The Best Thing at the Party: Chefs for Equality

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The scene: Chefs and mixologists in every direction in a Ritz-Carlton ballroom studded with silver and red. Cakes that could win a competition, super tall drag queens, a silent auction with killer prizes and TIM GUNN! The Human Rights Campaign’s second annual Chefs for Equality event was spirited and extravagant. After all, there’s a lot to celebrate this year with the striking down of DOMA!

But as always with Best Thing on the Menu, we care first and foremost about the food. After sampling truffled this and that (including popcorn from the Inn at Little Washington!), a couple warm soups in little cardboard cups, boozy fudgsicles and too many canapés to count, a clear winner emerged.

Pabu Happy Spoon

The Best Thing at the Party was, without a doubt, Pabu’s Happy Spoon: Beau Soleil Oyster with Uni, Ikura, Tobiko and a Ponzu Crème Fraîche. This mouthful of raw seafood tastes like someone scooped out a little slice of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. The uni flavor overwhelms but the texture and sweetness of the Pop Rocks-like tobiko and ikura complete the bite. This was by far the most delicate, complex, decadent dish of the night. We had more than our fill of spoons; we’re to blame if they ran out.

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We are now officially inspired to head to Baltimore to visit Executive Chef Jonah Kim and the rest of the team at Pabu. It’s so much more than sushi! They have some of our favorite Japanese dishes including okonomiyaki, miso-glazed nasu (eggplant), Nagoya-style chicken wings and more. Loved grilled food? They even have authentic robatayaki cuisine grilled over Japanese white oak. Oh, and you can get the Happy Spoon! It’s on their regular dinner menu. If you’re a first time Japanese food consumer, take the guesswork out of it and get the Satori tasting menu for under $50.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, the mini Pop-Tart from Ted’s Bulletin was The Best Thing in the Swag Bag (BTSB)!

Pabu’s Happy Spoon not the Best Thing at the Party? Share your favorites in the comments section and definitely get tickets next year.

The Pig: Bacon-wrapped Apples

The Pig's Bacon Wrapped Apples

We’re confident you have eaten many bacon-wrapped somethings in your time – scallops, filet, shrimp, dates … but we have a new one for you. Wrap your head around the perfect fall treat, The Pig’s Best Thing on the Menu: Bacon-wrapped Apples with Rosemary Honey, Buttermilk Blue Cheese and Pistachios. Sticky. Sweet. Smokey.

EatWell, the restaurant group also behind Commissary, Logan Tavern and more made a foray into creative, meat-loving cuisine with The Pig. It has turned out quite well, and we’re impressed by the frequent and seasonal updates to the menu. Sure, they’re pork-centric (and possibly pork-obsessed) but they’re anything but pork only. A testament to this is that the BTM runner up is their Grilled Octopus with Smoked Pork Sausage, Cherry Tomato, Potato, Squid Ink and Piquillo Pepper.

In the mood for a large plate? See the “Supper” section of the menu and don’t hesitate, even for a second, to get anything other than their amazing BBQ pork butt.

Another nod goes to The Pig for offering both wine on tap and a choice between glass and a glass-and-half pours.  Swine and wine, it turns out, are a great match. Check The Pig out this Halloween for their Zombie Apocalypse Halloween tasting menu.

Bacon-wrapped Apples not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

You might also like:  Green Pig Bistro or Garden District.

Stoney’s: Super Grilled Cheese

Stoney's Super Grilled Cheese

Sure, there are a lot of good sandwiches in DC. Maybe you’ve been wowed by fish gyros, piled-high pastrami, tofu banh mi or foie gras-topped duck burgers. None of these match up to Stoney’s Best Thing on the Menu: Super Grilled Cheese. Eating the world’s most perfect iteration of what mom used to make, paired with a cold one, never gets old. They can even serve it with Campbell’s-like tomato soup!

What’s so super about it? Bread that seems to be two parts butter, one part bread fried so crisp you can hear a cacophony of chewing on any given evening; tripled-up slices of melty American cheese the color of a harvest moon; thick-cut bacon, tomato and tangy red onion. Not feeling so super? Try the plain Grilled Cheese, Grilled Ham N Cheese or go gourmet with Rocket Cheese (arugula, Swiss cheese and grape tomatoes on multi-grain) or Chesapeake Cheese (4oz crab cake, Swiss, alfredo sauce and spinach on multi-grain).

If this isn’t enough to stop falsely labeling Stoney’s as a dive bar, you can also try their Salmon BLT, Super Meatloaf Sandwich, or Boss of the Sauce Burger while watching your team play on a big screen or challenging your office mates to trivia. The only thing that remotely places them in this category is their very fair prices. The Super Grilled Cheese (with fries) will run you $9.95 or get it half off on Thursdays during happy hour (5:00-7:00pm).

We’re looking forward to their second location on L Street, just one more way to maximize our Super Grilled Cheese intake.

Super Grilled Cheese not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

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Bar Charley: Jiro Dreams of Sidebar

Bar Charley's Jiro Dreams of Sidebar

It’s a showdown of food vs. beverage at Bar Charley.  If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll be impressed by both and it’ll be hard to decide which program comes out on top. We went for the cocktails but were impressed by the food, which led to more cocktails and then you guessed it, more food.

