Friday, May 28, 2010

Four Sisters

There are few moments when I lament my decision to go “green” in Washington DC and forgo having my car here. For all of WMATA’s issues their service is fairly reliable and can get me just about anywhere I want to go in DC. My meal the other night at Four Sisters in Falls Church made me wish I was able to come out to this hidden restaurant on a regular basis – and that would clearly require wheels considering it would take over an hour to get there on the metro-rail and 2 buses.

Four Sisters was opened in 1993 by a family who had just moved to the area from Vietnam. Their dream was to open a restaurant that cuisine of their homeland and to introduce others to the complex flavors of the region. For over 10 years this small restaurant has developed a loyal following due to their wonderful food and being featured on “best-of” lists on a regular basis.

As someone who has had very little exposure to Vietnamese food (just a bit of pho here and there) I was excited to delve into more complicated dishes, especially after reading the multiple reviews that have appeared in the Washington Post and the Washingtonian.

For about $20 (with tax and tip) a person my dining companion and I were able to sample 2 appetizers and 2 main dishes and still have leftovers to take home. The menu is long and somewhat overwhelming. If you don’t quite know what direction you want to head in I would suggest you ask your server. They are knowledgeable and will happily steer you towards the best dishes the kitchen has to offer.

The standout of the meal was absolutely the grilled black pepper beef. The beef was very tender and perfectly marinated giving it a lovely citrus flavor. This was the most expensive dish we ordered (at $15) and we could have easily split it without ordering another entree.

Yet, being the adventurous eaters that we are we also tried the shrimp toast, asparagus and crab soup and the well-known steamed rice crepes. The shrimp toast was out of this world. You could tell that the kitchen was using the finest ingredients to create the shrimp paste that is put on top of a beautiful piece of French bread. My dining companion thought the soup was lackluster and compared it to egg drop soup that you order at a Chinese restaurant. After trying it we did remind ourselves that it was the only dish we picked out on our own.

If you have a car (or a friend with a car) this is a restaurant that is absolutely worth the trip. Make an evening outing out of it and linger at your table under the umbrella while enjoying the delightful cuisine. I can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed.

image: bootsintheoven

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grand Opening

It's a big day in Friendship Heights! Today at 10am the new Whole Foods will open it's doors, welcoming in food lovers and deal hunters alike. This 45,000 square foot store (the biggest in the DC metro area) features everything from a sea salt bar to homemade pasta that is made in-house. You will also find all of the products that you have come to know and love that can be found in every Whole Foods across the country.

I'm sure you are probably sitting here wondering how one can eat well on a budget at a place like Whole Foods, especially since their prepared foods can cost a pretty penny. Well, you are certainly in for a surprise at this location! In Friendship Heights you are able to pay a flat fee ($7.99) for all the food you can fit into a bio-degradable carryout container. The container has space for one main dish and two sides, and can hold up to 2 pounds of food. For me that is at least 2 lunches, if not more - which means it works out to be less than $4.50 a serving. In addition to the prepared food bars, this location will also be offering a grill station, a shwarma station, sushi and other healthy meals. The prices on these items will vary, but you can rest easy knowing that they are made with the freshest ingredients and are prepared with love by the dedicated staff.

This store is just full of new ideas, including one that the locals will be excited about. The front of this Whole Foods will be opening daily at 6am to serve coffee, tea and fresh oatmeal. The oatmeal will be made each morning and you will have your pick of toppings. Do you want to know what the best part is? It will only set you back $2! Although I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, I can safely assume that this will trump the microwavable oatmeal that you can get at that ubiquitous coffee shop. This area will also serve gelato and homemade fruit Popsicles.

If you stop by the store before the end of the month you will be treated to cooking demos, food samples and sales galore. For a complete schedule follow the store on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, May 10, 2010

A DC Institution

The very first restaurant that I ate at in DC is an experience I won't ever forget. My father and I left American University on that cold winter day, got in a cab and headed directly down Wisconsin Ave NW to Clyde's, a true DC institution.

Clyde's was founded in the early 60's, during the Kennedy administration. It was a perfect storm of the "youthful spirit" and the repeal of loca
l liquor laws that prompted Stuart Davidson to open Clyde's of Georgetown.

The restaurant has the feel of an old fashioned club, from the stained glass that greets you when you enter to the wood that accents every booth, table and corner. You half expect to (and you might) run into a junior Senator or an administration official. This is absolutely one of those places in the District where you can just imagine infamous back room deals being made over oysters and a glass of scotch.

Food here can only be described as classic American cuisine done well. There isn't anything out of the ordinary or crazy on the menu, but it is easy for everyone in a party to find something to eat that will tickle their taste buds. You can find anything from fresh lobster (currently less than $20 for one!) to a traditional turkey sandwich on sourdough. Clyde's strives to use fresh and seasonal ingredients, meaning the menus at each of their locations are constantly changing. Right now you can order a Maryland soft shell crab sandwich, but don't count on that being on the menu a few months from now when they are no longer being caught in the Chesapeake.

Clyde's is also a great place to order a few appetizers to share with a group of friends. You can't beat their crab dip, and I have been told that their buffalo chicken wings are to die for. It's the perfect location to head to before catching a game at the Verizon Center or when you need a break during your shopping spree in Georgetown.


