Posts Tagged ‘Sweetbreads’

Blue Duck Tavern – Washington DC

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by virginia


Last July (yes, over a year ago, in 2012), Josh took me to Washington DC and Philadelphia for my birthday. Both are places we’ve been to before, but I was seven months pregnant at the time and feeling a bit down about not being able to go on our annual “big” trip (ie., Peru, the Galapagos) due to my condition. Physically, I probably could have traveled overseas, but I didn’t want to go anywhere exotic or new/exciting for fear that I wouldn’t be able to fully partake in all activities, especially eating and drinking. DC and Philly were a great weekend getaway for us, with enough sights and foodie destinations to keep me occupied and happy.

I had a half day Friday at work so Josh picked me up in the city at 2 pm and we made the drive to DC in pretty good time, not hitting too much traffic along the way. He had made reservations for a relatively late dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern, which gave us plenty of time to check into our hotel and make our way over to the restaurant. That was fortunate because we were at a different hotel from where we thought we booked. Rather than staying at the Westin Georgetown, which is right across the street from the Blue Duck Tavern, we were actually at the Westin City Center, which is a mile down the road. It wasn’t a bad walk, although we were a bit hot and definitely hungry by the time we arrived.

The restaurant itself was not what I was expecting. When I think of a tavern, I picture something a bit rustic, with exposed beams and rough wood. The Blue Duck Tavern had extremely modern decor, with contemporary furniture and lots of clean lines. It was also a little more casual than I expected. We did have a nice view of the open kitchen from where we sat.

Open kitchen

View of the open kitchen

The menu looked incredibly appealing, with lots of options for appetizers and main courses. Josh and I decided to go a bit crazy and ordered lots of dishes, creating our own mini tasting menu. We told our waiter that we wanted to share everything, and that he should bring the dishes in whatever order the kitchen thought was appropriate.

We ended up starting off with the oven roasted bone marrow topped with ramp butter, which was decadently delicious. It was served with a head of roasted garlic and grilled country bread.

Bone marrow

Roasted bone marrow with ramp butter

We spread some cloves of roasted garlic on each piece of toast, then topped it with the melty marrow and ramp butter. The marrow was rich and flavorful, and it was an ample portion to split between the two of us.

Roasted garlic and bone marrow spread on grilled country bread

Roasted garlic and bone marrow spread on grilled country bread

Next up was the spinach and smoked ricotta tart, which was like a savory ricotta cheesecake. It was served cold, and we could really taste the smokiness of the cheese. It came with a side salad of fresh baby spinach leaves and toasted pine nuts, which helped cut through the richness of the ricotta. It was a simple dish but packed with lots of flavor.

Spinach and ricotta tart

Spinach and smoked ricotta tart

We moved on to the 12-hour roasted suckling pig, which was very tender, as expected. There was a mustard jus in the pan that definitely packed a mustardy punch, but overall I thought the dish was just ok. It wasn’t as intensely pork-y as I had hoped, although the big piece of fried pork skin on top was a nice touch. It was served with a gorgeous pile of roasted baby vegetables.

12-hour roasted suckling pig

12-hour roasted suckling pig

The next dish was butter poached lobster on top of crispy pork and split pea emulsion. It was really an interesting dish, with the tender lobster paired with what was essentially pulled pork formed together into a cake, breaded, and fried. The split pea emulsion was creamy and sweet. It was a nice mix of textures and flavors.

Butter poached lobster with crispy pork and split pea emulsion

Butter poached lobster with crispy pork and split pea emulsion

I was not a big fan of the course that followed, the braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce. Part of it was probably because I was very full by this point, and this was an extremely heavy dish. The beef rib itself was huge, incredibly meaty, and fork tender. However, I found the steak sauce to be completely overwhelming. It just covered the beef and was all I could taste. We had a hard time finishing this one.

Braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce

Braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce

On the other hand, I loved the crispy fried veal sweetbreads with mac and cheese and morel mushrooms. It seemed like this dish was made just for me! The sweetbreads were nicely fried, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The morels had a nice earthiness to them. The mac and cheese was more creamy than cheesy though, and it could have used a touch more seasoning, but otherwise, it was a well composed dish.

Crispy veal sweetbreads with mac and cheese and morels

Crispy veal sweetbreads with aged cheddar mac and cheese and morel mushrooms

Lastly, we got a side of sauteed wild mushrooms. It was completely unnecessary – we had more than enough food on the table. The mushrooms were sauteed with olive oil and garlic. I found them to be a bit chewy, and the texture was sort of a turnoff. Too bad, because I usually love mushrooms.

