GCDC: Canadian Tots

Tots

Canada. They’re questionably good to us in the US of A. Even though their hockey players play in our National Hockey League, they get to jump ship when it really matters during the Olympics. Then there’s Lululemon, but even they’ve been in hot water due to “see through pants gate.” Enter poutine: A Canadian creation of true perfection originating in Quebec that consists of fries topped with a savory gravy and cheese curds. 

GCDC, the newish grilled cheese bar on Pennsylvania Ave, advances the dish in The Best Thing on the Menu: Canadian Tots. Instead of fries, flying saucer shaped tots are coated with cheese curds, a mushroom gravy and most importantly…bacon. That hint of smoke plus the crispy, squishy tater tot texture means they’ve one-upped Canada on this one.

GCDC

Since GCDC specializes in what’s between the bread, it’s worth noting that their best grilled cheese option is none other than the Kim-Cheese-Steak. This is NOT what results when Kim Kardashian heads to Philly for a cheesesteak. Rather, the sandwich gets its name from the kimchee that commingles with cheddar cheese and Korean-style roast beef. It’s vibrant colors and even more vibrant flavor will keep you coming back to this zippy fast casual spot that’s been crushing it since they opened. 

Canadian Tots not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

You might also like Bub and Pops or Stachowski Market.

Best Thing at the Party: Sugar and Champagne

Sugar and Champagne

More than a hundred dogs sniffed each other, got gourmet treats and snuck gelato licks from their two-legged companions at the Washington Humane Society’s fundraiser Sugar and Champagne. There were 800 people  in attendance for the event at the Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center. Yes, dogs were allowed inside of one of DC’s most prestigious venues. So let’s get to it, the food that is.

Founding Farmers panna cotta

The Best Thing at the Party: Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Bacon Blueberry Sauce was made by none other than the team from Founding Farmers. They always use bacon really well and have a knack for bringing out the best in fresh produce, so it’s not a surprise that they took the cake. Well maybe not the cake…those accolades belong to Baklava Couture.

Baklava Couture Cake

Their semolina cake with hat tips to baklava’s sticky, crunchy texture was the perfect bite. They got my gold coin in the cake vote. You can find Baklava Couture products at FRESHFARM Markets (seasonal), Todd Gray’s Muse Cafe at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and The Mediterranean Way.

Bacon Candy

Finally, we’d like to call out the very best contraband at the party (those in violation shall remain nameless). The bacon candy on a stick was otherworldly. Mmmm – thick cut and covered in a syrupy, caramelized glaze. OMGet me some more. Bacon and other meat products were apparently banned, due to the stir it would create among the four leggers. Whoops.

Click here for more pictures from the event. Click here to learn about pet adoption.

Sweet Corn Panna Cotta not The Best Thing at the Party? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Birch and Barley Brunch: Freshly Fried Donuts

Birch & Barley Donuts

Despite the brunch mammoth Le Diplomate setting up shop two blocks over, you still have to bang down the doors to brunch at Birch & Barley, and for good reason! If you score a scrumptious table, immediately look to the menu’s sidebar under “sweets.” It’s there that you will find the Best Thing on the Menu: Freshly Fried Donuts. You get three per order (two biggies and a donut hole). The flavors?  Toffee-Bacon, Lemon-Poppy Glazed and Bittersweet Chocolate.

Making Donuts

Let’s hone in on the toffee-bacon delight. It’s savory/sweet and sticky enough that your fingers will feel like you were doing arts and crafts with toddlers all day. But you weren’t, you were indulging on a serious donut that will change the way you feel about this humble pastry forever.

Other brunch menu standouts at Birch & Barley include the corned beef hash, whiskey French toast and a side of PA-style scrapple (mmmmm pork mush).

If you really dig the donuts at Birch & Barley, there’s no excuse for failing to try GBD. There, you’ll find donuts from the same mastermind, Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac, AND fried chicken. They have a maple bourbon glazed donut also topped with bacon, plus a PB&J donut that revolutionizes the elementary school lunch original.

Freshly fried donuts not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

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.

Ah love: Bacon & Smoke

Cary Kelly

Q & A with Ah Love’s Cary Kelly

Boutique olive oil and balsamic vinegar store, Ah love, is bold, playful and full of flavor. Their boldest move? Putting bacon back on the table for vegans and vegetarians, a food magic trick that left us stunned.

Best Thing on the Menu was given the exclusive opportunity to spend one-on-one time with Ah love Owner & CEO, Cary Kelly, who is as innovative and sophisticated as her store and products. Her primary passion lies in supporting small producers that she has personally met at food shows, through her travels or over the internet.

For example, Cary’s main olive oil producers are 5th generation olive farmers from Southern Greece that have a connection to the greater DC area (two sons went to Virginia Tech). Cary works closely with the producers on developing new flavors and each March, they come together for a harvest party at the store.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Bacon Olive Oil is subtle, smoky and just short of a miracle considering it is flavored solely with herbs and vegetables, making it 100% vegan. While Cary admits that olive oil purists cringe at the thought of putting such a spin on one of the purest products on the planet, customers keep coming back for more. Ah love is hosting a Bacon Bonanza on Thursday, June 6th from 5:00-9:00pm at Ah Love’s Shirlington Village location. The party is open to the public and will feature treats like bacon brownies and bacon mousse. All bacon related products are 15% off, so it is the perfect time to pick up a gift for dad.

Also on the shelves of Ah love is President Obama’s favorite olive oil, The Smoked Olive. The president was so sold on this cold-smoked concoction that he ordered it for the Inaugural Ball. The Smoked Olive and Cary Kelly were featured in the Washington Post. You can also see Cary on WJLA.

Other best sellers include the 25-Star Balsamic Vinegar (stars are indicative of how long a balsamic vinegar has aged), the fig balsamic and an addictive spice blend called Olive Oil’s Best Friend.

Ah love can make your life better in hurry. Here’s how: Cary’s oils and vinegars pack so much flavor that they’re all you need to make an impressive, quick dish that’s suitable for entertaining. In addition to being quick and easy, the oils and vinegars are easy on your waistline and your wallet. Our favorite at-home recipe involves drizzling honey ginger white balsamic vinegar on roasted salmon. Click here for recipes.

One last tip from Cary: Have a spoonful of balsamic after a big meal despite feeling full. Balsamic vinegar has been around since the 10th Century and was originally used for medicinal purposes. It is known to level blood sugar and can counter even the biggest meal. Learn how balsamic is made.

Ah love opened a second location this past November, so you can also visit them in the Mosaic District.

Tell us about your favorite Ah love products & recipes in the comments section.