Dinner at Pineapple and Pearls

Don’t let the name of this restaurant fool you. It’s no frothy lightweight experience.

In fact, this year Washingtonian magazine ranked Pineapple and Pearls the number one restaurant in DC.

And let me tell you. Getting a reservation here is no easy feat. You have to be on the website the second, er no, millisecond the reservations open and hit “reserve” before you can blink. Do not hesitate.

This is how you beat out 2,000 other eager diners (so we were told by our server)  for a dinner spot. But even then, your meal might start at an awkward time like 9 pm on a Wednesday night and go until almost midnight like it did in our case.

Even though I’m more of a person at heart who’d rather be in her pajamas in bed by 10 pm, we were so excited about going here.

The restaurant is a classy tiny space for only about 30 diners at a time. Because we were a party of two, we sat at the chef’s counter, where we got to see all the action as it happened in front of us.

The chef right in front of us was assembling a dish with what resembled mashed potatoes all night. Only later did we find out what it really was!

Like our meal at Minibar, it is truly fun to watch the chefs in their habitat, and the whole scene unfolds like a perfectly choreographed event.

The meal starts with something called “Afternoon Tea” which offers up a trio of beautiful little bites including a foie gras canele paired with a teacup of gin with Cloosterbitters, rum, and quince.

Next, we had a series of more little dishes including the most intense beef tartare & caviar, charred octopus, split pea consommé, and a french omelet.

All delicious, but I have to say I was partial to the octopus. Didn’t know it could taste that good.

The next course was black sea bass (another fish I didn’t know could be so delectable)

This was followed by probably my favorite of the entire night, a sweet bread taco served along side a mescal Paloma cocktail.

At about this point, we could’ve stopped and been perfectly happy with the meal.

But there was one more savory to come!

This trio of sides (persian rice, white beans, and dolmas) for the lamb dish.

The savory part of the meal completed, the next course was a resheshing pineapple granita with beet soda.

This was followed by our last fancy drinks of the night, amari and coffee and dessert.

I think you need a closer look at the dessert. It was Okinawan purple potato ice cream (ice cream close to our hearts) with chocolate cake and chestnuts.

 

Finally, the meal rounded out with the most exotic fruit plate with starfish, banana chocolate lollipops, and candied gooseberries.

All in all, the food was delightful and the service was top notch.

But in the end, perhaps one of the most luxurious parts of the experience is there is no bill at the end.

No check. No waiting. No figuring out the tip. You pay upfront for all of it when you get the coveted reservation (food, drinks, and gratuity).

So, you just decide when you’re ready to leave, get up, and go.

Work Day Lunch at Central

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This post 2 weeks ago  talked about a coping strategy for those non-stop busy and stressful work weeks: fancy lunch!

Central Michel Richard in downtown DC is one of my favorite places to enjoy a weekday lunch. The food is so delicious and I love seeing the new seasonal items they add to the menu every few months. In particular, the desserts are heavenly and I always try something unique.

On this day, my husband and I got a bowl of french onion soup and shared a Manhattan (pictured above). It was a Friday at the end of a long work week, after all.

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Next up was shrimp risotto with saffron. This dish was so delectable. Risotto is one of those things I rarely eat at lunch since I don’t want to fall asleep from carb overload afterwards, but this day, ordering the risotto just seemed right. img_2363

We also shared the fried chicken and mashed potatoes. If you’re ever in DC and stop by this restaurant, you must order this just to taste the potatoes, which are the silkiest potatoes around, I think.  (I’d argue they’re actually the star of the dish)

For dessert, the Napoleon called to us, and look how beautiful it was!  This dessert tastes so good with a bitter latte.

You might be wondering how to eat this since it’s sky high. You just take a fork and smash down all the layers, so in essence you’re eating a bunch of cream with shards of phyllo pastry. It’s so light and creamy and perfect after a heavy meal. img_2367

Most workdays at my desk, I eat a rather uninspired lunch of salad or a sandwich brought from home.

But during rough weeks, it feels so luxurious to go out to somewhere nice. Looking forward to it definitely helps getting through those long days.

How do you handle your long busy weeks?

