Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Restaurant Review: Sou'Wester

Since the purpose of Restaurant Week is to try new restaurants out for a fraction of the cost, every time that week rolls around I take full advantage. This go around my second restaurant choice proved to be much better than my first which was when I went to Vidalia. I decided to finally try out Sou'Wester which is located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel located in Southwest quadrant of Washington, DC, hence the name.

It was a beautiful day so I jumped at the chance to sit outside. The patio area overlooked a grassy area where the
y were just dismantling from a wedding. It was very quiet and peaceful back there, so much so it was hard to tell you were still in the city.

The waiter came
over introduced himself and welcomed us to the restaurant. They had an extensive wine list but I decided to stick with a glass of Riesling while I decided on what I wanted to eat. Honestly, practically everything looked good on the menu and it took me a little while to decide on my three courses. I love when places offer most, if not all, of their regular menu during Restaurant Week.

For my appetizer, I started off with a wedge salad but this wasn't your run of the mill wedge salad. It was drenched in a buttermilk ranch dressing and topped with lots of fresh bacon. I'm sure it had twice the calories of a salad that would have been good for me, but I settled on eating something that was good to me instead.

Next, I had the grilled North Carolina shrimp with Anson Mills Grits, Roasted Tomato, Pearl Onions, Felts Country Ham Sauces for the entree. It was just the right portion after having that hearty salad. From the first taste of the shrimp and grits, I knew it was a winner. Prior to having the shrimp and grits at Sou'Wester, Art & Soul was my hands down favorite. Now Sou'Wester has taken #1. The grits were incredibly creamy, the shrimp was fresh and I'm sure I tasted some andouille sausage in there which was a perfect complement to an already excellent dish.

By this time, I was full and didn't think I could eat another bite but that was until I saw what came out. The blackberry cornbread buckle (similar to a cobbler) was served with a side of sweet corn ice cream. I was a special place in my heart for blackberry cobbler and I'm glad to say this dish didn't disappoint. It was baked to perfection. I truly appreciated how they put the ice cream on the side so that it didn't melt into the dish and detract from its rich taste.

Overall, Sou'Wester impressed me from their very accommodating waiters to their superior food and atmosphere. Everything I had was an A+ and it will definitely be going on my list of places I must take guests who are visiting Washington, DC. If you haven't been there, it's a definite must!

1330 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20024


Friday, August 26, 2011

Things to Do: Fashion Night Out Saks & March of Dimes

Just received an email about an event being held during the national event Fashion's Night Out on September 8. This event is a little different from many of the others being held in that it's promoting a charitable organization, the March of Dimes. See below for the press release.


Once a year, the entire fashion world goes out for a nationwide late night of style, makeovers, music and more. On Thursday, September 8, from 4 to 7 PM, Saks Fifth Avenue Tysons Galleria celebrates Fashion’s Night Out with DC Magazine, the March of Dimes, the Office of Minority Health and A Healthy Baby Begins With You celebrity spokeswoman Tonya Lewis Lee to celebrate the beauty of healthy living at a celebration dubbed “In Good Taste and Health.”

Party-goers will shop the newest fall collections, bid on unique experiences and rare items, sample gourmet goodies as top chefs prepare folate-filled food live. Saks Fifth Avenue is proud to donate 10% of the evening sales and all auction proceeds to March of Dimes.

From 5 to 6 pm, Laurent Amzallag, former trainer for Oprah Winfrey's Live Your Best Life tour and Dr. Jen Faber, owner of Kinetic Health Alternatives who has served as chiropractor to Lady Gaga's dancers, deliver fitness tips that everyone can incorporate into daily life, on the first floor of the store.

Throughout the evening on the second floor, attendees will enjoy mini makeovers while student health ambassadors give you tips on healthy living. Sample gourmet goodies from top area restaurants, including Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, Bar Manager Jo-Jo Valenzuela from Jack Rose Dining and Vegan Chef Levita Mondie. Saks will also unveil the newly launched collection from B By Brian Atwood. Party-goers can immortalize themselves trying out the new and much anticipated shoe line, tag themselves on Facebook and take home pictures of themselves from the B by Brian Atwood Photo Booth.

Beginning at 6 PM, the finale of the party will take place on the third floor, where attendees will learn how to prepare healthy gourmet foods filled with folic acid. Tonya Lewis Lee will partner with: Former Top Chef Contestants Tamesha Warren of The Oval Room; Timothy Dean of Prime Steak House and T.D. Burger, LLC; and Vegan Chef Levita Mondie.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health created A Healthy Baby Begins with You to educate men and women about the high rates of infant mortality especially among African Americans and to raise awareness about the importance of healthy choices for good reproductive health. African American women, across the socioeconomic spectrum, fare worse in birth outcomes and the problem of infant mortality in the black community transcends education, income and class.

