Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ginger Cafe - Santa Teresa's Best Non-Tico Tipico Breakfast

What is a non-Tico breakfast you ask? It is more of a continental breakfast, which is to say it's not beans and rice or some variation thereof. Not that there is anything wrong with beans and rice for breakfast. I had it several times while in Costa Rica and enjoyed it thoroughly. 
Ginger Cafe was a slightly more European cuisine.
To start with, the coffee was amazing. I fell in love with Costa Rican coffee while I was in Santa Teresa. Here I had a latte with an extra shot of espresso.
This is what the kids had as appetizers...yes, they got appetizers before breakfast. We were on vacation after all. This is a croissant from a bakery down the road, which we also ate at a few times, slathered with Nutella. 
Some of our crew were hooked on the banana french toast.
I was a fan of the eggs and toast with salami. Interesting choice of breakfast meat, but it's what I got. Our server's English was about as good as my Spanish, so I likely ordered the wrong thing, but it was tasty. Notice the butter: great color/flavor. The eggs were perfectly cooked too.

One of the more interesting things about this restaurant is the fact that it is attached to the owner's house. The house itself is a large, open-air structure. When you look up from your table you can actually see the fridge in his kitchen, which is upstairs. The walls in the restaurant are just gauzy coverings. Very cool place. I'm taking notes for when I'm ready to retire and open my place.

If you get the chance to go to the Mal Pais/Santa Teresa area make sure you stop in. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bastille Restaurant- My Neighborhood Deserves One of these!

Bastille Restaurant
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-519-3776
This neighborhood gem, and I mean gem, is located on the outskirts of Old Town Alexandria. There is plenty of parking, and an outdoor patio that seems like a perfect oasis for the youngins who don't have to go home right after work to handle carpool duty.
The owners, Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, are there on a daily basis, if not both at the same time. What this does for their restaurant is obvious. It allows them to have visibility to and influence on the smallest details. The little things that can make the difference between a meal that's acceptable and an experience that is best-in-class are handled with style, savoir faire, and hospitality.
Chef Michelle was working the pass the night my family and I ate there. She sent an amuse bouche of  shrimp and corn beignets with basil on a rouille aioli. Lots of garlic and basil goodness. It arrived very hot and crispy, as it should.
Sommelier extraordinaire Mark Slater is in charge of their beverage program. I've had the pleasure of dining with Mark several times in the past including a meal at the chef's table at Citronelle back in the day, and when he was working with Mike Landrum at Ray's the Steaks. He knows his wine.
Alex started out with the charcuterie board that included duck rillete, brassiole, country pate, and salami. The cured meats here are made by Jamie Stachowski, formerly of an eponymous restaurant, Palladin, eCiti, and several others. 
Cheryl started with the tomato salad with warm goat cheese. She said "Ooh, you've got to try this cheese." 
I started with the escargot with a garlic and piquillo pepper coulis. They were plump, hot, and tender. 
For his entree, Alex had the lobster paella. The lobster was grilled nicely and the paella itself was loaded with mussels, chorizo and tomato. 
Cheryl had the double-cut lamb chops, mid-rare, with harissa yogurt and couscous. The lamb was cooked perfectly and well-seasoned. The merguez was nicely spiced. No doubt a Stachowski product as well.

I had the Le Burger au Fois Gras. I was jonesing for some fois gras and was hoping for a sauteed slab of it, but this was the closest I could get. It had good flavor and texture, reminiscent of the torchon I've purchased from Hudson Valley Fois Gras farm in the past. 
This is the knock-your-socks-off Burgundy that Mark recommended to Cheryl to accompany her lamb. It was all that. Huge.
For dessert I had the upside-down cherry cake. It's obvious that Michelle, their pastry chef, specializes.
Alex had the creme brulee. He gets it at almost every restaurant we go to that offers it. Mainly to compare it to the one I make at home. It's amazing how much a dish with four ingredients can vary from cook to cook, but it does. I thought it was on par, but Alex said mine was better. Maybe he was just being kind as I was picking up the check.
Cheryl had a ricotta cheese cake with blueberries and graham cracker crumbles. Alex had a taste and said, "That's what cheese cake is supposed to taste like." Bravo Chef!
Overall, an excellent meal. Service was cooperative, meaning we had several people attending to our table, and as you can see from the menu, should you choose to check it out, the prices are reasonable for the level of refinement and forethought that you're getting. I've paid much more for sloppier presentations, luke-warm food, and indifferent service.
This restaurant, which will soon be moving to bigger digs at 606 N. Fayette St., is worth checking out for a date, a family dinner, or just happy hour on the patio.
If you go, let them know you read about them on Pleasures of the Table!
Thanks for reading....now I'm going to get on the web and mail-order some fois gras...

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