Friday, May 7, 2010

It's Easy Being Green

Yes, I admit, I am addicted FourSquare. Before you make fun of my dorkiness or warn me that people are going to stalk me and break into my apartment, I would recommend that you learn more about this new social media tool. There are plenty of benefits to checking in at each store, restaurant and other random venue you frequent. As of yesterday I am the newly crowned "mayor" of Sweetgreen in Bethesda entitling me to a free Sweetflow (i.e. yogurt) each time I go to the store. Not too shabby. Even if I didn't get a freebie, I would still spend plenty of time at one of the 4 locations (5 if you count their roving food truck).

Sweetgreen was started by 3 Georgetown graduates who were tired of asking themselves where they should go eat. According to their website it was then that they decided to open a place where they would happily dine on a daily basis. Without a doubt, they succeeded. Everything about each Sweetgreen location draws you in and entices you to linger. The wood paneling and green accents can accurately be described as simple, modern and chic. The lights are bright making it the perfect place to sit and do a bit of work while enjoying a healthy treat.

The ingredients for the salads are a colorful display that looks just as pretty as it does appetizing. There are multiple types of greens, vegetable, dried fruits, cheeses and other toppings. Most of the items are locally grown and/or organic. This makes for a more expensive salad than most people are used to, but the freshness makes it worth every extra penny. You have the option to choose a salad from their menu (there are both traditional - i.e. caeser and more creative "chef-crafted" salads). If none of the options sound appealing you can create your own. Each store also features a salad of the day that contains items bought from local farmers markets.

If you are looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, look no further than their frozen yogurt with active cultures which is called Sweetflow. It was inspired by the West coast favorite, Pinkberry, but it has it's own East coast twist. You can top the yogurt with everything from agave nectar to ladyfingers. Sounds perfect to me, especially since I know it's not only healthy and sustainable, but also really really good.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Love You I Do

It wasn't a pastry chef or a well known bakery that can be credited with bringing the cupcake trend to Washington DC. In 2002 a lawyer left his firm and opened a small cake shop in the up and coming neighborhood of U Street. Head baker, Warren Brown started selling simple cakes and cupcakes made with butter, sugar and other ingredients that could be referred to as "the good stuff" at Cake Love.

In the past 8 years the business has grown and there are now 6 locations around town. Yet, there is just one Love Cafe. Love Cafe is considered to be the little sister of Cake Love, but I would consider it to be more along the lines of the better half of a relationship. It is located across the street from the original bakery, and maintains a very laid-back vibe. It is the type of place you would go on a Sunday morning with the newspaper and some friends to hang out for a few hours. Every day they offer a rotating assortment of baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and good old fashioned breakfast items such as an egg sandwich. On the weekend they offer a limited number of frittatas, giving you a reason to get out of bed before your alarm goes off.

Even though the name of Brown's empire recalls cake, I don't recommend that you make a beeline for the cupcakes in the case. The cake tends to be a bit dry, and they are served chilled (which kind of turns me off). There are far better ways to inhale your calories and spend your money. Instead I recommend spending less than $10 0n a savory dish and an cappuccino made with Italian espresso and walking away full. Love Cafe isn't the most innovative or exciting, but it feels like a neighborhood hangout, which is sometimes all you need.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seventh Heaven

Even if 7 isn't your lucky number, there are still plenty of reasons for you to head over to
PS 7's in Chinatown. Upfront I am going to let you know that I haven't eaten a full meal here in years. I have found that there are far better upscale restaurants in the general vicinity. Yet, this is still a place that deserves your attention. I can say without question that PS 7's has one of the best happy hours in the city.

Peter Smith's kitchen (formally of Vidalia) has created a lounge menu that is worthy of praise. The Chicago hotdogs aren't quite traditional (they aren't Veinna beef and they aren't served on a poppy seed bun) but they are house-made, giving them an air of sophistication. The burger is well made and is served on a warm brioche bun that has just the right amount of crunch. During the 4-7pm happy hour it would behoove you to try one of the 1/2 priced flatbreads. The ingredients are proclaimed to be untraditional, but they are always well rounded with just the right amount of unexpected. My personal favorite is the Nutty Goat which combines a few of my favorite ingredients including goat cheese, arugula ad shallots and it finished with a flavorful walnut butter that just knocks you off your feet.

DC young professionals not only flock to PS 7's for the food, but they stand 4 deep at the bar just to get one of Gina Chersevani's drinks. Through the years Chersevani has worked at some of the best known restaurants in the area including Rasika and Arlington's EatBar. She is known for using seasonal ingredients to create unusual (but wonderful) drinks. Currently there is a drink called the bitterSweet which contains fresh grapefruit, cinnamon and rosebud tea. At the Taste of the Nation (an annual event to benefit Share our Strength, an incredible organization) Gina was behind the bar making fizzy lifting drinks a-la Willy Wonka. It combined vodka, fresh clementine juice, pomegranate tea and soda water with some sodium bicarbonate for extra fizz. This is the type of creativity that is brought to every drink that comes from the behind the bar. If you head over to the lounge at PS 7's you are in for some upscale but creative cuisine and clever libations. And really, how can anyone complain about that?