“Professional and wealthy black women may not realize that infant mortality can affect them too, and that the risks can be reduced,” says OMH’s A Healthy Baby Begins with You celebrity spokeswoman, Tonya Lewis Lee, who is also an author, producer, and wife of filmmaker Spike Lee. “We know that preconception health and care, including good nutrition and fitness, are fundamental to reducing this health disparity and the benefits of wellness last a life time. To be healthy is to be beautiful.”

Interested attendees can RSVP to rsvptysons@s5a.com or call 703.269.1206 for more information.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Restaurant Review: Vidalia

Over the last few years I'd heard so many great things about Vidalia. When I learned summer Restaurant Week (RW) for DC had been officially announced, I quickly made my reservations and had Vidalia in my top 3.

I ended up meeting an old friend there for lunch on a Friday afternoon. When I walked up to the door, I opened it and proceeded down a flight of stairs to the restaurant. Not really a fan of restaurants that are underground but it was fairly well lit, despite not having any natural light.

Prior to going, I'd perused the menu and was happy to see most of their usual appetizers and entrees were being offered for RW. I don't like when restaurants severely limit their options or create special dishes just for RW. It's happened before that I really liked something and went back to have it again but was told it was only something they had for the week.

Moving forward, I was seated at a small 2-seater table with my friend. As soon as I sat down the waiter came over to take my order. He came over another 3 times, while we were both clearly trying to decide one what we wanted. Eventually, I just selected something because I felt so rushed.

For the appetizer, I had the Berkshire Pork Posole. It definitely wasn't at all what I expected. It had the potential to be good if it had been seasoned adequately. I added salt and pepper in hopes of saving it, no luck. Next I had the Cornmeal Crusted Catfish. Fried catfish is one of the few fried things that I eat and also cook, so I know what I like. I figured it was Southern style, fried catfish so it had to be good right? Yeah, not so much. It also lacked taste and I ended up leaving half of it on my plate. I will say the crayfish and andouille sausage that was underneath the catfish wasn't bad, at least it had some flavor. Lastly, I the red velvet cheesecake came out. I love, love, love all things red velvet so I hoped this would redeem an already lackluster meal. That was a negative. The dessert was a small round piece of dry red velvet cake (it was actually pink) with a round, fluffy piece of cheesecake, which was more like a tasteless whipped cream sitting on top.

By this time I was ready to go and before I could say anything, the waiter was there placing our check on the table. Crazy thing is we weren't even just sitting there being squatters because we both had to get back to work. Guess he was in a hurry to turn our table, so much so he stepped on the back of my sandal as I was leaving. I turned around, no apology nothing.

Saying I was disappointed in Vidalia would be an understatement. It was even more so because each of the dishes were so nicely plated, proving looks can definitely be deceiving. Too bad such care didn't go into the recipes themselves. See the photos below. The photo on the far right was my friend's rib dish. The meat was very tender but also lacking in the taste department.

I wonder if Vidalia's former head chef was the driving force behind their success. I've heard nothing but great reviews about his new restaurant, Rogue 24, which opened this summer. Hope it's better than Vidalia, but then again, I'm fairly certain it has to be!


1990 M Street, NW
Washington D.C., DC 20036


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bobby's Burger Palace

As I write this, I'm still fantasizing over how good the food was at the newly opened Bobby's Burger Palace (BBP). On Tuesday, August 16, Bobby Flay's latest burger joint opened at the corner of 21st and K Streets NW in Washington, DC.

I learned last week that the restaurant was slated to open on August 16th but when I called to confirm, I was told the opening was likely to be pushed back. To my surprise during lunch time yesterday, I saw that one of my Foursquare connections had checked in there. When I did a search online I saw people talking about how long the lines were but how they were excited to have the chance to meet Bobby Flay who was on-hand for the grand opening to mix and mingle.

Since I couldn't leave work mid-afternoon to wait in line for a burger, I ended up going immediately after work with 2 of my co-workers. I was shocked that the line had died down, I was expecting it to still be down the street but fortunately for us it wasn't. We ended up waiting in line for about 20-25 minutes, which was much better than I anticipated.

The Inside.
The inside of the restaurant was pretty much as I'd expected it to be, bright, vibrant, eclectic and even a bit retro. The last Bobby Flay restaurant I went to was Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. BBP is no where as grand as Mesa Grill but I could see some similarities.

