“The best thing on the menu is the rigatoni.”
Four of us were tucked into a corner of The Red Hen, a popular restaurant in D.C. right now, at a table our friends Leanna and Drew reserved a month ago. The menu was concise but everything sounded tempting, so we turned to our server for guidance. With no hesitation, she said the rigatoni was the best thing on the menu. Two bottles of wine, two starters, five entrees, one dessert, and four after-dinner coffees later, we all seemed to agree that, yes, the rigatoni was the best. The rigatoni came with a fennel sausage ragù and is the kind of meal you want to eat, always.
In that picture, the rigatoni is up on the left. You can tell because there are two forks digging in to that bowl. After our server made such a declaration, who would be the one to order the rigatoni? Instead, the four of us ordered our own entrees, and we asked for one order of rigatoni for the table.
This is not to say we didn’t love the rest of the meal. There was a lot to love.
To start, we ordered the beef tongue with crispy potato rosti. I’ve eaten tongue before, but never before has it melted in my mouth. The meat was so tender I would not have guessed it was tongue. And it came with chimichurri placed against horseradish cream — a surprising and awesome combination.
We tried orange wine. We shared ricotta crostini with brown butter and truffle honey (delicious, but comes with a surprisingly thin layer of ricotta; you say whipped ricotta, I’m thinking a lofty spread of cheese). We capped off the dinner with bread pudding, four spoons, and espressos for Leanna and me, and coffees for Danny and Drew. Full bellies. Happy hearts.
It was a gorgeous weekend for exploring D.C., and we had a ton of fun over the long Memorial Day weekend. Lots of walking. Lots of laughing. Lots of food. Maybe it was the clear blue skies all weekend, but people were friendly and chatty most places we went. It was a warm but breezy few days. We sat by the new rooftop pool in our friends’ building one afternoon, but the water was too cold to go in. Not that it stopped Danny and Drew.
We also hit up the National Portrait Gallery and the National Building Museum, which has a great nostalgic exhibition called House & Home. There are incredible old photos of homes and the people in them, and all kinds of artifacts found in American homes in the last century. Thoughts of ‘home’ have been swirling a lot through my newlywed mind, so I particularly enjoyed this exhibit. It’s always interesting to see how other people live.
There were many restaurants and bars we tried and loved this weekend. There’s a round up at the end of the post with our favorites. I hope to be back soon for more Jaleo sangria and a doughnut from Ted’s Bulletin. Til next time, D.C.!
Where we ate
The Red Hen // Italian. May be my favorite restaurant of the weekend (but it’s right up there with the next one on this list). The rigatoni is apparently the best thing on the menu, but I also enjoyed my saffron pasta with duck ragù and Danny’s smoked pork sandwich was killer. But the most memorable bite of that night may be the small plate of beef tongue with potato rosti and chimichurri with horseradish cream. I’ve had tongue before, but I’ve never had it cooked so deftly and result in such tender meat. Their bread pudding is special, probably the most elegant rendition of bread pudding I’ve ever seen.
Jaleo // A Spanish restaurant from Jose Andres, who my friends and I have sort of a chef crush on since we tried China Poblano in Vegas. We kicked off our weekend here, and it’s a great restaurant for sharing with a group of four. It’s a long and overwhelming menu so we each chose one dish to start and went from there, adding on as we went. My favorites from that night: buñuelos de bacalao (salt cod and potato fritter), aged jamón ibérico, papas arrugás (wrinkly potatoes), chorizo, and the basque cake. And of course, we clinked our spoons for a round of liquid olives. Those were fun. We ordered both the cava and red sangrias, and while both are good, I think you should start with the red sangria. It tastes special, spiced, and unlike any sangria I’ve had at a restaurant. The server said the ingredient list includes juniper berries, an orange juice syrup, a ton of mint, brandy, cinnamon, and most unexpectedly: bay leaf.
Granville Moore’s // Mussels, fries, and beer. We ordered three kinds of mussels to share between six people. The classic mussels are excellent and make sure to order extra bread to soak up that broth. Their Sweet Pea mussels were a close second favorite: English peas, cayenne, heavy cream, pancetta, and corn.
Copycat // Excellent cocktails, excellent bartenders, and dumplings + buns can be ordered up to the bar from downstairs. I especially loved my Pimm’s Cup cocktail with rye, strawberries, and ginger.
All Souls // Fun neighborhood bar with a great French 75 + a signature order after my own heart: a glass or rosé and whiskey neat. If I lived near here, I’d be a regular at this one. The pizza place down the street, Pizza D’ Oro, has a great pepperoni pizza, btw. So good that I had two slices. At midnight. Who am I.
Ted’s Bulletin // Great diner. I had an excellent corned beef hash and the guys enjoyed their walk of shame steak burritos. We shared a pop tart and resisted, somehow, ordering boozy milkshakes. Their ultimate breakfast sandwich is truly ultimate: eggs, two ways + sausage AND bacon. Yeah, we took a little nap in the park after this meal.
Mockingbird Hill // A sherry and ham bar. I found out I quite like oloroso sherries with their notes of brown butter and hazelnut.