Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eating Extravaganza in The DMV - Founding Farmers, Obelisk, Volt, Proof, Blue Duck Tavern, Pitango Gelato, and Jaleo!

My friend and old college roommate came to visit me last weekend and we had a blast despite the crazy heat and severe thunderstorm that led to power outages everywhere.  Since she was only here for a few days and we love to eat and drink, we tried to pack in as much as we could while she was here, which led to stuffed bellies and swollen hands and feet from all the salt we were eating and walking around in the 100 degree weather.  Worth it.

So let's get started with the food tour, shall we?  As soon as I heard that my friend was coming to visit, I went to Trader Joe's and stocked up.
Yeah, I might have gone overboard here.  This doesn't include a box of wine (love the Bota box!) and beer I got from Costco.  We didn't even touch any of the food here in the end.  Too stuffed from all our meals!

The first meal we had was a lunch at Founding Farmers, which was good, but nothing great.  Oh wait, scratch that.  The beignets were awesome!  I wish I'd taken a picture of them!

We went to Obelisk for dinner, and we were super excited for it but had no clue what we'd be eating since they don't have a website or menu online.  Below is the menu they had posted when we arrived.
It was sooooo HOT that day and inside was blissfully cool and comfortable.  For a place that is supposedly hard to get reservations to, it was surprisingly pretty empty when we arrived.  Although our reservation was earlyish so maybe that's why.  I didn't take many pictures of our food there because it was so quiet and empty at first I felt a bit self conscious.  I did have to take a photo of the burrata, which was super fresh and covered in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  DELICIOUS!

The other antipasti were really good but nothing spectacular.  The pastas were surprisingly good, especially considering that neither of us was that excited with them when we first saw them on the menu.  We chose the ravioli and tagliatelle, and both really enjoyed the ravioli.  Oh, my friend and I have such similar tastes and like to try as much as possible so our typical MO is to order different dishes when we can and then share them.  For entrees we got the salmon and quail, both of which were good, but nothing great.  The sides that came with the meats though were our favorite parts!  The cheese course was all goat cheese, which of course we loved.  For desert we chose the chocolate cake and the pudding.  We were expecting to love the cake more than the pudding but were pleasantly surprised by the pudding which was deliciously smooth, creamy, and flavorful.  The cake was really moist and yummy but there was a lot of the mint sauce which was the herb, not peppermint, like we had assumed.  All in all the meal was really good and we considered it a good deal for the amount of food we got (especially when comparing it to New York prices), but were kinda disappointed with it.  If the entrees had been better I think that would have elevated our overall dining experience, but the salmon and quail were so ordinary and unexciting.

My friend and I are both Top Chef fans and we loved the Las Vegas season especially since that was a killer group with a lot of excellent chefs.  I've been wanting to go to Bryan Voltaggio's Volt forever but could never convince anyone to make the hour drive out.  Luckily, my friend wanted to go as badly as I did and so we decided we had to eat there no matter what!  We couldn't score dinner reservations (let alone the coveted Table 21 seats so last minute) and so we debated whether it would be worth it to drive all that way for brunch.  In the end we went, and boy am I so glad we did!!

The drive ended up taking 1.5 hours because of traffic (ugh) but we arrived just in time.  There was a small parking lot to the side that we were able to find a spot in, but I imagine that it's probably full during busier hours (we were there for a fairly early brunch time).  The restaurant feels like a house and the interior is very clean, white, and modern, which we were a bit surprised by.  The staff there were very formal (despite their Chuck Taylors), but were super nice and not a bit uppity or snooty.  I especially loved the bread lady who came by several times and always encouraged us to pick multiple rolls (I love it when they encourage you to eat like that!).  We tried the goat cheese and bacon roll which was delicious, and the cheddar and chives roll which was surprisingly both our favorites!  We forgot to ask for a sticky roll to eat later with our dessert but those looked amazing!

After our usual long time poring over the menu with our mutual indecisiveness, we decided to go for the 5 course tasting menu.  The 5 course tasting menu is a great deal at $55 because we later discovered that there is a good amount of overlap with their regular dinner menu.  So you get a full 5 courses with similar plates but for $20 cheaper for brunch!  I took photos at each course because even though I felt a bit self conscious, I had to for this eating experience!

We were offered a wine menu and cocktail menu (I love how it's totally acceptable to drink liquor with brunch!).  We both got a cocktail, but I can't remember the name of it.  It was tequila and I want to say grapefruit juice and lime, but I can't remember.  I'll ask my friend if she remembers and update here afterwards.

I was reluctant to have a tequila cocktail for brunch but it was the only one that jumped out at me and so I gave it a try.  It was really good!  You could definitely taste the tequila, but in a good way.  Random sidenote, you can see a bit of our utensils in the above photo, which were replaced for each course depending on what food was being served.  My friend and I have come across the notched spoon a few times in the past, usually with a seafood dish.  What is that for??  Why the notch?  What does the notch do?

We were also given small complimentary appetizers (or amuse bouches) which were these puffs filled with foie gras cream and some other stuff I can't remember.  These were awesome!  The puff just kind of broke down and melted in our mouths and then the delicious flavor of foie gras poured out.  It's great for those who love the flavor of foie gras, but not the texture.

