Marc’s GChat Status Expanded

The Best Dinner of My Life

I love Restaurant Week for obvious reasons.  It gives everyone an opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants in DC for a set price of $35.  Expensive?  I guess, but absolutely 100% well worth it no matter where you go.  The restaurants don’t serve the cheapest and worst things on the menu.  Most if not all roll out the red carpet because they want to be the place you call on those occasions where a nice dinner is in order.

Last night I went to Art and Soul with my friends Amanda, Jason, and Jackie.  Art and Soul was opened by Chef Art Smith, who recently appeared on Top Chef Masters and was Oprah’s personal chef.  According to the website;

The menu is a blend of Chef Art’s cooking heritage – Southern roots and decades of southern cooking

The meal was absolutely amazing. To begin the meal, the waiter brings out “skillet bread” which is exactly what it sounds like, bread cooked in a skillet. It was some of the best bread I have ever had. It tasted like a biscuit but had the texture and feel of a croissant.

In between bread and our “beginners” we all decided to try some of the restaurant’s cocktails. They are radically different than what you would find at a normal restaurant; with many inspired by the southern roots of the restaurant. I went with the Blackberry Mojito, which was incredible. My friend Jason got the Country Kool-Aid, which is pretty much what it sounds like (except no actual Kool-Aid makes its way into the drink). Jackie and Amanda got something called the “Pinky Swear.” I would never order that drink because I don’t think I could live with myself, but if you like cocktails with a wine base then you would like this. The coolest part about the cocktails is the copious amount of fruit that they include in the glasses, which also happen to be jars with handles (happy Jackie?).

As a “beginner” I opted for the Country Caesar Salad (grilled romaine hearts, shaved parmesan, croutons), minus the anchovies on the side. I’m not usually one to finish off a salad when I go out to eat, but I devoured this one. The dressing was perfect, and they give you half a heart of lettuce that you chop up yourself before beginning to eat. The salad also includes a deviled egg on the side that was exceptionally good.

The “middle” (read: entree) might have been the best part of the meal. I had the Chicken, which included a goat cheese dropped biscuit, roasted vegetables, and chicken gravy. I am not lying when I say this was the best entree I have ever had (excluding steak from a steak house, which I put in its own category). The chicken was cooked perfectly (on the bone, even better) and the gravy was the best I have ever tasted. I think I might kidnap Art and force him to make goat cheese dropped biscuits for me every day from now to eternity. Jackie got the Ravioloi with seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, and a butter sauce of some sort. Without a doubt the best ravioli I have ever had (are you noticing a trend here?). Jason rounded off the entrees with the Country Pork Chop with charred stone fruit relish, and a sweet onion broth. Pork Chop isn’t my favorite but I would have finished his if I had ordered it. We also shared a side of buttermilk mashed potatoes, which blended perfectly with the chicken and the gravy.

The meal ended with dessert, and all four of us got the chocolate cheese cake with chocolate sauce. Not a whole lot of explanation of the dessert is required, and it was also very good.

I laid in bed last night in a food coma daze until I went to sleep. I loved this meal. As I mentioned earlier, I put dinner at steak houses in a different category by themselves, and because of that last night’s dinner at Art and Soul was the best I have ever had. I’m searching my calendar for upcoming events that may allow me to revisit the restaurant with family and friends (Labor Day? Arbor Day? Yom Kippur celebration at Art and Soul? That one might be tough). If you happen to be going to the restaurant, I will pay you for an invite. I can’t wait to go back.

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August 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I’m Surprised It Took So Long…

I’m about an hour and 45 minutes away from a dentist telling me I need to have a root canal to fix a hole in one of my molars, but before that happens I wanted to comment on a story that hit late last week that is shocking but not altogether that surprising.

If you’re an aficionado of all things VH1 reality tv shows like I am, then you reluctantly got drawn into the network’s most recent attempt to capitalize on the success of reality dating shows; Megan Wants a Millionaire.  The star of this debacle is Megan (I don’t know her last name and don’t care), who was one of the biddies from season 2 (I think) of Rock of Love.  She is your atypical VH1 reality show girl; gorgeous, obnoxious, conceded, completely self-absorbed, and a  glutton for controversy. 

In the show, VH1 sends a bunch of millionaires to the standard VH1 mansion where they try to woo Megan by showering her with expensive gifts.  I am sure Vh1 would tell you the show is much deeper than that, but I assure you this is an accurate synopsis of the show. 

