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The Great Grapes Food & Wine Festival.

Dining in DC is participating in a Food Blogger discussion panel on Saturday, September 11th at 1 p.m. at the Great Grapes Food & Wine Festival in Reston, VA. If you are interested in starting your own blog, increasing your readership, breaking into food writing or other questions, you could come! Come out and join me, Olga Berman of Mango and Tomato, Jamie Harden, DC Organic Food Examiner, Kristin Potler of LoveFeast Table and moderated by Dara Bunjon of Dining Dish and Baltimore Dining Examiner.

Come and Get Your Bacchus On with 200 Great Virginia Wines from over 20 area wineries. For two days, Uncork The Wine, Uncork The Flavor, Uncork the Fun… all proceeds are donated to the Giving Spirits Foundation.

  • GREAT FAMILY FUN.  The festival is an inexpensive way to see Virginia Wine Country – right in your own backyard. Take your sample glass and enjoy samples from all your favorite wineries.
  • GREAT KIDS ACTIVITY AREA. If you want to bring the kids, have them enjoy the fun activity booths and craft area. Kids under 12 are FREE.
  • FANTASTIC CRAFTS AND CULINARY GIFT ITEMS.  The Show features about 60 different artists and crafters that will offer neat gift ideas for the foodie in you or your friends.
  • GOURMET LIVE!  Enjoy cooking and wine pairing seminars on-site at the show.
  • LIVE MUSIC ON THE MAIN STAGE.  Listen to your favorite bands while you try the different wines on-site.
  • LOTS OF FREE PARKING & GREAT AFTER SHOW PLACES TO CONTINUE THE FUN.  Reston Town Center is a destination in itself.  Come to the show, stay for shopping, dinner and a movie.

WIN 2 Tickets!

CONGRATS to Malaka Gharib and Claire O’Neill, Editors of the Runcible Spoon who won two (2) tickets to the Great Taste in Reston, VA on Saturday, September 11. (Winners were picked at random)

Vote for Dining in DC in the Express’ Best of 2010 competition!

Please vote for Dining in DC!

Yes! We did it! Dining in DC is a Top five finalist in the Express Night Out ‘Best of 2010’ Poll. Thank you to everyone who sent in their nominations! I am honored to be nominated alongside Metrocurean, i Flip for food, Cherry Tea Cakes, and Howe to Eat. I’m sad that Angela and Mark from i Flip for food are leaving DC to take on LA! You will be missed. I need your help to Vote for Dining in DC to win!

From now until September 30th, Express Night Out is asking Washingtonians to vote for their Top 100 favorite D.C.-area people, places and things. Please show your love and support for your favorite food blog, Dining in DC!

Here’s what to do: Go to People and Places. Scroll down 12 categories to Blogger (Food) and Click on Dining in DC to vote! Please leave a comment about WHY you love Dining in DC!

The winners will be posted in a special Best Of issue on Oct. 22. Thank you!

Announcing August DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at TenPenh.

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour TenPenhSo the next DC Food Blogger Happy Hour will be held on Wednesday, August 4 at TenPenh in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Ten years ago last August, TenPenh opened on the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.  For nearly a decade, TenPenh has offered Washingtonians a glimpse into the flavors of the Orient with influences from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan.

What: TenPenh’s Happy Hour specials ($5 cocktails/drinks) will be extended to 8 pm for the DC Food Bloggers group only

When: Wednesday, August 4 6-8 p.m.

HH Drinks: include all 8 Specialty Cocktails, Draft Beers, and a Selection of Wines. TenPenh’s bartender and mixology program is nationally recognized. In fact, their bartender Brennan Adams won the DC leg of the GQ Magazine/ Bombay Sapphire “Inspired Bartender” contest in 2009. Brennan was one of 40 national finalists and the only one from Washington, D.C.Don’t miss the chance to have a cocktail shaken and stirred by Brennan.
HH Food: Half price all dishes on the Izakaya Small Plate menu (scroll down) featuring Asian specialties including Shredded Duck Springrolls, Lobster  Rangoons, Korean Pork Belly Bites, Chili Brined Chicken Wings, American Kobe Beef “Sliders”, and more!

