Here are a couple of great spots in our Nation's Capitol - Washington, D.C.:
2400 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest
Indian cuisine tops my list of favorite cuisines - not only because of its vegetarian origins, but more because it makes the most divine flavors with the most humble ingredients. Using chick peas, rice, tomatoes, raisins...its greatness has nothing to do with what it's made of, rather, who made it. Heritage India is consistently impressive, and last night's meal was no exception.
We ordered, to start, the most divine wine. It's a medium-bodied red - Lockwood Syrah from Monterey, c. 2004. It was described as having a "vanilla" finish - and true to its description, it did, and it was wonderful. Its earthy notes were a perfect compliment to the humble ingredients in our dinner, and the sweetness of the vanilla was a perfect foil to the savory spices in our sauces.
We ordered, to start, some vegetable fritters -- spinach, zucchini, potato. They were tasty, but forgettable, and we moved quickly on to our entrees. The murgh makhani, a divinely creamy, spicy, tomato sauce with grilled chicken over the saffron basmati rice is sure to please. A perennial favorite of mine is the aloo chana masala, a vegetarian dish. It uses potatoes and cauliflower in a spicy tomato based sauce. The naan at Heritage is especially nice - a bit saltier than most, which I love.
Heritage is quite a special spot - it opens its doors to those who are dressed up and dressed down. It is 5-star service at a 3-star price. The soft atmosphere -- soft colors and lighting, delicate details in the decor-- and a very helpful, speedy, and attentive waitstaff make for a wonderful dining experience.
1001 Constitution Avenue NW
www.charliepalmer.com or Google "Charlie Palmer's DC"
Charlie Palmer's, where the lobbyists flow as freely as the wine...yikes! Be prepared for this spot, it might take you by surprise. The food is gourmet to a fault, and so is the service. It is a nice, high-ceilinged escape from Capitol Hill, but even the waterscape in the middle of the restaurant is square (how did they do it?)...
In my opinion, they can do without the waiters-in-suits, without the waterscape, without the gigantic wine box...the food speaks for itself. Bonus, they post several of their recipies online! If you want to chef to impress...check them out.
Ciabatta Bread, Kalamata Olive Bread, Focaccia
Fresh-baked and never-ending, it's hard to turn down when it comes around, lined up, cut in half-slices, ready to be served to you from its silver platter with silver tongs.
This tasty morsel was brought out to taste, complements of the chef. Not something I expected to be in the mood for, but it was perfect, and perfectly refreshing. The lime juice and the salt lifted my mood and my appetite for the rest of the dinner.
Mr. Palmer likes to make this room-temperature soup from local tomatoes. It is especially fresh and smooth (but not creamy!), and not over-seasoned like so many. It let the tomatoes speak out - and surprise! there was a taste of rock shrimp ceviche on top. Too tasty.
I ate the Grilled Peaches and Bigwood Farms Blue Cheese Salad which was served with mizuna leaves frisee, celery, caramelized shallot vinagrette. Oh. Wow. If there ever was a salad that ate like a meal, this was it. The mizuna leaves were just perfectly warm and went wonderfully with the blue cheese...the grilled peaches--such a surprise! I am a big fan of fruit in unexpected places, and this salad was the perfect place for an appearance. What a show-stopper! I can't say anymore, except...go try one!
For dessert, I was the lucky recipient of a little ramekin of creme brulee. This adorable dessert series comes out with five tiny ramekins - one to hold mini hazlenut biscotti, one to hold some hazlenut creme, and three(!) different little ramekins of creme brulee. There was the traditional creme brulee, the orange creme brulee, and one made with cocoa. Go ahead, eat them all! When something tastes that good, you don't have to feel bad about it.
During dessert, we sipped on some frothy lattes and cappucini...There might be nothing nicer than having a slow cup of coffee or cappuccino while eating a bit of dessert after such a nice meal. Dinner at Charlie Palmer's can turn any old day into a special occasion... just watch out for their "Golden Cadillac" margarita -- I hear it's tasty, but as much of an investment...
Bonus: For foodies on a budget...try Charlie Palmers' prix-fixe lunch! It's 3 courses for $20, year-round. Hooray!