DC’s Version of a “Diner” – Ted’s Bulletin

DC has some great restaurants that I cannot say enough about.  But what it does not have are your classics in any real sense -diners, pizza joints, bakeries (where they serve kolach and nut roll), or a market.  To make my point lets talk markets for a moment.   When I say market, I mean market where you can get pig’s feet, haluski (thats cabbage and noodles, an Eastern European delicacy ;)), rabbit,  brain, pierogi, nuts, handmade sausage, olives, cannoli and most important – you can get a bargain.  Bargaining occurs when you offer the seller of say, fresh tomatoes, a price, he declines and you end up in a screaming match and the best tasting tomatoes you ever imagined at a price that will never be beat.   This makes me realize – I need to do a series on markets…. But I digress.

Back to what DC dining lacks.  DC does not have a real market because its just too fancy, lacking character, and not gritty.  Real markets are in Cleveland, Philly and NYC.  Diners, pizza joints and real bakeries spring forth from the artisans and their families that are selling at the market.

But… DC has been fortunate enough to have the food entrepreneurs who created Ted’s Bulletin, MatchBox Pizza, and DC-3 to deliver something that kind of meets the definition of a diner but with a DC twist with Ted’s.  It meets the diner definition because it serves biscuits and sausage gravy, pancakes, corned beef hash, grits, and egg creations.  It is the DC twist because it also serves homemade pop tarts.

It has a cool atmosphere built with pieces they got from an old movie theater and those displays to list their menu.  There is a fun buzz as patrons and staff rush about.  Heavy plates, heavy wood chairs and lots of heavy metal accents make if feel comfortable and homey.  They play old time movies and TV shows on the multiple TV’s – adding to the atmosphere.

The staff is attentive, cheery, speedy and willing to take any special requests to the kitchen and about 80% of the time, the special request is fulfilled.

Now for the food – its tasty for the most part.  The grits are done with cheese, but not enough, so ask for extra cheese.  The pancakes are fluffy, sweet with great consistency that holds up under a boat load of syrup.  The hash browns are golden brown and greasy.  The pork sausage – a flavor burst and it too is greasy.   So, the diner basics are met.

For the DC twist – the pop tarts.  WOOHOO!  What a twist this is.  You want find a pop tart in a real New Jersey diner. (that is where diner is defined).  But after having one at Ted’s you will hope for a homemade pop tart on every menu.  The outside is a flaky, sweet crust and the insides are creamy and bursting with whatever flavor you can think of.

For another twist, try a milkshake for breakfast – the chocolate, banana, peanut butter shake is heaven on earth.  It is thick, creamy, with perfect proportions of the main ingredients.   I must admit…. I have done it for breakfast but, its best… as an adult shake when you visit Ted’s for happy hour.

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Lost in (West) Virginia Volume 3

You can get lost in West Virginia or its neighbor, rural Virginia, for days and days but at some point you need ice cream.

For Lost in (West) Virginia Volume 3, I will cover Katie’s Custard Stand in Woodstock, Virginia.

Katie’s Custard stand sits on the main drag into Woodstock, in a parking lot.  Its a little caboose looking building where cute high school and college kids hang out the window to hear your order.  They record your order, for the tax man, in a notebook by hand and give you your treat with a big smile.  You can sit at the picnic table in the grassy area connected to the parking lot.  Locals are sitting in their cars, young and old, eating their ice cream.

The fare is your basic software but there are plenty of toppings, sauces, syrups and add-ons to almost rival DQ.  The hot fudge, peanut butter sundae is my favorite.  And, amazingly, my spouse had their first banana split there.  Amazing because the spouse is a major league ice cream monster and I had no idea that they had traveled so far in life without every having a banana split.  The look on their face when handed the banana split, and as they started diving in – will forever be in my heart.

Go warm your heart with some soft serve.

Lost in West Virginia, Volume 2

Wild, wonderful West Virginia, not almost heaven – it is heaven.  Its quiet, beautiful, people are friendly and courteous.   But, you gotta eat.

So Volume 2 on where to eat when Lost in West Virginia – The Lost River Grill.

