey

We decided when discussing the dinner afterwards that it definitely makes it into our Top 10 meals, and we will most certainly be back!

A Long-Time Favorite: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

It has been a while since I last posted photos of a dinner at Chef Mavro, one of our favorite restaurants. The restaurant has redone its menu a bit, allowing guests to choose from a selection of small plates or to embark on a 9 course Bataan death march of a tasting menu. We’ve done the tasting menu before—it’s fabulous and not to be missed!—but wanted to focus on our most recent meal, where we selected from the small plates.
We started with a foie gras parfait that included hibiscus, asian pear, yuzu, and malasadas. (Actually, we started with two of them because our party of four included a 16 year old velociraptor.) Our family loves foie gras, and this version was one of the best we’ve ever had. The inclusion of the citrus/sweet flavors set off the richness of the foie gras perfectly.

foie gras parfait

Next up was the ahi poke, served with ogo, chives, Aleppo pepper, and taro crisps. Poke has become the “in” thing these days with poke restaurants popping up everywhere from California to DC, but it is originally a Hawaiian dish (hopefully, the New York Times food writers will not “discover” it the way they discovered bubble tea, as a New York invention). The taro crisps were light and fresh, and the poke with the sauce had a lovely rich taste to it.

ahi poke

The third course was the egg “poutargue” with an egg, Yukon potato, San Danielle prosciutto, and sun-dried fish roe. The saltiness of the prosciutto gave the dish a nice flavor to go with the egg and fish roe. Yum!

egg poutargue

To our shock, our velociraptor asked for the keahole lobster (liking lobster is a recent thing for him). The lobster was served with kale, ginger, okra, and soursop. While excellent (because everything here is excellent), it was probably the weakest of the dishes.

keahole lobster

The next dish was the island free range chicken, served with a tarragon mousse, island cream corn, Swiss chard, and foie gras jus. Chef Mavro used to do a chicken multi-course dinner that Jim and I still talk about. This is a microcosm of that dinner and delectable. I am generally not a fan of white meat because it is more often than not dry and flavorless. This, however, was neither, and if more people could serve chicken like this, I would no longer be a white meat hater. Enough said.

island free range chicken

The final entree dish was a Miyazaki wagyu fricassee with chimichurri, breadfruit, warabi, and mustard seeds. You have to be a ham-handed chef to ruin wagyu, and there are no ham-handed chefs here. On the other hand, you have to be a gifted chef to make the most out of the wagyu and that certainly was the case here. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful, and the accompanying ingredients provided additional flavor and texture.

miyazaki wagyu fricassee

Dessert was a citrus dessert—light, flavorful, and a perfect end to the dinner—and a chocolate dessert—rich, bold, and also a perfect end to the dinner.

citrus dessert

chocolate dessert

We have fond memories of Chef Mavro over the years, and each meal has been delicious and memorable. We look forward to many more years of dining there!
www.chefmavro.com

Restaurant review: Dolan Uyghur

Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) cuisine comes from one of the ethnic minorities mostly located in Xinjiang, China.  We have been to a Uyghur restaurant in Beijing many years ago and were thrilled to learn that there was now a Uyghur restaurant in Washington, DC.  Off we went to try it with some friends who had made the discovery (thank you, Joyce and Marty!).

Uyghur food bears some resemblance to Middle Eastern food (not surprising, given some of the common culture and climate) and some resemblance to Chinese food (again, not surprising).

We started out with the Piter Manta, steamed buns containing beef seasoned with onions and spices.  Think of potstickers with Middle Eastern seasoning, and you come close to what these taste like.  They were quite good.

piter manta

We had an additional appetizer, the Samsa, made of seasoned beef and onions rolled in a bun.  They were also quite yummy.

samsa

Popular dishes here include several noodle dishes.  We had the Mom’s Laghman (hand-made pulled noodles served with stir fried beef and vegetables).  For those of you who like homemade noodles, this is definitely a dish for you.

