Washington DC: Iron Gate

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month!
I have a restaurant to tell you about – but, it will definitely leave you with a growling tummy. Snack advisory** retrieve nourishment now!

Tucked away in downtown DC lies an evening of epicurean delight.
Iron Gate DC We entered Iron Gate through the glowing entrance of the bar, a long corridor with high ceilings, which was once a carriageway.

Iron Gate DC

This leads to an outdoor patio, with twinkling lights, roaring fires and a charming living wall, perfect for a summer’s eve under the stars.

Iron Gate DC This, however, was the dead of winter, so we continued on into the restaurant and happily took our seats next to a cosy fireplace.

Iron GateAfter defrosting slightly, we took in our surroundings of a reconverted classic, initially serving as stables in 1875. Having played host to a number of venues, purposes and people, the restaurant was most recently reopened by the Neighbourhood Restaurant Group in 2013. With Exec Chef Anthony Chittum behind the pass, a menu of mid-atlantic ingredients is prepared with influence from Southern Italian and Greek cuisine.Iron Gate

Here, the kitchen buzzes, topped with pickled treats and various, colourful ingredients. Iron GateThe ambiance was dark, but lively, with a happy murmur of friends catching up, dates getting to know one another and diners cutlery clinking away as they got stuck in. Iron Gate With a grumbling stomach, and one of my favourite dates (my Mama), we plumped for the tasting menu, each of us ordering a different dish so we could taste them all.
Iron GateThis began with a ‘taste’ of seasonal sharing plates.

Iron GateThis should really be referred to as ‘miniature feast’, as a collection of small plates arrived, decorating the table with pickled vegetables, fried Jerusalem artichokes, cheesy bread topped with fried onions, heritage carrots, roasted cauliflower and more.

Iron Gate DC

Iron GateIron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron Gate Iron GateThe plates were seemingly endless, a delicious introduction of the dishes to come.
The next section of the menu was inspired by the garden, starting with kuru squash tortellini with brown butter, almond cookies and vin cotton.
Iron GateThe other garden dish was a warm beet composition with sesame feta, roasted treviso and pistachio.
Iron GateWater was the next influence, with a seared tuna crudo served with pomegranate, baby fennel and horseradish providing a refreshing taste of the sea.
Iron Gate This was accompanied by a cauliflower soup, with Maine lobster and curry froth. This was a tasty, hearty dish – but, and you’ll probably never hear these words from my lips again, didn’t actually need the lobster. The soup was great on its own, and the tender chunks of shellfish were lost amongst the comforting cauliflower flavour.  Iron Gate For our mains, inspired by the pasture, we shared veal sweetbreads with local carrots, hazelnut and agro dolce. Iron Gate An incredibly heart portion, but great flavours! Iron GateFollowed by grilled Berkshire pork belly with charred onion, potato fritter and dippy egg. Iron GateThe pork belly was beautifully tender and dippy egg made a nice addition, both visually and flavour-wise.
Iron GateHaving stuffed ourselves to the brim, we relaxed by the frequently stoked fire, sipping tea and Irish coffee over conversation.
Iron GateEventually ready to further our gluttony, we enjoyed Tumbleweed 5 Spoke Creamery Cheese with semolina crostini, honey crispy apple topped with local honey.
Iron GateBefore finishing with dessert of apple strudel with kiln-dried cherries and pumpkin ice cream.
Iron Gate And chocolate wanna cotta with winter citrus and toasted pistachios. Iron Gate

Sweet, honey flavoured Greek donuts, known as loukomades, were a welcome, final temptation, finishing off the sweet ending to our meal. 
Iron Gate

Iron Gate boasts a cosy atmosphere, with phenomenal, friendly service, and a menu of interesting, well executed dishes. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area, but be sure to book, as we’re not the only ones that enjoyed it!

