Had a wonderful trip to DC for a tasting of Robert Kacher's spring portfolio of wines. The tasting was on wednesday, so it was a perfect excuse to spend a few extra days in DC and see what kind of trouble I could get into. First stop....the USDA. Unfortunately, there was nobody there who had a spare few hours for me to speak my mind....bummer. Guess I'll have to keep writing letters!!!
One of my favorite stops during the trip was a casual dinner at Barton Seaver's new restaurant, Tackle Box. Barton and I attended The Culinary Institute of America at the same time, so it was great to reconnect with a friend from school. He has the most amazing wood-fired grill and I had two really great appetizers. One was grilled local oysters and another of grilled calamari. Just amazing!!! If you're in DC or close to DC....go to this restaurant. I know he gets alot of press because of his support of sustainable seafood, but that aside....this is a super cool, laid back, fish shack. When I'm in DC, this is one place you'll find me. Now on to the second place....
I've got a weak spot for amazing pastry(is there anyone who doesn't?) I found my pastry 'crack dealer' on Wisconsin Avenue at Patisserie Poupon. Here's the thing. I also LOVE macaroons and they have killer ones(try the pistachio and butter cream). On top of all of this goodness, they have the most amazing coffee. If you're ever playing 'Where in the World is Andy Little?' and I'm somewhere in DC, odds are if it's the morning I'm at Patisserie Poupon. So damn good.
One afternoon, I was exploring around the city and ran across Cowgirl Creamery's store. If Poupon is my crack dealer, then I'm a kid in a candy store at Cowgirl. They have some great cheeses(one stand out was from Chapel's Country Creamery in Maryland), but also stock a great deal of local products and I love shopping through them and looking for neat stuff for the restaurant.
Was lucky enough to dine at Michel Richard's Citronelle on wednesday night....sampled certified Kobe beef.(more on that later) It was really amazing to see how plates can look when there are 20 cooks in the kitchen!!! Next stop on the fine dining tour is Restaurant Eve.
Finally when we got home, I was so inspired by both the wood fired foods at Tackle Box and the Kobe beef at Citronelle, that I thought I would get started on trying to figure out how to bring those ideas and flavors to the restaurant. Our first stop was building the fire. I got an old cast iron pan and gathered some dry wood from the park behind the restaurant. Next was to acquire some fine beef. Have I mentioned that the Sheppard family raises Scottish Highland cattle? I got a nice strip loin and cut portions for the 'grill'. I have to take a slight detour here to discuss Kobe beef. I prefer beef that tastes, well beefy. I don't get that from Kobe. I certainly get a nice mouth feel and the requisite amount of fat, but for me I prefer my beef to have more of a punch to it. For that I go with the Highland beef. Should we call it Pennsylvania Kobe? I just call it good. Please, please, please make sure that when you are spending a lot of money on ingredients that you choose with YOUR PALATE not with what the sexy ingredient of the moment is. There's a reason classics are classics and basics are basics. Back to our story....I took a grate out of our smoker and voila....wood fired grill.(we also took some time to roast marshmallows....) The taste was amazing( a little smoky, a little charred) and simply paired with some asparagus, roasted fingerling potato and some horseradish cream, it made for a nice little VIP course.