BGR: Burger Time

17 Sep

Let’s talk burgers. Normally I don’t eat a lot of red meat but every once in awhile I get a ‘got-to-have-it-now’ cheeseburger craving.  A stop whatever you are doing and find burger type of craving. DC is undoubtedly a burger town  so it’s not a hard craving to satisfy. There is a good burger around every corner here. But if I am going to play favorites, and I do, there is one burger spot that for this diner rises to the top of the heap and that is BGR, The Burger Joint.

The ever expanding list of locations are order at the counter spots with a sort of old school rock and roll theme. The menu features specialty burgers galore: turkey, tuna, veggie, Cuban themed, sliders for sharing etc. The Wellington packs a flavor punch with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and blue cheese. It is very filling, very sloppy and very tasty. The Greek, featuring ground lamb, fresh mint, taztziki and feta is one of my favorites, almost refreshing (if a burger could ever fall into that category… probably not).

My go to however is the original The Burger. They get the classic right at  BGR, char grilled outside, juicy inside, buttery brioche bun, mojo sauce (it tastes good, whatever it is). I top mine with cheddar and apple wood smoked bacon , because if you’re going to have a burger you might as well go all out right? So Good.

THE Burger

Then there are the fries. BGR has three varieties: gold, orange and green standards, thick cut classic potato fries, a skinnier sweet potato version and grilled asparagus (to balance out that bacon cheese burger). They’re all good and if I am with a larger group I like to order all three for sharing purposes.

Room left? There are onion rings, handspun shakes with fun seasonal flavors like Guinness and pumpkin pie, and floats. And the best part? There are now four locations with more to come throughout the metro area so the next time you get that must-have-burger-now feeling, BGR is never very far away.

Rasika

26 Aug

Rasika is one of those places that has been on the top of my ‘to try’ list for quite some time now. For one reason or another I just never made it in, then suddenly last week I had the opportunity to try it… twice… and at the very same table. Now that is a happy coincidence.

Rasika’s interior reminds me of dining in an Indian jewel box, everything is very rich, warm and plush, there are also actual (plastic) jewels suspended from the ceiling. The staff is friendly and happy to guide you through any menu items you might be unfamiliar with. Before you get to the menu however be sure to dive into their cocktail list, which is now one of my favorites in town. My favorite was the Chili Fizz a spicy gin based drink with just enough kick.

If you have ever heard mention of Rasika then you have more than likely also heard of their palak chaat aka crispy spinach. It is the stuff of legends and rightfully so, this is some very special spinach: flash fried, yogurt sauced, melt in your mouth, boyfriend says he will be returning to have just spinach for lunch the next day- kind of spinach. I couldn’t resist ordering the dish on both visits. So good.

Heavenly Spinach

‘Do you like spicy?’ our waitress asks as we choose entrees. We do and she recommends lamb kolhapuri, a dish laden with spices: red chilies, coriander, cinnamon and cloves. The meat is lovely, fork-tender, and the dish packs quite a bit of heat. It is quite tasty though it did require an extra order of naan and a cold Kingfisher beer to temper all those chilies! The Andhra chicken curry we ordered was much less spicy with a sweetness from the coconut and poppy seeds in the dish. The black cod I had on trip two is a horse of a different color in comparison with these heavier, comforting curries. It is a delicate dish, with just enough spice, sweetness lent by honey and the surprising flavors of fresh dill and star anise. The fish melts in your mouth in a way I was unaware cod was able to melt.

One Fish, Two Fish

On the dessert front Rasika tempts the dinner with a selection of new and interesting offerings. On my second visit my whole table succumbed to the gulab jamun, little donut like desserts, soaked in honey with an interior consistency of a custard. They are served with cardamom ice cream and manage to be delicious and complex at the same.

Two visits, one table, two amazing meals (and hopefully more to come)!

Ezme

24 Aug

My first impressions walking into Ezme, the new Turkish restaurant and wine bar in Dupont circle are that I love the space… and that I wish it was Fall. While I love restaurants of all shapes, sizes and cuisines my favorite spaces are cozy, European style restaurants. Small spaces with little tables and low lighting. They seem to draw you into your meal and those you share it with. Ezme on the main floor of a Dupont townhouse fits this bill perfectly with its exposed brick walls lined with wine bottles, Turkish art and closely clustered seating. It is like the restaurant equivalent of a hug, (which is why I think it will be perfect in the Fall when the blistering heat of DC in August has faded and cozy will be so much more inviting).