Come meet, mingle, and chat with fellow food bloggers. Whether you’re a regular DCFBHH attendee in need of a reminder or you’re interested in putting a face to a name for some of your favorite local food bloggers, come have a snack with us. It’s the first Wednesday of every month so put it on your calendar now. Johnna Rowe of Johnna Knows Good Food is the “Hostess” with the Mostess this month.

Also, now the DC food bloggers have a new Facebook fan page, a virtual space to hang out, converse, and get to know each other. If you are a food blogger (or a food lover) feel free to “become a fan.” We’ll be posting future events via Facebook, so it’s a great way to keep up on what’s going on. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page.

A lot of people make these happy hours happen. As always, thanks to the planning committee:

Arugula Files
Beer Spotter
Biscuits and Such
Capital Cooking
Capital Spice
Common Man Eats
Dining in DC
Gradually Greener
Johnna Knows Good Food
Modern Domestic
Thrifty DC Cook
We Love DC

Hope to see you there! If you plan to attend, if you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page. Thanks! See you there! And feel free to repost this flyer on your blog to spread the word.

Also, you should know that in celebration of its 10th anniversary, TenPenh will place ten red envelopes with $10 gift certificates under random plates throughout dinner service during the entire month of August. Also, don’t pay your check without seeing if luck is on your side! If the total on your dinner bill has the number 10, then you get $10 off your check. On TenPenh’s official birthday, August 2nd, 2010, celebrate with a $10 Bento Box during our extended lunch hours from 11am-3pm.  TenPenh’s $10 lunch special can be served and devoured in 20 minutes, and you’re out the door in thirty!

BLT Steak gets “social” for Bastille Day.

Exec Chef Victor Albisu. Photo by Lisa Shapiro.

I was one of the lucky food bloggers who was invited to attend BLT Steak’s Bastille Day “Social Media Social,”  — where us diners were actually encouraged to take pictures of our food, upload them to Facebook and twitter and tweet throughout our meal. Our fellow diners weren’t snickering at our rudeness, instead they’d pass you their plate and say, “Oh have you tried the …” and you of course reciprocate with passing them your plate. Media dinners are always a great time, especially when all of the attendees, who are usually die-hard foodies, mutually agree to order a variety of items in order to have the greatest sampling possible of their menu and daily specials. Each of us carefully discussed our options and who was going to order what. This was my first dining experience at BLT Steak but it has been on my list for a while, since I follow Washingtonian’s 100’s Very Best List religiously. BLT Steak DC is ranked #22.

BLT Steak Popover

BLT Steak Popover

Before ordering our table was provided their popular Gruyère popovers which were gold and flaky on the outside and warm and doughy on the inside. I liked the golden brown parts best. Once you got into the meat of the popover, I thought it tasted too eggy. They are gigantic so it’s easy to cut one in half to share. The popovers are also served with a small aluminum tin shaped like a milk jug with coarse sea salt inside and creamy butter for spreading. I don’t think the popovers needed salt. This was definitely a crowd pleaser; everyone loved the popovers.

fontina, bacon and truffle toasts

Fontina Brioche with bacon and truffle oil.

We were also served specially made fontina brioche with  bacon and truffle oil. They reminded me of gourmet Texas Toast — delicious! Sorry, according to the Chef, these are not offered on the regular menu.

Charcuterie plate.One of my favorites and most memorable of the first plates, was the charcuterie plate featuring sopressatta, chorizo, prosciutto and bresaola. The meats were smokey, salty, and in order to  compensate for the meats’ richness, the plate was served with house-made pickled vegetables. I especially liked the pickled veggies, since I am a vinegar fanatic. Honestly, I think the pickled vegetables could easily be added to the menu as a side dish. They were wonderfully fresh and flavorful.

BLT Steak Pickled Vegetables.

Pickled Vegetables.

