Thursday, May 19, 2011


Birthdays are a big deal in our home; it’s always a celebration marked by dinner out at a fancy-schmancy restaurant.

We’re in DC for my birthday celebration this year and Michèle has chosen Eve, located in Old Alexandria. The chef, Cathal Armstrong, is from Dublin and spent every summer from the age of 7 in France. He describes his style as “Modern American Cooking with Classical French Influences…highlighting the freshest of seasonal ingredients and local Virginia produce.” Right up our alley.

We spent the morning at the Newseum, which I highly recommend if you’re a newshound like me. There a great view of the Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue from the 5th floor terrace. Wait, what’s that building with all the red and white flags next door? O Canada!

That evening, we’re in the Chef’s Tasting Room, where they offer five, seven, and nine-course prix-fixe tasting options, all on custom-printed menus. The courses are: Creation (palate teasers), Ocean (seafood), Earth & Sky (meats and game), Age (cheese) and Eden (desserts). Gulp. OK, we’re celebrating but we’re not crazy! 5 courses it is.

We start with glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, a classic wine for aperitif that also goes superbly with our First Course: Sashimi of Bigeye Tuna with Pickled Fennel, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Basil Emulsion for me; Tempura of Path Valley Shiitake with Ikura (salmon roe), Smoked Onions and Ponzu for Michèle.

Our Ocean course is Olive Oil Poached Pacific Halibut with Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), Melted Spring Onions and Gremolata for Michèle. For me, it’s Roasted Tasmanian Sea Trout (so much for local!) with Baby White Asparagus Risotto, Kumquat, and Fava Bean Purée. Both are delicious and pair well with glasses of Chardonnay from Washington (not DC, the other one).

On to Earth and Sky. My choice is closer to local: Loin of Shenandoah Valley Lamb with Fresh Garbanzo Falafel, Homemade Yogurt and Baby Carrots. Michèle goes for one of her favourites, Pan Fried Veal Sweetbreads with Mushroom Butter Hollandaise, Poached Morels and Irish Peas.

I’ve scanned the winelist for something “off the beaten track” and the choice comes down to DuMOL Syrah 2007, Russian River Valley (California); 14.2% ABV. Russian River Valley is known for its cool climate varietals, but here’s Syrah, typically more at home in warmer climates. For that reason (a warm climate grape in a cool climate), I’m thinking it will go well with both the lamb and the sweetbreads (the latter usually needs a lighter wine). Aromas of blackberry and plum, gamy, and floral notes with a hint of dried herbs too. It’s black fruit and gamyness dominate on the palate. The tannins are well-integrated, holding their own with the lamb but not overwhelming the sweetbreads. Excellent finish. A good match for both.

We finish the Syrah with the cheese:
  • Monocacy Silver with Garden Rhubarb, Blood Orange and Toasted Walnut. A brie-style goat cheese from Montgomery County, on the other side of DC.
  • Pleasant Ridge Reserve with Sicilian Pistachios and Sour Cherry Filled Doughnut. A raw cows-milk cheese from Wisconsin, similar to Gruyere. Definitely our favourite.

On to Eden and, yes, we have room. Michèle selects the White Chocolate Chai Rice Pudding and my choice is the Milk Chocolate and Jameson Petit Gâteau with Caramel Sauce.  The candle is a bonus!

Great food, good wine.  What a terrific birthday treat!  Merci, Michèle!

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