Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best Ever Neighborhood Restaurant

Every neighborhood should have one, but they are hard to find.  A place to go when you don't feel like cooking, but it feels like home.  It's a place where they know you, your likes and dislikes, and as a result, a menu isn't necessary because they'll do the ordering for you.  For us, that place used to be a former gas station converted into a French/Italian restaurant by a husband and wife team with a shared passion for food.  

What:  Jennifer and I just took the kids to Tempo Restaurant.  Our neighborhood restaurant for close to 10 years before a move.  It had been a dozen years since we had been back and thankfully everything was the same as we remembered, especially the food.

Where: 4231 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304

Why It's the Best:  It's been 12 years and we've not been able to find another place like it.  The restaurant is small, the staff professional and friendly and the menu contains some of the "Best Ever" dishes.  The prices are fair and the kitchen is always dependable.  We have three favorites that no restaurant has been able to top. You can't go wrong ordering; the Oyster Rockfeller (not a oyster fan, get the Two Beans and Pasta, the Agnolotti (if it's not on the menu ask and they'll make it) and the Tiramasu.    

How We Know:  As Anthony Bourdain points out, 8 out of 10 restaurants fail.  Tempo has been around for 25 years and it's because it consistently delivers quality food and service for a fair price. What makes it special is that it's the kind of place that is always busy, but you rarely need a reservation. The kind of place that is so good you're afraid the word will get out and you want be able to get a seat when you decide to go out at the last minute rather than cook.  

Craving level: Every time we don't feel like cooking!  

Reviews:  Google,  Yelp

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Best Ever Book on the Restaurant Business

When I was younger I used to think that it might be nice to have a restaurant some day.  I now longer have that dream. The reason, I read a book that gave me a cold hard slap in the face about the reality of the restaurant buiness. The book, a New York Times Best Seller in 2000, has been reissued with new updates.  

What:  Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain.  The book that launched the chef to stardom.  Unlike other celebrity chiefs who gained fame because of their culinary skills, Anthony made his name because of his ability to tell stories.  As a result, his book is very entertaining and a quick read. It's a honest and somewhat crude (make that very crude, adults only) look at the restaurant business and himself, warts and all. 

Who: Anthony Bourdain, former Execute Chief of Les Halles, Host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, Monday at 9 pm.

Where:  It's Bourdain's life story so it follows his travels around the world, but most of it takes place in New York City.

Why It's the Bestyou'll learn things that any foodie needs to know such as; what day of the week is best to dine out (Tuesday) and why.  Why you never order fish on a Monday, and the real purpose of brunches.  I especially liked the section that disusses the difference between a chef's kitchen and your kitchen.  It lead to the purchase of a new knife and the reality that working in the restaurant business takes a special bred. 

How We Know:  If you like his TV show, you'll love his book. 

Reviews:  Amazon reviews

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best Ever Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary's were created in 1921 at Harry's New York Bar in Paris.   Over the years, bartenders have taken liberties with the original recipe.   We've grown accustomed to Bloodies being served with celery, a wedge of lemon, lime, or both, and in the DC area, they often come with Old Bay on the rim of the glass. But the original contained none of those accessories.

What:  Best Ever Bloody Mary, a proper one that comes with a spicy dill pickle, not celery.  

Where: Columbia Firehouse, in Old Town Alexandria.  Columbia's drink menu includes Historic Cocktails, favorites like Margaritas, Daiquiris, as well as, obscure drinks like The Avenue (circa 1938), and the Moscow Mule (Cock'n Bull Bar, California).  One thing is apparent from the menu...the roaring 20's were clearly the heyday of the highball.

Why It's the Best: It's the original recipe...and it's damn good.  Plenty of real horseradish, not hot sauce for the zip, and Tito's Vodka, not some overly marketed fad.  Also, try their onion rings.  The best we've had this side of Bermuda.

How We Know:  If you like the modern day version, you'll love the original.  Sometimes new isn't better, and less is more...this is one of those occasions.

Craving Level:  at least once a weekend.

Directions & Reviews:  Yelp, Open TableDirections