Washington DC: Sushi Taro

This Christmas I had the brilliant idea of changing things up a bit. It seems as if I struggle each year to come up with a wish list as D-Day nears. Rather than request unnecessary ‘things’, I thought we could each choose a restaurant and host a foodie Christmas for three. First up was Sushi Taro, a longtime neighbourhood local go-to for Japanese food in downtown DC. Sushi Taro We opted for the Traditional Kaiseki menu – meaning a multi course Japanese dinner. Japanese cuisine purists look away now, as owner Nobu Yamazaki, who took over the restaurant from his father, has attempted to change things up a bit in terms of modern flair.Sushi Taro The evening started off with a sip of Champagne with yuzu and chrysanthemum. I kindly donated mine, but it looked beautiful and smelled citrusy.Sushi Taro This was followed by their signature dish, sesame tofu with urchin and wasabi, a thing of textural wonder. Each bite was soft, gummy and tender with a subtle, but spicy kick.Sushi Taro Isn’t this bowl beautiful? Every plate was so attractive that I considered finding a way to slip them into my bag. Don’t worry Sushi Taro, all your dish-ware are safely where they should be. (or are they?)
Yes. Yes, they definitely are. Sushi Taro Next was a long, zigzagged plate of perfectly cooked scallops with pickled mushrooms and egg sauce.  Sushi TaroFollowed by a little red pot, which revealed Spanish mackerel, kasu-jiru sake lees soup. Sushi Taro Fine cuts of yellowtail and tuna arrived with another enviable object. How cute is that soy sauce pot? Sushi Taro Sushi TaroA generous portion of sweetened miso marinated louvar fish was accompanied by a delicate monkfish liver fish mousse. I really enjoyed this, it was sweet and meaty, and just look at that plate! Sushi Taro Sushi Taro Fish & chips and ‘renkon’ dog was the only course I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good, and the fried batter was too heavy this far into the meal. Sushi TaroNext to arrive was a selection of nigiri, including unagi, tamago yaki, raw scallop, octopus and salmon roe.  Sushi TaroSushi Taro Sushi TaroSushi TaroAnd a soft shell crab roll. All of which was delicious, but by now, we were sufficiently stuffed. The arrival of our final course brought on mixed emotions. A steaming, flaming, beautifully presented cast iron bowl of sukiyaki was placed in front of each of us. Within this bubbling cauldron of love, was fleshy chunks of tofu, tender onions and several types of Japanese mushroom.
Sushi Taro

I could’ve cried.
I was Christmas feast full. The kind of full where you’re not sure whether or not you’re going to be sick, explode or fall peacefully into a food coma. And yet, here sat this steaming bowl of deliciousness.
Sushi TaroTo make matters worse, or obviously better, slices of Australian kobe beef, a poached egg and udon noodles were served on the side to be dunked into the Japanese stew. Sushi Taro Sushi Taro Sushi Taro Sushi Taro

Fear not my fellow foodies, I persevered. I dunked that beef into my sukiyaki and slurped a big mouthful of noodles.

Sushi TaroSushi TaroAnd then I surrendered. This is the face of food failure. Happy to be filled with such good food, but behind those eyes lie disappointment in my inability to complete the final course. Sushi TaroDespite any level of fullness, there is always room in my dessert stomach. You know, the second stomach that is reserved for all sweet treats. Unfortunately, none of which were particularly worthy of further stuffing myself with. There was a coffee roll cake.
Sushi TaroA Hoji-cha pudding. Sushi TaroAnd although not amazing, my favourite of the three, matcha brûlée.

Sushi Taro is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Washington DC. Maybe give the desserts a miss, but the tasting menu is reasonably priced and the perfect option to try different styles of cooking. We truly enjoyed the entire experience and I would happily fulfil my Japanese cravings here again.

Now, before you scurry off to the kitchen for something to snack on, I’ll leave you with some wise words.
What did the sushi say to the bee?
………..

Wasabi!

Blue Duck Tavern

My trips back to America have become bicoastal. On my way to California, I now touchdown in DC to visit family and friends. This offers an entire new arsenal of restaurants, hotspots and foodie destinations to try.

