Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Steak 'n' Egg Kitchen

Well, this might not be the first place you'd think of as the subject for a food blog, but we can't resist a good breakfast. Of course when we started over there on Sunday morning we were not at all sure that in fact, the Steak 'n' Egg Kitchen (SnEK) was the place to get one. On the other hand, it did have a few advantages going in. First, open 24 hours. Second, outside seating (becoming less useful this time of year, but still a bonus). Third, and most importantly, an easy walk from our house.

We had a short wait for a table but the friendly staff made us feel welcome. We chose to eat outside because of the beautiful day. There are about 12 stools inside in a classic diner setup, but the bulk of the seating is outside. We suspect that things might get awfully crowded once it gets too cold to eat outside.

The physical setup is, shall we say, unpretentious in the extreme. Long plastic tables (most folks have to share) and chairs, a pile of condiments in the center of the table, and paper-wrapped knives and forks. No placemats -- this place is not for the extremely fastidious.

No matter. The food was excellent. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. The grapefruit juice was canned, or reconstituted, or something...anyhow, artificial tasting. And the "maple" syrup was a choice of various supermarket brands that had never gotten close to an actual maple tree.

Michael had a turkey and cheese omelette that was both large and tasty. The hash browns were uniformly shredded and appropriately crispy, if a little bland (not an uncommon failing). The toast was good diner toast with plenty of butter. Michael, being very enthusiastic about his breakfasts, also ordered a waffle which was deliciously crisp and came with an overabundance of butter (if there is such a thing). Too bad about the syrup. David ordered a "Tennessee scramble" which was a delicious omelette-type concoction with ham, bacon, and sausage included, with a little cheese for good measure. Same hash browns. However, instead of the toast, it came with two biscuits and some good country gravy, perfectly creamy and peppery. The biscuits were flaky and soaked up the gravy perfectly (we suspect they might be a little dry on their own but were perfect with the gravy).

The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. All of the tables were packed, many with what appeared to be AU students out with their parents. The food took a little while to appear by diner standards but it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the sunshine while we waited.

All in all, a great find in our neighborhood and I'm sure we'll be paying many return visits.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dinner at Oyamel

We stopped in for dinner at Oyamel downtown after David's trip to NY, where he ate nothing memorable. The verdict on Oyamel: mixed. Some of the dishes were intriguing and delicious, but too many were bland. The delicious choices included the taco with pork (but not a beef one billed as a special) -- both were exceedingly tiny by the way. The mole poblano sauce on the chicken was exceptional. The red snapper ceviche was great. The sopas under a pile of shredded pork were outstanding -- crisp and tasty. Too bad the pork itself was extremely bland. We had different opinions on the fruit "gazpacho" -- Michael thought it was light and delicious, David thought it resembled the fruit buffet at a chain hotel, with a little chili dusting added (which was, admittedly, quite nice). With a dish this simple, the ingredients have to be absolutely first rate and perfectly ripe and these, we agreed, were not. We also split on the seared scallops. David, who loves scallops, thought they were excellent although the sauce was hard to detect. Michael, who doesn't, though they were undercooked. Most of the rest of the stuff we had was not memorable -- we guess the ratio was 60% delicious to 40% disappointing, which is a bit lower than we'd like. We had one margarita each -- delicious, but expensive at $9.50 in a deceptive small glass (one of those highball glasses with the extra-fat bottom to make the glass look bigger than it is...shame on you, Oyamel). The total bill was very reasonable at about $85 before tip. We agreed that it would be more fun with a larger group because of the small plates concept. However, most of the plates were too small to share among more than two people.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lunch at the Majestic

The fall day was a perfectly clear, and beautiful with the trees just beginning to turn color. Our appetites and the lure of adventure beckoned us outside so we hopped on our bikes and rode down to Old Town Alexandria from our home in DC. After exploring the heart of old town we longed for a good lunch so we headed up to the Majestic, which is a very nostalgically styled restaurant. Somewhat like a diner but a little more sophisticated.

We were immediately intrigued by the Caesar salad, which was made at our table by a very young and timid waiter, who made one of the most memorable Caesars we could recall. It was mixed in a large wooden bowl with all of your typical ingredients for dressing. Anchovy paste, oil, garlic, aioli, salt and pepper. Then it was topped with some really fresh and tasty anchovies. I would have been happy stopping there but they were serving pulled pork sandwiches, and bratwurst sandwiches. Well, of course we could not pass them up.

The pulled pork was served wrapped in waxed paper just like an old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. The succulent juices from the pulled pork had already soaked the waxed paper and I could tell that many napkins would be required. What made the sandwich so unique was not only the hint of cinnamon and molasses in the pork but the fact that it was also layered with cole slaw. The bread had been grilled so it was slightly crispy and held together all of the moisture in the meat and the juices of the slaw. Upon David's first bite his eyes instantly crossed. Always a good sign when were eating. I had ordered the bratwurst sandwich. It was quite good but the ciabatta style bread was well, too bready and it overpowered the delicious brat inside. The sausage was not as juicy as I would like. What I remember more was the warm potato salad that came with my sandwich. It was the most unpotato salad I can recall ever having. Steamed slices of red potato with a hint of mustard, oil and herbs. It was truly fantastic.

We would highly recomend the Majestic in Old Town for its friendly staff, and one of the best pulled pork sandwiches you will ever have.

Til our next food adventure,

Michael and David