Kebab!

To start we ordered the summer red wine flight with wines hailing from: California, France and Australia (where is Turkey?), and two appetizers: the mucver and sigara boregi. The former being little zucchini pancakes in tomato and yogurt sauces. I found the pancakes themselves to be rather bland and tasteless. The sauces however turned out to be a great accompaniment for the sigara, cigar shaped crispy pastry filled with warm feta, parsley and dill which were delicious (though how could flaky pastry filled with melted cheese ever really be a bad thing).

Next up the karsik kebab, a combination platter featuring: shish kebab, chicken kebab, meatballs, chicken meatballs, rack of lamb and doner kebab. The highlights in this plethora of meat were undoubtedly the lamb and beef meatballs, grilled and so juicy I would have been more than happy with a big plate of just them, and then the rack of lamb which was perfectly cooked and served with a lovely port wine sauce. The doner kebab served over white rice however was a disappointing study on dry meets dry and the mashed potatoes served with the lamb were so thin they tasted like the instant variety. There were however certainly more hits than misses, and when this relatively new spot works out a few kinks I think it will be a great go-to spot for date nights or catching up with friends over red wine and kebab.

Seventh Hill

18 Aug

When wondering to Eastern Market for dinner supplies a few weeks back Seventh Hill Pizza managed to delay shopping endeavors, luring the boyfriend and I inside for a quick lunch. We were not the only ones, well after the customary lunch hour the teeny pizzeria is packed, perhaps having something to do with the glowing review the Post published the week before. With the tables full we migrate toward the one open seat at the bar… right next to the pizza oven on a day when the heat index reached a number I don’t even want to think about. “That seat,” chef Anthony Pilla warns while shaping pizza dough a few feet away, “Is at your own risk. It’s going to be hot.” Noted.

Thankfully a table opens and we snatch it up quickly. Seventh Hill is an order at the counter operation. We opt for the Eastern Market pizza and the soup of the day, a white grape gazpacho. When the food arrives the gazpacho comes with a surprise, a small round of pizza dough with a crunchy, cheesy topping. The cool soup itself is delicious blend of flavors, refreshing and smooth with a little tang from the grapes. On that particularly suffocating Sunday in July it made me want to forgo my spoon and gulp the contents directly from the bowl.

Mmmm... gazpacho.

The pizza is served Neapolitan style with a thin crust. Ours was topped with tomato, goat cheese, basil, rosemary, tapenade and mushrooms. It tasted like the kitchen had just plucked the ingredients from the garden, so fresh. My only complaint would be that our crust was a bit flimsy/floppier than expected, another minute in that oven probably would have  made it just right.

Pizza, Pizza

While were munching Pilla comes out from behind the oven to chat with his customers, going out of his way to make sure everyone dining feels welcome and satisfied. “Thumbs up?” he asks. Definitely. We’ll be back.

Volt

27 Jul

Last year when the Las Vegas season of Top Chef aired chef/owner Brian Voltaggio and his restaurant Volt moved into the spotlight in the DC restaurant scene. Fredrick, Maryland suddenly became a culinary hotspot. This becomes especially apparent when making a reservation. Plan to call for dinner three months out and YEARS ahead for Voltaggio’s chef’s table, Table 21. This place is not cheap brunch however is  surprisingly reasonable, three courses for $25. Not bad at all.

Reservations made month’s in advance, my family trekked out to Fredrick with high brunching expectations. The restaurant itself is a massive, old brick town home. The interior is quirky and fun and the attentive converse clad waiters will roll a wall away for you (literally) should you need to use the restroom.

The brunch menu offers five or six choices for each of the three courses. The first course brought a tasting of beets and shitake veloute to our table, both dishes offering a new take on tradition. The veloute, a rich mushroom soup is mixed with a frothy pine nut sabayon and brightened with a swirl of chili oil. The beets are an intriguing play on texture, sliced beets are accompanied by beet meringue and fluffy poufs of goat cheese.

