Dishing on Succotash at the National Harbor

Here’s the dish! Earlier this month, I visited Succotash at the National Harbor (located at 186 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745). I’ve lived in Southeast D.C. for a little over a year, and I’ll admit that I don’t frequent the National Harbor as often as I should. A MeetUp.com group I’m a member of sent out a meet up for lunch there on Veteran’s Day (since so many federal workers have the day off), so when a friend from college who recently relocated back to the area wanted to catch up, I suggested Succotash. A collaboration between five-time James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee (from Bravo’s Top Chef and PBS’s The Mind of a Chef) and Knead Hospitality + Design, Succotash is fairly new to the National Harbor, opening only a few months ago. I was pleased to learn from the hostess, Deborah, that the weekend we visited was the first time they seated for brunch. As their website describes, “[Chef] Lee brings his Korean roots and Southern repertoire to a soulful Southern menu,” so I was excited see what culinary creations were in store for us.

My first impression of the restaurant was a good one; I loved the atmosphere they set the moment you walk in the door. It’s beautifully decorated with detailed wood work and some of the most beautiful wrought iron work I’ve ever seen. I would best describe it as Restoration Hardware meets Bourbon Street. I was ecstatic to find out from the bartender that all of the lighting in the restaurant was actually from Restoration Hardware, so I was spot on. The open-concept coffered ceiling is spectacular and features a floral design in the middle of the restaurant, highlighting a Medieval-inspired chandelier. Breathtakingly beautiful would be the words I’d use to describe it. Our party of five was seated in a cozy circular booth along the back wall of the restaurant, and as a self-proclaimed Southern Belle, I immediately smiled when I spotted the stemless, amber water goblets that reminded me of pieces from my grandmother’s China cabinet.

SuccotashStarters
Clockwise: Weisenberger Mills Skillet Cornbread, Smoked Chicken Wings & Fried Green Tomatoes

We didn’t hesitate jumping into order. After reading the description (simply “Deliciousness”) for the Sticky Bun ($10), we definitely knew we wanted to start our meal off with one. We were a bit disappointed when our server returned to the table to let us know that the Sticky Bun was not actually being served that day, but we didn’t let us get it down for too long. We proceeded to order the Smoked Chicken Wings ($10), which are served with celery slaw and a white barbecue sauce; the Fried Green Tomatoes ($9), served with goat cheese, arugula, and a buttermilk dressing; and the Weisenberger Mills Skillet Cornbread ($9). We went in on those starters like a bunch of savage beasts! I regularly order Fried Green Tomatoes when they’re on a menu, and these are some of the best I’ve ever had. They were fried to perfection, and the accompaniment of the goat cheese and arugula salad took the flavor to a new level. We may or may not have been fork jousting for the last bite. The wings were equally delicious; they had a great smoky flavor, and I had never tried white barbecue sauce before, and it was quite tasty (check out a recipe for it here). I’m generally not a fan of cornbread (I know, revoke my southern card immediately) unless it’s really sweet (like Jiffy sweet), and the skillet cornbread from Succotash is unsweetened. At first bite, I didn’t fancy it, but then we ordered a side of honey and the sopping commenced. If you prefer your cornbread on the sweeter side, I would highly recommend ordering honey with yours.

Our entrees did not disappoint either. I have a thing for a tasty Pimento Cheese Burger ($15), so when I saw it on their menu, I knew immediately I would order it. Succotash serves theirs with some very delicious bacon jam; I could seriously eat it out of a jar with nothing but a spoon and a smile. The pimento cheese itself packed a punch, but it wasn’t overpowering. I wish we would’ve had an extra friend green tomato left over, because that’s the only thing I could think of that would make that burger even more delicious than it already was.  Two people in our party ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles ($16), an absolute staple in southern cuisine. I love that Succotash serves only dark meat with this dish; dark meat is just more flavorful and juicy, in my opinion, especially when fried. They serve theirs with bourbon maple syrup and top it with shaved Manchego cheese and pickled okra. My friends did mention that the fried chicken could use a bit more seasoning, but it was nothing a little salt couldn’t fix. Overall, they both enjoyed the dish. If you prefer to eat clean, the Dirty Cobb Salad ($15) is absolutely what you shouldn’t order at Succotash (lol). The fried chicken breast is covered in the most delicious spicy and smoky sauce and served alongside bacon, avocado, egg, cornbread croutons, green beans, grape tomatoes, and buttermilk dressing. If you’re going to eat your veggies, this is most certainly the way to go! Baby steps, right?! Lastly, the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($13), served with collard greens and house pickles, was a hit, as well. The pork is dressed with a vinegar-based sauce, so if you fancy a more traditional barbecue sauce (like me), I would recommend ordering a side of the spicy, smoky sauce they use on the Dirty Cobb Salad. It might be a bit more messy, but definitely worth it.

