Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Titillating Trivia Tuesday

I've come up with the idea of a new trivia Tuesday for my blog. I'll make the first one pretty easy and if you can guess the answer first, I'll be sure to give you a shoutout. If you guess three answers in a row first, then I'll provide you with the movie/a movie with the actor as a prize.

Each Tuesday, I will provide details for a mini game that sometimes will be 'Name that movie', 'Name that actor' or something else movie related.


Character Name:

Famous quote: "I want you to be nice...until its time to not be nice"

Early movie in his career: The Outsiders

Like I said, I made this one pretty easy. Next week will be more difficult...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shhh....It's a secret

So when exactly did it become the 1920s again. If you talk to anyone in the fashion industry, they will be the first to agree that styles are cyclical. What was once trendy, will quickly become a passing phase, only to be revived years upon years later. Look at bell bottoms to boot cut jeans, or even the neon craze that occurred in the 90s just now becoming rejuvenated. So what trend am I talking about? Stealing a phrase I used in my most recent restaurant week posts:

Cue the Speak Easy.

So what exactly is a speak easy? Wikipedia describes it as:

A speakeasy was an establishment which illegally sold alcoholic beverages during the period of United States history known as Prohibition (1920–1932, longer in some states). During this time, the sale, manufacture, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcohol was illegal.

So the purpose of these speakeasys no longer is pertinent, but the idea behind is just now thriving. It isn't any different than any other themed bar, this theme, however just creates a very different environment than most people are used to. To name a few, The Violet Hour in Chicago, Bourbon & Branch in San Fran, Varnish in LA, PDT in NYC and last but not least, The Gibson in DC. These bars are quite amazing to be honest. The allure of the speak easy is that its hidden, intimate. When first created, it was to sell alcohol when it was not allowed. Now, these speakeasys take provide in providing you with an elite cocktail. You don't go to this type of place for a rum and coke, but your more traditional adult beverages, a Manhattan perhaps, to give you an idea of these timeless drinks. The bars will only use the top shelf liquor and provide you with mixers you either never heard of, or would never think to use.

My first experience was in NYC in the East Village. PDT, Please Don't Tell. Similar to the first rule of fight club, you don't talk about please don't tell. But here I go blabbing about it to all 6 of my readers (up from last week!). You walk downstairs to enter Crif Dogs, and immediately upon entry, you see an old school phone booth on your left. Walking in it looks like your run of the mill hot dog joint. You have plenty of people eating in the restaurant and you see an expansive menu by the front counter where you order. Much to my surprise, the friend I was with went straight to the phone booth and picked up the phone. Wait for it...the phone doesn't work. It's actually a door bell into the private cocktail lounge on the other side. The false back opens up and you see a beautiful dimly lit bar on the inside. Reservations are not required, but are definitely encouraged as the place is quite small. This isn't a place you take a big group of friends, but really just those you would like to enjoy conversation with. We were able to procure a nice booth that fit the 5 of us and squeezed in a 6th. The cocktails were pricey, but well made. I didn't recognize any of the drinks on the menu, but I like alcohol, so let's be honest, I was okay with anything. The drinks come out slowly because the bartenders hand craft each drink with several moving parts. That being said, I now want to educate myself on more of these timeless drinks that I can ask a cultured bartender to make. The experience was amazing. The service was fantastic, and all it takes is a little patience for a table. Probably the best thing about this bar, or any of these bars, is that a seat is required. No patrons standing around the bar. PDT was not crowded in the slightest, but had a long wait. Is this elitist? Perhaps. But I see it as more of the owner wanting a certain feel and experience to his bar, and that's exactly what he got.

Much to my surprise, it turns out there are a few speakeasys in the DC area. It's funny because at the time in NYC, I commented to those who I was with, there needs to be places like this in DC. Let's be honest. There are so many areas and so many things to do in DC, its easy to not know of everything, but considering this would be on the 'cool' side of things, I'm a very 'uncool' person so its no surprise I wasn't aware these places existed. Alexandria has PX which is located above Eamonn's restaurant. DC has The Gibson. It seems that Eric Hilton owns every cool bar in DC. For those of you who are not aware, he is from the musical group Thievery Corporation. I wouldn't be surprised if many of you are saying to yourself, who in the world is Thievery Corporation, but you will recognize this song from the Garden State soundtrack that everyone has. I would recommend a lot of their other music, but getting back to the point, Eric Hilton owns all the cool bars in DC. At least in my opinion, including 18th Street Lounge, Marvin and most recently the Gibson.

Located off of 14th Street on the corner of U St. is the ever popular Marvin. Right around the area you will find other popular bars such as Cafe St. Ex or even my friend's beloved Bar Pilar. U street continues to be the up and coming area and the recent addition of The Gibson is a testament to that. Beside Marvin at 2009 14th St. is an unmarked door with a small doorbell pad to the left. The most advertisement you will find is the top button with a strip of paper with 'The Gibson' printed on it. Inside the door is a random bare hallway that goes upstairs. It looks as if its the entrance to a storage area. The first door on your left however, leads into the bar. Manned by a nice gentlemen, the door is unmarked with a simple sign that says 'Please wait for host'. Inside is a dimly lit bar that is spacious. The dark wood bar is one of the first things you see with about a dozen seats. A few booths line the side into a larger room with a few tables sprawled along the sides. If you continue to the back, a backdoor seating area is available, opening up the bar for several more patrons at a time. Unlike your traditional bar, there is no standing room here and everyone must have a seat.

