Stream of (mostly) Restaurant Consciousness

I have long maintained the following truths about the brunch scene in Washington, DC:

  • It is largely unimpressive with unimaginative cooking.
  • It is generally overpriced given the aforementioned mediocrity.
  • If I must go out for brunch, I would rather go to the exceptions to the prior two truths (Cashion’s, anywhere Gillian Clarke is cooking) or someplace with inexpensive mimosas because most place’s eggs are just eggs.

So it was that I found myself in a place with inexpensive mimosas and just average eggs on not too recent Sunday afternoon.  I was in the company of a food-loving woman with whom I used to be friends and to whose good graces I wanted to return.  Inevitably, our conversation centered on restaurants and food and I soon learned that she had never been to Restaurant Eve.  With a quick invitation, I returned to good graces…

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Restaurant Eve has for several years been considered, by anyone who knows anything about food, among the top five restaurants in the city and among the top fifty in the country.  Dining there is an exercise in elegant simplicity with a staff that defines superlatives for the region.  I have lauded  them before; the distinction in this mentioning is that I am stating without equivocation that it is the single best bar at which to dine in the area.

Comfortably elegant with reserved décor, Eve’s bar makes it clear that its focus is trained on libation and food.  You can have all of the “bar chef’s” in the world and I’d better serious cash that none of ‘em can make a Manhattan as good as Tammy.  As always, the food was rock-ya-socks good… which was rather important because the date decidedly sucked.…

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The date may have sucked but I did have the asparagus dish which inspired (minor inspiration, but inspiration nonetheless) the most awesomest salad ever

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That was a dish that formed in my head while I was walking through Whole Foods shopping for ingredients to be used later that evening.  It reminded me of a recent challenge on The Next Food Network Star, which got me thinking about my friend/ NFNS contestant, Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s.  I don’t know if it is simply the editing, a mutation induced by the presence of cameras, or an act of desperation to remain before the cameras, but I didn’t recognize the Teddy that I saw on this show.  The Teddy I know is generous, magnanimous, gregarious and a consummate gentleman.  The Teddy on the NFNS is… let’s just say, he’s not that.  This is explained in more (a lot more) detail by a blog post at the Degustation Blog written by one of Teddy’s colleagues at Granville Moore’s…

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Speaking of Granville Moore’s, despite the new crowds that Teddy’s television appearance hath wrought, this place remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  A recent date there found the Moules Fromage Blue (Mussels cooked in a white wine, blue cheese, and bacon broth) to still be the best in driving distance as were the Frites.  The horseradish crème fraîche sauce surely has crack as its secret ingredient, and I will never tire of the rustic charm of the diminutive décor.  My internet date on the other hand…

**************

Why do people insist on including some variation of “as comfortable in a dive bar as a formal occasion” in their online dating profiles?  Besides being a useless cliché, I find it false for most people.

The first sign of trouble for a date that began promisingly enough with drinks in Chinablocks* came when we left to head towards H Street.  As I was trying to hail a cab, I noticed that the bus which would deposit us at GM’s doorstep, and in only seven minutes, was a block away.  My date balked at the notion of riding the bus.

Bowing to her preference, as is a gentleman’s wont, we caught a cab.  As we moved east, her expression began to change as we moved further from her Northwest DC comfort-zone.  Passing Union Station, she inquired “We’re not going to NE are we?”  I should have turned the cab (and the date) in another direction right then.

GM’s is far from a dump but this woman used her cocktail napkin to “wipe-off” her seat before in a move that made me think I was out with a “Female Niles Crane” but without the searing wit.  Sure the décor is sparingly rustic, but it has character that usually takes years to form.  And in my judgmental nature (shocking to no one,) my date’s discomfort with this place showed me that she had no character of her own…

Have a great holiday weekend everybody.  Be well, eat well, drink well, and I’ll see you all on Monday.

*Chinatown in DC is too small to be described as such, therefore, Chinablocks is more appropriate.  Further, I refuse to call it Penn Quarter.

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20 Responses to Stream of (mostly) Restaurant Consciousness

  1. Jo says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Restaurant Eve’s tasting room not once, but twice. The first time for the full on 9 course (which thanks to extras ended up being closer to 12), and the second the 5 course. One of the greatest dining experiences EVER.

    I am over the tasting menu/food as theater thing, but I still love the tasting room at Eve.

  2. I miss my dive bars in Baltimore. If you ever get up there, Dizzy Issie’s in Remington is worth a stop.

    On the list, thanks for the tip.

  3. Gilahi says:

    I may not be remembering this properly, but didn’t you once tell me that there was not a single restaurant in Virginia that made it worth crossing the bridge to go to?

    There are very few places in Virginia that (on there on merits) I would cross a river to go. Eve is on that list. There are a number of places that don’t make the short list, but to which I would be happy to go with the right motivation.

  4. Titania says:

    I have not been to either Restaurant Eve or Granville Moore’s, but after your description they are my short list now — I guess I am not very versed on the good culinary spots of the area, so, if you don’t mind I’ll adopt you as my master

    PS. That woman deserved you left her stranded in the “scary” NE area… geesh, where did you find her?

    Consider me adopted, and flattered.

  5. I have to confess – I was pretty uncomfortable with certain parts of the city when I first got here, having led a very sheltered existence up to that point. But never would I have, especially when my date picked a restaurant, wiped my seat off with a napkin absent obvious contamination.

    I really need to make it out there sometime soon…

    I can understand a lack of comfort associated with a lack of familiarity, it is the lack of tact that bothered me the most.

  6. f.B says:

    “as comfortable in a dive bar as a formal occasion”

    I don’t know what that means, either. So she’s able to interact with people no matter where she meets them? Well, hopefully, since that’s a pretty basic element.