Beet Art

Our main courses bring more creative presentations to the table, even simple dishes like omelets and roast chicken become plated works of art. My pork tenderloin is delicious, juicy and cooked to perfection. The accompanying fava beans and earthy, salty mushrooms are perfect for an early summer meal.

Chocolate, Chocolate with Chocolate

Finally dessert , no one at our table could say no to the ‘textures of chocolate,’ a ribbon chocolate ganache with a dense mousse-like texture, raw cocoa, chocolate turned to a fine powder, milk chocolate ice cream, a dab of chocolate caramel… in short: chocoholic heaven.

From the service to the plating Volt is a memorable dining experience. The restaurant mixes the whimsical and the formal to deliver a meal that is surprising, delicious  and also a lot of fun.

Battle Sweet Potato Coffee: Judgement Day

21 Jul

As the winner of last week’s Frozen Dessert Foodie Fight I was asked to judge this week’s battle, Sweet Potato Coffee. Everything looked so tasty in this battle it was hard to pick a winner and runner up. In the end I went with some seriously scrumptious looking Cinnamon Rolls from Indoorgarder_er with HippieChic’s Stuffed Pork Loin as my runner up. In the end result HippieChic’s pork dish took the cake with those cinnamon rolls as the runner up. Yum….

White Chocolate Semifreddo with Salted Caramel and Fresh Peaches

13 Jul

This week Pickles and Kumquats is participating in our second Foodie Fight, an online culinary battle (for fame not fortune). The theme of this week’s battle? Frozen Dessert! Enjoy and head on over to Foodie Fights to VOTE!

Drizzle, Drizzle!

Temperatures in the District recently have been in the triple digits. It is hot, humid and pretty unbearable… perfect for ice cream, sorbets and popsicles (oh my)! For this battle I decided to make a semifreddo. Italian for ‘half cold’, a semifreddo is a frozen treat  made from folding whipped cream with a custard or ice cream. The result is a rich dessert with a mousse-like texture. I went with a white chocolate semifreddo with salted caramel, almonds and fresh peaches… yum!

First up, Salted Caramel Sauce…

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Stir sugar and water in a small sauce pan over med-low heat until the sugar crystals are completely dissolved. Next increase the heat to bring your syrup to a boil for ten minutes or until the syrup turns amber in color. Turn heat to low and add your heavy cream, stir until fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and stir in your butter and salt.

Next in a small frying pan toast 1/2 cup slivered almonds (two to three minutes). Coat the almonds with two tablespoons of your salted caramel sauce and chill the rest until ready to serve.

Toasty Nuts

For the semifreddo…

6 ounces fine-quality white chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream

3-4 fresh peaches

Frist line a loaf pan with two layers plastic wrap, allowing extra for overhang, and chill the pan in the freezer. While your pan gets chilly, bring a small sauce pan with an inch or so of water to a simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl on top and melt your chocolate, stirring as it melts. Remove the chocolate from the heat and replace with a metal bowl. Combine the eggs and sugar over the heat and whisk or beat until the mixture is pale, thick and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in your melted chocolate and vanilla.

Ready for Freezing

In a separate bowl beat your cream until it holds stiff peaks and then fold into your egg mixture until fully combined. Fold in your caramel coated almonds, pour the mixture into your cold loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap.

Freeze your semifreddo for 8 hours or overnight.

When fully frozen unmold your semifreddo on to a platter. Heat your salted caramel sauce on the stove or in the microwave. Rinse and slice your peaches. Finally serve the semifreddo in thick (thicker the better!) slices, drizzled with warm salted caramel and fresh peach slices. (Recipes adapted from Bon Appetite and Gourmet respectively).

Slice It

And the results…

Taste Sensation

So very tasty! One taster described is as ‘an explosion of flavors’, the texture is indeed frozen mousse-like and tastes like a cross between ice cream and pastry cream. Thick, very rich, cold and delicious. The almonds lend a little crunch, the caramel a sweet salty bite and the peaches the fresh taste of summer. A perfect treat that impresses on hot summer night, plus you can make it ahead… yes and please!

Like what you see? Go to Foodie Fights and VOTE!