Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend recap

I have a love/hate relationships with winter.  I am not a big fan of cold, ice, coats - all things that come with winter.  But, the last couple of weekends have been great to just kind of hunker down and spend some good time at home.

Friday night, after long days at work for both of us, we stayed in, opened a great bottle of wine, had soup for dinner and cozied on the couch with a movie.  We finally got around to watching The Help!

I read the book in the summer and it was absolutely one of my favorite books.  I've had a hard time picking up another one since then, because I know it just won't be as good.  I've started a couple, but just can't seem to get into anything...suggestions welcomed!  The movie was very good - not quite as great as the book, but still good.  I'm so glad we finally watched it!

Saturday we got a little ice and snow around the DC area.  We got up early and went to Wegmans, and then got a ton of things done around the house...all of those little things you put off for months that just suck out time...those things.  But it felt so great to get the grocery shopping, good workouts, and other chores finished!

Saturday night we headed over to Clarendon and met one of our favorite couples for dinner at Eventide.  It's on the same block as Liberty Tavern.  The lounge on the first floor is a great spot, and I've been several times.  We hadn't been to dinner there, so we were excited to try it.

The main dining room is on the second floor and is just stunning.  We were totally not expecting the gorgeous, 2 story room when we walked up the stairs.  Long, navy velvet curtains, bench couches at booths and other tables and chairs are placed around the room.  It's very spacious and elegant.

The food and wine was fantastic.  We had the 2004 Burgess Napa Valley Syrah, which was great.  I had the braised short rib, and I wanted to lick the plate - I only used my knife for the broccolini, the meat was so tender I didn't need one.  Everyone raved about their dinners, we will certainly go back.  We were so glad we decided to finally try it for dinner!

Sunday I met up with a girlfriend of mine for brunch at Chef Geoff's in Tysons.  It was great to catch up and have a delicious, leisurely brunch.  We both had veggie omelets, and they were very good. The steamed milk for our coffees was a great touch!

Sunday afternoon was spent watching football, doing more chores around the house, cooking a delicious and healthy dinner of skinny salisbury steak, and getting ready for the week.

As much as we like to travel and be active and busy on the weekends, it's amazing how refreshing it is to stay home, spend time together, and be productive!

What did you do over the weekend?

picture 1 source
picture 3 source

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wine Wednesday

I've had so many people comment to me about the new Wine Wednesday series!  I'm so glad y'all like it :)

Today's wine is one that I enjoyed earlier this week!  It's a great 'Tuesday night wine' or party wine.  Since our adventures in French wine last fall, we've been more adventurous in trying all French Cotes du Rhone wines (lets not get ahead of ourselves here).  We found this at Total Wine shortly after our trip, and have really enjoyed it since then.  We have served it for a couple of get togethers at our house, and it goes quick - always a good sign!
This wine is from the Costieres de Nimes appellation in the Rhone Valley, France.  It is a blend of three Rhone varietals - 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache.  It's very dark in color, almost purple, and has lots of red fruit flavors.  It's know as their Cuvée Tradition and has been listed on the European Values Guide from Wine Spectator.


You can find this wine at Total Wine in the Cotes du Rhone section of the French wines for about $10. There's also a rosé with the same blend that I can't wait to try when it gets a little warmer!  

And one of the best parts about this wine - it has a screw cap...can you say picnic?  Cheers!

Monday, January 16, 2012

DC's downtown brewery

This weekend, after a great brunch with some of my closest college friends, we ventured into Northeast DC to stop by DC Brau.  When the brewery was opened in 2011, it was the first production brewery in DC since 1956.  Located in a warehouse behind a strip mall, you really have to look in the right place to find it.  But once you drive down the hill around the back, you can tell by all of the cars in the lot that you're in the right place.

On one of the busiest Saturdays they've had yet, the place was slammed.  They are open from 1-4pm on Saturdays only...we arrived at about 3:15. Upon entering, we were each given 4 tickets for samples...and after waiting in the line that snaked back and forth through the small room, we made it to the bar.

