Craving for Etto

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Balancing eating and drinking is always difficult for me during this time of year. The holidays are over, and the dreary January weather can cause an occasional bout of winter blues. And of course, it is hard to motivate myself to exercise after I leave work and realize it is pitch black and below freezing outside. This instead makes me want to shovel delicious, warm, comforting food nonstop down my throat and into my soft belly. So this means I spend a great deal of my day day dreaming about what I would like to be eating. Today, I am fantasizing about the pizza at Etto.

Located on 14th street, Etto opened in 2013 by the owners of 2Amys and Standard (aka Garden District, but seriously who really calls it that?). The pizza dough is made in-house, and cooked in the red oak-fired oven. I absolutely love the roasted cauliflower pizza, which is topped with roasted cauliflower (duh), capers, and anchovies. I am a huge anchovies fan. I love the saltiness, the fishiness, the tanginess of anchovies and (disclaimer:) I will probably try to bully you into eating anchovies if we are at a pizza spot together. This pizza dough is thin enough to allow for the toppings to shine, but not so thin that it gets soggy. The slightly burnt crust and roasted cauliflower give the pie a smokey flavor, and the anchovies and capers give the pizza a bite that I cannot get enough of. I’m getting lightheaded just thinking about this pizza sliding down my throat. This is lust at its purest form.

Still here: Pasta Mia

Good news for Pasta Mia lovers (wait, are there people who do not like heaping plates of carbs for insanely low prices), the owners have successfully negotiated their lease and have signed on for another 10 years. For those of you who have not been to this DC institution in Adams Morgan, at least you have another decade to make your way over to Columbia Road and wait in line (they do not take reservations). This is one of my favorite places to carb load before a race (with a caesar salad to start so that I can pretend like I’m doing something healthy), and I always have enough leftovers to last me at least another meal, if not another two meals.

Pinea Restaurant Week Dinner

I’m now “at that age” where I avoid the W hotel rooftop because while the view is probably one of the best in DC, I just do not want be packed like sardines in a roof filled with overdressed, probably douchey people. Does that mean I am maturing? Or maybe just I’m just maturing into a hater. The downstairs of the W is a different story. I loved J&G, the steakhouse on the first floor, with its numerous meat sauces (always made sure to request all of them). Unfortunately, J&G closed last June when Jean-Georges Vongerichte ended his five year contract with the hotel. On the bright side, the W announced that chef Barry Koslow, previously at DGS Delicatessen, would be heading up the new concept. On October 1, 2014, Pinea opened. The  Mediterranean restaurant has gotten positive reviews, and I put it on my list of places to try eventually.

When I spotted Pinea on the list of participating restaurants during Restaurant Week this winter, I suggested it to A (fake roommate) who of course was on board. The evening of our dinner date turned out to be a cold, rainy Friday night and by the time we arrived at the W we were both freezing, soaking wet and starving. Our condition immediately improved when we walked through the lobby to the restaurant, where we were greeted by some smiling faces who seemed super excited to see us. The staff was so friendly, and the hostess offered to hang up our jackets before seating us in a comfortable booth in the center of the colorful restaurant. Our server, going along with the friendly theme, immediately brought us water, introduced himself in a charming French accent, and explained the menu. I appreciated that Pinea had their entire menu available for Restaurant Week, meaning you could select any appetizer or merenda to start (some options had a surcharge), an entree, and dessert. It was a nice way for a new spot to showcase their menu!

After putting our orders in, our server quickly brought out a basket of pita chips and a bowl of tapenade (with a hint of mustard) that A and I gobbled up to warm our stomachs up. Having not seen each other since New Years Eve, we caught up while waiting for the first course. I updated her on the bartender (who I went on a fantastic date with, and ended up making out with at the bar on a Tuesday night…. and then who disappeared afterwards and left me with absolutely no idea why he never followed up) and she updated me on her latest eating adventures with the bf. Our appetizers arrived soon and we dug into the warm food.

I started with the Duck Leg Confit appetizer, consisting of a huge leg on a bed of beans and thick slices of sausage. I found this dish delicious and inhaled the crispy skin and juicy meat along with the hearty beans and sausage. It was the perfect winter dish, and a must-order IMO if you are eating here.

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A ordered the crab and guanciale croquetas, which tasted creamy, crunchy and spicy thanks to the remoulade. We both approved of the starters, and continued to munch away on the chips and tapenade as we waited for the entrees.

