Saturday, January 14, 2006

Restaurant Week.

Restaurant week has overtaken most of the gourmands, and aspiring gourmands this week. As neither, I ended up just getting roped into it (thankfully) by Liz and others.

Thursday, Liz, Paul, Irene and I met at Taberna Del something. It's Spanish, and as tapas is my primary association with Spanish, I was less excited. But I figured it's a chance to eat super pricey food for cheap, and besides it'll be great fun to see friends during the work day.

Located at 1776 I St*, it's a nice place. I felt conspiculously underdressed. Largely because I was conspicious in the degree to which I was underdressed. So at least my perception and objective reality were insync. Check.

We made our way to the table, on which sat a large red fruit. About the size of a softball, my friends knew it to be a pomegranate. Me, I had no clue what it was. Apparently it's not a red softball, or some faux Spanish bocce ball-esque thing. Irene is immediately concerned with whether or not she will be permitted to eat said PG. All I know about the fruit is its relation to the Persephone myth, and even that, I soon reveal, is poorly understood. 4 seeds, 4 seasons...makes sense, why didn't I remember that. Alas.

Since it's restaurant week we order off fixed price menus. Apparently the salted nuts on the table represent an appetizer. Who knew. If only sports bars had maitre d's they too could call nuts in a bowl an appetizer. But I digress.

Now, as I've said there is a fixed menu. We have two choices for starter, main course and desert. Between salad and a hearty fish stew, I confidently select the stew. It's hearty. Sounds like the opposite of tapas. I'm excited. Between the chicken and the scallops is a harder call, but I pick scallops and feel pretty okay with that. Finally it's mousse or rice pudding...and I all but scoff. Mousse is vastly, and in all ways, superior to rice pudding. And with that I've made my selections.

The stew arrives minutes later. It's hearty in the same way Katherine Hepburn is at the beginning of The African Queen. The soup was brothy. Well that's false, I don't think you can describe something as brothy if at its most basic it is, in fact, the platonic ideal of broth. There was little to recommend the soup which seemed to be served at what I can only roughly estimate was 80 degrees. And no, it was not some tongue in cheek effort at gazpacho. It was cold limp soup.

Then comes the waiting game. During which time we open and eat the pomegranate. Turns out its wonderful. So wonderful that the following night I have a dream about a new desert. (new to me at least). In said desert one takes and hollows out a PG and coats the inside with a layer of crust forming chocolate onto (into) which is scooped vanilla ice cream and then topped with a layer of pomegranate seeds. I enjoyed the pomegranate, would be the shorter version of this anecdote.

The scallops are taking quite a bit of time. Surprising since there are only two choices. You'd figure they make a bunch of both. Apparently not. You'd think, with the time we had to wait they were inventing a new country from which to have a cuisine. So first they had to find land, cultivate a culture. get invaded. retake the country. develop a national identity. find and sew local crops. build a cuisine. export said cusine to DC...and then make and serve our food. I feel like an entire Jared Diamond book about the rise and fall of Spanish food could have been written in the time it took to actually get our food. But then again, I think maybe I'm being a little overdramatic. Like I said, it felt like a long time.

And yet it was worth it. The scallops were perfect. Tender. Sweet. The sauce was balanced, lots of neat flavors. I found myself wishing I could find more items to dip into the sauce that coated the scallops. And then there was the mousse. The mousse was a little limp. But bitter and rich. It was clearly not just some shitty Hershey's mix in a fancy cup.

All told it was a great time. Ended up taking nearly 2 hours. Which for me is an eternity. I only went out once but for all the time spent it surely felt like restaurant *week.*

*Do you figure that rent for any building with 1776 as its address is more expensive here? Seems like it must be a factor. 1776 K St is probably incredibly pricey, some symbolism loving lobbyist paid a pretty penny to work there.

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