Monday, January 31, 2011

Washington, DC: Food Review, Spanish and Italian

"Dad, I ate lunch with K at a tapas bar! It was great!"

"You ate at a topless bar?!"

Yes, it happened. My middle of America father misunderstood tapas for topless, which is an easy mistake to make when you're unfamiliar with different cuisines. I'd heard of tapas in my many years of Spanish language education but never had the opportunity to eat them until I was in DC. The day of the Restoring Honor rally with Glenn Beck was warm and long. My roomie KM and I were famished after standing for 3 hours or so in the warm sun, so we walked off the mall into downtown DC/Penn Quarter area. We stated we would eat at the first restaurant we found that wasn't too busy. We stumbled upon Jaleo...the tapas bar owned by chef Jose Andres. They/It was delicious! I ordered three things that were absolutely amazing! I had canteloupe wrapped in serrano ham, spicy chorizo wrapped in fried potatoes, and dates wrapped in bacon and fried. The dates were so incredibly delicious I couldn't stop eating them and was terribly disappointed when they were gone. It was the perfect treat, sweet and salty....yum! I did take a picture of the chorizo because they stacked it so nicely! See...I love how presentation is just as important as the food itself.

I returned to Jaleo a few weeks before I left with my roomie J. We hit up the lunch special with a sandwich and salad. While my sandwich was not quite what I imagined, my salad was phenomenal. It was green apples, fennel, manchego cheese, walnuts and an olive oil/sherry dressing! All of those flavors together were so amazing! I would recommend Jaleo to anyone going to DC. It's a nice place to go alone or with someone else and then you can eat way more by sharing items ordered!

Italian is my absolute favorite food! I traveled to Italy a year ago and ate some of the most memorable meals there. In DC, due to the amount of Thai food I was consuming, I surprisingly ate very few Italian dinners. But those that I did eat were delicious. The first weekend I was in DC, two of my friends that I met on my trip to Italy were also in town. We made it a point to get together for dinner one evening and of course what better reunion that eating Italian. We ate at Cafe Italia. With four meals ordered, we had mixed reviews but the portions were large, the atmosphere was lovely and the wine was delicious. The owner was quite generous and gave our table free amaretto shots!

A few weeks before I left I finally got together with two other friends from my Italy trip that go to school at George Mason. We decided what better than Italian again, though their second choice was to take me to Jaleo...see its amazing! We ended up at Dino's in Cleveland Park. We all went for their 3-course meal for $39 special. I enjoy potato croquettes as my antipasti, canneloni verde with kale and spinach, and pistachio crumb cake. I also had a delicious spicy red wine. Restaurants like that do meals the way they should be done, bringing out amazing flavors and allowing for people to enjoy their conversations over the delicious food.

This post has me wanting some bacon wrapped dates and a glass of wine. You should definitely visit these restaurants while you're in DC! If you are staying in the Crystal City area, there are quite a few little Italian restaurants as well as another Jaleo you should check out!

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