My main course was the Beef Short Rib (duck then cow… clearly not going with the vegetarian route that evening). To sum up this dish: oh, mah, gawd. It was AWESOME and made me look up to the sky and thank whoever created cows and placed them on this earth. The meat was so incredibly tender that I probably could have used a sliver of paper to cut it. It just fell apart into moist, fatty, flavorful chunks of protein and I smothered the thick celery root puree into each bite.

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A enjoyed her whole branzino, which the kitchen deboned and the bite she offered me was light and delicious, a nice change from my indulgent dish. By the time I cleared by plate (and I made sure to clean off every morsel of food from that plate), most of my blood was rushing to my stomach and I started to slide further down in my chair into the beginning of a meat coma. The waiter brought around the dessert menu which woke me up a little bit, since I have a hard time saying no to a little more sugar in my life.

A and I decided to pick two desserts and split them to end the meal. The awesome server recommended the lavender creme brulee and olive cake. I was in the mood for something heavy and sweet, and he explained that the chocolate pave is incredibly intense, so we went with an order of the brulee and the chocolate pave.

Both desserts arrived within a few minutes, which was good because I was starting to slump over in my chair again. I tried the lavender creme brulee first, which was delicate and filled my mouth with caramel and lavender. The waiter had not steered us wrong.

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The chocolate pave was indeed intense. Made with very dark chocolate, each bite was super dense, slightly bitter but overall awesome. The hazelnut ice cream added the perfect sweet touch to the dessert and despite feeling full, we managed to finish off the rich desserts.

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This was one of my favorite Restaurant Week meals overall. From the staff, to the menu options, to the food, to the restaurant, everything was great. If Restaurant Week is supposedly a time where restaurants subject patrons to inferior service and food, then this dinner at Pinea was the exception.

Meats & Foods

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Honey BBQ Twisted Fritos are my weakness. I do not buy these because I can eat the entire thing in one sitting (that’s ten servings, folks), and I just end up staring at the empty bag while feeling an overwhelming amount of regret, satisfaction and shame. So when my roommate told me that the relatively new Meats & Foods in Bloomingdale had Frito pies on their menu, I immediately thought about how amazing a Frito pie would be with Honey BBQ twists. This past Saturday after a long workout where I thought about chili and cheese the entire two hours, I made my way to Bloomingdale… with my own bag of Fritos because regular chips just don’t turn me on as much. The owner laughed when I brought out the bag but happily obliged and piled on their meat chili, scallions and cheddar cheese into a bowl for me. I also ordered a “ready-made,” a sandwich with in-house smoked pork, mustard and pickles. It was the perfect lunch on a cold day. The warm bowl of chili on top of the sweet, crunchy Fritos brought me back to life, and the pork in the sandwich was so tender it just melted down my throat straight into my hungry belly.

Meats & Foods opened back in August 2014 by Scott McIntosh and Ana Marin, the husband-wife team of 13th Street Meats (sold at Dodge City and American Ice). The menu is relatively simple, with six different types of sausage sandwiches (including a half smoke), a “ready-made sandwich” and a chilito with a meat or veggie option. Not only can you get a variety of sausage sandwiches, they also sell their sausages (4 for $10) and bacon to go. A simple, unpretentious and much needed spot for good quality meat in the district.

Bad Saint Pop-up: a preview


Bad Saint, an upcoming restaurant from Room 11 owner Nick Pimentel, and his wife, Genevieve Villamora, announced a pop-up at Crane & Turtle last weekend. My roommate made reservations as soon as the phone lines opened for a Saturday night dinner (five courses including tip and gratuity for $60). Thank goodness he gave me a heads up because the event sold out within two and a half hours, which is impressive for a spot that has yet to open and had no menu details available. Pimental and Villamora plan to open in Columbia Heights (3226 11th St. NW) sometime this winter, and have already had one pop-up at the Dolcezza Gelato Factory & Coffee Lab which brought crowds who lined up down the street for a taste.