The Lost River Grill sits in the valley, on a country road, across from a gorgeous farm with cows that mosey to and fro.  Its a cute red building, with a screened in porch attached to a real estate office.

As you enter, you see the dessert case, jam packed with big, yummy homemade pies and cakes – which are worth every calorie.  The walls are covered with photographs of local scenes that are for sale.  There is a wooden statute right by the door.  You can usually pick your table – booth of table.  The decor is dated but comfortable, you immediately feel right at home.  You feel more at home when the waitress approaches and calling you honey, asks what you want.   Sometimes, you need to wait a little bit for your food but just let that go, let the time pass, relax and realize there are places where the world is not rushing about madly, answering emails and attending conference calls – soak it in and let time slow.

The Grill serves breakfast on weekends and dinner seven nights.  It serves lunch too but not every day.

The menu is American country – meatloaf, spaghetti, burgers, prime rib, taco salad and other basics.  They usually have a special.  The salmon kebab with rosemary – is healthy, flavorful and filling.  On the other end of the health spectrum – the cheese fries, with bacon, and ranch dressing are enough to feed an army but warm, greasy, cheesy and comforting – a complete indulgence.

For a kick, go to the bar, warm, cozy, serves up whatever you like and its a great place do the all you can eat shrimp or crab legs.

Enjoy!

Vodka with Muddled Raspberries or Blackberries or Strawberries

I get on food kicks, drinking kicks, restaurant kicks – I just keeping eating or drinking the same thing over and over.  Sometimes there is nothing special about the “kick.”  For example, when my spouse travels, I can eat tuna, lettuce, tomatoes, and olive oil – for breakfast, lunch and dinner – its strange but functional.  Plus, I love tuna, tomatoes, and olive oil – the lettuce is just a filler.  But, I am not always so boring with my “kicks.”

A better kick was the Rumchata kick.  Rumchata, a rum, cream liquor, captured my attention and palate for about three months a year ago.  I loved it so much that I told a friend, who is not a cook.  She loved it so much, she got on a Rumchata kick and to prove it, she sent a photo of her fridge, empty but for a bottle of Rumchata.

Several months ago, I had a hankering for a good mojito.  I tried making a mojita from scratch.  They were OK at best.  Then I bought an expensive mojito mix – total flop.

Stymied, I started scrolling the internet for other “summer” drinks.  I found a simple one:  vodka (my preferred spirit), muddled raspberries, simple syrup and club soda.  I tried it, not really measuring, just guesstimating.   It was fabulous – clean, crispy, fruity and screaming summer time.

Its my drink for summer 2017.  And, when I ran out of raspberries, blackberries worked just as well, and when I ran out of blackberries, strawberries were equally as tasty.

Give it a try – guesstimate the measurements.  You will love it.  I will keep drinking it until the leaves start falling and I need to move to Rumchata and pumpkin – but that is for another post.

Lost in West Virginia Volume 1

Wild and wonderful West Virginia, almost heaven West Virginia, and its neighbor, rural Virginia both live up to these descriptors – wild, wonderful and heaven.  The Shenandoah valley and Blue Ridge mountains cut through both of these states, vast, green, forested, smoky, peaceful.  Both states have large national and state forests so you can drive for miles, hike for miles and rarely see another person.

Where does one eat when roaming the wild of West Virginia or Virginia.  Often, I am  eating an energy bar or a package of tuna and crackers on a mountain ridge with my honey but when I am not – I have found some places that I love.  Thus, this will be a multi-volume post on where to eat in West Virginia and rural Virginia. (Remember there is northern Virginia, the suburbs of DC, these posts are not going to discuss where to eat there – not that there are not fabulous places to do so, but that is for another post.)

Lost in West Virginia Volume 1 – Kac-Ka-Pon Restaurant in Wardensville, West Virginia.

The Kac-Ka- Pon Restaurant sits on the main drag of the tiny own of Wardensville.  Every time I have been its filled with locals, enjoying one another’s company and having a bite to eat.  The waitresses are sincere, kind, and efficient – you never wait long before one is over to take your order, see how you are doing, and tend to your dining needs.  They always call you sweetie or honey.  The warmth comes from the people both working at the restaurant and dining at the restaurant.  The tables and chairs are basic metal, for those who have been, they look like the standard tables and chairs from a midwestern church basement.  Every inch of the place is clean and neat and tidy – the pride of ownership shines through.