The Order. We all ordered burgers and for our sides the regular fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings. I had hoped to polish off my meal with the frozen cactus pear margarita but apparently they didn't have their liquor license yet (I was told they should have it by Thursday, 8/18) so of course they also couldn't serve their spiked milkshakes. Oh well. But I didn't let that get me down, just gave me another reason why I must go back.

I, along with a coworker, ordered the Bobby's Blue Burger. It was a ground beef burger topped with lettuce, tomatoes, crumbles of blue cheese and my fav two large strips of bacon. The other coworker had the Santa Fe burger.

So we took a seat, placed our numbers in front of us, and waited for them to deliver each of our meals. The manager, Lawrence, came over while we waited and explained to us each of the sauces (Burger Sauce, Jalapeno Ketchup, Chipotle Ketchup along with the usual condiments) along with making small talk about the restaurant. He did share with us that we'd missed meeting Bobby Flay by only 30 minutes.

The Sides. When the food came out, since I'm one of those weird people who like to eat everything separately, I slowly enjoyed each of the fries (both were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle with a hint of sea salt) and then moved on to the onion rings. I never eat onion rings but these were absolutely delicious. They were lightly breaded and the onion was slightly sweet which made for a pleasant surprise.

The Burgers. After like 5 minutes, I finally cut my burger in half and went to town. My burger was so juicy and flavorful the blue cheese and the other toppings seemed to be just an added incentive. Advice: It was a bit messy so make sure when you eat there you're not wearing white. The thing I liked most is although there were plenty of sauces available (the "Burger Sauce" is my personal fav) my burger didn't need any of them to top it off. It was perfect as-is!

Lawrence came back over to check on us and asked us which of the burgers did we wish we'd ordered. At first we thought it was just a random question, next thing you know we had a hot Miami burger in front of us. The Miami burger was made like a Cuban sandwich. It was beef patty, topped with ham, cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard and the hamburger bun was pressed like a panini.

While I loved my Bobby Blue, that Miami Burger just did something to me. The sauces combined with the pickles and ham, whew just the thought of how it tasted makes me want to go back again and again. Yes! it was really that good, I even made noises to express my satisfaction.

The photos I too
k of the meal via my iPhone don't even do it justice. The service was spectacular, the venue was very welcoming and had a communal feel and most importantly the food was amazing! Next time I may even ask to be "Crunchified", it's when they put potato chips on top of your burger.
Make sure when you go, you ask for the BBP Rewards card which enables you to rack up points toward a free burger, sandwich or salad. I have no doubt I'll be using mine often, which means I need to put in an extra workout each week. Since they will be serving drinks soon, beer, wine, and margaritas (all under $5), I'm sure this will make for a great happy hour spot.

Bobby's Burger Palace

2121 K Street, NW

Washington, DC 20037


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Things to Do: The Phillips Collection August 2011

I went to the Phillips Collection for Phillips After 5 for the first time last month, see my post on it here. Usually, it only occurs the first Thursday of every month but during the month of August they are doing it, and doing it big, every Thursday all month long. See below for a listing of the upcoming Phillips After 5 events, all equally exciting.

August 18, 2011
5:00 – 8:30PM
Critically acclaimed D.C.-based dance company Step Afrika! reprises two 15-minute excerpts from its performance series The Migration: Reflection on Jacob Lawrence. Find your own inspiration in Lawrence's The Migration Series during gallery talks about his artistic process. All evening enjoy global jazz by Project Natale and a rum tasting by Dan Searing.

Food Truck Fiesta
August 25, 2011

5:00 – 8:30PM
The Phillips, FoodTruckFiesta.com, and Hillyer Art Space team up to bring you a delicious and unforgettable evening. D.C. food truck favorites, including Red Hook Lobster Pound and DC Empanadas, line the streets around the museum. Go on an art scavenger hunt to be eligible for a drawing with great prizes and food truck coupons. A tequila tasting, jazz by Mark Marella, and gallery talks on Left Behind: Selected Gifts from the Heather and Tony Podesta Collection round out the evening.

Evening in Moscow
September 1, 2011
5:00 – 8:30PM
Celebrate Kandinsky’s native Russia with Eastern European music from the Alexandria Kleztet, gallery talks on Moscow's influence on Kandinsky, and Russian-inspired food and cash bar. Take a break in the auditorium, where oscar-nominated short films in animation will be screened throughout the evening. Enter the raffle for a chance to win tickets and all-access passes to the DC Shorts Film Festival.

