My birthday! This certainly presents an opportunity to dine at one of those top DC restaurants that can be difficult to justify in terms of the expense. The only question is which one? Komi? Inn at Little Washington? Cityzen?
In the end, sensibility prevails. I can not justify the expense when we’ve been doing so much high end dining lately. I also am thinking I don’t want an elaborate multi-course meal. So where do we end up? Don’t start feeling sorry for me. It wasn’t such a sacrifice. We (and by that I mean I) decide to go to Blue Duck Tavern. This is one of those restaurants that has been on my list forever, but for one reason or another plans change and I’ve never made it. It’s time.
Blue Duck is by no means considered casual dining. In fact, it is right up there in the special occasion restaurant category. But I justify this decision to be somewhat economical in terms of food and calories with a plan to share an appetizer with my husband (which we don’t always do), as well as share a dessert (which we almost always do.) I have my heart set on scallops, which is listed on Washingtonian‘s The Year’s Top 40 dishes. (note: I don’t realize until later that the preparation is different from the Top 40 dish, but no matter).
Blue Duck Tavern’s thing is farm-to-table. It’s getting to the point where if I am at a restaurant that is not farm-to-table I am more apt to notice than if it is. I am not at all putting down fresh ingredients. I’m just saying we have now come to expect it.
I must start by saying I am not a fan of the bread at Blue Duck Tavern. I like a crusty crust and this one is too chewy. This is fine because too often my meals are spoiled by my indulgence in crusty bread. Moving on.
As planned, my husband and I share a starter, roasted beet salad with endive, apple, walnuts, and Humbolt Fog goat cheese. I am trying to save myself for the scallops so I don’t eat too much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a dish with fresh roasted beets and a high quality goat cheese is the perfect way to start a meal. This version is as good as any I’ve had.
For my entree I order oven roasted Maine scallops with lemon and thyme. I am pleasantly surprised to see the price is $23. This seems quite reasonable. My husband orders a branzino whole fish special, also oven roasted. The dilemma comes in choosing the sides. I am thinking pick one, pick one. I can’t pick just one. There are too many appealing choices. We order creamy polenta with blue cheese and purple top turnips with raisin moutarda. What the heck. It’s my birthday dinner.
The entrees here are delivered in a dish for sharing rather than plated. My husband doesn’t eat scallops and this ends up being a good thing. I do not want to share one bite of these big, beautiful, delicate, tangy, herbaceous, delightful scallops. Actually I have one or two bites left of this generous portion so I could have shared if necessary. This is definitely one of my favorite dishes of the year.
My husband’s whole fish doesn’t appeal to me too much (those eyes!) He finds it simple yet full of flavor. Like my scallops it is basically prepared with lemon and herbs. He filets it himself to the amazement of our server.
The polenta with blue cheese is unbelievable! Blue cheese can be overpowering. This dish has just the right balance as to impart the flavor without being sickeningly rich. I’m going to add this to one of my favorite dishes of the year list as well.
The turnips provide a nice contrast to the polenta. It’s a little sweet as well as sour, although a few bites are bitter. But that’s turnips for you.
|polenta and turnips|
It’s time for the shared dessert. Our server is pushing the apple pie. It’s a signature dish here. I don’t argue. He asks if we want ice cream with that- home made honey vanilla will be perfect. Does this count as two desserts if it’s eaten in conjunction with the pie? I don’t think so.
I have no willpower. We get the apple pie (which is enough for at least 3 people) and the ice cream. The apple pie is very good but not so remarkable. I love the ice cream. I’m so glad I have no willpower. Anyway, it’s my birthday dinner.
|apple pie and ice cream|
Up until this point we have not had much interaction with our server. He is pleasant and makes useful suggestions but he isn’t making much of an impression. When he asks if we have any questions about the desserts, my husband trying to be funny says “How many calories are in the apple pie?” He responds. (I think it is over 1,000 but I block it out.). This leads to a conversation where we discover our server is a best-selling cookbook author of “Food for Fitness” and a stand up comedian. He is working on a book called “Midnight Munchies.” Check him out: www.gregisfunny.com. Apparently he was on “Last Comic Standing.” (I wish I would have known that while we were there, given how easily impressed I am by this sort of thing.) We give him my blog card, so if you’re reading this Greg… HI!
My plans to scale back at Blue Duck Tavern didn’t really come to fruition. I overate and spent more money than originally intended. But if you can’t indulge yourself with great food on your birthday, served by a best selling author and comedian, then really what’s the point of a birthday celebration???
Blue Duck Tavern,1201 24th St., NW
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.6
Zagat rating: 26
Washingtonian, 100 Best Restaurants 2011