Friday, July 30, 2010

Oysters and Mussels and Beer, Oh My!

Ok, so if you haven't been to Brasserie Beck yet...what is wrong with you? Get there!

We've been to this McPherson Square upstart many times now, but each time I find something that I like even more than the time I was there before. Did you know that if you go to Brasserie Beck after 10:30 pm their oysters are half price? I just found out about this amazing late night steal!

For those who have yet to enjoy the wonderfulness that is Brasserie Beck, imagine this:
  • Over 120 bottled beers from around the world. And 9 beers on tap (including Kasteel Rouge!!) While away the evening trying trappist brews or Scottish lagers. It's pretty darn amazing.
  • A very notable wine list. Great selections.
  • The mussels, my friend....the mussels! Hands down fantastic! And served with crisp fries and three dipping sauces.
  • Don't forget the oysters. Sit at the bar so you can watch them be shucked and keep them coming.
  • Seeking dessert - go with the pear tarte tatin or the belgian waffle du jour. Yum!
So, what are you waiting for?

Cupcake Fever!

The food trend that's been sweeping the nation - though it's been in DC culture for a while now - is our passion for cupcakes. Who can resist these delicious morsels? But, the real question is who makes the best cupcakes in DC?

First...what elements make up the best cupcake? The icing of course...absolutely a moist and fluffy cake....and finally there is the presentation, the size and packaging of the cupcakes.

There are several top cupcakeries in the Washington, DC area.  Places of note include:

Georgetown Cupcake (in Georgetown and Bethesda) which has attracted a lot of attention due to it's new cable television show and mass produces thousands of (rather small)cupcakes each week.

Hello Cupcake (in Dupont Circle) has flavors with cutesy names such as You Tart! (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting) and Prima Donna (chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream).

Red Velvet Cupcakery (in Penn Quarter) is a very nice addition to this bustling neighborhood and stays open serving cupcakes until 11 pm.

Just Cakes (in Bethesda) is a bakery offering a wide variety of deliciousness. The cupcakes served here are made with the same ingredients as their famous cakes - with the most indulgently delicious buttercream icings known to man (and woman).

After sampling a wide variety of cupcakes around town, I have to say that the best, and my favorite cupcakes come from......Baked & Wired in Georgetown. While this bakery doesn't focus solely on cupcakes, the cupcakes they produce are larger and more moist.  Whether you're trying any of my Baked & Wired favorites - red velvet, strawberry or their "chocolate cupcake of doom", the icing is always consistently delicious. And, I just love the pretty folded wax paper presentation (rather than serving them in traditional  cupcake paper). Each cupcake is $3.50...but they are out of this world delicious and totally worth it.

My final question to pose is this...with all this cupcake fever going on in and around DC...where are the cupcake places in Arlington, Va? Seems like an interesting omission for this industry.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Would Give it a Try, Againn....

There seem to be a slew of new restaurants in DC lately. All the better for us foodies who love to experiment! So when making our latest lists of retaurants to hit, I came across Againn (, a contemporary "gastropub" serving British food with a twist. The name of the restaurant is pronounced "ah-GWEN", which means "with us," in Gaelic.

What first attracted our attention was the amazing beer list - Dan loves places who give thought as deeply to the beer list as to the wine list. Againn's thoughful selections include favorite brews from Belgium, Germany Scotland and England - though compared to other local restaurants many of their best selections are inexplicably more pricey . Unfortunately, we were not wowed by the wine selection and the wine by the glass selections seemed a bit anemic. Conversely, what was very nice was the server providing a tasting pour of your selected wine from the bottle at the table.

In addition, for those who know their whiskeys, this restaurant takes it to a new level...offering an extensive scotch list and scotch lockers to keep your beverage of choice on site.

Despite being open since October, the service at Againn still has some kinks to work out. The host who greeted us was snappish, but must have realized as much as he tried to redeem himself with a jumpy compliment to our friend's jewelry. Our waitress seemed to be struggling, she didn't know the menu and took a very long time to get to us for our drink and food orders. That said, the service did get much better as the night progressed.

My friend and I each started with a glass of Chateau Ragotiere Muscadet from the Loire Valley and then moved on to try the Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes from Argentina (the Torrontes was much better!) Our husbands each began with a Scotch de Silly Belgian beer that always gets rave reviews (a must try, if you haven't already!) and later moved on to another of their Belgian favorites, Duchess de Bourgogne.

The menu seemed a bit limited compared to similar restaurants in the nearby area...but it is certainly better to have a smaller menu of expertly executed dishes (as this was) rather than a tome of mediocrity. We had it on good authority that the "pint of prawns" appetizer was wonderful, so we began with that.  Perfectly poached shrimp served stacked in a pint glass alongside a garlic mayonnaise swirled with ketchup and brandy. It was delicious, living up to its recommendation with ease.

For main dishes we chose  the roasted hanger steak served with watercress salad, red wine shallot butter, and chips...the house made bangers and mash served with whole grain mustard mash and onion gravy....and the fish and chips. First of all, Againn has the most AMAZING chips I've seen served in a while. They are completely worth ordering alone as an appetizer or bar snack.   The hanger steak was decadent and delicious due to the marinade and the dreamy shallot butter. The only drawback of the evening was the fish and chips...while the giant piece of battered cod looked beautiful from the top...the underside was the point that the batter tasted burned. Quite unfortunate considering how utterly impressed we were with all of the other dishes.

All in all, we found that British staples go to a whole new level at Againn...quite a nice surprise! While the service struggled to begin, things smoothed out nicely by the appetizers and overall the food was delicious. Diary Rating = B

*Photo credit - The Againn website