Dinner at Garrison

Last Saturday night, we celebrated my husband’s birthday at Garrison restaurant in DC. This restaurant features farm-fresh ingredients with a Scandinavian twist.

We ordered the tasting menu with 7 small courses. Strawberries and fresh peas are in season right now – several courses featured them prominently.

As the restaurant was really crowded and noisy, we opted to sit outside. Unfortunately some of the photos didn’t come out as the sun went down. But here’s a good peek at most of our meal.

The first course (pictured above) was fresh pea soup shooter with a radish topped with fresh butter. Humble the ingredients may be, this plate was beautiful and probably my favorite dish of the night. I also ordered a rum and tamarind cocktail, which I really enjoyed.

Next was this beautiful fava bean strawberry goat cheese salad. It looked so pretty, but as you can see, there wasn’t a lot of salad on the plate.

The third course was rye toast with a quail egg, asparagus, and parmesan. I really liked this and have plans to recreate this at home.  

Fourth, there was pea pistou ravioli. I felt a little bit disappointed by this, as I suspect the green sauce was actually the pea soup we had above. Also, there were more radishes, and asparagus. This course felt a little bit like a repeat to be honest. 

Then we had soft shell crab over the creamiest polenta ever. This was really tasty, though I’m not sure the crab was enough for me to even know what it tastes like.

Duck was the next course, and while my husband really liked this one, for me it was just okay. It had those large sea salt flakes on it, which seem to be so popular these days and I generally like, but in my opinion, they make dishes way too salty often.

Other courses included a cheese platter with three cheeses, an order of poppy seed gougeres, and strawberry camomile panna cotta.

Overall, this dining experience was just okay for us. While I liked the food generally and our server was nice, there were some issues with this restaurant and it was just way too expensive for what you got.

First off, the reception at the host station was a bit off when we arrived (they didn’t recognize our reservation even though I called and confirmed it).

The restaurant was super dark and noisy inside (as in you would have to raise your voice to have a conversation with the person across from you) and the seating was really tight (almost rubbing elbows with your neighbor on both sides)

The tasting menu was not anything special and there’s really no incentive to order it. They basically served a strong of the regular entrees but cut in half between two people, resulting in really small portions. In fact, the panna cotta dessert was literally cut in half, which felt cheap, in my opinion.

You could order all of it a la carte and get exactly what you wanted. What’s more the tasting menu didn’t even feature their signature poppy seed gougeres, which required you to order that extra. What? I thought tasting menus were supposed to be more exciting than the regular menu, but not here.

In any case, I would recommend not coming here if you’re hungry. If you do try it out, I’d just order a few dishes to share.

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.