Zaytinya, Washington, D.C.

 

Zaytinya is another of my favorites in DC. The problem I have here is trying to decide what to order – it is all so incredibly good! This restaurant is best when you can go with a few others so that you can order a large selection of small plates to share. However, if going by yourself, the small plate concept allows you to try a few plates. Even the desserts come in half size which is perfect to wrap up the meal along with a Turkish Coffee!

Like the food, the wine features the Eastern Mediterranean – Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel. Stay away from the Retsina and you’ll be fine. The staff is always willing to offer sample tastings. My favorite by far is the Xinomavro. The wine list itself offers great reading material, especially if you are going solo and sitting at the bar. Along with the list of available wines, there is also a description of each grape and a few of the producers. Since the grapes in the region are not those more commonly known, the wine list serves as an introduction as to what one can expect from each varietal.

I love the executive chef’s quote “Every time I open a bottle of wine it’s an amazing trip somewhere.” ~ José Andrés

Vegetarian Options:

  • Hummus – puree of chickpeas, garlic, tahini
  • Labneh – Lebanese strained yogurt with za’atar
  • Baba Ghannouge – fire-roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, garlic
  • House-Made Lavish Chips
  • Htipiti – marinated roasted peppers, feta, thyme
  • Tzatziki – greek yogurt with diced cucumbers and dill (a fav of mine)
  • Fattoush – tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, radish, pita chips, pomegranate vinegar dressing
  • Maroulosalata – heirloom lettuces, dill, miztihra cheese, red wine vinegar dressing, nasturtium flower petals
  • Horta Salata – kale salad, smoked olives, fava Santorini, pistachios
  • Cretan Tomato Soup – Greek yogurt, barley rusks, feta, mint
  • Beet Salata – crimson and yellow beets, shaved fennel, upland cress, spiced walnuts
  • Tabbouleh – parsley, bulgur wheat, dices tomatoes, onions, mint, lemon dressing
  • Portakal Salatasi – orange salad, baby arugula, kalamata olives, pine nuts, feta, orange flower dressing
  • Peynirli Pide – Flatbread with Turkish tomato sauce with cinnamon and oregano, covered in halloumi cheese.
  • Ímam Bayildi – Ottoman-style roasted eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, walnuts
  • Crispy Brussels Afelia – brussel sprouts, coriander seed, barberries, garlic yogurt
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Kolokithokeftedes – zucchini and cheese patios, caper-yogurt sauce
  • Bantijan Bil Laban – crispy eggplant, roasted garlic-yogurt sauce
  • Cauliflower Tiganites
  • Mercimek Köftesi – traditional seared red lentil patties, preserved lemon yogurt, pomegranate, lettuce leaves
  • Elies Tis Elladas – Greek olives marinated in oregano and olive oil
  • Seared Halloumi Cheese – Medjool dates, orange, pistachios, mint
  • Mushroom Couscous
  • Grape-Leaves Dolmades
  • Spanakopita
  • Falafel
  • Seasonal Mushrooms
  • Piyaz – imported warm giant beans, kale, oven-roasted tomato, garlic
  • Ottoman Pilaf – saffron basmati rice, dates, pistachios
  • Batata Maquliya – Lebanese fries, za’tar, garlic yogurt
  • Broccoli Saganaki – broccoli, tomato, kefalograviera cheese, ouzo, feta
  • Bamya – caramelized okra, fresh and crispy chickpeas, cardamom tomato stew
  • Assorted cheeses

Pescatarian Options:

  • Mussels Macedonia – mussels, tomato, green onions, ouzo, feta
  • Salmon Bil Zanzabir – seard Skuna Bay salmon, cilantro, pine nuts
  • Grilled Mahi Mahi – black hommus, barberries, mint (Divine!)
  • Octopus Tzatziki – cucumber, yogurt, barberries
  • Trout Skordalia – ouzo-battered trout, traditional potato garlic spread, lemon, almond
  • Garides Me Anitho – sautéed shrimp, dill, shallots, mustard, lemon juice
  • Sea Scallops – dill yogurt, sugar snap peas, radish
  • Avgotaraho – traditional Greek-pressed caviar of cured grey mullet roe
  • Fried Squid
  • Midyes – fried mussels with walnut tarator sauce

http://www.zaytinya.com

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Rasika, Washington, D.C.