Admission: $12; free for members. Cash bar.
RSVPs are required: http://tinyurl.com/savvypaf

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Monday, August 15, 2011

Things to Do: Riot Act Comedy Theater

Last week, I was scrolling through my timeline and came across a contest for free tickets for a new comedy club called Riot Act that was opening up in DC. I entered to win and was notified a few days later that I'd gotten tickets for their pre-opening night on Wednesday, August 10. Unfortunately, I already had plans by then so I couldn't make it.

Fast forward to the next day, one of my new favorite websites, Venga, had a promotion where they were giving out 50 tickets per day for Riot Act's opening weekend. So I decided to try my luck again. Since I also shared the promotion via Facebook and Twitter I ended up receiving a second tickets for the Saturday 10:30pm performance.

We got there early because you never know what the parking situation is going to look like in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area, but fortunately we lucked out. The Riot Act Comedy Theater is located at the corner of 8th and E Streets NW.

When we walked in we were warmly greeted by all of the staff and were handed our tickets. They had a bustling bar on the main level with plenty of hi-tops and stools for seating but we decided to head downstairs to check out the showroom to stake our claim to some seats.

There was another bar downstairs that was way less crowded but since we could order in the showroom we decided to just take a seat while they were so plentiful. A host showed us to our table which was on the second row in front of the stage. There was one to the left of the stage but I know how comedians are, so I didn't want to take a chance at getting dragged into the act.

As soon as we were seated our waitress came over, introduced herself and was there to serve us. Our drinks came within 5 minutes and the pulled pork sliders I ordered arrives within 10. How's that for speedy service!

By 10:25 all of the seats were filled, even the other 2 seats at our table. I didn't mind sharing a table because it was a comedy show not some intimate, romantic dinner.

The show began around 10:35 and there were 3 performances, each one equally inappropriate but I love that kind of humor so I laughed the entire time. It started with an MC, Jimmy Meritt, who was absolutely hilarious. Up next was John Betz, Jr who was equally as funny. He even took time out at the end to hawk his comedy DVD that he happily proclaimed "I made myself."

The headliner, Charles Fleischer, came on around 11:30. We he first walked out I didn't know what to expect. He was older and kind of strange looking but after 5 minutes I caught onto his style. During his 45 minute performance, he picked on the 12 people who were seated in the front row, just as I suspected would happen. By the end of the performance he made his way to a keyboard that was on stage and effortlessly made a song out of what each of his "victims" did for a living. He rounded out the performance by also playing the harmonica. I truly was not ready!

Something worth noting, unlike other comedy clubs in the area they didn't require a minimum purchase, so there weren't any people there harassing you throughout the entire show to buy something. So glad they don't operate like that.

Overall, I was impressed with Riot Act. The venue is centrally located, the staff was warm and inviting, the food and drinks were tasty. Usually opening weekends are a little shaky but not at Riot Act. Everyone was professional and on-point. What more could you ask for?

Promotion Alert: When you buy a Riot Act t-shirt, you will get in free for their Tuesday night, Open Mic performances. Not bad!

Some of their upcoming acts include: Todd Rex, Dick Gregory (yes the Dick Gregory), Michael Brooks, and Paul Mooney. For a complete listing and more information, check out their website http://www.riotactcomedy.com/.

I'll definitely be back. Hope to see you there!

Riot Act Comedy
801 E. Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Twitter: @riotactcomedy
Facebook: http://facebook.com/riotactdc

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Things to Do: Fashionable Life 9/8/11

Join the ladies of LilyPad for Fashionable Life on Thursday, September 8, 2011. Below is more information about the event taken from their website.

event details

The Fashionable Life is an event designed by young, professional DC women for young, professional DC women. It's the intimate, luxurious, and innovative beauty and fashion happy hour that we deserve.
As working women in DC we work hard to play hard. We spent years in school, interned our butts off and are finally on our way to achieving the lives of our dreams. And right now we're in that delightful space where we have friends, fun, jobs, and nothing to spend our money on but ourselves and our student loans.
The Fashionable Life aims to bring a great group of women together to laugh, talk, and network while indulging in delightful dishes prepared by a personal chef, cocktails crafted just for us, and manicures, massages, makeovers and one-on-one time with some of DC's hottest stylists. The girls at LilyPad sat down and thought about everything we wanted for an amazing evening out. Then we called up our friends and made it happen. We hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do, and that each event brings you closer to living The Fashionable Life.

when: September 8th, 2011 at 6 pm–9 pm
where: Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct NW, Washington, DC 20008

Monday, August 8, 2011

Truckeroo is Back!!!

