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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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

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

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

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

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to a crispy napoleon of chilled main lobster with osetra caviar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dessert included a miniature chocolate birthday cake

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

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to a peach tart served with almond ice cream

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It was an incredible meal and a perfect birthday celebration!

with Chef Patrick O'Connell

with Chef Patrick O’Connell

Restaurant review: Chef Mavro (Honolulu)

Chef Mavro is one of our favorite restaurants in Honolulu. While some of our other favorites have gifted chefs who serve excellent food, Chef Mavro has both those requirements, and the dishes are always beautifully presented. We try and go twice on every trip and alternate between the 6 course menu and the 4 course menu.
This is the four course menu, where the serving portions are a bit larger than the 6 course menu, and it is every bit as delicious.

We started with the amuse-bouche: white bean mousse with duck confit rillettes. We could have cheerfully made a meal out of the rillettes.

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amuse-bouche

All of us opted out of the squid course and substituted it with black truffle risotto. Black truffles. Risotto. In the hand of a master. Need I say more?

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black truffle risotto

The next course was onaga in fisherman’s bouillabaisse marseilles-style, with rouille & croutons. The “crouton,” served with a spicy garlic aioli, was completely scrumptions.

onaga bouillabaisse style

onaga bouillabaisse style

The meat course was herb crusted niman rack of lamb, served with tomato, zucchini, eggplant & bell pepper à la monégasque.

lamb

lamb

It was accompanied by a side dish of extra virgin olive oil caper mashed potato. I don’t particularly like mashed potato (it’s a texture thing), but this was scrumptious.

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

The palate cleanser was a watermelon-champagne gelée.

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And, finally, the dessert course. A peach flambé, with peach, lemon chiboust brulée & sablé, and a blueberry compote accompanied by crème fraiche with a pernod accent and fennel pollen. It was a perfect finish to a lovely dinner!

peach flambe

peach flambe

Restaurant review: The Source (Washington, DC)

The Source is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant next to the Newseum. Scott Drewno is the executive chef and in addition to being an extremely talented chef, he is also a really wonderful guy (possessing both characteristics is not as common as you might think).
The restaurant recently revamped its menu, so we went and checked it out a few weeks ago, and it is even better than we remembered.

Disclaimer: we cannot comment on the entrees or the desserts because Jim and I did what we often do, which is to order an assortment of appetizers instead. But we have high praise for what we did order.

We had the following assortment of appetizers and side dishes:

Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Cones, Shaved Bonito, Pickled Ginger, Tobiko (this is the appetizer that appears at all Wolfgang Puck restaurants and is considered one of his signature dishes)

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

tuna tartare in sesame miso cones

Scallion-Onion “Bread” (this is a riff on the traditional Chinese scallion pancakes—much as I have fond memories of the authentic dish from childhood, this version is even better)

scallion "bread"

scallion “bread”

Table Side Wonton Soup, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings, Tea Poached Egg, 20 Hour Broth (a must have if you love rich, flavorful broth!)  And you’ll have to take my word on the fact that it was a lovely dish as well.

deconstructed wonton soup  :)

deconstructed wonton soup 🙂

Crispy Suckling Pig, Rhubarb Puree, Pickled Cipollini, Sweet Bean Sauce (crispy pig—need I saw anything more?)

suckling pig

suckling pig

Lobster & Shrimp Dumplings, XO Sauce, Sichuan Bacon, Spring Peas, Asparagus (the weakest of the dishes we had, but it was quite lovely)

lobster & shrimp dumplings

lobster & shrimp dumplings

Selection of Dim Sum: Scallop Siu Mai, Pork Potsticker, Lobster Springroll, Chicken Dumpling (we love the restaurant’s dim sum and rarely pass by an opportunity to order this)

selection of dim sum

selection of dim sum

Chinese Roast Pork Fried Rice, Sichuan Sausage, Asparagus, Sunny Side Up Egg (by this time, we were so stuffed that we only had a few mouthfuls. That is not to say this wasn’t delicious, only that we were quite full).

pork fried rice

pork fried rice

If you haven’t had an opportunity to revisit The Source since its menu has been revamped, we highly recommend doing so! The Source is located at 575 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC, next to the Newseum. (www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3941)

Dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (April 2016)

When our family arrived at the Inn at Little Washington a couple of weeks ago, we were asked if we were celebrating a special occasion (which does happen). This time, however, our response was: “Dinner!”

And dinner that evening was definitely worth celebrating. We started off with the well-known (and delectable) popcorn with black truffles and a series of amuse-bouches. And then the restaurant got down to business. The amuse-bouches that arrived after the first course of amuse-bouches were:

Tempura Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce

tempura asparagus with hollandaise sauce

tempura asparagus with hollandaise sauce

and White Bean Soup with a Chive Gougère.

white bean soup with a gougere

white bean soup with a gougere

All of us had the Mousse of Foie Gras in a Golden Egg Shell with Sauternes Gelée and Blood Orange Rhubarb-Preserve (yum!);

foie gras mousse

foie gras mousse

one of us also had the Carpaccio of Herb-Crusted Elysian Fields Baby Lamb Loin with Caesar Salad Ice Cream (a perennial favorite);

lamb carpaccio

lamb carpaccio

We also all had the Toro with Radishes and Coconut Tapioca Beads and Wasabi Sorbet (the toro was melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness);

toro with wasabi sorbet

toro with wasabi sorbet

Some of us had the Pan Seared Sea Bass with Roasted Romaine and Sauce Choron (the fish was perfectly cooked);

sea bass

sea bass

Jim and I picked the Inn’s Morel “Meatloaf” with Potato Purée and Jalapeño Ketchup (the fact that I did not regret one moment picking this vegetarian dish over the lamb demonstrates just how good this dish was);

morel "meatloaf"

morel “meatloaf”

The son had the Veal Shenandoah: Prosciutto Wrapped Loin of Veal with Country Ham and Fontina Cheese Ravioli;

veal

veal

and the daughter had the Parsley-Crusted Loin of Jamison Farm’s Lamb with Green Lentils.

lamb

lamb

A quick break to ease the transition into dessert with an Orange-Vanilla Creamsicle with shortbread crumbs;

orange-vanilla creamsicle

orange-vanilla creamsicle

And we finished our lovely meal with the Inn’s Southern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich with Bittersweet Chocolate and Hot Caramel Sauce

butter pecan ice cream sandwich

butter pecan ice cream sandwich

and A Painter’s Palette of Sorbets;

painter's palette of sorbets

painter’s palette of sorbets

and the Inn’s Spring Fling: Limoncello Pudding, Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet

spring fling

spring fling

It was indeed a meal that definitely celebrated dinner!