SuccotashFriendsIt’s always great to catch up with friends over a good meal, and Succotash provides the perfect ambiance for a reunion or special event such as an anniversary or birthday. I will definitely be back at lunch or dinner to continue to taste my way through their menu. I’m ecstatic to have found a unique and delicious restaurant so close to my house!

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Farmers, Fishers & Bakers in Georgetown

Here’s the dish! If you like good food, you’re probably a fan of the farm-to-table concept. After visiting Founding Farmers this summer, I knew I wanted to try the Farmers Restaurant Group’s other concept, Farmers, Fishers & Bakers, on the Georgetown Waterfront (3000 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007). When my DC Metro Church #BrunchBunch planned an outing, I jumped at the opportunity. Those who have followed my food journey know that I love me some brunch; I consider it a 5th food group and my favorite meal of the week. But there are a few things that make me squeal on the inside like nothing else—bottomless mimosas and all-you-can-eat buffets (can you really blame a girl?). While Farmers, Fishers & Bakers doesn’t offer a bottomless drink option, they do offer the latter—a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet experience (because buffet doesn’t do it justice).

For just $29.99 per person, you can eat all your stomach can hold, as well as enjoy complimentary coffee and iced tea. Farmers, Fishers & Bakers also offers a brunch cocktail menu that includes individual and shareable drinks. Their “Farmacy” offers some non-alcoholic concoctions, such as the Scratch Soda I enjoyed while at their sister restaurant, as well as a more extensive offering of coffees and teas. While our table didn’t partake in any cocktails, Farmers, Fishers & Bakers also offers up an extensive “Fishers Tiki” menu with a variety of cocktails, fish bowls, and blended drinks, as well as cocktails blended with proprietary spirits distilled locally. Their libations are a little on the pricier side, ranging from $11 to $15 for individual drinks and $25 for shareable drinks, but they definitely sound delicious and worth trying. But enough about the drinks, let’s get to the main event—the food!

You can immediately become overwhelmed with the amount of offerings at Farmers, Fishers & Bakers (click here to check out their brunch menu). So I suggest you develop a game plan before you hit the field. I went in with no game plan, and I nearly ate myself into a food coma. I kept seeing so many things I liked, so I kept adding them all to my plate. I was nearly full after my overflowing first plate and had to take a moment to let my food settle before returning for a second plate. One of my brunch buddies was prepared and came up with this simple, easy-to-follow game plan:

  1. Make a plate of breakfast foods
  2. Make a plate of lunch foods
  3. Return for your favorites
  4. Finish with dessert (if there’s room)

Gardeners Table

The Gardeners Table at Farmers, Fishers & Bakers serves up a a large offering of yummy salads, chock full of seasonal ingredients. Because I visited at the end of the summer season, the Gardeners Table featured a very delicious Watermelon Salad and Kale Salad. If you love grapefruit like I love grapefruit, you will go crazy for their Brûléed Pink Grapefruit, which is topped with sugar and caramelized to perfection with a blow torch. I seriously ate three halves, and you all know how I feel about dishes that involve blow torches. They are always worth trying! Even people in my party who didn’t love grapefruit that much enjoyed this variation of the fruit, so definitely pick you up one (or three) on one of your visits to the buffet.