 

There are two places in DC that are a must for each of my trips. The first, a gelateria in Georgetown, Dolcezza (there are other locations – not to be missed!), the other is Rasika. Rasika has two locations – Penn Quarter and West End. Reservations are needed at both, but the West End location is more available. By far, this is the best Indian food I have had – I could eat at Rasika daily!

Where to begin…there are so many options!

Vegetarian Options:

  • Cauliflower Bezule – Mustard seeds / curry leaf / green chilies / lemon juice
  • Eggplant Ginger Chutney
  • Tomato / Golden Raisin Chutney
  • Mango Chutney
  • Hariyali Paneer – Cottage cheese / mint / cilantro / green chilies
  • Paneer Mattar – Cottage cheese / green peas / cashew nuts
  • Malai Palak – Spinach / cumin / garlic / ginger
  • Bhindi Chili Garlic – Okra / onions / ginger / green chilies
  • Gobhi Mattar – Cauliflower / green peas / cumin / ginger
  • Baingan Mirch Ka Salan – Eggplant / peanuts / jalapeno
  • Khubani Ka Kofta – Apricots / potato dumplings / green cardamom
  • Vegetable Manga – Seasonal vegetables / mangoes / curry leaves
  • Cholar Squash – Fennel seeds / onion seeds / zucchini
  • Dal Dhungaree – Smoked lentils / garlic / tomatoes / fenugreek (one of my favorites!)
  • Cucumber Raita – Cucumber / yogurt relish
  • Vegetable Biryani – Aromatic seasonal vegetables / basmati rice / raita
  • Tawa Baingan – Eggplant / spiced potato / olive oil / peanut sauce
  • Broccoli Rawa Dosa – Mustard seeds / curry leaves / pine nuts / coconut chutney
  • Rajma Tikki – Kidney beans / ginger / green chilies / fig chutney
  • Cabbage Wadi – Ginger / cilantro / peanut chili chutney
  • Sev Batata Puri – Crispy biscuits / potatoes / raw mangoes / gram flour vermicelli / chutneys
  • Avocado Banana Chaat – Cumin / red chili powder / tamarind / date chutney
  • Palak Chaat – Crispy baby spinach / yogurt / tamarind / date
  • Sweet Potato Samosa – Ginger / green chili / cranberry chutney
  • Naan – plain, garlic, chili olive, onion sage (the garlic is my favorite – not too strong)
  • Multiple bread options
  • Basmati Rice and Narangi Pulao Rice (I highly recommend the Naragni Pulao Rice!)

Pescatarian Options:

  • Salmon Tandoori Tamatar – Scottish salmon / sun-dried tomato / basil / mint chutney (Delicious!)
  • Mango Shrimp – Fresh mango / cashew nuts / ginger / coriander
  • Shrimp Kathi Roll – Onion / tomato / ginger / green chilies
  • Clam Caldine – Coconut / cilantro / green chilies
  • Sea Bass Peri Peri – Kashmiri chili / malt vinegar / poha
  • Rockfish Alleppey Curry – Coconut / ginger / fenugreek seeds
  • Pompano Patia – Onion / tomatoes / butternut squash / eggplant
  • Shrimp Pepper Masala – Curry leaves / fennel seeds / black pepper
  • Lobster Pulao- Lobster tail / malt vinegar / mango kadi
  • Black Cod – Fresh dill / honey / cheddar / star anise / peanut quinoa
  • Grouper Nimboo – Kaffir lime leaves / ginger / garlic / lemon pickle

http://www.rasikarestaurant.com/westend/

Le Diplomate, Washington, D.C.

 

My friend in DC wanted to introduce me to one of her friends who will be working at the US Embassy in Paris this spring. Although our trips will only overlap for a few days, we hope to connect one night along with some of her friends who live in Paris. I love choosing a city and staying for a few weeks, instead of just a quick trip, so that I have the opportunity to meet new people and take the city slowly, instead of at the rushed pace of a tourist. One month in France this spring, with almost three weeks in Paris will be perfect.