mom’s laghman

The consensus favorite amongst the group, however, was the Korma Chop, a dish consisting of dry-fried noodles with beef and vegetables.  The noodles are bite-sized in this dish and more toothsome and chewier than the hand-pulled noodles.  In fact, the beef and vegetables are somewhat superfluous.  The sauce is flavorful, with a bit of a bite, and paired with the noodles, it is an excellent dish.

korma chop

Somewhat more familiar to many diners is the Dolan kabob, which are lamb kabob skewers where the lamb is seasoned with salt, cumin, and red pepper.  These were good but did not stand out like the noodle dishes did.

dolan kebab

Another favorite was the Goshnan, described as a Uyghur-style pizza, stuffed with beef, onions and red peppers.  I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a pizza (it has a double sided crust)—in some ways, it resembles a British pasty, but with deeper flavors and a lighter crust.  It is quite filling and quite delicious.

what’s left of the goshnan

We also tried the spicy-sour tofu, which is the Uyghur take on Mapo Tofu (the Chinese hot and spicy tofu dish).  It was good but not a standout in the dishes we ordered.

spicy-sour tofu

The potato silk was a hit, as it consisted of sautéed shredded potato with scallions, red peppers, and carrots.  Our son was particularly enamored with this one (it contains potatoes, after all).  This isn’t something you can typically order at an Asian restaurant and is well worth trying.

potato silk

Another well-liked dish was the Beef Yotaza, a spicy stir fried beef with assorted vegetables and served with steamed buns.  There was a nice bite to the dish, and the steamed buns are very similar to mantou (a northern Chinese steamed bun).

beef yotaza

The honey fish is fried tilapia seasoned with sweet and sour sauce and cooked with peppers, onions, and pineapples.  I wasn’t a fan of this dish, but others found it to be quite delicious.  (sorry–the official food photographer failed on this one (that’s me!)).

And, finally, there was the Dolan chicken—fried chicken cooked with mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, and bean sprouts.  This was the consensus least favorite dish, as the flavors were muddled and meh.  (another fail on the part of the food photographer)

But there are salads!  Below is the Tatlik salad, consisting of lettuce (duh!), cucumbers, beets, apples, and pineapple.

Tatlik salad

The restaurant also has surprisingly good desserts.  Or, rather, if you judge the restaurant against other Asian restaurants, it has excellent desserts.  If you judge the restaurant against European and American restaurants, the desserts are passable.  (No photos because we consumed them too quickly.). We tried the Dolan cake, which is the Uyghur version of baklava.  It is dryer than traditional Middle Eastern or Greek baklava, but it is very flavorful.  The Kat-Kat cake is a traditional Uyghur cake, and it was my favorite as it was not overly sweet and had an unusual but pleasant flavor.  The fried bananas were good, but you have to like bananas (obviously) to like this dessert, and the Bak-Kal-Li is a walnut cake dried with chocolate.  This is a heavy—almost peasant-like—cake that is worth trying but is not for everyone.

I also highly recommend the Uyghur tea, which uses black tea as a base but adds ginger, date, and other fruit flavors as well.  Even the son, who does not like tea, liked this one.

The restaurant itself is small and austere, typical of an Asian hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but the wait staff is friendly, competent, and helpful.  We really liked the food at Dolan Uyghur and will definitely be back to try new dishes!

Dolan Uyghur is located at 3518 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.dolanuyghur.com).

Inn at Little Washington weekend (aka I want to come back in my next life as one of my kids)

As you may have noticed from my blog posts, the Inn at Little Washington is a favorite restaurant of ours, with a combination of stunning food and warm hospitality.  (We always feel treated like family when we go.). This past weekend will be remembered in the family chronicles as the Inn at Little Washington weekend.
Jade wanted to hold a “thank you” party for her friends.  This all started in 7th grade during bar/bat mitzvah year.  She asked for a bat mitzvah party, and we pointed out that since we aren’t Jewish, that would be a tad difficult.  Jim eventually told her that we would throw her the equivalent of a bat mitzvah if she was accepted into Stanford (she didn’t have to go, but she had to be accepted).  Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington with her friends was what she wanted.
We booked both kitchen tables on Saturday night for the late seating and had a limo bus ready to go.  Everyone arrived early (our biggest fear, since punctuality is not her friends’ strong point, as fond as I am of them) and off they went.


