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!

RANGE Restaurant by Bryan Voltaggio

How’s your January health kick going?
If you follow me on Instagram, it’s clear that mine is going swimmingly.

Carrying  on from the December indulgence, (I’ve gained about 10lbs since I’ve landed stateside – be impressed) we booked dinner for DC Restaurant Week at RANGE.

You may have previously read about my dinner at Volt, Bryan Voltaggio’s stunning, fine dining restaurant located in Frederick, Maryland in a 19th Century brownstone mansion. Having enjoyed this experience so much, I was really looking forward to trying RANGE, a much more modern menu using seasonal ingredients from the Mid-Atlantic region.

The restaurant boasts 9 open kitchens, including a salumeria, bakery, raw bar, rotisserie and wood fired oven. The decor is welcoming and neutral whilst staff dress in converse, jeans and aprons complete with built-in corkscrew pockets. Overall, a more laid-back, accessible affair compared to Volt.

RANGEAlongside an extensive menu separated into categories by kitchen, RANGE has a killer cocktail list. Owen Thomson, RANGE’s beverage director & head mixologist, has a creatively named selection of drinks made with an array of ingredients. His Inept Carnie, a favourite of my mother’s, is made with scotch, pumpkin shrub and Averna.

RANGEI requested a non-alcoholic cocktail, dealer’s choice, and received a pineapple, lime, almond & ginger beer concoction.
RANGEFrom the Restaurant Week menu, we each chose a starter, main and dessert, which we all shared.
Obviously.
(dining with me comes with an obligatory share factor of whatever you’ve ordered)

To start:

Artichoke, mozzarella, maitake, taggiesca olive pizzaRANGE RANGEBeet, burrata, pistachio & sorrel vinaigrette RANGELacinato kale, ceasar, sourdough, egg emulsion, pecorino
RANGE RANGE

Delicious combinations, fresh ingredients and large portions.
The standout dish for me was the Kale Caesar. (is that a pun, Chef?)
A tasty, healthy ingredient covered in a creamy dressing and topped generously with cheese – always an excellent idea.

For our mains:

Goat cheese ravioli, braised meat ragu, basil & parmesan
RANGERoasted half chicken, lemon, garlic, bulgur wheat, smoked raisins RANGERockfish, yellow fish, parisian gnocchi, dandelion RANGE

Wow. The Goat cheese ravioli was stunning. Such a dramatic flavour from the cheese paired beautifully with the meat ragu.
The chicken was incredibly tender and made the perfect vehicle for the generous portions of roasted garlic I covered each bite with.
The Rockfish was tasty, but the gnocchi too dense and butter sauce too rich for such a delicate piece of fish.

Let’s take a little breather before we move onto dessert, shall we?
The bathrooms at RANGE are weird.
I like weird.
The spaceship-like door has a little round disk which you pull at gently before the door slides open on its own. Don’t stand there like a moron trying to close it, it will eventually close on its own.
(there should really be a sign…) RANGE
The room is very dark, with backlit panels behind the sink and mirror which make you sort of glow.

RANGE

The sinks are freestanding glass basins with automatic faucets and secret lever soap… It took me awhile to figure out this wasn’t also automatic. All part of the spaceship mystery, I guess.
RANGENow that you’ve made some room following our little adventure, it’s dessert time!

Apple tart tatin with cinnamon caramel ice cream & apple butter 

RANGERANGE Meyer lemon custard, marshmallow, blood orange, white chocolate RANGEBittersweet chocolate semifreddo, white chocolate pudding, olive oil gelato
RANGE RANGE

All the desserts, as you can see, were beautifully presented.
However, I felt each missed the mark a little on flavour. I didn’t dislike any of them, but each had such unique combinations that could’ve really stood out.

To make up for my minor disappointment, we ordered a selection of truffles from the candy bar. Earl grey & salted almond truffle, honey lavender truffle and everyone’s favourite – Mexican hot chocolate truffle

RANGERANGE was yet another delicious experience and I continue to be impressed by Bryan Voltaggio’s work. If you’re in DC, I’d definitely recommend a dinner with friends & family here.
If you don’t plan on dining here but are in the area, please promise you’ll at least try the Mexican hot chocolate truffle? And maybe get an extra one for me…Thanks!

Zaytinya

Remember when I mentioned fabulous Spanish Chef José Andrés a mere two days ago? Well, I loved Jaleo’s Spanish tapas so much, that when a friend from University in London wanted to meet up in DC, I was ready for another round of the chef’s fantastic cooking.

Zaytinya is a modern Mediterranean tapas restaurant – do you see the theme here? The restaurant is very open and is flooded with natural light from the massive glass wall that allows diners to see businessmen and tourists scurrying along the street.