Dinner at Husk

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As mentioned in my post about New Years in Charleston, we were lucky to get reservations at Husk. This restaurant came onto my radar years ago while watching the tv show Top Chef (I’m still a big fan and this season, the show is based is based in Charleston).

Actually, we made the reservation 2 months ago as soon as we knew we’d be there! Yes, first and foremost, our travel priorities revolve around food. Can you relate?

Anyway, don’t miss it if you’re in Charleston. You can also eat lunch there if the dinner service is booked.

Here’s what we enjoyed:

The meal started off with hot fresh dinner rolls with whipped butter. I’m such a bread girl at heart, and often it’s my favorite part of the meal.husk-rolls

Then, we ordered the crispy pig ear lettuce wraps. Admittedly, “pig ear” doesn’t sound that appealing,  but trust me, they were delicious.

They were cut into thin strips and fried and put next to fresh vegetables and Asian sauce inside lettuce leaves. They had the texture and crunch of a crispy corn tortilla and the combo of hot and crunchy with fresh and cool was really nice.husk-pig-ear

We also ordered the Fried Chicken Skins (are you seeing a trend here?).

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Years ago, a Japanese friend of mine lamented why Americans tend to take off the chicken skin when eating it. “It’s the best part!” I remember her saying.

And I think she’s right… this dish was like eating a bowl of fried calamari.

For the main plates, we ordered pork and field peas and tomato gravy.  I really enjoyed all the different flavors and textures happening here.husk-pork

We also ordered duck confit with grits, and grits are sort of my new favorite side. They are pretty easy to make and a southern staple, so I’m trying to make these more often now.

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The best of this whole meal in my opinion was the dessert. I ordered a platter of cream puffs (ginger, lemon, and chocolate filled) and it came with a wonderful little mug of the richest creamiest hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.husk-cream-puffs

As you can see, all the food was served on rustic homemade pottery, making each presentation really special.

The menu at Husk changes every single day as they constantly source seasonal and local ingredients. While for some people, that might be a disappointment if they fall in love with a certain dish, but that’s such an exciting prospect to me.

I’m looking forward to going here again in the summer time and seeing how the food may be different.

Feast in the Forest

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A few weeks ago, we attended Feast in the Forest, an annual fall harvest dinner at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. It takes place in the most beautiful location, a family owned farm out in the Virginia countryside.

All the food is locally sourced and some of it even comes from the forest trees… more to say about that later.

See our pictures from a similar farm dinner event we attended last year.

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The meal starts late afternoon with cocktail in the garden at the main house of the restaurant farm. The sweeping views of the valley looking out from there aren’t too bad, right?alice-and-olivia-dress

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After mingling with some of your new friends/dinner companions, you walk together down a long forest path to the dining area in the middle of the forest.

You sit at the long table next to people you’ve just met and share a family style meal. Usually, this is my favorite thing about events like this … you  always end up next to the most friendly and interesting folks.path-to-dinner-tableimg_1580lantern

The path through the forest is lined with these charming lanterns. By the time the evening is over, it’s almost dark and the lanterns give off the prettiest glow.

Now, on to the food.

Once the meal starts, the dishes start coming out fast and furious. I managed to get photos of a few plates, but when you’re sharing with others, it’s not all that polite to say, “Wait while I take a picture!”

The full menu is below. I had some really delicious things I’ve never eaten before, and as mentioned above, much of it was harvested from that very forest.

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These plates are the farro risotto (on the left, my favorite dish of the whole night) and the wood ear rice (on the right). Wood ear is a type of mushroom grown in that forest.first-courseBelow is the broccoli with frost grape and fresh chevre. This was pretty fantastic… I don’t know how to describe the frost grape sauce except it was like a plum flavored puree. The plate on the right side is crabapple bread with whipped cheddar and walnuts in the middle. second-course

Throughout the whole meal, I was keeping a list of my favorite dishes, but that went out the window when we got to desserts- chestnut macarons, the crabapple bread, and Paw Paw pie.

This pie was so delicious. It tasted like a cross between banana and mango pie with a drizzle of the caramel over it.dessert-plate

Never heard of Paw Paw before? Me neither.