In addition to trying a lot of BLT Steak’s dishes, it was also the first opportunity that I had to meet Executive Chef Victor Albisu, (see photo on right) who has cooked in a professional kitchen since he was 7 years old and trained as a butcher by age 12, brings an exotic background to the bistro-inspired steakhouse due to his Cuban and Peruvian heritage.

Photo Tuna Tartare at BLT Steak DC

Tuna Tartare. Photo by Morgan Goodale, 2911 Productions.

His impressive background and culinary experience is exemplified in his ability to create innovative flavor combinations such as the use of avocado and soy-lime dressing in the tuna tartare, which is one of the most memorable dishes that I tried. I really liked the crunch on top and the soy-lime dressing was a perfect flavor accompaniment to the tuna. It really brought out the flavor of the tuna.

I am a firm believer that one shouldn’t each too much tartare of anything. I’m not suggesting that the restaurant doesn’t offer good quality fish, but it is still raw and everything — especially raw food should be eaten in moderation. BLT’s tuna tartare is a large portion and should definitely be shared.

The other one of my favorite dishes from the night was the Hamachi Crudo with avocado and yuzu pickled peppers that was available on the daily prix fixe Blackboard menu (3 courses $60). Both dishes had Asian inspired flavors. I was impressed. These dishes could have easily been created by Asian Fusion Master, Chef Susur Lee from ZENTAN who has several varieties of crudo on their menu. I also tried one of their East Coast raw oysters, they come in either 1/2 doz or a full dozen and are served together both East and West Coast Oysters. I don’t usually eat oysters, but I was glad that I tried one. It wasn’t briny or too chewy and I didn’t even gag when slurping it down.

Since we were sharing, I had the opportunity to try many of their appetizers including their Grilled Double Cut Smoked Bacon. I like bacon but I wasn’t blown away by this dish. I guess I’m not a true bacon fanatic like others are … and I know that they are out there. I thought it was a nice presentation. We had to ask the Chef what was on top of the bacon. Surprisingly, Chef said that it was simply a finely chopped mixture of fresh parsley and garlic drizzled with sherry vinegar.

Crab cake with radish salad

Crab cake with radish salad

I ordered the crab cake with Meyer lemon and radish salad. I’m a sucker for a good crab cake and even though we live so close to the Chesapeake Bay where fresh live blue crabs can be easily sourced, I don’t frequently find a crab cake that I like well enough to remember it. While the crab cake is beautifully presented, I thought that there was too much filler and not enough lump crab meat. I also thought that the filler was heavy on the celery. Although it is served as just one on the plate, it’s a large enough portion to share. It’s less of a portion that the tartare but still plenty if you plan to order 3 courses.

Filet mignon with blue cheese sauce.

Filet with Blue Cheese sauce.

Since I had never dined at BLT Steak, I felt that it made sense to order beef, since that is after all, their specialty boasting that all of the beef is the finest available USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus Brand. I ordered the 12 oz Filet, medium. I was afraid that if I told the waiter that I wanted it medium well that he’d gasp and run off and tell the chef. Also, I knew that I had pretty much filled up on the appetizers and that I would end up taking most of the steak home — and I was right. Each meat is accompanied by a sauce of your choosing. Choices include 3 mustards, red wine, Béarnaise, blue cheese, peppercorn, horseradish, BBQ, and chimichurri. I ordered the blue cheese dressing, since I love blue cheese. Although I wasn’t starving, I ate a good portion of my filet. Due to the prism like shape of my beef, the edges were more done than the center. This isn’t a problem — in fact if you’re going to share this makes it very easy to share with someone who likes their steak more rare, like my husband, who likes it still kicking and bleeding. I, on the other hand, like it just a touch pink. The filet was juicy and flavorful. The sauce was delicious and I enjoyed assembling the beef and sauce myself. My circle isn’t much of a circle. Oh well. I’m not a professional.

I skipped dessert but there are some tempting offerings such as the Carrot cake with ginger ice cream, the caramelized NY Cheesecake, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse with Banana Ice cream. Maybe next time …