Getting over someone just takes time and patience. Since cutting it off with TBM, I have been trying to stay busy which keeps me from analyzing and re-analyzing everything over in my head, because that does not help me gain clarity or closure of the situation. Plus, my head is a minefield anyway, so probably best not to throw any more issues in there because you never know what might get set off (KIDDING, or am I?). Ben is the perfect friend for this situation because he makes me laugh, knows me better than probably any other guy out there, has seen me at my worst (this happens when you date someone for two and a half years and you are completely and utterly incompatible), and most importantly: loves to eat as much as I do. We decided to meet up on Tuesday evening for dinner, and I suggested Thip Khao or Izakaya Seki since I was in the mood for some Asian food. Unfortunately, both of those spots happen to be closed on Tuesdays.
Since my Tinder date at Red Hen, I have been thinking about how this spot is so much more than a neighborhood favorite and I do need to make a point to go back more often (except…….. maybe not on a date with a guy whose laugh makes me insides weep), especially since the menu changes seasonally. Ben happily agreed to this option, and we met there around 7pm. Although the bar was relatively crowded, we managed to find two corner seats (the best seats in the house, IMO) and settled in the giant wooden chairs. Ben isn’t drinking due to health issues, and I was still hurting from Barcelona’s half priced wine specials from the previous night so we both skipped out on the alcoholic beverages and I sipped a club soda instead.
We started with the Tuscan Chicken Liver Mousse with Fig Conserva, Fresh Thyme & Grilled Rustic Bread. This light and silky spread melted into my mouth like butter on crack. I’m usually not the world’s biggest liver fan, but tonight I became a fanatical convert. Next up was the Grilled Octopus with Spring Pea Hummus, Chickpea Salad, Fennel, Frisee & Creamy Romesco Sauce. This dish was the highlight of my disastrous Tinder date, and I wanted to order it again since this time I would be eating it with a guy who wasn’t referring to himself as “Mr. Cool.” It was even better this time, with the perfectly charred octopus, which was not too dry – sometimes a problem when you get to the tentacles, the light and crispy summer salad and slightly garlicky romesco sauce that I wanted to lick off of the plate with my tongue (well, I’m doing nothing else with my tongue these days).
The bartender also brought us out Burrata with Grilled Asparagus Salad, Salami, Toasted Sesame, Oregano Vinaigrette & Breadcrumbs, which was incredibly sweet of him. It was also perfect because I had been debating between ordering the octopus or the burrata, and suddenly we found ourselves with both dishes! I love the contrast of textures and flavors here. There is the nice punchy crunch from the breadcrumbs (Ben gave me all of his, mistakenly thinking they were nuts and I honestly was too greedy to correct him), along with the incredibly rich, creamy and smooth burrata that manages to look so sexy oozing all over the plate.
Our two main courses arrived next:
The Whole Wheat Cavatelli with Sweet Corn, Wild Mushrooms, Smoked Bacon & Pecorino Tartufo was incredible, just like all of the pasta dishes I have had at the Red Hen. Sometimes whole wheat pasta can be grainy, but the whole wheat cavatelli here did not taste rough at all. The corn, mushrooms and bacon packed the plate the flavor (especially the smoked bacon), and I ended up eating giant bites using a spoon instead of a fork. This dish was rich but not too dense, just pure pasta perfection. Goldilocks would have approved.
Our second main course was the Charred Beef Short Ribs with Shelling Beans ‘alla Romesco,’ Smoked Onion Salsa Verde, Feta & Balsamico. Short ribs are Ben’s go-to dish, if found on a menu, and these did not disappoint the short-rib-expert at all. They were tender, succulent and went perfectly with the beans. We inhaled both of these dishes and surprisingly found ourselves too full for dessert, which rarely happens. The funniest part of the meal was when we looked over to our right and realized that the Izakaya Seki chef was sitting at the bar for dinner as well. I suppose if I ran one of DC’s best restaurants, I would come to Red Ben for my off-night as well…
Overall, it was another great meal at Red Hen, a wonderful spot for creative food for a great price. We left with satisfied tummies, although I did suffer some slight indigestion as Ben pointed out all the spots of recent street muggings as he walked me home. Nothing quite like ending a fantastic dinner with fear and paranoia.