Saturday was a cold night, and I was feeling a little out of it as we bundled up and headed up the hill to Petworth. After a quick espresso at Qualia, we arrived at Crane & Turtle just in time for our 5:30pm reservation. This was my first time to Crane & Turtle, and I found the tiny French-Japanese restaurant absolutely adorable. The space is very small, with an open kitchen, and just a few tables. Genevieve gave us a warm welcome (which I appreciated because the coffee had still not hit me at that point) before seating us and giving us a quick explanation of the menu. The dishes ended up being delicious comfort food that we eagerly inhaled for the next few hours. We started with some chicharones (fried pork rinds) with a shrimp paste, followed by a fresh pomelo salad. I was excited to see that the third dish was bitter melon with egg and black bean, because bitter melon is not exactly my favorite vegetable. I find the taste normally too bitter and intense for my liking and was eager to see if the Bad Saint way of cooking could change my mind. It did indeed make me rethink my attitude towards this vegetable, as the sauce and black beans mellowed out the bitterness, and the eggs were impossibly fluffy. Genevieve stopped by our table to bring us complimentary eggs rolls which were DA BOMB. Inside the crunchy wrapper was a pork and beef mixture, along with cornichons (who would have thought?) which added the perfect sour, tanginess to each bite. The next course was a steamed white fish wrapped in banana leaves. This was my absolute favorite dish of the night. The fish was just so tender and fragrant. It felt like sweet butter sliding down my throat, and at this point I started feeling a little full but I assumed the next dish would be manageable. Well, the next dish was a heaping plate of lamb neck. When the server placed the bowl down onto our table, I exclaimed, “THE SMELL!!!!!!!!!!!!” It smelled smoky and meaty and just like a something I wanted to shove my face into. It tasted exactly how it smelled. The lamb meat fell apart and melted into my mouth into a pool of thick, smoky juice. Unfortunately, I was getting pretty stuffed so I tried to concentrate on making each bite last as long as possible in my mouth. If I could replay those fifteen minutes of eating, I seriously would put that moment on repeat. For dessert, we had a small creme brulee with caramelized pomelo peel which was wonderful. Looks like a good start for a much needed Filipino restaurant in the district.

DBGB: I’ve had better

I was so excited about DBGB opening back in September. Actually I was super thrilled that CityCenter is no longer a huge gaping hole in the ground that I have to avoid when walking home from Metro Center. But I really was looking forward to having a Daniel Boulud restaurant in the district after my experience at the DBGB in NYC. A few years ago, an ex-bf and I went there on a cold rainy night when we were both desperately craving a juicy burger after getting off of the Bolt Bus. We managed to find seats by the bar, where we split a burger as well as a sampling of sausages. I loved the food as well as the vibe of the crowded, warm restaurant.

A few weeks after DBGB opened, three of my girlfriends in the neighborhood made the five minute walk down 9th street to the brand new CityCenter, admiring all of the shops that seemed to have popped up and opened out of nowhere before heading into the big, shiny DBGB. The restaurant itself is beautiful, with big mirrors on the walls with cute quotes related to eating, food, etc. We were seated in a booth at the right corner, which gave us a nice view of the packed bar as well as the food coming out of the kitchen into the dining area.

We started with a tasty but unremarkable tarte flambee, a flatbread with white cheese, onion and crunchy bacon bits. For my main course, I went with the Frenchie, a 7 oz burger with pork belly confit, arugula, and morbier cheese on a potato bun. This was served with fries and mustard. While the burger was good and the bun stayed together (no pouting this time due to a soggy bottom bun) and I could tell this was good quality meat, there really was no wow factor to it. Like our starter, it was unremarkable but relatively enjoyable.


My favorite part of the meal (besides when SM was discussing updates on her OkCupid activity) was the dessert. We were debating whether we should stick around for another course, but our waiter strongly recommended the Baked Alaska, and assured this one dessert would be enough for the four of us. We agreed to try to it because let’s be honest, you do not have to be too persuasive to convince four girls to eat some sugar on a Monday night. They brought out this massive dessert, poured liqueur onto it and set it on fire on the table, much to our delight.


It was delicious. The roasted marshmallow topping was sweet, and complemented the tangy raspberry sorbet and pistachio ice cream core. We polished off the dish in just a few minutes.

While I like that there is another decent restaurant within walking distance of my apartment, I have no overwhelming desire to return to DBGB in the near future. The food is reasonably priced, but without any standout options in my opinion, I will save my calories for my jar of Nutella.

Washingtonian Top 100 Restaurants

Something to brighten our dreary January: Washingtonian’s annual list of the top 100 restaurants in the area is now online. Things to note: the Inn at Little Washington (where I had one of the best meals of my entire life) dropped to #22. The top ten restaurants looks different than previous years (The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm?), and there were some entries on there that I found surprising (Lupo Verde? DBGB?). I’m glad some of the Asian restaurants are getting recognition (RICE PAPER, Kogiya, Bangkok Golden), although there is a tiny selfish part of me that wants to keep those places as my go-to secret spots. I’m looking forward to making my way to some of the new spots on this list!