Since we will meet again in Paris, and since we all love all things French, we met at the new hotspot in DC, Le Diplomate. Almost impossible to get a table without a reservation weeks in advance, this French style restaurant is worth the advanced planning. Right now, the restaurant stays booked a week or two in advanced, but not long ago the wait was 2-3 months (they will celebrate their one-year anniversary next month). While there are a few tables reserved for walk-ins, the wait may be very long. However, if you arrive early, you may be able to find a seat at the bar, which is where we sat. This offers the great advantage of developing conversation with the bartenders and tasting many of the wines. The wine list by the glass is limited, but perfect. There are plenty of options to please almost any palate. When I asked if they served by the glass, the bartender responded, “No, our wines are so good you will want a full glass.” He was right. The by the bottle list was arranged in two columns on each page (and there are many pages ranging from $40 bottles to $1200 bottles). The column on the left is reserved for french wines, arranged by region and grape. The column on the right is the Interprétations Internationales, or the same grape or blend in a non-french wine.

The food is as you would expect, only better. Rich, french foods that make feel as if you are treating yourself to something truly special. Le Diplomate has a great reputation for their pomme frites (french fries) serve with a thick, creamy aioli. Even if you don’t want to indulge in a full order on your own, be sure to order a serving for the table. The bread is also incredible, and if you play your cards right, they may even give you a full loaf to take home 🙂 The options below are taken from the dinner menu. There are also brunch and lunch menus available on their website:

Vegetarian Options (check with your server about “hidden” ingredients; often French food is prepared with some type of meat even if it is not listed – especially the side dishes)

  • Radish Crudité with sea salt & butter
  • Ricotta Ravioli with plum tomatoes and basil
  • Macaroni au Gratin (mac and cheese – this is incredible and with a salad it makes a meal, in fact, it is so good I could eat it as dessert!)
  • Mushroom tarte – pioppini mushrooms, truffle pecorino
  • Salade Verte (green salad) with haricots verts, radishes, red wine vinaigrette
  • Endive and Roquefort Salad with port poached pear, bacon (ask to be left off)
  • Omelette with Saunders Farm eggs, gruyère cheese, fines herbes
  • Sides: Pommes Frites (french fries), sautéed spinach, haricots vertes (green beans), pommes (potato) au gratin, pomme pureé, brussel sprouts

Pescatarian Options

  • Tuna Carpaccio with leek vinaigrette
  • Warm shrimp salad with lemon beurre blanc, avocado
  • Trout Amandine – toasted almonds, haricots verts, lemon brown butter (Heavenly)
  • Moules Frites marinière style mussels, pommes frites , sauce mayonnaise
  • Norwegian Salmon – cider poached, braised red cabbage, mustard vinaigrette
  • Roasted Scallops – red wine salsify, truffle sabayon
  • Grilled Loup de Mer (Sea Bass) – tapenade, roasted peppers, gigante beans

…and of course fantastic dessert and cheese plates

http://lediplomatedc.com/index.php

Mintwood Place, Washington, D.C.

DC is one of my favorite cities. I have been fortunate to travel there every year for business for the last 7 years and have experienced amazing meals. This year I had the opportunity to visit several new restaurants due to a great friend who has moved to the city. My trip this year started at Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan. In less than an hour I went from plane to table for an incredible meal. The wine list was extensive and the somm is more than happy to answer any questions and provides tastes, even if you are only drinking by the glass. The burrata and kale salad is a must! Always secure reservations in DC.

Vegetarian Options (Starters and First Course)

  • Warm olives
  • Deviled pickled eggs
  • Blistered shishito peppers
  • Spring Provençal vegetable chowder
  • Goat cheese & beet mountain pie
  • Mixed greens salad, vinaigrette
  • Iceberg salad, blue cheese
  • Burrata, kales, hazelnut, apple & tamarind (Fantastic!)
  • Greek-style chopped salad
  • Broccolini, sweet potato & American blue flammekueche

Pescatarian Options (Main)

