Are you ready for another staycation post? Don't fret! I posted a recipe for Raw Beet & Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese Medallions to give you a break from reading about me eating out. Plus, I am still trying to find my cooking mojo, which I seemed to have lost.
Saturday, July 31st, after an instructional and delicious walking tour of Little Ethiopia, a long nap at my hotel and some reality TV watching, it was time for dinner at Birch & Barley. If you've been following my blog or have happened to ask me where one of my favorite places for brunch in DC is, then you sure must remember my slight obsession with Birch & Barley's brunch. It's been five months since I've eaten at the restaurant, but my memories of its punch, sticky buns and lemon doughnuts are as fresh as if it was yesterday.
Needless to say, I was more than just a bit excited about trying out the dinner menu at Birch & Barley.
Not only did I have a chance to sample the restaurant's tasting menu, but our group was lucky enough to get beer pairings presented by Greg Engert, Beer Director. The passion and knowledge he has about beer is astonishing.
First on the list, and I'm not planning on recapping every single beer, was rubus: of course I liked it: it was sweet and light: that's how I like my beer when I drink it. You see, I'm not a huge beer drinker: at all! In fact, I prefer sweet and pretty cocktails or white wine. This one, though, suited me well.
Before we even saw the first course from the tasting menu, we received a few surprises from the chef: and by a few, I mean four!
1) risotto mixed with some kind of a pork product (sorry, I wasn't taking notes) and peas made into balls (aka arancini) and then fried:
Then we received our first real tasting menu dish: gorgeous and fresh ahi poke tartare with soy-mirin, Alaea salt, ginger, and a sesame crisp:
2) a bread board with cornbread, olive buns and pretzels made in house by the talented Tiffany MacIsaac:
3) Crispy Duck Egg salad with house-made pancetta, asparagus, balsamic and frisee:
The egg in this dish gets partially cooked and then is coated in breadcrumbs (?) and fried! I love taking photos of the egg yolk oozing out, just like in the picture below:
4) Confession: I absolutely could not resist ordering panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes, whipped burrata and fried green tomatoes from the regular menu. Why? Do you even have to ask? Well, first of all, I've been planning to make this salad for quite a while, but like I said: somewhere in the process I've lost my cooking mojo. Second of all, I love tomatoes. And third of all, this salad had fried green tomatoes: a winning point. I must also tell you that everyone at the table was quite pleased that I asked for this dish.
And then, finally, we got back to the tasting menu. By that time the natural light has started to dwindle, there was more beer in my system than I care to admit, and so the quality of photos is not the best. But you'll get the idea!
Corn tortellini with local corn, Dungeness crab and broccoli rabe. First the presentation: I so wanted to take home this little stainless steel dish: I believe it would make most of the recipes better just because it is adorable. For the taste, the sweetness of the corn and the crab was paired perfectly with the slightly bitter taste of the broccoli rabe. If you are interested in the beer pairings for this and other dishes, please email me and I'll copy them down for you.
Pacific halibut with chanterelles, creamy orzo, roma beans and English peas: the dish tasted much better than my photo looks. I love seafood, but haven't cooked with halibut. It's a lovely sturdy fish (did I just say lovely?) and went really well with the creamy orzo. I suppose creamy orzo is a shortcut for risotto: and why not!?
Roasted spring lamb with bulgur wheat, asparagus and carrot puree. This was the most tender piece of lamb I've ever had. The meat simply melted in your mouth.
Not pictured: Tete de Moine: raw cow's milk cheese with pickled cherries and honeyed walnuts. The cheese was shaped into what resembled carnations. Carnations are by far some of my least favorite flowers, but I still tried the cheese: it was strong (in the best possible way) and was very well paired with the tartness of cherries, the crispy toast, but alas the walnuts were missing from our plates.
And finally, dessert: goat's milk cheesecake with cherry-black pepper sorbet, olive oil dust and balsamic reduction. I think this might have been my favorite course. It was so smart to serve a somewhat savory dessert after so many courses of rich food. This was the first time I tried a cheesecake made with goat's milk, and I loved it.