Federal District of Columbia is well known for the power inspiring marble columns, spires and domes, the major rotaries crowned by a hero of our country riding off on his stallion, and of course the Lincoln Memorial, glimpses of the White House and the Capitol. These hollow halls of power might be what brings in the many tourists and weekend travelers, but many know better that DC is a diverse metropolis with great hotels, food destinations and much more.
DC is a remarkable place to be. To get in the middle of the action the St. Gregory Luxury Hotel & Suites is a top choice. They pride themselves on being the frequent host to many celebrated performers, artists, dignitaries and this being DC, heads of state. It’s clear why they all choose the destination. Located on M Street it is within walking distance to Dupont Circle, both the Georgetown and George Washington areas and a pleasant stroll to the White House. The Hotel can offer a truly spacious and luxurious suite, with all the accommodations that one might need after a day on the town. Whether for a business or a leisure trip the St Gregory has you covered with a fitness center, business area and their own celebrated lounge.
DC’s vibrant culture and status as one of the most prominent cities in the world have helped draw in culinary talent from around the world. Arguably no one has been more important to the food scene of DC than chef José Andrés. Zaytinia, his acclaimed creation in DC uses José’s vast knowledge of the Mediterranean cuisine and years of experience to create something truly marvelous. It is under the direction of the very personable chef Michael Costas, who describes that his cooking career was already blooming when he was 3 or 4 years old when he used to cook and bake at home.
His Greek heritage and love for the Middle Eastern cooking blends right in with José’s vision and results in fantastic combinations. The Chilled Cucumber Soup is a perfect example, a Greek take on a green gazpacho, sees Spanish and Greek flavors come together. It is garnished with mastic oil, dried resin of a pistachio tree native to the island of Chios, compressed cucumbers, piquillo peppers and a savory yogurt granita seasoned with the whey from Barrel Aged Feta, where part of the soup is in a light frozen crystal form which really brings the summer soup together.
The seared halloumi is another great modern rendition of the staple Grilled Halloumi, a classic from the island of Cypress. To bring the total feel of Cyprus to his customer, the cheese is served with compressed watermelon, another native of the island, pickled watermelon rind, preserved cherry tomatoes, micro lemon mint and Ladolemono, a sweet rich citrusy sauce that ties the meal together. A dish fit for a Sultan, the Hunkar Begendi, is a delight which departs from the light flavors and presents some deep savory flavors. A braised lamb shank served in a traditional vessel with an eggplant kefalograviera cheese pure. It is truly hard to sum up Zaytinia, it serves truly delightful, light culinary masterpieces brimming with flavor and easily a must for any visit to DC.
Another great restaurant find is Belga Café, the original Belgian culinary destination in DC. It is the creation of celebrated Chef Bart Vandaele, a local of the Flemish speaking region of North Belgium. The Chef brings together his years of formal Old World culinary education, he enrolled at the age of 12 and his experience working in a host of acclaimed restaurants on both sides of the Atlantic. Here every meal is expertly crafted, balancing traditional Belgian flavors with new exotic flavors. A pairing of one of the 100s of beers is highly recommended. They are each selected by the Chef from small breweries in Europe.
For a nice bite in preparation for the culinary art to come, start out with a shrimp croquette, a perfect snack partner for a dark rich Bodenbach. The grilled scallop starter and the Beignets D’escargot are a great contrast while one is light and finely balances the seafood flavor; the other is rich and indulgent as an escargot should be. The Rissoto Met Grotte Garnalen is a sumptuous truffle infused medley of jumbo shrimp and muscles. For the meat lover nothing is more authentic than the Vlaamse Stroverij, a traditional Flemish Beef stew prepared with a Trappist ale and served with real Belgian Fries, will make you want to take a trip out to Flemish country. The story goes that French Fries are and have always been Belgian. US GIs unknowingly called them French fries assuming that French speaking Belgians where residents of the neighboring land.
Another fantastic find is Vento. Though only able to experience the brunch there, if the rest of the menu is anything like their early bird offerings, this is a special destination. The morning treat of choice is poached eggs with crab meat on brioche with a classic Hollandaise sauce. Unlike many culinary outlets that let the sauce overpower their offering, Vento really presents just the right amount of sauce to highlight and let the egg and crabmeat really show off their best flavor. The brioche is also fantastic, which is saying a bit for the often forgotten component.
A culinary tour de force would not be complete without parting dinner at Founding Farmers. Started in 2008, Founding Farmer’s is one of the leading farm-inspired American restaurants in the country. Owned by a collective of American family farmers, they source all their products from farms, ranches and fisheries from across the U.S. The appetizer to have are the Fried Green Tomatoes. A take on a classic, it is served with two delicious sauces which when mixed together and generously spread on the tomato creates a supple, creamy and deep flavor that takes a simple meal and really makes it into a culinary delicacy.
The Plank Salmon is a delectable cut of fish cook on a smoked cedar plank which gives it and the accompanying vegetables a really complex flavor, mixing well with the maple apricot glaze. For desert go straight for Red Velvet cake, the in style dessert really manages to create something that isn’t overpowering, with just a fine creamy flavor to finish off a perfect meal. But no meal could be complete at Founding Farmers without their famous and award winning mixed drinks. The organic Cucumber Delight is dangerously light and refreshing, while the Clementine is a heat lover’s tequila drink with a great spicy aftertaste.
By: Igor Bratnikov
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