Sauteed mushrooms with olive oil croutons, garlic, and parsley

Sauteed mushrooms with olive oil croutons, garlic, and parsley

Overall we enjoyed our meal at the Blue Duck Tavern, although there were a few hiccups with some of the courses. We generally found that the “appetizer” dishes (the bone marrow, spinach and smoked ricotta tart, butter poached lobster, crispy sweetbreads with mac and cheese) were better than the “entree” dishes (the suckling pig and the braised beef rib), though we may just have ordered poorly. The smaller dishes ranged from $11-$16 and the larger courses were mostly in the $25-$30 range. The appetizers were all shareable portions though, so it would be easy to make a nice meal out of several selections. We liked crafting our own tasting menu, and the waiter was very accommodating. The ingredients are obviously all fresh, and the menu even tells you where it comes from. The dishes are seasonal and the menu changes often, so I would definitely make a return trip if given the opportunity.

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St. NW at M St.
Washington, DC

Le Hobbit Bistro – Quebec City, Canada

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by virginia


I had done some research on restaurants in Quebec City prior to our trip but I wasn’t set on exactly where I wanted to eat, and I wasn’t really sure where the restaurants were located relative to our hotel. I wrote down a bunch of names and addresses, and so when we finally arrived in Quebec City late on Thursday night, we zeroed in on the restaurants closest to our hotel. There were two restaurants on the same street nearby so we walked past both and settled on Le Hobbit Bistro, which seemed like a slightly brighter, more upbeat and open space than our other option (where we ended up eating the next night).

There restaurant was busy, but not overly crowded, which was fortunate since J’s stroller takes up a lot of space. The waiter was pretty accommodating about shifting the tables around a bit so that we could put her (and all of her stuff) out of people’s way. It was after 9:30 pm by the time we settled in, and the waiter informed us that the kitchen would be closing soon so we quickly placed our order. Josh was in charge of the wine while I picked the dishes that we would share.

He wound up ordering a 1999 Bordeaux from Chateau Les Mangons. It needed a little time to open up a bit but wound up being smooth, medium bodied, not too dry, and very drinkable. The bread basket, on the other hand, was kind of sad with some limp pieces of baguette that had virtually no crust on it.

Bordeaux and baguette

Bordeaux and baguette

For our appetizers, we got the French onion soup and the sweetbreads with fig and truffle oil. The French onion soup was warm and comforting on a cold night, exactly what you expect, but nothing extraordinary. It was well seasoned, hearty, and had lots of melted cheese on top – there’s not much more you can ask for from a French onion soup.

French onion soup

French onion soup

I was really excited for the sweetbreads but I had started with the soup while Josh had started with this dish, and look on his face after he took one bite was not encouraging. He wouldn’t really explain to me what the issue was so after we made our customary swap midway through, I gingerly dug in to see what the face was all about. Immediately, I noticed that the texture of the sweetbreads was off. It should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, but this was chewy and gristly. I don’t know if that was intentional or if they didn’t clean the sweetbreads properly, but the texture is what threw Josh off. We both agreed that the plating, however, was gorgeous.

Sweetbreads on top of celery root puree with fig and truffle sauce

Sweetbreads on top of celery root puree with fig and truffle sauce

Flavor wise, the dish was screaming for salt, which was scattered about the plate in little flakes, but not actually on the sweetbreads themselves. There was also almost no sauce on the plate, and whatever sauce there was didn’t really taste much like figs or truffle oil. That was pretty disappointing, since I love both. The celery root puree underneath the sweetbreads was properly seasoned though, as was the little microgreen salad next to it. When I got a little bit of everything on my fork and dragged it through the salt flakes, the dish was actually pretty tasty, if a bit subtle, but the texture was still bad. I had very mixed feelings about the dish overall, but I didn’t hate it as much as Josh did. If the sweetbreads were the crispy/creamy texture that I’m used to, I would eat it again. But they weren’t, and Josh thought it was just bland and bad in general. Oh well.

The main courses fared much better. We shared the venison skirt steak and the duck confit. The venison was tender and not too gamey, perfectly cooked so that it was pink and juicy on the inside. However, it also wasn’t seasoned enough. A little bit of salt would have really elevated the flavor of the meat. Nevertheless, the pureed sweet potatoes underneath were super creamy and perfectly balanced between sweet and savory, and the melted leeks were buttery and mellow. Except for the lack of salt, we both really enjoyed the dish.