Once we got to the front, they were out of their Corruption.  We combined our tickets and each got a double sample of their new release, Thyme after Thyme, and the Citizen. 

The Citizen is my favorite of their beers - it's not nearly as hoppy as The Public or Corruption - those are M's favorites.  Thyme after Thyme was pretty good, too - definitely different than their others.

They offer brewery tours every hour on the half hour on Saturdays.  You're also able to purchase cans and fill your growler to take home with you.  Be sure to take a screw top growler if you bring your own - the flip-top ones don't meet DC's "sealed container" laws.

This was my first visit and M's 3rd to DC Brau - he said the first time there were only a handful of people there...the second time they had the drink tickets but it was still pretty quiet...and then this trip it was crammed!  Definitely a good problem to have.  And evidence that the DC Brau guys are doing a great job, and making some delicious beer.

If you go visit them, remember they're only open for a few hours on Saturdays, and take a growler to fill!    Look for DC Brau on tap and in cans at tons of local bars and restaurants - it's great to be able to support a local business who's doing things right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wine Wednesday

With the start of the New Year, I have a new series starting here on the blog...

Heeeelloooo Wine Wednesday!

I might have mentioned before that we like wine. (did you catch that?)  I love finding new producers and vineyards to explore and try.  And I always have friends and coworkers asking me for good, reasonably priced bottles of wine that they can find easily.  Besides the wine clubs we're members of, most of the wine we purchase is from Wegmans Costco and Total Wine.  It's very easy to find and affordable.

When trying to decide what wine to do for my first Wine Wednesday, I had a tough time choosing!  There are so many...where do you begin?  When one of my girlfriends brought a bottle of this to girls night over the weekend, I knew it was a great first wine.
Bogle is a family owned winery located just outside of Sacramento, California.  They produce a large selection of value wines.  I think their most popular is probably their Petite Sirah.  It has been rated for years by Wine Spectator as a 'Best Buy.'  Typically you can find this wine for about $8-9 at your local wine or grocery stores. 

The Pinot Noir that they produce is another one of my favorites.  A couple of dollars more, you can usually find this one for around $10-11.  It was rated as a Top Value wine by Wine Enthusiast in 2009.  

They also produce a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Merlot (which you can find often at Costco), Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel (which made the Top 100 Value list from Wine Spectator a couple of times), Phantom, and Petite Sirah Port.  

Bogle has something for everyone!  If you're looking for a good, inexpensive bottle - check 'em out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Montreal weekend highlights

The weekend before Christmas, husband and I packed it up and headed up to Montreal for the weekend.  His fall after the Barcelona/Provence trip was crazy at work, so we decided we needed to take a little trip before the holiday madness.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon and left Sunday evening.  We had a great time exploring the city and some of their best bars and restaurants.

It was pouring when we got there - so we checked in and headed to Dieu du Ciel!  It's a microbrewery and one of the biggest beer bars in the city.

It was really pretty crowded, but we found a table near the bar.  I had the Péché Mortel and the Aphrodisiaque, which were both delicious stouts.  The Péché Mortel is one of the best coffee stouts in the world.  

After a couple of beers, we headed over to Le Comptoir for dinner.  

We had reservations to sit at the bar.  We figured out over the weekend, that there are bars and there are restaurants - but they aren't necessarily the same.  So when we sat at the bar, we were overlooking the kitchen - not a bar like we would think of in DC.  

The food was amazing.  It was all small plates, so we had a couple of different things that we shared.  

We loved watching them prepare all of the dishes, we were just in awe that this whole restaurant was serviced by this 6 burner stove.

Friday we went to have hot stone massages, which were amazing.  After that, we went over to Schwartz Deli, a Hebrew delicatessen that has been in business since 1928. 

The place was packed, and it was about 2:30 once we got there.  Smoked meats sandwich is what they're known for, so that's what we got - with a pickle and fries.  We should have ordered one and shared it...

After lunch, we headed into the Latin area for a walking tour.  It was interesting, but a bunch of the places we were supposed to go were closed for Christmas parties.  