    She was very cordial with the bartender who was wearing a tie in the kinda formal joint where we had drinks; but then was a bit snooty with the casually clad bartendress at Granville Moore’s… so, no, not really able to interact with everyone.

  7. Sara says:

    I once read a hilarious quote in the New York Times informing the reader that the problem with brunch is that it occurs when any self respecting chef is either sleeping or hung-over, which is why you get versions of last night’s leftovers in a chaffing dish. I am not sure it is true but I think of it every time someone mentions a hot new place for the cherished mid morning meal.

    More true than most people would think. One of the best lessons I learned about restaurants was from one of my first bosses. She told me “Brunch is the hardest shift because you have to serve coffee to people who are reading their newspapers and smoking their cigarettes when you’ve had neither.

  8. Elle Dubya says:

    one day i’m going to use this blog as a restaurant resource guide when i eventually make it up to DC.

    the town i grew up in had this mexican restaurant (term “restaurant” used very loosely) that was quitely literally a hole in the wall – in the end of a run down strip mall shopping center that could best be described as an alley way. four tables, maybe. best tacos EVER.

    Ya gotta love places like that. My favorite El Salvadoran, Greek, Mexican, Southern and Thai places are places that would never be described as fancy.

  9. Kristin says:

    She wiped off her seat? At Granville Moore’s? Seriously? I’m sorry, man.

    You should have seen the look that the bartender gave me – she took pity on me.

  10. Christina says:

    I have not been to DC in ages but it is good to know where the foodies go.

    Sorry about the female Niles, unfortunately they do exist in the world and made it to a blog post.

    Happy eating!

    Getting the blog post from an experience is always the silver lining.

  11. kathleen says:

    this is well written, sir. and can i say, it sounds to me like you really know how to pick ‘em.

    thanks, and sometimes, yes I do know how to pick ‘em.

  12. kate.d. says:

    you’ve got a broken Restaurant Eve link, thought you’d like to know…

    Thanks – and fixed.

  13. Jamie says:

    I have call you out on the suggestion to your date of taking the bus. It’s a date. It’s the bus. Date + Bus = Are You Kidding Me? I understand your logic and your principle entirely, but it’s a DATE, not a ride around town with your buds.

    Much like a guy should always offer to pay for dinner on a “date,” a guy should NEVER suggest to his date that they take the bus instead of taking a cab. I don’t think the desire to NOT ride a bus over the course of a date (especially a first or “early” date) in any way makes a girl high maintenance. I think it makes her have some baseline expectations.

    That said, I’m totally with you on the rest of it. And although a more laid-back girl might have been okay with the bus ride and might not have said anything, she would not have forgiven you for making her do it. But oh, she would tell stories about that guy who took her on the X2.

    I understand your point, however, I still stand by my initial point. We were on the street corner looking for a cab for more than a few minutes when I saw the bus. But even if that weren’t the case, I’ve taken the bus between the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton and do not understand why this would be such a big deal.

  14. LiLu says:

    “as comfortable in a dive bar as a formal occasion”

    B.S. Gimme that dive bar ANY day. I’ll wear my fancy dress there and still be more comfortable.

    I’ll take ‘em both – in different doses.

  15. Lisa says:

    I said a lot of things in online profiles, but never, “as comfortable in a dive bar…” or “as happy in jeans as in a little black dress” etc. – not only because they’re annoying phrases, but also because they’d be patently false for me. I’d always rather be somewhere on the dressier side. Doesn’t have to be spendy, but I like getting dressed up to go out, particularly on early dates before I know someone well enough to wear no makeup and lounge arould like a mudpuppy.

    I am never happy in jeans.

  16. girlofwords says:

    Maybe I’m an atypical female (OK, there’s not much ‘maybe’ involved) but I don’t think I would have been bent out of shape about the bus. To me, experiences like that have the potential to make fun stories later.

    I love GM’s, though. It’s been too long since I went. And since I’m a jeans and semi-ironic t-shirt girl unless it’s a really special occasion, give me that kind of scene any day.

    I love GM’s and it never bothers me that I am usually the only guy wearing a suit there.

  17. formal dinner + dive bar/after party = perfect night
    …and as you alllll know im not breaking down ANY stereotypes/cliches… so yeah ..im pretty sure i can hold my own in both
    xoxo

    formal dinner + dive bar/after party = perfect night… Who says blonds aren’t good at math.

  18. Shannon says:

    I would have probably balked a bit at the bus, but I definitely wouldn’t have said anything about it. It’s rude! Generally I think first and early dates shouldn’t involve going all around town, anyway. Who wants to spend half the time in transit? (Though now I’m picturing Jamie squiring dates about on the back of a bicycle.)

    The original plan was for drinks, when she started talking about her time in Europe GM’s was discussed. She said she wanted to go sometime and I was hungry, besides the two places are less than a mile apart.

  19. Kevin says:

    I count my dinner at Eve last year as one of the top five meals I’ve ever had. In order: my brother’s bachelor dinner at Smith and Wolinski’s in Chicago; my uncle’s birthday dinner at City Zen (tasting); Eve; the cheap-ass Mexican place where my buddy and I ate everything on the menu the night we came home from Desert Storm; and five is an open spot awaiting the perfect sublime cheeseburger, ruben, cheesesteak or chili dog. As for brunch, a long table filled with eggs and meat is one of my ideas of paradise.

    I think I took an ex on the bus on an early date a while back, but we were headed to the Metro and Verizon for a Wizards game. Don’t know if the hesitation would have annoyed me or not, but the wiping of the seat would have raised a questioning eyebrow.

    For added irony, she works for a green environmental lobby.

  20. After she finished wiping her seat, I would have paid you to loose all social graces and spit on the seat. I know- horrid- but people like that drive me INSANE!

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