The flowers are plastic and the TV is on but silent.  The decor is bright, cheery country with lots of West Virginia University paraphernalia on the walls, on the floor and on the diners.  Its is so comfy and homey – you never feel rushed and no one is taking cell calls or pecking out emails.

The place shines at breakfast… particularly the biscuits which are perfect.  They stand about two inches high, are light in texture, break apart in your hand, and have a great biscuit flavor whether paired with eggs or by themselves with lots of butter and jam.  The eggs are done to your liking and the sausage, scrabble, bacon, and ham is fresh.  The pancakes reflect the perfection of the biscuits and so does the biscuits with gravy – it does not get any better.

If you are picky on coffee, bring your own in a travel mug – they don’t mind.  Or, if you want to roll with ambience get their coffee but don’t expect some fancy blend, don’t look for a mocha on the menu or for a bit of fresh milk or cream on your table.

For lunch or dinner – the fries are always crispy and warm.  The chili is rich, spicy, chunky and a great treat with cornbread after a hike.  The menu is basic:  mac and cheese, meatloaf, fried chicken but all cooked in-house and all down home tasty.

The pies are beautiful, visible in a case and its been more than one time I have seen someone order a slice and polish it off for breakfast.  A great way to live and eat – I highly recommend pie for breakfast and love to see others eating pies for breakfast.

You can’t go wrong by stopping in for this wonderful, almost heaven homestyle place.

 

 

Tarragon at Inn at Honey Run – Holmes County Ohio

WHAT A GREAT MEAL!  YOU GOTTA HIT THIS PLACE FOR MEAL AND A STAY!

So this place is in Amish country Ohio.  You hear Ohio call itself the heart of it all – this place is exactly why.  You have to drive far to get there – no matter what city you live in.  (its about 70 miles from Cleveland and probably about the same from Columbus) Soft rolling hills, amish buggies being pulled by horses, lots of cows and sheep languishing in lush fields, corn, soybeans and trees.

The Inn at Honey Run is nestled in the side, literally of a little hill and you can walk to dinner past the sheep and the golden rod in the fall.  The rooms are fabulous – modern, with all the amenities and many have their own stone patio to sit on.  You won’t even want to leave to go to Tarragon for dinner.  But you gotta go because its a great meal with a great atmosphere.

The Tarragon restaurant has huge glass windows looking out over the woods – almost all tables sit right by a window.  We ate dinner while watching birds, to include a turkey frolic in the woods.  The restaurant has a clean modern feel but warm not cold and trendy – its quiet and peaceful.

The staff was attentive and Ohio earnest – Ohio friendly.  Our waitress was genuinely thrilled that we enjoyed our meal so.

The menu is contemporary American.  We started with potato gnocchi with blue cheese, apples, and honey.  It was the perfect fall dish.  The flavors combined for an interesting earthy taste but the gnocchi were not overwhelmed by the flavors.

For dinner we had scallops, pea shoots over pureed parsnips with a bit of ginger jam – AWESOME.  Intense flavors combined perfectly to compliment one another.

The dessert selection is diverse and extensive enough that everyone will find something to make them happy.  We shared the vanilla creme brûlée – intense vanilla flavor, smooth as silk with the crunchy topic – a classic prepared to perfection.

One note of warning – Sundays no alcoholic beverages at all – its the law of the county.  You can’t even bring your own in… boy did I want a nice glass of barolo!  Next time.

We finished and went back to the room and silent in the silence on the little porch – heaven.

The Inn at Honey Run

D.C. Mexican – Give It a Try But Not For Everyone

WAPO’s restaurant critic declared it a contender for D.C.’s best mexican restaurant.  I take issue – its worth a visit but you need to be a particular type of dinner, perhaps one who likes the “next best thing” rather than a fab restaurant experience.

I am talking about Espita Mascaleria that is on the corner of N and 9th in Shaw neighborhood DC.  (side note:  exact location where only about 4-5 years ago on a cold winter night we bought our Christmas tree from the garden center that was there.)  First, its a great location in a fun, emerging part of town.  For out of towners, its easy to get to – a short walk from K Street and only about a block from the Convention Center Green/Yellow line metro.