In case you missed Truckeroo in July, it's back for August and is supposed to continue monthly through October. Make sure you swing by Das Bullpen at the National's Stadium (Half St.and M Street SE across from the Navy Yard Metro station) on Friday, August 12 from 11:00AM - 11:00PM for this expo of food trucks.

At last month's Truckeroo, there were over 25 food trucks. My friend and I arrived around 7:00 and walked around to check out all of the vendors.

We decided to get in line for Takorean. They had the longest line by far, so we figured it had to be good? I have to say I wasn't completely sold. The bulgogi taco was pretty tasty but the chicken lacked seasoning. I was hoping to try the pork one as well, but after an hour and 15 minutes of waiting as soon as we reached the window, they had sold out. I wish I could say they were worth the wait, but I can't. Hey, you win some, you lose some.

We also tried the arepas from Sabora. The line was by far shorter and the arepa with a side of Latin slaw was delicious. I like the arepas at Cube Libra but this one was definitely heartier and less expensive. I'll be adding Sabora to my Twitter timeline so I can definitely take advantage of the next time they are parked by my office.

My advice is to go with a group of friends and each of you wait in line for something different. This way you have a chance to divide and conquer. Also, bring cash (there's a Bank of America ATM about 2 blocks away). Many of the food trucks were not accepting credit cards so cash is King there.

Volunteers Needed
The food trucks need volunteer canvassers on August 12th. Food provided. Please email them at volunteer@dcfoodtrucks.org.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Restaurant Review: Taberna del Abardero

Feels like I haven't written a restaurant review in a while and I am long overdue.

Being that I'm a fan of Spanish food, when I saw an offer on
The Capitol Deal for Taberna del Abardero I knew I had to buy it. Since the menu is somewhat pricey I decided I'd go during lunch so I could get more for my money.

One of my friends from college met me there around 1:00PM on a Friday afternoon. The weather was perfect so we grabbed a seat under an umbrella on their patio. The staff was very attentive and constantly checked up on us as we finally came to a decision on what we wanted. I ordered the Roasted Sea Bream and Shrimp in Garlic with Cayenne Pepper served With Sautéed Wild Mushroom and my friend ordered the Supreme and Thigh of Baby Chicken stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms, Scallions and Marinated Vegetables. We also ordered a side of Fried Potatoes. Would've been nice to have ordered a glass of wine too but since I had to go back to work I decided against it.

As soon as we ordered a basket of bread came out. Either I was really hungry or that bread was some of the best bread I've had in a while. It was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, just how I liked it. They already had olive oil on the table for dipping so I went to town.

While my friend and I chatted we noticed the pace of the meal was somewhat slow, especially since we were both on our lunch breaks. But I do know from going to Spain they relish in having leisurely meals and this was pretty normal being that it's an authentic Spanish restaurant. All that was missing was a bowl of olives.

So the food arrived and the aroma had me hypnotized. I was also enticed by the presentation. If there's one thing I look for at restaurants of this caliber it's the plating. My friend and I were ready to eat but of course I had to snap a few shots before we dug in.

My fish was lightly seasoned and the sauce was delicious. The dish also had 4 small shrimp and sauteed mushrooms. It was a perfect meal for lunch because it didn't leave me feeling weighed down. The fried potatoes we shared on the side were delicious and didn't need any sauce and were perfectly seasoned. I really could have just eaten those by themselves, but they were a welcomed addition to an already great meal.

Things got very quiet as we both enjoyed our meals. I had a bite of my friend's dish, it was good but definitely not as good as mine. Hers definitely had an interesting taste, it was hard to describe but it tasted kind of like a mix between curry and barbecue sauce with a hint of cumin.

Since my hour lunch break, had evolved into an hour and a half, as soon as we finished eating we requested the check. Our waiter and another staff person came over to convince us that we couldn't leave without having dessert. We kindly refused but when our waiter brought the check, he also set two small glasses with a creamy concoction inside. It tasted like some kind of mousse with frozen bits of cantaloupe, watermelon, and apple, with shaving of pistachio on top. I'm still not sure what is was but it was definitely good and a welcomed surprise.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the service, the atmosphere and most importantly, the food. I'd definitely go back again. My advice would be to go for dinner and not lunch. The pricing is actually pretty much the same and you'll have time to sit back and enjoy the

Upcoming Event

Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta of Taberna del Alabardero hosts a Wine & Tapas Tasting.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:30 - 8:00PM
Cost: $65 per person

Taberna del Alabardero
1776 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006