Thursday, November 24, 2011

Occidental - Downtown

Occidental is a power lunch spot located in the Willard Hotel just blocks away from the White House. Its wood paneled interior, waiters bedecked in waist aprons, and various tasteful brass knick knacks and photos of bygone silver age celebrities usually denote an old school American restaurant that aims primarily to provide a suitably formal ambiance for cutting a deal while leaving the food an afterthought. Fortunately, the food, while unimaginative, was generally well prepared. My nicoise salad had some spicy greens mixed in and the filet of yellowfin tuna on top was prepared properly (that is, rare). The fried calamari was crispy, salty, and generally tasty, though the accompanying aioli tasted like the dregs from a bag of Lay's BBQ potato chip. One of the individuals I was dining with allowed me to taste some of her lima beans, which were rich, buttery, and flavorful. The desserts that were ordered were generally quite tasty as well, including a fruit tart and a chocolate pyramid.

If you work in the area, it is a place worth trying. And the people watching alone can make the meal.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weygandt Wine Food Blogger Tasting

On Thursday I went to Weygandt Wine for a BYOW wine tasting held for local DC food bloggers. Luckily for me, the flavor and aromatic profiles of the wines people brought leaned towards the old world; more about elegance and earthiness than fruit and power.

I brought a 2010 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine L'Arpent Rouge. This wine is made out of a obscure grape vareity called pineau d'aunis, and it produces a distinctive herbal and musky aroma. Perhaps a little too funky when you first open this wine, but this funk blows off with time. On the palate, the wine initially felt a little hollow on the edges, but fleshed out considerably with air while retaining its silky, lightweight elegance. With respect to taste, it has some intriguing spicy notes (think cloves, cinnamon) while also conveying tertiary notes like forest floor and decaying leaves one usually finds in wines with far more age than this one. All in all, this was a life-affirming wine that is quite reasonably priced.

Others wines I liked that night were: the 2008 Occhipinti Nero d'Avola Siccagno Sicilia IGT which was a strange blend of power and elegance; the 2006 Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard (North Coast, Anderson Valley) which was surprisingly restrained and earthy for a Cali pinot; the 2009 Baudry Chinon Croix Boisee (far too young, tannic, and closed, but filled with potential); the 2008 Puffeney Arbois Poulsard M (classic Jura red); and the 2010 Vissoux Beaujolais-Village Cuvee Traditionelle (I think I like 2010 in Beaujolais more than the hyped 2009 vintage).

I am also glad I tried the 2006 Jaboulet Hermitage Blanc...a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, it basically confirms to me that I am just not a Rhone White type of guy. Far too round and waxy on the palate and not nearly enough acidity for my tastes. But, it is well made wine.

The 2010 Pascal Janvier Jasnieres was nice, transmitting the quintessential "wooliness" that one finds in varietally correct Chenin Blanc wines, but still bracingly dry and fruity at the same time. However, if it wasn't for the deliriously delicious Anjou Chenin Blanc (from the Coteaux de Layon) I had last week made by Rene Mosse, I would have enjoyed the Janvier much more.

The champagne I found a bit simple and the Ganevat was a little too apply chardy rather than lemony chardy that I prefer in my chardonnay. But both were good wines.

The Octavin was Jura for kids, as someone said, and way too fruity and polished for my tastes.

The Cote du Rhones had an intriguingly barnyard aroma, but was too heavy on the palate. Not a bad wine, but not my cup of tea.

I regret not getting around to the Bandol. Mouvedre is something I should try more of.

There are additional notes from someone else who attended the event which you find in the link below:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

A friend of mine invited me to his house with a group of fellow oenophiles in order to try various Loire Cabernet Franc wines that have been aged for about 15 years on average. By and large, they all showed incredibly well and all seemed to have plenty of life to age another decade comfortably. It just shows that one should not just age Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Dinner was absolutely delicious: the seared duck breast and the duck confit with cassoulet paired beautifully with the elegant earthiness of these wines. I recommend you try it for yourself one day.

Detailed tasting notes (and some pictures) can be found in the link below.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hill Country - Penn Quarter

Hill Country serves a wide array of "authentic" Texas barbecue, ranging from sausages, to beef ribs, and, of course, brisket.

Table service is of the DIY variety (a la Nando's), where you go to a counter, order meat by weight, and then get your sides cafeteria style at another counter. Waiters buzz around the long picnic tables in the main dining room, re-filling your water and bringing your beers.

The barbecued meats appear to only have a dry rub on them, with barbecue and hot sauce available at the table. Generally speaking, I find the Kreuz sausages to be fairly good and flavorful. Where Hill Country shines (albeit dimly) is with their barbecued brisket, which is tender and smoky, but a little dry. The sauce helps here. However, their beef ribs are basically a mass of gristle and fat which requires a herculean effort to chew through.

The sides are decent. Corn bread was good and moist. I also ordered the corn pudding, which is pretty tasty (though a little redundant if you have corn bread). The mac and cheese is a little bland, however.

In sum, I would probably not go out of my way to eat here again, but, if you are really craving for smoked meats, this place is a viable option.

Mai Thai - Dupont Circle

Mai Thai is a competent Thai restaurant located near Dupont Circle. The beef salad dish with accompanying sauce had decent tang and the beef was well grilled properly. However, the drunken noodles were rather undistinguished, the basil duck slightly rubbery, the shrimp and minced chicken dish mildly over-salted, and the stir-fried watercress a little too chewy.

All in all, your typical Thai restaurant in DC.