When you visit this cozy new cocktail den located next to Lauriol Plaza, be sure to order the Best Thing on the Menu: Jiro Dreams of Sidebar – Wasabi, Ginger, Shochu, Rice Vinegar and Nori.  It’s sushi in a glass. Other top cocktails? The Stepdad if you’re in the mood to be dramatic or tiki drinks on tap if you’re feeling fratty.

Ask for Paul Martinez behind the bar, he’ll craft you a killer cocktail and look for a beaming blonde out on the floor, that’s Jackie – one half of the dynamic duo of restaurateurs that also brought you El Chucho.  

The food menu is a trip around the world: An Indian chaat, German frankfurters, tapas-like anchovies on toast with marrow butter, some kind of Nordic cheese and a New England lobster roll. Finish off your sampling of small plates with a go-big-or-go-home dish for the table.

Bar Charley Whole Fish

The whole grilled fish is served with fennel, grape jam and potato puree. Feeling more like meat? No problem, get the grilled steak for two served with fries & kimchi ketchup and a compressed duck sauce.

The good news continues: Bar Charley is now open for brunch! So resist the urge for flavorless fajitas and head a few doors down for creativity, quality and value.

Jiro Dreams of Sidebar not your BTM? Post your favorite (food or drink!) in the comments section.

Casa Luca: Branzino al Forno

Casa Luca Branzino al Forno

Sorry to those who were sad to see AGAINN go, but we think DC came out on top with the addition of Casa Luca. This rustic Italian restaurant has special touches like a section of the drink menu featuring 14 different bottles of wines priced at $28 and they offer to make any of their mouth-watering pasta dishes with gluten-free pasta. We also suspect that they spike their gelato sundaes with some kind of booze, never a bad thing.

With Italian cuisine, sometimes it’s best to put your meal in the hands of an expert. That’s why we’re suggesting you start with Luca Antipasto Misto, letting Fabio Trabocchi and Erin Clarke school you on what’s best when it comes to meats, cheeses and small sides. 

But when it comes to the Best Thing on the Menu, get the Branzino al Forno with Red Peppers, Tomato, Olives and Basil. Besides being breaded in magic fairy dust of some kind, it comes with a grilled lemon. BTW, branzino is European seabass, a fish that continues to grow in popularity in America. I caught you a delicious bass.

You’ll be tempted to get pasta, so, get that too. They can do half portions. But still, save room for dessert. Perhaps you’re getting the picture that this is a meal fit for a post-marathon binge.

You may see a pint-sized version of Chef Trabocchi tending to the kitchen or out on the floor. Don’t worry, MasterChef Junior hasn’t come to town. That’s Luca, the chef’s son and the restaurant’s namesake.

See some pictures of Casa Luca.

Branzino al Forno not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Ted’s Bulletin: Pop-tarts!

Ted's Bulletin Pop Tart

Pop-tarts are so in right now that they’re being used as a measurement calibration for Smartphones. So, where can you get them in DC? Well, there are a couple of places but Ted’s Bulletin was first. While we eagerly await a toaster strudel competitor to open across the street, here are our thoughts on Ted’s on 14th.

When you enter Ted’s Bulletin, you also enter the 1930s. Prepared to be comforted by jazzed up diner dishes in the afternoon and evening and true breakfast staples in the morning. We particularly like their Walk of Shame Breakfast Burrito, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup and their Meatloaf with Mingo County Ketchup Glaze. Oh and throw in their adult milkshakes.

That being said, we have to go with the pack on this one. The Best Thing on the Menu: Chocolate Salted Caramel Pop-tarts are a must-try. If sugar content wasn’t enough reason to sample this childhood staple turned trend, here are some fun facts about pop-tarts:

  • Kellogg actually swiped the toaster pastry idea away from Post, who originally had the idea for “Country Squares.” They revealed their revolutionary breakfast product just a bit too soon and lost big time. Whomp whomp.
  • The first four flavors when pop-tarts hit the shelves were blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, apple currant and strawberry. Brown sugar cinnamon, still the king today! That’s a lot of accolades seeing as though pop-tarts now come in 29 flavors.
  • You may have seen this warning on the box “Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended.” There’s a good story here… If you weren’t concentrating hard in grade school in 1992, you might remember that a dude named Thomas Nangle sued Kellogg after his pop-tart got stuck in the toaster and caught on fire. A couple years later a groovy professor at Texas A & M performed an experiment showing that STRAWBERRY pop-tarts (strawberry specifically?!) when left in the toaster can produce foot-high flames. It apparently happened again more recently in 2001.
  • The original pop-tart mascots name was Milton.
  • We’re hopeful they don’t break when airdropped, because in 2004, our military dropped 2.4 million pop-tarts in Afghanistan.
  • Though now discontinued, at one point there was a Hello Kitty Meowberry pop-tart.
  • Never trust anyone who eats his pop-tarts cold out of the box. It’s hot and gooey or the highway.