The music was fantastic, the ambiance unbeatable, and the wait staff very helpful. Often times, customers order traditional drinks like I discussed above and our waiter was curious as to what types of drinks we enjoy so that he can provide some good suggestions. My first drink was a summertime manhattan which was similar to a mint julep in that it was a manhattan with mint leaves. My second drink was a martini entitled a 'Scorched Earth' which was described to me include Laphroaig which is a very smokey scotch. I'm not a big scotch drinker (read: hates scotch) but it was pretty tasty. Would I recommend this place to anyone? Absolutely. Would I say its the cheapest place? No. But you must remember, like at any bar, you pay for not only the alcohol, but the experience and ambiance.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Restaurant Week Aug '09 Part 3

Considering that this is the third and final post in regards to restaurant week in the summer of 2009, I hope everyone isn't expecting much. Similarly to the film industry, trilogies are rarely good and I will warn everyone that this post will likely follow suit.

That being said, and now that all 5 of my readers have stopped, I'll make sure I put in as much effort in this post as the two others.

Cue (Thanks Robby) Charlie Palmer Steak.

If you have heard of this place but had NO idea where it was, then you'd fill the exact shoes I was in. I've heard of this elusive Charlie Palmer several times when speaking of the best steak houses in the city. It fills the list with others such as Bobby Van's, District Chophouse, Smith & Wollensky.

Located off of Constitution and 1st Avenue, it is just a block away from our nation's Capitol building. Walking into the lobby, you get the distinct feel that this is an upscale establishment. You walk into an expansive opening with a bar directly ahead of you. There are several small tables and booths along the side of the restaurant for those who are just drinking at the bar. The bar itself is long and narrow, filled with people that are way more important than me. Beers are served in glasses although they had no drafts. Clear sign of what kind of place this is. Another clear indication was the extensive scotch selection that they have on display. For some reason, when I think of Capitol Hill and lobbyists, I think of Scotch drinkers. We thought about getting a drink at the bar, but it was overly crowded and my attire was not pressed enough for me to feel comfortable with the other clientele, so we hopped down the block to My Brother's Place.

Fast Forward and its 730 and time for our reservation. Walking past the host's station, you walk down a small hallway that opens up to the rest of the restaurant. It's surprising how large this place really is. The tables were placed far apart so that conversations could remain quiet, a positive for important politicians I'm sure. The hallway is actually created as a corridor between the wine room. It's actually slightly raised and acts as a bridge over an internal pond of sorts which adds to the ambiance. The open room is well lit with nice artwork and designs that add to the experience. The general manager stopped by our table which was a very nice gesture. He provided us with business cards and said to be sure to call if we plan on another visit. Although it was obvious that we were younger folk that probably don't head to these dinners often and was clearly there for restaurant week, I respect it. It's the little things with me, I've said that my entire life.

The meal begins.

Sadly, I won't be able to provide as many details since the restaurant's website doesn't have the menu up any longer. That being said, I started with a Chilled Local Corn Soup. I talked about it before, but I would have to reiterate the quality of a great soup. I don't order them often, but it was quite tasty. The Maryland Blue crab was a delicious addition that was subtle and not overpowering. Any good bisque comes down to consistency and this chef had it spot on. There was a small dab of tarragon added which provided a nice balance of color and balance. The entree was a roasted sirloin with thinly sliced small potatoes. The dish isn't on their everyday menu and sadly, this is for good reason. While the cut of meat was good and the steak was prepared well, it wasn't something that screamed eat me. It was previously discussed amongst my friends of whether or not steak places are really the best establishments for restaurant week. There is no need to really showcase your restaurant because a good steak is a good steak, no nouveau fusions of flavors and foods necessary. You got your beef. You got your potato. You got your dish. That simple. The dessert turned out to be some sort of raspberry soup that looked much better than it actually was.

Would I go back? Probably. I don't think that I really had a dish that was representative of how good of a steak this restaurant can prepare, but at the same time, the restaurant is very well put together. I am left with mixed feelings. The one aspect that did 'wow' me was the fact that they had a portion of their wine menu that was called '25 for under 25' in which they listed 25 bottles of wine for $25 or less. What was really nice about this was that there were bottles that were even cheaper than $25. It was a very nice, unexpected touch to a high-end dinner. If you're going to spend $37 on a steak, it doesn't mean you necessarily want to spend $83 on a bottle of wine.

So that was it. All 3 of my restaurant week experiences. My friends and I discussed the idea of going to a nice dinner once a month that way we can try out more of these nice restaurants more often. I like the sound of it so perhaps I'll be able to do more of these restaurant write-ups. Don't everyone jump for joy at once...