The decor is heavy – heavy dark wood tables that are really cool looking and, not too deep so you actually feel like you are eating with your dinner partner.  Heavy, dark art with a lot of Mexican influenced skeleton’s and other culture references – its really neat stuff.  Chairs are comfy and there is a great outside patio and decent sized bar.

The atmosphere alone makes it worth a visit – kick back, have a drink, a little mexican food and take it all in – its just a cool, genuinely, not trying to hard hype environment.  Its loud so be ready.

The menu is no question, really legit mexican and it is clearly all fresh.  The mole is its signature with a good variety from light to heavy and spicy.

The menu is meant to be shared – a variety of tapas.  You can select from the offering of interesting tacos (oyster or lamb for example).  They also have a good selection of salsas and ceviche along with some other mexican dishes – salads with avocados etc. and dishes with corn tortillas.

We tried the Hamachi ceviche with pineapple, radishes, a bit of complex, spicy, dense, smoky salsa – super good.  We had the roja salsa and the gaucamole with our chips.  The roja salsa was thick and not too flavorful- reminded me of tomato paste – I would not get it again.  My husband had the pipian pork mole.  It repeated the heavy them – the sauce very heavy and although  a decent mole flavor, it was just too sticky.  The pork melted in your mouth.  I had the fundido – a corn tortilla with a layer of beans, then lettuce, avocado and a mozzaralla type cheese that had a little funkiness to its flavor.  Really it was something I could make it home in about two seconds.

As for drinks – they really want you to try one of their mezcal drinks and the wait staff is more than happy to tell you about the selections.  In its essence mezcal is fermented agave from a particular region of Mexico – the south for the most part – really its tequila but it is good.

The wait staff was engaged, attentive and willing to offer their opinions and recommendations – clearly well-trained.

Here is the thing though – I am a foodie and if I need the waitress to spend what seemed to be about eternity for me to understand what a particular dish consisted of – its no good – too much work and to much mystery.

And… the whole meal took way way too long to get out to us.  Now, to their credit, its good they aren’t hustling us out.  But… good grief – I was actually the one getting irritated, bored and impatient when that is my husband’s role after about 15 minutes.  We were way passed that.  Even when we asked the waitress to bring our check…. she filled up our water glasses and went away as if we never asked – it was almost strange.  Again – I commend them for letting guests linger – so many places turn tables so fast that you are grabbing your plate back from the waiter to get your last bit of dessert.  But this was way too much – in their verve to create an experience – they created a dinner that lasted just way too long.  This includes the interminable wait for our actual meals.

All in all – go for it – like I said – great environment, some interesting selections, knowledgeable staff but I am not compelled to return.

 

Espita Mascaleria, Shaw DC

Blue Ribbon?

My mom, the individual responsible for my love of food, is a determined and often victorious competitor.  She regularly enters not only food she has made but also her crafts into the county fair and wins.  In the event she does not win – she has been known to find the judges and ask how she needs to improve for the next year so she can win.  She has won ribbons with her buckeyes and her apple dumplings.  And, without revealing the state, she is not entering into tiny county fairs in sparsely populated counties.  She is entering her good into one of the larger fairs in our state.

As for crafts, she has won blue ribbons for her rugs that she has braided.  Rug braiding is something the first American settlers did, using old fabric and braiding it together with little metal tools to make a rug.

This year she entered two items:  a braided rug and peach-pineapple jam.  The rug not only one blue ribbon but also best of show – impressive.

As for the jam, did not even place.  When I asked her if she was upset she explained she was not because the jam was not ribbon worthy.  She told me she knew this from the get go – because the peaches were not very flavorful and were mealy.  Plus, she was forced to use the fair mandated pectin (to prove she used it she had to submit the packaging with her jam).  These two factors, according to her resulted in jam, although having a great color, was a bit runny and it did not have very good flavor.

The thing about a talented and determined competitor – even when they don’t win, as long as it was fair and they know why, they are OK with it.  So my mom was OK with no ribbon and as all great competitors do, she is developing her strategy to bring home victory next year.

