Sunday, March 1, 2009

Catching up with restaurant week - Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis, the sister restaurant to Vidalia, has been on Erin's and my must-visit list since we got kind of sloshed at Vidalia's restaurant week lunch this past summer. All the food was so good, and the service was above and beyond anything I ave experiences (a tour of the kitchen!) We figured even if Bistro Bis was half as good, it would still be fabulous.

And for the most part it was. The restaurant week menu was cut down a little bit, but not much. There were still enough choices to make most everyone happy. Erin started with the beef tartar. She's sort of a faux vegetarian, but her kryptonite is always beef tartar. It was delicious and came with a nice, wholegrain mustard. I had the tuna salad, which came with seared, sesame-crusted tune, anchovies, tomatoes, olives, some type of orange, fennel, and some other fresh delicious things that I am forgetting. It was light and extremely flavorful.

For dinner Erin, conitnuing with her vegetarian theme, had the lamb shank. It looked phenomenal, and she raved about it. Of the two pieces I tried, one was succulent and one was dry. So I would have give a mixed review, but it might be better to take Erin's word for it since she did most of the eating of it. I will say that you get your money's worth in portions, though! the shank was huge!

I went with the porkchop with baked apples. Unlike the lamb, I did not fnd a dry bite in my meat. It was cooked to perfection, but the sides were only ok. They didn't all seem to go with each other. There were the apples and then some spinach-type leaf wilted with tomatoes and an onion. The salad stuff was nice and the apples were pretty good too, but I didn't like them together. The dish lacked cohesion.

The desserts were good, but slightly disappointing as well. I had the apple pastry. It was obviously housemade (or gave a very good impersonation of housemade). Points for effort there, but the apples weren't terribly sweet. The sweetness of the crust made up for it to a certain degree except that it was a bit overbaked, and the top ended up too dry and flaky. I'm sure it seem cliche, but what it really needed was a scoop of vanilla icecream to balance out the lack of sugar in the apples and the dryness in the crust. Sadly no icecream to be found.

Erin went with the seasonal sorbets and had no complaints. She had a passionfruit and a mango (I think). The mango was delicious, but the passion fruit was really something special. It was probably the most intensely flavorful sorbet I have ever and may ever taste. My whole face sucked it with flavor when I tried it. I don't think Erin could have finished a bigger portion of that sorbet even she had wanted to. It would have been overwhleming.

I greatly regretted telling our server that we weren't in a huge rush, though, because he took that to mean it was acceptable to serve us the most leisurely of dinners. It took a big flashing sign reading "WE'RE READY TO ORDER" to get our server to come back after bringing out drinks. Then our appetizers came out a few minutes after the apps at the table next to us (who had arrive a few minutes after us but still had their order taken first), and our dinner came out a good 10 minutes after theirs. Things only got progressively slower. Desserts came out easily 15 minutes or more after the table next to us, and the check actually never came. It was so late by that point that I had to flag down two different off duty servers (both were exceptionally polite and helpful) to bring the check and run our credit cards.

Judging on just one visit, it is hard to say definitely if Bistro Bis is as fabulous as Vidalia. There were a few misses in the food but nothing major. Our server was fun and extremely pleasant, but terrible at reading customers' needs and timing. I would say it's worth another visit, if I have the chance, before making a final decision, but if I had to pick between Vidalia and Bistro Bis based on first impressions, Vidalia is still the winner by a mile. (I mean, we got a freaking tour of the kitchen!)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Visions Restaurant

What I've found at Visions restaurant in the recent 2 trips I've taken there: innovative mussels, fried-to-perfection calamari, and well done classics like mac and cheese

The first trip was on Valentine's Day, and I was hesitant to come back. While all the food was delicious, the service was effing terrible! I understand that it is a crazy night for all restaurants, but when we first arrive, the restaurant was still slow enough that there was no excuse. Our server didn't come over until we flagged down a non-English speaking busboy and tried to communicate that we'd like to order sometime that night. Then our food came out very slow, slower than the food at surrounding tables. THEN he brought out the wrong entree for my friend and dealt with the situation in the worst possible way: 1) he didn't apologize 2) he gave us an inaccurate estimate of how long it would take to get the correct entree ("It'll be just a second"... 15 minutes later...) 3) he left my food sitting there getting cold and 4) he ignored the shit out of us while they were preparing the new entree, not asking if there was anything he could do while we wait.

Understandably we were ticked by the time it came to pay the check, but fortunately for Visions, they sent out a coupon in the mail the following week. Now that we're in the second great depression, I can't resist a coupon! My second trip was greeted by a sweet, attentive waitress who was friendly and tried hard to make up for any lack of knowledge. The food again was excellent, except for the spring rolls. They were solid, but just not up to the high standards Visions set for itself.