Butchers Table

The Butchers Table is where you can go zero to 100 real quick! They prepare fresh guacamole table side and offer up some pulled chicken and pork, tortilla chips, homemade taco shells (soft and crispy), and all the fixin’s for tacos and nachos. They offer hearty starch sides, including Farm-a-Roni (their take on Rice-a-Roni), Cheesy Grits, and Breakfast Jambalaya. But don’t go too crazy, because at the end of the table is the pot of gold—the Honey Pot Fried Chicken. Farmers, Fishers & Bakers fry up their chicken to perfection and drizzle it with delicious honey. I was amazed that, even after being drizzled and sitting on a buffet line, the chicken remains deliciously crispy. I didn’t have time to ask about their frying process, but know that this is a non-negotiable. You MUST try their fried chicken on your visit. You’ll thank me later!

Carving Table

The Carving Table offers more than its name gives on. As you would assume, Farmers, Fishers & Bakers offers up hand carved Slow Roasted Chuck Eye and House Cured Ham, but the Carving Table is also home to other brunch staples, including an egg station with pre-made and made-to-order scrambles and Sweet Bread French Toast. The French Toast was one of my favorites. Presented on griddles and served with a delicious Bananas Foster sauce, the French Toast literally melts in your mouth. If you think you might not like the sauce, I would still encourage you to taste it before writing it off. It boasts a rich caramel flavor with chunks of perfectly ripe banana in it.

Other Highlights

In addition to all the food at the buffet that you can help yourself to, servers also walk around with Traveling Trays of Eggs Benedict, Pizza, Sushi, and Fishers Fry (assortment of fried seafood). I, unfortunately, did not have room to sample any of these, but they looked delicious, and based upon the rest of the food there, I’m sure they taste delicious too. I also never made it to the Dessert Bar, but I passed it on the way to the bathroom. With a variety of cakes, pies, and other sweet treats made from scratch each day, you’re sure to find something to tickle your sweet tooth. I managed to over indulge on what I can say are some of the best Cinnamon Rolls I’ve ever tasted. The hot, light, fluffy, ooey, and gooey rolls are also served at each table upon arrival. I seriously had about four of them; they didn’t stand a chance.

The best advice I can give you if you plan on visiting Farmers, Fishers & Bakers is to have a plan, pace yourself, and wear nonrestricting clothing, such as leggings or a moo moo. You’ll thank me later!

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Founding Farmers D.C.

Here’s the dish! Since moving back to D.C. just over two years ago, there are a few restaurants that repeatedly come up when I ask for brunch recommendations. One of those restaurants is Founding Farmers. With more and more people being more conscious about the food they put into their bodies, the farm-to-table concepts have taken off. Founding Farmers is no exception. When a friend invited me to brunch this past Sunday, I happily accepted, but when I found out we were going to Founding Farmers, I flipped!

While we had a 2:00 p.m. reservation, we thought we’d head over to the D.C. location (1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006) early to see if we could get a table before then. As we exited the car on 20th Street and rounded the corner, we saw them—the crowd of approximately 20 people waiting for a table (it was worth a shot)!  As we made our way through the revolving door, we entered another crowd of people in the restaurant waiting for a table. This is a great sign of what was to come.

I normally like to explore the decor of the restaurant while I wait to be seated, but there was an overwhelming amount of people waiting, so I just found a seat in the back corner of the lobby and waited patiently with my friend until our table was ready at 2:00 sharp. After being escorted to our cozy upstairs table, we were greeted by our cheerful server, Madison. She immediately informed us that we were dining at the perfect time because we had the option to order from both the brunch and lunch menu.

We took a few moments to peruse the menu and ordered drinks. The Scratch Soda ($5) from the “Farmacy” immediately caught my eye, but I couldn’t decide between the grapefruit and hibiscus flavors (it also comes in orange, lemon-lime, ginger, vanilla, and a seasonal offering), so I asked Madison for a recommendation. She recommended the hibiscus flavor, so I ordered it because I have grown fond of hibiscus thanks to the Spiked Augua Fresca at El Centro D.F.’s bottomless brunch. My friend ordered the Corpse Reviver ($12) with Bombay gin, Kubler absinthe, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and lemon. Neither disappointed. The refreshing Scratch Soda was a nice contrast of sweet and tart, and the Corpse Reviver was “tasty and provided a good balance of Cointreau and gin,” according to my friend.

Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes with herb goat cheese and avocado green goddess

My friend already knew he wanted to start the meal off with some Fried Green Tomatoes ($8) from the lunch menu, so who was I to object? The perfectly fried southern delicacy was served with herb goat cheese and an avocado green goddess for dipping. Then we did something I wouldn’t normally recommend doing when dining with someone—we ordered the same thing—Chicken & Waffles. Now, before you get your panties all in a bunch, there’s a catch—I ordered the lunch version, and he ordered the breakfast version.

