Monday, September 30, 2013


I admit, I used to be a huge Top Chef junkie. And it all started back on season 6 with Mike Isabella. Who would have figured four years ago watching a foodie TV show that I would later move to DC and then eventually eat at a new opening restaurant of a previous contestant. I know, maybe it’s not that crazy, especially given how many contestants there are now running around (especially in Chicago with Stephanie Izard), but just the DC location and way back memory of my Top Chef viewership makes it interesting. Haley and I showed up at 7pm with reservations but at that time the place was pretty empty. It’s a cool space with a neat bar area to the left of the main door, an open kitchen view with bar style seating for a front row action seat (Chef’s seats they call them? – not special reserved either), and plenty of large tables for groups or regular dining. And yes, Chef Isabella was in the house and working hard. I liked the extensive use of dark wood all around and the lighting felt good, even though we were sitting in the kitchen (practically) so was facing the large rotating spits and not the dining room.



I’m a lucky guy that has nice friends. In this particular example I was the beneficiary of a work-gift to Kelly for a meal at Equinox – an upscale American restaurant serving downtown DC’s working professionals (i.e. not a place most 20 somethings hang out). The restaurant is relatively small but there is a side/private room that can add a bunch of seats if not booked. The décor is elegant and clean, and the menu reflects this desire with expensive pastas (~$30 each), “meat and game”, seafood choices and sides. There is also an extensive wine list to pair perfectly with your duck, yellow fin tuna or saffron papparadelle angus beef Bolognese.

Since we were in a celebratory mood (free food does that) we ordered a healthy amount: truffle risotto fritters, salmon, beef strip loin, fried green tomatoes and truffled macaroni and cheese.  They also serve a small amuse bouche of tuna pate that was actually quite interesting. We were also expecting the risotto fritters as an appetizer but something went wrong and they brought us the mac and cheese instead. We didn’t really to eat that first but it was strange and our server noticed shortly after it came out as a mistake. No harm no foul. It’s deliciously rich and after we finished the entire side, realized we might not have as much room for the rest of the meal as intended. I’m not that upset though since it might have been the best thing I tasted all night.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Takes - Ghibellina & B Too

When I first moved to Washington and I told people I was living near 14th St., the first reaction was always, “there are so many new places opening there.” I obviously didn’t have much of a concept of what “14th St.” was or what scale “so many” really meant. Now that I’ve been here a few months I have a much better picture of both phrases. I thought Chicago did a good job of opening new places, but I think this section of DC might take the cake. It seems every week you walk down the street there are not one, but MANY new spots to check out. It’s moderately ridiculous, and from what I’ve heard it’s not slowing down. If this was rappeats circa 2010 I would be in heaven and overwhelmed. Unfortunately the reality of full-time employment and a few years of wisdom (debatable) yield less available time to explore the local dining scene at the same pace as previous times would have allowed (maybe that can change when winter arrives and there will be less competing distractions??). In any event, I have managed to briefly check out two new-ish spots on 14th for happy-hour and/or snacks – Ghibellina and B Too.

This was the choice for a Friday evening happy hour. And it was a good choice because the vibe is great, the bar is exquisite and the food (pizza) perfect for the time/place.  You can only eat if you have a seat in or at the bar area which can be a challenge but since the bar is 30 yards long (literally) there is a lot of turnover. From what I remember the happy hour (ends at 6:30) is half off beer and pizza. It’s a good deal when beer is usually $7 and pizza $15. Of course we stayed long past the happy and made up for the savings with $7 Peroni, but c’est la vie. The two pizzas we tried were the sausage and Bianca (veggie with rapini, mozzarella, garlic, calabrian chilies, fennel seed and pecorino romano). Both were quite tasty, particularly when fresh, hot and firm crust. The Bianca had a nice spice kick to it and I enjoyed the combo of ingredients used. The sausage was equally nice and devoured. I’m not sure which on I would order again first. So from a taste of two pizzas and a lot of beer, and a good value for part of the evening I really don’t have any complaints. The rest of the menu looks nice too and a fun place to dine with great décor and a high energy atmosphere. I would definitely go back for happy hour and hope to get a chance for a full meal.


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