Dispatch from DC: Alien Cheese Mission

When I told a Washingtonian colleague, M, who is also a diehard foodie, I was going to the District for the weekend with my best friend and her mom, who are decidedly less into things like bone marrow and oxtails than I am, he instantly recommended Central Michel Richard, right on Pennsylvania Avenue. And this, my Hungries, is why we humans were given the gift of relationships – they pay off in food!

But I should back up a minute, because the reason for our girls weekend in DC is so cute: Melinda wanted to treat her Mom, for her birthday, to her dream of seeing the Lincoln Monument. She invited me, I believe, because I know Washington so well and love to travel, and I hope not just because I had a load of Marriott points sitting in my account. While in DC, we saw not only the Lincoln, but also the Jefferson, WWII, Korean War, and signers of the Constitution memorials, the Smithsonian American History Museum with Julia Child’s actual kitchen and pantheon of First Ladies’ inauguration gowns, The Capital Building, Ford’s Theater, and The National Cathedral. As we, literally, are a bunch of girls, we cried at more of these tourist destinations than not. From the weep-worthy quotes engraved everywhere at the stunning, grand WWII Memorial that zeroed in perfectly on the sacrifice our grandfathers made, to the ethereal light streaming through the stained glass artwork at the Cathedral, it was a heady weekend. And yes, Mrs. Kmetz met her man:

But back to the food, y’all! We had an epic, groaning, fantastic lunch at Founding Farmers, but I already told you about that place last summer. Rest assured, it’s still extraordinary, and please PLEASE make a special trip just to sample the marvelous cocktails. But our dinner at Central was equally as good, if not better, and I thought you might like to hear about it.

The most fascinating open kitchen, ever

Central is busy, most likely due to the James Beard Award hanging right near the front door, or maybe because of its plum location, right on Pennsylvania. We were seated in full view of the open kitchen, which Miriam and I enjoyed immensely throughout the evening. The plating dude oversaw every single thing to leave that kitchen, which his giant metal chopsticks – awesome.

Appetizers first, natch! We went for the gougeres- cheese puffs to you and me – plus the bacon and onion tart, and tuna carpaccio. The airy, biscuit-y gougeres were first up, and a nice, friendly beginning to the meal. Tiny and poppable, we liked them, but maaaaybe forgot them quickly when other food came. The bacon and onion tart, which hit a lot of my buzzwords for goodness, was silky and supremely savory, the onions and crème fraiche melted in with the bacon without being too salty. The crust was cracker-thin, and the fresh chives sprinkled on top imparted the perfect, brightening touch. The tuna was mmm, gimme another shovelful good, topped with a surprisingly complex gremolata of garlic, scallion, ginger and chives. Something else in there was crunchy and fabulous – maybe daikon radish? I don’t know, but I would like to eat this for lunch every day. Healthy and yummy.

Oh baby
 Our final appetizer, and the best dish of the night, was the burratta mozzarella with tomato confit. And I am not sure I have the words to tell you about it, which is how the title of this post came about. That cheese was gorgeous! It was buttery, as all good fresh mozz is, but lighter than any I’ve ever tasted, with a gossamer texture that was simply unreal. It was like a dream. The only rational explanation we could come up with for that whipped, lighter-than-creamy mouth-feel was that it was alien-crafted in a space lab. It didn’t need salt, it didn’t need pepper, it just required that you eat every single morsel.

I have to highly recommend the entrée I ordered, which was the braised short ribs, though I also will inform you that by far, the dish we saw coming out of the open kitchen the most was the fried chicken. I was seduced by the carrots and cumin accompanying the ribs, and rightly so. The combination was sinful, rich, and full bodied. The meat was exactly the right texture, tender with a slight chew, not fall-off-the-bone, but no hint of toughness, either. Rather than the typical deep, rich wine sauce short ribs are braised in, the spiced demi glace was a refreshing twist that was also warming, bathing the carrots in a bright, but still earthy stew.

And then dessert came, and the heavens opened up, and tiny little angels started to sing lovely songs about white chocolate and bananas. Or maybe that was a sugar-induced hallucination; I’m not sure. Melinda chose the lemon tart, which was presented topped with demonically awesome white chocolate cups filled with a sugary, whipped confection of unknown origin, plus lip-smakingly tart lemon curd. Under the eggs were more traditional lemon tart ingredients, surrounded by a “nest” of shredded wheat. It was diabolical, debonair, and delicious!

Miriam and I “split” the banana split, fittingly. It was deconstructed on a divided tray, with the bananas smothered in homemade whipped cream, brunoised pineapple and apple, and nuts, and separate, perfect scoops of chocolate ice cream with wonderful, crunchy spinkles, sweet strawberry sorbet bathed in strawberry puree, and rich vanilla ice cream with caramel and almost powered peanuts. I liked this childhood wet dream, but Miriam loved it, and dug in with gusto. I loved watching her enjoyment. Isn’t that why we share meals?

I will add that for all the terrific food, our waiter was a bit of a bore. Miriam nicknamed him Picklepuss, and truth be told, he never actually cracked a smile throughout out meal until Melinda and I were into the three-figure mark in our imbibing. I didn’t get Picklepuss’ actual name, and he certainly didn’t damper our good time, but maybe it would have been an even more enjoyable experience with a fun server.

I definitely recommend Central for your DC getaway, and I give it a 10 on the BHS scale, easily. I also recommend, if you’re there in the warmer months, that you find the paddle boat rentals at the Tidal Basin, and give them a spin. So fun!

“Ah, the good life!”

My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I should only read this blog after I'm finished eating for the day.

    Lovely description of the entire meal.

    I enjoyed following you girls around on IG!