After being seated and given our menus, I had to question José Andrés in a way I had not yet had to do. Yes, I had previously pondered his motives for serving chicken fritters in a shoe or his placement of caramelised bread with chocolate mousse, but his efforts had proven to be successful on each account. This time however, had Mr. Andrés gone too far?

His menu clearly states: Are You Ready for This Because I Believe Your Life is Going to Change Forever
Bold. Daring. But true?
Well let me tell you, anyone that keeps a hot basket of Pita bread filled throughout my dining experience, can make all the outrageous claims in the world.

I had to snap a picture of the oil, it’s shaped in a Z! For Zaytinya! Well, I thought it was cool. Nothing like some fresh Hummus and warm Pita bread to start a Mediterranean feast.Fresh Fattoush Salad of Tomato, Cucumer, Red Onion, Green Pepper, Radish, Pita Chips, and Pomegranate Vinegar Dressing 

Sauteed Shrimp, Dill, Shallots, Mustard, and Lemon Juice
These were some of the best shrimp I have EVER had and I definitely plan on recreating these at home.

This was, hands down, the best Falafel I have ever had. Alright José, you got me. I did not see life changing in the form of a Falafel coming. They were light and fresh with a bright green interior and plenty of spices.
Adana Lamb Kebab Chicken Shish Taouk Turkish Delight: Walnut Ice Cream with Yogurt Mousse, Honey Gelee, and Caramel Sauce with Caramelised Pine Nuts Greek Yogurt and Apricots: Muscat Soaked Apricots with Vanilla Yogurt Cream, Apricot Sauce, and Pistachio Powder

Jaleo

Spanish Chef José Andrés is a genius.
James Beard Award winner and owner of the Think Food Group, he has a list of incredible restaurants across the US.

After a day of wandering around the Smithsonian American Art Museum, my mom and I popped around the corner for some well earned tapas at Jaleo.
The renowned Spanish tapas restaurant was packed with buzzing hockey fans, filling up on tapas treats before the game.

The room’s decor is sort of retro meets modern art with strange wallpaper of outfitted bodies cut off at the shoulders.
I am obsessed with the wine list which was served on an iPad. I’ve waited to see this concept used in a restaurant for the food menu for far too long.

Alright, let’s be honest. We’re not here to chit chat about the 21st century wine list or the strange wallpaper. It’s all about the food porn, and this time, it’s dished up in the form of little bite-size Spanish tapas.

Endives, Goat Cheese, Oranges, and Almonds

Fried Mashed Potatoes Filled with Cerano Ham topped with Tomato Sauce & Garlic Aioli

Seared Piquillo Peppers filled with Cana de Cabra Goat Cheese

Mussels served with Pipirrana, Sherry Dressing, and Honey

Spanish Mini-burger made from the Legendary Acorn-fed, Black-footed Iberico Pigs of Spain

I flagged a waiter down to take a picture of the most oddly presented Chicken Fritters, served in a glass shoe! Chocolate Mousse with Caramelised Bread, Olive Oil, and Brioche Ice CreamApple Charlotte with Pedro Ximenez and Vanilla Ice Cream 

I’m so inspired by these Foosball Dining Tables – what a way to pass the time whilst waiting for your tapas to be whipped up. I’m definitely creating my own version for my future home. 

Each bite was more fantastic than the next and I can’t wait to taste my way through more of José’s restaurants.

Fourth of July: Washington D.C.

Happy belated Independence Day! It is a rare occasion that I am in America for this joyous celebration of independence from the Brits – as i’m usually on a plane to London.

We spent the 3rd pre-partying at a family BBQ. We had burgers and hot dogs with all the best side dishes. For dessert we had watermelon and American Flag cupcakes. The store only had 9 flag cupcakes left, so they threw in a few festive coloured dogs which turned out to be a great talk-piece.

After 20 minutes of thunder, lightning, and torrential downpour, we took a dip in the pool. The perfect pre-fourth BBQ.

For the Fourth of July, we stayed in downtown D.C. We spent the day walking around in the muggy heat, taking in the old and new of the Nation’s Capitol.
I spy a kitty. 

We stopped for lunch at The Sofitel. The perfect summer drinks: Watermelon Martini & Lime, Muddled Mint, Soda Water, Pineapple Juice

We met up with family friends for dinner at Capitol City Brewing Co.
How about that for a starter?

After dinner we walked with the crowds down to the National Monument to watch the most spectacular firework display. On the way, a family friend bought me a lightsaber to ensure I didn’t get lost in the crowds. It turned out to be almost as amusing as a sparkler.