It’s fun to feel comfy cozy eating inside Ted’s Bulletin on 14th. The atmosphere makes you want to stay a while and we’re particularly enamored by the fact that they play Gone with the Wind on old-timey TVs, have newspaper-looking menus and recognize that breakfast is the best meal of the day by serving it at all times!

Pop-tarts not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Prepared Meals Fit for a Foodie

In this special edition, we talk BPM instead of BTM. Prepared meals in this city have come a long way. Though often stigmatized as being flavorless, unimaginative, full of preservatives and sodium and other dining deadly sins, this is no longer the case. So who’s the best out there? What do they offer? Is it worth the price? Where can you get meals? BTM is here to help.

The BPM (Best Prepared Meals) come from Power Supply, which started out as a meal delivery service responding to the paleo diet craze in the Crossfit community. Paleo’s pretty much what it sounds like … you eat like a stone age, hunter/gatherer caveman. Lean proteins, veggies, nuts and (some) fruits. No dairy, no gluten, no added sugar, no beans, no no no no no. This sounds seriously limiting, so the fact that a small local business found a way to make this absolutely delectable is astounding.

Recognizing that there are many ways to eat healthy, Power Supply recently expanded to offer two new lines. The “mixitarian” line is paleo-inspired, but incorporates “good” grains like nutty quinoa and hearty brown rice, while the vegetarian line is well, vegetarian. We put our money where our mouth is spent a week eating the mixitarian meals below.

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Roasted Chicken Salad with Strawberries, Onions and Almonds

Power Supply is highly customizable. Each week, you take a look at the menu and decide if you want to order lunches, dinners or go all out and order lunches and dinners. Going out of town the second half of the week? No problem, you can choose to get three meals a week instead of five. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday meals are delivered Monday mornings and Thursday and Friday meals are delivered Thursday mornings.

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Vietnamese Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad

Where are they delivered to you’re wondering? Your local gym. Even if you’re not a member of a gym, simply look at Power Supply’s list of participating locations and find the gym that’s closest to you. You select your location when using their easy online ordering system.

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Beef Stroganoff Spaghetti Squash

Regardless of the line (mixitarian, vegetarian or paleo) Power Supply gets creative with their ingredients and menus, drawing from flavors from around the world. We love when they do takes on African peri-peri, Japanese bento boxes, Mexican rice bowls (made out of cauliflower rice of course) and more. Protein wise, in addition to the traditional chicken, beef and pork, Power Supply changes it up with bison, fish and shrimp dishes. This Beef Stroganoff, for example, creatively uses spaghetti squash as impostor noodles and the creaminess comes from coconut milk.

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Pineapple Stuffed Chorizo Burgers with Side Salad

We’re nearing the end here, so it’s probably time to talk about cost. These five meals cost us $66 bucks. That’s about $13 a meal. It’s a little less if you set up a recurring order. Before you stop reading, consider how much money you spend on groceries to pack lunches that you end up throwing out at week’s end because of impromptu lunch meetings or trips out of town. Addicted to Seamless.com or that build-your-own bibim-bap place across the street? Dining out adds up as well. What you’re getting with these meals is value, variety, nutrition and convenience.

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Jerk Chicken and Papaya Salad

If you can’t tell already, we’re smitten with Power Supply. Truth be told, we subsist on their meals when we’re not trying DC’s latest and greatest food for Best Thing on the Menu. One last added bonus for our gluten-free friends? All three of Power Supply’s lines are gluten free.

Check out current menus:

Click here for strict paleo.

Click here for paleo-inspired mixitarian meals.

Click here and scroll down for vegetarian.

Power Supply not your BPM (Best Prepared Meals)? Share your favorite prepared meal company in the comments section.

Mio: Calamares con Ajo, Setas y Chiles de Simojovel

Mio Calamari

Want to try food straight from the heart of the Julia Child of Puerto Rico? Visit Mio near McPhereson Square to experience Chef Giovanna Huyke’s Latin cuisine. She is a master at using cool carbs like yucca and plantains: mashing them, frying them and even boldly stuffing them with blood sausage.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Calamares con Ajo, Setas y Chiles de Simojovel (pan roasted calamari with shitake mushrooms, garlic and chile) is fun for several reasons. We’re already suckers for grilled calamari … why fry something that’s good to begin with? But here, the chef combines two elements (mushrooms and calamari) that have virtually the same texture. We’ve never seen this combination before. Serving this dish with a grilled lemon is an added bonus. Also, this appetizer is quite large, making it perfect for sharing.

Be sure to ask for their specials. While we were there, they were offering Lechón (suckling pig) in either an appetizer or entree-sized portion. We watched as they carved it, and it was served with pickled yucca.

Wanna try cooking in Chef Huyke’s kitchen? Mio offers this very opportunity. Their whole food philosophy focuses on Cocina Abierta, which means their kitchen is open to aspiring chefs, foodies and culinary aficionados, who for one night can make their Food Network fantasies come true. This “Guest Chef for a Day” program allows you to cook up a feast in support of a charity. Learn more here.

Calamares con Ajo, Setas y Chiles de Simojovel not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.