The crayfish spring rolls with a Thai peanut sauce. They could have easily been improved with a little more crayfish, but that is my only criticism of all the food.

Some fresh, and I mean fresh-piping-hot-straight-out-of-the-oven foccacia bread. Our waitress said she had been munching it in the back, and it was just too good not to share.

My amaaaaaaaazing mussels that I dipped my fresh focaccia bread in! I get mussels at almost every restaurant I go to. So by this point it is getting hard to impress me with a new, inventive way to prepare them. Visions was up to the task. This was basically mussels in a burrito style - black beans, tomatoes, leeks, and bacon. It may sound odd, but I vouch that it is fantastic and alone worth the trip to Visions.

The chicken mac and cheese, which they made special for us, since the menu had recently changed to a crab mac and cheese instead. I had tried this at the Taste of Bethesda, and it was just as good as I remembered.

A blurry picture (sorry about the photography skills) of my oysters rockefeller from the first trip. The oysters weren't terribly plump, but they were loaded up with delicious toppings!

My friend's calamari with lemon aoli. It was absolutely perfect! Lightly fried and not too chewy. Next time I go, I am going to make a meal out of the mussels and calamari alone.

My tuna steak entree with a creamy risotto and grilled squash. The tuna was slightly over cooked but still flavorful and delicious (before it got cold waiting for my friend's entree to come out.) The risotto was sort of an interesting side choice (rich with raw) but somehow it worked. Maybe only because I like risotto and tuna so much, though.

The long awaited rockfish. Obviously Visions presentation is not top of the line, but I appreciate that they are putting the effort where it counts more, meaning even though the rockfish looked like just a pile of stuff, it tasted amazing. The sauce soaked into everything but was still light enough that you didn't get sick of it.Finally for desert a banana foster and long stem, chocolate-dipped strawberries. So rich and delicious.

So my conclusion paragraph of this very long story is that I realize Visions is trying to do the best they can having only been open about a year and half and having the last 6 months dominated by the new depression. The decorations are sparse, the presentation is basic, the servers are just kids, but the cooks pour their heart and creativity into their food. I don't know if they will make it through the next year, but if they get the chance to build Visions into what they aspire to, it will become a must visit. One day. First they need to fire that a-hole who waited on me this past Valentine's.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On a lighter note...

These clutches are hot, and I covet them and the extravagant materials that went into producing them! Aligator and feather clutch by Paige Gamble.Stingray and metal clutch (Yes, that's right stingray. How ridiculously awesome and excessive is that?) from Made Her Think.

This Irks Me

(Picture courtesy of

I don't have a car, and neither does my roommate. If we are going to go somewhere in DC, we are either going to walk or take public transportation. The metro and buses are crucial in our lives, and it really bums me out that they are going to have to make cuts to service somewhere. But hey, is a recession/depression/shitty time all around. I get that. I'm making budget cuts too. I haven't bought a new pair of heels in months. What annoyed me today in reading about these cuts was how those in charge of making decisions about DC's public transportation don't use it. How are they suppose to know where they can cut corners and where corner cutting will not be acceptable? This is worrisome indeed, but the annoyance I felt about these committee members being ignorant of that which they are in charge was nothing compared to my outrage over these people being part of the budget problem!
Half of Metro's 12 board members, including Chairman Jim Graham, do not regularly ride the train or bus system they oversee. And even as members say they need to trim expenses and boost revenue, several haven't paid their parking fees at Metro headquarters for at least 2 1/2 years.
Obviously these parking fees are not what is breaking the bank, but come on guys. It's the principle. You want to raise metro fees and cut service? How about you at least pay your parking tickets first.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dining Guide for Dating and Dumping

All my emails from Zagat go automatically into one of my gmail folders, and when I have time, I open them. Lately there have not been too many new restaurants opening and most of the emails are about shit you can buy from Zagat. So the folder has gone unchecked, but today I realized that almost 50 emails had built up. I got up the motivation to go through them and comb for any interesting alerts, and what I found was better than I could have imagined.
A dating and dumping dining guide! What an ingenious and hysterical idea. Unfortunately, DC did not make the cut for the first round of cities to have such a guide, which has prompted me to put some thought into the subject and come up with my own guide. Do you have any suggestions? Have you been wined and dined or dumped hard anywhere that was particularly memorable for one reason or another? If you care to share your story, please do! I'm hoping to come out with a small DC guide by March.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Restaurant Week Winter '09

I've got 3 pretty well known restaurants lined up for restaurant week this time around. Oceanaire on Friday, Bistro Bis on Wednesday, and things started off with Ristorante Tosca last night. So far the food has lived up to reputation! Tosca turned out to be a great deal because the whole menu is available for restaurant week with very few mark ups. The roomie and I both started off with a pasta course. She got the butternut squash gnocchi:

And I got the mezzeluna pasta filled with oil soaked swordfish and baby capers on top. So phenomenal! Such flavor!