We found a great bar called Benelux.  We were freezing by the end of the tour, so we poked in there for a couple of beers before dinner.  It was slammed for Friday happy hour.  We sat at the bar and made friends with some of the girls tending bar.  

Then it was time for THE place.  We had reservations (again at the bar) at Au Pied de Cochon.  Chef Martin Picard's innovative restaurant is definitely an adventure...

He's known for his foie gras and adventurous dishes.  We started with poutine, which is a Quebec traditional dish with fries, sauce and cheese curds.  Well, he includes duck fat gravy and foie gras (below).  It was good but incredibly rich.  Then we had bison tongue.  That was completely gross and I don't ever need to have that again...and then we had the special pig trotter ragu.  This was delicious!  It was really very good.  We rolled ourselves out of there after one of the richest dinners we've ever had. 

Saturday morning we headed to Little Italy and did some market browsing.

I finally got my fresh Nutella crepe that I missed while we were in Provence. 

After wandering around the Italian area for a while, we headed to Ta to have some traditional Australian pies.  They were perfect to warm us up.  The temperature on Saturday was about 10, wind chill of 2....

The place was tiny and adorable.  Run by Australians who've moved to Montreal, it was very authentic.  I had the spinach, mushroom and ricotta pie with the split pea soup - absolutely delicious.

We bundled back up and headed over to the old part of town to explore a little after lunch.  We went in the Notre-Dame Basillica and took the tour.  The church was built in the 1820's and was one of the pretties sanctuaries I've ever seen.  The tour was very good, and we heard all about how the church was designed, it's history and current story.  

The picture inside just doesn't do it justice for how amazing and beautiful it was.  After the tour, we headed back out and took our own little walking tour of Old Montreal.  Everything was decorated beautifully for Christmas.

You know if I'm wearing a was cold.  

Long johns, jeans, long sleeve shirt, wool sweater, 2 scarves, hat, coat, gloves...still freezing...

Back to Benelux for a couple of drinks before dinner...we were done with the cold walking tour...

Reservations Saturday night were at Pintxo.  A Spanish tapas style restaurant, it might have been my favorite dinner of the weekend - almost tied with Le Comptoir.  It was absolutely fantastic.  Another tiny kitchen with fresh and inventive dishes.

We ended up talking a bunch to our server, who was also one of the owners.  He was fantastic, as was the rest of the staff.  

Sunday morning we got up and hiked up Mont Royal.  We stayed at the Omni Mont Royal, so were right at the base of the mountain.  Since for some reason my husband needs to go to the top of any mountain wherever we are, we couldn't not venture to the top of this one.  The views were beautiful once we got to the top.  We ended up doing a little more walking than we'd hoped, so were ready for brunch. 

The bartender friends we'd met at Benelux suggested that we go to Lawrence.  We knew we'd picked the right place when they were in line when we walked in!  After about a hour + wait, it was so worth it - the food was amazing!

We were over being so cold and ready to head home after brunch, so we made our way back to the airport and flew home.  

It was a great weekend away, and we had a blast eating and drinking our way around the city.  I look forward to going back one day.  In the summer. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Graffiato and Chef Isabella

A couple of weeks ago, husband and I finally made it downtown to Graffiato, the new (kinda new) restaurant by Top Chef star Mike Isabella.  We are huge Top Chef fans, and were so excited to go there.  The evening definitely did not disappoint. 

The place was absolutely packed.  The bar and the restaurant were mobbed - always a good sign!  M was excited to see DC Brau on the draft line, and I had their draft prosecco, which was very good!

We've been to several other restaurants with 'celebrity chefs' and have always had bum luck that the chef wasn't there that night.  WELL!  My bad streak has ended!!  

M went to the bathroom while I got drinks, and when he got back he told me I needed to go too, with a little grin on his face.  So, I worked my way through the crowd and as I got to the back of the restaurant  where the final line is...there he was!

My stalker cell phone picture!

I happened to literally almost bump into him, and took that opportunity to say hi!  Not know for my shyness, I knew I had to introduce myself.  And I'm pretty sure I giggled like a school girl, I was so excited to actually be meeting him!  