Venison skirt steak with pureed sweet potatoes and melted leeks

Venison skirt steak with pureed sweet potatoes and melted leeks

The duck confit was served with a port sauce and roasted vegetables. The duck was perfectly prepared, with the meat falling off the bone at the slightest push of the fork. I was amazed that the skin was still super crispy, a great textural contrast to the tender meat. The port sauce was intensely flavorful, slightly sweet, and paired perfectly with the wine. And unlike the venison and the sweetbreads, this dish was perfectly seasoned, which made it our favorite of the evening.

Duck confit with port sauce and sweet potato puree

Duck confit with port sauce and roasted vegetables

We passed on dessert, opting to enjoy the last bit of our wine instead. Overall we really did enjoy our meal at Le Hobbit, despite the few missteps with our dishes. While the texture of the sweetbreads was definitely problematic, everything else was just a seasoning issue and could have been easily fixed with a dash of salt. We liked the vibe of the restaurant, which seemed to be full of locals – most tables were groups of friends chatting in French, eating, and drinking. Our waiter was very accommodating, and we did not feel completely out of place dining with a baby. Prices were pretty reasonable – not cheap, but in line with a nice meal out. With two appetizers, two entrees, and a nice bottle of wine, dinner cost about $165 after tax and tip. It’s definitely a place I would recommend to someone traveling to Quebec City.

Le Hobbit Bistro
700 Rue Saint-Jean

Quebec City, Canada

Fantastic Greek Feast at Kefi

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 by virginia

I’m going to start out 2011 by writing about Kefi, the first restaurant I ever posted about on TFB. The meal we had was actually in late August but the menu hasn’t changed much since the restaurant opened. We were with a large group of people, which meant that we could order tons of food and try out different things. We got a bunch of different appetizers to share, some that Josh and I had eaten before, and some that were new to us.

We started with the selection of spreads, which includes tzatziki (yogurt), taramosalata (caviar), melintzanosalata (eggplant), and revithia (chickpea). These are always pretty tasty, especially the smokey eggplant dip and the refreshing yogurt dip. We gobbled it up using the slices of warm pita bread they gave us.

From top to bottom: eggplant, caviar, yogurt, and chickpea spreads

Warm pita bread

Another appetizer that came with pita bread was the warm feta with tomatoes, capers, anchovy, peppers, and olives. While it sounded like an interesting mix of ingredients, I found the dish to be overwhelmingly salty. There was no balance whatsoever to the flavors, and what wasn’t salty was just sour. Not even the pita bread could help cut through the saltiness, and I felt my mouth puckering after just a few bites. I was definitely surprised by how much I disliked this dish.

Feta with tomatoes, capers, anchovy, peppers, and olives

We also got an order of the Kefi salad, which was shredded lettuce and fennel with tomato, cucumber, olives, peppers, onions, and feta. This salad had similar ingredients to the feta dish but it was way more balanced. The lettuce and fennel were crisp and refreshing, and none of the other ingredients were overpowering.

Kefi salad

The crispy calamari appetizer was nicely fried, with pieces of tender calamari that was lightly breaded. It was perfectly seasoned and just needed a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up a bit. The dish came with some tzatziki sauce for dipping, a nice change from the standard marinara.

Fried calamari

My favorite appetizer of the night was crispy sweetbreads with tomato, scallion, garlic, olive, and lemon yogurt. I love sweetbreads in general, but these were exceptionally well prepared with a light and crisp exterior and a creamy interior. The accompanying components didn’t overwhelm the dish, and I could still taste the slightly sweet funkiness of the sweetbreads. Most people at the table were turned off by the thought of eating offal so I got to eat most of the dish by myself, which made me one very happy girl.

Crispy sweetbreads

Our last appetizer was the grilled octopus with bean salad. The octopus was nicely charred and super tender but the highlight of the dish for me was the tangy and refreshing bean salad underneath. It worked well with the subtle flavor of the octopus, but even by itself I could have eaten a whole bowlful of that stuff.