  • Shad roe & filet, mushroom, rosti potato & lemon demi-glace
  • Crispy rainbow trout, green papaya & aji amarillo slaw, passionfruit
  • Salmon, lightly smoked, butternut squash, savoy cabbage, chorizo (the chorizo is in a table-poured sauce that can be easily left off, however, notify your server ahead of time)
  • Dorade royale, fennel, piperade, picholine, rouille
  • Roasted seabream, spinach, mussel & saffron velouté

http://mintwoodplace.com/index.html

Gustavino

My husband and I are definitely creatures of habit. When we find something we love, we have a hard time deviating from it – including going to the same restaurant multiple times on the same trip. Gustavino Restaurant and Wine Bar is one of those restaurants, but well worth the repeat visit. Our time in Florence was limited on this trip – it was really only a starting place to reach the more remote area of the Cinque Terre. We were scheduled to be in Florence for two nights, and were on separate flights, both scheduled to arrive early the first morning. However, I had “one of those days” where everything went wrong and I arrived almost 13 hours late – so late I not only missed the whole first day, I even missed dinner and only arrived in time to go bed after a 10 hour trip turned into a 24 hour trip. Luckily, my husband arrived on time and was able to spend his day finding great things for us to do and see in our now even more limited time in Florence. One thing he discovered was Gustavino – and we returned the next night!

Gustavino is located on a quiet street in the center of Florence between the Duomo and Town Hall. This is arguably one of the best meals I had on this trip, definitely the best we had while in Italy, although all were great. Gustavino is a small restaurant with an incredible wine list of over 800 wines. The house wines (from their own winery) are not only affordable but also very good. The staff is incredibly friendly and seem to enjoy questions and interaction from their guests. The atmosphere is more modern than most restaurants of this size in Florence. If in town, this is one to consider! (reservations recommended)

Vegetarian Options

  • Mixed salad with dried fruit, Tuscan olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan style egg-plant with balsamic vinegar
  • Herb goat’s cheese mousse with honey and black pepper
  • Italian style pasta “Maccheroncini” with cherry tomatoes and pesto sauce
  • Home made pecorino cheese and pears “Tortelli” with butter, walnuts and pistachios
  • Baked smoked “ Scamorza” cheese with grilled vegetables

Pescatarian Options

  • Mussels pepper chowder
  • Little octopus salad with celery, citrus fruits and balsamic vinegar
  • Marinated salmon with salad and little buffalo’s milk mozzarella
  • Little potato dumplings with variety of fish (fillet of fish, cuttlefish, shrimps, scampi,clams and mussels)
  • Home made seabass “Ravioli” with lemon sauce (it was made with salmon when we were there and it was divine!)
  • Home made black “Tagliolini” with sea urchin and pesto sauce
  • Baked in foil seabasswith vegetables with vegetables
  • Roasted salmon fillet with caramelized carrots

Dessert

  • Butter tartlet with cinnamon-scented apples and rosemary cream
  • Cheesecake with home made wild berries jam
  • Lemon cream with fresh strawberries
  • Amedei´s hot chocolat soufflé 70%
  • Selection of cheese with fruit mustard

 

http://www.gustavino.it/english/index.php

House Wines: http://www.lanciola.it/index-eng.html

 

 

Cafe Lavinal

Dining in small towns in Europe has always been the most challenging. European menus in general are not very pescatarian friendly, and the language barrier in small towns is much more pronounced. Because, of that we have learned that research ahead of time, especially when trying to make an appointment, is key. This year, we have a long drive and need to find lunch before a 2:00 appointment at Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. Café Lavinal is located in the small and very unique town of Bages, only a few minutes from our appointment, and it has rave reviews as a place for “foodies”. A traditional style French Bistro with indoor and outdoor seating and wine list to match the reputation of the region. I think both vegetarians and pescatarians could find a great meal.

  • Caesar Salad
  • Salad of Warm Goat Cheese and Honey
  • Smoked salmon, lemon-flavored cream
  • Salmon tartare with dill
  • Fish soup with rouille sauce and croutons
  • Loin of hake with Spanish rice
  • Grilled fillet of sea bream, tomato roasted in olive oil
  • Penne pasta with sautéed vegetables
  • Vegetarian sides offered á la carte
  • Cheese and desserts of course!