The roomie then went with the pheasant wrapped in pancetta (spinach and potato sides). We both love meat wrapped in meat, but the roomie thought her pheasant was a little too dry. I tried some and liked it, but I was glad that I got the red snapper.

My snapper was soft, well seasoned, and went perfectly with the oil soaked artichokes.

By this point I could barely move, much less contemplate eating any more, but then the desserts came out. Somehow, upon the sight of them, I found room. I had a nutella filled crepe with hazlenuts, a light chocolate ice cream and frangelico whipped cream. It was perfect. Light enough that I could have eaten 10 in a row.

Erin got the green apple granita with a cat tongue (apparently a cookie and not actually a dat body part) and some creme fraiche whipped cream type topping. She loved it. I'm hoping it inspires her to make some at home in that often unused ice cream maker!

All in all there were few misses at Tosca. The service was excellent other than a slight delay in waiting for the check, and the food drew equally near-perfect raves. My goal is to invest a few times a month in picking up a little something from Tosca for lunch so I can investigate more of their menu. It is such a shame I have worked right next to this restaurant for a year and a half and am only now discovering its deliciousness!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Too Freaking Cute!

Doesn't your BFFL deserve something on Valentines Day too? The chance that they will love you longer than your current hot affair is pretty high.

What I Do When Not Blogging

On Wednesdays during my lunch hour I volunteer with a writer's group at Street Sense. I don't make quite the impact I had hoped I would when I first started, but the organization has certainly made its impact on me. The people there really work had to raise awareness about poverty and empower the homeless. Someone came in and made a little video about Street Sense, and as a bonus you can see me for a split second towards the very end helping to run the weekly writer's group!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


So getting to and from work today, not so fun. Imagine me ice skating along the sidewalk to the metro in some hideous furry Target boots that I bought as part of a Halloween costume years ago but am now forced to wear for real since all my galoshes ordered off keep shredding. (The lesson to this story is to NOT order rainboots off anymore!) I looked a lot like one of those new born cows that tries to stand up for the first time only to find it's legs are no better than long sticks of jello. BUT despite the inclement weather, I was not in the least pouty because the same weather provided me my first opportunity in years to make a snowman!

So I realize he's a little non traditional, but when you spend your days in the city with a time-consuming job and no backyard to come home to, you have to take your wholesome snowy fun where you can find it! Frosty here is sporting forks for arms, a coffee stirrer for a nose, pebbles for eyes, and a coffee sleeve for a hat. All accessories courtesy of my lovely place of employment. I especially like the hat. It's like he's channeling Aladdin or one of those old man shriners driving around in the little cars at the local parade. I feel it adds character.

So what did you do with the first lovely winter snow to hit DC in years?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Power Hour

Tonight was the last Power Hour (2 drinks + a delicious cheese platter + admission to all the exhibits) at the Corcoran before the Richard Avedon exhibit, Portraits of Power, moves on and the Corcoran closes for renovations. The Avedon exhibit was nothing short of mesmerizing. I found it captivating the way some portraits seems to tell whole stories about the sitter's life and the way other sitters in their portraits seem to be on the verge of confessing deep, dark, life-changing secrets. The exhibit was almost exhuastingly enormous, and when we finally got to the end, I thought I was ready to go home. That is until I discovered that there was an interactive aspect to the exhibit, a black and white camera set up to take Avedon-esque photos and display them on a giant screen in the lobby for visitors to enjoy the amateur photographer in all of us. Erin and I were totally bored with this interactive feature as you can see:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Out of this World

Work has been a bit slow this week, which has allowed me some time to catch up on my online shoe ogling. This afternoon I came upon the genius of these:

I'm not sure how long Very Galaxy Platform Pumps have been out in stores, but they have just become my Very Good Reason to Work on Saving Money.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I have never seen so much fur on the metro as I have in the last few days. Everyone has brought out their fanciest, schmanciest attire for the Inauguration, but all you ladies (and gentlemen) got schooled today in the fancy, schmancy attire department because Aretha brought her A game to DC.

If you didn't have a hat with a giant shiny bow or something comparably ridiculous and awesome (awesiculous? ridicsome?), then you are just going to need to try harder 4 years from now. I know I sure am. The bar has been set.