Grilled octopus and bean salad

For our entrees, Josh and I went halfsies on the pork souvlaki and the Kefi burger. The souvlaki was wrapped in pita bread and topped with tzatziki sauce, lettuce, and tomato. It was presented street style – wrapped in wax paper – which made it easier to eat because the sandwich would have been too messy otherwise. It came with a small salad and thick cut potato chips on the side. The pork was tender and flavorful, standing up to the other ingredients in the wrap. It was one of the best souvlaki sandwiches that I had and reminded me of the gyros we had during our honeymoon in Greece. The potato chips were quite good as well, especially if you’re a fan of darker chips. They were crunchy and had just enough salt sprinkled on top.

Pork souvlaki sandwich in pita

The Kefi burger that we had I think was made from lamb, though the menu says it’s bifteki. Either way, it didn’t taste like a regular burger. There was a definite gaminess to the meat, a slight funkiness to it that I absolutely loved. The patty was thick and nicely cooked so that the crust on the outside was slightly charred and crispy, but the inside was rare and tender. There was some sort of tangy and salty spread on the bun that paired well with the meat. The bun itself looked like it would be too big and dense but it was actually very light and fluffy in the middle, while the outer crust was sturdy enough to support the thick patty and not disintegrate when soaked with all the burger juices. It was a very good burger in my opinion, and uniquely delicious. The burger also came with a side salad and potato chips.

Kefi burger

Autopsy shot

Josh and I passed on dessert, though I did taste some of the rice pudding, which had a nice cinnamon flavor and was topped with an apple mixture that reminded me of apple pie filling. Sounds like a weird combination, but it was actually pretty tasty. Instead we had some caffeine – a frappe for me and a regular coffee for him. The frappe was thick and frothy, not too bitter. The regular coffee was pretty standard but I loved the mug it was served in, which was modeled after the classic Greek takeout coffee cups.


Fun coffee mug

We don’t go to Kefi often enough, in my opinion. The food is always well prepared, tasty, and reasonably priced. The restaurant serves classic Greek dishes with an upscale twist, but not at upscale prices. It’s a great place for large groups because the food is easily shareable, and the atmosphere is casual but upbeat. Service was fast and efficient, though we were chatting a lot during the meal and we never felt rushed. It’s definitely a place that I will come back to again and again.

505 Columbus Ave. between 84th and 85th St.
New York, NY

Village Green Restaurant

Sunday, January 17th, 2010 by virginia

The Village Green is a lovely BYO restaurant in Ridgewood, NJ that offers extensive seasonal tasting menus at very reasonable prices. The restaurant is minimally decorated but reminds me of an elegant townhouse on the inside. The dining room is broken up into two rooms, which gives it a more intimate feel. It was pretty empty the night that we went (it was late on a Friday) so we got a prime table for four (we went with Josh’s parents) in an alcove at the front of the restaurant. We opted for the five course tasting menu, which included four savory dishes plus dessert.

Our meal started off with an amuse bouche that consisted of a small fresh mozzarella ball, tomato slice, micro greens, and olive oil served in a Chinese soup spoon. Simple, but fresh and tasty.

Amuse bouche - mozzarella with tomato and micro greens

The bread man came by with a big basket of different breads. Josh and I asked for a slice of everything so we could taste them all. The breads were sourdough, cranberry walnut, rosemary, and seven grain bread. All of the breads had really good flavor but the rosemary bread was our favorite, as it was the least dense of the bunch and had a light, crispy crust.

Assortment of breads - sourdough, cranberry walnut, rosemary, seven grain

For my first course, I selected the crusted walnut goat cheese medallion with an apple and prune chutney and prosciutto. The goat cheese was smooth and creamy and the outside crust was nice and crispy. The apple and prune chutney was kind of like dessert, but when I got everything together on the fork all the different flavors and textures made sense. The savory and creamy goat cheese complemented the crispy crust, which matched with the soft, sweet chutney, which contrasted with the chewy, salty prosciutto. The only thing I didn’t really understand was the shortbread cookie, but the rest of the plate was fantastic.

Crusted goat cheese medallion with apple prune chutney, shortbread cookie, and prosciutto

Josh had the crabcake over coleslaw with cherry tomatoes and microgreens. The crab cake was thick and chock full of crab, not filler. It was fried to perfection and had a beautifully golden brown crust. I thought the coleslaw underneath was pretty tasty, if a bit standard, but Josh isn’t really a fan of coleslaw so he only ate the crabcake.

Crabcake on top of cole slaw

For the second course, both Alice and I chose the pastrami smoked salmon carpaccio with a crispy potato cake and dill crème fraiche. I thought the smoked salmon was too salty, especially on the ends with the pastrami seasonings. The dill crème fraiche helped to cut through some of the saltiness but I wasn’t a fan of the salmon overall. The potato cake was pretty good though, and reminded me of a freshly fried hash brown.

