Blogging ate up a great deal of my time in 2011. I became acutely aware of this during a recent conversation at work. My colleagues were commenting on the fact that I don’t watch as much television as I used to and am therefore unable to keep up with some of the lunchtime conversation about TV and movies. I haven’t given up television entirely. In fact if I listed all the shows I still keep up with, most people would probably gasp. But trust me it has decreased significantly since I now spend hours every week writing about my dining experiences.
The time I actually spend eating out, however, is about the same as its been for years. This is apparent when I receive the January issue of Washingtonian Magazine. This is a day I always await with excited anticipation and just a touch of dread. The January issue contains Washingtonian‘s list of “100 Very Best Restaurants.” Like many other DC restaurant-goers, I use this list as the guide it is intended to be. For years I have delighted in checking out the restaurants where I’ve been and making lists of the places I want to dine in the coming year. But this year I also measured my success as a blogger (or lack thereof) in terms of how many of the restaurants on my to do list I was able to dine at during the year.
My plan for 2011 was to get to at least half of the list of top 40. I only managed to tackle fourteen. I’m disappointed in this tally. But in my defense, there were new restaurant openings, out-of-town business trips and vacations that took me away from DC dining, and some excellent meals at restaurants that didn’t make the list. These all contributed to my failure to meet my goal.
The year wasn’t a total loss. Here are some of my accomplishments in 2011.
Best Meals of 2011 (includes links to original blog posts)
Volt’s Table 21 was an exceptional meal and experience. Every course was well thought out and presented with true artistry. The care that goes into the elements of each and every dish at Volt is extraordinary.
Graffiato is a dream come true for Top Chef fans like myself. Chef Mike Isabella’s participation on Top Chef Season Six and Top Chef All-Stars meant that there was great anticipation for his restaurant. Most restaurant critics and bloggers agree that the food at Graffiato surpasses expectations and continues to soar.
|Graffiato roasted baby carrots|
Obelisk is a special experience all around. The food is outstanding but there is so much more. The service is warm and attentive. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable. The price is more than reasonable given both the quality and quantity of the food.
|Obelisk potato frittata with ramps|
Rasika holds the title for my favorite DC restaurant, although I am long past due for a return visit. I can’t think of another restaurant where I delight in every bite of food as much as I do here. The palak chat (crispy spinach with sweet yogurt, tamarind and chutney) is one of the best dishes in town. I am not alone in expressing this sentiment.
|Rasika palak chat|
Little Serow is a meal I can’t stop thinking about. The flavors are extraordinary (my friend says “excruciatingly delicious”), and the $45 prix fixe is quite the value. I can’t wait to go back.
Best Dishes of 2011
There are some dishes that are beyond compare, even if the restaurant experience as a whole doesn’t quite measure up to being the best ever.
Adour – contemporary chicken breast parmesan with tomato marmalade. The chicken is as moist a piece of chicken as any I have ever had. The parmesan crust adds an interesting texture. I savored every bite.
Blue Duck Tavern– scallops. I did not want to share one bite of these big, beautiful, delicate, tangy, herbaceous, delightful scallops. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
|Blue Duck Tavern scallops|
Lincoln– kale salad. It is fresh and salty (in a good way) and has more complexity than I ever expected, and I don’t even eat the hazelnuts. This dish made me feel downright patriotic! (Note: a friend just told me that they changed the4 dressing on this and it isn’t nearly as good. Boo.)
|Lincoln kale salad|
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace– barbecue shrimp. The tangy, salty, and spicy flavors topping the plump and juicy shrimp is what puts this on my “top appetizers of the year” list.
|Pearl Dive barbecue shrimp|
Best Desserts of 2011
CityZen dessert tasting. Nothing can top my private dessert tasting with Top Chef Just Desserts Season 2 fan favorite Matthew Petersen. Honestly, how will I ever top this experience? The tasting is a whirlwind of textures and flavors. Tart and sweet. Crunchy and smooth. Salty and sweet. There is a common thread running through the dishes in that they each have a component that is cold and also crunchy. Nothing is overly sweet. The flavors are delicate and yet complex. If I have to pick a favorite it is the star anise rice pudding with whipped plum, rice flour sablé, and honey ice cream.
|CityZen star anise rice pudding|
Buzz Bakery. I cannot make a trip to Northern Virginia without stopping by Buzz Bakery. The cupcakes are divine and flavors like blueberry “pie” cupcake, peachy keen cupcake, and the berry lovely cupcake mean that I can’t choose just one. So I don’t.
I can’t leave out some of my other favorite meals of the year, so a brief shout-out to some other top notch dining destinations, all of which have made it into the Washingtonian 100 Very Best Restaurants 2012 list.
Fiola– I had lunch here recently and it was even better than the dinner I wrote about. Congrats for making into the top 10 of the Washingtonian’s “100 Very Best Restaurants 2012.” Well-deserved!
8407 Kitchen Bar– Silver Spring is lucky to have this cool spot with well-executed food.
Ripple-I enjoyed the creative cuisine, particularly the simple but delicious composed seasonal vegetables.
Ristorante Tosca– This is as much about the quiet, refined atmosphere and impeccable service as it is about the quality Italian food.
It’s a new year. I am starting with renewed hope in my ability to do a better job of conquering my to do list in 2012.
Last year, Washingtonian ranked the Top 40 restaurants and then listed the remaining 60. This year they rank the top ten and then include categories such as “on the rise,” what’s new,” and “tried and true.”
My 2012 dining resolutions include Komi, Inn at Little Washington, and CityZen. I’m hoping Minibar is in my future as well. And I’m definitely (hopefully) going back to Rasika and Fiola this year. I started off 2012 with a return visit to Palena Cafe, so I can already check something off my list. This is a good thing!
Two of my favorites “on the rise” are Estadio and Ripple. Can I squeeze in returns to both? I also want to get back to Bibiana this year (dined there pre-blog) and try Ethiopic.
The “what’s new” category includes Graffiato, Little Serow, and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace– all worth return visits as well as Nostos and The Atlas Room. Also included in this category is Newton’s Table in Bethesda. I had a mediocre/expensive lunch there recently, but I’m not counting out a dinner here in 2012, since I frequently dine in Bethesda in conjunction with trips to the theater or symphony.
“Tried and true” includes Jaleo where I recently dined in Bethesda after a number of years (really liked it) and Obelisk (as noted above, loved it). But there are others that aren’t in my immediate future but perhaps should be including 1789 and Johnny’s Half Shell.
The final section of the Washingtonian “100 Very Best Restaurants” is titled “More Great Dining.” I’m pleased to see 8407 Kitchen Bar added to this list as well as Rockville’s La Limena. I’m going to turn to my own backyard and try Bistro Provence in Bethesda and Ruan Thai in Wheaton, as well as return to Black Market Bistro in Kensington and Nava Thai in Wheaton. Rogue 24 is also on my wish list along with Corduroy, Equinox, and Cork.
Am I limiting myself to the Washingtonian list? Certainly not! Tom Sietsema’s review this week of Mio is oh so intriguing and I must get to Toki Underground for ramen noodles. (In the meantime, I’ve sated my noodle cravings with trips to Ren’s Ramen in Wheaton. The recently opened Elisir has captured my attention as well. And a look at thelistareyouonit.com under “openings” and “coming soon” is enough to make my head spin.
I am hyperventilating just thinking about all of the potential. It is a daunting list for a suburbanite who wants to be somewhat mindful when it comes to dollars devoted to dining. But I will not be defeated before I start. My resolution for 2012? To eat, blog, and repeat. As often as possible. I think it is time to start making some reservations.