Ok, now onto the food!  First up was jonah crab, cucumber, coriander, and green mango.
Sorry the photo is a bit blurry.  This was amazing.  Perfectly light and flavorful - a great dish for the summer!  We were uncertain as to which garnishes we could eat, but we ate most of them (other than the leaf and twig) since we wanted to eat everything off our plates.  I'm sure when they brought the plates back to the kitchen they were surprised that we ate the garnishes, but they were good!

Second course was ravioli garlic scapes, marcona almond, and goat cheese.
This was our all time favorite course, and just general plate from the whole weekend.  Everything about it was perfection!

Third course was halibut, asparagus, hen egg yolk, and capers.
We were super excited to eat the hen egg yolk, but couldn't find it anywhere on the plate haha!  We think it might have been the mini yellow gel blocks?  And we're not sure what the white flaky triangles were.  Well whatever they were, they were delicious.  The halibut was perfectly cooked with a nice crisp on top and soft flakiness inside.  Loved the asparagus too!

Our last savory course was beef, kennebeck potatoes, green garlic, and English pea.

We only remembered afterwards that they never asked us how we wanted our beef cooked.  It was served medium rare (it wasn't rare - that sauce on the bottom is sauce, not blood!), which is how we would've asked for it anyways, and so we just dug in as soon as they put our plates down.  I suppose if you wanted it cook a different way (although medium rare was perfection) you should specify when you order.  The beef was soooo juicy and tender and the little gnocchi that came with it were amazing little pillows filled with potatoes.  Mmm.  

As though this wasn't enough food, we also ordered a side of biscuits and gravy.  They were so cheap and we had to try them!  These were served with our beef course.
These biscuits were wonderfully buttery and dense, and the sausage gravy was amazing!  I wanted to marry these biscuits and gravy.  So good and worth the stomach space!

For dessert we were served chocolate marshmallow, caramel, and peanut (by the way, the names of these courses are taken from their menu which really just lists some of the ingredients (but not all) that will be presented in the course.  There were sometimes other things on the plates, most of which I can't remember - sorry!).
Yeah, we weren't fans of this.  Terrible.  Couldn't even finish it...
At the end of our absolutely mind-blowingly fantastic meal, we were given the receipt and a mini loaf of cinnamon coffee cake as a take home treat.  We were told these are freshly baked each morning.  How adorable is this?!
The cake was soooo good and was a yummy reminder later that day that we must return to Volt soon!  My friend and I were so impressed with the taste, textures, and creativity of the food, we vowed to return soon and hopefully score seats for Table 21.  I would seriously eat anything that they put in front of me because I believe they could make anything yummy.  Volt was one of the best dining experiences I've ever had, and this was just for a brunch!

So after Volt, nothing else could compare but we did have a great dinner at Proof where we shared the tuna tartare (my favorite part of the dinner) and meatballs (so good as well!), and had a couple meats and cheeses (also very good - especially the coppa), and then shared the chicken and steak (both good but I was too stuffed to fully enjoy them).  We finished with the sticky toffee pudding cake, which was delicious!  I didn't take any photos because it was so dark in there we could barely see the dessert menu and were given Proof stamped mini flashlights to see the menu!  I think they could've made it a bit lighter in there.

We also had brunch at Blue Duck Tavern which was also very yummy, but couldn't compare to our Volt experience.  And unlike Volt which felt formal without any stuffiness, we thought the staff here was weirdly formal and a bit snooty.  Our waiter seemed to act funny when we asked for tap water at first.  Little did he know at the time that we totally planned on eating a ton and ordering drinks, but I hate it when they automatically act snooty when you ask for tap water.  If I'm going to spend money on something, it's not going to be water!

My friend got a glass of prosecco and I got a gimlet.
We both wanted the short rib hash with an olive oil poached egg on top and so we both ended up getting it. 
We also got a side of biscuits and gravy.  It was only after they served us everything that they told us our hashes came with biscuits.  If we had known that we wouldn't have ordered the extra biscuits!  Oh we also got the fries there which were good, but nothing particularly different and amazing.  The sauce that comes with it was kinda bland and so I ended up dipping it in the horseradish sauce that came with my hash.

All in all the food was very good, but not as good as Volt, and the service just wasn't as good or as comfortable as we had hoped.  I was amused by the fact that someone stealthily picked up my bag on the floor next to my chair (how did I not see them do this?!) and put a little stool under it.
We also made a stop at Pitango Gelato where we cooled off for a bit as we enjoyed a yummy treat.
And we had one last dinner at Jaleo, which used to be our favorite restaurant over 5 years ago, but we found it not as good as we remembered it.  I don't know if the food is not as good or if our palates have changed since we've now eaten at a lot of different excellent restaurants since then.  

I said bye to my friend several pounds heavier, but it was so worth it.  We had a blast hanging out together and eating so many different yummy foods!  Although next time she visits I think I'll have to go on a strict diet for at least a month before she arrives!


  1. All you have to say to me is "all goat cheese cheese course" and I'm in. Mouth = watering!!!