It actually grows in long pods in trees. In fact, the chef harvested them from the very trees above our table in the forest.img_1595

Yes, we did some damage…

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The whole event was really lovely, but the real special part happened at the end.

When we got back to our car, we found we had a flat tire (drove over a nail on the path up to the farm).

But not to worry. So many people offered us help changing the tire, even the chef of the restaurant.

And while we weren’t paying attention, someone left us an entire to-go container of those chestnut macarons!

New Mexico Food Diary

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Bring on the green chili, blue corn, and giant burritos

It’s been a few weeks since my fall weekend trip to New Mexico. (You can read about the Hacienda Nicholas B & B here and my hiking adventures here and here.)

While this post talked about my special dinner at Sazon, I never shared some of my other food adventures until now.

Here are some of my favorite snacks and meals.

DAY 1: Breakfast (Central Grill and Coffee House).

Because it was balloon festival time and a perfect fall morning, we wanted to sit outdoors. A quick google search led us to the Central Grill and Coffee House.

We couldn’t resist the giant breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes, bacon, and both red and green chili generously poured on top.  (in case you’re wondering, we shared this monster and yes, we did catch a few glimpses of ascending balloons)

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Dinner (Sazon)

Looking forward to dinner, we shared a sandwich for lunch. Then we went all out for this fabulous meal at Sazon and the very special avocado dessert ice cream we tried for the first time.

Day 2 Breakfast (Hacienda Nicholas)

Whenever possible, we try to stay at B & B’s when we travel. It feels like you’re staying in someone’s home and the breakfasts are tasty homemade affairs. This inn featured local produce and ingredients from nearby farms.

On this morning, they prepared a green chili egg casserole with black beans and sour cream. We ate outside in the rose garden! (I’ve already made this recipe since I’ve been home)

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Snack (Whoo’s Donuts)

Feeling hungry after our hiking adventure, we stopped at this unique donut shop.

As soon as I spotted this blue corn lavender donut… I was sold. I mean, look at the beautiful color! I’ve never had a corn based donut before, and this first experience was really great. It tasted similar to sweet corn bread.

Our other selection was the spicy red chili chocolate donut, which carried some heat. (try only if you like spicy with your sweet)blue-corn-lavendar-donutchile-donuts

Late Lunch/Dinner (Harry’s Roadhouse)

After exploring Bandelier monument for hours that afternoon, we ended up starving at Harry’s Roadhouse. I went in thinking this place would be all about burgers and fries, but I was so wrong.

They have a wide menu with all sorts of interesting regional and international dishes.

We started off with a big steaming bowl of green chili stew, but unfortunately we gobbled it down fast before we could take a picture.

Then I had vegetarian stuffed acorn squash with black beans, quinoa, rice, and green chili sauce. I loved all the colors and flavors going on in this. (plus, I got a new idea about how to eat acorn squash)

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Then husband got the Thai steak salad with the most delicious grilled vegetables on top. Such a healthy and unique meal from a roadside diner, right?

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Last Day Breakfast

Imagine waffles made from blue corn, loaded with pine nuts, and topped with fresh blueberries. That was our breakfast at our B & B on the last morning.

I’m sad to say we enthusiastically ate it all up before we remembered our camera!

Snack before flying home (Kakawa Chocolate House)

A huge fan of drinking chocolate, I was so excited to find out about Kakawa Chocolate House in Sante Fe.

They serve different varieties of sweet and non-sweet chocolate elixirs every day, some of  them with unique spices and herbs like Aztecs might have consumed.

When you go in, there’s a big board with the day’s selections and they’ll give you samples before you make a final decision.

I knew I wanted something on the sweeter side, so we ordered the Modern Mexican versions, made from 70% chocolate, traditional Mexican cinnamon, and almond milk. chocolate-menuhot-chocolate

Because this place was rather touristy, I worried the hot chocolate would be overly sweet, but it was the perfect balance between sweet and bitter and I recommended it to others staying at our inn. You can even buy some of the chocolate blends to take home for chilly nights!

Overall, I was blown away by all the delicious fresh tasty food we tried. Needless to say, I may have added a few pounds, but who’s keeping track, right?