Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New favorites in Washington, D.C.

On a recent trip to D.C., I made it a point to meet up with some good friends, during what little free time I had. Luckily a lot of my friends share my fondness for adventure, especially when it comes to food. They definitely did not steer me wrong, as I found two new favorites in D.C.!

Ahead of my trip, I got a list via email of potential spots where I could meet one of my favorite couples for lunch. And one of the great things about Chris and Dani is that they share my love of great food, eclectic décor and locally sourced ingredients. With that in mind, it took me about two minutes tops, after reading their recommendations and doing a quick Google search, to decide upon Lincoln in Northwest D.C.  (It also didn’t hurt that the choice took me back to my old neighborhood, from when I spent a summer in D.C. in college.)

Before I even got to D.C. or tasted the food, I had a feeling I’d be writing about Lincoln. They post six menus on their website, not including the bar menus, and they market themselves as highlighting seasonal small plates. There’s two check marks for restaurants I want to check out.

As we walked into the restaurant, Chris pointed not to the dining room or bar as you might expect, but to the floor. The floor at Lincoln is completely tiled in pennies (keeping true to the namesake, of course). It has to be the most unique floor I’ve seen anywhere. And the décor throughout the restaurant lives up to that same standard of unique and contemporary interior design. It varies from room to room – everything from what I’d describe as urban chic to more rustic home, with pop art, luxe chairs, reclaimed barnwood and a wall to wall hutch. For all the sophistication and amazing interior design, the atmosphere had the feel of a neighborhood coffee shop, with a light chatter echoing throughout the dining room. It felt more like the place where all the locals know to go for good food, good drink and great company.

In contrast to the décor, the food was presented with simplistic plating, but sophisticated combinations of flavors. We asked our waiter for some recommendations when we had trouble making up our minds, and proceeded to hear a list of about a half-dozen dishes – that says something to me, when there’s not one favorite, especially on an oft-changing seasonal menu. Despite my adventurous nature when it comes to dining, I am a grilled cheese fiend, so on the recommendation of our waiter (and because I may on some level tend to judge restaurants by how well they can execute it), I ordered their seasonal grilled cheese. And it was no unassuming grilled cheese, instead it was an absolutely divine combination of brie, arugula, and grilled onions on a hearty rustic bread. From all our meals, it was immediately apparent the attention given to each ingredient as well as the entire dish. I didn’t partake in midday cocktails, but I’m told the bartenders make some delicious drinks. If the fresh, fruit-infused lemonade was any indication, I can only imagine. While I only dined there once, I am sure to return on any future visit to D.C. because Lincoln not only had great food, it epitomized some of the things I love about D.C. – art, culture, and adventure.

Le Diplomate
Later that week, I met up with an old friend Millie to catch up over cocktails and appetizers at Le Diplomate. With Millie I've tried unique tea lounges and a previous Chasing Crumbs pick, Tropisueno (review), so I trust her to lead my taste buds in the right direction. Little did I know that her pick, Le Dipomate, is one of the hippest spots in town and fairly difficult to get a reservation. The restaurant pays deference to French café culture, with a lively, welcoming ambience, marbled countertops and windows onto the surrounding neighborhood. The menu filled with classic French dishes, and an extensive cocktail and wine list accompany it. Next to the bar oysters were piled high, and fresh bread awaited us soon after we sat down. Since it was early, I ordered sautéed spinach to accompany my cocktail, the pompidou plombier. This unique bourbon cocktail combines crème de cacao and dark Italian vermouth for a smooth drink that’s perfect for sipping.  The spinach was great, just enough garlic and not overdone. Millie ordered the onion soup gratinée, which was expertly prepared with caramelized cheese on top and a rich broth. I can see why this spot is so popular, it offers a welcome relaxed dining experience – in spite of a bustling crowd, we didn’t feel rushed – and well-execute European comfort food.

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