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Yes, there were oranges.  Lots of them!

But what I’ll remember most about my trip to Valencia (aside from the sunshine and excellent company) is the 5-course lunch I had at the Seu Xerea “lounge restaurant.”  It was easily the best 12 Euros I have ever spent.  Delicious, fresh, high-quality, creative dishes fusing Mediterranean and Asian flavors.  I also discovered a fabulous Spanish beer in the process.  That’s my idea of a perfect meal…and the perfect prelude to a siesta.

First course:

Seared octopus with creamy polenta, sesame seeds, and chives

Second course:

Mixed greens with seared chicken breast, mung bean sprouts, radish, sesame vinaigrette, and citrus aioli

Third course:

Green Thai fish curry with snow peas, mung bean sprouts, chives, coconut milk, and sea salt

Fourth course:

Asian “fideos,” i.e., lo mein with grilled calamari, shitake mushrooms, carrots, and bell peppers.

Fifth course:

Strawberry soup with basil ice cream and sesame garnish

And to wash it all down:

An ice-cold Alahambra Reserva 1925, a delicious full-flavored amber lager

Muchas gracias, Valencia! I will never forget you.

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Should you ever find yourself with an abundance of venison on your hands (via a generous hunter or a murderous rampage against the buck raiding your flower beds), consider whipping up a batch of Hirschgulasch.  This recipe originates from an Austrian restaurant where I used to serve and bartend.  I met many a character there, including a cokehead bartender who claimed to have immortality and a kindhearted Turkish law student.  We slaved long hours together, hoping for big tips and generosity from chef Thomas, who would save us a portion of the venison Gulasch special when he was in a good mood. After a hard night’s work, there was nothing more comforting than a plate of tender wine-braised game over dumplings.  Years after leaving, the dish was still on my mind, so I contacted Thomas for the recipe.

I hope you find Hirschgulasch as memorable as I did.

-1 lb. venison shoulder, trimmed and cubed
-4 small onions, halved and cut into thin wedges
-4 shallots, cut into wedges
-1 Tbsp. flour
-3/4 bottle (450 ml) red wine (I used a light tempranillo)
-1 c. dark beef broth
-1 tsp. beef bullion (staying true to Thomas’ recipe)
-dash each paprika and cayenne
-a few sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
-1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 juniper berries
-8 peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbsp. lingonberry jam (or whole cranberry sauce), plus more for serving
-salt and pepper, to taste
-vegetable oil

1. In a large, heavy pot, heat a few Tbsp. vegetable oil until very hot.

2. Dry venison cubes on all sides with a towel. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear in batches in the hot oil to brown and develop a nice crust all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

(more…)

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receipt

Photo via Only Eat…

Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog has the story on an awesome D.C. dining concept: FREE.

That’s right:

“Instead of a bill, diners receive a note explaining that their meal is a gift from a previous patron. The only request: Leave what you will to cover the next person’s meal.” (more…)

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A D.C.-based friend of mine sent in this shot of dish he recently enjoyed.  Any guesses on what it is and where it was served?

mystery-dessert

Thanks, CK!

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Washingtonian food critic, Todd Kliman, offers up a moving tribute to his father:

Most of the friends I grew up with did not venture beyond meat and potatoes, spaghetti and macaroni-and-cheese, but that was not my experience. We ate everything. Thai and Spanish and French and German and Japanese and Korean and Vietnamese and Indian and Mexican and Greek. My father loved the stuffed grape leaves at Ikaros, in Baltimore, and so I wanted to love them, too. He was the one who turned me on to pupusas. He introduced me to bulgogi and crepes, to hot-and-sour soup and the pleasures of hot pot.

So long as a restaurant had character, had soul, he loved it. Dives, taverns, pubs, it didn’t matter; good was good. His mother scolded him, repeatedly, for taking a ten-year-old to a bar, but my father never listened. I spent many a raucous Saturday night in the late, lamented Henckel’s — hard by the railroad tracks and probably once a bordello — chowing down on a Chenckelburger as my father and mother worked their way through the foot-high ham sandwiches and knocked back bottles of beer. . .

[Years later, after the onset of an illness] He was stronger than he’d been. He’d gained thirty pounds since the chemo and radiation — most of it, my mother believed, from restaurant food. He didn’t eat much of her cooking anymore, but he ate when he was out, or when restaurant food was around. I told him he’d become the equivalent of a social drinker — a social eater.

We took our time, and we talked and talked. He was worried about the surgery. He said he didn’t know if he would make it this time. Our anxiety seemed to lift, a little, as we worked our way through the meal. He drank two Vietnamese coffees and took a few bites from every bowl and plate that was on the table. When we left, two-and-a-half hours later, the place was empty. . .

For days, he talked about the meal and the coffee. “Terrific, just terrific.” He even talked about it in the hospital, in the weeks after his surgery. All his nurses learned just how good the coffee was, how dark and rich, how good a time he’d had. . .

If you’re lucky, someone crosses your path whose enthusiasm for good food and new sensations and cultures is utterly contagious.  Someone who delights in shared experience and enjoys the controlled chaos of dim sum as much as white linens and candlelight.  For Todd Kliman, that person was his father.  Read the whole tribute here.

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Pret a Manger is a new sandwich shop imported to the U.S. from Britain.  But don’t let that deter you! (Sorry ;-)) The pilot has already taken off in (notoriously cutthroat) NYC, which now has about 20 restaurants.  Sometime around January 2009, Washington finally got one, too.  I tried Pret yesterday and can happily report that it’s a welcome new lunch option downtown.

The concept is in the name. “Pret,” I’m told, is French for “ready,” as in, “ready-to-wear fashion.” So “Pret a Manger” puns on the phrase “ready to eat,” meaning both prepared food and hunger.  Pop into one of the slick cafes and you’ll find a wall-length refrigerator stuffed with an impressive assortment of “just made” sandwiches, wraps, salads, yogurts, and juices. The sandwiches can be purchased in whole or halves—convenient for soup-n-sandwich types and variety lovers. On Friday, I fell into the latter camp: pret-half-sammies And the food? (more…)

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For you locals, there’s a fun event coming up with Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn @ 6th and I Synagogue.

Spike Up the Matzah

spike

Sunday, March 22, at 6:00 p.m.

“Matzah brei, matzah pizza, matzah mania! Chef Spike Mendelsohn dazzled us last December with his suave latke-making skills. Just in time for Passover, he’s back with recipes to rev up your matzah. Matzah Master Spike will offer an entertaining demonstration of how to create 10 tasty meals, snacks and treats with matzah. And who knows, maybe Spike’s mom will join him on stage again? The cost of the event is $9.”

Tickets are available on this website.


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