He was absolutely as nice and genuine as could be.  We chatted for a few minutes about Graffiato and his new Mexican place to open this coming spring.  We talked about Bryan and Spike, some of the other Top Chefs who are in DC, and how great it is to have so many awesome up and coming chefs in this area.  He was so gracious and nice, it was so great to talk with him for a few minutes.  

I finally said goodbye and let him get back to work...

After a few more minutes back in the bar, our buzzer rang and we followed the hostess upstairs to another very crowded dinning room.  The idea of the menu is big tapas to share.  We had a hard time narrowing it down!  The waitress was very nice and helpful.  

The wine list is pretty interesting with several different regions and varietals represented.  It is though, in my opinion, a little pricey.  M opted to stick with the DC Brau, and I had a couple of glasses of a nice Dolcetto from Piedmont, Italy. 

For dinner, we went with the famous peperoni sauce, 2 cheeses and 1 meat, the broccolini, thChestnut Agnolotti with butternut squash, the wild boar, and one of the specials - spaghetti carbonara of sorts with pork belly.  Everything was just delicious. 

Plus the playlist was a great mix of 90's rock music - we both found ourselves singing along!

We had a great time at Graffiato and can't wait to go back.  

If I have one piece of advice for you - don't order everything at once.  Our waitress assured us that even if we did, it would come out spaced with enough time between dishes...that didn't happen.  We felt like we were scarfing down things to make room for the next plate.  So next time we'll just be sure to order a dish and wait a bit, maybe until it comes, before ordering the next one.  With the pace of dishes, it felt a bit rushed, but otherwise everything was delicious! 

Put it on your list for next time you're looking for a great, fun and delicious restaurant in Gallery Place.  And be watching for his next restaurant in Georgetown, Bandolera.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

I know it soundcliché to say how fast time goes, but my goodness does it ever!  I can't believe we're sitting on this side of the holidays, and it's two thousand and twelve.  I still feel like it's barely 2007!

We had a great weekend ringing in the new year!  One of husband's favorite bands, the Drive By Truckers, was in town for 3 nights at the 9:30 Club.  Since we weren't too keen on being out and messing with driving around on NYE, we opted to go on Friday.  One of our best friends and his girlfriend joined us.  We ventured to Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights first.

It's one of our favorites, but sometimes can be tricky to get up there.  It's a great spot when you're going to a show at the 9:30 Club.  It's a big beer bar, which is perfect for the boys.  (They were very excited to see so many DC Brau beers on the menu!)  We shared a bunch of delicious appetizers and had a few beers before heading over to the concert.

I have to admit that the Truckers aren't my favorite, and not exactly my style of music, but I've now been taken to so many shows, I've learned to love like their music!  The 9:30 Club is a great small venue, one of my favorites, and we always have a good time when we go.  I was excited to try out my new pocket-sized camera that I got from hubby for Christmas!

Saturday we were all a little slow to get moving, apparently we had a little too much fun at the concert.  But we got up and moving, getting the house ready for our little get together for NYE.  Tom and Ashley came over again, as did another friend of mine Craig.  We had a great evening - yummy appetizers and 3 cheese sausage lasagna for dinner.  Craig brought a couple bottles of wine, including a bottle of VA wine from Linden, their 08 Hardscrabble.  Linden is one of my absolute favorites!  

At midnight, we all toasted the new year with some bubbly, and were quite proud of ourselves for staying up so late!  

Self timer attempt at a group photo...
Sunday morning, New Year's Day, we headed next door to visit with the neighbors and have some delicious brunch.  Egg and sausage fritatta, sausage balls, Nutella sandwiches and fresh fruit was on the menu.  It was so nice to have brunch at our friends' house, talk about how great 2011 was and look forward to what all 2012 has in store for us.  That evening I made Black Eyed Pea stew with pork and collards - all things to bring us good luck and prosperity in the new year.  We'll take all the help we can get! 

It was a fantastic way to ring in the new year, with good friends.  We are so lucky here in northern VA so have so many special people close to us.  I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate the start of 2012 any other way!

Happy New Year to you and your families!  May it be the best yet.