Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meridian Pint - chairs on lockdown?

(Photo from Yelp.com)

I read a lot of DC blogs and over the last year or so I’ve read about Meridian Pint (http://www.meridianpint.com/) several times, but had yet to check it out. Well last Friday I was hanging with some friends enjoying white wine from a plastic jug that my friend had recently brought back from Europe (I was told this is how it’s bottled for shipping, but I’m skeptical :-) though it was pretty tasty), when we decided to wander down to Meridian Pint for some food.

It was a gorgeous night, especially for August in DC – warm, but not sticky – perfect for sitting outside. We were happy to see that there were a few open tables on the patio. When we went in to talk to the host though, he was a little frantic – even with some empty tables inside too. There was nobody waiting to be seated before us. We were three so we asked to pull up a chair to one of the empty two-tops outside. This seemed to fluster him even more and he went into some confusing explanation about how the chairs were all “locked up”. They had “very strict rules” about the patio and couldn’t change anything. We suggested taking a chair from a table for 4 that only had 3 people sitting at it, but instead he went off to ask the manager to unlock a chair for us to add to our table. We stood waiting, looking out at the patio to see from where this mystery locked chair would appear. Wouldn’t you know, he ended up pulling it from another empty two-top at the end of the patio. We all just laughed in confusion and went to our seats.

The beer list is pretty extensive. It happened to be DC Beer Week and the list of specials was on the menu. Friday was all Long Trail beers for $4 – great! We thought. The first thing the waitress said when she came over was that they were out of all Long Trail beers. What?!?! It was only 10:30 – they still had a long night ahead. And aren’t you supposed to stock-up, or even overstock, on whatever your special is? Not looking good for my first MP experience….

At any rate, we proceeded to eat, drink and have a good time brainstorming about a big money making scheme to get us out of our office jobs (let’s just say food trucks will have NOTHING on us!!). So will I go back? Yes, almost every place deserves a second chance. Plus, I didn’t get a chance to see the basement with the table taps – why is it so fun to pour your own beer??

Shortly before we were ready to leave, the host reappeared to seat more people. He went right over to the table of 4 with the extra chair, grabbed it and dragged it over to the two-top he had taken a chair from for us. We shook our heads and laughed….I guess that one wasn’t locked.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Prosecco on tap - awesome!!
So who’s heard of Mike Isabella?  How about Zaytinya?  Or Top Chef??  Well, if you aren’t aware, they are all connected.  Mike Isabella used to be the chef at Zaytinya, a great Greek/Mediterranean tapas restaurant in Penn Quarter.  From there he went on to be on Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars.  After all of that, he decided to open up a restaurant of his own….and that brings us to Graffiato.  Also a tapas place, this is Italian rather than Greek, and it’s really delicious – trust me on that as I feel like I sampled nearly half of what’s on the menu!  Here’s my take on what I tried:

Let’s start with the bread –
Some was sliced raisin bread, some was a simple focaccia and some was sweet, with corn and almost cake-like.  All was good, none was out of this world (hey - my mom can make some pretty kick-ass bread), but it was nice to have a few different kinds.  It came with olive oil jam (sort of solidified olive oil) as well as fresh ricotta.  Again, a nice touch rather than just serving butter.

On to the rest of the food –

Hand Cut Spaghetti – Something so simple, but yet had tons of flavor.

Risotto with Asparagus and Pesto – Why have I never thought to put pesto in risotto before?!?!  This was definitely one of my favorites...

Chicken Thighs with Pepperoni Sauce – He is famous for this pepperoni sauce so I had to try it.  The skin on the chicken was awesome…crispy, salty, yuuummy!  The sauce?  Well I thought there should be more of it for one, and second, it was definitely tasty, but maybe I’d just prefer it with something other than chicken.  Nonetheless, still worth trying.

Sweet Corn Agnolotti – Wow – try it.  ‘Nuf said. (Well, except that it already inspired me to concoct some of my own – post on that later.)

Sugar Snap Peas – The tomato pesto and goat cheese on them were a nice addition, and thankfully not overwhelming.  I love the fresh crunchy sweetness of snap peas and was glad that still came through.

White House Pizza – Really delicious blend of cheeses and a touch of sweetness from the honey.  I’m not usually a huge prosciutto fan (on the other hand, hold me back from Serrano!), but in this case it was the perfect complement to the cheeses.  I’ve had better crust, but I still went back for more than one slice.  J

Nutella Cookies – Salty + Sweet = Yum.  The chef’s wife makes these off site and brings them in every day so nobody will get her recipe.  Smart woman…though replicating them maybe become a personal challenge of mine!

Peach Gelato – this was the one thing we had that I likely wouldn’t repeat – it just lacked flavor.  Häagen-Dazs peach sorbet has this gelato beat by a long shot! 

And finally - I also had some of the "punch of the day" - a concoction with gin, citrus and a fresno pepper...really interesting flavor.

All in all, go try it.  There are still at least a few more things I want to try.  I know some people are getting “tired of the tapas thing”, but sometimes I prefer it.  I can be really indecisive and/or overwhelmed when so much on the menu sounds good – tapas allows you to taste it all.  Nice job Chef Isabella – I’ll definitely be back!!

I'm with the Chef!!

Baking GALS Round 2 - Caramel Popcorn

I’ve been having baker’s block recently.  Anytime I think of something to make, it’s always something I’ve already done…booorrrrinng!  I wanted to try and come up with something new and exciting for this round of Operation Baking GALS.  Well???  Epic fail.  I went right back to a recipe I use every Christmas….caramel popcorn. Believe me though, you’d totally understand if you’d had it before.  This past year it was renamed “crack-corn” because it is just so addictive.

I figured the guys are probably getting tons of chocolate chip cookies or snickerdoodles or all of the basics, so while not a new recipe for me, the popcorn is probably going to spice things up a bit for them.  Plus, there’s something to be said for the tried and true, isn’t there?  Trust me, it’s amazing!

My Amish Friend’s Caramel Corn (from allrecipes.com)
7 quarts plain popped popcorn – no skimping with microwaved here people - stovetop all the way!
2 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 cups packed brown sugar – I use 1 cup light/1 cup dark
½ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1 cup margarine – I use unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda

1)      Place popped corn into two greased baking pans (about 9x13x2).  Add peanuts if using.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 250º.  Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend.  Once it begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda.  The mixture will turn light and foamy.  Keep stirring and immediately pour over the popcorn in both pans.  Stir to coat.  Don’t worry about getting absolutely everything coated at this point.

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans and stirring well, every 15 minutes.  Line the counter with wax paper.  After an hour, dump the popcorn onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces – work fast as it cools pretty quickly.  Allow to cool completely then store in air-tight containers or resealable bags.