The Breakfast Chicken & Waffles ($12) comes with a full waffle, three boneless fried tenders, and eggs cooked any way you like them; white gravy is served on the side. The signature Chicken & Waffles ($16) on the lunch menu is a boneless, batter-dipped thigh and breast, half of a waffle, macaroni and cheese, and choice of a crop side; I ordered the Mint Watermelon with sea salt. Fried chicken and watermelon?! (I know!) They were two very different takes on the same meal, and we enjoyed them both. I was skeptical about the macaroni and cheese at first glance, but was immediately blown away from the blend of seven different cheeses, including white and yellow Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmesan, Swiss, and Muenster.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I went with the lunch version of the Chicken & Waffles. While I always prefer bone-in over boneless chicken, the serving size of the lunch version was much more generous than the breakfast version, enough to share in fact. I also didn’t mind the smaller version of the waffle. I liked the fact that I could have two other sides with the lunch portion instead.

After all the hype, Founding Farmers did not disappoint. I’ll definitely be back to taste more of what they have to offer.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Rustico Slaters Lane

Here’s the dish. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post, because quite frankly, I don’t want to do it. I knew the time would come when I would have to do it, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I have to dish on a not so pleasurable restaurant experience.

A few Sundays ago (told you I’ve been dragging my feet on this), I joined a group of friends from DC Metro Church for brunch at Rustico on Slaters Lane in Alexandria (827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314). When I lived in McLean, I passed this restaurant every Sunday on my way to church and was always curious about their food. They have a great patio, which is always bustling in warmer months. I was excited to finally get the chance to check it out.

Upon entering the door, I fell in love with their eclectic style in decor. They have a featured mosaic tile wall that incorporated dinnerware and wine bottles, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. They continue the mosaic theme in the bathrooms, as well. As I waited for others in my group to arrive, I checked out their menu.

Brunch is pretty much my 5th food group, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic to eat. After being seated, a few of us ordered some starters. I debated between the half portions of the Salt Roasted Beet Salad ($6) and the The Market Salad ($7) and eventually ordered the Market Salad, which features Lacinato kale, barley, blueberries, fennel, grapefruit, orange supremes, and a vanilla coriander vinaigrette. I was underwhelmed at the first bite. Because this salad listed kale as the first ingredient on the menu, I assumed it would be a leafy salad that featured all of the other ingredients. It was, in fact, a barley salad with rationed out portions of the other ingredients. Quite frankly, I’ve made more tasty grain salads with Blue Apron. I ordered it because I love grapefruit, fennel, and blueberries, and I’ve grown fond of Lacinato kale through Blue Apron recipes. There was literally one grapefruit segment, maybe three blueberries, and a sliver or two of fennel. The vanilla coriander vinaigrette was also another feature that initially drew me to the salad. I was eager to experience the warm notes of vanilla paired with the bright flavors of coriander, but again, the vinaigrette completely underwhelmed me; I could barely even taste it past the overwhelming taste of flavorless barley. Others ordered the Rustico Doughnuts ($8) and the Cheese & Herb Risotto “Tots” ($6). While both were more flavorful than my salad, I wasn’t blown away by either when I tasted them.

Shrimp&Grits
Shrimp & Grits are served with stone ground white grits, spicy Conecuh sausage, wilted greens, and caramelized onions.

