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Archive for September, 2011

Bistrot du Coin

Near the corner of Connecticut and Florida avenues is a French restaurant called Bistrot du Coin. “Du coin” translated means “corner.” Since I live nearby, My mom and I had passed this restaurant numerous times. Being the French food fanatics we are, we could not pass up a chance to try it. We visited Bistrot du Coin for lunch on my 23rd birthday.

In France, there are several different types of restaurants – the café, the bistro, the restaurant and the brasserie – to name a few. A French bistro typically serves fresh, simple dishes, evoking a sense of home-cooking.

The interior of Bistrot du Coin is spacious with high ceilings and includes an upper level. French flags and paraphernalia decorate the walls. The dark wooden tables have red and white checked tablecloths and are set with blue and red napkins.

Bistrot du Coin’s large menu definitely has a home-cooking feel to it. A few items on the menu caught my eye – poulet roti au four with pommes frites, confit de canard, boeuf Bourguignon, and filet du beouf with sauce Bearnaise (Translated – oven roasted chicken with French fries, crispy duck leg slow-cooked in its own fat, beef Burgundy, and beef tenderloin topped with the most delicious, creamy and rich sauce on Earth).

There was one part of the menu that captivated us both – moules, or mussels. Moules frites is a French specialty, consisting of steamed mussels in a variety of sauces accompanied by pommes frites on the side.

I ordered moules Catalanes, mussels in white wine with onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes and chorizo. My mom ordered one of the most popular and classic preparations, moules mariniere, a white wine sauce with onions, shallots, garlic and parsley.

The spiced chorizo, the tomatoes and the mussels in my dish were so flavorful. I’d never had them prepared like this before. I found myself spooning the sauce onto French bread, and even dipping my pommes frites in it. My mom’s dish, Moules Mariniere, was not too rich, the onion and garlic were not at all overwhelming.

To accompany our mussels, we each ordered a glass of French wine, making this a perfect birthday lunch. I highly recommend Bistrot du Coin – the atmosphere is charming and inviting, the food is straightforward and the flavors are incredibly satisfying.

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Eastern Market

Eastern Market is D.C.’s oldest continuously operating public market. I remember visiting Eastern Market for lunch with my mom and uncle when I was younger. I can’t remember much about the experience, except we ate at The Market Lunch inside the main building, South Hall Market. Since I moved to D.C., I had been wanting to revisit it.

Completed in 1873, Eastern Market has always been an important landmark in Capitol Hill. The market operated through the 20th century, as additions were being made. Unfortunately, a fire in 2007 devastated South Hall Market, but it has since been rebuilt and re-opened. South Hall houses indoor merchants selling everything from meat and poultry to freshly baked bread. The Market Lunch is also found in this building, and serves breakfast and lunch from Tuesday to Sunday until 3 p.m.

By the time I arrived at South Hall, it was 3:15 p.m. The Market Lunch had just shut down for the day. This would happen to me. I caught a glimpse of the menu – crab cake sandwich, pulled pork – I slapped myself in the face for missing this!

Instead, I chose a meat vender who also sold sandwiches. Ravenous, I would have eaten anything. I ordered a rotisserie chicken sandwich on wheat bread with provolone cheese and lettuce. Big mistake. Although the chicken was flavorful and moist, the thin, lifeless bread became instantly soggy. I tossed out the bread and just ate the chicken. I don’t remember what this place was called, but beware of the soggy chicken sandwich at Eastern Market!

To experience Eastern Market at its best, I need to return on the weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays, there are more food vendors and an outdoor farmers market selling local produce. The Market Lunch can’t be missed either. Next time I’ll be sure to get there before 3 p.m.!

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For Labor Day weekend, Paul and I drove south from D.C. to Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, Virginia. We took Route 29, a mostly two-lane highway with twists and turns like a roller coaster.

About two and a half hours south of D.C., we approached Charlottesville, Va. Suddenly Paul awoke from the nap he was taking, and in a panic, said he had forgotten to bring my parents a gift. I said we’d look for a place to stop. A little past Charlottesville, we noticed signs for numerous vineyards along the highway.

I had an idea – why not buy a bottle of wine for my parents from one of these vineyards? We chose randomly – Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard. Only a few minutes from Route 29 on Plank Road, it couldn’t have been more conveniently located.

At the end of a winding gravel road and at the top of a rolling hill was the vineyard. The view was breathtaking, literally breathtaking. In front of us we could see farmland stretching for miles, bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The clouds hung low in the sky, partially blocking the sunlight.

A large house accompanied the vineyard at the top of the hill. Big, wooden chairs and tables lined the spacious front porch, placed in perfect view of the mountains. Taking advantage of this picturesque setting, we sat down for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

From what I gathered, Pippin Hill is used for a number of purposes – from wine tastings (like today) to weddings. In addition to the porch, there are several large rooms inside.

We ordered a glass of the Cabernet Franc and a glass of the Winemaker’s Select Red Blend. Both were flavorful, full-bodied wines. We decided on the Cabernet Franc for my parents.

On the menu, there were mostly appetizer-esque offerings, such as Bruschetta and a platter with sliders and gourmet French fries. We decided on a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate. The toasted French baguette piled high with Brie and prosciutto paired well with our red wine. Not too shabby for lunch off the highway.

I could have spent the entire afternoon here. Everything from the view to the food and wine was incredible.  For a day or weekend escape from the city, Pippin Hill is a great destination. There’s even a little bed and breakfast nearby, if you have a little too much wine!

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Kushi Izakaya

A few weeks ago, Living Social had a sweet deal – $30 for $60 worth of food and drink at Kushi Izakaya, a popular Japanese restaurant in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. My boyfriend Paul and I decided to go last-minute on Friday, so I thought I’d make a reservation just in case. We couldn’t get in until 10 p.m.!

We arrived about an hour early, and enjoyed a few pre-dinner drinks at the bar. Kushi is a hip spot, with loud music, high ceilings and an industrial, warehouse design. Although the entire restaurant is one large room, it is divided into different areas, such as the sushi bar or the grill.

When the time came for our reservation, Paul and I were excited to be seated at the sushi bar. As we looked over the menu, we watched one of the chefs skillfully slice an enormous piece of tuna for nigiri, maki and sashimi.

I would describe Kushi’s menu as a combination of sushi, raw bar and small plates. To start, we ordered the Eringi mushrooms (a type of oyster mushroom) from the wood grill. With a smooth, creamy texture, these mushrooms had a rich and meaty flavor.

We also ordered Yakisoba noodles with pork, a duck breast skewer, fatty tuna sashimi (pictured right) and sea urchin sashimi. All were wonderful, especially the sea urchin, which we’d never tried before. Although bright orange in appearance and slime-like in texture, the sea urchin’s flavor was a pleasant surprise – tangy and sweet. For $10, though, you only get a few bites of it.

Next, we ordered tuna tataki from the raw bar, with grated daikon (a Japanese radish), garlic chips and dashi soy. Tataki, a Japanese style of preparation, involves quickly searing meat or fish over a hot flame. We finished our meal with braised pork belly, kaiware sprouts and scallion maki. For the price ($8), I thought the portion was too small (there were only four pieces).

For a big city “sushi scene,” Kushi is your place. I do think it is a bit overpriced, but I loved its high energy atmosphere and delicious, unique Japanese fare as well. The Living Social coupon was great, saving us 50% on our entire meal. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more great deals in the future.

(Kushi logo borrowed from whatmickyeats.blogspot.com/2011/08/kushi-izakaya-sushi.html)

Kushi Izakaya & Sushi on Urbanspoon

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