Blue Duck Tavern is no novice in the DC dining scene. Serving up what they like to call ‘wholesome American fare’, the Park Hyatt resident has long  fed locals, visitors and political partiers alike. The restaurant’s design is stunning, capturing different aspects of historical American elements creating different pockets of varying ambiances throughout. The white marble bar top was hosting a girl’s night out, low cushioned seating by the window had casual meetings and after work drinks taking place, the main dining room had families and dates piling their plates with the soundtrack of the open kitchen and along the towering front windows overlooking their impressive herb garden and a moody sky overhead was where we were seated.

Our dinner started as all good meals should: freshly baked sourdough with whipped, salted butter.  Blue Duck Tavern We decided to share starters. Although, when dining with me, you don’t have much choice. Blue Duck Tavern The Wagyu beef tartar with morels and mustard seed was a stunning start. Blue Duck Tavern Just look that yolky goodness. Blue Duck Tavern Go on, have another look. I’ll wait. Blue Duck TavernThe coddled egg with guanciale, asparagus and almond was a balanced combination of fresh, light ingredients paired with heavy, hearty components. Blue Duck Tavern Our main courses arrived in silver pans with serving spoons, making sharing very convenient.  Blue Duck Tavern I chose duck breast served with rhubarb butter. Blue Duck Tavern And tried bites of tender Wagyu beef with chimichurri and suckling pig. Blue Duck Tavern We also shared sides of toasted faro with peas, almond and preserved lemon, roasted woodland mushrooms with olive oil croutons and beans with pickled blackberries.  Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernBlue Duck TavernAfter dinner, I snuck through the kitchen on my way to the bathroom to say hello and ended up chatting away with a lovely CDP and Blue Duck’s Executive Chef, Sebastien Archambault. I was told that next time I was to try the hanger steak, as this is Chef’s favourite. Now he tells me.Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern I then spied the restaurant’s specialty set out to cool. There were rows of freshly baked apple pies, which I momentarily considered swiping off the counter using my dress as a basket and running. Alas, I composed myself and continued on my way. Blue Duck TavernI took a sneaky outfit snap which you’ve already seen on Instagram, but I’m loving this mustard yellow dress and these heels (which are annoyingly discounted, lucky duck) which have an awesome gold buckle on the side. Blue Duck Tavern I returned for green jasmine flowering tea and a browse of the dessert menu. Blue Duck Tavern Besides a very greedy order of desserts, I was surprised with a candle lit sorbet of passionfruit, mango and tangerine. Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernWe decided the apple pie needed a little something extra.  Blue Duck TavernSo topped it with an order of vanilla bean ice cream. Blue Duck TavernThe meyer lemon icebox cake was a thing of beauty and of taste. Blue Duck TavernA flavourful and delightfully textured lemon crémeux was topped with lemon gel, graham cracker cakes, cream cheese, blueberry pearls and tasmanian pepper meringue.  Blue Duck TavernAs we waddled away through the lobby, we discovered this cool piece on display. They nailed it, don’t ya think?

Our meal at Blue Duck Tavern was absolutely delicious and service was impeccable. The atmosphere is vibrant and decor appropriate for any occasion. I’d highly recommend a visit for an enjoyable evening out in Washington DC. If you make it there before me, be sure to tell me how the hanger steak is!

Fourth of July

As you know, i’m across the pond and won’t exactly be having the biggest blow out for the Fourth of July as it would be particularly ironic. Last year I spent the Fourth in Washington D.C. and it could not have been more festive.

As I explained in my DC post, growing up I never really got to experience the well celebrated holiday as I was usually on a plane to London. I spent many Independence Days up in the sky, looking down at fireworks before reaching the blackness of the Atlantic. This year, i’m planning to at least consume an absurd amount of BBQ and may even whip up a festive treat.

To my Yanks over in the US of A, I hope you have a spectacular day filled with suntan lotion, a family BBQ, watermelon, and most importantly, fireworks! If there’s one thing America knows how to do, it’s celebrating a win. Remember why you’re celebrating and enjoy the day off.

Here’s some Fourth of July Pinspiration.