 

Peach Pie – Not Good

My husband wanted a peach pie.  Easy – I can make those things all day long and love doing it.  I bought simply gorgeous white Virginia peaches that – well tasted a little flat.  Would not you know… the pie looks gorgeous and has good consistency but, tastes a little flat.  So disappointing but boy did I love baking it.

And, as my aunt and my mom do….. if you have the oven on you might as well make other things as well.  So I also baked banana bread – tried a new recipe with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg.  I got the recipe from an old cooking magazine, I can’t remember which one.  I also baked banana (I store up a lot of bananas in the freezer) oat, chocolate chip cookies.  The cookies were fantastic in flavor – just enough banana but you can clearly last it- the oats added a great heaviness and chocolate in anything takes it to the next level.  The banana bread was fabulous also.  My husband is taking the banana bread to work but we sliced it making it easy to carry and to allow us to eat some – it was relish!  Heavy, moist, banana tasting – will make again.

One Weekend Two Disappointments

Friday night my spouse and I met for drinks and dinner at the Fig & Olive in City Center DC.  I had been there once for lunch awhile ago and had a great dining experience and that does not even include the fact the staff let me sit at the bar and work for about three hours until my next appointment.  But alas… dinner was a disappointment.

The staff was attentive but not overbearing and the outside space was contemporary and comfortable.  The patio is not on any street so you just get the friendly, energetic activities of tourists and rushed DC folks on foot.

The menu is mediterranean focused and has a decent selection.  The wine, beer selection is  nothing special but expansive enough both in price and variety.  I started with an Acai French 75 a cool and refreshing drink of gin, acai vodka and sparkling wine.  My spouse got a cool crisp beer.  We started with a cheese plate – the accompanying bread was grilled a bit but in flavor and texture was not far off from wonder bread.  You don’t get to select your cheeses and the three selections were all relatively strong and creamy – no diversity in flavor or texture.  We also ordered a side of olives – tasty but not outstanding.  They also bring complimentary bread with three types of olive oil.  All three olive oils were just how I love my olive oil – very strong, fruity with a tinge of bite.  It was the best part of the meal.  The accompanying bread was relatively bland.

For the main meal – I ordered the acclaimed shrimp and salmon over an arugula, fennel, onion, avocado salad.  The shrimp and salmon were both tasty and were not over done. But, the salad was overdone with dressing – the greens were drowned to the point I could not even really taste the greens.  Thankfully the dressing doing the drowning – citrus-cilantro was light and carried a great flavor – just way too much.  My spouse got the branzino. Strangely for DC summers – there was a side of mashed potatoes – when its 95 degrees and muggy – who can eat mashed potatoes?  But the branzino was flaky, gratifying and not over done.

We passed on dessert.

Next up for the weekend – we headed to an early dinner at Red, White and Basil.  First, this place could not be any cuter if it tried – little red tables, basil growing in pots all over the place.  They achieved their goal of a casual, welcoming, comfortable place reminiscent of Italy.  The deal is you get a three course meal: salad, pasta (you choose the sauce), and cannoli for around $16-$20.

The sauces are what you would expect: red sauce, pesto, creamy pesto, vodka, spicy red sauce.  You also get to select your salad and can add meatballs, shrimp, lobster, chicken if you want.  They have “specials” which based on the menu I thought were some type of chicken or fish dish – nope more pasta with chicken or fish as part of it.  So, if you want something other than pasta – you are out of luck.

The salad has a good selection of ingredients but was delivered soaking with what seemed to be a balsamic vinaigrette which, although having a great balsamic flavor was a disappointment because I thought the menu said it was a lemon vinaigrette.

The pesto sauce seemed to be creamy rather than straight up pesto and almost had a mustardy flavor rather than basil  but it was  a tasty dish.

The cannoli – was soggy, covered with honey and the inside was very liquidy – it was not worth the calories.

No bread to start with – disappointing love my bread and olive oil.

Wine and beer selection is limited but its OK since the place is really trying to be a casual pasta bar and not some high end italian joint.

The staff was attentive but yanked our plates before we were all done.  Its OK place for  a quick pasta meal but not worth a trip.