Pastrami smoked salmon carpaccio with potato cake

Josh ordered the pumpkin gnocchi with pancetta and braised seasonal greens, which he thought was absolutely terrible – the worst gnocchi he’s ever had. The gnocchi were dense and chewy, like a thick paste. He basically took two bites and just couldn’t stand it so he left most of his dish untouched. I thought it was a bit odd that the server who removed his plate didn’t question him on why he didn’t enjoy the dish.

Terrible pic of terrible pumpkin gnocchi

Lloyd had the winning second course, which was escargot bourguignon with creamed spinach and garlic red wine reduction. The snails were big and meaty, not too chewy, and the red wine and garlic flavor didn’t overpower them.

For the third course, I had the pan seared snapper over green olive couscous. It came with a cockle clam and a grapefruit and tarragon butter sauce. The fish itself was nicely prepared and seasoned, but I wasn’t a fan of the green olive couscous and the grapefruit/tarragon sauce. They gave the dish a sour, bitter flavor that detracted from the sweet fish. I also wished there was more than one clam, as it added a nice brininess to the dish.

Red snapper over green olive couscous with grapefruit

Josh and Alice had the seared diver scallops over mascarpone risotto with caramelized onions and pomegranate sauce. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the risotto was appropriately creamy but still had a nice bite to it. The pomegranate sauce added an interesting tang and nice color to the dish.

Scallops over mascarpone risotto with pomegranate sauce

For the last savory course, we all chose different items. I had the herb crusted veal sweetbreads served with sauteed mushrooms and truffle oil. The sweetbreads were spectacular, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I don’t really know how to explain the flavor of sweetbreads, but it’s both sweet and a little sour, and surprisingly meaty. They worked perfectly with earthy mushrooms and fragrant truffle oil.

Crispy sweetbreads with sauteed mushrooms and truffle oil

Josh had the lamb chops over polenta with figs and a rosemary red wine reduction. The lamb chops were cooked to a nice medium rare so they were still tender and juicy. The figs added a nice sweetness to the dish, and the wine sauce tied everything together.

Lamb chops over polenta with figs and red wine sauce

Alice had the petite filet mignon medallions with lobster tail over mashed potatoes. Her dish was really delicious and had a delicate flavor of truffles in the background. Lloyd selected the crisp duck leg over wild rice with cranberry red wine reduction, another superb dish. The duck meat was tender and moist and the red wine reduction was very flavorful.

For dessert, I went with the special of the day, a blueberry bread pudding. The serving was a small wedge but it was dense and chock full of blueberries. It was covered in chocolate sauce, which was a bit overkill, as the bread pudding was rich enough on its own. I had mixed feelings about the dessert though, and I’m not sure I would order it again as there was nothing that stood out to me.

Blueberry bread pudding with chocolate sauce

Josh had the crème brulee with a lemon cookie. The crème brulee was served in a deep ramekin that I normally think of as a souffle ramekin, but I kind of liked it because there was more custard than sugar topping (I’m one of those weird people who don’t like the burnt sugar crust on crème brulee). There was a nice vanilla flavor to the crème brulee but I found it a bit too sweet overall. It did have a nice consistency to it though.

Creme brulee with lemon cookie

Alice had the warm pear tart with cinnamon ice cream, which was tasty and comforting, while Lloyd had vanilla ice cream with fresh berries and chocolate sauce. Simple and classic, and the berries were fresh and sweet despite the fact that they were out of season.

Overall we were all a little bit disappointed by this particular meal that we had the Village Green. We’ve been there several times before, however, and have had better overall experiences. Still, there were some highlights to our dinner, such as my sweetbreads, Lloyd’s escargot, and Alice’s filet mignon and lobster. The menu is very seasonal but I’m not sure how often it changes per season. There are lots of choices to each course though, and the prix fixe really is quite a bargain. Five courses are only $55, and on Monday through Thursday they also offer a four course meal for $44. Although each course isn’t huge, they do add up and we’re all full by the time we’re done. The BYO aspect is another bonus. Despite this trip not being the best that we’ve had, I would still recommend the Village Green because the menu really does offer quite a variety and they always use fresh and high quality ingredients. I can’t wait to see what the next season’s menu features.

Village Green Restaurant
36 Prospect St.
Ridgewood, NJ