All eleven friends elected to spend the night at our house, given the lateness of their return.  (Note:  12 teenagers in one house is not for the OCD amongst you.). Most importantly, everyone (especially Jade) had a fabulous time.  For some reason, no one was particularly hungry at breakfast the next morning.  Can’t imagine why.
Sunday was Marcus’s turn.  For his birthday, we gave him a dinner for 6 at the Inn.  So, Sunday afternoon, he and 5 of his friends piled into a different limo bus (one that was much more limo than bus) and went off to the Inn for dinner.


The three of us decided that we needed a dinner at the Inn as well but made sure we would be seated out of sight lines from the table of 9th graders.  In addition to the always skillful and imaginative food, we were pleasantly surprised to have new dishes to sample—all of which were delectable.
The new dishes included:
Carmelized Catalan Foie Gras Custard, which quite possibly is the best foie gras we’ve ever had:

carmelized catalan foie gras custard

Chilled Maine Lobster with Vichyssoise Puree and American Osetra Caviar

chilled lobster with caviar

Japanese Wagyu Beef Two Ways:  Seventy-Two Hour Braised Short Rib and Ribeye Sashimi with Potato “Noodles” in Fragrant Broth (possibly the best dish of the night, which is saying something!)

wagyu beef two ways

Raviolis of Ginger Scented Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Brown Butter, Sage, and Toasted Pecans

sweet potato and apple ravioli

Chocolate Mint Bomb

mint ice cream in a chocolate bomb

There isn’t a lot more to be said, other than the fact that the Inn could not have been nicer about having 12 high school seniors descend upon them one night and then 6 high school freshmen descend upon them the following night.  Their hospitality and graciousness created two evenings that will not be soon forgotten!

Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is the one restaurant through the years that we always ensure we visit when we are in Honolulu.  February is the tail end of black truffle season, and we were fortunate enough to ride the coattails of one of our favorite ingredients.  The restaurant is currently offering a four course chicken dinner option, and we immediately opted to try it, as this option is not always on the menu.

The first course was the meli-melo salad, served with Hamakua maitake mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, pan-fried panisse, and a roasted beet pepper vinaigrette.  There is no one who can make vegetables and raw ones, at that (I know, my Asian heritage is coming through) interesting like Chef Mavro.  The salad was delicious (for a salad).  🙂

The second course is one I have dreams about.  It is the Truffled Egg “Osmose” and is an egg served on a bed of potato mousseline with pickled shallots, prosciutto ribbons, and most importantly, black truffles!  The egg itself has been infused with black truffle flavor, and it is one of the most delectable dishes ever!

Next up was a truffled ballotine of thigh meat on frisee salad.  I am a dark meat person, and having dark meat chicken with black truffles is an absolutely fabulous treat.

The main course is a whole chicken, carved tableside by the chef, served with garlic creamed corn and an au jus sauce with black truffles.  It comes with a side of caper-olive oil mashed potatoes.  Yum, yum, yum.

mashed potatoes

And, finally, dessert was roasted pineapple served over a light yuzu crumble and a scoop of bay leaf ice cream.

Oh, and let’s not forget the after-dinner treats of green matcha chocolate squares and passionfruit pate de fruits (I must learn how to make these).

All in all, another amazing meal from a fabulous restaurant!

Chef Mavro is located at 1959 S. King Street, Honolulu, HI (www.chefmavro.com)

Restaurant review: Bazaar Miami

Our food highlight from this past weekend in Miami was dinner at Bazaar, located in the SLS hotel.  We’ve been to the Bazaar in Los Angeles and while the Bazaar in Miami has many of the same dishes, there are also Miami specific dishes.  As with many of Jose Andres’s restaurants, the restaurant serves small dishes, which our favorite way of eating, since you can try a bunch of dishes.
I started out in the best South Beach tradition with a drink, an Old Cuban, consisting of rum, mint, and lime juice.

img_3576
More interesting was the food.  We started with the Jose Taco, consisting of Iberian ham and Ossetra caviar.

