Is Elisir my elixir to the summertime blues?

The two year anniversary of my blog came and went, and I didn’t even realize it until two weeks later.  I updated my Facebook status as a way to commemorate the day and moved on.  This is in contrast to my one year blogiversary, when I excitedly reviewed all of my accomplishments throughout the year.  I have to admit that I am feeling a little blog weary at this point.  Sometimes I eat a meal and just don’t have that much to say, and the self-induced pressure of writing about it is getting to me.

This is similar to how I feel when the summer DC Restaurant Week is announced.  In years past I raced online as soon as the dates were released and made reservations at two or three restaurants.  Then I reviewed my choices obsessively,wondering if I had made the right decisions.  Now I am a little less enthused. I can’t give it up, but I just can’t get as wound up about it.

More than 200 DC area restaurants participate in Restaurant Week, offering three course meals at $20.12 for lunch and $35.12 for dinner.  My objective is to take advantage of the chance to try restaurants -usually high end- that I may not otherwise visit.

There can be downsides.  Some restaurants modify their portion size and recipes so they don’t lose money, therefore altering the experience.  Service and food quality may suffer based on an inflated number of patrons.  And if diners don’t select their restaurants carefully, it’s actually not a bargain at all.

A post on an online discussion board is particularly harsh:

 Restaurant week needs to go away. The sooner, the better. Everyone is being taken for a ride by this marketing charade.  Diners: Think restaurants like you being in there? Nope! They hate your guts and want you to get the hell out.

I understand the risks, but somehow I can’t give up.  Thankfully my Restaurant Week meal at DC’s recent new Italian addition Elisir is a positive one.  From the moment we arrive, we are treated royally.  This includes the placement of a small stool next to our table for my friend and I to place our pocketbooks.  It doesn’t have to go on the floor? This place is classy!

Elisir limits RW diners to a special menu which offers four first course choices, four main courses, and two desserts.  Our warm and welcoming server, in response to our query, admits that we are getting a fair representation of the restaurant’s food but modifications have been made .  Some of the dishes are borrowed from the lunch menu, while others are prepared especially for this occasion. This gives me pause, but Elisir exudes sophistication and finesse, so I am hopeful about a positive outcome.

The server recommends an optional olive oil and salt tasting tray for $5.  On the one hand, it is annoying to have to pay extra for salt and olive oil. But we don’t want to miss out and it’s only $5.  Munching on a variety of breads dipped into quality olive oils from Sicily, Tuscany, and Liguria, along with three three different salt blends, turns out to be a festive way to start the meal.

Elisir Sea Salts and Olive Oil

My friend and I decide to share our food, leaving our food-restricted husbands to fend for themselves.  This includes a first course of Italian style sushi rolls and smoked seared diver scallops stack.

The sushi rolls are wrapped in proscuitto, asparagus, mushrooms, and marinated goat cheese. On the side are pickled carrots and balsamic dressing.  I consume my portion in a single bite, enjoying the salty combination of meat and cheese.

Elisir Italian style sushi rolls

“Creamy deliciousness” is how we describe smoked seared diver scallops stack with a ragu of artichoke hearts, pearled potatoes, black olives, and garlic mascarpone corn sauce. If I have to pick one first course over the other as a favorite, I choose the scallops.  But I am impressed with both starters, and my concerns about dumbed down food are alleviated.

 

Elisir smoked seared scallops

We share two pastas as our main course.  The first is agnolotto filled with sheep’s ricotta, spinach and Taleggio cheese, roasted red pepper sauce, crunchy sage leaves, and reggiano snow.  My husband is convinced that the Rolling Stone’s logo is the inspiration for this dish. Everything on the plate is well prepared and the flavors are well balanced, The only negative is that for an entree it’s on the petite side.

Elisir Agnolotto

What the agnolotto pasta lacks in stature is made up by the ample portion of pappardelle.  The porcini mushrooms and red wine provide a rich flavor, and the crispy Vidalia onions give it a nice crunch.  This dish demonstrates the depth and creativity of the cooking at Elisir.  It speaks to me as an enticement for a future visit.

Elisir Spinach Pappardelle

I am a little disappointed that the two dessert choices both contain my nemesis- nuts.  I decide that the pistachio and sour cherry semifreddo with a cappuccino lollipop and mascarpone vanilla ice cream will suit my taste better than the dark chocolate hazelnut torte.  I really like the presentation, but the flavors just aren’t my thing.  It’s just me though, as everyone else likes it.

Elisir Semifreddo

Restaurant Week at Elisir proves to be exactly what I had hoped.  It is a taste of a restaurant that I find intriguing and competent, and I am left wanting more. My enthusiasm for RW is renewed and I’ll be on high alert when the next one rolls around in winter 2013.

As for my blog, I must admit that I have a case of the summertime blues.  My motivation is waning, although at the moment my compulsion to keep writing is still intact. A happy RW experience at Elisir doesn’t completely put an end to my malaise, but it gives me hope that a fully restored appetite for blogging is just ahead.

 

Elisir, 427 11th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Washington Post review

Elisir on Urbanspoon

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