All well and good right?  Yea, unless of of the contestants on the show is later charged with murdering his ex-wife, which happens to be what happened this season.  Ryan Alexander Jenkins was charged last week with murdering his ex-wife and fleeing the country. Over the weekend, Ryan Alexander Jenkins was found dead in a Canadian hotel room, apparently having committed suicide.

As I mentioned before, this entire ordeal is sad and shocking and gruesome, but the last thing I would call it is surprising.

People love watching these reality tv shows because of the contestants who find themselves on it. They are literally characters, brought in to play the roles that the producers find essential to ridiculous reality television. The VAST majority of the contestants (and the featured “stars” of the reality shows themselves) are completely unstable. Given the things that these people do while they are on TV, it is not a stretch to imagine that one of them would be arrested for trafficking drugs, fraud, or tragically, for murdering someone.

But I don’t blame VH1 or any other network for that matter when these things happen. I don’t think you can tie the actions of contestants past or present to their publicity from being on the show. Unstable is unstable is unstable, no matter how famous you are.

I’m just wondering if it would be completely impossible to find guys and girls who are not completely insane to populate these shows. Are you trying to tell me there are not somewhat sane strippers and former dancers to populate the male-dating reality shows? Or that it is impossible to find millionaires who are not busy thinking about murdering their ex-wives to do stupid things to impress a dumb blond reality show star? It would be nice to start watching the next season of I Love New York (or whatever), and not have an open bet on which of the contestants will be the first to commit a violent crime upon the show’s completion.

Not that anything is going to change. Sure, VH1 had to cancel Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3, which Jenkins was a contestant on and supposedly the ultimate winner of, but in the grand scheme of things people are going to keep watching the shows. As sad as it is, the publicity of the fall of Ryan Alexander Jenkins may actually draw more people to the shows. Because people love watching to see what is going to happen next.

Shocking, sad, but hardly surprising.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Nonsense, Television | , | Leave a comment

Top Chef is Back and Requires a Post

This blog is kind of like the Scrubs or Family Guy of the blogosphere; you’re never quite sure if new episodes are being made, and just when you think its gone for good, another network picks it up and orders another season.

Anyway, I had to write because a couple of days ago the new season of Top Chef debuted, and it was pretty freaking fantastic.

The cast seems to have rebounded from last season’s mind-numbingly terrible group of chefs. I was actually quite surprised with the caliber of the chefs, with multiple James Beard award nominees and multiple “top rising chef” nominees. I don’t know if this has always been the case and this is just the first season that they actually publicized it or if this is a new trend, but I like it. I tend to think this has not always been the case because the quality of the food in the first challenge seemed to be a step above the last few seasons too. Nonetheless it’s nice to know that the chefs in the running are actually good at what they do.

On a person to person basis, I like the cast a lot too. I legitimately love Ron (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what “vice” means, but he is fantastic), Kevin (who won the first challenge), and the two brothers. I’ll probably be rooting for them the whole season. Mattin seems to be playing the role of “foreign born chef who no one can understand to the degree that subtitles are required whenever he speaks” that Fabio played perfectly last year. The only chef I really dislike is Eve (this season’s Jill from Season 5).

Perhaps one of the highlights of the first episode though was Jennifer, who pretty much destroyed the entire cast at everything she did. I thought Wolfgang Puck was going to hire her on the spot to work at one of his restaurants. I can really appreciate what she does because it is so clear that she has the cooking chops to back up the attitude that Bravo is almost certainly going to play up through editing this year. I know there is the whole “3 of the last 5 Top Chefs won the first challenge” thing, but I am picking Jennifer now and riding her to the end (that sounded inappropriate).

I’m a little worried that the whole “we’re in Las Vegas, SO MANY SURPRISES AND TWISTS” theme is going to make some of the challenges absolutely ridiculous. The fact that Robin probably could have gone home and chilled until the second set of challenges because she pulled a chip out of a hat was kind of absurd. Did anyone else realize she had to do nothing of substance in the entire first episode? Please, producers, don’t vomit all over yourselves just because you can. The quality of the challenges after one episode is hard to gauge. I wasn’t a fan of 3/4s of the cast not having to cook in the Quick Fire, but the elimination challenge was very entertaining.

I didn’t watch the “this season on the top chef” preview after the episode ended, but I’m pretty psyched to see what’s in store. Hopefully all the Top Chefs coming back for the finale of Top Chef Masters means I won’t have to see Hosea at all this season, which would be a plus. If the rest of the episodes play as well as Wednesday’s, it is going to be a great season.

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Nonsense, Television | Leave a comment