img_3577
Next came what was probably my favorite dish, Onion Soup with Foie Gras Cappuccino.  Words cannot describe how completely scrumptious this dish was.  The foie gras was more foam than solid, and the onion soup was flavorful and almost meaty.

img_3581
We then had Conch Fritters served Cafe Atlantico-style with a liquid center.

img_3582
A surprisingly excellent vegetarian dish was the Twenty Vegetable Quinoa “Couscous” served with fresh vegetables in tamarind broth.

img_3584
The next course was Pork Belly Sliders.  There is nothing that contains pork belly that would be considered not delicious.

img_3585
Croquetas de Jamón (Spanish ham bechamel fritters) were next.

img_3586
Pollo al Ajillo Cubano or slow-cooked chicken thigh with black garlic followed.

img_3587
Sauteed Shrimp served with garlic, parsley, spicy tomato sauce, lemon, and guindilla peppers were quite spicy and extremely delicious.

img_3588
The Cubano in honor of Cafe Versailles was delectable, with Iberian ham on the top and a liquid center.

img_3596
The final “entree” were Baby Japanese Peaches served with fresh burrata, hazelnuts, and arugula.

img_3595
Dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake served with creme fraiche and salted caramel ice cream.

img_3599
We also had cookies (a coconut financier, chocolate chip, and chocolate flour de sel).
Service was impeccable and lovely as well.  It’s definitely a highly recommend!

img_3598

Restaurant review: Chinatown Express (Washington, DC)

We were looking for a quick bite to eat before the Adele concert at the Verizon Center.  Daikaya (known for its ramen) was a 40 minute wait.  But then we happened upon this hole-in-the-wall that advertised fresh hand-cut noodles (called 手拉麵 in Chinese).
The noodles can be either put in soup or stir-fried, and you can choose your toppings (vegetarian, chicken, roast pork or roast duck are some of the choices).  I opted for soup with roast pork on top.  Jim went with the little soup dumplings(小龍包) and normal dumplings.  They were good but not memorable.
On the other hand, the noodles were excellent—thick and substantial, the way hand-cut noodles should be.  The broth was simple but filling, and the roast pork was excellent—flavorful and meaty.

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

half-eaten bowl of noodles with roast pork soup

We believe the quality of the dishes here is completely dependent on what you order.  Based on our limited data points, I would lean towards ordering Cantonese specialties such as roast pork as well as the hand-cut noodles (which aren’t a Cantonese specialty but are lovely anyway).
We will definitely be back to try some additional dishes.  If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive meal around the Verizon Center, Chinatown Express should be on your list!

Chinatown Express is located at 746 6th St, NW, Washington, DC 202-638-0424 (www.chinatownexpressdc.com).

Inn at Little Washington birthday dinner

It was our son’s 15th (!) birthday a couple of weeks ago and, in addition to feeling really old, we celebrated with a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (at his request).

As usual, dinner was fabulous from the moment we stepped into the restaurant until we were wheeled out of the restaurant in a food coma.

Appetizers included the mélange of the Inn garden’s heirloom tomatoes with marinated fairy tale eggplant and local sheep milk’s feta

img_3481

to a tin of sin (American osetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes)

img_3482

to a quartet of Rappahanock oyster slurpees (with sorbets of cucumber, cocktail sauce, horseradish, and wasabi)

img_3483

Additional courses consisted of a carpaccio of herb-crusted Elysian Fields baby lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream

img_3485

to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar

img_3487

to a pan-seared Maine diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke purée, capers and tomato relish

img_3490

to grilled pepper-crusted black kingfish with shallot confiture and red wine reduction

img_3488

to crispy maple-glazed pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli

img_3492

to fontina-filled tortelloni on a sweet corn sauté with local shiitake mushrooms and patty pan squash purée

img_3489

to a chanterelle mushroom “meatloaf” with celery root purée and angry red sauce

img_3491

to a chop of organic milk fed pork with grilled peaches and potato purée

img_3493

Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake

img_3494

to the Inn’s signature dessert of seven deadly sins (clearly gluttony is the one practiced most frequently here!)

img_3496

to a peach tart served with almond ice cream

img_3497

It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell