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Elizabeth Cooks, Eats, Reviews – Weekly #4

March 3, 2010

My Favorite Pot For Cooking

One topic I always search for online is food, food products, recipes, restaurants, restaurant reviews – are you seeing a pattern here?

If it has to do with eating, I’m probably reading it. There are two segments of this vast genre that interest me most:

  1. What is the best of the best and where can I get it (or how can I make it at home)?
  2. How are we raising our social consciousness about what we eat? Is this food local, sustainable, humanely raised etc?

These two topics are, not surprisingly, often intertwined. The best of the best is often what is organic and local to you – because food that is grown for endurance rather than taste, well, tastes like it has been grown for endurance rather than taste. If a tomato or cucumber has been sitting in a truck for two weeks, and has been bred to take the haul, it’s not going to be great eats. That local heirloom produce at the farmer’s market will not only be packed with many more vitamins and nutrients than SuperStore USA‘s version, but it will actually taste good.

The ridiculously named Blog Carnival really has no part in this community – as seen here, all of the  Blog Carnivals listed on their site under the genre “Food” are discontinued, except one hold out: “Everything About Kosher food” which is admittedly a little too niche for me as I do love the Jews, but cannot count myself in their number.

Instead, readers flock to sites such as Epicurious for peer-reviewed recipes and Chowhound for advice and discussion on the popular message boards.

Zagat is invaluable for restaurant reviews, but you’ll need a paid account, or the log in and password of someone who has a paid account (worth it!). Menupages is great in New York, but DCers tend to rely on UrbanSpoon and Yelp to guide them through their adventures in gastronomy.

I have to say, I find the DC restaurant scene lacking in some ways. I know I came from the culinary epicenter of America (sorry San Francisco!), but I guess I expected a bit more from the Nation’s Capital.

However, all is not lost – there are a few places here I visit often and I would recommend, some with caveats, some whole-heartedly.

Here are some tips for one of my current favorite restaurants here in the DC area: Central by Michel Richard

This restaurant gets it right all around. The ambiance is a terrific mix of upscale but not too stuffy, the lighting is excellent, it is fun and lively without being so noisy that you cannot hear your dinner partner. That being said, I always request a booth – don’t sit at a table in the middle of the room if you can avoid it: there is a lot of action going on, and you’ll have a better vantage point to observe it without being overwhelmed by it from the booth perspective.

Central starts things off right with warm freshly baked bread with an excellent crust. Don’t bother ordering the gougères (cheesy choux pastry puffs), because the bread is better. For appetizers, don’t miss the French onion soup which is quite frankly the best I think I’ve had (and I don’t even LIKE French onion soup that much). Other stand-outs are the steak tartar – probably the best in DC for quality and cut, and the frisee salad. One thing to note is when they serve the steak tartar, it comes with a parmesan tulle on top. After ordering this dish many times, in mixed company, the consensus is that although this fried parmesan is pretty, it is really not edible. Crisping the cheese brings out an acrid almost bitter taste that is awful alone and certainly does not compliment the raw beef in any way. So, discard the artfully placed parmesan and dig into your unadorned raw beef – I like to order it with fries and then use them to “scoop” the tartar.

The mains at Central are hugely portioned and full of flavor. It took me three months to figure out how to re-create the gravy that came with my roast chicken, and when I finally did make it, my husband had to stop me from literally ladling it straight into my mouth – it is that good. The steaks are very good as well, as are the fish dishes. I would actually advise against ordering the steak tartar as a main course and only order it as an appetizer, because really, I don’t think anyone can eat that much raw meat in one sitting (I tried, and failed, and you can’t take that kind of thing home with you in a to-go bag).

If you are up for it, please order a burger. When I first went to Central, I had probably not had a hamburger in about a decade. I ascribe to the ‘If I’m going to eat red meat, it’s going to be a steak, thank-you-very-much’ philosophy. However, my husband likes burgers and ordered one – then was raving about it so much I had to try it. The Central burger had me at first bite. Central makes the buns in house, from brioche bread- buttery and fresh.  The meat is delicious, and they put these crunchy onions on that are texturally phenomenal. I am officially a burger convert thanks to Central.

For dessert – if you have saved room for dessert – the chocolate desserts are nice, but typical. To be honest, my last latte was a bit lacking, not up to specialty coffee-house standards. You might want to have the coffee instead, it’s excellent.

Central

1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

(at 10th St)

Washington, DC 20004

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Palaver permalink
    March 6, 2010 6:26 pm

    Yikes. This blog is highly opinionated (and critical) yet full of typos.

    “I expect more from the Nation’s Capitol”

    • March 6, 2010 11:22 pm

      Palaver – Thanks for your comment. I must have been very tired when I typed the “O” instead of the “A”. Thanks for catching it! It’s fixed now.
      As for being opinionated (and critical), well – thanks again! I feel those are two of my best features (and that’s saying something! – oh wait, was that opinionated? ;-))
      I hope you’ll keep reading – and point out any errors in the future – we all make mistakes!
      Take care, Elizabeth

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