When it came to choosing an entree, I was torn. I initially thought I would order the quiche, but after hearing that the featured quiche that day was a Cheesesteak Quiche ($13), I quickly decided against that (and I’m glad I did). Being the southern belle that I am, I gravitated towards the Shrimp & Grits ($14), which feature cheesy stone ground white grits, spicy Conecuh sausage (or Alabama gold, as I like to call it), wilted greens, and caramelized onions. Now, I always hesitate before ordering grits in the D.C. area because I’m from the south. People up here do the absolute most with grits, when in reality, all they need are water, salt, butter (and more butter), and cheese. I asked our server Kelly so many questions about the grits: “Are they thick or thinner?” “Can you stand a spoon up in them?” “Are they cheesy?” “What is the shrimp to grits ratio?” Can you tell that I’m particular about my grits? She assured me they were on the thicker side, but very cheesy and very tasty, so I decided to be adventurous and ordered them. Now, while I wasn’t impressed by the grits that I interrogated our server about, I was impressed with the shrimp, which were grilled to perfection, and the wilted greens, which was again, Lacinato kale. The grilled shrimp was a pleasant surprise. Most shrimp and grits I’ve had featured pan seared shrimp or shrimp smothered in some sort of gravy featuring sausage. Grilling them gave the dish an unexpected flavor layer. The wilted greens did the same while also adding some substance to the the dish, which was on the smaller side for a portion (about a spoonful of girts and five shrimp). They weren’t the best shrimp and grits I’ve had, but they weren’t the worst.

Among the group, our orders varied from traditional brunch offerings to classic lunch dishes.  I think if I returned (everyone deserves a second chance), I’d go for a lunch dish like a burger or pizza.

If I had to choose one word to sum up my experience at Rustico and the quality of their food, I’d choose mediocre. Additionally, I believe their food is overpriced. With tax and included gratuity (because of our party size), I spent $31 on a meal that didn’t blow me away. I don’t mind spending obscene amounts of money on good food, but for $31, I could’ve gone to Trader Joe’s and brought ingredients to make a more spectacular meal.

Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!

Dishing on Medium Rare on Capitol Hill

Here’s the dish! I’m not sure how I’ve been back in D.C. for more than two years and had no idea there was a restaurant that serves only steak. How did I not get this memo?! If you love steak like I love steak, you definitely need to check out Medium Rare. I visited the Capitol Hill location (515 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003) this past weekend with my DC Metro Church Brunch Bunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the Medium Rare dining experience.

Their $24 prix fixe brunch menu includes their infamous rustic bread; a first course option of a yogurt parfait, fruit salad, or side salad; an entree, and—wait for it—bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Screwdrivers! If you prefer the non-boozy brunch, you have the option of unlimited fresh-squeezed orange juice (with pulp) and coffee. I’m a supporter of the bottomless brunch experience, and this one of the best deals I’ve come across in the D.C. area. I don’t know anywhere else you can get steak this good for $24, let alone unlimited cocktails with it. Did I mention my steak was so tender, I could cut it with a fork?! Beyond the delicious food, the overall experience was delightful. We had a group of 15 people, which was a bit more than expected. They accommodated us by seating our additional guests at the corner of the bar, which was right next to our table. Our server, Summer, was very attentive, which is refreshing, because often when dining with a large group, you can feel neglected. She catered to our every need, which included never allowing my mimosa glass to get empty. That’s always a great sign when a restaurant offers bottomless cocktail options! Additionally, even with a large group, our food seemed to come out from the kitchen fairly quickly. I’m used to waiting when it’s a large group, but all of our food was served in about 20 to 25 minutes, which is pretty darn impressive. I really like their concept of sticking to what they do best—steak! Sometimes restaurants can over extend themselves, and they end up with some menu items that are hits and others that are misses. Everything we ordered at brunch was a hit. I also felt like their portions were hearty but not overfilling. I noticed their branded plates (a nice touch, I might add) were somewhere between the size of traditional salad and dinner plates. I was fulfilled, but I didn’t feel stuffed when I left, which was great because I went to a film screening afterwards. Additionally, I loved the simplistic sophistication of their decor. While their tables feature white table cloths with an overlay of Medium Rare-stamped butcher paper, it maintained a rustic feel rather than a pretentious one. Adding to the rustic atmosphere were a wooden wall and chalkboard wall that promoted their social media presence. Speaking of their social media presence, I was ecstatic to have co-owner Mark Bucher favorite and retweet my teasers about my upcoming review of the restaurant. Their website also features a marquee of their tweets on the About page, which as a social media maven, I think is a nice touch. Be sure to go follow Medium Rare on Instagram and Twitter! I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a big thank you to our wonderful Brunch Bunch leaders John and Brandy! Thank you for finding great places for us to experience! I also have to shout out Katie and Laura who helped me photograph many of the plates featured, and especially Laura for allowing me to taste her delicious, melt-in-your-mouth French Toast. Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!