Monday, October 6, 2008

Taste of Bethesda

In a rare Search for J Street sojourn outside of the District, I went to the Taste of Bethesda last weekend. For a gal who turns her nose at most reasons to venture into the suburbs, I was overwhelmingly impressed with Bethesda's food festival.

$20 bought me 16 tickets, which at first didn't seem like nearly enough as there were over 50 stands stretched across 4 blocks from which to choose. The choices seemed completely overwhelming at first. After some serious studying of the guide, I was able to eliminate about 10 or so options because they were chains, and I wasn't about to go all the way out to Bethesda to try something I could get in the District. Fortunately, I also had a Bethesda native to help guide me through the remaining 40 some choices. So in the end, I think I got some of the best of what the Taste of Bethesda had to offer.

I started off with some veal ravioli from Bice Ristorante (which I guess is technically a chain, but since the only one in the area is in Bethesda, it seemed worth my ticket). The veal was shredded, as opposed to mashed into a paste like the veal rav at Tosca, and I think I liked the texture better. It just seemed more meaty. Plus the flavor of the veal was great and made up for the average cream sause topping it.

Then we moved onto Divino Lounge. They were grilling a massive amount of meat and making little steak and sausage sandwiches, which were sooooo good. The bread was cheap and too thick, but we threw that away after a few bites and just ate the insides. I got the sausage (perfect spiciness) and tried my friend's steak (amazingly tender). I'm not even sure if they serve this at their restaurant normally, but I was impressed enough that I'd be willing to try the rest of their menu in hopes that it is as good as these tastes.

Around the corner, we found a place called Visions that was serving a chicken mac and cheese. As juvenile and not epicurian as it makes me seem, I freakin' love mac and cheese in pretty much all it's forms and am becoming quite the expert on the best of the cheesy noodle offerings in the city. So of course when I saw Vision's chicken mac and cheese, I had to try it. It was pretty good. Good baked crusty topping, chickeny texture. Good creaminess. But definitely lacking a little in the cheesiness department. I'm undecided if the restaurant is worth trying overall after my moderately satisfying experience. Has anyone else been and have any opinions?

My friend then pointed out La Miche, which is apparently a schmancy French joint out there. They were serving up escargot. So I jumped in line immediately. The escargot was the perfect garlicy, buttery deliciousness I was hoping it would be. I didn't try their crab cake option, but it also looked great. Plus their regular dinner menu looks phenomenal. (Baked mussels... mmmm...) I've made a mental note to actually get out of the District again to try this place.

The final dish I got was a chicken korma from Passage to India. I was holding out room for Passage of India during the whole festival because it was the one restaurant I knew about beforehand and I had always heard really positive things. Their chicken dish did not disappoint. The salad and rice were just bland fillers to round out the plate, but the chicken was so tender and flavorful that the sides didn't matter. This was another winner that would definitely motivate me to get out to Bethesda again.

We had a few tickets left which got us some sugar cookies decorated by forced child labor to round out the meal (they taste so much better when tiny fingers are forced to decorate them), and then I slipped into a utterly satisfied food coma for awhile. I suppose the lesson of the day was that I should have a more open mind about what the suburbs have to offer, seeing as the Taste of Bethesda may have actually been better than the Penn Quarter festival. We'll see if that lesson sticks in the long run, but for at least the immediate future I'll try to be more open to the stuff these suburbs kids are always raving about.

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